Why Dating Bad People is One of the Best Things You Can Do For Yourself

“If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”

- Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

If I had a nickel for how many times one of my friends or I have lamented over a boy, I’d probably be on a Queen of England level rich. It’s almost like a rite of passage to date jerks and then mourn the relationship heavily, as if you didn’t see it coming. At the end of each relationship comes the remembrance of all those red flags we ran by, followed by “Why do I keep doing this to myself?!” Granted, in college we’re all in our late teens/early twenties, so it’s no surprise that we keep ending up asking our friends “Why?” over and over again before devouring our cheesy bread and gin & tonics. We know exactly why these relationships keep failing horribly: most of the guys we’re dating are either emotionally unavailable or unwilling to commit. And honestly, it’s partly our fault for ignoring the warning signs and putting rose colored glasses on. Typically, if a guy suddenly shows you he doesn’t respect you, doesn’t care about you, and doesn’t want to be tied down by you, he means it. Sadly, however, this change in behavior often occurs after we’ve already gotten emotionally attached. While some of us, the lucky ones, manage to find a great guy right off the bat and never have to experience mind games, texting rules, analyzing and overthinking, cancelled plans, spontaneous break ups, being ghosted, being cheated on—you name it--the majority of us have had at least one run in with a guy who just graduated summa cum laude in in how to be an a**hole. This kind of interaction usually leaves us fragile and second guessing ourselves while trying to analyze everything of what possibly went wrong through buckets of ice cream and fishbowls.



However, life always goes on and we always find the next human to stress over. In my 22 years of life, I’ve realized that despite the hurt, grief, and internal conflict you feel when a relationship ends in a less than favorable way, having terrible boyfriends is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Here’s why:


1. Having a boyfriend who disrespects you and treats you poorly teaches you valuable lessons about yourself. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a teabag: the only way you know its strength is by putting it in hot water.” You find out how strong and emotionally mature you are by going through a bad relationship and a terrible breakup. Having a person you care about treat you like garbage makes you realize just how you handle these types of situations: mainly, it teaches you how much you value yourself, how much you need to work to value yourself, and how to demand the same respect from any partners you have. The self awareness you get from learning how strong you are and how much you deserve respect teaches you how to hold yourself to a higher standard when entering new relationships--you tell others how to treat you by demanding that they do it.


2. It teaches you how to treat yourself and make yourself a priority again. When I broke up with my boyfriend at the start of freshman year of college, I low-key freaked out. Maybe high-key. I don’t know and I won’t admit to anything. Terrible breakups make you feel like complete crap about yourself, as anyone who has experienced it knows. Bad relationships with the wrong person can make you lose your self-confidence and blame yourself for everything. My freshman year, I channeled all those negative feelings into working out and online shopping. Treating yourself after a breakup is a big way to remind yourself that you love yourself and you deserve the best (aka nice things?), and is also a good way to get new clothes and re-gain some self-confidence. Similarly, working out shows you what you can mentally and physically push yourself to do, showing yourself your own mental and physical strength. It’s extremely cathartic, reduces anxiety, and makes you feel like you accomplished something. Breaking up causes pain, and we find things to do that reduce that pain. From this, we learn to treat ourselves to what we need, helping us put ourselves back at the top of our priorities.


3. Bad relationships teach you what you need and what you want. Most importantly, they teach you how to go about getting those things in your next relationship. (See #1 for just repetitions of myself using different words.) After a bad breakup with a bad person, you naturally don’t feel good—and it takes a while to realize—but once you can reflect on your old relationship, you realize the red flags your old significant other put up and use that information to distinguish between good and bad, what you need and want versus what you need and want to avoid. This in turn helps you become more in tune with yourself and your own personal goals. Having a bad boyfriend teaches you what to look for in a companion, and what is important to you to maintain relationships.


4. Lastly, dating someone crappy teaches you how to deal with conflict and diversity within relationships. These life lessons are invaluable. Crappy boyfriends and bad breakups teach you how identify a good person from the rest, how to properly relate to people, how to avoid falling too hard too fast, and how to choose your battles between what is worth it and what isn’t. Bad relationships make you grow as a person and as a significant other, and crappy breakups make you stronger and more in tune with yourself, your worth, and your needs.


So go ahead, thank all of your a**hole ex-boyfriends for treating you terribly; they gave you an experience that will make you stronger. Remember when Warner told Elle Woods that he couldn’t marry her because she wasn’t smart enough to be a senator’s wife? She gave herself a mourning period for the relationship and then kicked butt to get into Harvard Law School. That’s what crappy exes give you: the ability to recognize the strength you never knew you had until your limits got pushed. They push you to demand better and to prove to both yourself and the world that you are worthy of success, happiness, respect and love.  Who knows, maybe your ex-boyfriend who cheated on you with five other girls and a mom he met at a club will give you the push you need to get into Yale Medical School. At the end of the day, crappy boyfriends are a blessing in disguise. Those jerks that never even deserved you help you grow in ways you never would have imagined.

Images courtest of Giphy.