Adulthood is comprised of a series of rites of passage strung together until our final rite. Learning to drive. The first time your dad pulls you out of a ditch. Your first legal drink. The second time your dad pulls you out of a ditch. Your first legal hangover. An apartment all your own. The third time your dad pulls you out of a ditch. Running back to roommates after realizing living on your own is lonely and expensive. Running back to an apartment all your own after realizing the additional cost is worth it because Kelly just can’t remember to rinse her damn dishes. The fourth time your dad pulls you out of a ditch.
Then there’s the relationship rites. The first soul-murdering crush. The first too-much tongue kiss. The first bowling date where he wears a custom wristband and you realize romance is dead. The first time you get comfortable enough around a guy to parlay that into a relationship that lasts longer than a month. The first time you realize comfortable does not equal love and you have to figure out how to end the relationship without making homeroom painfully awkward.
Everyone’s firsts vary. Some check every rite off the list before settling down. Some jump over all the most painful ones to land prince charming before landing a diploma. But there is one rite everyone needs to get through before they can truly recognize what happiness is: The first (and if you’re lucky, last) relationship with a complete douche.
(Now, I know it’s not fair to make a blanket assumption that everyone needs to follow a particular path to find a happy relationship, but for the sake of this post, let’s ignore that part.)
A solid relationship with a douche can provide a healthy dose of perspective. You can learn a lot about yourself and what you need out of a relationship. I highly recommend one. Provided you get out without expending too much time or energy on the thing.
Let’s start with the basics. How do you get into your own douche relationship. First thing is you have to find a douche. He shouldn’t be too hard to recognize when you’re in it. More often than not he’s is a little too attractive for his own good. It’s typically how he gets away with being a douche. He’s a little charming, a lot aloof, and more confident than he should be.
The relationship itself will be inexplicably frustrating. You’ll always be more invested than he is. None of your friends will know why. And they’re right. He outkicked his coverage with you, but you will be the only one who sees it that way.
You hang out on his terms. Your relationship moves at his speed. You hang out with his friends. He doesn’t really like yours. He happily appreciates thoughtful gifts you lavish upon him just because. He accepts “I love yous” and compliments like a child. Blissfully unaware that maybe you need to hear those things, too. You’ll make excuses as to why he can’t fulfill your needs just yet. But he will. Once he gets past the baggage from his ex-girlfriend, parent’s divorce, mom’s lack of affection, learning disability, creative angst, etc., etc.
Then, you’ll kind of start to run out of patience. Your unwavering support starts to shake when he shows up two hours late with no explanation for the third time this week. You push for more asking to have just a fraction of your needs met. He lashes out pointing at the baggage from his ex-girlfriend, parent’s divorce, mom’s lack of affection, learning disability, creative angst, etc., etc., expecting you to understand. But you don’t really. Not anymore.
You let it drag on just a bit longer. He’s still just so deep. Maybe he just needs some space. You give him some space. And start to realize you kind of enjoy that space. You start to sort yourself out a bit. Emerge from the douchey slime to hang out with your friends again. You have so much fun you forget about him for an hour.
Eventually, his “depth” becomes selfishness. You see the cracks and the spell drifts away. You pull the plug. Tell him it’s been real but you just aren’t getting what you need. He panics. Apologizes. Promises. But it’s too late. You’ve taken what you needed from him despite being the only person who actually gave anything over the course of your entire relationship.
Sure, you can learn about yourself in a healthy relationship, too. But a douche relationship is like a crash course in introspection. You’re forced to assess what about yourself attracted someone so terrible. And you take note of what terrible traits drew you to him. You dust yourself off. Throw yourself into the post-breakup routine: mourn, cling to friends, recommit to a fitness routine, take up pottery, drop pottery, go out, flirt, repeat.
Some of the biggest things I learned about myself after a douche relationship (or three):
I like to take care of people, but I also like to be taken care of. I’m not going to be happy if it’s not a two-way street.
My creative endeavors are important to me. If I waste too much energy on worrying about a dude who doesn’t support those, I will feel unfulfilled.
I need to be grotesquely honest with the person I’m in a relationship with. Hiding anything from emotions to innocuous interactions with friends who raise jealousies in douchey guys feels icky.
It’s okay to have needs in a relationship and voicing those needs in a reasonable manner should always be met with an accommodating open mind.
I have difficulty discerning depth from dickishness and should be aware of that when entering into a relationship.
I have my own baggage. I don’t expect my significant other to deal with it. He can lend an ear and support as I work through it on my own or with the help of a professional. The person I’m in a relationship with should offer the same courtesy to me.
Your lessons will probably different. But boy will you learn them. An education is essentially the only reason you should get into a relationship with one of these dudes in the first place. Plus, they make for great material for the memoir.