I hear so many people, fresh out of relationships, blaming their ex-partner for the entire debacle. I hear (mostly women, but some men) casting blame like boulders. I would say there’s probably only one instance when the demise of a relationship truly is NOT at least partially your fault, regardless your behavior, and that’s when you’re involved with an NPD. They’re an entirely different breed of monster and I’m not addressing them further in this post. To learn more about them, read my other posts categorized under NPD.
Aside from that instance, I don’t think any of us can be totally absolved of fault in the demise of a relationship. When we enter a relationship we make a choice to do so. Some of us engage far too quickly when we think we’ve found the person of our dreams. There are several issues with that:
1. Sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we really want.
2. Sometimes what we think we need isn’t at all what we need.
3. Sometimes we are engaging simply to assuage the pain of a recently broken heart, thinking that having a new “love” interest will distract us. It will. It will also distract us from learning what went wrong in the preceding relationship and learning from our mistakes.
4. Engaging too quickly, which means becoming physically involved, or taking ourselves off the dating scene after just a few dates with someone, usually spells disaster. It’s essential to take the time to get to know the person, instead of attempting to force the individual to fit our ideals.
There are reasons that young women used to be chaperoned when they “walked out” with “gentlemen callers.” First, these women were still girls, usually not out of their teens. Even if they were older, their experience with men was usually limited to that of father, brother, uncle and/or elderly neighbors. Cousins? These women (girls) were chaperoned with their male cousins because cousins used to marry. Here we are, in the 21st century, with a 50% or higher divorce rate, and a whole bunch of adult humans who can’t or won’t engage with a new potential partner in an emotionally healthy fashion.
Chaperoning provided a few benefits, regardless how stifling or old-fashioned it may seem. First, the chaperon would usually be someone older (but not always) and could observe interactions. They would watch body language between the couple and listen to the verbal interaction. Back then, because society was so “polite” people learned how to read body language and interpret language that we might, today, simply allow to pass us by because we think we have so much better information upon which to rely. We can do a background search on a potential partner. Hey – I did that and he came up clean. First date, he asked me for my panties AND since I wouldn’t oblige, asked me if I’d follow him home and lock him in a male chastity device. The N I dated came up clean. His divorce records were public, so I read them. I didn’t read carefully enough. PINK BLINDERS.
While I’m not advocating that you engage a chaperon for six months, I AM advocating that you watch and listen. Pay attention to body language and if you aren’t well-versed in it, research it. There’s a tool for that. It’s called “the internet.” If you found this post, you can find many on body language. 🙂 Listen, and I mean really HEAR what the other person is saying. Over time, you will hear what you need to hear to know whether this person is right for you.
Observe how this person interacts with others. If the way s/he interacts with others doesn’t jive with the way s/he is interacting with you, you should then ask yourself why there is a difference. Ask the person why there is a difference and listen to the answer.
All of us have ideals and the danger of an “instant relationship” is that we don’t give ourselves time to get to know someone before jumping in, heart-first. We meet someone who appears to fit our ideal for the right partner and because we’re human, ergo imperfect, we don’t remove the “Turbo-Charged Romance-Driven and Comes in Ten Shades of Pink to Coordinate With Every Ideal You Have Blinders!” (as seen on TV, and $19.99 will get you two pair, in different shades)
What if…and here’s a revolutionary new idea…WHAT IF you chose (because life is about choices) to take things slowly? What if you chose to tell your prospective ideal partner that you’re willing to date him or her, but want to take the time for both of you to get to know each other prior to taking dating to the relationship stage? What if you kept your options wide open? What if you chose to do the emotionally healthy thing? What if you decide to put yourself in control, as opposed to immediately handing that control to someone you barely know and have dated only a few times?
Fearful question, the “What if.” Lots of things could happen, but ALL of them would be positive, even though they may not feel like it at the time. Below are a few of the fears that prevent people from taking things slowly and empowering themselves by remaining in control of themselves and their relationships, with the upside of that fear in bold italics:
1. If you don’t jump right in the man/woman of your dreams might get away. If the man/woman of your dreams won’t wait for you, after you’ve expressed a desire to take your time about it, the odds are excellent that this isn’t the individual of your dreams. Move on. Bullet dodged. Take the Pink Blinders off.
2. You’re lonely and feel as though you’ll never find someone else, so when you do meet someone with whom you click, you believe it’s your last chance for love so you’d better grab it now. there is never a last chance for love. The feeling that you’ll never find someone else is the hole in yourself that you are seeking to fill with the presence of another human being. Fill it yourself. That’s a huge burden to place upon another person, and the odds are good that if you place that burden upon them, you’ll be in another of those “I’m never gonna find someone to love me” situations very soon. Take the Pink Blinders off.
3. You’re lonely, financially burdened, need help, and this individual presents a way out. You convince yourself that they are the right person for you because you’re desperate for someone to take care of you and you feel overwhelmed at the thought of digging out alone. Being lonely isn’t a good enough reason to jump at an instant relationship. Learn to like spending time with yourself . Get a dog. Borrow a dog. Read a book. Go to a mall and say hi to strangers. If you are financially burdened and feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to take care of yourself for another moment, step back and assess the reasons why you feel that way. If you’re in over your head, adding a partner is going to make it worse, not better. If you feel you can’t take care of yourself, no one, and I mean NO ONE is going to be able to do that for you. Learn to take care of yourself and you will be immeasurably more attractive to potential partners. Take the Pink Blinders off.
4. You’re getting a bit older and you feel like you won’t ever have sex with anyone but yourself, again. Ever. In your life. Ever. And that thought is unpalatable to you. Um, do you really want to take on another human being, complete with emotional baggage, engage with them on an emotional level (because you’re smart and you don’t have casual sex), and, as my good friend, Ana, said yesterday: “be willing to put up with a lot of shit…” just so you can ensure you don’t miss out on having sex? If you’ve been sexually active most of your life to this point, what on earth makes you think you won’t have that again? And if you don’t, is it really the end of the world? Would you engage in instant relationship, risking your heart, your emotional well-being, and perhaps even your health, just to be certain you had full naked body contact with another human being? Take the Pink Blinders off.
Ask yourself an all-important question when you meet the someone you think is the individual of your dreams: “What am I willing to give up for this person?” Relationships require sacrifice and if you’re thinking you’re “in love” with someone you barely know, please ask yourself that question, because there’s a chance the price you pay for jumping in with your pink blinders on will be an extremely high price, paid on credit, and with a high interest rate. You’ll pay, emotionally, for quite some time.
So, now you’ve made a choice. Your choice is to jump in, regardless your intuition, regardless your common sense. The pink blinders came with super heavy-duty temple adhesive (that the infomercial conveniently “forgot” to mention) and you just can’t seem to take them off.
You’ve spent a few months seeing this person and you thought you were their bestest and only. You thought they felt the same way about you. You just KNEW they did, because why else would they be calling daily, emailing, asking you out? But wait! They’re not really doing that. Check your phone records. Check your email. Review past conversations. Oh no! In the past month, you’ve initiated everything and you didn’t realize it. That’s because you can’t get those damned pink blinders off and it’s your own fault for buying them in the first place.
So, who’s to blame for the failure of your relationship? Really? Was there ever a real relationship? What were you telling yourself that made you think that after a few dates you were in a relationship? No, you can’t plead temporary insanity in this court.
You are the only person who has control over your relationships. If you choose to hand that control to someone else, it’s your own fault. You can’t blame anyone else. If you see behaviors you don’t like, and allow them to persist, you are merely watering the garden of undesirable behaviors. If you react to those behaviors with an “eye for an eye” doctrine, you’ve just proved your emotional immaturity to everyone, but yourself, because you’re probably still wearing those pink blinders (although, at this point, they may be sitting a bit askew on your face).
I believe that too many people are in love with romance. I cringe every time I read a forum post or hear someone say that they are divorcing or leaving a long-term committed relationship because they “just don’t feel the romance and excitement anymore.” Grow the hell up, people! Marriage and committed relationships take work, and I pity you if you’ve bought into the pop-psychology that says “if the person is right for you, you won’t have to work at making it work.” That’s bullshit. Humans, by our very nature, are fickle and easily distracted creatures. We want what we want and we’ve been saturated with self-help material that tells us we are entitled to have what we want, and that we can get it just by “thinking” it. We don’t have to work for it, we don’t have to put forth any effort. We simply have to think it into existence and et voila! there it is!
I have two ex husbands who told me post-divorce, that they went into marriage thinking that if they didn’t like it, got bored, or it wasn’t “working” or felt like it was “too much work” that they could just jump out of the marriage. That’s precisely what they both did. The first ex has “just jumped out” of two marriages now and I believe he’s getting ready to do it with a third. The second husband just jumped into a marriage. He married me because all his buddies were getting married and he didn’t want to be the last man standing. He jumped out of our marriage for an old HS girlfriend who dumped him a month after he left my son and me. Karma can be a bitch. 🙂 Approximately two years later, after not dating at all, he met and moved in with a woman who is the best friend of his step-sister. He lived with her for 3 years and bought a house with her. He didn’t marry her until two weeks ago, and what I and many others see that he apparently does not see, is that the woman he married resembles me very closely.
Second ex is loaded, and the odds are good that he jumped into this one wearing his pink blinders and then by the time he finally got them off his face, he realized he’d been living with and signed a mortgage with this woman, so he may as well marry her. His family and friends would have expected it and he’s ALL about the expectations of family and friends. The expectations of a wife don’t matter. At all. Second ex learned nothing from the mistakes he made while with me. How do I know this? Because HS girlfriend, who he left me for, and who is still “technically” single, just showed up as a friend on his FB page. She wasn’t there for 3 years. I know this story and I feel for his wife.
I’m certain she’s been told the same lies I was told about HS girlfriend. New wife has her pink blinders on and has probably had them on the entire time. It’s easy to wear them with Second ex. He’s filthy rich, he’s Cary Grant-Gregory Peck handsome, he’s intelligent, articulate, and oh-so-attentive as long as life is going his way. He’s also an unmedicated bipolar who relies on daddy to get him out of jams. My guess is that New Wife hasn’t seen this aspect yet.
Lest you think any of this about Second ex is sour grapes, let me relieve you of that thought. While I’ve stayed in touch with him over the years, and he showed interest in reconciling, I made certain he understood that I was NOT going there. EVER. The emotional damage he did to me can be forgiven, but never forgotten. The emotional damage he did to my son will never be forgiven OR forgotten.
I was wearing pink blinders when I met him, when I moved in with him and when I got engaged to him. I wore them up until 4:57 pm on a monday in August of 2004 when he came home and said: “I didn’t sign up for this, I’m leaving.” He was gone by 5:04, with just his car keys. I was blindsided so badly my pink blinders went flying off my face and I saw him, within seconds of that statement, for what he was.
How many ways can you spell A N G R Y? He told me later that he didn’t dare attempt to get past me when I blocked his path to the stairs leading to our bedroom. He said he’d never seen me look like that. Of course he hadn’t because until this point, I’d been wearing my pink blinders and though life was gloriously rose-colored. I had my little family, I had a lovely home, I had a man who, by his accounting, daily, adored me, I had my every need, want, and desire promptly taken care of. It’s amazing how fast an individual’s brain can react once the pink blinders have been torn off the face.
I have to own just as much accountability for the demise of my marriage as he holds, though. I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t give myself enough time to get to know him. We moved in with each other within 3 months of meeting. We got engaged within 9 months of meeting and were married 11 months after that. Even when his brother attempted to undermine us by having a “secret” phone conversation with Second ex about my son the “problem child” (his brother has children now and one who is waaaaaay more of a “problem child), I didn’t see that as a red flag.
I was angry that Second ex didn’t tell his brother it was none of his business and to stay out of our relationship, and Second ex and I had a grand fight over that, but I allowed it. That set precedent. I should have gathered my son, my belongings and my life and moved on, right then. A man who allows his family to be disrespectful of the woman he’s chosen to marry, and to denigrate that woman’s child is no man at all.
I reacted to bad behavior with equally bad behavior of my own. I grew passive-aggressive, but no one could have told me that. I wouldn’t have listened.
Second ex’s parents divorced when he was 5. His mother raised him in a broken-down trailer, so poor they had to use dish soap for shampoo. She did this, even though Second ex’s father was and is a multi-millionaire who would have provided. She blamed her ex for everything, refused to accept any help from him, and raised her two boys in poverty, making them drink “Dad sucks” kool-aid daily.
When I came on the scene, she thought it was grand that I had an adolescent child. She swung immediately into grandmother mode and my son’s favorite place to be for almost a year was with Second ex’s mother and step dad.
One day my son came back from their house telling me that he’d been disciplined harshly for something minor. I called and asked about it. I figured the truth would be in the middle. It was. I thought the situation was resolved.
Oh no. Second ex’s mother called a “family meeting,” a meeting that excluded me, and decided that if my son could “lie” about that situation (he didn’t lie, he exaggerated, and he admitted to the deed he’d done), then what were the odds he was going to accuse them of child molestation at some point? WTF?????? To this day I have no clue where that came from! So without a word to me, they, including Second ex, decided that my son wouldn’t be allowed to visit his favorite place any longer.
And still I did nothing but get angry and blame Second ex for being spineless. Who was spineless? Me. I allowed that shit to happen and still didn’t pack my son and myself up and leave. I indirectly gave permission for this kind of abuse to continue, and continue it did.
Even with all that, during the course of our marriage, I didn’t allow myself to believe that I was truly seeing was WHO Second ex was. I chose to believe that at some point he’d stand up for me. I chose to believe it because I WANTED him to do it. We don’t always get what we want.
There is more horror that I could write about, but you may be bored by this time, so I won’t. The entire point of this missive it to simply say: Stop and think about what you are doing before you do it. The consequences to yourself (and to others) if you do not think, may be so massive you pay the rest of your life.
Remove the PINK BLINDERS now!
Sorry folks, I suck at brevity. 🙂