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Daily Archives: May 30, 2016

Dating Relationships

A Field Guide to Bad Relationships

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I’m not a statistics whiz, but I’m willing to bet that you’ve had at least one bad relationship.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. For most people, bad relationships are part of the growing-up process: we have to know what doesn’t work for us in order to figure out what does. Unfortunately, a lot of us do a pretty bad job of parsing out our bad relationships – that is, figuring out what didn’t work – and end up relying on simplistic stereotypes that obscure our needs rather than clarify them.

For example: the ever-popular “it’s not you, it’s me” framework (and its converse, “It’s not me, it’s you“) often ends up reducing people in failed relationships to unchangeable, static figures that are simply “wrong” for each other. In reality, relationships are… well, relational. They’re about patterns of interaction – how your partner reacts when you touch him, how you react when he burps, how both of you react when the other is cranky from not eating enough food.

In other words, breakups generally have less to do with the individuals involved than with the way those individuals react to each other. A more accurate assessment of the situation would be, “It’s not you, it’s me when I’m around you when you’re doing something that doesn’t work for me.” But that’s not simple to say or easy to figure out, because it requires metacognition: the ability to recognize and understand your own thought processes and patterns of interaction. Metacognition is a skill, and it takes time to develop – hence the lengthy line of bad relationships that most of us subject ourselves to.

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