Throughout our time on earth, we’re going to experience a lot of breakups. Whether that means there’s no second date, a fling coming to an end or a committed partnership splitting up, more than likely you’ll eventually develop a connection with someone and your run together will eventually end.
And it will happen again.
At some point, we’re bound to have an internal crisis and ask ourselves, “Is it me?”
The fact that you’re the common denominator in all of these failed relationships, coupled with your own self-doubt, will justify your inquiry. There are usually one of two answers to this question: (a) yes, it is you; or (b) no, but at some point you were part of the problem that caused the relationship to deteriorate.
More than likely, it will be the latter. It’s good that you’re mature enough to see things you’ve done wrong, but you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it forever. Odds are, things just didn’t work out; it’s not your fault and it’s not necessarily theirs.
But – and there’s always a “but” – at some point, it will be your fault.
I’ve dated a number of different women – six years older, six years younger, same age, etc. – and as I get older I try to see why things didn’t work out. Granted, some interactions were only one date, but even taking that into consideration, there is always a reason as to why there wasn’t a second date.
Some are obvious – like the girl who lied about having cancer and being pregnant (yes, both) – others can be something as simple as there being no chemistry or spark. Then there’s the hardest one for us to see: The time when we messed it up.
We’re genetically biased to justify things in our head. Our minds want to believe that there’s always a reason it was someone else’s fault something went wrong, when in reality we’ve probably screwed up more than one situation and we just don’t – or refuse to – see it.
I think that majority of the relationships you ruin, even if it’s the only one you ruin, will happen in your late-teens or early 20s. You’re old enough to have an idea of what you want, but you’re also young enough (and stupid enough) to handle things horribly.
My big one happened when I was 20. She was 26, and we had just graduated junior college together. The overview of the relationship was that she was ready for a family – a husband, kids; the whole bit – while my only real focus was getting my bachelor’s degree.
She was beautiful, crazy about me and someone I loved spending time around.
But – and there’s always a “but” – I wasn’t ready to give her what she wanted. That, I have no regrets about; I couldn’t make myself feel things I didn’t feel or want things I wasn’t ready for. After I made the hard decision to end it, I strung her along. I gave her one of the worst things you can give someone — false hope.
At the time, I was a selfish 20-year-old who took advantage of someone’s compassion for him, knowing that he would never get on her timeline in the near future to make things work the way she wanted. That, I regret almost every day.
Now, nearly 26 – right around the same age she was all those years ago – I think of that relationship often; partially because it is the one I regret the most, but mainly because now that I am (metaphorically) in her shoes, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have that happen to me at this point in my life.
Now, on the verge of 26, I’m not the same selfish 20-year-old boy that I was. My life, my priorities and my personality have all changed for the better. I’ve experienced what it feels like to have a relationship not work out and I’ve experienced what it feels like to have your heart shattered; when I think about the possibility that I made her feel anything close to what I felt in heartbreak, I hate myself for it.
But – and again, there’s always a “but” – I use that experience as a constant reminder that you always need to try and see things from the other person’s perspective. I know that I’m eventually going to make some woman extremely happy in life, and I know that deep down I’ll have this failed relationship to thank for part of it.