I Was Cruel to Men Until My Ex-Husband Taught Me to Be Better

Elle Silver

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My experience with dating in my younger years was that men had the advantage. They got to ask women out and make all the moves. A guy never got called a slut if he went to bed with a woman too soon. A man could never be “used.” Only women could. So in my mind, dating was easy for men.

Sure, when I tried to ask a man out myself when I was in college and he rejected me, I did get a taste of what men went through. But still, I remained stubborn in my belief that men had it easier than women when it came to meeting people. Dating was a simple, painless exercise for men. Only women suffered.

We were the ones who had to wait patiently for men to approach us. After any date, we had to wait for men to call us. If we called a man, we were being too forward. It felt like men called the shots.

I never realized that more often than not, women were the ones refusing to see a man again. I had it all wrong in my head. Women had an incredible advantage — I just couldn’t see it.

What’s more, women could be cruel to men when dating. I could be cruel.

Women treated my ex-husband like trash.

Ironically, it was my ex-husband who helped me see exactly what men go through while dating. Namely, I got a front-row seat to witness this when he and I were still living together after we separated.

It might sound weird, but while my ex-husband and I were separated but still living together, we often discussed our dating lives. We had decided that dating other people while living under the same roof was okay. We had split up, after all.

I know that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to handle this, but remember, my husband and I had cheated on each other. We’d talked it through and, though we had decided to end our marriage, there wasn’t a lot of anger or jealousy because we had both betrayed the other.

So while I was blowing through town on a dating spree after our separation, I’d often talk to my ex about it. I also got to watch what he was going through.

I heard all about the women who would show up late to his dates. Like really late — say an hour or more. I get it: there’s traffic in our city. But you leave early enough to respect your date’s time, right?

One woman didn’t show up to their date at all. She just flaked on my ex — stood him up. Another woman was on her phone during their entire dinner, texting someone else. But of course, my ex paid the bill.

Another woman claimed she could tell within two minutes if she liked a guy. Two minutes into her meeting with my ex-husband, she concluded she didn’t like him and took off.

He invited another woman to a bar where she met someone she liked better and told my ex she was leaving with the new guy.

He took another woman away for the weekend and she complained about the hotel, saying it wasn’t nice enough for her.

He met up with another woman in a bar and she got massively drunk (on his dime). Because she couldn’t drive, he drove her home. She didn’t even thank him afterward.

My ex was getting treated like trash by women. I couldn’t believe it.

I'd always chosen to date the jerks.

It dawned on me that my belief that only men were capable of treating women like garbage while dating had everything to do with my own bad choices. In my younger years, I’d made it my job to always date jerks. I gave “nice guys” wide berth. It’s embarrassing to admit now that I believed that whole “nice guy = weak guy” equation.

In a sense, I deserved every crummy thing that men ever did to me. There were plenty of men who wanted to love me only I didn’t want them.

I wanted the douchebag. Give me the loser, the bad boy. I wanted to play with fire and yes, I got burnt. I all but scorched myself with the number of cads I’d fallen for.

Yes, this was my reality. But when I started dating again after my divorce, I had to make sure I wasn’t turning into a lady jerk, too.

I was disrespectful to a man by ghosting him.

Take when I decided to stop dating a guy whom I’d gone out with three times. I just wasn’t into him, but he kept texting me.

I was hanging out with my ex-husband at our house when yet another one of this dude’s texts came through. Yet again he wanted to know how I was doing, and yet again I responded by, well, not responding.

I rolled my eyes and said to my ex, “When is this guy going to get the hint?”

“There’s no reason to be a bitch,” my ex-husband told me. “Just tell the guy thanks, it was nice to meet him, but you’re moving on.”

A bitch? Me? It never occurred to me that I could be hurting a man’s feelings by acting like a female douchebag, ghosting him.

It also never occurred to me that it might be better to act like an adult with a man and just be honest I wasn't into him. I could be respectful.

I can thank my ex-husband for showing me the light.

I didn't believe men were as emotional as women.

I had another experience while dating after my separation. I was out on a date with a man named Benjamin. “We can’t date,” he told me halfway through dinner.

I’d just admitted that I was still married to my husband. More, I was still living with him. Sure, we slept in different bedrooms and were definitely not getting back together. Still, I lived in a house with the guy I was still married to. Did I really expect a new man to want to get involved with me under these circumstances?

Benjamin certainly didn't want to. “I just don’t feel like my heart could handle dating you,” he said.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I had assumed that my living situation wouldn’t bug him. Men just weren’t as sensitive as women were. I wasn’t used to men showing me their hearts.

It was like the Yeti had just appeared at our table. What an anomaly — a man with feelings!

But then again, that was just another stereotype. Just like it’s a stereotype that women are only looking for monogamous, committed relationships. Men also want love.

When I went home and told my husband about what it happened, he said it sounded perfectly logical. He was also having trouble finding women who wanted to date him because we were still living together.

But by assuming that men would care less demonstrated my mistaken beliefs. Men also had feelings. They weren't brutes devoid of all emotion—at least not all men were.

In closing.

I ultimately learned that both genders can be jerks while dating. Men might be terrible at breadcrumbing women, but women are more prone to friend-zoning men. For as many men who might make a woman into his “side chick,” women often humiliate men for even approaching them.

All both genders can do is be more respectful when dating. Even though my marriage didn’t work out, my ex-husband helped teach me this.

The golden rule rules, after all. I'm glad I finally learned this.

Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

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I'm a divorced relationships expert. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA
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