January 27, 2016

To all the Men I’ve Loved Before.

Luke Pamer/Unsplash

Many years ago, I recognized that I gravitated toward somewhat dysfunctional relationships.

When I became a mom, I sort of took myself off the market to focus on raising my daughter. I decided to use that time to learn more about myself and heal whatever needed to be healed, so that when I was ready to get out there again I wouldn’t resort to my old patterns.

Over the past few years, I have reflected on many of the significant relationships in my life. I have tried to look at them from a different perspective, focusing on what they taught me about myself and what I want from a relationship—or don’t.

I now see the gifts that each one left me. And I realized that I would not be who I am today if they hadn’t played their part in my life.

As an act of gratitude I have written a love note to each of them to honor and thank them for who they were to me.

Dear Love #1,

From the moment I laid eyes on you, you were everything to me. You are the one the rest have all been compared to. I have been looking for you in every other man that I meet. I have never again felt that pure and open love with no boundaries.

You taught me that what I want most in a relationship is a friend with whom I have a deep and special connection. And you taught me that a love like that transcends circumstances, time, distance and even death.

I still carry you in my heart every day. You are a part of me and I take you with me wherever I go.

Thank you for loving me so deeply.

Dear Love #2,

To this day, I don’t think that any man has ever loved me with the level of intensity that you did, for as long as you did. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what kept drawing me back to you for 20+ years—it was the certainty of you. I was certain that you loved me. I was certain that you would be there.

In an uncertain world, certainty can become intoxicating. I may have even taken advantage of that a little. Maybe that’s why you became so critical of me. Maybe that’s why your honesty became so painful. We got trapped in a toxic bond and my soul no longer felt safe. Our relationship taught me that security and safety are both important to me—and I can’t give up one for the other.

I don’t know that I will ever completely let go of you but I have let go of our toxic dynamic—for the both of us—so we can be free.

Thank you for loving me so much, for so long.

Dear Love #3,

You were so different from the rest of them—my first good guy. We were so mismatched from the start. I guess that was part of our allure. We had a nice run, but really I just wasn’t the one for you and you weren’t the one for me. You loved me but you always wanted me to be just a little bit different—and I wasn’t—and would never be. You taught me that there is nothing more important than being able to be who I am and be loved completely—as I am.

I have nothing but good thoughts and memories of us. I know that we had to go our separate ways or we would have both ended up unhappy.

Thank you for always treating me with love and respect. You will always have a special place in my heart for that.

Dear Love #4,

You will always be my biggest regret. You were everything I have ever wanted in a man. We were together during a time that I could not give myself to you completely. I was so confused and stuck. You were so kind and understanding. I don’t blame you for moving on with your life. I know you couldn’t wait around forever. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Maybe I needed to go through what I went through before, during and after you to get to where I am now. During our time together, you showed me what it felt like to be loved for who I am. And you showed me the kind of man I want in my life. I hope one day I find someone like you. I won’t let that opportunity pass me by again.

Thank you for showing me that men like you do exist.

Dear Love #5,

You were the right guy at the right time. We were all fun—nothing serious. And that was exactly what we both wanted from each other. It worked out perfectly. Our time together brought me back to life and got me back in touch with parts of myself that I had forgotten. It was a perfect arrangement while it lasted.

Thank you for reminding me that it’s important to just have fun. You taught me that I want to be with someone with whom I can get lost in pure bliss. But you also taught me that when it’s time to get found, the person you’re with has to want to get found too. You weren’t that guy and that’s cool. It doesn’t take away from any of the fun we had. It just meant that it was time to move on.

Thank you for being my sweet escape.

Dear Love #6,

Thinking about us is still so difficult—not because it was bad, but because there are still many questions left unanswered and issues unresolved. What I know for sure is that the time we shared taught me that I want to be with someone I can laugh with. But you also taught me that I need someone I can count on and, unfortunately, you couldn’t be that guy. Our short time together also taught me important lessons about family, friends, life and death. I’m extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to have you in my life during your short time on this earth.

Thank you for all the laughs and for leaving me with a new group of extended family and friends.

Dear Love #7,

This one is pretty complicated. I’ll sum it up by saying that I know now that you were a necessary part of my life. My time with you made me question everything about myself. I became a shell of a human being and was completely lost for a long time. But you were the rock bottom I needed to hit in order to finally get serious about my life and start making better decisions.

As difficult as the whole thing was, I wouldn’t change it for a moment. You gave me the greatest gift that life could ever give me—my daughter! And she has been the motivation for everything good I have done since she was born.

Thank you for forcing me to hit my reset button and for the gift of my child which has brought me the greatest joy and has been my guiding light through life.


These seven men have contributed to the evolution of who I am in so many ways, including making the choice to remain single after the birth of my daughter. I was so tired of picking the wrong ones, getting treated badly, being hurt and having to start over. I called time out—and I don’t regret it. I’ve used the time wisely and I feel that I’m much more able to enter into a relationship from a healthy and whole place than I ever was before.

I’m finally starting to feel like I might be ready to dive back in.

We all have past hurts that sometimes keep us stuck in anger or sadness. We all have past situations that make us fearful of moving forward and opening ourselves back up. What this experience has taught me is that if we stay stuck in that place, we lose an incredible opportunity to learn about ourselves. When we choose to look at even the most painful of relationships as a gift, it forces us to open ourselves up and grow. It helps us to better understand what we want out of a relationship so we are better equipped to find it in the future.

Go ahead and lick your wounds if you need to. But make sure to also write a new story.

Write a story that heals and empowers you. Be thankful for everything that your experiences have given you. And then, open yourself back up and get back out there. That may mean more mistakes and more heartbreak. But it also means more fun and more love. And it will always mean learning new lessons and continuing to grow.

I’m down for all of that and welcome it back into my life. I hope you do too.


Author: Vanessa Benavides

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Luke Pamer/Unsplash

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