Relationship failures, being oblivious to the obvious

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 6, 2011, 10:44 PM | comments: 0

I just learned that another friend of mine was getting divorced, this time with a decade in the can, and kids. I'm often surprised at the number of people I know around my age, and often younger, who are divorced. Every one of them is someone I would consider smart and generally awesome. How does this happen to us?

At first I think it's the young-and-stupid assertion, but I can't make that generalization when I know couples who went back as far as high school. From my own experience, I can say that people can't handle relationships or make good long-term decisions at that age. Maybe that's usually true, but the key difference is likely the experience part. We all have different experience.

So instead of generalizing about people or ages, I do think it's safe to generalize about experience. It seems to always go back to something my former therapist said, that our first teachers in relationships are our parents. If they sucked at it, that's not a good start for learning about what works for relationships.

I guess having divorced parents then isn't a good start. The irony here is that I vowed not to be like my parents, but learning what not to do is not the same as what you should do. My family in general always had a lot of drama, with one person or sub-family having some issue with another. College isn't a great place to learn either, with your peers doing stuff that is likely even more toxic. It's like we all need relationship role models, and they're nowhere to be found.

That explains why smart people get divorced. They're oblivious to the obvious because the obvious isn't bad if they don't know any better. That was definitely our issue back in the day, and it was only with the benefit of hindsight that we could really understand what the problems were and how we caused stress in the relationship.

The learning process then, for those of us without relationship role models, can be a long and heartbreaking process. People who hop from one short-term relationship to the next probably never learn anything because it never really gets serious, while people who have very long relationships end up damaged because of the time and emotion invested. Surely there has to be a good middle ground there. Or a good therapist.

It makes me happy to see that a great many of my divorced friends have gone on to remarry, and it was the rightness of it that was obvious. Some still struggle, but have an awareness about them that serves them well. For the rest, I hope they're able to avoid the pain of the ultimate split.

We all need better role models.


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