After a devastating breakup with a 'bad boy,' I learned a valuable lesson about self-worth that led me to my husband

Ada Sheeren and her husband
The author, left, and her now-husband.Courtesy of Ada Sheeren
  • In my late 20s, I started dating a Hollywood writer who made me feel special.

  • After I caught him cheating on me, I swore I'd never put up with "bad boy" behavior again.

  • When I met my husband a few months later, I fell in love with his kindness and generosity.

I was in my late 20s, living in Los Angeles, trying to get acting work when I started dating a writer on a gritty cable television show. I met him through my theater company. I was drawn to his sense of humor, the way he put words on the page, and the bad boy glint in his dark brown eyes.

He was attentive and charming. At first, he made me feel beautiful and desirable. I lacked confidence; I was in an industry that shredded what little I had, like last night's roast chicken. Dating him made me feel special.

But when he told me he couldn't take a date to an awards show and then turned up on TV with a gorgeous actress, I swallowed my hurt feelings and let him get away with it.

Instead of feeling special, I started to feel ashamed

Things got worse, but I was so desperate for love that I tolerated his excuses. When I found an unopened box of condoms beside his bed after we'd stopped using them, he told me he'd let a drunk buddy bring someone home. When my calls went to voicemail more often, he swore it was due to work.

One morning, after spending the night at my place, he mentioned he'd be out of town that weekend, but I didn't believe him. That Saturday night, my stomach in knots, I drove past his place and discovered his shiny BMW tucked into its spot in the gated parking lot.

Shaking, I pressed the number for his apartment, which I had helped him find and move into when he left his previous girlfriend.

"Who is it?" he crackled over the intercom.

"Delivery," I answered, lowering my voice. He didn't cook and ordered food daily through Pink Dot, a Hollywood delivery service that existed long before DoorDash and GrubHub. He buzzed me in.

My heart pounded as I stepped out of the elevator. I still hoped for another excuse, an explanation that didn't end with my broken heart. Then I saw the look on his face as he held the door tight to his body.

"You can't come in. I have someone here, and I love her."

I tried to push past him, fury animating my bones. I had thought he loved me.

I didn't sleep for days, disgusted with him and with myself for being so stupid. The dishes grew moldy in the sink. I stopped answering my phone. Even drowning in heartache, a part of me recognized I was being handed an out. The man who left trash on the street for someone else to pick up was not a man whose values matched mine. The man my normally welcoming family actively disliked was not a man I'd keep bringing home.

I got clear on what I wouldn't tolerate and what I really wanted

On one of those sleepless nights, my eyes finally empty of tears, I vowed never again to tolerate this kind of relationship.

"I want a man who is generous and kind," I said aloud to myself. "I want a man who adores me, who sees me and loves me for who I am. I want to be enough."

It turned out I had already met my husband-to-be earlier that year at a birthday party. We'd sat next to each other, but I was so wrapped up in the writer that I didn't notice the handsome man to my left. When we met again months after the breakup, I didn't make the same mistake.

My husband-to-be quickly showed me he was a good man — not a 'bad boy'

On our first date, we went window shopping, and he bought me a wooden desk organizer that still sits in our office 23 years later. A few months after that, he surprised me with a trip to Canada to see my family. He was smart, funny, generous, kind, and adored me. He was exactly who I'd asked the stars for.

When the world was shut down during the pandemic, my old theater company friends reunited over Zoom. The writer was invited. I wasn't sure how I would feel seeing him again. As we all caught up, I realized I was grateful. Because of him, I learned to hold clear boundaries in a relationship. Because of him, I was able to recognize and appreciate when I met a man who, to this day, sees me, supports me, and loves me for who I am.

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