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it's not him, it's you!
The Common Denominator
'I can't believe I fell for another jerk!'
I was sitting in a café in Georgetown having breakfast with my best friend, Adison. On that particular morning she had dragged me out of bed to talk about her most recent relationship, which, like many before, was headed downhill fast. Before I could even order a cup of coffee, she declared that her latest would-be boyfriend, Gavin, was the offspring of a female canine and then proceeded to give me the play-by-play of their relationship.
'He never calls when he says he will. He acts like he likes me one minute, but then I don't hear from him for days. I am just so fed up with men and their games!'
I listened, as good friends do, as Adison vented her frustrations. She rambled on about Gavin's commitment phobia, how his hot and cold behavior drove her up the wall, and how the next time she saw him, she was going to give him a piece of her mind. But somewhere between the words jerk and player, I realized that this most recent relationship disaster sounded a lot like her last one. In fact, when I thought about it, it seemed like getting dumped was becoming a pattern for her.
As Adison was about to call this guy a dog for the tenth time, I suddenly realized something: maybe it wasn't such a coincidence that all the guys she dated turned out to be jerks. Maybe there was an actual reason for it. It did seem a little odd that every guy she liked drove her crazy and eventually ended up missing in action, especially since they were all so different. Yet somehow she kept getting the same result. Then, like a ton of bricks, it finally hit me. I knew what was happening. There was only one common denominator in all of Adison's relationships, and it wasn't the men.
'Adison,' I said. 'Do you ever think maybe it's not him, it's you?'
Adison's jaw dropped. As soon as the words left my mouth, I cringed and waited for her reaction. I was supposed to be her friend. I was supposed to be on her side. I was supposed to call this guy a selfish bastard, not bruise her already damaged ego. In fact, I was just about to recant my statement when she said, 'Really? You think I'm making him act this way?'
Up until that moment I truly believed that Adison and I had just been picking the wrong guys. Whenever our relationships got rocky, we would blame the guy for being insensitive, unavailable, or just plain shady. We truly believed that most men were frogs, and we were just going to have to kiss a lot of them to find our prince. But now I had seen the light. Men weren't the cause of all our headacheswe were. If a guy didn't act exactly the way we wanted him to, we would freak out, overreact, and drive him away.
Take Adison's new relationship, for example. This guy, Gavin, did like her. There was definitely a mutual attraction when they began dating. However, Adison started assuming that they were in a relationship after only a couple of weeks, whereas Gavin was still simply getting to know her. She switched into full girlfriend mode before she and Gavin had agreed to be exclusive. So when she started coming on strong, calling a lot, and making all-weekend plans with him, he started to back off.
I was no angel either. I had been just as guilty of overestimated expectations. Yet I continually wondered why men who started off interested in me seemed to always stall on taking that final step toward commitment. Hot and cold were the only two temperaments I'd ever seen from a boyfriend. In fact, the guy I was currently dating seemed to only like me on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Adison and I spent the next hour dissecting all of our previous relationships. In almost every instance, we realized the guys we had thought were jerks were really not so bad after all. We just blamed them for the fact that our relationships had gone awry. We had come up with every excuse in the book for why they behaved badly, when really, we just didn't know how to act with someone we liked. It didn't matter that we were smart, attractive girls. The way we behaved completely turned guys off. What an epiphany! I had to laugh at all the crazy mistakes we had made throughout the years. Looking back, I wondered how I could have been so oblivious.
Suddenly, Adison became panic-stricken.
'Oh my God, Jess, do you know what this means?' She shrieked. 'I have been dumped three times in the last year, and I am now realizing it's because of something I'm doing. I'm turning guys off. All this time I thought I was just dating the wrong kind of person. It never occurred to me that I might be bad at dating. Now what am I supposed to do?'
Good question. At the time, I didn't have the answer. Adison and I were fresh out of college and just beginning our lives. If the past was any sort of indicator of what our future would bring, I saw us sitting home a lot of nights, sobbing into a pint of Chunky Monkey. How would we turn things around? Who had the answers? All of our friends back then were suffering from their own dating dilemmas, and most of the books at the time only explained the 'why' behind a guy's behavior and not what to do about it. The more I thought about it, the more I feared for the worse. If something didn't change, we might be alone for the rest of our lives.
Then Everything Changed
Ten years after that pivotal conversation I was sitting on my couch wondering why my cell phone had suddenly lost service. It was the great snowstorm of 2009, and I was waiting for my boyfriend, Erik, to shovel us out of the driveway so that we could attend a family Christmas party. I had met Erik the year before while out with some friends and became immediately smitten with him. He was all the things I wanted in a man. He was smart, handsome, and apparently quite handy in inclement weather. I was in love, and for the first time in my life, I believed I had found the person I was meant to be with.
That day Erik joked that like me, my phone was probably just allergic to the cold, but I would find out later that he had purposely hijacked my SIM card so that no one would call me and accidentally ruin the upcoming surprise.
We had finally made our way out of the driveway when Erik suddenly realized he had left his wallet inside.
'I'll be right back,' he said as he tore off back into the house.
©2013. Jess McCann. All rights reserved. Reprinted from You Lost Him at Hello, Revised & Expanded. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.