Can’t Get Fooled Again

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hamster wheel

On one of the many dating websites I lurk these days in my never-ending quest for relationship fodder, a cabal of female readers was discussing ways to exact revenge on a cheating boyfriend. One woman proclaimed, with singular pride, that she had devised the perfect strategy: she would sleep with her boyfriend’s best friend. This woman explained that she’d done this three times now, with three different guys, and all three times, she was able to incite the cheating boyfriend into a raging fit.

The discussion dragged on for days. Several women applauded her brilliance. One suggested that the boyfriend’s brother could be an even sweeter instrument of revenge. Still others lobbied ideas that ranged from subtle (going out to his favorite hangout, looking absolutely stunning, and having a great time without him) to criminally deranged (total vehicular destruction with a baseball bat). For my part, I found the e-conversation stimulating to my inner conniving misogynist. Within the deluge of schemes that sprang to mind, I cooked up the perfect countermeasure of just making sure my best friend is utterly repulsive… or better yet, a girl (which would make the act of vengeance, like, totally hot).

Through it all, not one person brought up the underlying issues revealed by this woman’s words. No one seemed to notice the trio of elephants lumbering through the room….

As a teacher at an alternative high school, I get to deal with the not-so-inaccurately labeled “tough kids.” Apt to their descriptions, these kids have difficulty getting along with others. I think some of them could successfully pick a fight with a tree. But, as they’re quick to point out, it’s because their parents don’t understand them, it’s because their teachers hate them, or it’s because everyone and everything in the world (including vegetation, evidently) is out to get them. This is my invariable response to these teens:

If you have a problem with someone, they’ve got issues. If you have a problem with everyone, you’ve got issues.

In other words, if you find yourself unable to get along with someone, it could be that the other person has some deep-seated emotional issues, and that’s why he’s difficult to get along with. On the other hand, if find yourself unable to get along with the entire human population, then you’re the one with the emotional issues, and you’re the one who’s difficult to get along with.

As it turns out, this line of reasoning works for relationships, too: If you get involved in a bad relationship, it could be that your significant other isn’t emotionally mature enough to maintain a healthy relationship. On the other hand, if you get involved in one bad relationship after another, then you’re the one who’s emotionally immature, and you’re the one who’s repeatedly sledge hammering your relationships to pieces.

It’s all a numbers game. To obtain a quick assessment of a patient, psychologists will often invoke their version of the Three Strikes Rule: if someone engages in the same maladaptive behavior on three separate occasions, then this person is establishing a pattern, which, in turn, may reveal an underlying psychological problem and a need for therapy.

The woman who sleeps with best friends has been cheated on three times. Three times. Chances are she’s not just unlucky in the dating game. She’s incompetent. Whether her incompetence is that she’s only attracted to jerks who invariably cheat on her, or that she sabotages her relationships and drives away otherwise good men, the pattern she’s established is apparent.

But sadly, instead of attempting to break her pattern by reevaluating her dating standards, figuring out what she’s doing to land herself in multiple dysfunctional relationships, and learning to avoid getting cheated on in the first place, she spends her time misguidedly devising ways to wreak vengeance on her unfaithful boyfriends.

To me, trying to fix your relationship woes by sleeping with your boyfriend’s best friend makes about as much sense as trying to fix a complexion problem by slathering make-up on a zit: it barely covers up the problem, it’s still going to hurt, and you might just end up with some sort of infection.

So, does this sound like something you would do, or have done? Do the same adverse situations seem to occur over and over for you? Do you always seem to get screwed over, whether romantically, platonically, or professionally? If you’re starting to notice undesirable patterns in your life, then you might have to consider that it’s not bad luck. It could be something you’re doing.

After all, do you want to be just another alternative school kid, repeating the same tired behaviors and perpetually running in place inside that hamster wheel called dysfunction? Are you just going to cover up those zits with layer after layer of make-up? Or would you rather figure out what’s causing your patterns, so that you can do something to break them? After all, it’s not the world’s fault that you’re constantly getting screwed by others. It’s your fault that you’re constantly getting screwed by others.

The woman who’s been cheated on three times could probably learn something from the sage words of former President George W. Bush: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twi… well… you can’t get fooled again!”

We’re not at war. Love isn’t a battlefield. Popular culture would have us round up our troops now, ready to engage the opposite sex in a struggle of psychological proportions. Well, I decline. We’re all human beings, and we’re all from the same planet. We just have to be willing to learn from each other. My goal is to bridge the communication gap between men and women and offer a unique perspective that will let you laugh through the tears. Take a walk on my bridge at

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