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Step six: Figure Out How to Make it Better Next Time

Use your new understanding of why the incident occurred to discuss one way each of you could make it better if there should be a repeat.


Me: Should there be a repeat, I would make sure to clearly communicate the other balls I have up in the air at the time to head off any conflicting work and vacation schedules. I should probably take the lead with organizing since my schedule tends to be more chaotic and up-in-the-air with multiple projects going on. I would better anticipate when I'm going to be tired and make sure that she could share in the driving. If she went silent, I would first reassure her that I'm not going anywhere, that I'm going to give her and myself some time to calm down and that I'm ready whenever she would like to talk. Instead of going to a very fancy dinner, I would ask her, given the circumstances if it's ok if we go somewhere more informal or order in. I would also tell her that I am flooding and need some time/help and that I need reassurance that she will be there to work it out also rather than getting emotional and leaving.


Her: I think that she would say that she would communicate better in the future and perhaps double check with me about the schedule if possible.


I want to alternate a good memory with these, so next time I will write about a positive memory.

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A positive memory: I really liked it when we used to park in the university parking lot, walk through the woods into her office, do some work during the day, then leave together in the late afternoon to go for a workout and have some fun in the evening. I particularly liked it when we went to the library late in the evening and snuck around to have some fun there and then discreetly left like nothing happened.

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The other thing I am looking for is someone who exercises creativity and initiative in the relationship. I do not want to be the only one coming up with the ideas whether it is for starting a happiness diary, going on a vacation outside of the country, starting an exercise routine or other hobby together, learning how to cook a new cuisine or reading a book together. It'd be great having a significant other who comes up with interesting ideas of traditions and things we can do together to strengthen the bond. If just one person is coming up with ideas like this it gets tiring after a while, both people should contribute ideas for the relationship, that is important.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just came accross this article which caused me to pause: link removed


I need to strike a better balance between learning from past mistakes and too much rumination and self-blame. I think I've gone too far to the rumination and self-blame end of the spectrum.

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I feel like my love life is a disaster. I think I need a fundamentally different approach somehow. Maybe I should see a therapist. Yet another ex is now engaged. All I have is a string of failed relationships. Maybe I should no longer be dating with the goal of getting married. Maybe I should change my approach radically somehow.

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I was reading some articles about children of divorce. Apparently a lot of the increased chances of divorce come from those who marry before age 20. After age 20, there is a 26% greater likelihood of never marrying and also an increased chance of anxiety and distance in relationships as you try to shield yourself from a possible break-up.


I must figure out how to overcome this.

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Part of my problem may be not knowing clearly enough what I'm looking for or on compromising too much on those aspects.


If I spend too much time dating women who are not a good match for me and what I'm looking for, then the relationship will be difficult to sustain even if we know the right conversation habits and research on making marriage work.


I should not be too rigid with these ideas, as I might be compatible or fall in love with someone who does not match these perfectly. However, at my age, I have dated enough, I have to be confident that I am starting to understand what I should look for.


Education level I think is important. I'm most likely to match with someone with at least a Master's degree, but more likely a doctorate or Ph.D.


Calm, caring/sweet, sensitive to an extent but not overly so, but generally quite happy and peaceful (no drama). These are important characteristics if I am going to feel safe and feel like the relationship can work since I am so sensitive and so disrupted by strong emotion.


Ambitious and inspiring. I should feel inspired and interested when I think about the work that she does. She might be an entrepreneur, or doctor, but whatever it is, I should feel like wow, she's really excelling and pursuing something important that inspires me and where I can feel like I look up to her.


Parents have a happy marriage.


She should be good at bringing up and discussing in a calm and soothing way difficult topics.


I think that is enough, those are the things I am looking for in someone.

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I also need to think through whether I want a child or not. I think fundamentally I don't feel the need to continue my genes or see my features in the next generation. I'm not so great. It seems like the humane thing to do might be to adopt given that there are so many babies and children who lack parents. Why would I choose to ignore that and bring another into the world instead? But most girls do not seem open to adopting or say that they wouldn't love the child as much. But wouldn't that love develop over time? Isn't it better to love a child less than fully rather than to leave them in foster care or an orphanage?


I think it's true that if I fell head over heels for a woman and felt she was 100% perfect and irresistible, then I wouldn't care about this anymore. But people are human, they have flaws, I will likely continue to think about this because I want to make the right choice and to be with someone who shares my perspectives and feelings about it.


People say that you can do good and leave an impact through your children. I do not doubt that there is some truth to that. But is it the best way for me, personally to have an impact. I think I would be a good father, but I don't think I'm particularly talented or inclined or gifted in that area. I think that certain societies have succeeded in making life easier and better for themselves through the inventions and innovations that people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Alexander Graham Bell, Ford, Martin Luther King, etc. have introduced to change society and make life easier for others. If we only focus on raising the next generation, this is something that every society does, even those that haven't made progress and still live in relative poverty. Did Bill Gates' father have some special parenting ability that allowed him to produce a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs' parents. It doesn't seem that way. Bill Gates came from a very wealthy family. His father made enough money and was successful enough that he could send Bill to good schools and expose him to computers early on. His mother and father did impress upon him the importance of giving back. But that is an influence I could have on many young people through my teaching.

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One more thought on the kids thing above. I think for people who feel very strongly one way or the other about having kids or not, certainly they should go ahead and do it. But I think for people, like me, who are more indifferent or leaning away from it, it makes sense to take a more thoughtful, rational approach to deciding what should be done. I was really inspired by the NYTimes Good charity, bad charity article here: link removed


I want to go through this type of thought process about it when I get some time. I think that can help to provide greater conviction about the choices and a feeling of having made the right decision for me.


Also, another close female friend just got engaged. Making me feel again the disaster that is my love life. I want to write, for myself, a paper about relationship and marriages, based in part on the literature and in part on practical ideas. I think this will also help me think through priorities in selection and get on the same page with someone about how to organize the relationship and family life for the best chances of success. In the end, that's all we can do.

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I think this is why I kept telling her that she was really the one who was in more control of my emotional state and the health of the relationship than I felt like I was: link removed


The last visit:

Step 1: Identify the emotions

Me: I felt like things were going well. I had avoided any physical contact because all I wanted for that trip was to keep the emotional tone positive or at least steady and to know that we could have a nice visit with no drama. I felt like physical contact would just increase the potential for emotional drama. So I was happy with how things had gone until suddenly on the last morning I could tell something was wrong, but I couldn't tell exactly what. Then all the sudden in the Starbucks she starts telling me how this isn't going to work and there's still the distance and all these other problems. I start to internally doubt as well whether this can work and just feel awful overall and like we could never have a peaceful visit without some emotional rollercoaster happening.


Her: I felt the need for reassurance from you. I felt insecure and was starting to feel hopeful again but then realized that you were leaving soon and we still had all these issues to work out. I brought it up hoping for reassurance that we could solve these things.

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Thought about her a lot these past few days. Maybe because I was back in Cambridge again. I find myself going back and looking at old photos from previous relationships a lot these days. I waste a huge amount of time. Maybe this is what she meant when she felt like she was stuck and I could never understand it.

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Still thinking about her from time to time. If she didn't get renewed I wonder if this would be the time when she would move out here if we had stayed together. That would have really taken our relationship to the next level. Or maybe she would have wanted to move to Boston. Having just been back there, I know the city has its charms and it is a good place for both of our careers. But it's so cold/dreary there. I really can't imagine living there for many years knowing what California and the Bay Area is like. I was so happy to get back here again. Yosemite was really amazing this past weekend for the bachelor party.

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Just back from a good friend's wedding. I think there's one model of the world where you should just marry your first really serious love. You might not be exactly right for one another, but you should just use the momentum of those initial strong feelings to help propel you through all of the learning about relationships that you need to do. This is because if you do not marry her and your next relationship is not a strong/deep love, then you will forever be haunted by what could have been. Of course this "haunting" will cause you to reflect a lot and learn many lessons about love and life. However, it is the pain which is your teacher and your life's companion from that point forward.


There is another model where you should only marry your first serious love if the two of you are truly compatible and have similar life goals, dreams, and a vision for the future and can be compatible emotionally. If you do not marry then I think under this model of the world, what is required is that you learn to regulate your emotions and learn how to manage that pain going forward. You learn the lessons from it, but you do not let it dominate you or take over your life.


I'm trying to prioritize relationships and friendships more these days. I'm trying to accelerate my learning and growth further. I have to stop debating about whether I should go and get her back and just accept that if it's meant to be there will be some signal from her. If not, then I need to move on.


I met a faculty member from another school who is a good 10 years older than me and still single. He made me kind of sad. I don't want to become him.


My cousin told me not to marry until my 30s as I wouldn't know what I wanted until then in a partner. I think there was some wisdom to her advice, otherwise I would not have taken it so seriously. But I think I used it as a crutch to foster my shyness and passivity. I'm getting to an age where all of the good women have been grabbed up. It's getting harder and harder to meet someone and to let myself fall in love.

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Meditation last night really helped to calm my mind. I must start doing it more regularly. Once again, over time, the sting of the bad times and incompatibilities is forgotten and I'm left with remembering the good times and wondering what happened and why it didn't work. Once again, my app tells me that she is taking a trip to Paris and my heart sinks, imagining that some new boyfriend is showing her a romantic time there. Just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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