What I’ve Learned From Failed Relationships: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful
by Kay Dee
Where to start? Let’s see… I’ll start with the fact that I’m old enough to have teens and young adult children, I am divorced, and remain single. Not for lack of trying. I’ve been trying to find someone special, but, he has not yet come into my orbit. Actually, when I say “trying”, I mean looking, pouting, hoping, wishing, wanting, attempting, being disappointed, being utterly frustrated, looking, hoping, trying again…. You get the picture. I feel as though my post-divorce single journey has been a roller coaster ride. Not as hairy or crazy as my marriage was, but, not without great highs and stomach dropping lows.
Many times I have wondered if something was wrong with me. I would compare myself to my friends who had also been divorced but found love again fairly quickly. I’d also compare myself to other single friends who eventually found a great love connection. Not a fair comparison, I know. I’ve been in the “singles club” for a while. And if you’ve been in the singles club for any length of time, when one of your long-time club members suddenly finds love, you experience that twinge of jealousy and pang of self-doubt. Yes, part of you is very happy for them because it gives you hope that it’s never too late to find one of the “good ones” out there. But, it’s also is like a sucker punch to the gut. It’s like everyone else got picked for the kickball team and you’re that last one that no one wants. You may not let on that these feelings creep in, but they do. Outwardly you might be all smiles and congratulations, but inside, a part of you hurts. You know you can’t stay in that hurting place. You must push past it to get back to your zen-single-mindset. But it’s not easy out here.
The more I look around, I realize that I have a lot of phenomenal women friends who are still single. That makes me wonder if there is not something awfully lopsided about the prospects of finding a good man these days. I digress.
As I was saying, self-doubt often creeps in. But, I always try to put things into perspective. Having been previously married taught me a lot about what I did and did not want; what I would accept and what I would not. It helped me to figure out who I am and what I stand for. After my divorce, I went deep. I analyzed and re-analyzed everything. I read books upon books. I talked to counselors and mentors. I prayed a LOT. I wanted to LEARN what I did wrong, what he did wrong, what could’ve been done differently, what to watch out for, etc. I came to a place where I felt pretty self-assured that I knew what to look for and what I wanted in a future mate, and I was sure I’d find it.
But, answer me this: What happens to you after you’ve been for married several years and suddenly find yourself single and having to re-enter the dating scene? I’ll tell you. It is completely foreign. You don’t know how the ‘game’ works anymore because you have been out of it for so long. You are “green” again. Only I did not realize I was “green”. I was overly confident and under-prepared and… I fell for the okey-doke (old school talk for basically getting played). After a devastating reality check, I was able to find my footing. The journey I would then go on took me through varied experiences with uniquely different men. And each of them taught me lessons. Some were good, some were bad and some were beautiful. I learned lessons about myself as well and I want to share some of those lessons with you here. Nothing here is a great revelation in the sense that I’m sure you’ve heard these things before. But, some things were surprising to me and helped me to grow. I’ll start with “The Bad” to get that out of the way first, and then go to “The Good” and “The Beautiful”. I will also preface this by saying that although I am talking from my personal perspective about men I have encountered, I know that what I am about to describe does not only apply to men. Ok, here we go….
I have learned that some men are completely “effed up” (pardon my language but it’s true). There are those who have severe mental and emotional problems, who will unleash their toxicity on you and have you feeling like you’re the crazy one. I was in a long-term relationship with a narcissistic and mentally unhealthy person. It was hell on earth. The messed up part is that, back then, I was so insecure that I put up with the mental and emotional abuse for a long time. God literally had to break me free from that toxic situation. But, I learned something important. I learned is to have compassion for those who are in abusive relationships, because often when you are in the thick of it, you ‘cannot see the forest for the trees’. You cannot see the big picture, only what is immediately in front of you. And you are so wrapped up in the crazy (situation), that the crazy becomes your normal. It wasn’t until this relationship ended that I was able to see the severity of the situation I was in. But, after I got out of it and eventually healed… baby, let me tell you… a strong, fierce woman was birthed from that process! (I’ll write more about that in another post).
Next, of course I encountered the “player” or “playboy” type of guy. He’s always got swag. Always. That’s part of what makes him so appealing. He possesses a kind of cocky confidence that makes you swoon just a little bit (or a lot). He is sexy, suave, smooth, practiced and predictable. However, some are so practiced and so polished in their ‘playboy-ness’, that they have more than a few tricks up their sleeve depending upon the type of woman they are trying to seduce at the moment. Usually, we can all spot a player. The problem arises when we start to fall for their ploys or attempts juuuuuust enough to put a little crack in our armor. Once that armor is cracked, you best believe that this guy is going in for the kill. All he needed was an opening, a weak spot. If you think you are immune to all players…think again. I have learned not to overestimate my strength. Sometimes it’s best to just RUN. Don’t even flirt with fire. You may get burned.
I have learned that some men are confused, fickle, wishy-washy, etc. This type of man doesn’t quite know what he wants. He could fall into the player category. But, he could also genuinely be an emotional wreck and not know definitively what he wants because he hasn’t taken the time to pursue any answers. Nor has he taken the time to heal before involving a woman in his world of confusion. I have learned to see the signs of this personality and to extricate myself fairly quickly from such situations.
Here is something I have learned about myself that I don’t think is good, so I am putting it in the bad category. I learned that I have tended toward men (some good, some not) who are largely “unavailable” for some reason or another. Maybe they are healing from someone previous. Maybe they are at a point in their lives where their career is most important. Maybe they just don’t have the time nor the interest in pursuing a relationship. The result is as you suppose. It never works out. My next job is digging deeper into this revelation and figuring out some answers for myself, and then going in a better direction for future pursuits.
The Good and The Beautiful
I have learned that there are indeed good men out there. Men who are kind, thoughtful and caring. Even though things did not end up working out between me and these individuals, I still have respect for them and have gained some valuable heart-healing insights.
1.) Good men still exist. Just realizing from my personal experiences that there are still good (and godly) men out there has restored my faith in men in general (because at times, due to repeated bad experiences, my faith had begun to diminish). Having encountered and pursued something with these good men has given me much needed hope that at the right time, I will find and form a lasting relationship with such a man.
2.) There are men out there who will appreciate you for who you are, just as you are. They will like all of the parts of you that you feel insecure about. They will appreciate your personality, your intelligence, your quirks, and your body. Having previously been in an emotionally abusive relationship, I encountered the opposite for so many years. I was talked down to; told I needed to be more like someone or something else. There were times I even was made to feel guilty for being intelligent. So, having encountered men who have truly appreciated me as I am, without trying to change me, and who VALUED and CELEBRATED me, has given me courage to know that I can continue to be ME unapologetically. The right person will like all of me.
3.) I have learned that there are men who are honorable. As previously mentioned, I have children. Daughters and sons. As a rule, I have not brought guys home to meet my kids one-on-one because (a) it rarely got to a point where it was serious enough for that to happen (I know everyone is different about this, but, this was how I chose to handle.) (b) I had always heard stories of guys who were so pervy (i.e. perverted) that they would try to make moves on your kids, which is disgusting, and I always feared that. BUT there were a couple of situations where I allowed exposure to my kids. I was not disappointed. These men were respectful and honorable and this encouraged me so much.
4.) I have learned that true gentlemen still exist. While it’s true that having good manners does not always a gentleman make, there ARE guys who are gentlemen inside and out. They will hold the door for you, ask your preferences, hold your hand as you walk up the stairs, pull out your chair, will pay for dinner without expecting sex. Lol. So rare. They will intently listen to and value your company and your conversation. They are never forward and never presume. Now, I know that some women don’t prefer this in general, but I do. And it gives me continued hope as I go along my journey.
There are other things I could list, but, I’ll stop here. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and I hope it gives you pause to think about your own situation, outlook, and experiences. I hope that you reflect not so much on the negative, but instead, on what good you have learned from bad situations and what beautiful things you have experienced so far in your journey. Single sisters (and brothers), it is not necessary to compromise your core values. I know at times it is definitely tempting to do so. And there are times, in our journey we may stumble or get stuck or fall down. But, let this be a reminder that you can get back up again, better, bolder, stronger, wiser than before. As we learn, we grow. Growth is not always a pleasant process, but necessary nonetheless. Keep growing and learning and hoping. I stand with you. Much love, much peace.