Friday, August 10, 2012

Why relationships fail

When friends or readers ask me for relationship advice, they usually start off by giving me some context. They'll give me a little background, then tell me what specifically was said or done, and then ask for my thoughts.

Sometimes, though, I don't get specifics. I get general questions like, "Is it okay if I say this to my boyfriend?" or "What does it mean if my girlfriend does that?"

That's a much tougher question to answer.

The thing is, with a few possible exceptions, I don't believe there are any rights or wrongs when it comes to relationships. What's normal, and works for one couple might mean the end of days for another. So it's not exactly easy to say, "Well (s)he shouldn't say/do that. It must mean things are going badly."

Another thing I hear a lot is friends justifying someone else's behavior. "He didn't call me back, but it's because he's busy with his kids." or "He cancelled our date, but I know he's very stressed out about work."

Then they add: I still think he likes me. Do you think it means he doesn't like me? I think he likes me.

If I've learned anything, it's that just because someone likes (or even loves) you, doesn't mean a relationship is going to succeed.

Maybe not returning phone calls or responding to emails is this person's "normal." Maybe she really is stressed about work or he really has been busy with his kids. Is that okay? Of course. Does it mean he still likes you? How should I know?! What I do know is that his kids or work schedule doesn't have anything to do with you.

My answer to that line of questioning is usually this:

Of course he likes you. You're awesome - who wouldn't? He wouldn't still be around if he didn't like you.

Relationships don't usually fail because one person doesn't like the other. That's why dates fail. If two people get to the relationship point, obviously they like each other.

Relationships fail because two people are not compatible. One person wants more communication or more involvement than the other. Maybe their definitions of a relationship are not the same. Maybe they have different goals. Maybe geography, or kids, or careers, or religion...or in the way.

So, instead of asking your friend (or your favorite relationship blogger) whether she thinks the guy likes you, maybe you should be asking yourself:

Is this the relationship I really want?

At the end of the day, that's a much easier question. Just prepare yourself; you may not like the answer.

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