I used to have a tendency of making not-so-great dating choices.
In high school I was a reject. I had a lesser junta of close friends, each from their own counter-culture niche. There were very few dating opportunities. It’s funny how that stuff stays with you.
A Bad Pattern
If you feel like no one likes you, you will make bad dating decisions. At the end of high school I got into a long distance relationship with someone I had never met in person. After that ended badly, I had a series of relationships which may have been fine as casual dating situations. Instead, I latched onto each one, expecting them to be the love of my life.
I don’t know which was a bigger influence on me: unrealistic ideas from movies (the only source of dating knowledge I had), or my own past loneliness. I wasn’t actually lonely anymore: by college I had a pretty good social life. But in my head I was still the outsider.
Even my marriage was built on that foundation.
It wasn’t until my divorce that I really began to value myself. (I’ve had a huge ego about plenty of things—just never relationship potential.) In my marriage I lived for our house, our mortgage, and the hope of keeping peace between us. My own dreams were subsumed.
When we split up I started to live for myself.
By the time I left Minneapolis I was a much healthier person. Two years of eating better, exercising more and planning toward your dreams will give you a lot more confidence.
That was when I started dating Beth.
It was my first relationship to be threatened by the looming departure for the Great Adventure. Previously in my life, I put off my plans to travel for the sake of my partner. But Beth knew I would be leaving, and we both agreed it would end when I did.
We continued dating while I was in Milwaukee, because it’s not a terrible drive from the Twin Cities. We had a short, happy relationship. After we broke up, we became friends—actual, close friends who chat routinely and encourage each other’s projects.
Beth is probably reading this right now. Hi Beth!
This relationship was profoundly different than my previous relationships. Going in, I felt like an equal partner, not the one who had to do all the work. And we had an ordained time limit. There was no “forever” begging me to chase it down.
If circumstances were different, I would probably have been with Beth for years. But I learned a great deal from our short relationship:
- Something can be sweet even if it’s not forever.
- Confidence makes you sexier. It’s something you hear a lot, but it turns out it’s true.
- It’s okay to prioritize your dreams above a relationship—if you’re honest about it.
- The best person to date is someone who believes passionately in your dreams. (Do the same for them, please.)
- A great girlfriend will also make a great friend, if you end at a high point.
And that’s on top of teaching me how to take pictures.
Beth was my first love “on the road.” In many ways, my few months with her laid the foundation for all of the relationships I’ll have while traveling.
Is there an ex who left you with something special? Are you able to be friends with your exes? What makes it possible?