What went wrong with WotWentWrong.com

When the definitive history of bad ideas is written, right alongside the guy who gave up a 10% share in Apple, the company that paid Shane Warne to give up smoking for a year and Ben Elton Live From Planet Earth, there will be a special chapter onWotWentWrong.com.

I discovered the existence of this organisation on Twitter this week, and I simply couldn’t believe it. It’s a website that lets you to send a survey to somebody who dumped you, or stopped returning calls, or whatever it was, so you can find out why.

When faced with the sting of rejection, the greatest temptation, and worst thing you can do, is to get back in touch to ask for explanation. But just because you can now outsource that sobbing 3am voicemail to a convenient cloud-based system doesn’t make it any less dumb an idea. And I think the assumptions they have made in setting up this system for electronically picking over the entrails of one’s shattered dreams reflect the errors many of us make after a breakup.

The sample template they provide in the “How It Works” section of their website suggests sending an email to your ex that goes like this:

I had a dream that we went out.

With the first four words, Martin Luther King has been evoked. Surely a bad start for any communique with a less lofty aim than achieving racial equality.

But surely that couldn’t have happened, because you stopped calling!

This is meant to sound amusing and light-hearted, I’m guessing, but actually sounds as though the sender has entirely let slip their grasp on reality.

What went wrong??

Is it just me, or does that second question mark imply utter desperation?

Help me out and let me know. I won’t hold it against you 😉

There may never have been a more terrifying wink emoticon.

Seriously, who among us, on receiving such an email, would not make a mental note to tell all of our friends that we dodged a bullet because our ex turned out to be a psycho with a perplexing fondness for feedback?

The most common assumption we make after a dumping is that we made a mistake, and that if we hadn’t made it, everything would be fine. We want a do-over, much as, if you’ll allow me to recall arguably my most successful effort with a woman, I once saved Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros by figuring out how to sneak past various pipes containing fire-breathing Venus Fly Traps. Sure, I died hundreds of times along the way, but I triumphed in the end.

And then Peach had the nerve to go and get kidnapped again in the next Mario title. I’m beginning to think she genuinely prefers Bowser’s company.

The “mistake” analysis is often assisted by the language that dumpers tend to use in a misguided attempt to soften the blow. They’ll justify the breakup by saying that they’re really busy at work, or aren’t ready to commit yet, or it’s the wrong time, or they want to go travelling – citing some reason that’s external to the relationship.

This is almost always rubbish. Breakups occur because the other person either doesn’t love you any more, or never really did. They’re either interested in somebody else, or want to have the space in their life for the possibility. And it’s what nobody ever says, because we tend to avoid, y’know, stabbing one another through the heart.

In this situation there is only one piece of advice with any value: Find somebody who feels more for you. Of course, this sucks, but it’s the truth, at least. And grasping that nettle is less painful in the long term, and far more educational than getting some stupid page of ticked boxes.

Besides, wouldn’t you feel worse receiving impersonal, heartless multiple choice answers about why the person you wanted chose to stomp on your dreams? How, in any way, would this help? Wouldn’t it snap the few remaining threads of self-esteem you have left? Wouldn’t it give stark certainty to all the nagging self-doubts you tried to quell during the relationship?

The other problem with WotWentWrong issue is the impossibility of change. Sure, you can change your behaviour, but not your personality. If you need a lot of time with your partner, or conversely large amounts of space, then why would that change, and why should it? I’m not saying you don’t need to communicate and put effort into making a relationship work, but square pegs don’t go into round holes, if you’ll forgive a metaphor that’s slightly obscene in this context. Better to find a square hole, and again, let’s assume we’re just talking about woodwork.

But there is a reason to be genuinely optimistic, and it’s because the entire premise of WotWentWrong is flawed. A relationship is the sum total of two people’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Unless you’re one of these unfortunates who’s serially attracted to partners who are bad for them, there is absolutely no reason to assume that your next relationship will be anything like your last one. Call this the 500 Days Of Summer theorem: some relationships just don’t work, and some just do. (And that’s not a spoiler, because they begin the film by saying it doesn’t work out for Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so there.) Why? Just because. There is no deeper explanation.

All of this is bad enough, but WotWentWrong has one last dastardly trick up its sleeve: an option that lets the dumper send unsolicited feedback.

To clarify, it lets you send a feedback form to someone you’ve rejected who hasn’t asked for it. Yes. That.

At first, this made me think that WotWentWrong should be banned under the international conventions against cruel and unusual punishment, but then I realised its usefulness. What better way to get over somebody than receiving a hideous, prefabricated template detailing their moral justification for breaking your heart?

And surely that’s the best thing you can hope to get for from any breakup. Not an explanation, not handy tips that’ll make you less of a candidate for Dumpsville the next time around, but coming to share your ex’s belief that it wouldn’t have worked, and that you’re better off without them.

And you don’t need WotWentWrong for that. You wouldn’t even need a site with a properly spelt name for that. So I’m sorry, WotWentWrong – it’s not me, it’s you. Consider this article unsolicited feedback.

This piece originally appeared on Daily Life

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