I take pride in the fact that I’m not that girl who needs a boyfriend. I’ve seen my friends fall head over heels for guys. Everything starts out just peachy with Mister Perfect. Then it ends in tears, “what ifs?” and “why won’t he answer my BBMs?”
And hey, I’ve been there too. I’ve had a few boyfriends and saw a few other guys steadily. And unfortunately, most of them didn’t end well.
With that, here’s the big question I used to ask myself: Why even bother to begin a relationship if it’s just going to end? Might as well save yourself the post-break up pain and empty pints of Ben & Jerry’s, right?
Believe it or not, I disagree.
We’ll call the first guy Pete*. He was my first boyfriend at age fifteen. We were a happy, adorable couple at first, until he started bossing me around. He told me not to talk to my guy friends, not to wear heels and not to curl my hair. He gave me a beeper so we’d always be in contact! (No, I’m not joking.)
Then one day he threatened me: he didn’t want me as his prom date unless I would sleep with him. I may have been too young for a driver’s license, but I was smart enough to tell him to go find another prom date. And girlfriend.
Next came Ed*. I was a cheerleader for his basketball team in high school and we had a few mutual friends, but we didn’t date until college. Everything happened really fast. We grabbed dinner one Thursday and immediately became inseparable.
My friends warned me about him, though. He dated another girl all throughout high school and constantly made fun of her behind her back. Then he dumped her out of nowhere and broke her heart. Whatever, I thought. She was really annoying and not even cute. Ed and I are perfect together. It’s different with me.
A month after Ed and I made it official, I left to study abroad in England. We stayed together and he even came to visit me. All my new friends thought he was gorgeous and charming, saying they thought we’d been dating for years. Then one night, Ed called me on Skype from five time zones away and broke up with me. Just like that. I cried to a mutual friend about it who point blank told me I was better off. Turns out, Ed had told him he was done with me, even before he came to visit.
Alex was my most recent BF and like no guy I’d ever met. He was a licensed skydiver, rode a motorcycle, and could build anything with his bare hands. Even though we had very different backgrounds, we had a blast together. Overtime, though, he began slowly excluding me from his life. He’d ignore me for days and plan trips without me. I felt shut out and lonely. We ended it with him saying sorry, because he himself didn’t even know why he was doing what he was.
…Some track record, huh? You’d think I’d want to completely give up on men all together and become an Old Maid at 23. (Okay, sometimes I still want to do that.) But overall, I choose to look at my past relationships, good and bad, as learning experiences:
What Pete taught me: A guy’s jealousy and insecurity are his own demons, but they can also drag you down if you let them. A relationship can’t thrive without trust and equality.
What Ed taught me: Ever seen the YouTube video “You Can’t Text Message Break-Up?” Well apparently, you can Skype it.
Just kidding. But if you’ve heard that saying, “a leopard doesn’t change his spots”—it’s completely true.
What Alex taught me: It’s okay to be selfish in your 20s. In fact, sometimes it’s necessary. You need to be 100% happy with who you are before you can share yourself with someone else. But for the love of God, don’t take me along for your self-discovery ride! If you would rather go skydiving than to my birthday party, then go. But I might not be there when you get back.
Trust me, embracing these lessons took a lot of time and distance. First I had had the heartbreak and sadness, but eventually that dwindled. The revelations came later, and those I can carry with me forever.
None of these guys are really in my life anymore. Due to mutual friends, Alex pops up in the periphery one in a while. As for Pete and Andy? They could be in Zimbabwe right now and I would have no idea. This is all completely fine with me.
Sometimes I wonder what I would I say if I ever bumped into one these guys at a bar in New York City. After my heart stopped palpitating, I guess I’d say thank you.
*names have been changed. :)