Don’t repeat past mistakes…unless

how to learn from the pastIt’s amazing how often people repeat the same patterns in relationships, expecting to get different results while using the exact same strategies that led to emotional pain in the past.

You can probably guess how I try to intervene when one of my clients seems to be stuck in one of these repetitive patterns.

It’s easier said than done, but we work to identify a new approach that will leave behind key mistakes.

However, there are times when I do the opposite.

Sometimes I advise my client to continue with the same approach that led to a painful relationship outcome in the past.

Why would I do that?

The answer is quite simple. Sometimes, it’s just not your fault. Sometimes, things got screwed up because you did everything right but the guy you dated was wacky.

Many people forget this. They say things like, “That’s it! I’m done! Relationships just don’t work for me. I’m never going to put my heart out there like that again.”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand! It’s just that while my client is raving about how there is no relationship worth trying again… the face of this guy keeps popping into my mind… and I know the two of them would be perfect together!

But she doesn’t care! The last thing she wants to hear from me at that moment is, “Well, maybe you’re overreacting… because I know this guy…” That’s when I hear the door slam as she storms out of my office.

But the truth is, there are times where you should not change your approach… you just need persistence (with the same approach).

Persistence with the same approach is the way to go when you’re already on the correct path.

A friend of mine told me I had to read a hilarious article he found about the recent retirement of General James Mattis of the US Marine Corps (you may know him as “Mad Dog Mattis” if you follow news of this type).

I found the humor rather odd, and slightly offensive, but I couldn’t help passing on one of his strange quotes that has shown up in the media. It just fits so well with the message I’m trying to send you today.

Mad Dog Mattis was in charge of a lot of the recent military operations in the Middle East. One of the quotes I found in the article was this:

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

And this during a meeting with Iraqi tribal leaders…

“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f* with me, I’ll kill you all.”

If I remember right, I think he got in trouble with his boss, General Hagee, for that last one… counseled to choose his words a little more carefully in the future (um…yeah).

But truth be told, I know some women who kind of want to express this basic sentiment before getting into a relationship with a man.

Anyway, the idea is this. In the first quote, mad dog was counseling his soldiers how to interact with Iraqi citizens. Because the Al Qaeda do not wear uniforms, and often rely on sneak attacks (guerrilla warfare), the soldiers need to be wary of everyone.

You want to be polite and professional, but always have a backup plan ready in your mind.

how to learn from the pastWhat does a backup plan mean in the context of relationships? Basically, I’m saying you should stick with a good plan when you know it works, but watch for the telltale signs you’ve learned from the past. Have a plan to exit the relationship quickly if he’s not ready for a mature relationship.

The key to persistence is not sticking with a dead-end relationship. I’m not talking about that kind of persistence in this article. I’m talking about the idea of persisting with a good plan.

Sticking with a good plan means you keep trying, even if you have to quickly sidestep several false starts with guys who just aren’t right for you.

Be polite, be professional, but don’t let anyone get in the way of your persistent pursuit of the one guy you want to spend your life with.

Always on your side,


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45 thoughts on “Don’t repeat past mistakes…unless

  1. Sarah said:

    I’m dating a man who pulls away when ever he faces anything difficult.
    It happened fob6 weeks when we had been dating for four months.
    I Broke up for two months then we got back together.
    It’s over a year now and his aunt and then son died I’ve not heard or seen him for 3 weeks I’m thinking of breaking up with him is this unfair to him?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Sarah. My opinion is that it depends a lot on what the relationship is like between the two of you when you are interacting. It also depends on whether or not he has given any kind of explanation in advance regarding his lack of communication with you. I don’t think anyone would blame you for breaking up with a man who simply ignores you for three weeks, but those are just two factors to consider as you think it through.

      • Sarah said:

        Thank You!

  2. Michelle said:

    This brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. I’ve been feeling like I’m the problem all the time….and I feel just like that woman who storms out….

  3. Holly Proctor said:

    Thanks for the reminder! I agree with dog’s quote number one! I exited a relationship because there were telltale signs he was not up front- i.e. A liar! The exit PLAN was this: I sent a text saying I needed a man who would prioritize communicating daily with me and think I was worth the effort; thanks for the fun, and I wished him the best. That is my SAFE exit PLAN of action! It works every time! Gotta get through lots of frogs before you get the Prince!

  4. Maryellen said:

    Thank you for this. This is one of my favorites and comes at a very opportune time !

  5. Rena said:

    “Sometimes, it’s just not your fault. Sometimes, things got screwed up because you did everything right but the guy you dated was wacky.”

    Dear James, this is the first time I make a comment on this page. I follow your posts and the discussions here regularly and feel I have learned quite a bit.

    Now, just two days ago I was wondering whether I was crazy or not. Now I think that maybe I’m just OK after all. I had two dates with this guy so far. I like him and I feel attracted to him. On the one hand, he seems to trust me and spilled his heart out right on our first date, told me about all his family issues and other problems. I listened, just listened. And he seemed to enjoy it. On the second date though, he continued and then all of a sudden told me he was not ready for a relationship yet. I was surprised and didn’t know what to say – I hadn’t been thinking about a relationship. I tried to communicate that I definitely feel attracted to him, but that it would be nice if we could get to know each other before having this kind of discussion. Still I had the impression he is convinced I want a realtionship, which let’s him feel pressure. NOW I FEEL PRESSURED. It’s like I have to pretend not to feel attracted to him. I don’t really know what to do, but maybe I will text him I’d like to concentrate on other things for now and take things easy. What do you recommend?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Rena. Pretending you’re not attracted is a bad idea. It’s one of those little white lies that eventually snowballs into something you never intended. If he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who feels attracted to him, there’s something wrong with him (not you).

      He jumped the gun by telling you he doesn’t want a relationship. It was premature. It was his mistake. Let the relationship continue to unfold. Maybe time will smooth out these early wrinkles as you try to get on the same page.


      • Rena said:

        Thank you, James! I have told him I would like to take a step back and take things easy. I enjoy spending time with him and I will meet him soon, and then: Que sera, sera. Maybe he will be able to relax, maybe not. I’d definitely like to find out if we are on the same page.

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