In eighth grade, I thought I’d met the boy I was going to spend forever with.
When I met my college boyfriend, I thought marriage would be the next step. At 23, I spent several years with someone who started planning a future with me. Yet two years later, I found myself diving into the dating pool once again, but always coming up short of breath because the relationships weighed me down.
I think about these past relationships from time to time.
Some may wonder why I choose to rehash heartbreak, perhaps viewing me as the bitter ex-girlfriend with a lot of pent-up anger. Maybe I linger in the past too long. But I believe sitting with my failed relationships leads me to uncover some deep-seated issues about the person I was when I was with them.
I was always drawn to the “bad boy,” the one all the girls liked but could never have. I’m sure all of it was done in vain in order to prove to myself that I was a hot commodity. But that’s just it: I was selling out by becoming an object rather than a person of substance.
With every anniversary, a piece of me was devoured along with the lovely meal we shared. What was once a time for conversation had manifested into small talk, or even complete silence. After a few glasses of wine I’d start to pick fights over the things I’d let slide days before.
It wasn’t until a summer fling ended that I started putting the pieces together and realized I’d started to settle.
I think back to each boyfriend and find similarities—physical or emotional ones. My tendency to date the “bad boy” was something I carried with me for a large part of my 20s. By putting my opinions second, I thought I was more desirable, a better girlfriend for not standing up for what I believed in. As they lost interest, I tried even harder to be something I wasn’t—sexier, a party girl, passive in my attempts at showing how utterly frustrated I’d become, almost to the point of resentment.
Something had to change and it had to happen quickly.
But isn’t that a lesson we all must learn? Aren’t people meant to serve a purpose, to teach us something about ourselves before exiting our lives? Isn’t love meant to be experienced in many forms before we finally understand what we truly deserve?
The men I’ve dated helped me evolve in ways I can only now appreciate as I near the age of 30 and find myself in a committed relationship with a man I see as my partner. In order to attain this sort of relationship enlightenment, I needed to look at each failed relationship as a learning curve.
What needed to come from it? What was the lesson? And perhaps the biggest question of all—how can I not repeat the same mistake again?
To each of my past boyfriends, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for playing such an integral part in shaping me as a woman, a partner and a better advocate for myself.
I will always carry a memory of you with me serving as a gentle reminder not of total disappointment, but as an education on the importance of self-love and finding out who I really am.
Author: Brianna Lombardo
Assistant Editor: Kathy Baum/Editor: Katarina Tavčar