Did you ever make a foolish mistake and screw up an otherwise good connection with someone you were attracted to?
Maybe you made the mistake during your approach. You said or did the wrong thing at the wrong time and killed your chances.
Or perhaps it happened during a date. Everything was going okay up to a certain point, and then you hit a snag, and you could just tell that you made the wrong decision. Game over.
Or did it happen later? Maybe things were going well for a while. Then you made that one fatal error — that moment of poor judgment — and the connection died then and there, never to recover.
This applies not only to errors of commission but also to errors of omission — the action you didn’t take, the golden opportunity you missed, the hesitation that caused everything to fizzle.
And of course what happens afterwards? You replay the situation in your mind again and again. You fantasize about a different outcome. You beat yourself up for that one stupid mistake.
If you’re looking for a contrived list of the top 10 mistakes and how to avoid or remedy each one, you won’t find that here. I don’t think that type of advice is particularly helpful for such situations, so let me give you a different — and significantly more empowering — perspective.
Vulnerability to Mistakes
Consider that if a connection you’re exploring with someone is so vulnerable to mistakes, even at the very beginning of your connection, then maybe the other person wasn’t so compatible with you to begin with.
Even if you had managed to avoid that one mistake, another equally fatal one may very well have occurred later — and if not that one, then some other one.
If stepping on a single landmine could kill the connection so abruptly, perhaps the mistake wasn’t that you stepped on a mine. Perhaps the mistake was that you walked into a minefield to begin with, and you were unlikely to create a strong connection no matter what you did. You were doomed at hello.
Even if you succeed in creating a decent connection under such circumstances, you’ll always be dodging mines to preserve it. If you drop your guard and stop being so vigilant, you’ll accidentally step on a mine and kill or seriously damage the connection. You’ll never feel free to be yourself. You’ll never feel relaxed in such a relationship.
I’ve had several experiences of connecting with a woman where things were going well for a while and then the connection took a wrong turn and died. I can often recall the exact moment that happened, something she or I said or did that killed it. Initially there can be some regret about that. If only that one mistake had been avoided, then everything might have been golden.
But after some time passes and I look back on those connections more objectively, I can see the minefields that I initially overlooked. It was clear that in each of those situations, the compatibility was weak from the start. Even if we had avoided all the mines, those connections were unlikely to ever flourish. Sometimes our lifestyles were incompatible. Other times there was a major difference in values. And still other times, the attraction just wasn’t there.
That one exploding mine was a gift. It saved us both from going any further down the wrong path.
In my experience, connections that have the potential to become very strong tend to be fault tolerant from the beginning. If the compatibility is high, then the minefield is largely absent. You could still kill such a connection deliberately if you chose to, but if you actually want to make it work and the other person does too, then there’s little chance of stepping on a fatal mine.
When I meet someone with whom I share some deep compatibility, especially on lifestyle and values, it’s hard to screw it up. I can make all sorts of mistakes, and the other person won’t hold it against me. She might not notice, or she’ll brush it off, or she’ll be bothered briefly and quickly forgive me. And I’ll do the same with her.
We tend to sense early on when the compatibility is strong, and so we’re more likely to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We see such connections as being investment worthy, so we’re very willing to cut the other person some slack.
When I’ve found myself in situations where the compatibility was weak, I have to admit that I probably stepped on a mine or two deliberately, knowing that it would bring things to a close. But if I were to take the same action with a high-compatibility connection, it wouldn’t have the same effect.
When I look back on how Rachelle and I first connected, we were so compatible that I think it would have been hard for either of us to screw things up when we first got together. I could have said or done the stupidest things, and she would have forgiven me, or she would have pointed out that I was being a dork, or she would have played back at me. And I’d have done the same with her. And in fact, if I look back, I can see that this is exactly what happened. We each made many mistakes that would have killed less compatible connections, but for us those missteps made no difference. Since the connection was investment worthy for both of us, it wasn’t so vulnerable to mistakes.
Without the need to be vigilant about avoiding mines, we can both be fully ourselves. We can make mistakes, and they don’t even matter. We don’t have to worry about stepping on any mines because there’s no minefield.
Other good connections I’ve had, including friendships, followed a similar pattern. When the compatibility was there, I didn’t have to be vigilant about saying or doing the right things and avoiding mistakes. Mistakes didn’t matter.
But one of those same mistakes would instantly annihilate a low-compatibility connection.
As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve lost interest in chasing low-compatibility connections. I have no desire to learn someone’s minefield and try to maneuver through it cautiously. I’d rather just be fully myself, knowing that my normal behaviors will be enough to repel connections that wouldn’t have worked out anyway. This saves me a lot of time.
Investment worthy connections are less common, but they’re ridiculously rewarding. One good connection of that type is easily worth more than a hundred low quality ones.
One of the main reasons people don’t enjoy more investment worthy connections is that they’re wasting time on partial matches. Many are currently stuck in a relationship with a partial match, which is a huge repellant for an investment worthy connection that comes along. Because you appear to be unavailable, you won’t even notice the golden opportunities you’re missing; they won’t present themselves while you’re entrenched in a partial match.
Look for Mines Early
Because investment worthy connections are so much more empowering than partial matches, it makes sense to filter out partial matches early, so you don’t get bogged down in their minefields.
Instead of trying to chase someone and build a connection, I focus instead on filtering for compatibility. If the compatibility is there and if I can see that there’s no minefield, that’s when I’ll get excited and pour my heart into a connection.
But if I step on a mine and that scares the other person off, then I feel confident that I just saved us both some needless disappointment down the road.
Stepping on a mine doesn’t mean being rude or obnoxious and seeing if the other person will tolerate you. That’s not at all what I’m referring to here.
Stepping on a mine means testing the strength of your compatibility, especially when it comes to lifestyle and values.
To give you a better idea, here are some of the mines I often check for:
- Is she the jealous type? How does she feel about non-exclusivity and open relationships?
- Is she religious? Could she handle connecting with an unrepentant sinner?
- Does she like to explore, travel, and try new things? Does she like to grow? Or is she stubborn and inflexible?
- Is she caring and compassionate? Or does she boast about her cruel and vengeful side?
- Is she comfortable with lots of touch and affection? Or does she have issues with physical intimacy?
- Is she playful? Does she enjoy light-hearted teasing? Can she have fun?
- Is she awake and self-aware? Is she interesting to talk to? Or does she act like a mindless NPC?
- Can she play along when I want to lead? Or does she always need to be in control?
- Does she generally like herself? Or is she wallowing in low self-esteem?
- Is she ready and able to go deeper? Or will she bolt as soon as an unresolved trauma gets triggered?
Most of the time when I meet someone new, I’ll find one or more mines in the first conversation.
Finding a mine doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll drop this person from my life, but I’m unlikely to invest in a deeper connection if the core compatibility isn’t there. I’d rather save my energy to go deeper with someone who seems like a better match for me.
Minefields in Business
You may find it interesting that this is the same approach that many successful entrepreneurs recommend in business. They say to fail early, fail often, and fail faster. Make more mistakes. Try lots of ideas, especially early on, and kill the ones that don’t perform. Then put more time, energy, and resources into your most investment worthy ideas. The advantage of this approach is that it lets you map out the nearby minefields, so you don’t keep stepping on mines by accident.
I think it makes sense to do the same with relationships. Being clingy with an incompatible match is very much like clinging to a bad business idea. A bad business idea comes with its own minefield. It’s very vulnerable to mistakes. Yes, you can still make that kind of idea work, but it will take constant vigilance to do so. It’s your choice if that type of business — or relationship — appeals to you.
I prefer a more fault tolerant business model. I like that blogging is a very fault tolerant medium. I don’t have to worry about being perfect. I can write whatever I feel inspired to write. I can cover a wide variety of topics. I can take time off whenever I want. I can change up the income streams now and then. And it still works. My best readers stick with me because they can see we’re compatible in the ways that matter. I don’t worry about chasing incompatible readers.
This makes the business pleasant to run. I can run it largely by being myself. I don’t have to feel paranoid that one mistake could kill the whole thing.
Who wants to run a business where one honest mistake will kill it? Who wants to be in a relationship under those conditions?
Respecting the Mines
Sometimes you can step on another person’s mine, and it won’t kill the connection. It may actually open the door to greater intimacy. How this plays out depends on how you both deal with the mine, and this depends on how investment worthy the connection is for each of you.
Some people actually pride themselves on the strength of their minefields. They may even show off just how many mines they have. This repels most connections, but it also ensures that if someone does connect with them, that person is likely to be able to handle that particular minefield.
Also, what looks like a minefield for one person may not seem very dangerous for another person.
I usually appreciate it when someone exposes their potential minefield upfront. It makes it easier to see if those mines might be an issue for me, and it saves me from stepping on one by accident later. For instance, if a woman tells me she’s in an open relationship and has a couple kids, that may be a huge minefield for someone, but to me those aren’t even mines. By sharing this upfront, she can save herself a lot of time by not having to invest time and energy in incompatible connections, and she can better filter for compatible connections.
Some mines invite the opportunity for healing. This is especially true of mines that are rooted in fear, shame, guilt, anxiety, or past trauma. When you see such a mine, you could choose not to deal with it. Or, if the other person seems willing, you could do some healing work together. I encounter these situations semi-regularly. Sometimes I just don’t feel like investing, and I pull back and save my energy. Other times I’m up for doing some healing work with the person. Usually my willingness depends on how ready the other person is to progress.
It’s up to you to decide how you’ll deal with future mines you encounter in your social connections. You can beat yourself up for stepping on them. You can become hyper-vigilant at navigating minefields. You can use mines as compatibility filters and preserve your energy for the very best connections. And you can treat some mines as opportunities for healing.
Whatever approach you buy into, I hope you enjoy and invest in at least one highly compatible, deeply meaningful, and richly rewarding connection in your life. <3
Thanks to stevepavlina for this article.
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