“It’s not you, it’s me.” How many times have you heard that? How many times have you comforted a heartbroken friend by telling them that there’s nothing wrong with them, they just happen to have picked a poor partner? How many times have you thought that for yourself?
Here’s a hard truth to learn: Sometimes it really is you.
And hey, you’re great! But you might be stopping yourself from really being happy. That’s a scary thought, sure, but it’s also an empowering one, because you can take steps to change the things that are keeping you from romantic happiness (if that is a thing you want). First, though, you need to identify what your problem really is, which is where these four questions come in handy. It may hurt a little — like ripping off a crusty, seriously sticky Band-Aid — but I swear, it’s for your own good!
1. How are you contributing to your own relationship misery? Are you picking people that are straight up wrong for you? Are you attracted to partners that are clearly not emotionally available? There’s a very cliche but very true saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Stop making the same choices in partners and expecting that somehow it’s going to be magically different “this time.”
It’s worth it to take a minute and look at how the choices you make are contributing to the people you end up dating and falling for. Maybe you’re constantly finding yourself in long distance relationships because you’re afraid of dealing with someone in a “real” context. Or maybe you go for guys that are always falling apart so that you can help them, because deep down you’re afraid they’ll dump you if you’re not “useful.” (I have totally done this). Take relationship inventory and look at the patterns you’re playing out. Then try doing the opposite of that.
2. Are you taking ownership over your faults? Knowing is half the battle, says G.I. Joe, and that’s particularly true when it comes to taking stock of how you contribute to the drama in your own life. Are you super jealous? Really confrontational? Insanely passive? Be aware of how you’re coming off to others — not just potential partners, but to the people that you’re close to. What’s your default mechanism when someone’s upset with you? Anger? Compassion? Condescension. Learn what triggers you into acting in ways you — and the people around you – feel are unproductive or painful, so you can figure out better, more constructive responses.
3. Are you holding onto a past relationship trauma or ideal that’s keeping you from being fully present in your current relationship? I’ve definitely had dear friends complain that since their last break up, they can’t find anyone worth dating. That’s usually when I ask whether they’re fully over their last break up. Because there is no way in fucking hell you are going to find someone new if you’re continually comparing them to the last person you were with. It’s just not a fair fight. We’ve all got stuff from our pasts — and I’m not expecting anyone to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” their exes (though that would be so, so, so great), but ask yourself whether you’re in the proper frame of mind and emotional space to give a new relationship a fair fight. If you’re not, that’s totally okay — take some time for you and don’t stress.
4. Are you expecting a magical unicorn of a partner when you aren’t living to your fullest potential? This may be hard to hear, but you only get as good as you give. Take stock of where you are, and ask yourself if you’re living as self-actualized as possible. Basically, are you the best version of yourself you can be — or you know, working toward getting there? If not — if you’re not a relatively happy, fulfilled person — it’s going to be hard to attract someone who is. It’s the basic law of attraction — like attracts like — and if you want a partner who is pretty great, you’re going to have to work on being pretty great, too.
Which is something I know you can do.