The mistake that many make when they attempt to insert boundaries into their lives is trying to rule others with boundaries because they think that boundaries serve a purpose of controlling other people’s behaviour. They think that they’re solely or mainly about knowing and handling the things that we don’t like and accept in others. Yes, boundaries are in part about guiding and directing others about what does and doesn’t work for us but, this doesn’t need to take the form of confrontation or big talks, or trying to amend other people’s behaviour.

Boundaries are an expression of our self-esteem. They’re the result of the way in which we conduct ourselves and how we express awareness of our line and our limit.

Good fences make good neighbours.

Putting aside what others are doing, what are we actively doing to conduct our lives with healthy boundaries?

Do we go about the business of living from a place of being conscious, aware, present, and showing up as who we truly are, or are we reacting to what comes along?

One is about having active responses driven by choices, preferences, and ownership of how we want to feel and live, and the other is about bumbling along and reacting to whatever life throws us.

The problem with basing our lives around reacting in the main is that it causes us to drift and in fact stray very far from who we are at the core because reacting is what happens when we’re living unconsciously in a pattern where we slip into default and autopilot mode. There is a fundamental lack of consideration for the bigger picture (for our needs, desires, expectations, feelings, opinions and values) because we consider a very limited amount of information rooted in fear.

Are you assuming what others think/feel or assuming what’s right for them?

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A lingering question when we’ve been involved in an unavailable relationship and then they appear to commit elsewhere is, Were they actually emotionally unavailable or was it that we were incompatible? We often ponder this question when despite the fact that there are signs indicating the lack of ‘presence’ in the relationship and we have the evidence of our own unhappiness and frustration, it’s almost like we want to take it to a level where we can say, “Ha! That’s what was wrong! I wasn’t ________ enough or didn’t have ________”. Of course we’re forgetting in all of this that if we acknowledged our own true needs, expectations, desires, feelings, and opinions, we would recognise where we were being short-changed.

Unavailable relationships feature two people who are compatible in the emotional sense. Water seeks its own level.

If we continue in an involvement with a person who is coming from a level of awareness where they are avoiding their feelings, thoughts, commitment etc, we cannot claim to be emotionally available to them because they are not looking to have that level of a relationship. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re so much more available than they are but let’s think about it: if they’re holding back and subtly and directly creating negative consequences for vulnerability, are we really going to lay ourselves out?

In reality, it’s only when we look back that we recognise the ways in which we have edited and shaved ourselves down in order to stop the proverbial horse from bolting but also to protect us from being hurt.

In a wider sense, once we say that we want something else and diverging values become apparent and basically, we are losing ourselves and not getting our needs, expectations etc met within the relationship, we are then incompatible. So there’s synergy emotional unavailability wise but from a, Hey, let’s have a mutually fulfilling relationship with love, care, trust, respect, shared values plus the landmarks, commitment, intimacy, progression, balance and consistency position, there isn’t.

We get the relationship that fits us at the time.

If we are unavailable, lacking self- awareness, unable to take responsibility for ourselves, edging towards or prone to codependency, it doesn’t make sense for us to be with an emotionally available, ready for a big ‘ole grown-up relationship, partner. We are not conducting our life in a way that is conducive to that type of relationship experience.

We get the relationship that fits with us emotionally at the time in the sense that it’s going to show us a few things and grow us.

If we heed the lesson and truly absorb the positive insights so that we take better care of ourselves, our next relationship will not be a copy of the last, which is often the case for people who ride the unavailable relationship merry-go-round. If we don’t heed the lesson then it will just present itself in a more painful, in-your-face way until we finally do.

The reason why people who were unavailable and unable to commit in the way that we wanted when we were involved with them, commit (or appear to commit) to somebody else, is either 1) because in the totality of their relationships, they’ve run out of credits and feel that they have to make a big move in order to prove something to themselves and others or because 2) the relationships that they had between a previous loss and this current relationship acted almost as an in-betweener or bridge to recovering from the loss and moving forward. Unfortunately we may not be fully aware that we are doing this or even when we are, we make the mistake of seeing it as a call to prove how worthy we are.

If we get involved with somebody who is 1) emotionally unavailable in general or 2) recently out of another relationship or trauma or 3) reaching the totality of relationships where it’s pretty difficult to ignore some big booming lessons, the odds are that we and possibly another couple of people or so, will be the in-betweener before they seemingly ‘settle’.

This highlights where we can get too focused on what we think is so wrong (or right) with us and where we can fall into the trap of seeing a relationship as existing in a vacuum where time, space, and other relationships and experiences bear no relevance.

Yes, I know we can feel intensely about a person but we stepped into their lives at a certain point in time. They have history. They didn’t just fall out of the sky and come alive when we stepped into the frame. They are an individual entity in their own right and if we make everything about us and our worth, we neglect to recognise not only where they’re fitting into the bigger picture of our life and what we might stand to learn from this relationship, but also how they’ve got their own bigger picture and experiences that they need to learn and grow from too. We don’t always know the ins and outs of a person’s journey (even if we’re convinced that we do) and each person’s almost jigsaw puzzle is different.

If, for instance, we are one in a number of relationships that they’ve had where the same issues keep showing up, odds are that unless they’re living up their own bottom and unwilling to eventually grow their awareness, it’s going to hit them that they can’t keep blaming it on whatever they’ve been blaming it on and that they need to approach things differently. This means that if we go out with somebody who is typically unavailable and who is always not over one of their exes and is avoiding their feelings, we’re contributing to the totality of their experiences and at some point, they’re likely to reach a tipping point. It doesn’t mean that they’ll make a good decision when they do – plenty of people panic and knee-jerk in these situations if they haven’t done the work or they glorify somebody in the hopes that they’ll be their salvation and then discover that they still have to show up.

The way to avoid this is: At the point where it becomes apparent that 1) they’re unavailable, 2) you’re losing yourself or 3) they want different things and are clearly not ready for a relationship involving emotional maturity, get out. If you hang around trying to make a point or trying to make them change etc, you run the risk of decimating your self-esteem while rehabbing them for another relationship and an epiphany.

Call it unavailability, call it incompatibility but the net result is the same – it’s not going to work. It’s important to acknowledge this because if you keep looking back and hankering for a relationship that wasn’t working in the wider sense and keeping telling you that this relationship was “perfect” for you or that this was as good as it gets for you, or that you can only be with this person and that you’re wronged by it not working out, you’re making you unavailable for an available relationship and you’re limiting your options because you’re telling you that you’re in alignment with something that’s either unavailable or incompatible.

Your thoughts?

woman with hands over her eyes

Sometimes we can be so afraid of replicating a past relationship that we bring that relationship into our present one instead of being conscious, aware and present so that we can acknowledge the differences including our own personal growth and actually enjoy the relationship for whatever it is. We forget that we’re not that woman/man anymore. We forget that the only reason for us to fear that we are in a repeater version of a past relationship is if we have entered into this new involvement with the same thinking baggage and behaviour that we entered into prior involvement with. If we have gone into a relationship with the same viewpoints that contributed to problems before then our concerns are valid although manageable if we take responsibility for our choices now instead of blindly continuing with the pattern – we can ‘wake up’ – but we do us a disservice when we spend too much time thinking about who we were ‘back then’ instead of what we’ve learned since then and applying it.

When we don’t have the reassurance that comes with having a fairly good grasp on who we are and our values, fear of uncertainty will dictate because we lack the self-knowledge and self-awareness that would mean us being sure of ourselves. Because we are looking for the world or whoever it is that’s around us to tell us who we are or to tell us that we are OK, we end up being unsure of who we are and only feel temporarily OK after reassurance because we don’t have our own back. We get caught up in the cycle of measuring and estimating ourselves against what we think that person wants us to be or what we think the dating pool or society wants.

Due to that lack of self assurance and self-reliance, it means that we are not confident in trusting our gut, intuition and values on what does and doesn’t feel good and right for us. As a result, we’re either going to struggle to opt out of a situation that isn’t working for us or we’re going to struggle to trust a situation that is working for us because we lack self-trust and may even be petrified of making a mistake and getting it “wrong”.

We treat it as if it’s our one-shot. It feels as if the stakes are high.

Are you in the betting shop putting whatever money you have on a horse that you’re hoping you’re “good feeling about this” pays off, all while knowing that if the horse doesn’t coming that you’ll go bust and you won’t have your rent/mortgage money or be able to pay off your debts or support you?


If this is where you’re at with dating, I don’t blame you for feeling anxious. Imagine being in that betting shop. You’d be clutching your slip, your guts would be at you (unless you’re one of those gamblers that believes it right up until they lose) and you’d be so tense and afraid that you probably wouldn’t be breathing properly. A horse race lasts for a few minutes but imagine feeling like that over a period of weeks or months? It would be agony! I’m the type of person who if I were feeling like that, I’d have bubble guts with the stress of it all, never mind the toll it would take on my mental, emotional and overall physical health. Imagine leaving the house every day poised for somebody to mug you? You’d be veering between scared and defensive and spending 100% of your time braced for something that isn’t happening.

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I've had to go inward. I've had to take care of me from the inside out. I'm still standing.

Over nine years of going to acupuncture plus osteopath and chiropractor sessions in recent years, has taught me that where we feel the pain (unless we’ve had a specific injury to that place) or what we think it’s about, isn’t necessarily the source of the pain. We might have pain in our feet but it can be coming down from back, hip and neck issues that we’ve ignored or certainly played down. Similarly, when life serves us up a series of painful lessons for us to finally heed something, there is a journey we travelled to get to that point. They don’t happen in isolation; there are contributing factors that we have had warnings about.

At the point where it’s too big to ignore and/or we’re now experiencing the pain from the fallout, we are responding not just to what happened but all the stuff that came before it.

I don’t mind telling you all that the last twelve months or so have been mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually challenging. Yesterday I twigged that when this period of my life began, ten years before in 2004, I was also being put through my paces. I’ve had to call on everything I’ve learned and talked about over almost ten years of writing Baggage Reclaim, in order to come out the other side of these challenges. I’m still standing.

After previous challenging experiences, I’ve felt like more of a grownup and one of the things that’s come out of going through the wringer is recognising that I’m always growing up. There is no destination. I keep evolving. There’s a fluidity. But you know what? It’s damn feckin annoying because there’s a part of me that’s thinking, Ah for feck’s sake! Surely that’s me all sewn up on that front, and then I learn about it from a different angle and essentially get my self-knowledge and self-awareness put to the test.

Like me, many BR readers have gone through the grief that comes with having a kid inside of you that has been wounded by past experiences. Throw in difficult adult experiences such as relationships (romantic and otherwise), that are based on patterns honed in childhood and we have had some work to do in order to evolve and to loosen the grip of the past.

Over this last year, I’ve experienced challenging maternal relationships – mother and in-law – that came on the back of a series of things (crazy landlords, buying our new home, crazy work person, brother in mental health institution, brother-in-law hospitalised, father briefly popping into my life after a 2 now 3-year absence and the list goes on). You hope to have time to recover from things but each time I started to get my groove back, the next thing came. After a Christmas Day Dynasty/Dallas-style showdown between the mothers which resulted in some painful revelations, it brought up feelings that I hadn’t experienced for quite some time. I was furious. I felt so betrayed. I felt so disappointed and it amplified an inner whisper that the grownups (as in family elders), just can’t be frickin’ trusted.

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When you really take the time to get to know you, you will find that as a result of paying attention to your feelings, opinions, needs, expectations and desires, you are not only armed with a great deal of self-knowledge and self-awareness but you have so much more power in your life because you know your own bullsh*t (BS).

As humans, we’re all prone to BS’ng ourselves to lesser and greater degrees but the great thing is that when we know our own and we own it instead of believing it, we are coming from an entirely different level of awareness to somebody who doesn’t acknowledge their self-deception for what it is.

What we have to be careful of when we find ourselves engaging with somebody who lacks self-awareness and connectivity to reality and even consideration of others, is that if we don’t recognise that they just don’t see things the way that we do, we’ll do the equivalent of bashing our head on the table in frustration because we’re trying to make sense out of nonsense. We forget that, for instance, if we have a conscience, empathy, integrity, a need for respect, that a person who doesn’t have those things or certainly doesn’t care about those things, isn’t coming from our perspective and is not going to be inclined to come over to our point of view.

NEVER argue with someone who believes their own lies

I’ve dealt with my fair share of people who believe their own lies – I just don’t even engage anymore. If you take the bait or don’t step back when you realise that they’re smoking way too much crack and living at Deception Projects, you won’t take protective measures and will end up drained out. It’s a misuse of your energy. It’s like when you have one of those ridiculous arguments with a drunk person when you’re sober (or certainly not as inebriated) – complete waste of time! And they keep repeating themselves or they latch on to one word or part of a sentence that you said and go completely off topic and forget what they’ve said and done.

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At a surprise party a few months back, I noticed something about the birthday girl: she was near having palpitations due to not being the organiser and she was visibly stressed about receiving gifts and compliments. She didn’t know how to receive.

If you struggle to receive compliments, gifts, help, support etc., you have receiving issues and in actual fact, you’re also likely to be an over-giving people pleaser (over-givers tend to under-receive), possibly because each time somebody does something for you, you feel as if you have to bump up your efforts and almost prove that you were worth the effort. A gift can’t be a gift and help can’t be help; you’ll be stressing over how you can show your appreciation and privately relieve the uneasiness caused by the gift or help.

Sometimes you just need to say “Thank you” or accept whatever it is rather than trying to be and do everything yourself. You also don’t have to be in control all of the time and there doesn’t need to be payback. Let [the right] people in.

When you struggle to receive, what people don’t often realise is the internal struggle that you go through when people try to do things for you. They don’t know about how it can trigger feelings of low self-worth or bring up unpleasant associations. It can bring up the secret fear that they have a perception of you that they’ve based this giving on that you worry about not living up to. There can be an irrational pressure where relieving that discomfort comes about from either shooting down their efforts or reciprocating (possibly over-reciprocating).

While there are people out there who give to receive (which is not the same as giving or gifting), what you forget when you have receiving issues is that a genuine gift is something that the person willingly gives because they want to.

It’s done without an agenda or expectation of what you will give in return and it’s their way of saying, Thank you or I really appreciate you or I was thinking about you.

If you feel guilty and even obliged to come up with a gift of equal level (or more), that’s kinda killing the whole gifting vibe.

You’re saying, Thank you for the gift. It made me feel really uncomfortable and I was worried about what you (or others) might think of me if I didn’t give you something back. What if in not doing so, I committed a faux pas? I don’t understand why you’re doing something for me? What are you expecting? I’m the pleaser – what are you trying to do? Usurp me? Ugh. You got all of that from a gift? That sounds more like a burden!

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Habitual lateness sends the message that you and your time are the only factors worthy of your consideration

If you’ve ever stood (or sat) around waiting for somebody who is late, you will understand how frustrating and downright awkward this can be, especially when they either don’t warn you that they’re going to be late or they have a habit of being late on the regular. Equally, if you are typically late and have received flack for it, you may struggle to understand what the problem is because from your end of things, you either feel that there are genuine reasons for your lateness or that they’re making an unnecessarily big deal out of it.

A friend of mine was recently kept waiting for four hours – yes, you did read that correctly. Four feckin hours. That is far beyond the bounds of acceptability. My first thought was, What’s so special about this guy that you’d circle around Victoria station for a few hours while he hung out in the pub with his mates?

We know when we’re going to be fifteen minutes late and a person who is four hours late knew this some time between one and two hundred and forty minutes before they decided that they would bother to show up.

The way that you feel about and deal with timekeeping is really a matter of values, namely your personal values, the ones that speak for your character.

Sure, there will be people who will argue up and down about how culture has its part to play in the acceptability of lateness but we can all think of generalisations that are made about cultures and races that are not actually true of the people we encounter from these.

It’s not that things don’t happen and that none of us can ever be late but how we typically treat time does say a lot about how much we respect other people’s time as well as our own.

People who don’t really care about keeping people waiting or disrupting their schedules, have an over-inflated sense of their own importance. When did common courtesy die a death? In an age where you could almost say that we’re over-connected, how the hell can a person fail to notify us that they’re going to be late when we have mobile phones, texts, email, Facebook, WhatsApp, IM, Skype, Twitter, Instagram and the list goes on?

We’ve got to quit with this bullsh*t, super busy malarkey. Habitual lateness (super late people) is just an extension of this whole carrying on as if we’re busier than a world leader. No we’re not!

When we don’t respect and value our own time (boundaries), we over-promise ourselves in the name of pleasing and fear of saying no, winding up malnourished in the self-care department. We also don’t acknowledge where our concept of how long it’s going to take to do something or get somewhere, is inaccurate.

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self-esteem offers a great deal of self-protection, something you don't get when you're reliant on external esteem

Do you remember many moons ago when the internet was shiny and new and you used to get excited about receiving an email? I remember when dating websites started and how love was blossoming all over the place. I also remember two things that most of us gradually became aware of : there are people out there who send spam designed to either wreck your computer or gain your hard earned money, and there are people online who are not what they seem.

Back in the day when my friends and I used to spend our weekends in nightclubs pretending to be on a girls night out but secretly hungering for ‘Mr Right’ to show up on the dancefloor, we used to wisecrack to slippery guys who were laying on the charm and trying to sell us a fantasy, “Are you trying to 419 me?”

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with what 419 means, it’s a type of fraud typically associated with those emails telling you that the person has come into a large amount of cash that for some OTT reason, they cannot have access to or put it in their own bank account. Incidentally, it’s called 419 due to a section of Nigerian law that deals with it (419 is very associated with Nigeria although not limited to it by any stretch). They promise victims a share of the money for handling the funds on [the scammer’s] behalf and then shazam, clean out their accounts. Some of them offer a share of the money for a fee and then on receiving it, just keep tapping up the victims for more. I watched something a couple of years ago or so (I forget which show) which highlighted how some people had been scammed numerous times and were kept on lists by criminal gangs.

Over the years, many of us have become savvy about spam and recognising that a person’s online persona may be very (or entirely) different to their true self.

As a result, we have installed anti virus and we know that our banks won’t ask us to email our password or bank account details; we know to check the email address of the sender because often it’s entirely different to the company that they’re claiming to be from, and we also know to be suspicious of glaring typos from so-called big brands asking for our information. We tend to be suspicious of attachments when we’re unfamiliar with the sender, and people get exposed all the time for making up backgrounds and experiences in order to gain a following, money etc. Basically, we’ve gradually built up a knowledge base of things to look out.

When we found out about spam and viruses, we could have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and stopped using computers and email… but instead we’ve opted to try to be a bit more street smart and self-aware. We approach with caution and take our time. We have our Safe Senders which is the equivalent of our Circle of Trust. Similarly, there’s no need to give up dating and relationships.

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I knew it was going to be one of those crazy busy weeks – I have a Baggage Reclaim stall at the Blogtacular conference tomorrow and am currently waiting for my youngest to finish her first ballet exam (she had a meltdown ten minutes beforehand – give me strength!) – and so I made another video, and this time, it’s on the subject of when somebody tells you that, “No one will love you better [than me]”, and the equally as bad, “I’m the one who loves you the most”. Talk about having a big ego! I mean – how exactly do they know what the potential is for you to be loved and how exactly did they come to the conclusion that they love you the most? And that’s where you get a really big clue about how that person is perceiving you and how they basically have an overinflated sense of their own importance. Check out the video below. You can also listen to the audio version.

The key message that I really want people to take away from this video is, don’t allow anybody to devalue you and to keep inflating their crumb contribution into a loaf while trying to make out as if you couldn’t do any better. That’s not love; it’s control. It’s also very bloody patronising. Once you stop caring that much, they stop having that much control and you’ll stop being weighed down by the mind effery of being involved with them.

Take care of you.

Your thoughts?

At what point do we say, “Enough”? It needs to be at the point where we’re feeling so desperate to keep someone in our life that we’re willing to let go of everything that needs to matter to us – our sense of self, our values, and most certainly, our boundaries and standards. It pains me when readers tell me harrowing stories of how they’re near begging somebody who doesn’t treat them with love, care, trust and respect, to come back or stay. They’d rather have some crumbs rather than no crumbs because the relationship has robbed them of the strength to leave. I’ve often threatened to show up at their homes by coming through their roof in an orange jumpsuit, intervention style. I may make this a reality the way some of you are going!

That’s why I made this video, Set The Standard. We cannot accept substandard treatment, least of all from ourselves. Watch the video, or you can listen to the audio, or read the transcript below.

It’s vital that we set the standard for how we are treated. This doesn’t mean that we take responsibility for other people’s feelings and behaviour but what it does mean is that we have to recognise that if we do not treat and regard ourselves with love, care, trust and respect, we are putting out the wrong message. We are sending out a message to anybody that is around us that, Hey, this is the standard that I have set for myself. It is OK for you to treat me similarly or worse.

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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!
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