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Are we really "Choosing" those Failed Lovers?

Updated on May 29, 2013

Mind and Body SERIES

Why Do I Keep on Choosing Similar Romantic Partners that Fail?

She sat before me at a paralegal function. We had become close over the last few months, and she was absorbing the red wine of the graduation celebration. It was as if she was saying, “OK, this paralegal thing is out of the way, I need to start thinking about issues I have been postponing.”

We had become friends and she knew that I had done pastoral counseling and also had an interest in astrology. “What’s the deal? I tell myself, never again, that kind of guy, I have tried three times before in the last 5 years. Never again!”

“Are they always the same sun sign?” I smiled and sipped, letting her expand on her feelings.

“Two were Geminis, one was a Libra.” Then she paused. “I don’t really think in astrological terms. Do you mind if I just kind of talk about them without astrology?”

“Not at all. So, what is this kind of guy that you have tried to swear off?” We took some brie cheese and other delectables from the wandering waiter.

“First of all, I am a sucker for a charming talkative guy. They relax me. They somehow know to focus on my feelings. So, if they are talkative, but they also listen well….that combination is tough for me to resist.”

“I have heard my daughters say: “One of those guys that makes you feel like you are the only one in the world”.”

“Forgive me, but that seems like it would be a common approach.” I wrinkled my brow a little.

“I am not talking about any old modern dude on the make. I am talking about smooth stylish guys who exhibit no nerves and have smiles that absolutely glow.” She flashed a grin like she was remembering those special times.

“So, what you are saying is that other girls, not like you might see these guys as too confident, too caught up with their own act? Other girls might not feel “special” like you do, they might feel that these guys have perfected their acts and are pretty artificial?”

She looked down like I had frapped her on the nose. “That’s exactly right. The last guy was at a table of four other girls. I was the one who was drawn to him.”

“So what’s the next step that disappoints?” I shifted my weight to the back of the chair and loosened my tie.

“I guess, it’s going to sound too logical. Now that I am about to say it. Because they are so darned effective, I presume that they are really taken with me. After a few dates, their form remains the same, but I realize their hearts are not that deeply committed.”

“Romance is not only a different state of emotion and physicality, it is also territory in which communication is full of codes and the “what did you mean by that’s”. We spend much time inferring (as the listener) and much time implying (as the speaker).”

Inferred Degree of Interest

I leaned forward, pulled my chair in a little. “You know what inferred means? It is what the “listener” does. “Implied” is what the speaker does. Romance is filled with “inferences”. Of course, it is also filled with implications. But romance is a hunt, a Search for True Degree of Interest.

“One of the most common things you will hear in romantic breakups is: “I never said that!” or “I never lied to you.” That’s because it is human to not overstate your interests, (unless of course, you are in the throes of passion). We are all constantly inferring what might have been meant by a certain comment. Everyone knows that if marriages fail at a 50% rate, then the breakup of romances is in higher territory. That only makes sense. After thinking about “inferring”, you should also realize that outright expressions can also be deceiving.”

Outright Expressions of Interest

“We all have had outright expressions of love. Those can be coded statements too. Aside from these Outright Expressions, romance has a lot to do with “I want you to think I am interested, very interested”. I think I am inferring correctly, and your outright expression makes me feel that you are very much “in love” with me.”

Implied Degree of Interest

“Each of the partners, whichever gender, has codes and fun ways of sending messages of closeness, attraction and intimacy. When the Outright Expressions and the Implied Expressions and the Inferred Expressions all mix together, you have a couple moving toward intimacy and closeness. It is the implications that we make as we go along that gives a relationship momentum. But there is no report card. All of this is going on in the mind.”

So Why Are these Guys So Much the Same?

“Maybe you are Idealizing a certain kind of mate. You need to interview yourself. What kind of guy turns you off immediately? What kind of guy appeals to you, just showing up? What does a guy do who turns you off after initial interest? What kind of guy do you keep on forgiving and urging him forward, even though it seems to be negative? What kind of arguments do you tend to have with these guys? Are they over kids, lifestyle, religion, career, values? What kind of “point of view” immediately angers you, or upsets you?”

Try Going “Against Type”

“My father, a professional director, wanted me to play a street kid in Me Candido back in the early 60’s. I said, “Dad, I am not a fighting Puerto Rican kid on the streets!”

He said, “That’s why they call it acting. Besides, you can play against type for now. Next year, I want you to play “Peter” in The Diary of Anne Frank” -- that will be more like the real Christofer.”

“When I played “Candido”, I adopted an accent and an attitude that was not common for me. When I played “Peter”, it was much more comfortable for me, playing an intense, but affectionate fellow. Sometimes the idea of ”type” can be restricting and limiting. Sometimes, it is easy to shut people out because of the way you read their “type”.

Maybe, your initial filter is working against you. You have it set in your mind the kind of guy you think is your ideal guy. Hundreds of romances reflect just the opposite. The two are in love and are not the “types” they were looking for. Life came along and made something special happen.

If you try this kind of thinking maybe your world will open up. Maybe, if you are automatically looking for an “unexpected” fellow, then maybe the subsequent romantic steps won’t play themselves out. Maybe a differing path gets created that doesn’t quite seem to follow the same outcomes. Maybe, just maybe, you will like it.”

Watch Your Choosing. Watch Your Rating.

“In the Movie, A Beautiful Mind, (Russell Crowe) John Forbes Nash as a young man, comes up with a theory that would eventually grow into “Game Theory”. The movie’s portrayal had him noticing that there is a process of “going after” types, but that there is an underlying “choosing” that goes on so that all of the men in the group do not go after the same woman. It was neatly presented in a bar room, as a group of women came in. My point here is not to try to explain Nash’s Game Theory, but rather to discuss the “rating systems” that both men and women use. You can hear them both discuss this kind of thing in conversations:

Man, she is a 8 ½, how did he get her to go out with her. He is a 6, if that!”

“Hey honey, I am a 9 and you are at least a 7 ½. But, I love you anyway. You are almost good enough for me!”

“Let’s be very honest. Some people over rate themselves. Some people under rate themselves. This can impact how you go about making your selections. Also, who says you can’t match up with someone less attractive than you? Who says you can’t match up with someone more attractive than you? The judgments of choosing and rating have little to do with real life matches. Perhaps you are not being flexible enough for your own good. Who knows what you might be shutting out of your life by virtue of your conscious and subconscious choices?!”

A Warning

She smiled. She was entertained by my meanderings. Then she spoke up. “Do all of these “failures” I have had mean that that type of guy is not for me?”

“Like I have been saying – Reality is far from Theory; especially when it comes to these kinds of questions. I would say that you should not give up on the ideal kind of guy you are seeking. It is a mighty big world out there. Rely on your own judgment. But I still think it would be good to ask yourself those questions and consider the ratings that you give yourself and others.”

We never really talked again until about a year later. I saw her on the mall. She was with a man. She winked at me, as she introduced him. She said: “Mike is a wonderful guy. He doesn’t think he is as beautiful as I do. But then, guys aren’t supposed to be called “beautiful” are they?”


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