By definition, all of us out there who are single have not been able to make past romantic relationships endure (yes, except widows/widowers, though as I've written before, it's curious how all the widows I've dated had great marriages and all the divorcees have not).
When you get to be 50-plus, you've likely had more than a few relationships, and more than a few reasons why you haven't found that lifelong soulmate (who exists only in your mind).
Have we failed? Not found the "right" person? Sabotaged the relationships for reasons only gifted shrinks can discern?
Or, dare I suggest that one thing we are not supposed to utter even in this age of every kind of relationship imaginable: is a successful long-term relationship not a natural condition of modern human beings, something to be viewed the way we would a Cro-Magnon diorama in a museum -- interesting to look it perhaps, but totally irrelevant to our world?
As we get older, it can be enlightening to review how and why past relationships have been less than raging successes, even as we wake up every day hoping and believing that the best is yet to come (we sort of have to believe that, don't we?)
Before listing the reasons my relationships have failed, I have to say that probably the most common one -- infidelity -- isn't among mine. I was faithful during my 11-year marriage (as a friend of mine used to say about his faithfulness, it wasn't always because of love as much as "fear of rolling pin"). Since my divorce, none of my relationships ended because of another man/woman -- that I am aware of...
Here's why my relationships haven't worked. Would love to hear about yours:
1) MY FAULT: I tend to blame myself for things, so right off the bat, let's stipulate that I screwed up most of the relationships. And I'm not just tossing that out in anticipation of people telling me what a jerk I am. I tanked most of my relationships, consciously or otherwise.
2) CRAZY: That said, I've had help. Whether the craziness has been real and certifiable (bipolar, borderline personality) or just, well, conventional crazy (e.g., the girlfriend who kept telling me she was "damaged" and until I realized, she sure was), hooking up with a crazy person decreases the odds it will work.
3) TOO CLINGY: This is a two-way street. I've been too clingy. They've been too clingy. Few relationships can withstand too much clinginess.
4) NOT CLINGY ENOUGH: Flip side of the same issue, of course. Relationships fail because one party just can't or won't connect emotionally. As with too clingy, this gets old fast as one person tries hard and the other doesn't try much at all. Again, I've been on both sides of that street.
5) SELFISH/NARCISSISTIC: This, for me at least, has been a bit of a recurring nightmare, but I have had a string of relationships where my mate is all about herself. In one case, my highly perceptive son met her for the first time and told me five minutes later, "That woman doesn't care about you at all." He was correct. In another, I left the relationship after a few months, and to this day am not sure if she knew I had kids -- or parents.
6) BORING: Okay, this is a harsh word, and as with all the other conditions, highly subjective, and I'll admit that I'm not always fascinating. But there have been times when that drive to her house would cause my stomach to tighten because I knew the evening was going to be dreary. Here, my highly perceptive daughter put me on alert about one of my significant other's absence of personality.
7) MONEY ISSUES: These have occasionally gotten in the way of a relationship, though never actually been the reason for one to end. But it often can be.
8) DIFFERENT GOALS/EXPECTATIONS: This is probably the type-O of relationship failure -- the most common reason (apart from infidelity). You're just not going down the same path no matter how much you care about each other.
As I say, the fault in most of my past relationships lies not in our stars, but in myself. And most of them were wonderful until they, well, weren't wonderful.
We have a knee-jerk admiration for marriages and relationships that last decades, while looking down our noses at people who work at the same job their entire adult lives. If a relationship goes on for years, that's just dandy. If it doesn't, it can help to think about the reasons why. If we do, maybe the best really is ahead.
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