After five years of being in love with the wrong person for all of the right reasons, I found myself going through a painful divorce that would have stripped me of all of my pride.
I was a confused 20-something. Unfortunately, in the south, we tend to get caught up in the idea of a glitzy wedding instead of the gritty, honest truth, which is that the rest of your life is spent with this one partner. Like, forever.
How can you really know each other in your early 20s? How can you even know yourself and your own passions? Maybe some genuinely do, but personally, I did not.
There are many recent psychology studies suggesting age 25 is the new 18, meaning true adulthood may not start until we are in our mid-20s.
That span of time is when you discover your passions, what makes you tick, what turns you on, what turns you off, what you believe in, what you won’t stand for and when you figure out what makes you uniquely you.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I adored the man I decided to marry. I will always love him, as we share a beautiful 5-year-old son. I just feel like we drifted slowly into two different people.
I hit 25 and went through a real quarter-life crisis. I obsessed over what I may have missed, and I obsessed over being a “modern woman,” whatever that means.
Fast forward through mistakes, pain and divorce, and there I was, single, not quite ready to mingle, but perhaps willing to dip a toe into the dating pool.
Then, he came out of nowhere, like a lion on the prowl that had been waiting for something as vulnerable as me to feast on. He pursued aggressively; he talked sweetly, and he made me feel like a million bucks.
As my ex and I began to accept our new separate lives, I began letting the new guy into the hardened heart I had. He was unbelievably different from the man I was married to.
He was spontaneous, edgy and, to be quite frank, kind of an assh*le. Something about the sweet promises he made, combined with his edgy attitude, intrigued me.
I wanted this to be my “new normal.”
As we all know, the rebound relationship typically doesn’t last, and perhaps this guy knew that, but at the time, I did not. This man swept me off my feet and ignited some passion in me that I had missed, both good and bad.
As the months went by, the promises he made seemed less obtainable as I began to realize this person was a habitual liar. “I can’t wait until you love me. Let your guard down. I can handle this. Trust me.”
I’m going to shamelessly quote Taylor Swift now: “So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames.” It not only went down in flames, but it went down in a ridiculously drawn-out fuse that took too long to burn and eventually explode.
It’s now been one year since his initial pursuit of me. I haven’t spoken to him in months, and that’s probably best.
He wasn’t good for me long-term, but I did learn five amazing things from the time wasted -- err, spent -- with him.
A passionate connection is possible.
Before you start booing and making gag sounds, just hear me out. I will say, the physical connection was pretty damn stellar with lion-on-the-prowl, liar boy.
It helped that he was extremely good-looking. Listen, on his good days, he was a fun-loving person. His personality made him that much more attractive, and I was really into that.
It wasn’t just sexual; he ignited such a spark of interest in me that I could not wait to talk to him, could not wait to see him. I was so excited for the first time in a while. Maybe it was the wrong time and for all of the wrong reasons, but I now know I won’t settle for any less spark within a future relationship.
He made me feel amazing and like he wanted all of me, even if it was short-lived. A man should make his girl feel that way-- and he should mean it.
Being selfless doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be selfish sometimes.
When I was married, I was selfish, and it was a huge tool in the demolition of that marriage.
Hindsight is always 20/20. So, when I started a new relationship with the rebound guy, I went way too far in the direction of selflessness.
If he said jump, I said, “How high?” I hate to admit that, but at the time, I thought it would help us cultivate a healthy relationship. But, it did not; that only works if both parties are giving and taking equally.
I did a lot for him. I went from being sassy and independent to a sad shell of myself trying to just “be there” for him.
I am a caring person, so I will never turn into this hardened, jaded woman who hates men. I do think it’s a beautiful thing to be selfless, but you have to take care of yourself, too.
Especially when you are single, make sure to put yourself first. This is the time to be selfish and do what will make you the best version of yourself.
I don’t want safety.
I learned I need to be with a man who challenges me. I need a man to encourage me when I’m pouting, not coddle me. I have a bit of a free spirit soul and I need someone who matches that.
Sometimes, opposites attract, and it works, but sometimes creative and flighty hearts like mine need someone who can just keep up.
Normal hasn’t worked for me thus far, so I will be happy to find someone who can keep me on my toes.
It’s okay to burn bridges.
I have never met a stranger, and I have never had an enemy.
In the past, I have remained friends with all of my exes. Trust me on this, people; you cannot keep those friendships in a marriage, anyway, so it is more than okay to burn those bridges.
It always bothered me that the people we get so intimate with are the ones we have to cut ties with if it doesn’t work out. I understand why now.
You just have to let go sometimes. If pieces of your heart are still tied to relationships of the past, how can you fully give yourself to the one who deserves it?
Always be polite and wish those exes well. From the bottom of my heart, I will always hope rebound guy is happy and well, but for my wellbeing and my future relationship’s wellbeing, I burned that bridge of communication.
We shared passion, but not respect. He was never going to shut the door completely, so I had to.
It was honestly one of the most freeing things I have done.
I now know to guard my heart.
Be careful after a breakup. Be careful not to quickly jump into the arms of the man who looks like a knight in shining armor.
I shared personal things with this guy early into the relationship. It made me feel like we were closer than we were. It also made it hard to clearly see the ugly truth that this man would never commit to me.
Guarding your heart doesn’t mean locking it up and throwing away the key. I love people, and I value relationships, but now I know I can meet new people just for the sake of meeting new friends.
I know to keep it casual and take things slow. What’s wonderful about this time is I get to start over.
I get to discover my passions and love myself for them.