It’s Not You, It’s Me: How Our Brains Betray Us

Nicole Peeler
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readJan 24, 2024

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Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

I used to believe that I “had a broken picker,” when it came to relationships. It’s a common phrase used for those drawn to the incompatible, which can range from mildly unsuitable to actively toxic.

It’s also an odd phrase, when unpacked. It sounds self-reflective, and yet it’s ultimately blaming: the other person is broken. They are the bad pick. It puts the shoe on the other foot, as it were.

Then one day a different idea hit me:

What if I was the broken pick?

I came to this realization the good, old-fashioned way — by running into the same wall for the hundredth time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been blessed with enough luck or self-preservation never to fall for a truly bad hat. But I did spend a lot of time chasing unavailable people with whom, when we finally got together, I realized weren’t a great fit. At best, we didn’t have that much in common. At worst, a few were actively shifty.

I was like a fisherman who would feel a tug and pull, not knowing whether there was a prize-winning bass or an old tire at the other end of the line. And yet this wasn’t my fault.

It was my picker.

Everything came to a head when I found myself embroiled in a bizarre parody of a relationship– a “non-relationship,” as it were. The other person was brilliant, funny, and charming. They were also diagnosed with the sort of mental illness that, I now understand, means they can’t come across another person’s boundary without trying to detonate it.

When I say “non-relationship” I mean that this person and I were not dating. We never had sex. I was not attracted to them, and it would not have been sensible to date this person. They made it very clear that they weren’t a good partner, due to their diagnosis. In fact, because they cared for me so much as a friend, they would never risk losing me by dating me.

What transpired was a comedy of banal errors. Cut to a year later and this person and I are still not physically intimate nor are we a couple, but we go everywhere together. They’re driving my car. They’re coming home with me on holidays. Everyone thinks we’re dating. A past hook up of mine, an absolute stray cat, laments to a mutual friend that they missed…

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