We have all been there.
You meet someone, they seem amazing, you feel a strong connection, all the foundations that lay at the start of a beautiful relationship are there: shared values, cute quirks, you love their friends and you both want to visit Alaska, you get each other’s upbringing and you seem to want the same things in life.
You are ready to fall in love or to begin a committed relationship and you believe your intentions are perfectly aligned when all of a sudden the unexplainable occurs: they pull away. Or even worse, they look at you as if you made all of this up in your own mind (gaslighting) or they ghost you.
You move closer, trying to connect, sharing emotions as you’ve always done leading up to this day but nothing. They just don’t want to be with you.
Because you wrote a love story in your mind filling all gaps until the end of time, you simply cannot fathom the idea that you will have to live a whole life without them. You want to write off love all together at the idea that you will have to forget them, move forward, dive back into the pool full of poop and disappointment called dating. Out of millions of humans out there you will have to start from scratch in this undeniably complicated hunt for a single, available, kind individual who is looking to share a life with someone as amazing as you are. Let’s not forget, they must have a job, to have done enough work on themselves to be functional (or at least not heavily dysfunctional) and all the rest of the spiel.
So what’s the logical next step?
Diagnosing ‘their’ psychological problem: what a colossal waste of our time.
After an intense connection towards a potential partner followed by their rejection, instead of deciding they simply don’t like you, why not spend the following months to diagnose their psychological problems? What a great idea (not)!
You open the web, you read magazines, you ask your friends and read Medium articles and typically you can find full support in diagnosing you loved one with one of the following problems:
- Avoidant attachment style
- Wrong timing
- Less technical diagnosis that includes every day problems we all face but somehow only truly disrupts them: just broken up, difficult childhood etc.
I am guilty of the same, except often I run it by my therapist and she tells me what the actual ‘problem’ could be.
The first thing we need to do, is learn to spot the unavailable.
If you haven’t read it, please save yourself months of therapy and read this:
The second thing we need to learn to do, is not to waste so much of our time trying to diagnose all of their potential problems and stop looking for solutions to how we can help them solve these so called problems.
We mustn’t do this for two main reasons:
1.We cannot diagnose their problem (as we only know what they allowed us to see, it’s impossible to have a full picture)
2. We cannot change someone who doesn’t want to change (even if you get it right, you can’t do anything about it).
When I think back at how much time and effort I have spent in the past dwelling on someone else’s problems instead of my own my mind begins to wonder: could I have written a book in that time? Could I have become super fit in that time? Could I have progressed quicker in my work in that time? Could I have taken an extra vacation?
Reclaiming my time
Moving forward, I have come to one conclusion that applies to all unavailable potential partners: who cares why s/he’s unavailable who cares why s/he will not commit.
As my friend Carolina says, the end result is the same: you are not together.
Recently I helped a friend recover from her breakup. This made everything all the more clear: in all of that time we spent analyzing their partner’s problems, how to help them, what to do etc. we could have worked on how she could feel better instead, on what she could do for herself to be more happy, more healthy, more fit, have more fun, or simply meet new people. We could have spent that time resting, sleeping, exercising and instead we sat there talking endlessly about why the person they wanted didn’t go all in. We ended up talking more about their wellbeing and their actions than of how these actions made my friend feel and of what makes her happy.
Sitting there, alone or with friends, diagnosing third party problems is a colossal waste of your time, however there is a scientific explanation to why we do this: we need ‘closure’ to stop thinking about it.
Science says, we NEED a reason to move on.
It’s very simple indeed. Imagine your arm has been hurting for two weeks. You have no idea of why this arm is hurting. You try to work, but you cannot stop thinking of your arm. You want to work out but you can feel this strong pain. You go to sleep and think about what could possibly be wrong with your arm.
Finally you see a doctor. It’s a strained ligament.
Ahhhh okay. At this point, you know why the arm is hurting.
All of a sudden, despite the pain being present and stinging, you can focus again. You can sleep a bit better. You can think of something that isn’t your arm. It’s not because the pain has diminished, it’s simply because you know the why to your pain. You know it’s your ligament.
The same concept applies to love. You need a why, real or fictitious, that will help you move on. The trouble is, you need to believe it’s real. This is very hard to do, especially when logically what just happened makes no sense, especially when you brain had created such a positive narrative on everything that was taking place.
When you discover your diagnosis was incorrect.
Months ago I went on dates with two men who were both seemingly wonderful: I was very attracted to them, I knew them well as I had previously dated both, we seemed to share values, we seemed to want the same things in life and they both wanted London as a base and to travel on top of having kids. They clearly liked me, one was an ex and the other someone I had something with. In both cases I had two exceptional evenings with lots of talk about the future which once again led to nowhere.
What was I doing wrong?
This summer I met up again with one of these two men. We had been acquaintances for years, we met up during lockdown by chance in Milano, spent a beautiful night together and he disappeared. He invited me to Greece the following summer, invite which I didn’t accept as I had felt rejected, but I couldn’t help but accept a dinner invitation the following year at his place.
Frankly, we had a perfect evening. I figured since he knew all my friends, since everything checked out, since we had a deep connection emotionally and on what we wanted in life, that maybe it could work.
It was such a special evening, I received a text confirming it the next evening and then nothing. He ghosted me.
Seeing him on this Greek island was strange in itself. He was a bit awkward when he was out with my friend and I, then he proceeded to kiss me at the end of the night. We saw each other every day and every evening for 4 days and nothing. I felt strange, rejected but also not quite and I couldn’t figure out what was happening. On the last day my friend left and we had a beautiful romantic evening chatting at the port until 5am. I found out that he had his heart crushed by two women over the past few years. He confided in me that even men have biological clock, that he thought he would be married with kids by now and that he is very sad not to be.
He kissed me, intensely, but wanted nothing more than a kiss.
I thought he was avoidant. That’s how I diagnosed him to move forward.
He still didn’t choose me or even to try seeing where this connection which was clearly there could go, but this time, this moment gave me something I hadn’t felt in a while. Hope.
Let’s be clear, the way he acted with me over the years was not nice, however my misdiagnosis helped me understand that in reality all of these why’s we spend so much time creating aren’t necessarily true and often it’s hard to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and really understand why they act a certain way.
For an instant, the next day, on a beach, just us, having a beautiful lunch at a taverna overlooking the sea, I found the magic I lost in my previous breakup. I found a glimmer of hope. Not with this guy, but in letting go of ‘why’ and of control.
For the first time in months I believed that in the midst of all the dysfunctional avoidant narcissists out there there are also profound, family seeking, heartfelt men out there, going through the same pain and struggles us women are. None of us handle all of this perfectly, but giving people the opportunity to show us who they are despite of the pain they caused us sometimes surprises us with a better ‘why’ than the one we designed to move forward with out lives.
Why out ‘diagnosis’ are likely incorrect.
Two people can act in the same way and have two completely different reasons for doing so, therefore your past experiences cannot predict your future ones.
Though I still feel a bit of pain in knowing that this person didn’t choose me, I did make a decision on how I will move forward: I will take things slower. I will no longer let my biological clock speed things up and attempt to get to know someone so quickly thus coming to rushed conclusions.
I thought all the experiences we have been through make us quicker at understanding people however that is not necessarily the case: they make our neurons quicker at coming up with an opinion or a judgment. Unfortunately when it comes to people there will never be one model that fits all, or one ‘diagnosis’ that works for a large group of people.
This guy hurt me, however I discovered he is not a bad guy and he is not necessarily avoidant as I had suspected. Do I think there is a potential for a match? Certainly, but he does not, or at least not right now.
Often what we diagnose with all of these labels is simply a person who is not ready or doesn’t want to enter a relationship with us for reasons we will never truly fully comprehend. None of us can handle a breakup perfectly, or the aftermath of what seemed like a perfect evening in the most elegant way when what we actually want to do is end things with this person. Whatever the course of action, the person being left will feel hurt.
This got me thinking: are we so set on looking for exactly what we pictured that we overlook other potential partners and miss out on something so much better than what we were originally looking for?
For now, my friends, I have decided to return to exploring this multi-layered complex world of dating with two new rules:
- I will give myself the time needed to actually get to know someone. Not just the first three months of them, the full picture, without rushing into falling in love instead embracing the curiosity that comes about when you meet someone new.
- I will learn to let go of those who don’t work quicker. I have realized that you don’t need to externalize the why, you can switch this pattern to a different one. I am feeling horrible, it’s reason enough as to why I should close this chapter. This person for whatever reason has decided not to be with me and I deserve someone who will.
Truth is, why doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, they’re not necessarily a bad person, they may just the wrong person for you.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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