I talk to a lot of individuals who complain about relationship problems. One common complaint is that the relationship started out great, but over time, started to not feel so good anymore. After a few months, they’re back to feeling like they did in their prior relationship, and they don’t understand what happened. Often, they get out of that relationship, into a new one, and the cycle repeats. That’s usually when they come to see me, and as the story of their relationships unfolds, the mistake they’re making is glaringly obvious (to me). They are confusing “better” and “good”.
What happens is that in the toxic/abusive/otherwise bad relationship, there are specific things they’ve identified that are harming them, and are thus their reason for leaving that relationship. Maybe this person is verbally abusive, dismissive, rude, never wants to go anywhere, and never gives any compliments. And let’s say that they won’t’ keep a job, either (blog post on dating someone who refuses to work, coming soon!). Usually, they’re tried to resolve these issues to no avail. Eventually, they get tired of this treatment and decide enough is enough! They want someone who treats them well, and they leave the relationship.
So, a few months later, they meet someone new. Someone with a good job, who goes to work everyday. And things start out well, but after a few weeks, their partner is tired every weekend, or just wants to stay in, or doesn’t like their friends and doesn’t want to go out or doesn’t want to hang out with family at the family event, or whatever. And when something upsetting happens, the new partner doesn’t offer support, or doesn’t want to talk about what happened on your job that upset you, or just stares at the TV while you talk and then says “what? I hear you…” when you ask if they’re really listening to you. When you talk to them, excited about their promotion you got, their first response is, “so does this mean you’ll be even more busy now? You’re already working all the time as it is…” And over time, you realize that this person is dismissive, not emotionally supportive, doesn’t want to go out anywhere with you, and no longer compliments you on your appearance or accomplishments. It starts to feel like the last relationship- but his one is different, right? He (or she) is not like that last person at all!
So, what happened? Did this person somehow change from the person you thought they were? No. What happened is that you confused better with good. If you are taking a test that is scored out of 100 points, and you get a 30, you’ve failed the test. If you retake it and get a 42, you’ve done better- but you still failed that test.
Because this person and this relationship was better than the last one, you assumed it was good. Yes- you’ve hooked up with someone who was better than what you had before- but better doesn’t mean good. So essentially, you ended up with someone who just “wasn’t as bad”, but was still pretty bad, only you didn’t see it in the beginning because it was an improvement from what you had. This is why it’s important to take breaks between relationships, and to really examine what happened- what your parts were, what their parts were, what was good and what was not- so that in the next relationship, you can identify those things that may be iterations of the problems you experienced before. So that when you’re dating, you’re not glossing over the lack of emotional support because they are kind, or the disinterest in being socially present because they’re a good provider. You want to make sure that the things you’ve identified as an issue are not present in the person you date- your heart will appreciate the protection.
So- next time you’re getting into a relationship, or if you’re in one now, really take stock of what you have to make sure you’re not settling for “better than” when you really deserve good.