I know, the title sounds as if I am still hung up on him. Perhaps I am, perhaps I am not, but I am treating this as a case study. As a result, I vow to be as objective as possible with my analysis. The reason I chose to psychoanalyze him is I know so much about him, his personality, and his thinking, and those knowledge make this a relatively easy case study to put together. But before I jump to my analysis, I thought I would give you some background on him and our relationship:
We dated on and off for two years and befriended each other for another two. Our relationship was dysfunctional towards the end of the first two years, but our friendship really flourished during the latter two years. We became each other’s best friends and confided in each other on some of our deepest and darkest secrets. To say I know him well is a bit of an understatement; he told me things that he probably wouldn’t feel comfortable confiding in anybody else except maybe a spiritual leader.
The first thing I wanted to understand is, why did our relationship fail. Our culture, values, belief systems, family background, and even educational levels were comparable to each other. In theory and on paper, we were the perfect couple, yet that wasn’t the case. We fought a lot, and they were almost always about the same issue. You would think the solution to the problem is to resolve the issue, right? Well, the issue we contested so much about is actually rooted in a deeper problem. For the longest time, I was not aware of that deeper problem. But I am starting to have a clue now.
The deeper problem is our mindsets. In particular, his mindset was of a “fixed” mindset while mine was more of a “growth” one. To be fair though, he was starting to change from a fixed to a growth mindset the last time we communicated, but it was not enough to salvage our friendship. Also, I should say that I am not making any kind of judgment as to which mindset is better. Each is unique and has its own merit.
So what do I mean by “fixed” v. “growth” mindset? In general, people with the fixed mindset said the ideal mate would: put them on a pedestal, make them feel perfect, worship them. In other words, the perfect mate would enshrine the person’s fixed qualities. On the other hand, people with the growth mindset hoped for a different kind of partner. They said their ideal mate was someone who would: see their faults and help them to work on them, challenge them to be a better person, encourage them to learn new things.
In the two years we dated, I saw every failure as an opportunity from which to learn and grow, but he saw them as a statement of our relationship. We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I saw each time we had a disagreement as an opportunity to learn more about him (and myself), but he saw the disagreement as our character flaws and incompatibility. When the relationship ended, he concluded that we were simply not good for each other, whereas I saw it as a chance to learn from our mistakes. That’s why when I approached him as recently as a month ago and asked him to give the relationship another try, he shied away from my suggestion and told me he wants to date others instead.
I’ll admit I am partly to blame for our failed relationship, but not because I constantly challenged him, but because I never put him on a pedestal, made him feel perfect, or worshiped him. Sure, I saw him as somebody very special, but I readily pointed out his flaws as often as I told him how much he meant to me. In other words, he wasn’t getting the validation from me of which he needed to believe he is good and worthy. I think that was what drove him to date a college student who is 15 years his junior. I don’t know the girl, but I can imagine her looking up to him and treating him as the god of her religion. He needs that, and I simply wasn’t giving it to him.
So my conclusion is this: More than anything else, a sustainable relationship requires two people with the same mindset. Both can be of either fixed or growth mindset, but not one of each. In the case of both having fixed mindset, each person would seek and (hopefully) get the validation of their worth from their partners. In the case of growth mindset, each partner should challenge the other and grow together. In both cases, the relationship is much more sustainable.