Years ago, I was in a relationship that failed. Although there was plenty of blame to go around, there was one thing for which I surely could take the blame: I could have and should have foreseen everything that went wrong! Predicting success in relationships isn't really that hard.
Some people spend a lot of money on fortune-tellers, asking the seers to gaze into their crystal balls and tell the people their fortune. You probably know this, but there is now and never has been the slightest shred of evidence that fortune-telling of this kind works. You would be better investing your money in, well, almost anything.
When it comes to failure or success in relationships, you don’t need to spend money on a fortune-teller. You can be your own. Most of us, after spending time in a relationship, get to know our partner’s strengths and weaknesses. If there are going to be problems, we see those problems coming. The problem is not that we don’t see them; it’s that we don’t admit them to ourselves. We then end up wondering later on how we could not have foreseen the various problems that emerge later on.
If you want to know if your future holds a successful relationship, consider this: The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior
The simple principle to remember is that the best predictor of future behavior of any kind is past behavior of the same kind. If someone is violent, their promises that they will reform are usually not worth much; they probably will be violent again.
If someone drinks, they may get over their addiction to alcohol, but don’t count on it; there is a good chance that the addiction will stay with them, or that they will replace one addiction with another, or worse, add a new addiction to the old one. If someone lies a lot, they probably will continue to lie, and if they cheat on you, don’t quickly believe that they will reform.
Rock singer Lou Christie wrote a song, “Lightin’ Strikes,” where the vocalist sings that he sees other women but that when he settles down, he’ll only have one baby on his mind. If you believe that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.
The problems you have now are likely the problems you will have later as well
So, it’s really quite simple. The problems you have now are likely to be the problems you have later. Sometimes people change on their own, or they change as a result of therapy, and you can hope for the best. But to count on change is a mistake.
If you are deciding whether a relationship would be right for you in the long-term, or whether the relationship you are in is working, your best path is to use your own internal crystal ball, which should be telling you that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior of the same kind.
Four reasons why we don't act on our knowledge
At some level, we all know this. So why don’t we act on our knowledge? There are several reasons.
- We sometimes lie to ourselves. We know something but don’t want to believe it, so we simply don’t. We refuse to believe what we know, deep down, is true.
- Hope triumphs over experience. We really want someone to change, and we hope that our wanting is sufficient to change our partner’s behavior or that our love for our partner will somehow influence them to change. It can happen, but again, don’t bet on it.
- We believe that the behavior that bothers us is really not such a big deal after all. So, they drink a bit too much; or they smoke too much; or they have a wandering eye. The question to ask yourself is not so much whether you can put up with the behavior now, but how you will feel in six months, or six years, or whatever. Is this something you can live with over a longer term?
- We fail to see what is right in front of our eyes. Sometimes, other people tell us things about our partner that are obvious to them but that we just don’t see. My advice: Listen! They may be right; they may be wrong. But they may be seeing something that is right before your eyes that you just don’t want to see.
You don’t need a fortune-teller to tell your future in a relationship. Although you can’t predict everything, there is a whole lot you can predict—if only you are honest with yourself, do not place hope over experience, realize that what bothers you now may bother you more later, and listen to others, not just to yourself.