Learning from failure

Joey Garcia

My last five relationships all failed. All five women told me from the start that I was everything they were looking for in a man. So, I trusted them and started giving. I would call, send e-mails, bring gifts, etc. I also respected their need for space and freedom. The more I gave, the more they backed away. In three of the relationships, the women stopped all contact. When I got the hint and stopped, too, they started again. To top it off, when I started dating another woman, these former girlfriends would try to get me back. What am I doing wrong? Am I overbearing?

If the woman you’re dating asks you to lighten up on calls or gifts, but you justify your need to continue, you’re overbearing. If your e-mails and phone calls are meant to check on her rather than chat with her, you’re overbearing. If the gifts are clothes that appeal to you more than what she normally likes and wears, you’re overbearing. But labels provide limited insight. Let’s excavate your psyche.

You didn’t specify how long you were in each relationship, but I suspect that it was a fairly short time. If someone says you are everything she desires in a man, and you have known her for less than six months, you are probably the object of her infatuation. Love grows slowly. Infatuation happens quickly because it is rooted in romantic fantasies that people hurry to project on each other. When it is apparent that these illusions conflict with the reality of being in relationship with a human being, the fantasy wins. The relationship ends so that the fantasy can be preserved and projected onto another. Or, as in your situation, one person retreats to tend the fantasy and then reemerges to try again.

Step out of these cycles by paying close attention during the first few weeks of the relationship. Are you investing too much or too little energy? Can you honestly assess your boundaries and determine whether this relationship is what you need? Is either of you relating to the other according to how well the relationship matches the fantasy? If so, you can be assured that when the reality of who she is—or who you are—sets in, one of you is bound to bail. So, question your fantasies and be patient as you work to become, and find, the right person.

There is a guy who has been my friend for eight years. We have also dated. At first, I tried to be with him, but I cheated and lied. He always accepted me back because he loves me. Most recently, I walked away because I did not know how to comfort him after his parents died. Then, I learned that I was pregnant by my ex-boyfriend, who I dated after I walked out on my friend. I lost the baby, and my friend was there for me through it all, but I directed my mess of mixed emotions toward my friend, not my ex. Now, my friend feels like I used him because he wants to be with me. I have told him that I want a platonic friendship. I’ve hurt this person too much for one lifetime. What can I do?

Back off completely. Then, have the courage and integrity to stick to your plan. You have abused this relationship and this man. It’s time to stop. Since you have had sex, a minimum of two months without contact is necessary to transition the relationship into a truly platonic one. During that time, I suggest that you commit yourself to counseling and discover why you choose to respond to love with hate.

Meditation of the week
“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen because God speaks in the silence of the heart,” said Mother Teresa. Who do you need to hear this holiday season? God? Your parents? Your siblings? Yourself?

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