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Before I faced up to how I felt about my childhood, my relationships, and ultimately the way I truly felt about me as a result of these and any choices I was making in adulthood, I’d be asked about what I was looking for in a relationship and respond with wisecracks, regaling whoever it was with tales of shadiness and unavailability. My past was very much in my present and because I didn’t really know who I was and what I ultimately needed, wanted, and expected within a relationship, instead of articulating who I was and my hopes and aspirations, I would speak about what really represented my pain and in some respects, my nightmares. And really, how could I expect to move forward when I was so immersed in my past – living it, thinking about it, going out with variations of my parents, trying to right the wrongs of the past, holding onto hurt and even grudges plus believing that I was experiencing an extended run of bad luck and that something ‘about me’ was provoking everything that wasn’t right about my life?

If the past keeps calling your attentions and efforts, it prevents you from enjoying the present and moving forward.

You don’t experience ‘now’ and the future isn’t something that’s regarded as unwritten because you veer between predicting doom based on the past or speculating about whether you can make the past different in the future. The past dominates. Until it’s put into a healthy perspective where you can live in your present, you just end up feeling disappointed because the past keeps showing up in your thoughts and actions which of course affects your beliefs and your choices and so round and round you go on The Disappointment Cycle. Let’s also not forget that life keeps throwing similar lessons your way via your experiences, if you’re using the same thinking and actions. You move on from a lesson when you truly learn and heed it.

My takeaway lessons tended to be centered on my worth (‘I’m not good enough’) and homing in on a few things in the relationship, which looking back, while there’s no doubt that these were factors, my focusing on these, distorted the thinking behind subsequent choices especially because focusing on certain points about a person whether they’re good or bad reduces a person from being a whole while also giving the impression that these points tell the whole story.

If I thought that I’d been ‘too outgoing’ in one relationship, the next time I’d try to water me down… only I wouldn’t recognise me anymore. The net result was the same – I wasn’t being myself in either of these relationships. I felt controlled in one relationship with a big age gap so next time I went out with someone who was younger and seemingly passive but who was actually quite passive aggressive so the net result was the same – jealousy, possessiveness, and actually, Yet Another Toxic Relationship.

It’s The (Polar) Opposites Game. You try to escape the thing you focus on and wind up with the same thing or even worse even if it feels as if you chose someone really different. Different qualities and characteristics (or assumed there were), similar dynamic.

It’s like going, ‘My last ex drank too much so I’ll be with a teetotaler’ but that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t end up being in a similar unhealthy dynamic. Take it from someone who has tried out each type of unavailable relationship for size…. ‘My last ex didn’t call very much so this time I’m going to prioritise getting someone who calls’. While calling is good, it’s not the whole picture. ‘My last ex didn’t want to do enough exciting things in bed so this time I’m going to be with someone who’s wild in bed.’ That doesn’t mean that the relationship will be better; it’ll be sexier.

Let’s be real, many people have shagged around or had an emotional affair with The Person Who Understands Me Better Than My Existing Partner TM, behind their partner’s backs…and yet not left that relationship or been in for a short, sharp surprise that what they’d focused on to the exclusion of . It’s because neither is the solution to their own avoidance and lack of self-awareness about what they need, expect, and want in a relationship, as well as where they also need to step up for themselves.

One of the things that you become more aware of when your own thinking, actions, and choices are rooted in healthy self-awareness including knowing your values and what you need to experience to know that you’re in a mutually fulfilling relationship with all of the ‘landmarks’, is that unless you lack self-awareness and are even in denial about your own contribution to relationships, out of respect for each partner, you don’t choose partners based on what one has versus what one doesn’t.

When we enter into relationships in the present, we are self-aware enough to get a reading on our feelings and to ensure that we’re ultimately stepping up for ourselves. If we choose partners based primarily on being past-focused, not only does it become about comparing instead of the merit of the relationship and what we want, need, and hope for right now and going forward, but it can also result in us not truly learning from our experiences. We have to evaluate and process how something has affected us and this does take a willingness to have an honest conversation with ourselves and to have enough self-compassion and good boundaries to not focus on blame and to instead focus on taking away growth lessons from these experiences so that we can move forward. We don’t forget the past but it becomes about being here now and talking about what we do want and need as a representation of who we are, not as a response to pain we continue to be in. I used to cart a lot of baggage around with me but it was offloading the excessive baggage, the pain, the distorted stuff, and repacking while ‘reclaiming’ myself, that was freeing.

Your thoughts?

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56 Responses to Carting excess baggage around puts the past on repeat. Offload, repack, reclaim.

  1. 13years says:

    Hi Nat, Gee I love your posts…. I get a takeaway from each and every one of them, even when I don’t totally relate to the topic. I’ve been single for 13 years after 3 marriages to variations of my parents worst traits (depressed and withdrawn, alcoholic control freak, then whiney alcoholic). All three of these men have moved on to successful relationships with other women, who admittedly have to deal with their man’s ongoing issues, but these women don’t seem to mind them…. whereas I couldn’t live with them. So, in some kind of odd twist of story, could this mean that the behaviours that I couldn’t deal with with these men … weren’t all that bad…. but because they were highlighted back at me from my childhood issues with my parents marriage relationship, that I somehow magnified them out of proportion ?

    • lizzp says:

      “When we enter into relationships in the present, we are self-aware enough to get a reading on our feelings and to ensure that we’re ultimately stepping up for ourselves. If we choose partners based primarily on being past-focused, not only does it become about comparing instead of the merit of the relationship and what we want, need, and hope for right now and going forward, but it can also result in us not truly learning from our experiences. We have to evaluate and process how something has affected us and this does take a willingness to have an honest conversation with ourselves and to have enough self-compassion and good boundaries to not focus on blame and to instead focus on taking away growth lessons from these experiences so that we can move forward. We don’t forget the past but it becomes about being here now and talking about what we do want and need as a representation of who we are, not as a response to pain we continue to be in.”

      Natalie, Thank you. This is wonderfully expressed and pretty much describes the emotional place within myself I am free to enter/embrace if I choose to. I’m grateful for the timely encouragement this article gives to me. xo

    • stephanie says:

      How do u know their marriages are successful? Just because someone has been married for a long time doesn’t equal success. You never know what going on and further u are different person than those other women and have may different levels of tolerance for certain behavior. U may have issues, but whether u married these men or not the relationships may not have worked anyway. Everybody that comes into our lives aren’t meant to be the person we are suppose to spend our lives with.

    • Pauline says:

      13years

      After living with an alcoholic ex husband I can tell you the best thing I ever did for myself was leave.
      Unless the alcoholic realises what is going on and seeks help, the problem just gets worse and worse and there is nothing you can do to fix it.
      I ended up going to a lot of meetings with Allanon which are there to support the children and partners of alcoholics. It helped me enormously to realise what was going on and to get me back on track.

      You are not magnifying anything out of proportion as these are serious health and mental health issues that affect too many people. Drinking, binge drinking with young kids and drug taking are in epidemic proportions in society these days.

      There is no such thing as a successful loving marriage with an alcoholic.
      Anyone who says so is a liar.
      The nature of the beast precludes anything even remotely resembling a “normal” well balanced relationship.
      The women/men who marry alcoholics are probably under the delusion that with all the love they can give it will fix the problem. It won’t unless the alcoholic decides to do something themselves.

      Don’t get it twisted and start thinking there is something wrong with you because you couldn’t cope with an alcoholic, there isn’t.

      • Mymble says:

        Pauline
        Absolute truth there and nicely expressed. Watching my alcoholic father go from marriage to marriage was a lesson I’ll never forget.

      • Tinkerbell says:

        The only bad thing my father did was drink himself to death. He was very loving and caring with my sister and me. However, his alcoholism contribute to family dysfunction, nevertheless. My mother had a long extramarital affair and stayed away at political meetings and functions alot. This caused us to feel needy, and not loved enough for her to be home for us. So I have to say that directly or indirectly it does help to destroy family and relationships.

    • Suki says:

      Hi 13years; I think when you say ‘successful’ relationship with other people, this touches on one of the posts that NL had this past week (the ‘why her’ or ‘why him’ feeling). ‘Depressed and withdrawn’ or ‘whiney alcoholic’. I’m not sure either of those are successful situations – there is no objective standard under which the question of ‘did i magnify out of proportion’ can be answered especially in serious questions like divorce (its not like you’re asking whether you magnified out of proportion when you got mad at a bus driver or cashier). Who knows how they make their relationships work currently – and its irrelevant. The fact that you see them for who they are means it would not have worked out for you. The real question for you is not about THEM – but about why you chose them or stayed with them. It sounds less like choosing what is your parent, and perhaps a version of keeping yourself unavailable.

  2. Able says:

    I’m so thankful I don’t have to spend another miserable valentines day (month, lets be real about it) IN a quasi relationship where I was always worrying about things going wrong while ignoring all the things that were wrong. If I found this blog a year ago… Ah, can’t do that coulda shoulda, but I’m glad you’re here writing your amazing blog and I found it when I did. Thank you!

  3. noquay says:

    13 years
    Sometimes our parents show us what to be, sometimes they show us what not to be. Ditto for choosing partners. None of the traits you mention sounds like anything even remotely tolerable. Your problem was choosing the familiar in the first place but you recognised it and moved on. Yep, there are a lot of women that’ll put up with control freaks, alcoholics which enforces that behavior, which is why such people then approach us. Since I have been sucking air for a good many years, I have developed an understanding of what works and what does not. Any deviations from this has resulted in disaster. Nat is right, picking a polar opposite of someone that hurt you is also a recipe for disaster. You could pick a strict teetotaller tomorrow but that’s no guarantee that he’d be compatible or truly available. After I found about the ACs double life, many suggested next time I settle for someone I wasn’t attracted to: problem is, there are also many unattractive men who are unavailable, very vicious and very narcissistic. We really have to suss out others as individual cases. Obviously we have certain preferences as to looks, stability, etc. We still have to assess character which takes a lot of time.

    • Ellie says:

      Agreed. My last AC was the polar opposite of my ex husband. Unattractive and rather nerdy, not my type whatsoever, seemed to have a wonderful personality though. I was wrong. After pretending to be into me for months on end, even talking marriage and kids, he dumped me without telling me and I had to find out about his “new ” relationship on Facebook, with a girl he claimed to be “just good friends” with. Sometimes the not so hot ones are just as bad as the ego driven good looking Romeos!

  4. Karen says:

    As usual, you have articulated a lesson that’s crucial to emotional growth. I finally got that all the losers I kept attracting were because deep inside that’s all I thought I deserved.
    With improved self esteem comes better self-care and sounder judgment.
    You’ve been an enormous help to me and I’m sure thousands of others by allowing us to learn by reading about your experiences and seeing ways in which you transcended the cycle of attracting unsuitable lovers, dates or mates. Thanks!

  5. dew drop says:

    <del
    thanks nat

  6. Allison says:

    13,

    Oh goodness, do not second guess. I know that I would not want to put up with those types of issues .

    Realize, you are not in those relationships , so you truly do not know how happy their partners are. Also, there are many who would rather settle than be alone.

    You did the right thing by ending those relationships , but now you must focus on what brought you to that type of dysfunction .

  7. ST says:

    Wow! I really really needed that post today. It’s been a hard struggle with lessons and taking them to be a learning process and not a negative. I enjoy reading thoughts that I feel/felt but didn’t they were felt by others too! Nat, girl keep doing what your doing and giving a voice to thoughts that some of us have had hidden or don’t understand! I appreciate your insight and can’t wait to read what’s next!!
    #Blessings in disguise!!!! :)

  8. Nat Attack says:

    I once had a professor who came down really hard on me in graduate school. He criticised me for not working hard enough, suggested that I do remedial work, and could very rarely find anything positive to say to me. My friends told me not to listen, but my professor’s negativity paralysed me for a year. Finally, after a year, I decided that I couldn’t live that way anymore. I said F**K HIM. F**K all of his noise. I am going to do things my way from now on. After I made that commitment to myself, I began enjoying the writing process again and produced much better work. That experience saved me. I am much more confident with my writing now, even in the face of rejection. And one of my stories even got published (yay!)

    I am working on transferring this confidence to my romantic life. I have to say F**CK my ex and all of his noise. When I hear the statements he uttered to me during the break-up in my mind, I have to swiftly contradict them. I must replace his lies with the belief that I am a good girlfriend, friend, and person and that I will find someone who wants to commit to a life with me, who wants to share himself and his life with me. I don’t need his criticism anymore, because it doesn’t help me become a better person. It’s time to trust my own judgment. It’s time to find my own way.

    • dancingqueen says:

      Nat Attack,

      I could SO relate to this; bravo for you!
      ” I have to say F**CK my ex and all of his noise. When I hear the statements he uttered to me during the break-up in my mind, I have to swiftly contradict them.”

      Honestly, that was a biggie for me this year; WHY am I giving other people’s negativity headspace or power in my life? It is MY choice to do so. They put it out there but I am the one, ultimately, who throws my soul-sponge down to mop up that mess as opposed to let it sit and dry. Gross imagery but that is what I think of it now as, a stain on the ground and I am taking my happy, clean little heart and mopping it up. Let it lie there and the sun can make it dry lol.

      You go! I had a negative mean grad school prof too and then a wonderful, patient one. Later I found out that EVERYONE thought that the mean one was just being mean to them. The other one will always have a special place in my heart; he had patience with me and helped me grow. I hope that I can do that for my students.

      • Nat Attack says:

        Dancing Queen,

        Thank you for your response! I appreciate it.

        I think that your ability to consider the needs of your students shows that you’re a good teacher. Not every teacher considers supporting student growth important. Sad, but true! All I want is for my students to believe in themselves. That’s my number one priority. I’m such a sap.

        And in terms of love, I want someone who will listen to all my stories, and someone who will tell me all of theirs. I want a deep friendship that is always growing, even when there are difficulties. I want someone who will be my best friend and family. I’ve never spent time articulating these things until recently. One of my friends calls this type of thinking Rational Romance. I think it’s a wonderful term.

  9. tiffrbug says:

    Nat,
    Thank you again for an insightful and truthful post! I just moved back into the house that I ran to when my emotionally abusive ex called off our engagement (renting my mom’s old home). Talk about emotionally overwhelming! I was in such shock and pain the first time, that I couldn’t even process the emotions. I saw myself as unlovable, absorbed all the blame from all the relationship issues, and believed every lie he had told me about myself.

    This time, I’m mostly healed. I’m having some flashbacks of how truly awful he was to me. The difference is, I see things in reality. I see myself in reality. Reality is, I am beautiful and amazing. I
    am worthy of love and respect. How someone treats me says more about them, then it does me.

    I will go into each new situation with what I have learned. The past will only serve as a reference point. I think it is so important for us to take the time to heal the old emotional wounds and realize just how amazing we all really are. Knowing this, we KNOW that those old situations would detract from us and that we would totally have to B.S. the truth of who we are to survive in them!

    Nat, again thanks for your blog, you are truly a blessing from God!

  10. JustHer says:

    I am guilty as I started believing that after finally getting interested in a new guy, he will turn out to be something like my ex because he is so different.

    I seem to be future-faking myself because I can just imagine everything working out perfectly with him, even though I don’t even know if he is interested in me as more than a friend!

    Partly, I am wondering whether the fact that he is different means that it might just be too good to be true and seem to be second and third-guessing every feeling I have towards him.

    This is the most confused I have been in a long time.

  11. Stephanie says:

    It’s just so hard. I’ve been with porn addicts because my pervert step father was a porn addict. I’ve tried everything but I keep attracting more porn addicts. It’s just hard to change old beliefs about no one being able to love you because of how you look. When putting yourself out there to date period your just asking to attract people for the way you look. So you keep attracting more lust addicts who assume they are head over heals in love with you and could make pigs fly to prove it to you. Only to have to realize once again they are only dreaming. That they are really in love with some fantasy they created in their own mind. Men are really obsessed with physical attraction! But it doesn’t matter how I look. I’m real I’m never going to be able to keep them in that state of perpetual bliss that their fantasies do. Pornography doesn’t affect me the way that it used to but I still can’t bring myself to wanting it as part of my relationships. I have tried watching it so it wouldn’t bother me too. But the truth is i feel it just affects to many aspects of what I believe a healthy trusting intimate relationship to be. I know that is just me and that lots of women like it and don’t care if their husbands get off on other women all the time. But being christian I have a hard time ignoring what Jesus said. Plus I have a hard time respecting a man who views women like that. SO I get an endless line of porn/lust addicts who want to date me so I just quit dating altogether.

    • JustHer says:

      Stephanie,

      I am not religious, and yet I am also against porn. I would not condone anyone I am in a relationship with to be watching porn. It skews the perception of what sex is supposed to be like and puts those unattainable porn stars on a pedestal.

      Given that, I DO think there are men out there who are not addicted to porn. I know for a fact (100%) that my father has never watched porn and never will.

      Some of my friends (including one married) think it is okay. I just think that if the guy is not satisfied with what I can give him, then he does not deserve me.

      • LovefromNel says:

        Dear JustHer,

        I couldn’t have said this better. Porn skews everything – from what some men expect to the way these men treat women. It has become normalised; and their reality of expecting what they have seen. An ex of mine was very into porn and his way of treating women was disrespectful and demeaning.

        When I slept with my most recent ex (but the one who brought me to BR nonetheless), it made me really appreciate those who were not into porn. It was a relief to be respected, and adored, again. At least physically anyway.

        I hope you are doing ok. I’m still trying not to stalk. Yours and Poppy’s words ring strongly in my ear: your life is far too precious to worry about anyone else’s. I’m trying!

        Hope all is well. Love Nel
        Xoxo

        • JustHer says:

          Hey Nel,

          I agree with what you’ve said! Some of my experiences with guys have just shown me that the things they do are way too much like what they see in porn! As if, that’s what it is supposed to be like!

          I’m glad you’re working hard, keep at it and you’ll be so much better away from it.

          I’m doing much much better. I cannot say I have fully recovered (maybe I never will), but I am starting to notice other men too. And finally stopping myself from chasing them away!

          Love, JustHer x

    • lizzp says:

      “Pornography doesn’t affect me the way that it used to but I still can’t bring myself to wanting it as part of my relationships. I have tried watching it so it wouldn’t bother me too. ”

      Shit stephanie, maybe you don’t want comments/advice but shit pardon my ignorance but I must be missing something here? I hope I’m wrong or have misread the meaning of these sentences? You appear to believe that you should be striving towards making porn part of your intimate relationships with men because that’s what you believe men in general do without being ‘bothered’and you have a problem because you can’t feel the same even though you have tried so hard to correct this? Well goddamn, holy shit. That indicates some extremely toxic self mind fuckery stephanie. I’m shocked, so much infact that right now I feel unable to expand on all the things wrong in what you’ve said there (wrong, I mean the way you view and treat yourself).Hopefully there might be others around who might give it a shot. I just don’t know what to say.

      • lizzp says:

        “I know that is just me and that lots of women like it and don’t care if their husbands get off on other women all the time.” Ok, surely this means I haven’t misinterpreted your meaning right?

      • Selkie says:

        Yes Lizzp, I agree.

        Stephanie,

        Don’t contort your values or ignore them to fit someone else’s. You are not being true to you and will end up always feeling like you are at fault for being unable to conform or fit into something you detest. I find porn demeaning, and if a man feels like this is a big part, or even a little part of his life, it will conflict with what’s important to me. Why do I or YOU need to compromise this value? They surely aren’t about to compromise and stop watching it for us. Why should you be the one to change, especially if it’s into something detrimental to your well being and happiness. There is nothing wrong with you for not liking porn. It’s okay to have your own beliefs, even if some don’t agree with them, it doesn’t make you wrong. It makes you YOU. Accept that about you and the people who matter will to.

        • Lilia says:

          Stephanie,
          I don´t understand what you´re saying about attracting porn addicts because of how you look. Do you mean you dress up like a porn star? Or maintain a porn vibe/attitude?

          If porn isn´t your thing, and I share your feeling, why don´t you just put it out of your head? You don´t have to learn to like it, you don´t even need to accept it if you don´t enjoy it. That´s like being a non-smoker and feeling guilty because you don´t want to let someone else smoke in your bedroom.
          And don´t worry about attracting porn-addicts. There are some porn fans around so it´s natural that you´ll bump into them once in a while. There are also lots of other kinds of toxic people out there, but that don´t mean you have to adapt to their weirdness. Just let them go. If they want something you don´t like, you just don´t match, that´s all.

      • Stephanie says:

        Ni I didn’t mean I want porn to be part of my relationship. I just tried to watch it so I could see why everyone is saying it’s no big deal. Being shown pornography by my step father when I was 3 years old and being told this is what men really want. Has made the fear of a lover of mine looking at it feel like the end of the world to me. I don’t want anything to affect me like that. It’s because I fear it so much I keep attracting porn addicts. From what I have found in dating is that any single man looks at porn in some form or another. I’m just trying to figure out what a normal man even is in regards to his sexuality. I hate the idea that all men are naturally aroused by seeing a female body. Yet I get that men have to be attracted to women. But from what I have heard it sounds like men all make porno in their minds when women in clothes come into their line of vision as well. That doesn’t bother me as bad as purposely seeking out that filth though. I really just don’t even know what to expect and it seems like the more I insist on not being with a man who looks at porn. The more the men I am with desire to look at it. I don’t have sexual thoughts or feelings about other men when I’m committed to one man. I’m learning that that is not normal for men or women? I don’t know I’d just like to believe that someone could love me enough to not want other women that badly. So they could at least control their thoughts and desires. I know it makes me sound totally insecure but I’m really not when I can think logically about it. It’s just such a deep wound that ties into so many of my dysfunctional core beliefs I was raised with. I just wish I could look at it as no big deal like a lot of women do so I wouldn’t have the vibe that keeps attraction men who are full blown addicts and psychopathic liars about it too.

    • Tracy says:

      Stephanie- my ex was not addicted so much to porn, but to images of women wearing satiny lingerie. I would find these pictures all over the house, sometimes in bundles. When I would get mad about it, he would turn it on me and say it was because I wasn’t a, b, or c. Whatever BS excuse he had. I don’t dig porn because I think it generally degrades women. But I think porn addicted guys are seriously EUM and that is what you are attracting, EUMs, not necessarily porn addicts because with all addictions there is a selfishness aspect, so however the porn makes you feel is irrelevant to these guys.

  12. simple pleasures says:

    Pornographic photography/videography and prostitution (actual sexual exchange) is a growing worldwide INDUSTRY. Terrific money to be made if you can lure, kidnap, exploit a girl into this. From what I’ve read a lot of the women involved in this highly profitable industry (for those using them) have been drugged and injected with heroin to become instant addicts. Thus, they are reduced to being captives of their exploiters and then do anything (allowing their bodies to be publically violated for another’s view) to maintain their heroin addiction which was IMPOSED upon them. And then, we have the children who are being pornographically exploited…
    Humans have the capacity to psychologically compartmentalize, desensitize horrific things.
    They gassed millions of people in concentration camps in the Second World War. When asked, the people doing it said they were just following orders.
    If you are not physically, viscerally nauseated by the exploitation of another human being, especially a woman sexually,by men copulating like an animal, then where is your humanity?

    • Selkie says:

      Watch the movie ‘The Whistleblower’, inspired by a true story. It almost made me vomit and made me see the ‘underbelly of the underbelly’ of porn, trafficking, and prostitution. Sorry, it’s off topic Natalie. I will say no more on it.

  13. dancingqueen says:

    This year has been a lot about examining my feelings in regards to all my other relationships in life: work, family, friends and even casual connections. My biggest realization recently was 1) that I have, for years, cared more about what others think than I do, before I figure out that the other person might be a bit unhealthy ( in which case, I quickly have perspective.) Why I did not notice that I tend to put people on pedestals immediately I don’t know. That was a big revelation.

    The other was that I tend to be attracted to the same type of people that cause me pain in relationships; people who are slightly withholding, or insecure with a bit of arrogance. Realizing this was also a big thing; it sounds dumb but I left some interactions feeling a bit low, and I never connected that I am not really enjoying some of these peoples company! Wow. That is huge: why am I spending time with people who make me feel irritated, negative or just bored?

    I think that I thought that people like this were kind of fashionable and blasé; now I realize that this is not what I want. I want to be with people who I can be myself with, and who seem upbeat for most of the time. I am not saying that I can’t handle negativity, but being assigned as Debbie Downer’s therapist, is not my idea of a fun night out.

    I think that the hard part is trying to find one’s tribe though. When you have built up a group of friends, and then you start to feel like you are moving in a different direction, it is hard to navigate that. I feel like, sometimes, I just want to flee some of these people, but in some cases I can’t; they are my neighbors, or closely entwined in my life.

    Oh well, will keep plugging on:)

    • happy b says:

      Dancing, I’m only just learning the importance of being drawn to people who stir familiar feelings, and find it fascinating. ‘Insecure with a bit of arrogance’. The most recent person I was attracted to and felt ‘connected’ with, sadly a red flag, seemed genuinely to lack confidence, but also very high on charisma, and I think has arrogance too. I realised there is something about charismatic, slightly distant, underdog types (so not conventionally handsome/popular, but attractive to many) that draws me, and when they give me their attention, it’s explosive, but it looks like their lack of attention is also a draw and something that makes me elevate them – the story of trying to please the unpleasable or right the wrongs of the past.

      I’m not sure that you need to find a tribe. As we grow ourselves, we realise that certain people leave us depleted or are out of line with our newly established values, and as I found, certain combinations of people too. But sometimes it was just a case of nurturing friendships with the loyal friends who I’d under-appreciated while I was directing my energy at the wrong people, and being a bit more pro-active with new people that I didn’t put on a pedestal, but thought I could enjoy their company. Now that you know you care too much about what others think, I think you’ll learn quickly. I cringe at some of my past efforts to please people and put their needs first but think that cringing is there for a good reason – to learn not to do it again.

      • EllyB says:

        @happy b: “But sometimes it was just a case of nurturing friendships with the loyal friends who I’d under-appreciated while I was directing my energy at the wrong people, and being a bit more pro-active with new people that I didn’t put on a pedestal, but thought I could enjoy their company.”

        I think this is an excellent point, and something I might need to work on in the future. Right now I live like a real loner. I think this is because I never learned to “connect” to anyone who didn’t resemble the toxic people from my childhood. Anyway, I think I still need to be careful around company until I learn to react differently to toxic people.

        • happy b says:

          Thanks EllyB, I also think of myself as a loner but do have some treasured friends. One positive spin I’ve put on it is that as well as the people-pleasing downside of trying to win the affections of family who are not caring and supportive enough, it also made me strive to be the best person I could be. So I also have some good baggage of being good-humoured, interesting and compassionate. I used to emphasise this too much to minimise the harm they put on me and try to excuse their crappy behaviour, it was too painful to recognise that they’d failed me. But I think it still stands alongside the damage, and this is not thanks to them but to me and other people who have inspired me.

          When I become conscious of the way we make connections, it brings many puzzling questions. Are toxic people equally attracted to me? Do they only attract other damaged people? I really see the relationship, rather than the person, as toxic.

          I hope you’re not too cautious around people EllyB, I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to shut ourselves off from friendships. I don’t believe we ever learn to react differently to people, what matters is how we manage the reactions – for me this means I might hope for a friendship to develop, but will not expect anything from them or give away too much of myself too soon, still learning.

  14. SAS says:

    “Humans have the capacity to psychologically compartmentalize, desensitize horrific things.”

    Good point, simple pleasures. Unfortunately that is too common. There are too many examples to name all. Women now decide to go to strip clubs with their men because they feel that since they can’t stop it this is better than sitting home while their man goes despite their feelings. It’s like the saying: “if you can’t beat them, join them.” This type of thinking is so dangerous. How far will some of us go? What is so intimate about watching your man watch another woman get naked? How is that bringing you two closer together? Yeah, he might start acting nicer to you. That’s because you are allowing him to be himself around you, not because he feels more love for you. Why would he leave someone who will let him fulfill his disrespecting pleasures? This behavior helps the wrong men to think that we all should go with the flow. We have to stand up against what contradicts a healthy relationship even if our protest will actually ruin the relationship.

    NML, this post hits home to me. I keep going over in my mind how I can stop being with unavailable men and how to spot them. As NML has stated, I have been with different types of unavailable men. Thought I was getting something different and ended up with the same. I think about my past too much.

    I was too busy trying to make sure my past was not relived. Although ironcially it was over and over. Because I still ignored the red flags, was scared to be alone, and avoided myself. I was not fixing myself and not being responsible while hoping for something different on the outside.

    When it is time, I want the man in my life who is FOR me and I am FOR him. He will not remind of my past of what will not work and I will be happy with him and vice versa. Simple as that.

  15. noquay says:

    Amen DQ. Finding one’s tribe IS hard. One tends to form friendships with those who are in ones community and have to pretty much take or leave who is there. I still (halfheartedly at best these days) see the available, intelligent, healthy, has his personal act together, older guy but seem to attract indigent at nearly indigent guys in need of therapy and a meal ticket. I spose it’s because I (and perhaps yourself) has a lot of empathy and treats all folk with kindness. Also, since this place is much cheaper to live in than anywhere within a 100 mile radius, a good deal of the older men here ARE economic refugees. Had dinner with someone I considered a friend only and oh crap, here we go again. Confessed his feelings for me, his upcoming dire poverty, his inability to connect and trust people, all within a half-hour. Hey cats. This brings up another problem that maybe you deal with too; on planet Noquay, folks help one another out. Since I am smallish in build and have a lot of heavy work to do, sometimes I need help carrying stuff, especially true in past weeks since an arm is injured. A colleague asked if he could help with some of this lifting, we arrangements as to time; not only did he not show, but didn’t call, email, anything. I wasted precious spare time that could’ve been used getting something else done. Incipient poverty dude was all over it last night, but I can see right now that for helping out, he will expect something in return I am not willing to give, mainly my affections. Last year the two dudes (married) who helped install my pellet stove both hit on me. I always give without expecting anything in return but I guess really needy folk don’t operate this way. Back home you always helped folks in need of help, showed up on time, work gloves in hand, got the job done. Meanwhile, at work, I have this reputation as a hard a$$ed, unfeminine b@#$% because I do not ask for help when I should. What a catch 22. Maybe my tribe exists in another state.

  16. GoneGirl says:

    Hi Nat, did you have therapy to help recognise your patterns or did you overcome them on your own? If so, what kind of therapy would you recommend. What is the fastest (and cheapest) way of getting out of stuck?

  17. Able says:

    Trying to sort things out, but all I can conclude is I will never have a decent healthy relationship. And I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to be free of the anger I feel toward the ex about being used, manipulated and cheated on. Sometimes I think I’m ok and over it and then I remember things I questioned before I finally figured it out. I feel like a fool for going back and for not recognizing the signs sooner. And it hurts to keep thinking/feeling it. If I was 25 years younger I know I’d be able to bounce back, maybe without the self awareness needed. But now? no. Even if I do figure it all out and finally get my shit together. I don’t want to sound self pitying but it’s pretty obvious to me, just as a fact. So I have to be OK with being alone.

    I’ve been pulling back from so-called friends and standing up to overbearing clients. I just don’t have the patience for bullshit anymore.

    • GoneGirl says:

      I hear ya Able. I’ve reached the same conclusion myself. A friend reckons I’m co-dependent, drawn inexorably to narcissists. My relationship over the years have got worse, not better, despite all my reading, self-awareness etc. I’ve always wanted to have children and here I am, aged 46, having missed the boat. It’s been two years since my last breakup and I’d love to meet someone new but deep down, I feel it would be just more of the same.

    • Stephanie says:

      Able,

      Understand this–Being by yourself should be look at as a blessing and solitude. Think about it if you had to trade in the peace of mind by being along versus being with a a@*hole which would you choose. Live your life! Find things that make you happy besides being in a relationship. There are so many things to look forward to in life besides being in a relationship. Believe the moment you stop worrying and thinking about it someone will come into your life that worth it! Everybody gets lonely, but there is a difference between being lonely and being alone. You will be fine, as long as you wake up each morning it is a another chance for YOU to bring happiness in your life. God Bless!

  18. noquay says:

    Able
    What you describe actually is part of healing process in motion. Anger, seeing things you were blind to before, damning yourself for it, not putting up with others crap. All part of the process. 25 years ago, you were less insightful. Whether you will or can be in another relationship again depends on a lot of things: where you live, supply of potential partners that work for you, not having to see the ex (a biggie), ability to get over it, recognize mistakes on both sides and move forward. For right now you have to feel that anger. Anger is justified and healthy; let it out. In a year, reassess; do you want to stay there, what are your options. What you describe is the exact same thing I went through after finding out, in the most humiliating way possible, that AC was leading a double life with another woman. First thing I did was dump two toxic friends who were kind of a drain. I was full of rage, both at myself and him. Since he had promised to help me on my farm while I helped him with his house and that obviously wasn’t going to happen, I taught myself to use power tools and constructed a second outbuilding, replaced a rotted out deck, built more raised beds, planted more trees, and doubled my chicken operation. Also trained super hard and lost even more weight than normal that summer. I also had to realistically assess my situation here; I no longer enjoyed my degreed field; I needed to deal with that. I really had to delve into why I’d gotten involved with a colleague at all; most older men in the region are very anti intellectual; newcomers are here because they can’t afford to live elsewhere, mainly due to THEIR own lifes choices. This limits my choices to nearly zero as I am not looking to support yet another dependent. I finally had to see what my realistic options are by getting the house valued, what I can do alone to “upclass” the place to appeal to a vacation home buyer which is what this place can only become here. Looking at retirement accounts, looking at how I could support myself for 5 years until I tap into retirement. Been busy, eh? You will have to go thru a similar reassessment process but hopefully the situation in your town is not as damaged as mine. Feel your feelings for now, don’t do the rebound thing as many men do. Yep, you will have to be alone for while, unfortunately, that’s a necessary partof process.

  19. Nat Attack says:

    Dear Able,

    I hope you find a way to be kinder to yourself. We all deserve to be loved and treasured for who we are, in spite of our flaws, limitations, and mistakes. Your ex didn’t have the maturity to treat you the way you deserved to be treated. But you can give love and understanding to yourself, even if it is only a little bit each day. I truly believe that painful experiences can lead to deep wisdom, but only if we are kind to ourselves.

    I humbly offer my thoughts to you, because I have been there, in my own way. I’ve gone back to a jerk after he broke up with me, only to receive the same treatment and have him break up with me again eight months later. I’m not ashamed of myself anymore. I look back at the image of myself crying, begging, pleading for him not to leave me, and I just see a girl who was in a lot of pain. And I respect that girl, even if I don’t want to make the same decisions…

    I hope you find a little peace today…

  20. Sanntay says:

    I love your response Nat Attack. Thinking about the woman I was 8 months ago, and I would just hold her in my arms and tell her “It’s going to hurt for a while and it’s OK to cry. Even though you don’t believe it now, you WILL get through this and the pain WILL eventually fade. You will get to a point where you can see him or hear his voice at work and not be affected at all. You are too good for him. He doesn’t deserve you, nor any of your attention, and nothing good will come to him as long as he continues to wrong others.” Overall, I think I’ve done pretty well, but it’s still a process. Assclown doesn’t talk to me unless he needs something related to work, and outside of that I have nothing to say to him. Co-workers were recently discussing him kicking his live-in girlfriend out, and while I feel validated somewhat, knowing that he is just a heartless prick, I know he’ll soon be on the prowl for his next victim. Thank God it won’t be me.

  21. Crystal says:

    Relationships are hard when someones past is a current problem. My husbands ex is very malicious when it comes to me. She has impacted our relationship negatively as well as my relationship with my step daughter.
    She constantly lies and causes issues. She does not spend the child support he provides wisely. She spends large amount of money trying to enhance her body while the child does not even have a bed to sleep on. Now I know we cannot tell her how to spend the child support but if we disagree with her on anything she refuses us access to the child. Her parenting skills are quite questionable and we recently were able to get her to take down a website where she had topless photos of herself and sge only took it down when her current bf’s friends wanted to show it to him. I only want what is best for the child but do not know what to do anymore. She has restricted her own parents from seeing the child if they disagree with her. We thought to involve the courts and possibly cps but we do not want an already complicated situation to become worse. The child is not yet a teen so we do not want to negatively impact her view of her mom or cause disruption to her life as she is fortunately not aware of her mothers inappropriate adult behavior and we do not want her exposed to it being that she’s so young. I know it sounds awful, but sometimes the baggage someone comes with us hard to deal with.

  22. Peanut says:

    Oh wow, it is really so important to offload baggage before we get into romantic relationships and eventually have children.

    I’m dining at a restaurant next to a mother and her son. She in her fifties, he in his twenties.

    She keeps going in and out of sniffles about god knows what while her son tries to comfort her (her childlike weepiness is putting a fucking awkward damper on the entire place).

    Everything out of this woman’s mouth is negative. So and so’s respitory infection, yada yada yada…

    Blah blah blah sniffle sniffle sniffle

    This is one of the best (not fanciest) but best restaurants in town. If this woman would shut up and eat her food, she’d be much happier in the present.

    I don’t want to be a whiny thirty-year-old. I want to eat my food and enjoy it and not seriously emotionally burden my children if I ever have them. Sheesh this woman is going on and on. Her negativity and inappropriate neediness to her son has no bounds.

    On a real and positive note: the weather here is amazing (snow), I did work (study) I loved (design) this morning. I have impeccable drinking water, shampoo, soap, and all the external necessities to meet my basic needs.

    I’m going to brush and cuddle ze feck out of my dog tonight. So life is good.

  23. A little wiser says:

    It took me 53 years to learn the lesson you’ve written about here.
    Burying emotions and feelings during childhood helped me to cope with my dysfunctional family.
    Suddenly, at age 50, I got drawn into a relationship with a married someone who continually made me feel abandoned. Of course I didn’t realize this was the dynamic until I entered therapy. I am still working on the “lesson” that relationship taught me. And still working on trying to get to the bottom of unresolved feelings from childhood.
    One day at a time…….

  24. Lau_ra says:

    Oh, Nat, you’re once again right on the spot! Lately I’ve been talking and thinking about the past a lot, however it wasn’t for the sake of lamenting about all the EUMs and ACs I’ve ever met, but rather as a means of helping other wonderful women in my life to deal with the same experiences. After reading this post it has been amazing to realize that I don’t really think of “taking the opposite what once was” as a rule for picking a man, but prefer to stick to a short list of qualities that I find important for my significant other.I really can’t thank you enough, Nat, for helping me recognize the ineffective patterns that I had strength to change.Though I’m still single, I do notice how the guys that looked *oh so amazing* just 1,5y ago have no power over me today.

  25. HappyAgain says:

    I guess I’m struggling with how do I offload, repack and reclaim. I’ve been going to therapy since last year and reading BR, making life changes and it seems like I’ve been through so much in my life like I have so much to address in me since I’ve basically spent my life running from me. So now here I am and I want to be better, be available
    and really address what cause me my biggest problems. I have a pattern. I want to break it. It feels frustrating when you’ve been working so hard and making choices and it seems like things aren’t improving.

  26. HappyAgain says:

    Or is it some days are harder than others? My goodness.

  27. dancingqueen says:

    @Elly b, happy b and Noquay

    Thanks for ya’lls support ladies.

    Yes you are probably right happy b, I should just accept and distance. But I would love a female friend my age who is not a doormat for men and oof! The city I live in compares itself-pathetically-to Los Angeles. So shallow! I struggle to meet people who are not wrapped up in child rearing and who are down to earth.

    I really get your plight Noquay. I can’t move for a few years either:)

  28. Nigella says:

    Last year in February I allowed myself to care for the man who led me to believe that he cared for me. Following our break-up few months down the road, I had to learn to offload my ongoing sense of self-loathing and self-doubt. This has been my baggage.

    Self-loathing stemmed from feeling duped, used, and dumped by him. By age 30, one hopes to be a better judge of character. But I failed myself in this regard. He had disrespected and deceived me – and paid no penalty for his actions. I could do nothing – absolutely nothing! – to punish him. So I loathed myself for being so powerless.

    I loathed myself for desiring someone as two-faced and self-centered as him. I loathed myself for struggling to erase him from my mind – for failing to bounce back and move on. How could I be so blind? So enamored? So addicted to thoughts of him? I learned to open my eyes. I confronted my hooks and prejudices regarding what attracts me to a person.

    I thought of myself as a failure for not being able to protect myself better, for not being able to see the writing on the wall earlier than I did. I struggled to trust myself: can I really pick up on lies? Can I sense hidden motives? Can I take care of myself under any circumstance? Can I stand up for myself? How can get in touch with my feelings? Do I even know what I want or need?

    I remembered the way he wanted to parade me to his friends – more or less relegate me to the role of a prized, newly acquired object. I remembered the way he ditched me for his friends. In confronting these memories, I loathed myself for not having done the work earlier in my life to be smart enough to opt out of such demeaning situations. Ultimately, I felt I was responsible for setting myself up for disrespect, deceit, and disappointment.

    Self-forgiveness did not come easily to me. I have worked hard not to be weighed down by self-loathing and self-doubt. I want to be better, not bitter. I have taken my time to face my demons and to conquer them one by one. In the past year, despite my intense desire for sex, I have learned to say “No” to sexual advances from men and women. However difficult it has been for me to admit this to myself, I did need to offload my habit of getting physical and sexual too early and too easily in a relationship. If I really expect to be in a long-lasting, life-enhancing relationship, then I should expect myself and the other person to practice more self-control and take our time in getting to understand one another.

    Until I can learn to trust myself, love myself, I refuse to date. The baggage I am now shouldering is lighter than it was last year. It is difficult not to berate myself for not healing faster. But I need more time. One more thing I am glad to be rid of is the habit of people-pleasing. If you have to discount your feelings and values to keep someone is your life, you are then choosing to live a lie and sell yourself short. You are settling. I hope I never settle – and I wish the same for all those seeking a mutually fulfilling and long-lasting relationship. I hope I never again lie to myself about what I can tolerate, and what I truly feel in the company of another.

    These days this is the line that keeps me on track: They said, “You can’t.” I replied, “Watch me.”

  29. Peanut says:

    Nigella,

    Your story is my story. It was as if I had read something I had written…word for word.

    Hugs.

    Peanut xx

  30. Able says:

    Should feel better now that I dumped the boundary busting client. the same client who is friendly with the ex. The client’s workplace is where I met the ex. That place is Three doors down from where I saw the ex a few weeks ago. Sensing a pattern here?

    I’m in a city, small but still a city, and yet everyone in this line of work knows each other. I have a reputation for no bullshit which I’ll take as a compliment.

    I know it’s part of the process. A process I’ve been trying to grapple for a while (decades). I don’t mind being alone. What I DO mind is being beholden to people I don’t care about who clearly don’t care about me. Sucking up my time I could use working on my own stuff– life stuff.

    Resentment is the word. If I don’t speak up as soon as I sense something I let it boil under the surface and it looks as though i suddenly let someone have it but its been here all along.

    the thing with the client: I let know I needed to make some changes and would have to limit the contact to one day a week. I was getting txts and emails at all hours everday when I did ten hours of work for them a week.

    That worked for three weeks and then it’s like amnesia. I reiterated the agreed to communications schedule and got some lame excuse. It was not an urgent matter. So I ended the contract.

    No second chances. This client has a reputation for running roughshod over people along with having a sense of entitlement that has everyone who does work there feeling like “the help.”

    I’m sure I would have been alittle more patient with this client if there wasn’t the ex factor involved but eff it. It’s not worth it– putting up with boundary busting behavior. Even if I tripled my rates, not worth it!

    Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    I’m not about to move. In fact, I plan to stay put and work around them. Even if the ex does live only a few blocks away. I’m not going to any events where I think I’ll run into her. Not for a while. Not until I think I could handle seeing her with someone else. Not proud of that but it’s how it is right now.

    And that’s the thing. I know a year from now I won’t feel as hurt.

    I wrote alot here– thanks insomnia!

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!

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!