The internet just informed me that my ex is engaged. You’d think with modern technology advances, Facebook would know what not to show me by now.
Even so, this information isn’t exactly a shock or a dagger to the heart. It’s more of an “Oh. Okay then. Good for him.”
Years ago I wouldn’t have seen it that way, though. As I type this, I can’t help but think how many times in life I have been left feeling broken hearted, unsure how I would ever adjust to life without someone’s presence, let alone be happy for them when they moved on.
But what is dating for, if not to teach us what we don’t want? Each special person to cross our paths leaves a mark, a lesson – sometimes in the form of scars, other times as fond memories. Yet in the end they play the same role – they teach.
These are a few of those individuals who have crossed my path and the lessons they have now left in their absence – some fresh and still painful, others long past healed.
1. The First Love and/or Love Of Your Life.
This person teaches you more about love than anyone else in your life – in the time since, and probably in the time to come as well. They were your first everything, and at the time you imagined they would be your last as well. The world began and ended with their presence, and you never imagined they would cease to be there. But as it does, life started to happen. You grew up, grew apart. One year blended into the next, and eventually you realized you were together out of comfort and normalcy, not love or passion. The ending hurt like hell, but you both knew it was the right thing. If you’re lucky, you’re still in each other’s’ lives and will always love one another, just in a different way.
The Lesson: Just one? No way. This experience teaches you what love feels like, what passion is, what desire is fueled by. It is your introduction into the world of love.
2. The Rebound
This guy makes his first appearance after your relationship with The First Love ends. After years of a relationship, you’re suddenly thrown back into the dating world and have no idea how to navigate it. This guy is there as a shoulder to lean on, someone to vent to. But gradually you begin to entertain the idea of more, even though a little voice is screaming “No, don’t ruin the friendship!” But you give it that chance you think it deserves. However, something just doesn’t quite click and it fizzles out.
The Lesson: Be content learning to be single. Just because you were in a relationship for a long time doesn’t mean you need to jump into another one. Take time to find out who you really are without someone by your side.
3. The Nice Guy.
You know this person is everything you should want, everything that would make a good husband someday. On paper, he is perfect for you. You like him, maybe even love him, but that spark just isn’t there. You date him because you think maybe, just maybe, your feelings could grow into something more, but time passes and they don’t. Eventually you realize this isn’t fair to him, and you need to end it. So you do.
The Lesson: Your initial instinct about your feelings is usually right, and loving someone cannot be forced.
4. The All-Consuming Asshole.
This sneaky guy can show up at any point in life, and when he does, thoughts of him will consume you. He will be all you can think about, and your days will be spent texting, your nights spent on the phone until the early hours of morning. You’ll be so engulfed in what you think you have together that you refuse to see what everyone else sees: that he is an arrogant ass and doesn’t treat you right. It’ll take a while to see this for yourself, but you’ll come around and realize what you deserve.
The Lesson: Don’t ignore your friends’ warnings. Just don’t. It’ll save you a lot of time and hurt in the end.
5. The College Boyfriend.
This is the first time in your life that you have a relationship and don’t have parents around to dictate it. “You mean I can sleep at his place? And not have to fear anyone coming home? Oh hell yes, let’s rageeee.” Because you suddenly feel like a grownup in a real relationship, it hits all the harder when it comes crashing down around you. Suddenly being away from your parents isn’t a freedom but a burden because now you need them to help you pick up the pieces.
The Lesson: Making all your own decisions about a relationship and the pace at which it moves may sound exciting, but it’s a lot of responsibility. Also, you’ll always be that little girl who wants her mommy when her heart is broken.
6. The Idea.
This person is virtually a stranger, but you love the idea of who they are, who they could be. You meet, and something is just there. A spark, a connection, a deeper level of understanding. You feel it, he feels it. Maybe something becomes of it, but more likely it’s left as a one-time thing, chalked up to timing and circumstance. You’ll later let your mind wander and wonder what could have been had circumstances been kinder.
The Lesson: Ted Mosby said it best: “If you have chemistry you only need one other thing: timing. And timing is a bitch.” Simple but true.
So there you have it, the ghosts of boyfriends past. Each one consuming in their own way, but packaged with a silver lining. The future surely holds more for us all. But we never know we are encountering these ghosts until after the fact, when the damage has been done.