GUYS—can't live with them, can't live without them, and so many are Mr. Wrongs in the guise of Mr. Right. How can a girl fight the odds when so many guys are not the one for her? These are the times when Math class comes in handy. Remember the old process of elimination? Stick to it, sister! Every cloud has a silver lining, and every nightmare date and failed relationship is one less guy in the crowd separating you from your true soul mate. Treat each of them as a lesson to learn from, and you'll become a better, more mature woman when He Who Will Make You Truly Happy finally does show up.
To help you on the journey to your own personal Chosen One, we've come up with a guide to the nuggets of wisdom waiting within eight types of "evil exes."
- The Player: Trust is earned.
Not only did he mess around with another girl, but he also had the gall to lie about it until you caught him red-handed! The Moral: Trust is earned. Unless you're extremely lucky, odds are you'll cross paths with a guy who just can't keep a grip on his hormones. And while you should never settle for someone who doesn't respect you enough to stay faithful, the third-party problem will teach you the value of getting to know someone well and fully before you entrust to him your whole heart and soul. It will also help you spot the symptoms of a Casanova in the next guy that comes your way.
- Mr. Perfect: Attraction isn't everything.
On paper, he's everything you've ever wanted. But your real-life relationship is a total flop! The Moral: Attraction isn't everything. Just because a guy aces your personal checklist of must-have qualities doesn't mean he'll automatically be The One. Sometimes you'll surprise yourself by finding yourself more interested in a less "perfect" guy whom you can talk to for hours than in a chiseled hunk of man who only talks about himself. Common interests and shared humor often count more than physical appeal, so learn to scratch beneath the surface of the people you meet. You might find your Mr. Right waiting inside someone you thought was all wrong for you.
- The Mama's Boy: No guts, no glory.
You find it adorable that he loves his family...until you realize that his mom wears the pants in your relationship. The Moral: No guts, no glory. When a guy doesn't have the nerve to stick up for himself against his own mother, you can't expect that he'll have any spirit left over to be on your side when it counts. But instead of feeling belittled and unworthy, you should let a relationship like this teach you to grow your own backbone. Who needs a guy to fight your battles for you? Your Mr. Right will love you more for your newfound confidence and grit, and he won't waste time comparing you to his Mommy, either.
- The Bad Boy: Love is acceptance.
He's rugged. He's sexy. He's your Damon Salvatore, your Chuck Bass, your Noah Puckerman. But when you tried to reveal his heart of gold, you found that he fell several carats short. The Moral: Love is acceptance. A lot of women go into relationships with this particular kind of Mr. Wrong hoping that he'll someday transform into Mr. Right. We tell ourselves that he loves us, so he has to change for us. Big mistake. While compromise does count, going into a relationship expecting your partner to change who he is to suit you can only hurt you both. Always ask yourself why you choose to be with a person—and your reasons should never be because you want to "fix" him or "make him better." The right guy for you is someone whose flaws and weaknesses you'll be able to accept and understand.
- The Brat: A relationship shouldn't feel like a job.
He's fun, fearless, and always the life of the party. But when it comes to anything serious—school, family problems, you—he whines, procrastinates, and is anything but reliable. The Moral: A relationship shouldn't feel like a job. Taking care of others is (for the most part) a natural female trait. Our hearts break at the sight of cute, helpless things, and we want to be there for them and help carry their burdens. This is great for when you're older and married and have little kids to care for… but it doesn't apply to relationships. Letting him get away with being reckless and irresponsible by making excuses for him and cleaning up his messes are bad for him and bad for you. Learn to draw the line when it comes to your role as partner. You're supposed to be enjoying your youth and romance, not disciplining a spoiled child!
- The Control Freak: You are the boss of you.
He tells you where you can go, what you can wear, and who you can be friends with… all in the name of love. The Moral: You are the boss of you. We're not saying that you should be selfish or deny others what they want out of spite. But letting anyone else dictate your life and make decisions for you is a sign not only of an unhealthy relationship, but also of an unhealthy mindset. Don't let an experience with a bully leave you cowed and timid. Instead allow it to make you strong. Learn to do things for yourself and have your own goals. Remember: "You can't" are the two most dangerous words in the English language, and they have little to do with love.
- Mr. Monotony: Everything in moderation.
There's nothing wrong with routine... unless he insists on sticking to it day after day after day. A month with him and you're ready to tear your hair out of boredom! The Moral: Everything in moderation. Too much excitement can be exhausting, but you can't be expected to yawn your way to a lifelong relationship, either. Don't ever let a guy who hasn't got a drop of spontaneity in his bloodstream make you feel like you're boring, too. Always be on the lookout for bigger challenges and treat every new experience as an experiment in life, although you may want to find out how far is "too far" for you. Once you're familiar with your own limits, it'll be easier to find activities—and people—that put your mind and body to the test.
- The Best You Never Had: You can't force feelings, timing, or chance.
When you crushed on him, he didn't know you existed. When he finally noticed you, you were over him. When you were single, he wasn't, and when he was ready, you weren't. Could you be destined to be apart? The Moral: You can't force feelings, timing, or chance. This is a bit of a special case because he's technically not your ex. But an obsession with "the one who got away" can be a worse obstacle to opening yourself up to your Mr. Right than getting hung up on any other bad relationship. Forcing him to care about you or making yourself care about him when the other isn't ready is a sure path to trouble. Besides, when you're too busy looking out the open door, so to speak, you miss a whole lot of what's right in front of you. Teach yourself to let go of If Onlys and Could Have Beens. There's even an old prayer for this type of situation: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
We've given you eight, but in your life you'll probably meet, date, and fall in love with many more Mr. Wrongs. The secret to surviving them is to remember that it's not always about figuring out what he did wrong, but learning what you can improve about yourself. You are the greatest instrument to your own success! Once you discover that, you'll be more than ready to begin the real ride to your Mr. Right.
This article was originally published in the November 2011 issue of Candy Magazine.