There are a couple of you. Although I swore you were “The One,” you weren’t. I spent my days trying to get your attention while simultaneously trying to act like I didn't know you existed. I was blindsided and treated poorly, yet at the same time I was inebriated by your affection and would do anything to make you happy. But with all this considered, I cannot do anything but say thank you.
You made me feel confident.
Because of you, I felt beautiful. I felt special, privileged, and honored. I felt proud to have you holding my hand as we walked through the crowded high school hallways in between the rows of navy blue lockers with our footsteps in sync. Your simple, subtle compliments would send me over the moon. You know that feeling you get when you walk out of the hair salon after an appointment? Well you made me feel like that every single day.
You provided me with new experiences.
You gave me my first kiss and took me on my first date. You gave me an anxiety attack when you introduced me to your parents; they were the only people I wanted to impress more than you. You made me experience butterflies for the first time, something I thought only existed in cheesy song lyrics and movies. You gave me a reason to push the limits of my curfew, as I begged my parents for an extra half hour.
You showed me how to treat a woman right (and not so right).
You held your car door open for me and were polite to my parents. You bought me dinner on our first date (It was Panera—I’m the definition of a cheap date). You showed me how it felt to be treated with respect. It wasn’t all happiness and head over heels romance, though. You made me realize it's not OK to ditch me for friends or to cancel plans last minute. You showed me that being “too cool” for me was, in fact, not an admirable trait, but rather one that should be a red flag and avoided at all costs. You made me realize what qualities I am looking for in a partner and what traits I should run from.
You taught me how to deal with heartbreak.
Boyfriend #1 broke up with me over the phone on the first day of summer vacation, and boyfriend #2 did it during lunch in the hallway of my high school. These crystal clear memories that once played like a video reel in my head will never completely leave my brain, although they have become easier to forget over time. Tears streamed down my face, and I was positive that I would never get over them no matter how many times my mother and sisters told me I would. Having friends, relatives, and coworkers ask me, “How’s the boyfriend?” and having to mumble that you had dumped me led to me feeling embarrassed, not good enough, and betrayed. Looking back on those memories now, I know that they made me stronger. You showed me that Ben & Jerry’s, family, friends, and a chick flick truly are the best heartbreak remedies.
You led me to where I am today.
If it were not for you, boyfriends of the past, I would not be where I am or who I am today. From you, I have learned things that I will never learn from sitting in a 75-minute lecture at college or writing an 8-page paper. You showed me that everything happens for a reason (cliché, I know). I have learned that I always deserve to be treated with respect. I must thank you because you led me to my incredible boyfriend of almost three years. You made me recognize my strengths and helped me realize that no one is flawless.
Don’t view ex-boyfriends as an evil ghost of your past. Sure, some of them were probably just plain jerks. But chances are most of them were, for lack of better words, really good guys. Use these experiences and these boyfriends to guide you in the present and the future. In reality, they have helped you to become the amazing person you are today, and that is pretty wonderful.