This was originally published at www.libertyproject.com
I have always dated the wrong guys.
Let me explain: I have always been attracted to confidence, which too often walks the line with cockiness. I have always been attracted to mystery, which often equals turmoil and brooding. In short, I have always been attracted to men who aren’t good for me — I even dated one for four years.
My past relationships have never been healthy, to say the least. I never thought that would be something I would appreciate, but years later I finally do. Being in unhealthy relationships taught me exactly what I do not want in a partner.
I thought relationships were hard and too much work — from experience, that was all I knew. I thought constant ups and downs were typical, and that screaming at one another was just part of dating someone. I thought that was passion, and I think many young women have the same misconception. It took me 22 years, but I have finally realized my views of relationships were so wrong.
Right now, I am in the healthiest, happiest relationship I have ever been in. In a weird way, I have my awful relationships to thank for that. The guy I am with now is nothing like the others I have dated.
I met him on the heels of an awful break-up. Actually, deeming it a break-up would be generous. I fell for a guy who lied and manipulated his way through life, and threw me aside when I was no longer of interest to him. The whole thing was a mess and I swore off dating after that — at least that was the plan.
Soon after having my heart broken, I was back on the dating app Tinder, swiping left and right like crazy. (As anyone who has used Tinder knows, it can be addicting.) I had my heart set on finding a good guy, although Tinder probably wasn’t the best method for doing so. A good-looking rugby player popped up and piqued my interest, so I swiped right and messaged him. And then? Nothing. I didn’t get a response for four weeks. To be honest, I kind of forgot about him and migrated back to the aforementioned liar-manipulator guy.
Four weeks later, the rugby-playing Tinder match finally responded; I felt pulled in and wanted to meet him. We set up a time to get coffee to see if there was anything between us.
I didn’t know what to expect on our first date — Tinder tells you so little about your match. In this case, the app certainly did not prepare me well. My date showed up in a camo jacket and cowboy boots, driving a beat-up, old Ford pickup. His words were laced with a thick, midwestern accent. In other words, he was everything I have always avoided. My reaction was just a flat-out: “Crap.”
Eight months later, that country boy is the love of my life and we are moving in together. I am continuously shocked at how easy the relationship is, and how effortless our love is. Before meeting him, I was used to being the one who loved more and wanted more from the relationship, but now the wanting and the love is reciprocated. Sometimes, I almost feel undeserving of the love he provides, simply because I have never been in a relationship where love was given so freely.
Learning to be loved has been a process — sometimes a difficult one. I too often revert to the insecure girl I was in past, unhealthy relationships. Sometimes, it is hard to forget that relationships aren’t all the same.
I encounter moments today, when I stop and think about all it took for me to reach the present. Through every heartbreak in my life, my mother consistently comforted me saying, “It’s all part of the broken road, honey.” It’s true. In many twisted ways, I wouldn’t be where I am today — in the relationship I am in — if it hadn’t been for all the terrible relationships I had to make it through first.
I’m not saying that bad relationships are desirable or a rite of passage — they’re not. Some people are even lucky enough to never experience a bad relationship in their lifetime.
For those of us who have experienced them, though, there is a silver lining in the long run: One day, we will be staring at the love of our life, thinking about every step it took to find this incredible human being. We will realize, without a doubt, that those steps included the unhealthy relationships. We have them to thank for the here and the now — because the broken road led us to the whole one.