The Number One Reason to Thank Your Ex-Boyfriends

Ex-boyfriend. The very term conjures up many things for most of us. Some of it may be good, but most of it is likely bad; otherwise, why would you have broken up? No matter how bad things got, though, the awesome thing about ex-boyfriends is that they pave the way to future happiness. Whether you have a small handful or a truckload of the dudes, each one likely helped you realize who you ultimately wanted to spend your life with, and for that, they are invaluable.

I often feel very fortunate that I met my husband when I did (age 10) and that we "re-met" later when we did (age 23), partly because I know for a fact I couldn't have handled the anxiety around getting older and remaining single and partly because I had run out of boyfriends who didn't work. From about the age of 19, I always had a serious boyfriend by my side.

Most of them were highly unsuitable, too. Still, they taught me everything I know about love.


I had a couple "things" in high school and even one guy with whom I stayed close friends (and occasional hook-up buddies) afterwards. But generally, I wasn't in serious dating mode until my second year of college. And then it all started with a hot and heavy summer fling with Jason*. We met at a bookstore and he was older. For one amazing summer, I was totally enamored with him (he was less so with me), but he taught me a lot about the level of attraction I should feel for the man I was with because, let me tell you, it was high. We broke up in the fall, but I carried that sense with me and didn't want to settle for less.

My first serious boyfriend (and love) was Max*. We had very good (read: VERY good) reasons for breaking up that included some serious controlling and paranoid behavior on his part. But when we were good, we were very good. No one else in my world liked him and, of course, they had good reason. But we were in love. Being with him taught me to trust my instincts on people more than others. Sure, eventually I agreed with my friends and family, but I made my own choices and got there on my own.

For the first year we were together, I learned about love and everything I wanted from love and what I wanted it to feel like. The second year was awful and our breakup was, too. But it's nice to reflect on the positive side and how that eventually led to my current amazing marriage.

After Max, there was Chris. We only dated a few months, but he was so incredibly smart and politically involved. I never fell in love with him, but seeing someone who had a passion for something other than booze and partying and paranoia made me realize I could love someone who was also like me and like my family. They, of course, loved him. Nevertheless, we fought about "commercial foods," which he didn't enjoy. And since I love me some Frosted Flakes, we knew it could never work.

There was a little overlap between Chris and Dave, the next serious dude (I cheated. Lesson learned). And while Dave was undoubtedly the sweetest and most loving man I ever dated, we weren't exactly intellectually compatible. He was creative and emotionally intelligent, but book smart he was not. Though I loved the way he treated me -- buying me flowers all the time, allowing me massive freedom, constantly telling me he loved me -- it was hard to be with someone who didn't share my intellectual background. I grew up surrounded by books with a lawyer father who read The New York Times every single day with breakfast, discussed politics all day long, and is, as my grandfather once said, "a massive egghead." It would have been hard for me to stay with Dave, and lucky for me, I soon "re-met" my husband.

He also had about the same number of seriously unsuitable exes and we were able to apply the good things to one another. My husband (Rob) has all the sexiness of Jason, all the love and attentiveness of Max, the intelligence, passion, and quick wit of Chris, and the loving, emotional intelligence of Dave. I don't regret a single relationship, no matter how badly each ended because they led me to this. Ten years together we have an unshakable bond and the reason I knew it was right was because it had been so very wrong before.

**Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Do you think about your exes? How did they help you find love?


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