Life would be so much simpler if the first boy we ever kissed was our soulmate, and then we got married and were in love forever and ever, and lived happily ever after. (This has actually happened to two of my friends, and looking from the outside in, it appears to be as dreamy as it sounds.) But, alas. For those of us who don’t live in a fairy tale, it takes the kissing of some freaky frogs to get to a prince (or a princess) charming. If, you know, finding someone to share your life with is your thing. (If it’s not, mazel tov, and also please write the secret to happiness in the comments section below.)
Real talk for a minute, though: heartbreak is the worst — but, it’s also an opportunity for growth, and it gets you one step closer to the right relationship as you learned what worked, what didn’t, and what you need to be happy. Falling in love with the wrong guy can simultaneously be the most painful and best thing to happen to you. As I prepare to walk down the aisle toward my own personal Disney hunk, Prince Tony, I can’t help but be grateful for the guys I didn’t marry, but dated. So, as a follow-up to my last blog, here’s my super scientific algorithm for the exes every girl should have in her back pocket, in order to find her Mr. (or Mrs.) Right (ie the guys who shattered my heart and taught me a thing or two about love):
1. The Mama’s Boy. He’s got his mother’s name tattooed over his heart. He asks you to go out on Sunday morning, and you think you’re going to brunch, but then he drives you to church and his mother is there, and you learn this is how he does all his first dates, so his mom can help him decide whether you’re getting a second date or not. LESSON: There are three people in this relationship: Him, his mother, and you. And you’re the third wheel. Run, don’t walk!
2. The Best Friend. He’s totally down to binge watch Nicholas Sparks movies and eat cookie dough on the sofa with you, even though March Madness is happening. He holds your hand and lets you cry when your ex gets engaged. He creates a Pinterest profile, because you told him to. LESSON: You’re the selfish jerk in this scenario. He loves you and is doing whatever it takes to make you happy, and you’re taking advantage of him. Learn to be as careful with someone else’s heart as you’d want them to be with yours.
3. The Grouper. Much like Grouper fish (from the family Serranidae, thanks, Wikipedia!) this one needs to travel in schools, i.e. he needs to constantly be surrounded by friends. He loves to hang out, but only in packs. He gets real quiet when you’re alone, and just when you think you’ve got him pinned down for something romantic, three of his buds show up with their lady friends! LESSON: Unless you want your relationship to be a constant bro-hang, leave the group dates to junior high.
4. The Selfish Jerk. He forgets your birthday three years in a row. He asks you to move to another state for his job, but when you do, he resents you and tells you he only asked because he “didn’t think you’d actually come.” None of your friends know him, because you only ever hang out with his friends. When he talks about “the future,” you’re not in it. LESSON: You got so busy trying to get his attention and win his heart, you forgot to stop and ask yourself if you really want him. Just because he’s hard to get, doesn’t mean he’s worth getting.
5. The Level-10 Clinger. When you ask him what he wants out of life, he replies “You.” He takes you on a date Thursday night, and somehow he’s still at your house on Sunday night, and he wants you both to call in sick to work on Monday so he doesn’t have to leave your side. On your birthday, he wrote your name + his name inside a heart with gasoline on your driveway, then lit it on fire. LESSON: All this romance is suffocating! Valentine’s Day comes once a year for a reason — because you’ve got to get sh*t done on the other 364 days! Set him free to find a soul who wants to recite poetry for hours on end in the bathtub with him, and go find someone who subscribes to the age-old adage “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” You want a boyfriend, not a Siamese twin.
6. The Shelfer. This is your friend with benefits. Who you totally want to be your boyfriend. Who treats you like his girlfriend… Until someone he actually wants to date comes along. Then he puts you back on the shelf. Then, when they break up, he texts you to see what’s up and the cycle starts all over, until he puts you back on the shelf again. And all the while, he never deletes Tinder from his phone! LESSON: Do you really want to be someone’s place holder? Life isn’t a Hollywood rom com; he doesn’t realize he’s in love with you in Act III — this is a never-ending miniseries of him treating you like a security blanket.
7. The Manchild. He still high fives and fist-bumps-to-explosion his frat brothers at tailgates before every home game… Even though he graduated ten years ago. He dreams of becoming a video game designer but has never looked into how you actually become one… He just, you know, plays a lot of video games “for research.” He lost his phone (again), so it’s not his fault he forgot you had plans and didn’t text you all weekend. LESSON: Wait, you’re looking for a boyfriend, not a son, right? Cool, then move on.
8. The Career Man. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street is his spirit animal. There’s a futon in his office (and it’s not a casting couch. It’s because he frequently sleeps at the office). He talks about work in his sleep. LESSON: He’s the perfect guy for an equally ambitious, independent woman, or a gal who likes being with a totally absent partner and doesn’t mind coming in second place to a job. Stop trying to derail his dreams, and look for someone whose work-life balance you can vibe with.
9. The Practice Husband. He’s finally gotten good at texting you back in a reasonable amount of time, he remembers to send your grandma a birthday card, he likes picking out baby names, you have a 5-year-plan together… And then, out of nowhere, he dumps you. You put in all the “work,” and as soon as he was ready to get married, he left and got engaged to the next girl who came along. LESSON: This one’s a tough pill to swallow. But if he was really that great, he would’ve realized how lucky he was to be with you.
10. The Perfect Guy on Paper. Maybe he’s a dermatologist with an Ivy League degree who volunteers for Doctors Without Borders and rescues puppies on the weekend. Maybe he’s a chef who owns his own restaurant and wants to make you breakfast in bed on a daily basis. Whoever he is, all of your friends will love him, your mom will start fantasizing (in detail) about what her grandchildren will look like, and you will feel nothing but an impending sense of doom. LESSON: Trust your gut. People always say when you meet your soulmate, you just know; well, sometimes when you meet the wrong person, you just know then, too. Just because someone is “perfect” doesn’t mean they’re perfect for you.
It took these relationships (and some serious growing up on my end) to learn that a healthy relationship consists of two people who act as a team, want the same things when it comes to major life choices, laugh together, and put each other first so that way everybody wins. What say you, Gigglers? What ex-stereotypes and dating horror stories did I miss out on in my single girl years?