As I near the end of my 30s, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my relationship mistakes, especially as I finalize my divorce. Mistakes are meant to happen but if you don’t learn from them, you’ll never grow or get what you’re looking for.
For me, I benefit the most when I share the life lessons I learned the hard way with the hopes that someone can steal a gem from the mistakes I made and choose a better path. In the two years since I’ve been separated from my former husband, I’ve also promised myself that I will never go through a divorce again, nor will I commit to the wrong person again.
These are some of the relationship mistakes I made in my 20s that set the bar too low for me. And I will NEVER repeat them again.
1. I ignored the nice guys.
Women ignore the nice guys when they feel bad about themselves. When you feel bad about yourself, you pick people who continue to validate those bad feelings about yourself. I’m not saying I will go out with anyone who’s nice simply because he’s nice, but I will give a nice guy a chance because I know that’s what I deserve.
2. I let him do all the work.
I always pursued the guys hardcore instead of letting them chase me, and when they did chase me, I ignored them because they were nice guys (see mistake #1). My former husband pursued me and that’s what worked. I’m a Type A female, but a man wants to feel like he’s earned the love of someone, not as if the woman threw herself at his feet.
3. I told the truth too much, too often.
I disclosed too much, too soon with new partners, and they didn’t stick around long because I chose jerks. Did these people really need or deserve to have my heart and soul on a plate? No, and I probably scared guys away that would’ve stuck around had I just went easy.
Don’t reveal everything too soon. People don’t need to know it all, and let your potential partner earn the right to share your private thoughts and skeletons. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust people or be vulnerable, but that you should be smart and share private sensitive things in time.
4. I tolerated disrespect.
I did some of this in my marriage, but in my twenties there were many men who disrespected me, apologized, and then got an invite back to the party. No, no, no, no! Do NOT extend the invite to anyone who disrespects you. That person deserves a “go to jail” card for good. A kind person will make mistakes and maybe say the wrong thing, but will not disrespect you.
5. I let partners treat me like a puppet.
I’m not — I’m a human being. If these dudes wanted Barbie, they should’ve gone to Toys R Us. Remember that you’re your own being with your own strengths and weaknesses. You aren’t put here to be controlled and dictated by anyone. Never be a man’s plaything, doll, or puppet. Never.
No matter how hard I fought back and how many times I said “screw you” as the strong-willed girl I was then, my self-esteem was bad so I tolerated disrespect for the sake of being liked.
6. I put all my eggs in one basket.
When I liked a guy, I put too much of my happiness into him liking me. And when it ended because of something he did or I did, my happiness dissipated into thin air. Go slowly; things can fizzle fast once you get to know someone. Hormones and chemistry don’t always equal an amazing long-term commitment.
7. I relied on someone else for my happiness.
It meant way too much to me to have someone like me back, and if the “liking stopped,” the depression came on. No one likes to be rejected or hurt, but if you define your happiness by how people feel about you, you’re bound to have one miserable life.
8. I needed men instead of wanting them.
I didn’t like the men I chose — I needed them. Needing someone isn’t sexy. It’s not the person you truly need, but some unmet need or issue you’re looking to resolve through someone else. You should want someone, not need them. No one person should be the reason for your existence.
9. I didn’t date around.
I had many dates and boyfriends, but I tended to find one person and stick with him until I moved to the next. I should’ve dated around more casually for the end-goal of having fun and meeting someone new. When you date for fun, you end up learning what you like, enjoying your time more, and finding someone who actually works well with you.
10. I didn’t enjoy what I had.
You’re complete on your own and have much to be happy for. I often felt incomplete if I didn’t have a guy who liked me or was single when my friends weren’t. I should’ve smelled the roses that were already planted and grew my life, rather than feeling incomplete because a guy was lacking. This was something I did much better in my thirties, and as an almost-divorced woman I’m very happy being single.
Relationships are hard but they don’t have to be hell if you work on being a solid independent person first. Before you can walk you must crawl, so work on you and you will attract better quality partners. More importantly, love your life and the people in it; the happier you are, the happier you will be in a relationship.