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If you’ve ever been involved with a Mr/Miss Unavailable, you will be familiar with being managed right down into their status quo. If you imagine that on a scale of 1-10, their status quo is that they like things to be around a 5, whatever they do whether it’s blowing smoke up your bum and promising you the world or insisting that things will be different “this time” (going into 7,8 + territory), or whether it’s at the opposite end and frustrating you to the point where things become mighty tense or you give them the heave ho, if they have their way (they love doing things on their terms), they’ll eventually manage you and things back to 5.

One of the things that I’ve noticed about us humans though is that we are very loyal to our habits, even the ones that bring us pain and keep us in our uncomfortable comfort zone and this got me thinking:

When we end up in a cycle of doing and thinking variations of the same thing and expecting different results (think Relationship Insanity + the disappointment cycle), we are guilty of managing ourselves into our own status quo. We turn down the heat on ourselves as if we’re afraid we’ll overcook it.

Sound familiar?

You accomplish something really good. Maybe you get that job or promotion that you’ve been vying for. Maybe you win that client. Maybe you buy your dream property or start that business you’ve been talking about for ages. Instead of soaking up your success and giving you a pat on the back, you enjoy the good feelings for a nanosecond and then you get into a big fight with someone that on reflection, you wonder what the hell you were truly kicking off about. Or you get in touch with your ambivalent ex to share in your good tidings (Are you on feckin’ crack?) or you go on the hunt for problems and end up whipping you into a state of anxiety.

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Who peopl are

When people share their stories with me and a recurring theme emerges, I ask: If we look at this story a different way, why are you consistently attracted to and involved with partners who pretty much need to spontaneously combust into another person with a different set of values and habits in order to make you happy?

Many people believe that if a person loves you, they’ll change and make you the exception to their rule of behaviour and when this doesn’t happen, they personalise it and blame their worth. Why is our happiness and sense of purpose tied up in whether we can get somebody to make us the exception to their rule of behaviour?

‘I Can Change Him/Her’ syndrome is a habit of engaging in relationships that are fixer uppers. Like property, it’s where you take on a partner due to what you regard as their potential due to the return on investment you’ll make from renovating, redesigning, or even stripping them right back and raising them from the ground up.

Someone with an I Can Change Him/Her habit of thinking and behaviour believes that the love and relationship is valuable if they have to work hard for or even fight for it and ultimately be made the exception. This is a key reason why people get involved with unavailable partners especially the heavy duty commitment dodger and assclown versions. When the person blows hot or throws crumbs, it feels like more than the loaf that could be gotten from an available partner.

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Dear So-and-so. You're officially off the hook. Congratulations to me too

Being let off the hook is about being released out of what could be an unpleasant or at the very least difficult situation, or being released out of something that we don’t want to do. When we feel that we or someone is on the hook for something, it’s fundamentally tied to a sense of obligation, after all, if we didn’t feel that we or they were duty bound to do something, we’d opt out without fanfare. The decision to step away wouldn’t be laden with such turbulent emotions and even a fear of appearing forgiving.

Two scenarios in life are likely to hold on tight to the negativity even if it’s near killing us to do so:

#1 We do something that affects us in such a major way that we feel that it’s too big to let go. We feel so angry and even ashamed about where we feel that we’ve erred that we relive it and critique ourselves for it as often as needed, just in case we forget and eff up all over again. Our inner critic berates and punishes us under the misguided impression that we will be prevented from whatever it fears for us. It then becomes that we won’t be self-compassionate and forgive ourselves because we think that we’re taking the easy way out. We feel that we haven’t served a long enough sentence.

#2 Somebody burns us and we feel so angry, hurt, and sad, that it becomes our purpose and security blanket. We either chase them for their remorse debt like a bailiff or we make it our vocation to change this person or to prove ourselves worthy of their better selves because not doing so has us afraid that 1) we’ll look like a fool and that 2) we’ll be making life too easy for them. We then feel obliged to pursue this person for what we feel is a suitable response because otherwise, we then feel that we’ve failed in our obligation to ourselves. Unfortunately, trying to make sure that they stay on the hook can cost us our dignity because we often end up saying and doing things that we later come to regard as at best embarrassing and at worst, humiliating.

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Is the friendship appropriate?

We are creatures of habit and have to pay close attention to where there are running themes in our lives because it points to where we are not only repeating a pattern of thinking and behaviour but that we’re doing so because we’re getting something out of it.

A recurring theme that some Fallback Girls/Guys experience in unavailable relationships is being the person who lends a willing ear, a shoulder to lean on, and even a bed to lie in for people who are having doubts about their current relationship, who want to have a bitch and a gripe about their partners, and who essentially want to avoid their problems by enjoying the attentions of an interested but nonetheless inappropriate party. It may be that you have the label of ‘friend’ but tend to be disruptive in this person’s relationships, believing that you have the right to do so because you’re friends and that anybody who doesn’t understand this and hold back comment about it mustn’t be right for this person. You may feel quite territorial about the friendship and struggle to step back. You’ll let them know that you’ll be there when not if something goes wrong.

It’s very possible that you’re either an ex or that at one point you expressed interest or even slept together but then for whatever reason something didn’t happen and you’ve instead ensured that you’re a fixture in their life and can keep an eye on what’s going on. While you might be open about this, it’s very possible that you have buried your feelings and so are not even aware of how your (and their) behaviour plays out. It’s also very possible that you keep in touch with this person behind their partner’s back. Note: If it’s a secret, it’s inappropriate.

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re a Buffer - someone who takes up an emotional airbag role with a view that once you’ve shown how indispensable and supportive you are, they will get over their ex and choose you. Buffer means rebound relationship territory. You have The Replacement Mentality so you tend to see your way into involvements as you effectively replacing somebody who couldn’t do their ‘job’ properly.

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Wolfie saying ' The pig won't notice that I'm a wolf if I say that I want a future with her'

Any toxic relationship that I’ve been involved in, has always kept going due to me essentially cherry-picking what I wanted to remember about the person and the relationship whether romantic or otherwise. While I did spend most of my life feeling wounded by my father’s absence and the sporadic periods or even moments spent with him, what I mostly remembered was how I felt around him and the happy times, which of course there were some but I’d admittedly romanticised the hell out of them. I’d selectively remember spending visitations with him and how thrilled I always was to see him, but I’d conveniently forget how we used to sit on the side of a cricket pitch or in some pub and how I’d have to pretend that I didn’t want to spend real quality time with him. I wanted to be involved instead of being an observer or accessory.

I was a sucker for a returning Mr Unavailable. Suddenly my resentment, hurt, frustration and all of the things that I’d identified as being unhealthy or unsuited to me were forgotten and instead I’d press the Reset Button and be back to the time before they first started showing signs of who they were and what was to come. Each time one particular ex that I dated on and off for four years and saw a handful of times a year phoned (this started around 96/97 so it was all landlines and radio silence in between), I only remembered possibilities, how I wanted to feel, and what I perceived as his good points – tall, made me laugh, good looking, clever, smelled of Polo Sport, good kisser. It clearly didn’t take much! What I didn’t remember – he vanished after each date despite making out that we were imminently seeing each other again, he was ridiculously ambiguous, sometimes pretentious, talked a lot and mostly about himself, and he did a couple of really disingenuous things that communicated that he wasn’t to be confided in.

I also returned to a highly toxic relationship that left me anxious, unable to sleep, and questioning everything about me right down to my race and I’ve given out more chances to other exes because basically I’d forget the downside of being with and around them.

Even if we focus on a person’s good points, we will always deal with the consequences of them coming as a full package.

And this is ultimately where anyone who has ever tried to remain with or get back together with somebody for the ‘good points’ ends up feeling the pain: They remain or go back because they’re blinded to the whole package due to wanting to reap the benefits of those points. They represent potential and seeing the person as a whole represents disappointment. They wish they could extract these points and multiply them into being full-time, but this all ends up happening at an increasing real-time, full package cost that isn’t worth it.

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My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!