What My Ex Taught Me About Relationships

I’m still adjusting to single life since my breakup, but I’m making a lot of progress, and it’s gotten me thinking about what kind of person I want to be with in the future. For most of my life, instead of approaching relationships with a checklist, I was flattered someone — anyone — was interested in me, and I didn’t stop to question whether we had much in common. In some ways, my ex was perfect for me, but in others we weren’t so compatible. Both the good and the bad taught me about what I want next time. Age
For the most part, I’ve dated older guys. My last ex was a year older than me, which isn’t much, but we were at different stages of our lives and careers. At 33, I already feel like I have limited time left to start having children, so my ideal partner would be someone who’s either my age or a little older and ready to settle down. And I don’t just mean kids; I mean not going out until five in the morning. Once upon a time, I couldn’t pass up a party invitation. Today, I’m more interested in earlier nights and staying home and renting movies.

Religion & Politics
I’m Jewish. While I hope to raise my children Jewish, my partner’s religion isn’t that important to me, but I do think having some common religious background makes it easier to understand one another. The same is true with politics, and my ex and I differed in these areas greatly. Having some room for debate and discussion is workable, but sometimes I felt like I didn’t live up to his standards, like I wasn’t radical enough for him, and that made me uncomfortable about my own beliefs.

It had been four years since I’d met the parents of someone I was dating. In this instance, I was overwhelmed at how welcoming and sweet his parents were. A woman I once met told me that in order to tell who a guy is at his core, you have to meet his parents. I’m not sure I buy that — how many of us want to be judged based on our parents? — but having his parents like me made me believe our relationship had real potential. If they hadn’t liked me, we could’ve worked on it, but it would have been a challenge.

Feeling Needed
I’m one of those people who needs to feel helpful. In some ways, in our relationship I tried too hard to fix things in ex’s life that I couldn’t be the one to fix. I definitely gravitate toward people who have “issues,” and I have plenty of my own. Now, I need to focus on fixing some of my long-term “stuff,” rather than distracting myself with someone else’s problems.

Feeling desired
I have friends who’d be happy to have sex three times a day. Me? I’m not that greedy. But I do need to feel like my partner desires me, and I didn’t really get that this time around. We didn’t flirt or talk about what we wanted to do in bed. I know not everyone is comfortable talking about sex, but there are ways to be flirty without being X-rated. I like girlie rituals, dressing up, knowing that while I’m having dirty fantasies about my guy during the day, he is, too.

Ultimately, I’m looking for someone I can talk to about anything and everything, who I don’t have to filter myself around, someone I can cry in front of or tell my biggest fears or most embarrassing secrets, someone who I know isn’t judging me, and who, in return, will open up to me. There’s plenty that goes on in my head that I don’t share with even my closest friends; as revealing as I may be about my sex life, I’m actually fairly private about quite a bit. It’s rare to find someone I can truly let go with, but that’s what I want in the future: someone who lets me be me.