At the start of 2016, I found myself watching a relationship with a fantastic man combust before my eyes. I use this dramatic metaphor, because I’ve been wading through the emotional debris ever since.
It’s why All We Cannot Say exists.
Over the course of 20-odd podcast interviews with experts in the arenas of love and sexuality, I’ve developed the skills and acquired the knowledge to be able to parse through my recent dating history to make sense of what went wrong.
And I want to share this story with you so that everyone can learn from my failures in love.
That is of course, everyone, except for me.
I was a complete wreck when I broke up with my partner, as were my cats, and all of our friends, housemates and family were confused.
And as is normal during such a time, I turned to my friends and I asked them for their guidance and emotional support.
Some said, “Give it some time. Take care of yourself. Eat ice cream. Meditate.”
Most annoyingly and perplexingly, these wise sages told me that in order to find true love again, I had to learn to love myself.
It’s a statement I found absurd and still do, as if babies do not receive love immediately after they exit the womb.
Others said, “Have lots of casual sex. Buy a new vibrator. Work on your revenge body. Play the field. Step into your sexual power.”
I tried a variety of these self-care cocktails, including a three-month adventure in Europe forged on the premise of self-discovery and healing. And after almost a year of recording All We Cannot Say, I’ve learned one hard lesson from my single life hangover:
Relationships are a lot like start-ups
To compare something so interpersonal, spiritual and so emotionally nuanced with business terminology may anesthetise the complexity of one of our core human needs: love. Yet to not explore a long-term partnership as anything but a mutually beneficial agreement seems short-sighted, and perhaps even impractical. For those that are ready to discard their romantic myths and Hollywood narratives, allow me to elucidate.
Both relationships and start-ups are borne within a market of uncertainty
Just as you launch your business within a precarious market, so too do many relationships begin with a cautious yet optimistic mindset. Optimism because the new is exciting, and caution because the sea of existing competition is astounding. We pray for the venture to be profitable, but our success is not guaranteed until we’ve tested the market first. Dating and launching a start-up are both exhilarating times, fuelled by adrenaline, late nights, and the allure of the unknown.
Co-founders and single people are arrogant
Successful entrepreneurs possess an inflated degree of self-importance and grandeur, and that’s something that perhaps works to their advantage. But when they become overconfident, they become so short-sighted they don’t bother to check the pulse of their market.
This can lead to many problems, wherein they’re so sold on their own magnificence that they can’t see speed bumps right in front of their face.
It’s much like the single person, who scours the market for the right relationship co-founder. This arrogant bachelor/ette never stops to self assess or reflect on their Ultimate Selling Point, and on what they contribute to the relationship table. They’re so sold on their own brilliance, they don’t ever stop to think that the reason they’re single is because they are a uniquely flawed individual, just like any of us.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
A lack of strategy, both in the start-up world and within relationships, can lead to destruction. By not getting clear on where your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is headed, or how it might change, or what your team’s respective roles are, you face the risk of failure.
How often do you begin dating someone without a clear intention or a clear direction? When was the last time you pitched your relationship MVP to a potential co-founder?
Or, how often do you hear of start-ups failing because they ran out of cash? Or because they didn’t know how to pivot in a volatile market?
By being so shortsighted, you fail to protect your time, energy and investments in the long-term.
We’ve all heard of the work/life balance, and how a scale tipped too far in the former can lead to stress and burn out.
But what about in a relationship? If you’re operating in round-the-clock mode as a girlfriend or boyfriend, you’ll lose focus, perspective, passion and motivation. Just as co-founders find the allure of their start-up bubble all too great to resist, so too do partners cordon themselves off in a cocoon of romance and sex. Both are unhealthy scenarios, and can have detrimental effects on other areas of your life, not to mention, your other relationships.
The inflexible will eventually snap
The more versatile you are, the better chance you have of succeeding in business and in love. This is why both start-ups and couples have to possess the ability to adapt, pivot and deal with set backs. Perhaps even tear down the whole building and start from scratch. We all need to recover from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and work together peacefully during those tough times.
If your MVP – whether that’s your relationship or your start-up – succeeds, you’re able to do something that many people can’t achieve within a lifetime. Both start-up MVPs and relationship MVPs need to meet a mutually beneficial need, and when you address the causes of failure above, you’ll be better positioned to meet these needs and reap the profits.