I’m sometimes asked why my multi-week relationships didn’t work out. If the guy released me, I don’t really know so can only guess. I’ve been asked, “What did the guy say when he broke up with you?”
The truth is, most of them have just gone poof, even after seeing each other 5-7 weeks. Very few men officially “break up” by communicating they don’t want to see me romantically anymore. And if they do, they often use the nebulous, “It wasn’t working for me.”
When I’ve gently pressed and calmly said I’m really interested in what wasn’t working, the answers have been unconvincing. After dating 7 weeks, I suggested to one beau that I’d love to meet his college-age kids sometime. He broke up with me soon after that (in an email) saying he just wanted to be friends. When I said, “Okay. Can you tell me what precipitated this?” he said he wasn’t comfortable with my meeting his kids this soon. Ironically, a few weeks later I arranged to return some of his belongings and one of his kids was home and he seemed comfortable introducing us. Go figure.
So I’m not convinced many men would tell a woman what was really going on, even if we didn’t yell or cry, but asked calmly and patiently, not blaming.
I’ve also noticed with uncanny regularity that when I’ve received “constructive” feedback from someone — not just suitors — the feedback I receive is nearly identical to the feedback I’d say to the giver. A colleague once told me that I “had rough edges” which is nearly identical to how I had described him months earlier to someone who didn’t know him. So I think sometimes we are mirrors for others who see their faults in us more clearly than they see them in themselves.
Does this mean you shouldn’t try to get feedback in dating’s equivalent of an exit interview? No. I encourage you to solicit feedback from former sweeties as well as close friends to see if they can shed light on your blind spots. If you get consistent feedback from dates, beaus, or friends, then give it credence. A favorite question I ask my pals is, “How do you see me shooting myself in the foot?” They will help you see areas you sabotage your efforts.
In dating, you see people do stuff that you think, “If only someone would tell him … he would be so much more successful.” You don’t want to be that clueless person who keeps unknowingly repelling potential suitors. Remember on Friends Chandler’s (Matthew Perry) love interest, Janice (Maggie Wheeler), with the obnoxious laugh? While I’m sure there are some people on the planet who wouldn’t find it annoying, the majority do. If someone lovingly told her, she might be able to tone down the volume to a minimum.
In “I could really see us together if you lost weight” I shared that I don’t think you should expect someone else to change. But we’re not talking about him now, we’re talking about you.
Should you solicit feedback from all former love interests? I believe you should from the ones you felt particularly matched. In the area of strategic customer service, which is my professional expertise, I tell clients to pay closest attention to the feedback they receive from their best (by their definition) customers. You want to attract more like them, so you want to make sure you’re not driving them away unwittingly. The same is true for beaus. You are most interested in feedback from the ones you felt had long-term potential — until they broke up with you.
When you receive their feedback, I’m sure you know you should strive to remain calm, not get defensive nor overly emotional. Should you begin yelling, sobbing or name calling? Not a good strategy. That will not gain you any useful information.
Even if some time has passed — in fact, some time passing is probably better — have the courage to contact those with whom you had a good relationship and it went awry. Ask for feedback calmly and non-defensively. See if you can uncover some trends and make some modifications if you do. And try not to laugh like Janice.
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