When You’re Used to Bad Relationships, It’s Easy for Something to Feel “Too Good to Be True”

Two equestrian riders, on horseback, in low tide reflections at sunset on Morro Strand State Beach 29 Oct. 2008. Michael "Mike" L. Baird Canon SD950 point-and-shoot snapshot. This photo has some Lightroom 2 gradient treatment applied: gold bottom-to -center; blue top-to-center toning.
Image by Mike Baird / CC BY

In an earlier piece, I wrote about the homing pigeon effect, i.e., “good things are hard to screw up.”

Good relationships typically feel very easy in the beginning. A mix of the biochemical attachment cocktail of New Relationship Energy and actual compatibility washes over any small flaws that would otherwise jump right out. (Yes, even a good relationship will have a few flaws; none of them are perfect.)

If a relationship feels hard in the beginning, it’s usually a really bad sign regarding its long-term viability. Because there’s a lot going on in a new relationship that should be making things easier.

Good relationships are easy, almost disconcertingly easy, in the beginning.

They can, as one friend put it, feel “too good to be true.” Especially if you’ve had a checkered romantic history. One where you’ve grown accustomed to forcing compatibility that isn’t there. Gotten used to accepting whatever treatment you were subjected to. Because you felt lucky to have a relationship (or an “almost relationship”) at all. And because you didn’t want to face the interminable hours of being unhappily alone. Trying to make plans with all of your coupled friends, who always seem to backburner you to canoodle. Go to IKEA. Or whatever the hell they’re up to, nesting, making plans that don’t involve you.

In this kind of social environment, clinging to a person whose behavior broadly irritates and concerns you from the very beginning becomes your level set. What you consider “normal.”

So when something promising comes along, it automatically reads not as good, or right — but “too good to be true.”

And it’s at this point that I’ve watched many a friend start to dissect the first really good relationship they’ve had in a while (or perhaps even, ever), turning it over in their mind in extreme detail, shining a search light to look for unseen flaws. Or in some cases, even inventing them.

It’s at precisely this point that I’ve watched them practically talk themselves out of incredibly good relationships.

“You need to cut that out,” I’ll typically say at that point.

This will cause them to push back with some insights from their history. I’ll listen as they draw extremely weak parallels between damaging past relationships and what’s going on in their love life now. Ones that involve three or four leaps of logic.

“They’re different people,” I’ll say. “Different energy. And circumstances. Not a good comparison. You’re reaching.” I’ll wonder why they’re trying to argue themselves out of a happiness that they frankly deserve, especially after all they’ve been through. One that they say that they desperately want but can’t seem to actually accept now that it’s here.

“It just seems too good to be true,” they’ll say.

“Well,” I’ll answer. “When you’re used to bad relationships, it’s easy for something to feel too good to be true.”

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My new book is out!

Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).

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