Monday, March 17, 2014

When Gathering Evidence Becomes a Dating Crutch


Photo credit: deegolden from morguefile.com

In my 20s, I was an endless evidence gatherer. In fact, that even was true with women who I never dated. I recall one in particular who demonstrated a bit of interest a few times, but then didn't really respond to my "let's get together sometime" kind of comments. I sat around for weeks, rethinking the conversations we had had. Did that look mean she was interested? She really liked the poems I had written. That must be a sign. But she didn't want to get a drink with me? Is she a recovering alcoholic? Should I ask her about that? The questions were endless, as was the tallying. All for a woman who probably thought of me as some nice guy she had a few conversations with, and that's about it.

I have had to train myself to cut off the evidence gathering mind. To know when enough information is enough, and when it's time to make a decision.

You have to learn, for example, how your mind rationalizes the poor behavioral patterns of a partner, or the ways in which you discount or marginalize your own needs in a relationship as a way to keep the peace. Or out of a fear of losing the person. You also have to learn to see through the cooked up stories your mind makes about ambiguous situations. It takes some discipline, and really a willingness to let go of knowing for certain what's going on.

In other words, it's all about balance. I think it's especially difficult in the beginning, when you don't know the other person well. And also when trying to decide if something should end or not, where emotional attachments and feelings of not wanting to give up on something you've put a lot of effort into come into play.

When it comes to those of us who have challenges with leaving, it's really important to remember that you don't have to justify everything. You don't have to have reasons for every last thing you don't like about the relationship, nor do you have to explain all of that to the other person. Offering some of that to the other person, especially if you've been together a long time, is probably a kind thing to do. However, if somewhere in your mind you believe that you have to explain your way completely out of a relationship, then what you have built is a prison, not a relationship.

If you find yourself spending numerous hours tallying pros and cons about a relationship, and/or constantly digging for more information or opinions from others about your relationship, this is probably just another form of endless evidence gathering.

At the end of the day, it's all about trying to avoid pain and suffering. Which never works in the long run.

23 comments:

  1. This post takes me back. I remember constantly analyzing some dating situations when I was younger. Going over and over in my head every little thing the guy did and said and didn't do or say. Did it mean he really liked me? Was he losing interest? Did I do or say something I shouldn't have?

    With the perspective of hindsight, I see that over-analyzing mainly occurred when I was infatuated with someone who felt only casually about me. I did it less in 'slow grow' relationships. And in the one's that became serious I didn't need to - the man always made me feel I knew where I stood with him.

    I think perhaps when we are initially very excited about someone our imagination shifts into overdrive. We ignore some "evidence" (red flags, behaviors) and over emphasize other innocuous things that seemingly fit with the romantic projection we have going on in our heads.

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  2. Adding: An illustration of this I see in a post Moxie did last week.

    http://andthatswhyyouresingle.com/2014/03/16/why-do-unavailable-people-act-like-theyre-available/

    The young woman is convinced a guy who works in her building 'led her on' over the course of 6 weeks. Her evidence to support this is flirting and numerous conversations. The evidence she ignores is that he only gave evasive or non-answers to her indirect questions about having a girlfriend. She claims they spent an awesome amount of time together at work...despite the fact they work for different companies... which makes it likely an exaggeration. She discounts the evidence that he never asked her out, never saw her outside of the building, never even asked her to grab a friendly drink after work. She is resistant to the idea that she may have created the *romance* partially or largely in her head.

    Infatuation can do that.

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    1. Yup, this post is a good illustration.

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    2. Her continued attempts to pin blame on the guy and/or paint him in a bad light was the most ridiculous piece of the whole thing. It's understandable to be disappointed that things didn't work out how she hoped they would. But the whole "he led her on" narrative is pretty unbelievable.

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    3. She was so petulant in her comments it was hard to feel sympathy for her.

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    4. Hah, yeah, I don't think that expression, "leading on", means what she thinks it means. I'd be curious to hear that poor guy's side of the story. "there's this chick in my office building, a few weeks ago she suddenly started joining me for each smoking break, then a week ago, just as suddenly, she started avoiding me. I have no idea what happened."

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    5. Sorry, I always think of something valuable to post as soon as I hit Send. Back when I was stuck in a bad marriage, I had this habit of getting office crushes on random guys at work, and reading way too much into every interaction. "omg he said hi, he must like me too". Not that I ever acted on any of that stuff. But even then I realized that it was pretty unbalanced and/or immature behavior. My head just wasn't on straight from the strain of being in a bad marriage. Never happened after divorce.

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    6. It so easy to read way too much into situations when you're feeling desperate or just trying to find some spark somewhere. I rarely have had workplace crushes, but I had my share of coffee house crushes during low periods. It's funny how a little bit of smiling and a handful of nice conversations can turn into a soon to be lifelong romance in the mind.

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  3. "However, if somewhere in your mind you believe that you have to explain your way completely out of a relationship, then what you have built is a prison, not a relationship."

    I put in at least two months of work, worked through a book, went through our family's financial records, and had five sessions with a therapist, all of it to put together a solid case for why I wanted to leave my marriage unless there were some serious changes and couple counseling. And honestly, I don't regret having put all that work in. Not only did it allow me to put my own worries at rest about whether I was doing the right thing, but I also had an answer for each of the five thousand times a concerned family friend pulled me aside to ask "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? How could you have left this nice guy, are you out of your mind?" But I agree that leaving a 18 year marriage, with two kids and joint property involved, probably requires a far more detailed explanation than leaving a shorter term relationship with no children. My recent ex gave me no explanation at all, and you know what - seven months down the road, having taken a sober look myself at what he and I had, I honestly don't care what his reasons were, as long as this relationship is over. It was not working, we are both happier now than we were in our last 6-8 months together, so who cares why he left as long as he did, right? ;)

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    1. " It was not working, we are both happier now than we were in our last 6-8 months together, so who cares why he left as long as he did, right? ;)"

      Funny how that works huh? :)

      When my partnerships ended I would grieve for soooo long. It took me even longer to acknowledge that I had been unhappy IN the relationship a good bit of the time.

      Many years ago I read this piece of advice that still resonates when I think of my exes:

      "You are not grieving for the relationship you had. You are grieving for the relationship you WANTED to have."

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    2. Thank you! I like this piece of advice. Very true! And very hard to process it completely. I still get sad when I find myself in our old meeting spots, places we used to go to on dates etc. First things that come up in memory are of course the first 6-9 months, when everything was perfect. Have to make an effort to remind myself of the bleak last few months, and an even bleaker future that I would've faced if we'd stayed together (among other things, he was planning to leave country for a year. Talk about long distance.)

      I guess it is a natural reaction to grieve a potential that our relationships once had, and to give credit to the good things that once were. I'm trying to train myself to look at the breakup as the very last one of the many good things he'd done for me (whether intentionally or not).

      I can no longer afford the luxury of pining for our times together or wanting him back, anyway. I just recently found out that he is now in a relationship with a woman that I consider more or less a friend. This is the point of no return. If I want her to be happy, which I do, I have to get completely out of that mindset where I miss him and seek contact, even on occasion. Shouldn't be terribly hard, heh heh.

      This is very far off topic, sorry Nathan. If this was Moxie's blog, I'd get yelled at right about now ;)

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    3. He's in a relationship with someone you consider a friend? Ugh.

      It is strange though how we tend to remember the good times in relationships and often gloss over or forget about the bad. Sort of "evidence gathering" and selection of what we want to see after the fact. Not so off-topic! Grin.

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    4. Ha, you're right.

      Yea I agree this is a bit unorthodox, which is why the happy couple hadn't told me about it until a few days ago. They've been together for about three months now.

      I hadn't been able to make any real "friends" friends in his town, because I'd been spending all of my time there with him. But she and I hit it off pretty well I think. I reconnected with her finally a few days ago. Well, sort of reconnected. Again, hard to connect with this dude in the picture :)

      At least I finally solved the mystery of why his whole town had boycotted me after he left... the answer is, they didn't. I emailed her last fall, she never replied (for reasons that are obvious to me now), I asked him why and he said, Well my friends only talked to you when you were with me, and now you're not, so they don't have to anymore! and then I spent the rest of fall/winter depressed over the fact that my whole social circle of the previous two years was gone just like that. Set my post-breakup moving-on process WAY back :(

      Sigh, guess I should've done a little more evidence gathering when I first met that guy... I just checked to make sure we liked the same music and had the same hobbies and left it at that. Should've taken a better look at his people skills.

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    5. Hey, this actually ties back into the post " You also have to learn to see through the cooked up stories your mind makes about ambiguous situations. It takes some discipline, and really a willingness to let go of knowing for certain what's going on. "

      See, I really wanted to know why so-and-so didn't get back into contact. Rather than accepting that I don't know, I went looking for answers, didn't stop till I got a completely BS answer, and then spent several months being bummed about it. Should've just told myself "I don't know what happened here" and moved on...

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    6. "It is strange though how we tend to remember the good times in relationships and often gloss over or forget about the bad. Sort of "evidence gathering" and selection of what we want to see after the fact. " Yep, I think people are prone to all sorts of wrong forms of evidence gathering. And at the same time, fail to dig in the right ways - especially early on.

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    7. "And at the same time, fail to dig in the right ways - especially early on. "

      There's a guy on Moxie's right now talking about how he looks for a life partner based on a totally superficial list of criteria - she must be Jewish, PhD, work out two hrs/day, be very attractive, and like the same books, TV shows, and foods. Oh and have a 24-26 inch waist. What can possibly go wrong with this search?

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    8. I find him so unlikeable I stopped reading that thread.

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    9. That thread is amazing! I almost want to turn it into a one act play. Between dude's outrageous commentary, the fact that Moxie has interacted with this guy on OKCupid, and the fact that both gnomes and Hamlet are mentioned - seriously, it's theater.

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    10. I know, right? Moxie's replies to this dude are pure gold. The whole thread made my day. Especially when I got to the part where she says he lists his height as 5'9".

      It's such a small world.

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  4. Came across this gem from Baggage ReClaim I thought you guys might enjoy if you haven't already seen it.

    "Exclusivity isn’t the same as being in a relationship. Certainly in the early stages of involvement, it’s actually clarification about the existence of others so that if you do proceed, you can make an informed decision. Once you get clear about the distinction, if you do need to broach the subject, you can minimise confusion."

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