Let’s fast forward to the end…
why did we break up? And how is it that some people make it work? This is something that I’ve pondered for a long time. It came to mind again the other day while watching Scarlet Johansson and Adam Driver in Netflix’s A Marriage Story. Spoiler ALERT! I just couldn’t help but think they could have made it work? Scarlet’s character loved Adam’s character, they had a bump in the road, she was unhappy and BOOM, divorce. Lawyers who specialize in untangling two people’s lives, families stuck in the middle, and ALOT of money down the drain.
Of course I’m using a movie as an example and real life is infinitely more complicated, and yet, I just can’t shake the feeling that Scarlet’s character (what was her name??) was selfish. She was selfish because she was tired of being selfless for so long and her husband not meeting her half way. She wanted things that he didn’t want, she gave up things for him, she sat in the background for what seemed like a lifetime and in the end it all blew up in her face and she saw no other option but to get a full blown divorce.
Honestly this is not about the movie. It’s about the fact that we often times get into relationships because of the way the other person makes us feel—I feel live when I’m with you; I can be myself when I’m with you; you make me happy. Then we end relationships because that person who used to make us feel “live” can no longer deliver the love drug. It almost feels like relationships start for selfish reasons and end on the same accord.
I’m the first to admit I’ve done this many times— both as the one getting dumped and the one dumping someone else. I was in a relationship once where they guy broke up with me, in what I felt was a rushed and irrational manner, only for me to feel sorry for myself and my loneliness, never once considering his feelings or why he did it. I look back at that now and thing, wow, he was actually a decent guy, and he was probably right to break up with me.
I was in another relationship that I thought was really great at first. Then I realized he wasn’t for me and had to break things off. At first I felt spoiled by all the attention and charm, but once that wore off, I realized that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be with him or if I didn’t want to be alone. In the end, I felt I wasn’t happy and left.
Now let’s backtrack…
The issues start at the beginning of a relationship. First, we have all these preconceived notions of how a relationship “should be,” and when it’s not like that, it becomes a problem. Next, we make assumptions about people we date based on their jobs, their family, their background…”so and so” is probably a good lover, “so and so” would make a great provider, “so and so” is a great listener. When we do this, we subconsciously assign a job function to someone we just met and set ourselves and our relationship up for failure from the start.
The obvious lesson here is that our own expectations can cause our relationships to fail. We start off with a very passionate, lustful, slightly obsessive attraction to someone, only to crash and burn when that fire extinguishes. Even if we do manage to make it past the initial “honeymoon” stage, we are still in danger of expecting our relationships to be a certain way or fulfill a certain wishlist.
The Checklist: How to avoid Your Own Bias
Do you like the person for who they truly are and not for what they can do for you? In other words, would you be friends with this person?
Would you date this person if they worked at McDonalds? Would it bother you longterm? In other word, is their financial success (or other external factor) influencing your attraction to them?
Can you accept (and not try to change) the things you don’t like about them? Or are you ignoring all the red flags then trying to “fix” them throughout your relationship?
The checklist above is a little formula I’ve concocted from past experiences. In a nut shell, before you dive too deep into a relationship, you have to establish that you actually like the person, as a person, not as your potential partner or your future spouse or the parent to your future children…just as a person. You also have to eliminate all other reasons why you might like a person, such as, they have a fancy job, they come from money, they are black, they are white, asian, hispanic, they know how to play the guitar, they lived in Japan for a year…etc, etc.
The last thing is really a reiteration of the first point— do you actually like this person for who they are AND for who they aren’t? We’ve seen so many movies and so many fairytales about how people “change for love,” when the harsh reality is that people don’t change for love. People only change if they want to change for themselves. The thing is, people shouldn’t have to change. If you actually love someone for who they are, you will accept that they aren’t perfect, they aren’t your “prince charming/princess/magical, perfect human” that you dreamt up in your head. If you can manage to fall in love with them for who they are, then you will find who they are is just right.