Before I met my prince of a husband, I dated this guy I can't even think about for two seconds without cringing. Clearly we weren't right for each other but I ignored the signs in flashing neon lights and on billboards. I was in my late thirties, and this wasn't how my life was supposed to go. Where was the wedded bliss, the kids and the family Christmas card? I couldn't start over. Again. I’d wake up alone in the middle of the night in my apartment and more than my biological clock was ticking — my life clock was ticking. My fear fed my denial.
I kept dating this guy, but he treated me badly. He wore his bachelor status like it was a gift to all single women, everywhere. He had about two pieces of furniture in a big house (never a good sign). He checked out other women in front of me. When he told me he loved me, he looked conflicted. He was cheap too. We went on a cruise together and not only did I pay my own way, but I also bought my own drinks. Not kidding.
Then he started dropping clues that I wasn't his type at all. We hired a private fitness trainer together and he squeezed the back of my arm once and said, "There's muscle in there somewhere." (The fitness trainer was way nicer to me than my own boyfriend.) It didn’t take my best investigative skills to figure out my boyfriend liked skinny, make-up free and baseball hat-wearing women. That's not who I am. I'm into fitness, but skinny isn't my body type. I love make-up, and I look dumb in hats. Why was he even dating me? And the more obvious question: why was I dating him?
It's ironic, the more time I spent with him, the more alone I felt, yet somehow I feared the unknown more. What was on the other side of ending it? Truth is, I let him treat me badly and that's tough to swallow. I can find all sorts of ways to justify staying with him — we took cool trips, we did adventurous things like rappelling and mountain biking, but the relationship drained my spirit. I let the relationship drag on and drag me down. Worse, I never seized my moment to let him know he’s a colossal cad and that I deserve to be treated better.
Today, I'm joyfully married to an amazing man and we have beautiful twin toddler girls. I don't have to give this this ex-boyfriend one more second of my life, but I feel compelled to share my story. I hope my regret can turn into another woman’s decision day. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but if you are in the wrong relationship, you likely know it. Are you ignoring the signs? Are you ignoring your gut? If I could go back in time, I would have ended it a lot sooner.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you start to sense this might not be the dream relationship that you deserve:
1. Is your relationship making your life worse, overall?
A quick way to know if you are in a healthy relationship is to ask yourself if the person you are dating is making your life better. Healthy relationships improve our lives. When we let people mistreat us, it takes a toll on other aspects of our lives too.
2. Are you afraid of the unknown?
Fabulous times await you on the other side. Trust that your best days are ahead of you. (For me, my dream man and my twin girls were on the other side of ending it.) Yes, the unknown is scary, but ending a relationship that weighs heavily on you is ultimately freeing and empowering. And what's even scarier than the unknown in knowing that you're giving up on your own happiness.
3. Is your relationship encouraging you to become someone else?
If someone is trying to change you, they aren’t deserving of your time. You date to find the right match, not to turn yourself into the right match.
4. Are you stalling on making a decision?
In retrospect, I can clearly identify early signs that my relationship was unhealthy. Signs that said RUN! You can save yourself precious time and emotional turmoil when you read the signs early and make decisions accordingly.
5. Are you sacrificing your spark?
If your personality normally shines and suddenly you feel smaller or like your light was dimmed, check your relationship. On some level, we all know when we are putting up with behavior that doesn’t meet our personal standards. If you are no longer the person you once were, or friends and family tell you that you don’t seem the same, those are signs that you are in the wrong relationship.
Ultimately, I don’t blame this guy I once dated. We are all on our own journeys of growth and evolution. My deep regret is about the relationship I had with myself. We teach people how to treat us based on how we feel about ourselves. Today I don’t recognize myself in those memories. It isn’t who I am anymore. Once you make a decision to be treated better, you will be.
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