When my most recent ex and I broke up, he looked right at me and said, “I told you on the first day we hung out that I didn’t want a girlfriend. I’m not cut out for it — I warned you.”
In addition to being a complete assh*le, he was right. He did warn me: He wasn’t cut out for it.
I always opened the door for myself. I paid for my own meals. I walked myself to my car; I drove myself home. And, then, I’d wait by the phone. I compromised because it seemed like he was worth it, despite the fact that he never treated me like I was.
As I’m sure you can imagine, our relationship didn’t last long. Luckily, my year with him taught me a thing or two about who I am and my outlook on relationships. Here's what I learned — the hard way:
1. Don’t let the butterflies and warm fuzzies blind you.
A new relationship with someone to whom you’re purely attracted can be euphoric.
In retrospect, while embarrassing to admit, I realize I was so hung up on him that I forgot to think straight. I traded in my sense of time and direction for attention from him. I was missing classes and neglecting my work in favor of being with him.
He was tall, older, smart and good-looking, which made it easy to overlook certain negative qualities when we first started dating. Everything was so brand new.
It had been so long since I felt so great and cared for someone else. I was so happy that I didn’t notice I was settling.
With time, the buzz started to wear off, and I eventually came to realize that many details about him were unsettling. I was still crazy about him, and he regularly told me how important I was to him.
But, his actions repeatedly fell short of his words.
The small things he never did started adding up. I kept telling myself he was worth the compromise, but the times he wasn’t there when I needed him (or just wanted him) eventually wore me thin.
One day, the warm fuzzy feeling and excitement that came with loving him just wasn’t enough.
2. Be honest with yourself.
If something leaves you feeling unsettled when things are just starting to bloom, don’t overlook it. The end of the novelty will come much too soon.
The worst feeling is looking back and admitting that you always knew: The “small things” added up to him being wrong for you.
3. Remember, people show their best selves in the beginning.
It’s undeniable that we tend to be on our best behaviors in the beginning of relationships. We want to do everything possible to impress the other party.
I’m not suggesting we stop trying to impress our significant others over time, but the truth is, as we get more comfortable, we reveal more of our flaws.
If there’s something you don’t like about your partner at the beginning of the relationship, it won't go away. If anything, it will get worse over time.
4. Make sure you like your partner, not the idea of him or her.
I’ve seen countless variations of this: Girl thinks she likes Boy. Girl really likes being in a relationship with Boy. Girl likes the relationship more than Boy.
Girl puts up with the parts of the Boy she doesn’t like to perpetuate the illusion of a picture-perfect relationship. Eventually, Girl thinks she can change the parts of the Boy she doesn’t like.
Girl is wrong. Being with someone means you have to BE with him or her, warts and all.
I recently had lunch with a friend who’s been dating her significant other for about eight months and barely spends time away from him. While she was raving about how great they were doing, I expressed my jealousy (I haven’t been of interest to the opposite sex in months).
When I inquired what it is about him that really captivates her, she started going through a laundry list of things he does for HER.
If what you like about your partner is more about you than him or her, you probably like the idea of the relationship more than the person with whom you are in it.
5. Listen to the important people in your life.
I’m not suggesting every person must love your significant other — what you think obviously matters most.
That being said, if you’re into someone, you may have a distorted perception of who he or she is. The cliché that love is blind never rings true until it happens to you.
When my parents told me they thought my ex was rude after they met him, I said he was having an off day. But over time, every day became an off day.
Eventually, he was never “on” for me.
6. Know what you want in a partner and don’t feel badly for having expectations.
While I think having a very particular “type” can keep you from meeting someone great, there’s nothing wrong with having expectations.
Constantly hearing my close male friends complain about how “women expect too much” led me to expect nothing at all. I wanted to be easy going and cool, which is exactly what I became.
Ultimately, it worked, but landed me a man who was all take and no give.
“I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to buy flowers for you or open the door for you.”
“I just can’t promise you anything.”
“I know I said I’d be there, but something came up...”
“Even though I love you, I’m never going to marry you.”
It was easy to overlook, until it wasn’t.