You may be familiar with the poem “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson (pictured at right). In the poem, Ms. Nelson concisely illustrates how we make choices, have an unpleasant experience, and blame others. Then we learn from our experiences, take responsibility for our choices, and ultimately make different ones. I think it applies not only to life in general, but to dating.
How is this like dating? Have you found that sometimes you’re attracted to the same kind of guy, perhaps with behaviors similar to your ex? Then you’re upset that the guys treat you like your ex treated you. And you blame them. The cycle continues. Until you wake up to your part in the repetition.
You have probably heard the oft-quoted line, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results*.” It’s that way with dating. We’re drawn to certain characteristics in a man that seem familiar to us, no matter how dysfunctional. At least we are if we are unaware of how and why we keep dating the same guy in a different body over and over again. He’s attractive to us because he feels so comfortable. In fact, sometimes we may actually utter, “It felt like we’d known each other a long time.” Or, “It just felt right.”
If we aren’t conscious, we’ll keep walking down the same sidewalk and falling in the same hole (dating the same kind of guy who treats us the same way our ex did). And we blame the guys for being losers, jerks, players, cads. It’s not our fault!
Until one day, we get frustrated having fallen in the same hole once again! We know this time it is our fault, but it doesn’t help lessen the pain. So we keep dating. Drat — once again we find ourself in the same hole (with another guy who is self-absorbed, inconsiderate, emotionally unavailable, or worse). This time we know it is our fault. We look inside, self-reflecting, asking why we keep choosing to go out with guys who have similar patterns. Maybe we get some counseling to clear it up. Our eyes are opened.
We continue to date. Now, however, we’ve become more discerning. We begin to ask key questions before we even meet the potential date. We know how to spot the patterns that have kept us stuck in bad relationships in the past. We say “no” more often to those who seem so familiar, but we know by what they say on the phone they would not be right for the new us.
And finally, we meet a guy who has none (or very few) of the familiar faults. He treats us respectfully, kindly, lovingly, appreciatively. We love being with him and he with us. We have walked down a new street.
* (This is attributed to various folks, including Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein.)
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