So a reader, Jessica, emailed me in response to my post on relationship experience here. Her main point:
So reading your key to a successful relationship made me think immediately of Catch-22. I really hope we’re not all doomed to relationship failure just because we haven’t had enough failed relationships in the past!
What I think Jessica is assuming is that since your past relationships are, well, in the past, that makes them failures, ie they didn’t last. My thing was that you should accumulate relationship experience as you move towards the next stage of your life (whatever that may be), but on the way all of your relationships should be ones of value. Just because you broke up with a gf or bf doesn’t mean that you didn’t enrich that person’s life for the time that you were with them. Even if you just dated someone for a few dates, you should have learned a bit more about attraction and had some good conversations too. Don’t undervalue these things, even if they were short term!
I say it’s time to stop thinking of past relationships as failures. Stop thinking of it as baggage! There’s growth and value to be taken from any relationship, and unless you’ve really fucked it up, you can at least get a good friendship if you put some work into it. Bad breakup? Harsh words? So what…wait a couple of months (or years) and make friends with your ex. Start giving value back to make up for the negative feelings.
Honey is a golden example for me. We used to date, now we don’t, but now we’re creative partners and good friends. Even the women that I don’t talk to I’ve learned a ton from, and I’m glad I had them in my life. Those experiences have shaped me. It’s not baggage, it’s my life experience, and I’m glad I had them.
So How Do You Get Better?
Start by admitting that you suck at relationships and you don’t know jack about yourself, because you probably don’t. Then open yourself to criticism and trod the path of self improvement. Go socialize, make friends, and try to connect with people at an intimate level. Don’t be a douchebag or douchbaguette. Look at your relationship life as a continuum, something that you’re always working on and improving. The more people I meet, the more I realize how little I know about people. So it inspires me to go out and meet more people, and date more girls, because I want to figure things out.
Eventually, you’ll be ready for whatever the next stage is. That could be a marriage or it could be a life partnership. Whatever is right for you. Most importantly, use that experience to learn about attraction, learn about connecting deeply, and learn about yourself. As a man, ask yourself what qualities you really value in women…and I don’t mean legs, ass, and breast size. Go beyond the physical and explore what you truly value. Asian Rake addresses this in his excellent post on Believability and Elite Game. Think long and hard and write that shit down.
One last thought. Where do most of us get our relationship knowledge? Mom and dad, for starters. Do they give you good advice? Are they good role models? Sometimes, but not always. Do they teach you how to screw? No. Are your friends good sources of information on relationships? They’re often just as clueless. How about television and books? Great. This is why we have canards like the “fairytale romance.” Examine your body of knowledge and your experiences, be critical of yourself, and then seek out good sources of information and better role models.
Go see what’s out there. There’s way more than you think.