Let’s say that you’re putting something together and it’s just not coming out right. You probably should recheck the instructions and double-check the parts list to make sure you didn’t screw up somewhere.
Let’s say that you’ve been in five romantic relationships and every one of them turned bad because your partner was a spendthrift and became emotionally abusive when the money dried up. You probably should assume that you’re doing something wrong in picking people to date.
In general, when you have a problem, it’s best to look at what you might have done wrong. It puts the onus on you to fix it, whether to correct your own mistake or to track down whatever else went wrong. This is especially true when the same problem keeps coming up. It’s one thing to be fired once for “not being a team player” but if every job or contract ends the same way, it’s time to figure out what you’re doing wrong.
Taking the blame on yourself keeps you from feeling helpless, at the mercy of others’ actions. It guides you clear of any tendency to dodge responsibility for the consequences of your decisions and to blame others for all problems.
Sometimes it really is them. You might go over the instruction sheet and find that Step 5 simply cannot be performed until Step 7 is done.
Many people are terrible at giving directions. If you got screwed up from three people in a row, your ability to listen and follow isn’t necessarily the problem.
The dating pool these days is terrible, for both men and women. If your last three girlfriends were dishonest and narcissistic and brought nothing to the relationship other than their punany, if your last three boyfriends were weak and lazy and incapable of doing anything useful, the problem might not be your ability to pick mates. You’re trying to pan for gold in a septic tank.
Still, you can’t blame all of the problems on others. Getting back to where we started from, you need to take responsibility for your outcomes, even when other people are unreliable or actively antagonistic. And there’s little point even in getting angry at others for being incompetent or dishonest or lazy. Would you get angry at a yappy dog for being loud and annoying?
When you realize that most people can’t give good directions, write down what they say and have them watch as you go through them the first couple times. When you realize that the dating pool is crap, either opt out for a while and work on yourself and your career, go slower and more cautiously in letting someone into your life, or take partners for recreational use only and forego long-term for now. (That last choice is more for men than for women, obviously, because of fertility windows and sexual marketplace value curves.)
In sum: When things go wrong, first assume that you’re the problem and that you’re responsible for fixing it and preventing its recurrence. Keep your eyes open for the possibility of other people being the cause, but continue to take responsibility for fixing the problem, with the other people now being viewed as part of the problem.