Admit It, You Suck At Relationships

It’s OK, you can admit it. You suck at relationships.

You’re great getting into them, pretty decent getting out of them, but you suck at staying in them.

You’re not alone. I used to suck at relationships, too.

Most times, it was me. Sometimes it was them. I’d get restless, lose interest, or subconsciously pick the wrong person, because truth was, I probably wasn’t ready to commit in the first place. But sometimes, it wasn’t me, but the guy who couldn’t go the distance. It was always a round hole, square peg situation, trying to force something that wasn’t a fit.

By the time I turned 50, I had dozens upon dozens of relationships: good and bad, short-term and long, enjoyable and excruciating, painful and passionate, happy and heartbreaking. None lasted, but they all had one thing in common:

They were PRODUCTIVE.

Yes, productive. Because I always got something out of them—especially the failed ones.

All that pain, challenge, and heartbreak, were like sharp little stepping-stones on my journey; they hurt a long the way, but eventually I became grateful for what they taught me, and showed me about myself.

Just because your relationship ends, doesn’t make it (or you) a failure. It makes it an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself. In fact, the relationship that blew up, left you in tatters, or crushed your soul, can be the most productive of all.

Some would go as far to say that your failed relationship was actually a success!

Let’s hope you never breakup, let’s hope your relationship never ends, but if it does, asking yourself the following questions might put your relationship failure into a better light:

• “What’s the teachable moment here for me?

Self-examination is the greatest gift a failed relationship can give you. Owning your part, reflecting on what went wrong, and taking responsibility for your actions and emotions with acceptance, grace, and forgiveness, isn’t just empowering, it’s an auspicious move for your future relationships.

• Did it show me my potential for love?

Even if your relationship lasted a short time, even if it was a fleeting love affair, it showed you your capacity to love and be loved. You proved your ability to feel, to open your heart, and give of yourself. “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all,” is true. Be glad you can love in the first place. If you did it once, you can do it again.

• What positives came out of it?

Was your life somehow enriched because of the relationship? Did you meet new people, make new friends? Did you go to interesting places or travel? Were you able to get out of your comfort zone and discover? If the relationship broadened your horizons, showed you more about life and the world, then be grateful for that.

• Are you stronger because of it?

Did the relationship show you what you were made of? Did it prove your resiliency, resolve, and affirm your self-respect? Did it honor your highest good? Did you refuse to settle or compromise yourself? If you had the courage to do all of above, good for you.

No relationship was a waste for me. Even the worst ones were productive because they brought me closer to what I wanted, and who I am today. I got a little something out of each of them, and for that, I’m thankful.

SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY EX BOYFRIENDS: Even though it didn’t work out for us, I want you to know I have nothing but love and appreciation. You got me to Robby, and for that, I’m beyond grateful.

If you want to grow, improve, and evolve, make failure your friend. Make it your guru and guide. Listen to it carefully and heed its lessons, because even if you have a terrible relationship track record, there’s always room to learn more and suck less.

Dating TMI: Let It Rip Or Keep It Zipped?

“We had magic, it was immediate bliss. Being with him was a perfect world. We would connect on such a deep level, and he made me feel beautiful. It felt loving and honest. We could talk for hours about anything.

But after he’d go home, things would change. He’d call the next day, and be moody and distant. How could he not have felt what I felt?”

This is from a conversation I had recently with a friend about a guy she was dating, someone she thought was the man of her dreams. They fell hard for each other, and he professed true love, but she couldn’t understand his mixed signals.

After a few weeks of this emotional rollercoaster, she confronted him, and he finally admitted the problem: he had severe depression issues.

 “You want consistency, and I don’t think I can give you that. I’m so unstable. My shrink told me I need to go back on my meds because of my history with mental illness. He thinks I might be bipolar.”

He ended his text by saying: “I shouldn’t be in a relationship, I need to fix myself. Sorry.”

The guy disappeared, and the magic vanished just like that.

As I was listening to her story, I felt a mix of emotions: sympathy, pity, and anger all at the same time. I felt so bad for the guy, and yet I couldn’t get over how he misrepresented himself. How could he have lead her on like that, selling her a bill of goods, when he knew the whole time he wasn’t capable of being a boyfriend?

At first, I thought it was an incredibly uncool and unfair thing to do because she felt burned, but then I stopped myself and asked: Is there ever a good time to tell someone you’re bipolar?

This lead to a bigger question for me about dating and honesty. How much and when should you disclose your personal issues? On the first date? In the third week? After a year?

Is it TMI, or truth in dating?

A similar story I read about a single mom and writer named Steph Montgomery, posed the same questions. In her, article “Why I Bring All My Baggage On The First Dates,”she describes entering the dating world after divorce, unsure of how much personal information to disclose:

 “I’d been out of the game a while, sure, but I was pretty sure that divorce, trauma, mental illness, and existential crises still weren’t really first-date material.

On the other hand, hold on to a piece of information long enough and it starts to look uncomfortably like a secret, and I wasn’t ashamed of the tougher parts of my past. I was just in uncharted territory. How soon do you share? How much is too much? I had no idea.”

Drop the bomb sooner or later?

So here’s where I stand on dating disclosure. If you can’t be fully honest with your issues/problems/circumstances, and if you can’t be fully present or available because of them, then you shouldn’t be dating.

Another thing. Don’t wait until someone starts developing feelings for you, or after you start having sex, or get in their heart and head to disclose information you think might be a deal breaker. By then, you’re in too deep, and it’ll feel like a sucker punch.

I’m not saying unload all your baggage upon meeting; I’m not saying dump all your dark secrets at hello, but telling someone you’ve got a crazy stalker ex-husband, or you’re just out of jail, or you’re in a deep financial straits, is not first date material. Neither is over-sharing the benign, but boring minutia of your life–that’s TMI.

So, should you let it rip, or keep it zipped?

Only you can make that call.

Pacing is everything. When the moment feels right, when trust is established, speak your truth. Then own your truth, without shame, guilt, or fear. Yes, it can be a risk; yes, it might not be received well; but that’s not your problem. Your only job is to be as forthcoming and transparent as you can, with as much courage and dignity, as you can muster.

And who knows? By laying it all on the table, you just might find someone ready to return the favor of sharing their truth with you, too.

A few weeks after my friend’s relationship ended, she told me she saw the guy back on Tinder, which upset her even more. She didn’t message him, but if she did, this is what she would’ve said:

“Had you just given me a heads up, or forewarning, I’d be understanding. Had you said something like, ‘I suffer from severe depression and it’s not you. I adore you, but I can’t handle my shit,’ I’d get it. You gotta warn people so they don’t take it personally. It’s not cool to play with people’s heads.”

Then she added bluntly: “Fess up if you’re mental.”

Surviving Breakup Hell

Your world is shattered, your guts are wrenched, your soul is crushed, your ego blown, and your heart is broken into a million pieces.

Welcome to Breakup Hell, the absolute worst place on earth.

Before I got married for the first time at 50, I must’ve visited Breakup Hell a thousand times, and every time I was there, I thought it would be forever. I feared I’d never get out; that I’d never see sunshine or feel happy again. The pain of feeling unloved/unlovable was so heavy, and the anxiety so gripping, my whole body would shut down.

I wouldn’t be able to eat, I couldn’t sleep, my hair would fall out, and I’d be running to the toilet every five seconds. It was pure hell.

There’s a reason why break-ups hurt like hell: because the brain hates rejection (especially mine). Show me a brain that doesn’t!

There’s science to back this up. In the study “Reward, Addiction, and Emotion Regulation Systems Associated with Rejection,” conducted by Dr. Helen Fisher, Chief Scientific Officer at Chemistry.com, researchers found that areas of the brain associated with nicotine, cocaine addiction, and physical pain—as well as romantic love—were all activated after a breakup.

Which means that “When you’re going through a breakup, you’re feeling romantic love, you’re feeling physical pain, and you’re in a state of constant craving,” according to Dr. Fisher.

This is why breaking up is hard to do–you love and hate your ex at the same time. You despise AND romanticize. It’s a total mind fuck.

Rejection sucks, loss is painful, abandonment is traumatic, and unfortunately it all comes with the territory. You will also feel like a big, fat failure, and take everything personally, because that’s what you do when you’re in Breakup Hell. You don’t just lose a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, you lose your damn dignity too.

I told you it was the absolute worst place on earth!

If you’ve just broken up, get ready for some intense anger, serious soul searching, and non-stop obsessing and replaying in your head. Everything feels like a nightmarish OCD loop. “What did I do wrong? What could I have done better?” P.S. If you didn’t know, your head is a bad place to be.

The thing I’ve learned with Breakup Hell, is that you can’t escape it, you just have to work through it—sometimes with large amounts of wine and pot, like I did.

In addition to Sativa and Sauvingnon Blanc, I would also consume large amounts of talk therapy, junk food, bad cable movies, massages, and hanging with good friends who didn’t judge.

After a little pampering, I’d get ruthless with my own tough love. Here are a few things I highly suggest for immediate emotional triage:

  • Remove ex from contacts, delete all emails, and unfollow (not unfriend) on social media.
  • Destroy all physical reminders of ex (photos, gifts, etc.)
  • Stay away from exe’s mutual friends so as not to be reminded of him/her.
  • Choose new places to eat and visit, so you won’t run into ex.
  • Stay incredibly busy, make plans from morning to night, exhaust yourself with fun.

Start with these, and something will happen. You’ll start to heal. You won’t just feel better, you’ll start feeling better about yourself again. In other words, you’ll regain your dignity again.

It takes strength not to text your ex in moments of weakness; it takes discipline not to replay or romanticize; it takes power to take the high road; it takes effort to find happiness elsewhere; it takes courage to go it alone; it takes forgiveness to heal; and it takes self-worth to love yourself more than your ex.

If you can do this, you can do anything.

Here’s how another writer Taylor Garland dealt with her Breakup Hell:

“My grief was the impetus for powerful introspection and self-discovery. In the past, I turned towards alcohol and wild nights out to avoid the pain, but I knew this time must be different. I took the opportunity to let the heartache wash over me. I found myself pondering, nearly always, what it meant to be a good person, to offer value to others. I examined, in great detail, my shortcomings. I learned to meditate. I opted out of boozy nights with pals. I connected with my friends and family on profound levels, enabling me to offer deep empathy and connection that had been missing for years. I found forgiveness for people I’d been holding grudges towards. I found release.”

After a thousand trips to Breakup Hell, I’m here to tell you, you will be fine. You will be more than fine. You’ll survive, see sunshine, and love again. Slowly but surely, you will catch yourself smiling, hear yourself laughing, and realize you haven’t thought of your ex all day.

And that my friends, is pure heaven.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

To get my full list of breakup tips, plus other dating wisdom, please visit trevabrandonscharf.com.