“What’s your Myers Briggs?” I casually interjected into a conversation with my then-boyfriend one evening. Then, perhaps not entirely willingly, he found a 15-minute online quiz that confirmed my suspicions: We were as incompatible together as Adderall and alcohol. Worrying about a personality test is stupid, and whether two people are compatible goes beyond personality types, but the Myers Briggs results were a proxy for deeper questions about our relationship. We both knew we were unhappy, but test results put into words what we were both were too scared to confront prior: Throughout the five months of our relationship, we hadn’t gotten along for three. Our relationship had dissolved into a mere mutual toleration, yet we decided to deny the facts and fight it instead. That, however, led to him questioning my sanity at the end of the relationship, because I no longer swallowed my pride and reacted to his mistreatments. “I was so stupid,” I later acknowledged in the midst of my first therapy session, weeks following the breakup, as I readily received confirmation about my mental state and wrote off any possibility that I was insane.
Like in this relationship, I have a tendency to realize dissatisfaction only in hindsight. Back when I was studying in a public elementary school in Taiwan, each student was required to wear a nametag with an assigned number. Most of the time, our teachers would address us by our numbers, you know, for the sake of efficiency? It was not until years after and maybe a few philosophy books later that I completely changed perspective on my childhood experience. I despised the fact that my teachers reduced me down to the number 26, and I felt like a victim of institutionalized power. Yet, while in the situation, I was perfectly oblivious and complacent.
Much like my realization that I hated the school system in Taiwan, I am unable to assess my dispositions in relationships until they’re long past. This also affected me in my relationship. As a product of the stereotypical Asian parenting style where others’ confirmation dictates one’s worth, I developed a need to please. My desperate quest to seek approval, however, had blinded me from who I was trying to receive it from. With a compulsion to love and a keenness to impress its recipients, I willingly accepted the fact that my ex-boyfriend did not want to go to the play I wanted to see, and the concert he was interested in took precedence. My interests were constantly subordinated, but as a loving girlfriend, I was happy to comply with his. With an open heart, I hoped for the mere chance that my efforts would be acknowledged and reciprocated. But his disregard for my emotions only persisted, and gradually grew worse the more submissive I became; it escalated from being as subtle as the women he had sex with in the past lurking in the background of our conversations, to him threatening to sleep with my friends after we broke up. Yet, I remained intent on proving my worth to him as my quest to seek approval continued.
The less my ex-boyfriend delivered on his end of the relationship, the more persistent I was about fixing it; I was not going to let this dynamic be normalized. Reality set in when he showed me a screenshot of his unpleasant message sent about me to his previous love interest, and I truly felt my lack of control. Feeling at a loss, I cut up his sweater and returned it to him, hoping that he would see the pain and misery he had caused me. Had I gone crazy? Did his approval really mean that much?
I scheduled my first counseling appointment soon after and shared with a woman who knew nothing about me the development of my unhealthy relationship. I felt strengthened by my words of resolve, and I wondered how I had let it go this far. Though the concept of hindsight bias, where we see the results of an event as predictable only after it occurred, isn’t novel, it’s still profound every time it takes its toll. I was blind to the whole situation at first, only to subsequently dub my own judgement as poor, because it was crystal clear that no extra efforts would be contributed. Should I be more cautious about whom I get into relationships with? Perhaps. Should I have left early because of the unequal commitment and efforts? Probably. But at the time, nothing could have convinced me to not remain in the relationship even if the facts were right in front of me.
As someone who lacks the ability to distinguish between those who deserve my commitment from those who don’t, it is no surprise that I have yet to develop a romance as charming as one seen in a Woody Allen movie. My ex looked at my every concern, and even my suggestion to crossexamine personality types, as unnecessary stress. Unless I find the one who will voluntarily take a Myers Briggs test because he has my interests in mind, my 50 percent contribution in any relationship will never suffice. Until we figure out how we can be happy and who will make us happy, no fights ‘til the wee hours of the morning, no late-night apologies and no morning acai bowls to call a truce will ever be enough to sustain a healthy relationship.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion columnists have been selected. Contact the Opinion Desk at [email protected] and follow us on Twitter at @dailycalopinion.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that an online Myers Briggs quiz was 15 questions long. In fact, it took 15 minutes to complete.