Why you shouldn’t stay in a bad relationship

It’s been quite a while since my last blog. I’d like to make it up to you by sharing something personal. Here’s one of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started dating.

One of my first relationships was a woman in my third year of college named Nancy. Now, Nancy had previously been cheated on by her ex-boyfriend in high school and she had some trust issues while we were going out. For example, she would sometimes ask me:

“What do you think of [another female classmate]? Huh? Be honest!”

And no matter what my response was, she would always just glare daggers at me. There were times when I wouldn’t even know the people that she was asking me about! But even that didn’t satisfy her. It’s obvious to me now that I was in a bad relationship, but back then I tolerated her behavior for months before finally breaking it off with her.

Why did I stay with her for as long as I did?

It’s easy to watch a TV show and yell at the people on screen that they’re getting into a bad relationship. (C’mon Ross and Rachel! What are you two doing? Stop being idiots toward each other!) Sometimes, you’ll even see one of your friends get into a relationship that is obviously a bad match for them. You can’t tell them that, though, because 1) they’ll hate you for saying that and 2) they won’t take your advice anyway. But from an outside perspective, it can be really, really, really obvious that your friend is not in a happy relationship.

I’ve seen several of my friends do that, and I always thought that it couldn’t possibly happen to me. My friends might be idiots, but if I found myself in a toxic relationship then I’d leave in a heartbeat. Right? Right?!

Nope.

Looking back, I think there were a couple reasons why I stayed with her for as long as I did. I always thought of myself as a late bloomer since I didn’t get my first girlfriend until I was an upperclassman in college, and I felt that I wouldn’t have any options if I broke up with her. I didn’t want to wait another 20 years to find another girlfriend. Also, I watched a lot of movies when I was younger and I didn’t understand how a real-life relationship was supposed to work.

I always heard that women were just more emotional than men, so I came to believe that her behavior was “normal”. I also thought that relationships worked like they did in romantic comedies, where if a woman acts behaves like a jerk toward you then you need to move in even closer and that’s how you eventually win her love.

What made it worse was the fact that I didn’t know that I knew nothing about relationships!

Steven, you were an idiot back then.

What I should have done

Her behavior in the beginning of our relationship should have been a big red flag. The kind of flag that says, “Don’t go on a second date with this woman! Don’t make her your girlfriend! Do not pass go and do not collect $200!!”

After all of that, do I regret staying with her for as long as I did? That’s hard to say. The mistakes that I made when I was younger helped shape me into the man I was today. In that sense, I can’t really say that I regret the time I spent with her or that I’d go back and change it if I had the chance. After reading Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong, I also believe that everyone’s just doing their best. If I had an ex-girlfriend that cheated on me, I might have been just as untrusting of other people as she was.

Still, it’s not something I’d wish upon my worst enemy. Don’t tolerate a bad relationship just because you think you’ll never find another girlfriend again. After all, picking someone to date, to be in a relationship with, and to eventually marry is literally the biggest decision of your life.

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