“I’ve pretty much always been the one broken up with,” she says. “And you know, it’s been easy to feel defective because of that.”
“Because you’re the one being dumped and not the person doing the dumping?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says.
In a way, I know what she means, and I could see myself easily falling into the same set of assumptions. That there’s something wrong with me, that I’m a suboptimal partner somehow, because other people keep breaking up with me.
However, I have a different view of things, watching her love life play out from my front row seat of it. About as close to the action as one gets without being involved in the relationships themselves. I’ve had many a conversation with her about her former relationships while they were going on. Heard the way she talked about her former partners. Her frustrations, her difficulties.
And one thing was clear to me: She was unhappy long before the breakups ever came. Usually over a year. Sometimes even longer.
In spite of what her brain weasels like to tell her, from my third person point of view, her former relationships never seemed like a combination of one horribly flawed defective person and the shining paragon of virtue they were struggling to hold on to. Instead, her relationships all seemed like standard match-ups of two or three human beings, everyone involved somewhat “gently worn” by life. Not a person among them spared from imperfection, the realities of the human condition.
If anything, she’d seemed more miserable and disappointed over the course of her relationship than her partners had been. After making a few attempts to address any incompatibilities, she’d just told herself that her dissatisfaction was unreasonable and had shoved it down deep inside. And tried to keep the relationships going, even with those incompatibilities in the picture. Like a person singlehandedly attempting to patch up a leaky boat as the water keeps pouring in.
“You know,” I say. “I think you’re much too hard on yourself about this pattern. I think you take it to a place where it doesn’t need to go. You’re not defective simply because you’re the one broken up with. You tend to stick around waaaaaay after you become unhappy. That makes you the last person to leave the sinking ship. It doesn’t make you the sinking ship.”