To say I’ve had a lot of relationships would be an understatement. I carried around a ton of baggage and guilt for many years after each one of them failed for various reasons. My friends and family considered me ‘unstable’ in any of my relationships, and never took them seriously when I’d fall in lust/like/love and then it would be over just as quickly. Some lasted months, some lasted years. None were ever a good fit. I think with just a few short months away from marrying the one I got right, it’s time to let go of a bunch of this baggage, anger, and let the history go. I’ve told everyone why I absolutely hated these guys, why I wish I could go back and erase them from my memory, etc. But… each time, I learned so much about myself. Each time I took a lesson away I needed to know. For this, I want to actually thank these guys, not for hurting me, but for pulling something out of me I didn’t know was there. This list is not any guy I just ever dated, sometimes things just don’t click. That would be a really, really long list. These are the important ones. In no particular order:
To my short-lived High School Sweetheart (who picked drugs over me): Thank you for not dragging me into that world with you. I made some mistakes after out of anger, but this was the first dose of ‘reality’ I got of the way the world really works, and seeing it up close and personal saved me from so much more. It makes me so happy now, so many years later, to see that you’re doing well.
To the Narcissist (who tried to sleep with my best friend when I was passed out): Thank you for showing me friendship is more important than some guy. I had never had to make that choice before, and to this day, I know I chose correctly.
To the paranoid Drug Dealer (who tried to commit suicide): Thank you for showing me the full cycle of bad choices, and the realities of getting close to ending it all. Thank you for being a good brother to yours, even though your family was so broken. Thank you for showing me that the ‘bad people’ out there have just been given a shitty lot in life, and can still sometimes do good things.
To the first “older” boyfriend (who made me sleep in my car in February): Thank you for telling me I was strong, even when you were dumping me. Thank you for letting me help you with your illness (diabetes) because I learned that people sometimes hide fragility. Thank you for helping me learn, sometimes it’s really just not worth it to put up with someone’s shit. BTW, so it’s not creepy… I was a senior in HS, 18, and he was a club promoter, 24. We weren’t that far off in age, but at 18, it’s a world of difference.
To my Return Soldier : Thank you for letting me be a part of your life during this time. It was rough for both of us, and I learned a lot. This experience showed me the reality of war, up close and personal, and the effects of PTSD. Thank you for cutting me loose before you hit rock bottom, I would’ve tried to save you all on my own, and you needed more help than I could give.
To my best friend I fell for (whom I never told): Thank you for showing me the consequences of being afraid of my own feelings. I never got another chance, and we were both worse off for it. But, thank you for being my best friend for a long time, and someone who was always there. We don’t talk now, but I won’t forget that at the time, it was really important.
To my college boyfriend (who I spent three years with, that didn’t matter): Thank you for showing me that ‘settling’ and being comfortable is not a relationship I want. Thank you for helping me realize what I need, what I want, and that I needed and wanted more than you could give me. Thank you for forcing me to make a change, that ultimately changed my life, because I would’ve stayed stagnant. Thank you for never being around, though you lived three blocks away, because of that, I had plenty of time to develop my brain and my talents without your constant distractions of TV shows and sitcoms.
To the one who kept me a secret: Thank you for making me realize I have to have my own back. I learned that jealousy is something that everyone experiences, and I wasn’t above it, and I really did care because it really did hurt. I didn’t want to be the other woman anymore and when I made the decision to cut you off, I learned that someone who is with me should be proud to call me their girlfriend and not hide me in the shadows, criticizing me at every step. Thank you for telling me, years ago, that you thought I had it in me to do comedy, to keep writing, and to nurture my talents with film and the arts. Thank you for filling a void at that time in my life, and then showing me I was better than the people I used to aspire to be.
To the one with a drinking and addiction problem: Thank you for pushing me to realize that I don’t have to be co-dependent to be a good partner. Thank you for showing me so much ugly, so much turmoil, that I grew immensely as a person. Thank you for coming back after hurting me so many times that I had to step up and be stronger than I wanted to be, and walk away. Thank you for showing me that sometimes, no matter how much you want things to work, I only have control over my actions, and I can’t change anyone else. Thank you for closing the door, that another door could open up. And now that I knew what I wanted, how I wanted to be treated, and that I was ready for more in my life- I stepped through. And thank you for not being there for me, ever. It made me more independent.
To the one who tried to kill me (after I prevented him from sleeping with an underage girl): To you, I will NOT say thank you. What I will say is that I survived you, and you never have to be forgiven or thanked for that. But because of you, because I endured what I did, and I survived to retell the tale now, I am stronger. I am smarter. I became an activist and though you deny ever hurting me, I will still publicly call you out on it. I have helped other women in the same position. I don’t call myself a victim, but actually realize that abusive relationships aren’t kept in some dark corner, they do happen, and they can happen to ANY woman. Because of you I will raise my sons or daughters differently. Because of you I learned that love isn’t supposed to be that ugly, that’s not love.
*deep breath* That feels good to let it all go.
NOT AN EX- But very last, to the one I will soon marry, I wish we would’ve worked out years ago so we could’ve skipped on a few of these. Thank you for putting up with my baggage, and realize that because of these missteps, I was able to see you for the amazing person you are. It’s rare, and I thank you every day for being in my life.
Now… ladies, however scorned, go forth and love yourselves, learn your lessons, and move on from bad situations. It does get better.