Many of us are left wondering what an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend has left us with: a broken heart, a wounded ego, or just a bitter moment. And we find ourselves asking: What was it all about? Was it worth it? Recently, I looked back at all my failed relationships and realized that each one taught me what qualities I wanted in my future husband.
I got married young and so didn’t have a lot of relationships before I got married—not that I consider that a bad thing! But looking back ten years later with four children, I realize now that the qualities I knew I needed in a spouse before we got married are the ones that have made my husband and my relationship successful. Surprisingly, I learned the qualities I valued in a future spouse from past (unhealthy) relationships. With each relationship I got a little wiser about what kind of man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I’m not saying that my exes were all to blame for our failed relationships, but some of them had qualities I came to realize I didn’t want in a future husband.
From those relationships I learned that I was looking for a man with the following qualities:
- He respects my body. One of my very first boyfriends was a sweet guy, but he wanted more than I was willing to give physically. I felt like he didn’t honor my value or self-worth because he wasn’t considerate of my standards.
- He’s clean. When I found out that same boyfriend was abusing prescription pain pills, I decided to end it. I didn’t want to be with someone who thought they needed to depend on a pill to make them feel better.
- His love doesn’t translate to control. Some control can be subtle. When you like someone, it can be easy to play if off as “honest, romantic jealousy.” But the comments of one past boyfriend, over time, made me feel like I was a disappointment. For example, one time I told him that I was going to go hang out with a friend. His response was, “Fine, you don’t love me if you don’t come over and hang out with me!” Seriously, why would I want to be with someone who could not value me and understand that I had friends and had to maintain those relationships as well?
- His life goals are similar to mine. I once dated someone for a short period of time who was older than me and ready to settle down while I was just having fun and being me. He made me feel important and good about myself while it lasted, but we didn’t work out because we were in two different stages of life. We mutually ended things because we realized that our goals at the time weren’t the same—and for a relationship to really work it’s important to be on the same page.
- He doesn’t get physical. Domestic violence is a serious issue and not something I wanted to bring into a marriage or family. Once, a man I was dating hit me. I was shocked. We thought we could work it out, but then he hit me again, and I punched him back. It was a vicious and dangerous cycle that should never be lived in.
After breaking up with one of these boyfriends, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. But an old co-worker and I got back in touch. Tom was his name. While at first we were just friends, he made me feel important. He made me feel like I was valued as a person not as an object. He took the time to get to know me and made me feel safe. I fell really, really hard. He made me forget the past pains, made me feel those butterflies. He was a gentleman. He didn’t push any boundaries, made me feel special, did not manipulate me, or do drugs. He has never hit me. He was funny and smart and caring. I’m not saying that we are perfect but he made me feel like he was the guy I wanted for the rest of my life. So Tom and I got married.
After ten years of marriage, he is still true to his first impression. He’s still loving, sweet, caring, funny, and smart. He still treats me like a princess. He makes me laugh even when I’m mad at him. He is truly a blessing. My past relationships have helped me to recognize and be thankful for all the good qualities that my husband has.