After one too many draining relationships which ultimately failed, one thing became crystal clear: I was doing all the work with guys and not only did that always backfire, it left me miserable and empty when it inevitably ended. Here’s how I broke the cycle of one-sided relationships and set my sights—and my standards—a whole lot higher.
- I stopped dating unavailable guys. I don’t know if it’s just the type of guy I was attracted to or if subconsciously I liked a challenge, but when I thought back on my previous boyfriends, I noticed that every one of them had some reservation about moving things forward. I always brushed it off because they were upfront with me about it. I applauded their honesty but never took it as the red flag I should have. Thankfully, I know better now. The next person I’m with I’m with will need to be just as ready for the relationship as I am.
- I stopped believing that all relationships come with drama. For too long, I believed it was standard for a relationship to be a little rough all the time. I convinced myself that all the things that bothered me were inconsequential and not a big deal when in reality, they all built up to serious resentment. These days, I actually voice my concerns if I feel like I’m being taken for granted. I know I deserve to be treated well and I can’t believe how much I let that slide.
- I learned that overcompensating doesn’t make things better. I thought I could lead by example and show the guys I was dating what I needed by offering it to them first. Most of them just got used to me being excessively loving, available, and compromising. They never had to actually make any decisions themselves and I would take care of it all. Never again. I still treat anyone I’m dating the way I want to be treated, but if I’m not getting the same in return, I’m out.
- I started to understand that walking away doesn’t mean I failed. One of the first long-term relationships I had was with a guy who confided in me that he felt everyone gave up on him because he could be so stubborn and difficult. He was a thoughtful, loving guy, but the more time we spent together, the more I noticed he was actually very lazy when it came to putting in an effort to sustain our relationship. I wanted him to know that I loved him despite that setback within himself and I was going to stick it out. Eventually, I couldn’t handle it and had to walk away too. Now I know that sometimes breaking up is the healthiest decision I can make.
- I go with my gut instinct. I always had a lingering feeling that nothing much would come with these relationships, at least on the level I wanted—I’m not a total idiot. I always thought that with enough time, I could somehow make them grow into something with a sustainable future and I ignored the fact that I knew things would end badly. I learned that the little feeling inside shouldn’t be ignored—it’s usually there for a reason. I listen to it now.
- I take some time for myself. Whenever I went through a breakup with one of these guys, I never really felt a terrible sadness or loss. I tended to feel that BEFORE we ended because I was feeling so lost towards the end. Then, as soon as the relationship ended, I felt ready to move on to whatever came next and I didn’t take any time to truly get over the person I’d been putting all of my energy into. Now I always make sure to take some time alone to get my head together before jumping into anything new, no matter how ready I feel on the outside or how great the new guy seems. I feel like it’s an important step I always seemed to skip over and it’s possible that contributed to me finding these types of guys because I was needier than I thought.
- I started listening to the people that care about me. These toxic relationships made me feel like I almost had something to prove. I didn’t want to feel like a failure, so even if my friends and family gave me warnings about what they were seeing, I blatantly ignored what they had to say and thought I knew best. When I started actually taking the words these people were saying to heart and applied some of their advice, it got a lot easier to pull myself out of my own bubble and start seeing that they were right. They didn’t always know exactly what was best, but some of what they said was very helpful and as long as they were speaking to me from a place of love, I knew it would be worth taking into account. I always listen to what they have to say and it hasn’t led me astray yet.
- I allow myself to have setbacks. As someone who does have a hard time accepting failure, I had to accept that I won’t do everything perfectly every time. It seems like the simplest principle to come to terms with but for me, it was brutal. Now if I find myself with someone and I know that our relationship is starting to head in the direction of my past loves, I don’t get as bent out of shape and run myself ragged trying to fix it. I cut myself some slack and understand that some things just aren’t meant to work out.