What went wrong?

When two people fail, there are reasons. It isn’t just the fickle winds blowing.
Sometimes these reasons are obvious and even laughable, and any lessons are learned by sun-up. Sometimes the only message you need to pick up is, “He was a loser. Move on.”
But I’ll be talking about more serious relationships here, where you made a real try, took risks, thought you had it right, and were adversely affected by the outcome. These relationships need to be listened to; they hold the keys to your future. Because, as I said earlier, those who don’t study history are condemned to repeat it.

Failed relationships contain a map that can lead you to successful love; but that map is written in code and it has to be deciphered. When you understand what went wrong, and what went right, what worked for you, what you liked and what you didn’t, it is as if a blank sheet develops into a photograph, a picture of your future. Doing the work of delving into the past is empowering. It makes you feel as if you can understand this stuff—it doesn’t have to be a jumble of confusing emotions. Once you sort things out, you realize that you can do better next time; you have choices and you can make them in a more informed way. The challenge of choosing a good mate and having a good relationship doesn’t have to be an inscrutable mystery; it is something you can apply your intelligence to.


When we look at our failed relationships, most of the time we tend to go one of two ways. Either we say, “That never really had a chance; even though we tried, we were just wrong for each other.” Or we say,
“You know, we were a pretty good match. We could have been soulmates, maybe we were. But somehow, we blew it.”
Behind these two ways of evaluating the past, lies the concept of compatibility. The first scenario says you weren’t really compatible with your partner; the second that you were. Because I think compatibility
is so important to love’s chances, I’m going to use it as a way of structuring our review. Now I think we often have a gut sense of which scenario we were in. But I will offer some clues that can help you decide. The dividing line between the two scenarios is not always a hard-and-fast one: some failed relationships may partake of both.

What is important is that if you examine your past relationship in terms of these two scenarios, you will ask the right questions and learn the right lessons about it. So I will devote five chapters to the first scenario, and two longer chapters to the second. Here’s a preview. scenario a: you were a bad match for each other
The reason that many relationships fail is that people are with the wrong people. They choose someone who isn’t right for them and then spend years trying to make it work, but in the end it doesn’t.
Even then, it can be hard to see that you were simply in a mismatch.

The next two chapters will present clues that can indicate you were in this situation. The past starts talking to you as soon as the breakup has happened, and sometimes its way of telling you that you were with the wrong person is that you experience an upswing.
After we look at that unexpected good news, and its messages for the future, I’ll move to the next piece of the Scenario A puzzle: how to unlock the “guide to incompatibility” that is written in your own history. Not only will this discussion free you from a bunch of false lessons that a mismatch tries to foist on you, but it will
yield up a whole inventory of things that you’ll want to look for in your next partner, the lack of which made your ex a bad match for you.

To complete our investigation of Scenario A, I will turn to a fascinating topic: how do we end up with the wrong person; why does this happen so often? This will lead us to some important questions: what is “falling
in love,” can it be relied on, and do we sometimes misuse it?

scenario b: you were basically a good match for each other You weren’t wrong for each other; it should have worked out between you, but it didn’t. This is a story line that can haunt you for a long time, the story of what might have been. And it also has direct implications for your next relationship. That’s because next time around you are hopefully going to choose someone with whom you are hugely compatible, so you’ll be faced with exactly the same challenge that Scenario B says you were faced with last time. But you’ll want to
achieve a different result. So I will spend two chapters focusing on the ways that a good match may have gone wrong, and what needs to be done next time, so it will go right.

We begin with Scenario A: you and your partner were not a good match.

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