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

  1. Lee said:

    If you can get him in a relaxed and receptive mode, then respect yourself AND HIM enough to be honest and direct with him by telling him yet again that you need and want more connection in your life and you know its out there for you. Then stay silent. If he asks “what do you mean”, you tell him you feel its better for you to open your options up and leave it at that. He will understand and you will elevate your standing with him 100%. Good luck

  2. Stacey said:

    Your article hit home and told me what I’ve been feeling. I’ve been dating a guy for 6 months and I’ve fallen hard for him. He says he cares but not where I am emotionally with him. He has taken huge steps with me unlike any other girlfriend but often I’m still left feeling hallow. He has introduced me to his children, parents, and friends unlike any other girlfriend thus far. However, he will go most days ignoring my texts, not contacting me until the end of the day, and now withdrawing. Part of
    me thinks he is scared of his emotions for me but he has always had these patterns of lack of communication although I often request I need
    more. I know I heard him say he loved me prior to this last major withdrawal and is also taking me on a trip with his mother in the next week. However, he has now become almost frozen with his interaction with me. He will call once a day toward the end of the day after ignoring my texts all day. I’m persistent regardless of his lack of communication hoping he will snap out of it. However, I often feel as if I’m begging for his time and interaction now which is hurting me. Although he has made huge strides with me and our relationship unlike any other, it is often just not enough for me. I have decided to explore what else is out there for me. There is some guilt that I’m doing this behind his back but I feel as if a back up plan is necessary now. I’m not sure how I will feel once another man asks me out or if I will go but I feel like I deserve more and want to see if it is out there. Am I doing the right thing?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Stacey. Your reasoning makes sense, but I want to offer one caution.

      Many relationships end because one partner did not realize they were about to lose the other, and were therefore unable to prove what they would be willing to do to save the relationship.

      It sounds odd, but the relationships we value the most have the most conflict. That’s because rather than just walking away, we confront the person so that we can restore a better relationship. The relationship is worth fighting for.

      So here’s my caution. If you think this relationship is worth fighting for, don’t start sneaking around behind his back. Instead, tell him he’s about to lose you. And tell him you want to make sure there’s not another way.

      • Stacey said:

        After another couple of months, I decided I needed to let him go due to his fear of getting too close to me. He started a pattern of getting really close and then cancelling dates so he could draw a line and keep his distance enough to not get too drawn in. He has commitment issues and will never submit to a relationship even though I knew he loved me. He said it twice but never clear enough for me to respond back as well as included me in his family. His heart felt one thing and his mind would try to control his emotions.
        Now, I’ve started to date a guy who makes it clear he wants me in his life and I never have to ask to give me communication not anything thing else I need. He simply wants to make me happy and will do what he can to ensure I am. Now this is someone who makes it clear he is ready for a relationship. Don’t try to fit a square peg in where it doesn’t fit. If you have doubts, they are there for a clear reason. Don’t choose to ignore them. You can find exactly what you need and want out there. Just don’t give up and settle!

  3. Lindsey D. said:

    If I meet someone I really like and the feeling is mutual, we jump in with both feet. Most of the time, the heat is quick to cool. This time the heat is still going strong and it has been a year strong!! I don’t see it cooling either.
    This article is good advice.

    • James Bauer said:

      Great example! Thanks!

  4. kim said:

    James, just wanted to say Thanks. It’s nice to read these because it feels like advice from a big bro..who has nothing but good intentions and hopes for his sisters…so thanks! 🙂
    I loved this article because I feel that way…then a guy shows interests even a tiny bit, they verbalize, I take a step back, then after evaluating my feelings and their advances I respond to only having certain men (I actually like them at this point – I actually consider them to be someone I’d like to meet regularly) these men flip the situation on me where I notice I’m the one who has more interest. 🙁 Anyway, I’m heartbroken.. but my pattern is to get a bit aggressive and want to push them out my comfort circle to see if they’d even tread back to me…usually this helps me filter them.
    UGH!! James!! Bro! I don’t need a man but sure would like to share some feelings with one and feel safe doing it…what can I do?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Kim. That’s a good question. Actually, I like the approach you use. It seems like a solid one. I think the main message of my article above applies very well in your situation. I think you are doing things right and should continue this way of approaching men, with one possible exception.

      Obviously, I know very little about your situation and how you relate to men, but I noticed something in your question. It seems like there is a possibility you might find better results by allowing time to play out longer before reacting to the natural ebb and flow of relationships. Sometimes coming closer and opening up feels like it should bring an immediate response of the same sort from the other partner. But in reality, each of us have so many other variables influencing our readiness to respond that it often has nothing to do with the relationship when a man does not immediately reciprocate. He might even pull away. But if you are aggressive in pursuing him and demanding explanation you might end up pushing him away at the very moment when he needed some distance anyway.

      So in summary, see what happens if you stretch out the timeline and allow time to even out the up and down aspect of feelings of closeness. Over time you will grow closer even if there are still ups and downs in the level of emotional intimacy and openness.

      • New Orlesns Girl said:

        How long is a reasonable amount of time if a man pulls away?

      • James Bauer said:

        It’s a good question. Unfortunately it’s one of those questions that depends on a lot of factors. Like, how far did he pull back? And, how long were you together? And, did you have plans for the future together?

        It really depends on what you need more than anything else. “Too long” is a length of time that would make you decide it was no longer healthy or desirable to wait for him.

  5. carol butt n.z. said:

    Thank you James, I just love the way you write, you are very enlightening and inspiring, I have really learned a lot at this later stage of dating life. I believe that we do need help to become aware of a lot red flags and make healthy choices and not waste time on people anymore that are only time wasters, if they do not add to your good life which you already have then bye bye. I believe that if you have yourself sorted and enjoying your life then you are much more aware of the red flags, and that includes friends of the same sex for me now. I have been there done that and had the tee shirts, no longer need the drama, life is too short to not enjoy, age means nothing, enjoy each day. I have a gratitude diary which I write at least 6 things into it each day that Im really grateful for and it has definitely changed the way I feel inside and that automatically has changed the outside, and the outlook on life. Enjoy and thank you. Carol. N..Z

  6. lovely said:

    This really did hit home for me.I have been with a guy for a year? Recently he broke it off again. In the one year I have been dumped or ignored 4 times. Each time because he cancelled his dates or i felt neglected by him.
    No matter how reasonable I mention my feelings i would get defiance and a wall when i mention i wasn’t happy about anything.
    I would never know when I would see him next, he would work or have his kids and literally I am on standby, which left me hollow. I never even met his friends. He gave me no secure environment to express my feelings, so how can any depth or understanding be developed when it’s just based on happy times and not caring enough for challenges?
    Each time he ignored me it would be a month after and I’ll reach out. However, this is not enough, we are amazing together and very compatible but he’s obviously commitment phobic. Each time we get close and I show my feelings he runs. . It just feels one sided and empty. This is the fifth time he’s ignoring me, this time over me asking him if he would plan dates ahead with me(which is not a unfair request) he says I’m trying to push him into something, I said I just need to plan my life to see him. I think it’s very immature of him to ignore me like this. I guess he’ll expect me to reach out again after a months time. Not sure if I should. ..? He drains me and makes me feel worthless, this is not a game I’m wanting to play.

    • Gayle FrNsen said:

      Been there. The same thing happened to me. My guy did it twice. The second time I contacted him. I gave him a foot in the door and he took it. Some of these kinds of men are narsisists, think only of themselves. Their behavior is called covert- aggressive. It’s all about the chase. Once they get close and get what they want they loose interest until the next chase ensues. They care only about their needs. This cycle will happen over and over. I told him off and will have no more contact. A man like that has a personality disorder and will not change.

  7. Anne Marie said:

    I was in a LTR with someone who sent mixed signals as well… it took me time to realize he had not matured emotionally past his early teens. He is a very intelligent, fun person, who finally admitted he does not know how to do romantic, adult relationships–not sure that is something a person can get counseling for and doubt he would even if one could. He was/is a great friend, however, I wanted more in my life so I decided to meet other men. The relationship information you’ve shared is helpful… Cross-fingers I will find a mate whilst doing the things I love!

  8. Lauri said:

    Thanks for this. I have a current situation that fits right in. This helps to know that I am on the right track.

  9. Sunehla Bala said:


    Everytime I read your articles, I get super inspired and my confidence and willpower becomes even stronger. Thank you! and please keep providing us these marvellous insights.

    • James Bauer said:

      Excellent. I’m glad you give me the time to influence you in a positive direction!

  10. Janet McKinney said:

    This is so true! Not only in a emotional level but on a physical level as well. I am very polite, very fun and they tell me very pretty but I always try to stay on my toes and think ahead. Physically and emotionally, and for me this means not drinking to much until I know who I am with! It’s Friday morning and I have a blind date with a seemingly very nice man, but the first thing I did this morning was make sure my physcial protection was ready to go. I learned early its a good idea to be prepared for the worse and hope for the best. Don’t get me wrong, these men aren’t loser at all. Most are very wealthy and well know in the small town we live. Which I think gives them a feeling of power? I like men who are successful and that have goals, it attracts me. But oh, is there such a thing as a power successful man without the ego and sense of entitlement? So, I have learned but have also had fun in the process; be PREPARRED! I love that quote!

  11. Henecian said:

    Thank you for your constant words of wisdom. 🙂

    I’ve been in a relationship now for 8 months with a man that I have fallen really hard for. In the beginning of our relationship, after he was the one to ask me to be “his girlfriend,” I noticed that he would constantly flirt or make suggestive comments to women on his various social media. After I told him how it made me feel, he apologized, stopped flirting & became more cautious of his words.

    One day recently, I didn’t hear from him all day until late at night. (We usually talk or text throughout the day.) Really late that night he finally responded with, “Oh, I went to meet up with a friend to watch a game.” No big deal. I love sports & I watch it all the time. It started to bother me about the way he said “a friend”, and not “I met up with Carlos.” But, I let it go until a few days afterwards, a couple of girls tagged him in some pics online that they posed with him in stating, “I had a blast with you.”

    I know that if I ask him about it, he’ll say, “What? I didn’t lie. I was with a ‘friend’.” I don’t know how to handle this situation. In the past, if this happened, and thought that he cheated, I wouldn’t tell him why, but I would just end contact & quietly walk away. Taking the high ground without wasting energy on drama.

    I don’t feel like he may have cheated, but in 8 months, he’s never mentioned these girls names before. This is the second time he went out & said he was “meeting (an unnamed) friend.” It really bothers me.

    Should I just move on as I have done in the past? What to do? 🙁

    • James Bauer said:

      I see why this bothers you. He also knew it would bother you, and did it anyway. I suggest you ask for what you want and see if he is willing to deliver. Think of ways you could explain to him the kind of relationship you want to have with him and see if he is willing to have a relationship of that sort with you. If he agrees, make sure he understands that you won’t allow yourself to invest in a relationship where a person says one thing and does another.

  12. Jane Scott said:

    Wow. James, Thank you. You have validated what is happening with me, and boy do I feel soothed, relieved, and understood.
    I changed my way of being, part-way into my relationship. In the beginning I only had myself and my experience to rely on and so I initiated much of the interaction between me and my man. I was pretty much in masculine energy mode. He moved in with me, and I would most often be the one to bring up the subject of shopping, going out, doing chores etc.
    At first I knew no different. But then I discovered relationship coaches like yourself. I read e-books and listened to webinars, and soon I saw that I was acting from masculine energy. I decided to turn it around, show him respect by leaning back and allowing him to lead.
    That was two years ago. It’s not working. He doesn’t pick up the slack. He seems resentful, even, when I say “I would feel so feminine and cherished if you would arrange a night out for us”. Or rather, he seems agreeable to the idea, but it doesn’t materialise. Oh, on Valentine’s day he did – he booked us a table in a beautiful restaurant. I gushed all night about how beautiful I felt being treated this way. It hasn’t happened since.
    He spends most of his time working, and I sense that he has an internal ‘pusher’ driving him. He spends very little time with me. Seems to love me and enjoy having me around, yet I’m feeling tired of his passivity.
    Is this a case in point? Should I continue with this new behaviour if what I want is to ultimately enjoy a fulfilling relationship with a masculine gentleman?

    • James Bauer said:

      I do think you need to reach for the best kind of relationship that would be most fulfilling to you. Do you dislike taking charge in the relationship? If not, considered that the advice you hear from relationship coaches is based on what’s true for most people and most couples. Sometimes a couple can mesh very well in a way that deviates from the norm. However, if you never want to go back to being the only person pursuing relationship intimacy, I completely understand that. In that case, stick to your guns. Be persistent over time to show him how important it is that he takes a more active role. Tell him it makes you unhappy in the relationship when he is passive. If he doesn’t change, you’ll have some decisions to make. It sounds like he has ignored your efforts so far. Maybe it’s time to increase his motivation by revealing to him what is at stake.

    • Jenn said:

      Hi Jane
      Your man’s behaviour sounds very much like he is passive agressive. If he withdraws affection and/or intimacy when you mindfully request your needs be met, I suggest you read up on how to navigate a passive agressive man.
      You may well be doing everything right but may find you are second guessing yourself, particularly if your man has agreed to work at something and fails to deliver (again). Does he encourage your endevours and ask you questions about yourself? No? There are some great articles about typical PA behaviour that might help.
      Kind regards

  13. Carlie said:

    Taking a second look at your material as last 2 relationships have ended with me being on the dumped end and by guys who were somewhat less than me…for lack of better words. I’m feeling quite done and if I ever hear a man tell me I’m just too good for him, I will see red and choke the daylights out of him. Time to quit or develop a master plan!!

    • Lisa said:

      If they were less than you.. As you said.. They could never make you happy.. Men want to be able to make their woman happy.. Find one that matches you better.. So you can feel happy about them… In turn they will feel happy to be with you and stay with you.. Good luck…

  14. M. Vendetti said:

    Honestly, I’ve watched your marketing video many times but hesitated to buy your ebook. After seeing your quote by Gen. Mattis here, I’m going to try it. I’m a former Marine who has dating issues because I tend to bulldoze every guy I date. (Except Marines, where it turns into a competition!) Recently my “best guy friend” (we used to date, can’t let go, were actually good friends) has disappeared with no explanation and to tell the truth that hurts more than the rest. Hope your program helps me understand and presents some new skills.

    • Sabine Lantermann said:

      It sure does… you’ll regain confidence, self-esteem and step by step the ability to worship great, love-capable men and putting others gently, but without regret out of your vulnerable heart… let the hurt go through you and heal by sharing James’s good advices and practicing them (sorry for my Bad English style, I’m german)… Big hug, Sabine

  15. Mary said:

    Compliment, not complement, James.

    • James Bauer said:

      Thanks, Mary. I always forget there’s a difference until someone points out my mistake.

  16. PhatKitty said:

    Thank you James! This was really timely for me. I broke it off with a guy that kept sending mix signals and it’s funny how a short time with someone can do such a number on my self esteem. It’s been just over a week with no contact, I’m still raw and really needed to read this. I appreciate you. Thanks again.

    • James Bauer said:

      I’m glad it was useful to you. Thanks for the feedback.

  17. Ronnie Lee said:

    Hi James, and thank you again for another inspirational piece! If only I could meet and fall in love and be loved by a man as intelligent,wise and emotionally sound as you! You truly are a diamond amongst glass!

    • James Bauer said:

      That’s really nice. Thank you for that complement, and thank you for being a reader and participant at

  18. Annette said:

    Thank you for this one, it makes me feel even more confident about my actions and decisions. I have been using the tools I’ve been taught by you and others. I have handled the last couple relationships more maturely and feel better about myself, when they end, than I have prior. I realized one wasn’t right for me and ended the relationship, instead of riding it out to see where we end up. The next was not ready to commit. He still has “Married” on his profile, although he is divorced. When I think of them or see them, I do not feel hurt, angry or hateful. Thanks so much.

  19. Chrystal said:

    Lol.. I run a military page on FB and now I think I’ve seen it all when Mad Dog Matrix is quoted in a dating blog. My Marines are going to love this. =)

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