Should you seek feedback on why it didn’t work out?

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?”

poofThe 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.

Matthew PerryIn 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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6 responses to “Should you seek feedback on why it didn’t work out?”

  1. Bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    Truthfully, no, I don’t want feedback from a guy about why he’s breaking up with me. IMHO, if he doesn’t think enough of me to stick around, then I sure don’t want to hear his lame excuses about why it can’t work and most of all I don’t ever want to hear that corny “let’s just be friends” speech again.

    Anyhow, I’m fairly sure I know why all of my previous relationships ended, they all dumped me for someone else, usually someone younger and always, always someone prettier. I firmly believe, no matter what they say to the contrary to sound politically correct, (and win brownie points with women for said correctness), that men will only stay in relationships with women they find physically attractive, (which means I’m most likely out of luck when it comes to finding a partner, but since I’ve recently gone online with a dating profile, I guess I figure one more kick in the head won’t hurt. Heck, my health insurance is all paid up)… 🙂

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  2. Aggressively Single Avatar
    Aggressively Single

    Good idea, DG. I did this with my last relationship, and it was very rewarding and stopped a lot of uncessary angst on my part. I wrote down what I learned so I could use it in the future. Might help you all, too….

    1. He did like me a lot (always nice to confirm this!). 2. He tends to be seen as cold in relationships, (! wasn’t imagining!) 3. I did scare him a bit by showing him my list detailing the type of relationship I wante (helpful, won’t do this again that soon!) 4. I did seriously disappoint him with my actions re. Val. Day, (check the old blogs, you’ll see!) 5. He understood my need to protect myself against getting hurt, and the part his “coldness” may have played… (nice to have someone acknowledge the part they played…) 6 He felt I had not been out of my divorce long enough, wishes we’d met in 6 months. (this was very he;pful)

    And so on – there were at least 5 more items that have really helped me understand myself and relationships better, and prompted me to since throw out all my rules! So, DG, this can work and be a great tool for growth.

  3. lulu Avatar

    It’s just too hard to drag out a real reason why they suddenly flaked out. If it was meant to be they would hang in there. Maybe I’m flaky like a guy about those things?

    But I think what I really got hung up on was the part where you “arranged to return some of his belongings”. After a 5-7 week relationship he already had “belongings” at your place? That’s something that women usually do, leave belongings at his place too soon. At least I think it is too soon when you’ve only been seeing each other for 5-7 weeks. Plus I would have left it to him to pick up his stuff in a timely manner or I would donate it to charity.

  4. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Hi Lulu:

    It was some stuff he’d forgotten, not purposefully left, like a CD. We parted on friendly terms and I was going to be in his area, so offered to drop them off. No big deal. I wanted them out of my house and didn’t feel right demanding he come get them when I was going to be around the corner from him. He’s a nice guy, and we still stay in touch, so there was no need to be a hard nose about it.

  5. Fred G Avatar
    Fred G

    DG – I think the issue about waiting helps. However, when I am “let go” it is sometimes with the “I don’t see us as long range – just friends.”

    Sometimes it comes down to personal issues that might seem shallow and the person will not want to share it(income level, intimate or romantic style, or such). That is when the answers to “What went wrong?” get vague or misleading answers.

    And if someone wanted a short range or transitional relationship but presented themself as wanting something else, then there will be no good answer coming it seems.

    If the reason is actually an issue that can be gracefully discussed then an answer is possible. If I want to know and if I know a friend of theirs then that can eventually be the source.

  6. NYSharon Avatar

    Fred is right-Sometimes it’s stuff you couldn’t bare to tell him if he asked. I let a great guy go when I couldn’t get past his bad kissing no matter how great a person he was. He was just what I was looking for but that little piece affected sooooo much. It is uncomfortable to have to respond to that question more than what you have prepared. It is always the same, you aren’t for them, they are looking for something different!