After a plane crash or other such accident, investigators arrive on the scene in an attempt to piece together what went wrong. I often feel like that is what I’m doing when I talk to friends when their relationships have failed: in addition to providing a sympathetic audience I also try to help them sort out what went wrong (if they want to do so).While I often suspect that relationships succeed or fail at random because “people do stuff and no one knows why”, analyzing relationship failure seems to be a good idea for the same reason that analyzing a crash is a good idea: if you can determine what went wrong you can avoid that in the future.
Based on years of experience, most people assign blame in one of three ways: they place all the blame on the other person, they place all the blame on themselves or they split the blame. Not surprisingly, just as relationship success is a shared endeavor, the failure is also a shared endeavor. Of course, people being what they are, they most often put the most blame on the other person and very rarely do they accept all the blame.In general I have found that women tend to blame the failure on the guy “being an asshole.” Men tend to say that the relationship failed because the woman was “a crazy bitch.” These are rather vague terms, to say the least-but they are informative. In such cases the blame is placed on the character defects of the other person. While everyone has defects (and there is a certain appeal to saying all men are asses and all women are crazy bitches) it seems odd that there are just so many asses and crazy bitches out there ruining relationship after relationship for wonderful, flawless people. After all, would not these perfect people eventually meet and have perfect relationships?
When a person’s relationship seem to always fail from either of these factors (assholeness or crazy bitchiness) there seem to be three possibilities.First, the person is attracted to this sort of person who is an ass or a crazy bitch. In this case, the person bears some blame-they need to find a way to stop being attracted to people who will doom the relationship. I’ve known many people like this. Sadly, they even know this about themselves yet often cannot stop. In this case, the blame must be mostly their’s for selecting someone they know will be very bad for them. Second, the person is a bad judge of character and thinks s/he is picking someone who is not an ass, crazy or a bitch. But, the person is always wrong. In this case, the person bears some of the blame for having poor judgment. The person should investigate potential dates with greater effort or date people they already know that are not assess, crazy or bitches.Third, the person’s behavior brings out the ass or crazy bitch in the people they date. All of us have the potential to be pushed into being assholes or crazy bitches by the way other people act towards us. For example, someone I know recently dated a woman who deceived him about her relationship status (she said she was single but was very involved with someone who lived out of town) and had a rather convoluted set of dating rules (and associated convoluted behavior). When the man got angry about this, she classified him as an asshole and said that she somehow always dated assholes. The most likely explanation is that if she always behaves like that, then guys are typically going to respond in ways that she might regard as “being an asshole”-assuming that means “being angry about being deceived and subject to crazy games.”
Naturally, male friends of mine who have complained about always dating crazy bitches sometimes act in ways that would turn a saint into a devil. Obviously, if a person acts in a way that makes his/her partner an asshole or crazy bitch, then s/he bears much of the responsibility. To fix this, the person needs to identify the behaviors that cause this effect and stop doing that. Yes, that is easy to say and almost impossible to do. From a practical standpoint it is a good idea, when a relationship fails, to ask yourself “could it be me?” When you are calm (or calmer) ask yourself the following specific questions:
1. Am I attracted to people that are not right for me (do I go after the assholes or crazy bitches)? If the answer is yes, you should be very careful in assessing your next relationship prospect. It can be hard to control attraction, but we are (in theory) more than just animals ruled by hormones.
2. Do I have poor judgment? If the answer is yes, then you need to work on your people assessment skills. Until they are up to par, avoid dating or get someone trustworthy with good judgment to help you avoid poor choices.
3. Do I behave in ways that helps make people behave like assholes or crazy bitches? This is probably the toughest question to answer honestly because it requires considering the possibility that the failure was in large part your fault. Answering it properly requires carefully considering your words, actions and choices. Most people are not up to this-it is much easier to say “I always date assholes” or “why do I keep ending up with crazy bitches?” then it is to say “maybe I’m doing something wrong…maybe I need to treat people better if I want things to work.”
4. Could it be them? In most cases the responsibility for failure is shared so this is a good question to ask. It is very tempting to always answer “yes”-so be careful with this one.I make no guarantees that this will lead to success, but it should help cut down on the failures. Of course, I still strongly suspect that when it comes to relationships people just do stuff and have no idea why. Afterwards everyone tells themselves pleasing lies and they move on to the next disaster. Despite that, I’m still optimistic-but I’m sure that is just the biochemistry talking. 🙂