I’m finally—FINALLY—dating a wonderful guy, but I haven’t always made such wise decisions in my love life. In fact, most of my exes were pretty awful, which helped me appreciate how great my current boyfriend really is.
I grew up thinking that unhealthy relationships were the norm. A lot of the relationship dynamics I witnessed as a kid gave me the wrong impression about what love should be. I watched my own family members and my friends’ parents be terrible to each other, so when my high school boyfriend was mean to me, I didn’t even think of it as abnormal. It set a bad precedent for the rest of my relationships, but I didn’t know it at the time.
I didn’t even realize I had a bad “type.” Looking back, I can see a lot of patterns in the relationships I had before I met my current boyfriend. Almost every guy I dated was “broken” and wanted me to fix him. They all seemed to want me to be more of a mom than a girlfriend, and—surprise!—they all had commitment issues. You’d think after dating two or three of these guys, I’d start to come to my senses. But nope, I didn’t even see the recurring issues until years later.
My standards were insanely low. I cringe when I think of the things I used to tolerate. I’d set the bar so low for these guys that I thought that a lot of really unhealthy behavior was typical. Even though it hurt, I resigned myself to the “fact” that every man I dated would text other girls behind my back or introduce me as his “friend” even when we’d defined the relationship months before.
The way my boyfriend treats me is technically “normal.” The man I’m with now is special, don’t get me wrong, but when I take a step back, I can see that a lot of the stuff he does that makes me swoon is just what people should do in a relationship. It’s weird to think that I find myself on cloud nine when he leaves cute comments on my selfies or apologizes when he knows he’s wrong, but that stuff means a lot more to me now that I’ve dated people who didn’t do those things.
I feel like I’m living a fairy tale when he goes above and beyond for me. Most of the guys I’ve dated haven’t even bothered to do the bare minimum to make me happy, so being with someone who surprises me with little gifts or goes out of his way to make sure we can spend time together feels like an actual miracle. I don’t expect much, so when he gives me even more than I hope for, it makes it that much better.
My friends think I’m crazy when I gush about him. I realize that sometimes, I’m totally That Girl who’s a little too obsessed with her boyfriend. But doesn’t everyone act like that when they’re dating someone who texts them back, asks how their day was, and isn’t selfish in bed? According to my friends, eh, maybe not. They like my partner, of course, but they think I fangirl a little too much over all the (apparently) basic things he does for me.
He loves how much I appreciate him. Apparently, my boyfriend had low standards of his own before he started dating me—his exes didn’t acknowledge or appreciate all the things about him that I do, and it made him feel unloved and unwanted. In a way, our lackluster dating pasts have made us a perfect pair: I appreciate my wonderful partner and he returns the gesture. It’s a healthy cycle that makes our relationship even better.
It’s making me see my past in a new light. I used to resent the terrible dating habits I’d developed, especially when I thought about how I might’ve been able to meet a great guy if I hadn’t been settling for such losers. But I don’t think I would’ve been able to truly appreciate an amazing man a few years ago. My boyfriend entered my life at the right time, and now I’m thankful for all the jerks I’ve dated before because I can truly see what a special guy I have in my life.
I finally understand what a healthy relationship should look like. Even if my partner and I end up not working out in the long term, I’ll still be grateful for what he taught me. I know I’ll never settle for a partner who treats me the wrong way again, and I see now that I really am worthy of a wonderful kind of love. My boyfriend has helped me break that toxic cycle I thought I’d be trapped in forever.
I’d do it all over again if it led me here. The men I dated before were straight-up garbage, but the lessons they taught me and the appreciation they’ve given me for my current boyfriend were worth all the frustration and heartache they put me through. I never ever want to deal with dating another scummy dude in my life, but if I had to rewind my life, I’d happily repeat everything I went through knowing that I’d end up with a great person in the end.
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