I like to give credit where it is due, and if I quote a movie, song, or teacher, I mention the source. This time, however, forgive me that I do not remember the source of what I am about to write about. All I remember is that it is a male comedian, and it was one of his sets called, “I Tried My Best.”
As parents, we tell our children – and as children, our parents tell us (I don’t want to offend the non-parents who read this article, so I include all): “Just try your best. I’m proud of you knowing that you tried your best.” Home runs don’t have to be hit, goals don’t have to be kicked, and an A+ doesn’t have to be scored on a test in order for parents to be proud of their children. All the child had to do was try his/ her best.
But what about when the child grows up? Now the child is working and has responsibilities where others depend on him and a deadline isn’t met, a client loses a case, an account is lost. The person can say, “Well, at least I tried my best,” but the boss and co-workers won’t care that you tried your best, because they ended up on the losing end. They lost money, a court battle, a lucrative account...but, hey, “It’s all good because you tried your best.” No, they are not your mommy. They won’t say that, and depending on what you were not able to accomplish, they will tell you, “Your best was not good enough.” There may be repercussions that follow, maybe a demotion, getting fired, or just getting the cold shoulder from others for a few days until someone else in the company lets them down, because their best wasn’t good enough either.
I received an email a little while ago when I was told that someone’s “best” may not be good enough for someone else.
I dated a girl for a while, about a year ago. I really liked her. We were starting to get comfortable around each other. It was a good feeling. I felt sucker-punched when, out of nowhere, she broke up with me. I’m not going to lie; I tried to convince her to stay. I offered to change if it was something about me that she didn’t like. She wasn’t specific, but said it was for the best and that was it.
A month ago, I received a call from her. Her call blew me out of the water. She said she wanted to go out with me again and asked if I would be interested. I was, and agreed to try again. On the first date, we talked. I was honest and told her that I felt the breakup came out of left field. I had no idea she wasn’t happy or things weren’t going as smoothly for her as they were for me. I told her that I need to know what she feels when she is feeling it and not have her come to me after a few weeks or months saying she decided to break up with me without giving me a chance to fix things or letting me know how she feels. She said that was fair.
It’s been a few weeks and things are going well, or at least I think so. So I asked her about her feelings. I asked how she is feeling and if she wants to discuss anything. I tried being a real gentleman about it. She answered that all she can tell me is that things are good at the moment and she can’t promise me that it will always be like this, but she can promise to try her best to make things work, and if she has any doubts or questions, she will talk with me.
Try her best? Am I a chore or a test? It should be obvious and not needed to be said that people dating one another should try their best to make it work. Why else go out? I tried my best at skiing and fell flat every time I stood up. I finally quit. Dating isn’t like skiing. What if her best isn’t the best, and she ends up deciding again that she wants to break up with me? Did I ask her for marriage? No. I asked how things are going and I’m told, “I’m trying my best.” I felt that her response was very lame. I told her that all I can ask of her is her “best,” but she should know she is getting the best of me. Am I wrong to feel let down?
David, thank you for your email.
Listen to me when I say that all anyone can do at anything, whether it be school or skiing or dating is his/her “best.” Yes, “best” is different in each of these categories, but is still all anyone can do and give of themselves. Have you read my last couple of articles? Some people don’t seem to be putting their best efforts into dating and the other party is feeling it. The young woman wrote to me that she feels as if dating is an afterthought, and she is an afterthought with those she has dated. I can say the same for some of the men I dated, and I bet everyone can say the same thing for at least one or two people whom they have dated, as well.
I admire the fact that the young woman promised you that she will do her best. I can see how the meaning of her words may not be clear, but I really don’t think that was her intent. I read into her answer (again, I’m not Rashi and I hate when people read into my words), and she did say she’s having a good time now and if anything changes, she will talk to you about it and not surprise you like last time. But focus on the sentence as a whole; she, too, is having a good time with you and she’s putting her all into it. You understood it as a chore, as if she were shoveling the snow and will give it her best shot and put her back into it!
You may have asked the question wanting the response, “Everything is perfect. I’m having a great time. No issues here. Clear sailing on my end.” But that wouldn’t be real. You asked a question and now that the lady answered, you don’t like it. I don’t know who said it first, but someone did: “Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to; you may not like the answer.” (It was probably a trial lawyer. They have all their questions mapped out and have practiced with their witnesses and client so there are no surprises.)
The statement you wrote was, “I tried being a real gentleman about it.” Are you equating that she ended things the first time because you weren’t a gentleman or were you looking to get gentleman points here? It wasn’t clear. I think the question you asked should be asked a few times, at least while a couple is exploring a new relationship. Communication is always the key. The question should also be asked after the relationship passes the honeymoon stage – even years into the marriage: “Is everything okay? Are you happy? What are you thinking?” The answer may not be what the person asking the question wants to hear, but ultimately a relationship will be better for it.
Things may be fine or things may need a little tweaking and it opens up the dialogue for this. Yes, I am aware that you can be poking the sleeping bear by asking this question; if she isn’t saying anything, then why should I even bring it up? Because ignorance is not bliss. Wouldn’t you want to know if your spouse was unhappy about something you did or said or a habit of yours and really can’t stand it and is building up resentment towards you? I can’t answer for anyone but myself, but yes, I would want to know, and yes, I actually do ask that question. The reaction that the question asker has may determine if it turns into an argument or a discussion that both can learn from. But I still believe the question needs to be asked.
David, you may also be forgetting that dating is a two-way street. The other party is allowed to have his/her own feelings and opinion regarding the relationship that do or don’t match with yours. Opinions, feelings, and emotions are shaped by people’s experiences. You don’t know what the other person has gone through in life to make her think that you aren’t the one for her, and you aren’t acting like a gentleman, but rather an obnoxious guy who is smothering her – I’m just providing an example. If for whatever reason this woman decides to end the relationship again, yes it will be very hard, as you seem to have deep feelings for her, but there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t force anyone to love you – and why would you? You shouldn’t force or love. Someone should love another because he/she wants to and it comes naturally. But you can go on now knowing that she is giving this relationship her all and not “phoning it in.”
I don’t think she would have called and asked you to go out again if she wasn’t going to try her hardest. There was something about you that made you stick around in her mind. Build on that. She wants to try it again. She picked up the phone and took action. If things don’t work out, I am truly sorry, but I would feel confident knowing at least she gave it her all – and not like standing up on skis again or studying for a test. She is trying her best at life to choose a life partner, and she came back to you. All we can ask from anyone is to do and try her best and that is what she is offering. If that is unacceptable to you, then ask yourself why? And how you would react if you told someone you were trying your best, but it wasn’t good enough – how much more can a person give than your best?
Hatzlachah to you all.