In Relationships, the End Is The Beginning
Listen to what you're told in the beginning.
Over thirty years ago, therapist Robin Norwood wrote the bestseller Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing And Hoping He’ll Change. In it, she included an entire chapter on how a man and a woman about to suffer a miserable, dysfunctional relationship find each other and feel mutually attracted. Describing “the subtle signals that flash” between a couple who’ve just met, she implies that you really can tell the ending of a relationship from the beginning.
Sometimes, the signals ain’t so subtle. Sometimes, there they are. Bright as a bolt of lightning, hitting you with a thunderclap right at the very beginning of your relationship, announcing, plain as day: Put those beautiful dreams away. You might want to skip this one.
Often, the guy tells you right up front what’s going to happen! So keep your ears open, and don’t rationalize these warnings away with a dream or an excuse.
To explain what I mean, let’s take a look at my last three significant relationships. In each one, something the guy said at the very beginning told me how it was going to end. In two of those cases, I didn’t want to hear it, and boy, was I sorry.
Case One: Boyfriend, mostly happy relationship, together two years.
What he said to me on the third or fourth date: “I don’t love you, and I’m afraid I’m just going to use you.” From what I knew of him, I didn’t believe this guy would ever actually do that. But, should I have listened? Yep.
Outcome of relationship: When I met the guy, he was brokenhearted over his divorce. He’d found his wife in bed with another man, and tried to no avail to win her back—even though she told him she didn’t love the other guy either! He’d been a minister, so I assumed that meant he was honest. (Um…don’t ever do that, no matter how you feel about what he does for a living.) We had a great time together. He was my first serious boyfriend, and I was so over-the-moon about how nice it was, I thought if I could treat him better than his ex-wife, surely he’d notice how great I was and change his mind about me.
Fast forward two years: After driving miles out of my way to take him back and forth to work after his car broke down (and giving him $5000), I listened to him complain after he got turned down for an assistant manager position at a jewelry store. The answers he gave on the personality test they use to screen job candidates were too honest. The store, he reported, generally didn’t hire this kind of profile because it correlated with dishonesty. In his case, they made an exception and hired him. (I guess they got fooled by the minister background, too.)
Shortly after being hired, he met someone new at the store and dumped me, and within months they were engaged. He then, against company policy, used his employee discount to purchase jewelry to offer his wedding photographer in trade, in lieu of payment. The store found out and fired him.
Case Two: Husband, very happy relationship, together eleven years, married for seven.
What he said to me about nine months in: “I love you enough to marry you.” (Aww!)
Outcome of relationship: A great marriage, and the best relationship I’ve ever been in. This guy never gave me any reason to doubt he cared about me. There was never any of that, “Does he or doesn’t he, will he or won’t he?” None of those nightmares we’re all familiar with, where the guy starts “acting funny” and we’re afraid he’s trying to duck out on us.
I will say, though: He was twenty-one years older than me, and one thing he used to say a lot was that he didn’t expect to live long. He would often say that the women in his family lived long lives (his mother passed away in her nineties), but the men didn’t make it past their seventies. Sad to say, my husband didn’t even make it that long. He was stricken with brain cancer and passed away at the age of sixty-six. So, again, what I was told at the very beginning turned out to be the truth.
Case three: Very close, magical relationship with a guy separated after twenty years of very unhappy marriage.
What he wrote me three months in: “It's possible that I will not have the courage to do what I need to do. That I'll find I'm not strong enough to live on my own. If that turns out to be true, it's my fault and no one else's. I have nothing to offer you. I have nothing to offer anyone in my current condition.”
If you hear those words, run.
Outcome of relationship: After he moved out, his wife and grown children ostracized him and guilted him back into the marriage. He dumped me suddenly, unexpectedly, and very painfully. Two years later, I heard from the guy again. He was still married, and still miserable.
Three serious relationships; three times the guy told me the ending at the beginning.
Robin Norwood may be onto something, here.