I am a woman who has dated jerks. I've also dated guys so nice you might mistake them for a puppy dog, but this entry? This is about the jerks*.
And in a way, it's a thank you to them.
Because I think everyone should, at some point in their life, date a guy or gal who is a huge jerk.
This is counter-intuitive. Relationships are supposed to be good, to make you happy, to lift you up. Yeah, that's what they're supposed to be, but anyone who has had multiple relationships often knows that that isn't always true-- and I think dating the jerks is a great learning tool. True, you can end up in a great marriage with your first serious partner (as my mother did, when she married my dad), but I still think there is a huge benefit to dating a lot, and a lot of different types of people, in your youth.
But there is especially a benefit to dating jerks.
Jerks teach you what you aren't willing to take, and what you aren't willing to compromise on. They teach you what issues you really care about, and sharpen your ability to argue and to stand up for yourself. they teach you patience and tolerance, and make you realize how awesome your eventual awesome partner really is. I would not, at this stage of life, want to date a jerk. JD is a great guy, truly kind and wonderful, caring and giving, and most definitely not a jerk-- but I think our relationship is actually better because I've dated jerks in the past.
See, JD occasionally does things that make me roll my eyes-- and he isn't afraid to point out when I do things that are also eye roll worthy. But we talk about those things, and really? None of them are huge. We haven't had any huge ideological clashes, and when we do disagree, we're both mature enough to talk it out and come to some sort of compromise. I am a person who likes to make others happy, so bringing things up can be... well, difficult for me. As can facing criticism. But after the personal insults, cutting descriptions, and unreasonable behavior of jerks in the past? Well, the thought of a small discussion is just not. that. scary. anymore-- really! Because I dated jerks, I learned that there is nothing someone can do with words that should, or can, stop me from expressing myself.
I also learned through the jerks what sort of things I like... and don't like. See, all the jerks had some of the traits I liked! Otherwise-- why would I have dated them? But the also had a lot of traits that I didn't like. Because I was an obsessive journaler up until, oh, after JD and I started dating, I managed to record a lot of self-analyzing thoughts on the good and bad points of relationships, and I've been able to learn from them and apply them to each successive relationship. This is the sort of learning that should, ideally, work for most people-- even the non obsessive, non overly analytical-- because we do learn from our past and our mistakes. I'm hesitant to call past relationships mistakes, because they have shaped who I am today-- but in some cases, staying in them as long as I did WAS a mistake. But you know, that long lasting annoyance with flaws and characteristics really taught me a lot about my tolerance levels.
I think one of the best parts about dating jerks is that when you do find someone who fits with you just right, you think to yourself wow... so THIS is what this is supposed to be like! and you get to experience a relationship of mutual care, love, and understanding without taking it for granted. Taking things for granted is, I think, one of the problems a lot of people have-- yes, your partner SHOULD be awesome to you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be glad that your partner IS awesome, and it doesn't mean you shouldn't appreciate them and show them that. Memories of a jerk mean that you don't take that partner for granted.
In short: They'll teach you what you'll like, what you'll tolerate, how to argue, and you'll appreciate a great partner when you find one.
So thanks, jerks that I've dated. You've helped make me a better partner, and helped get me into a better relationship. It probably wasn't your intent, but it sure is a nice side effect.
*This entry also, as JD mused, applies to bitches, if it is ladies that you're dating.