Before I Get Married, A Shout-Out to All the Men I’ve Loved Before

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For some people, life is just a series of dogs.

For me, life has been a series of romantic relationships.

Maggie Parker would seem to feel the same way. In her New York Times Modern Love column, she pens an ode to all of her exes after she finally got engaged.

It’s hopeful, not bitter. Constructive, not destructive. Here’s the part that got to me:

“To all my exes, I am grateful  to every single one of you for not working out. The scavenger hunt wasn’t always fun, but it led to the most worthwhile prize: my very last boyfriend.

The one who didn’t wait at all to text me after our first date, and hasn’t stopped the conversation since.

The man who told me he loved me after four months, and didn’t give up on me when I didn’t say it back right away. Who challenges me to open my mind, while promising to let me open his. Who doesn’t like when we’re apart, but encourages me to have a life outside our bubble.

The guy who will stay up all night with the sick dog and let me sleep.

The man who couldn’t wait to propose, but did until I was ready. Who wants to become my husband despite the above proof that I have some baggage. And who didn’t try to stop me from making it public.

To the one I ended up with: While I hoped each of these guys was the one at some point, I’m so lucky they weren’t. Thank you for having everything they lacked.

In talking about our exes, we are talking about ourselves – our histories, our identities, our mistakes, our growth.

To those reading this who aren’t my exes: May my sometimes embarrassing, sometimes sweet, sometimes scarring love story give  you hope that with every romance that doesn’t work out, you get closer to the one that will.”

And for any folks who think that people like Maggie and I should stop talking about our former relationships now that we’re married, I hope you can see that doing so is not disrespectful; it’s as important as breathing. In talking about our exes, we are talking about ourselves – our histories, our identities, our mistakes, our growth. To talk about myself without mentioning my 300 dates would feel like talking about someone else.

As long as your partner chose you, to have and to hold, ’til death do you part, you have no reason to be threatened by the fact that he’s dated other people who had a deep hold on his heart, all of whom ultimately disappointed him and led to him meeting you.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    No Name To Give

    I have one “ex”; the one I’m no longer married too. His wife thinks I’m trying to steal him from her simply because I work to get along with him for the sake of the kids. I don’t want to be married to him again.

    After that, I don’t know what they were, but they weren’t serious enough to be exes.

  2. 2
    Suzanne

    In 2017, I broke up with a man who had “reflected on his feelings” for me. Turns out, he directed them toward the wife of his friend. They now live together.

    He and I had and our kids had to go on a trip post breakup; it was planned months before and couldn’t be cancelled.

    Three weeks after the breakup, I was laid off from my job.

    Anyway, after taking a long break from dating, I met someone via Twitter, of all places. It started out as funny tweets, then messages, then phone calls. We have a lot in common and he’s very kind and funny and always talks about our future. A far better catch than my ex.

    There are lessons to be learned from exes like if they’re having dinner with other married women a few times a week, there’s something going on!

    And there are better possibilities everywhere.

    .

    .

  3. 3
    Antonia

    Maybe I’m just not that nostalgic (I’m very much a live-for-now person), but I find something odd in someone who attaches so much importance to something that no longer exists…something that happened years and years ago.

    I’d also think, if a man was talking about his previous loves so often, it would say to me that he yearns for his previous life and not his current one. Would feel like competing with ghosts.

    1. 3.1
      Emily, to

      Antonia,  
      I find something odd in someone who attaches so much importance to something that no longer exists…something that happened years and years ago. … I’d also think, if a man was talking about his previous loves so often, it would say to me that he yearns for his previous life and not his current one. Would feel like competing with ghosts.
      I agree. If it happened years ago, it’s time to do the hard work, process it and move on. It’s fine to think of someone fondly, but if a past love is hanging in your mind, you shouldn’t be dating. Other people aren’t band-aids.

  4. 4
    Mrs Happy

    Sometimes I interact with women who have a holier-than-thou attitude to sex and relationships, and present the picture they’ve next to no experience with men other than their husband.   If I say anything (and I very rarely do) about my past dating life (tame as it has been), I’m looked at a little askance.   It drives me a bit nuts really, because, as Evan wrote, “In talking about our exes, we are talking about ourselves — our histories, our identities, our mistakes, our growth.”    To mention nobody but my current husband negates the first 36 years of my life before I married him, so rich with achievements, experiences, relationships; it negates me.

    I recently read of a Japanese custom of brides burning all their things upon marriage, all their childhood books, belongings, etc, so they enter the married state afresh, with nothing from the past.   What a horrible, nasty custom, I thought.   Her life pre-marriage shouldn’t be negated.   She is more than just his wife.   Ick.

  5. 5
    shaukat

    ugh, just got dumped over the holidays, so I really hope to be in this position some day. Definitely understand the notion that past relationships have molded and shaped us to some extent. Hope everyone’s dating/relationship goals for 2019 work out. Happy New Year everyone, and Evan keep up the good work.

    1. 5.1
      Emily, to

      Sorry to hear that. All of the family of posters here, I’m sure, join me in collectively spitting on her grave!     🙂

    2. 5.2
      Jeremy

      Sorry to hear that, Shaukat.   The past might mold and shape us, but it’s often not fun to live through.   I wish you better things in the year to come.

      1. 5.2.1
        Sh

        Emily, Jeremy, and Marika, thank you for your comments. I’ve experienced this before, obviously, but the inevitable anxiety and restlessness that accompany it (at least for me) is never easy. If either of you have effective strategies for dealing with this, please do share.

        1. Jeremy

          It’s sucks no matter how you cut it.   For me, it used to feel like I had been thrown in a dark pit of despair.   And no matter how many times it happened, it was like finding myself back in that pit – almost like a morbid homecoming.   In my despair I felt that that feeling, that despair, was my home and that any trip outside of it was just a brief outing in the sun from which I’d eventually have to return.   For me, it helped to remember that the time in the pit was the brief outing, that the feelings would pass in time, that it was no different than having the flu – misery for a while, then it passes.   And it helped me to know that I was not alone in feeling my feelings, that others had felt just like me before, that it wasn’t just me.   Of course, I knew that….but at the time didn’t really  know  it.

        2. Emily, to

          Shaukat,

            If either of you have effective strategies for dealing with this, please do share.

          Do you have emails, voicemails, texts, letters and/or gifts from this person? Delete them or throw them away or burn them. Sounds dramatic but this can help shift you psychologically. Dating coach Kathryn Alice has a “Releasing a Person” CD that can help. It is largely meditative.  Sometimes doing these almost ceremonial things can help move you to closure. Of course, it takes time.    

        3. Evan Marc Katz

          I’m friends with Kathryn. Saw her last week. She’s wonderful.

          I just have to ask, Emily, are you buying CDs from her and aren’t even on my mailing list? How does that make a dating coach feel? 🙂

        4. Marika

          Hi Shaukat

          I’m not good at dealing emotionally with break ups. They hit me really hard. I’m really feeling for you right now. The only thing I’ve personally found effective is that I have to give myself a time limit. Say a week. For that week, I can cry, listen to sad music, look back over old texts – whatever. But then I have to stop. Obviously I’ll still think about the person and feel bad, but I have to cut myself off from focusing entirely on that. I also remind myself I got over my ex husband, the worst break up of my life, so I’ll get over this too.

          Again, so sorry.

        5. Mrs Happy

          I don’t know whether it’s terribly healthy but I always just jumped straight back on the horse (a different horse), and the newness and excitement of a new relationship made me quickly forget the old.   Worked every time.   Lots of well-meaning advice states things along the lines of “take your time to adjust/get over her/process the breakup /don’t quickly jump into something new..etc” – not for me.   Next.

          And friends, exercise, chocolate, of course.

        6. Emily, to

          Mrs. Happy,

          I don’t know whether it’s terribly healthy but I always just jumped straight back on the horse (a different horse), and the newness and excitement of a new relationship made me quickly forget the old.

          If both you and the new person are ok with it being casual. But sometimes the new person who’s not in I-need-a-bandaid mode and going into it honestly wants something more than the person who just got out of a breakup can give.

        7. Mrs Happy

          ETO: It was never casual (I’ve never had casual sex).   It was always a relationship.   I realise it really goes against the generic advice usually given, to get straight into a new relationship, but shaukat asked what works, and that one always worked for me.   Maybe another example of my pod alien-ness.   I like diving into things completely, and I’m very pragmatic, so moving on really suited my temperament.   Hopefully I didn’t hurt any past partners by diving in with them in a timespan others would find too fast.

        8. Emily, to

          Mrs. Happy,

             Maybe another example of my pod alien-ness.   I like diving into things completely, and I’m very pragmatic, so moving on really suited my temperament.    

          Are you a STEM person, too? 🙂 Why does this blog attract so many STEM people? Where are the poets? The writers? I am not pragmatic. Does not compute.     🙂

    3. 5.3
      Marika

      Ugh. Sorry to hear that Shaukat. Did she give you a reason? Bad timing, too, hope you didn’t have expensive NYE plans.

    4. 5.4
      Adrian

      Sorry to hear that Shaukat. I hope you find love and happiness in 2019

    5. 5.5
      Marika

      How are you feeling, Shaukat?

  6. 6
    Rita

    Evan I like you, respect you and your advice, but on this matter we’re on totally opposite sides. How is telling about your 300 mistakes from the past going to help the relationship you are in now. Is it some kind of kinky forplay I just don’t get? If you want your partner to learn all about who you are; showing her you’re a stand up guy should be more than enough. How and when you got to be a man isn’t necessery to disclose as long as you’ve learned your lessons. Your wife is not stupid. She knows in the back of her mind you have past hurts, baggage and scars. We all do!   Or do you want her to absolove you from all your embarrassing misjudgements and share in your fellow imperfections just to keep it open and real? I understand being honest but how it became such an important trait to tell it all, I can’t comprehend. Anyway, if you manage to make her laugh about it all, kudos to the both of you. I however don’t want to hear about all the times my guy was a loser in love and I bet you many women wouldn’t. We want to see our partner as a stud, and spilling it all out instead of letting us wonder a little bit, just isn’t romantic to me. Ps. I use you/wife just as an example. Nothing personal intended as I think it goes for all people in relationships.

    1. 6.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I don’t take it personally, Rita. I would just say that we’ll have to agree to disagree. I prefer to share all of myself and have my wife do the same as opposed to keeping secrets and having sections of my life walled off because I’m afraid of how my partner will perceive me.

      I would be very concerned for any man you date if your first reaction to his authenticity is “Why are you telling me about the times you were a loser in love? I want a stud, not a flawed human being with insecurities and heartbreaks.” Sounds terrifying to be with a partner who demands perfection of you. Also seems pretty lonely that you will also have to pretend to be perfect with him. Sounds like a life built on lies and posturing. But that’s just my take on things. Nothing personal.

    2. 6.2
      Mrs Happy

      Dear Rita,

      I don’t sit there telling my husband every one of 300 mistakes I’ve made (I don’t see past relationships as mistakes anyway), or the specific details of past sexual encounters (because I assume he won’t relish hearing those), but in general to-and-fro communication over the course of a marriage, occasionally conversations are had, e.g. “when I was in Paris with x we did z”, “When y and I used to camp here we saw wild horses” etc.   For me, being able to mention past people, without my partner over-reacting in some childish jealous rage, means freedom of speech in my personal life, and is very important.   Much of my adult life has been spent with men other than my husband.   My past experiences made me – if he isn’t interested in me, what exactly is the point of us?

      1. 6.2.1
        Rita

        Dear Mrs Happy!

        Interest and openess is not one and the same. A person can be interested in you, without liking your openess at all. Have you ever thought about that? And Even, when became keeping your mouth shut the same as not being honest and living a lie?   Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought lying is when one is willfully deciving an other person. And when it comes to my dates. Yes, he is lucky if my reaction to his absolute authenticity about the 10 past girlfriends who dumped him isn’t going to float my love boat. The quicker we can both move on and find someone of equal ideas, the better.

  7. 7
    Marika

    Shaukat

    Let us know how you’re going, yes? Hope you check in.

    Emily, agreed about the moving on quickly thing. It’s good to remember that in any relationship, it’s not just about what you need, it’s always about two people.

    1. 7.1
      sh

      Thanks for the tips and kind words everyone, did not mean to hijack the thread. Still feeling rough but will move forward like everyone before. Reminds me of one of Evans’ old blog posts on how chemistry can make you physically sick.

      I can’t just jump back on the horse, I’ve tried that before and I just end up thinking of the other person. Not good for or fair to the date.

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