Circular Issues

Do you ever find that you’re circling back to the same core issue(s) time and again, even though on the surface, they seem different and even unrelated? How the hell did I wind up back here again?, you wonder.

Sometimes we have an idea of what’s needed or even know the solution to a particular issue, but because we don’t like what that solution looks like and represents in terms of the decision or the actions we’ll have to undertake, we decide to do something else, likely whatever creates the least discomfort or certainly a lot less than what the alternative involves.

We’ll make these tweaks and they may provide some temporary relief but then soon enough, we’re complaining about that same person’s inconsiderateness or we’ve substituted one worry or even drama for a fresh worry or drama, as if we feel most at ease when we’re wondering what we’ve done wrong ‘now’.

One friend, after telling me about how nothing is ever good enough for her mother, the boss who doesn’t praise her enough, her boyfriend’s ex who is “amazing” (she looked her up on Facebook) and a threat, the very quiet coworker that keeps to himself and yet she’s taking it personally, the frenemy who is behaving badly and the worry list goes on, asked if I could spot the problem:

There’s a theme. Several different situations over a period of time with people who are unconnected. No, it’s not that she’s not “good enough” or that these are all her fault – the theme is that she thinks that there’s something wrong with her and sees her worth at the centre of other people’s behaviour and ends up people-pleasing to compensate and validate. It doesn’t mean that some of these issues aren’t issues but they would be less of an issue or certainly an issue put into perspective, if she wasn’t riding what little self-esteem she has like Zorro and struggling with a long, drawn-out Worry and Imagination hangover.

When we keep talking about the same issue as if it’s fresh when it’s not; when we have the same thought and action responses to certain feelings, or we feel a certain way in response to something that occurs and then slip into the habits of thinking and behaviour that we put off working on or assigned a different ‘solution’ to, it means that we’re circling back to the same issue(s) and that ultimately, we have a circular issue – all roads lead back to the issue we need to face or the work that we need to do. We’re masking, not fixing, something that happened to me when I took steroids for my immune system disease that they said they didn’t know why it happened and that there was no cure. It suppressed my immune system, gave me a host of other problems, and within a few weeks of coming off them, the original symptoms came back even more aggressively. Doh!

Circular issues always occur when we act unconsciously, when we tend to see external solutions as the fix for internal issues, and also when we make an incorrect diagnosis of an issue and/or keep prescribing unhealthy fixes. They happen because we don’t trust ourselves to judge the situation or to listen and look inwards and then act.

When we default to inaccurate diagnoses and solutions, it’s the whole using the same map and route that keeps leading you to the wrong place but still expecting to turn up elsewhere. Or maybe it’s that last time you took a train, the time before that you took a bus, and this time you took a plane, but you were still headed for the same painful destination.

When we’re in these situations, we might describe these events as if they’re entirely unrelated to unhealthy habits of thinking and behaviour that were present before the situation presented itself. We act as if we have no ‘data’ in our database that could help us to problem solve, gain perspective, and respond in a different way to the last time.

Of course the particulars of a situation are unique, but we have had past experiences where we’ve, for instance, felt under threat when it wasn’t a threat, forecast doom and gloom that far outpaced the reality, had to make a decision and many more plus, we may even have experience of doing the same thing that the other person has and are in a position to empathise.

By acting as if nothing we’re going through has any relevance to our typical responses or that we have no prior experience to contribute, we’re acting unconsciously while overloading our resources. We’re almost expecting us to learn and assimilate each situation anew without referencing our self-knowledge, which of course is fine if you have the luxury of living to be several hundred years old but not so helpful when we have a life to live. To make matters worse, it’s not as if we find new ways – we apply our typical habits of thinking and behaviour, albeit with tweaks here and there.

The vital clue to whether we’re circling back to the same issues, is the way in which we respond.

These issues depend on each other, so if we won’t address a core issue, such as a poor sense of self and not wanting to treat us with the very basics of care, trust, and respect, other issues will stem from this, hence the circular issue. By continuing to dodge the work and to look outside of ourselves for fulfilment of our self-esteem, the same set of beliefs governing the core issue weave their way through the fabric of the other issues.

What this means though, is that when we start adapting habits, the other habits that depend on these start to collapse.

This was one of my early lessons in learning to like and love me. In having to set boundaries both with me and others and also having to practice habits of self-care, I realised that it was a waste to start taking care of my health if I was only going to feed my mind with crap or do something toxic. Feeling bad started to be an early warning signal to step up and/or step out.

While some of us on the planet like to operate their lives as if they can press the reset button each day, in reality, everything we’ve been thinking, saying and doing has a connection, and of course, if we’re repeating unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaviour, there’s a cumulative effect. Granted we can get away with this stuff for a little or even a long while, but the pain of these habits starts to make itself known. It might start out feeling like a minor irritation that can be clouded out by the high of what we’re being and doing, but gradually, it will make itself painfully known.

One of the key lessons I’ve had to learn, particularly with family, is to ask myself: If I can’t change the situation, the person’s feelings, behaviour or personality, what can I change? As it will take more time to Jedi mind trick than it will to learn healthy boundaries etc, plus I have no interest in trying to influence and control people’s behaviour whether it’s by pleasing or by force, the answer is my response.

It turns out that the answer isn’t to find ways to fit in and acclimatise to unpalatable behaviour, but to ensure that if and when stuff bothers you, it bothers you for the right reasons, not because you’re going, “Hmmm, my father let me down again and he’s same old, same old. Here we go again, I’m worthless and good for nothing.”

This is also a good time to ask you, What am I not accepting here? What am I refusing to see? You may be stuck on feeling entitled to something that hasn’t come to pass. Don’t spend your life circling back because you’re being the bailiff trying to collect a debt.

It’s the emancipation of you because until you put those boundaries there, especially in your mind, you will keep circling back to issues that result from making other people’s behaviour about you and basically merging you into others.

The other key thing to remember is that certain feelings, thoughts, and situations are going to recur from time to time and each time, you have a fresh opportunity to choose to respond differently and this gradually changes the nature of issues that you’re dealing with.

Your thoughts?

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151 Responses to Do You Have A Circular Issue?

  1. oona says:

    Have you actually got a crystal ball? You are so in tune Natalie I can barely read this article this time out of fizzling fear of actually having to search to address what I thought I already had addressed/may have addressed? but clearly hadn’t. So much at stake. Gonna take a few breaths and reread this a few times… struggling…

    • Sofia says:

      oona, I was about to write the same thing! That’s exactly the place I am at right now and have always been but am aware of this problem only now, at this point in my life. That I keep going in circles about everything. It’s like an OCD. Concentrating on other people’s feelings, moods, reactions and taking those personally and obsessing what did I do wrong, what did I say wrong, am I to blame, are they upset at me?

      Thinking about the breakup and my ex and taking everything personally… I need to take a breath and reread the article couple times more. It’s very wise. All is said in this one article what you could hear in many counseling sessions ( I have never been to one, but I can imagine). There are three important issues here. To recap: 1. low self-esteem. 2 self-defenses to stay in the comfortable zone of misery inflicted upon by herself/himself. 3. cognitive and conscious choice of remaking your view of yourself and of others. Freeing yourself from your former self.

      This is exactly my theme, ” . . . she thinks that there’s something wrong with her and sees her worth at the centre of other people’s behaviour and ends up people-pleasing to compensate and validate” This is me my entire life up until recently. I have finally recognized and am working on this.

      I noticed that Nat’s advice is already working. I can tell by the way I communicate to my friends and how I perceive my interaction with them. I don’t take their responses and moods personally anymore. I don’t try to please people all the time and make myself available all the time.

      It does take a conscious action though to change your behavior. To respond differently to the same situation. However, there has to be something that triggers the decision to choose a fresh response to a different situation. For me it was the epiphany relationship and breakup. I should be grateful he came along.

      • hand_turkey says:

        Oh Sofia I know what you mean.

        Here is what helped me: feeling the pathetic petty feelings and just crying, even if you have to schedule it. Then as I was crying, noticing and writing down what I was crying about, even if it was absurd. “Nobody loves me”…”I’m fundamentally unlovable” etc. then later challenging those beliefs by finding support from like minded people – like chatting with you all at this site, Baggage Reclaim.

        If the truth sets you free, then lies are what cage us; therefore if we don’t feel free, we’ve believed a lie. Truth itself validates us, not any man. There is an unfortunate saying, “the truth hurts” but I don’t think so. I think the truth is beautiful and liberating.

        Anyway Sofia your name means “wisdom, truth” yes?

        • hand_turkey says:

          I almost forgot – I meant to also say that when my unpleasant feelings about a subject go round and round, it means I have resisted feeling them. When unpleasant thoughts on a subject keep going round and around against my wishes, it means it’s time to refocus attention back onto my well being and success.

          Though thoughts and feelings are reciprocal, I have found a noticeable difference between them.

          • Sofia says:

            hand_turkey, that’s great you are evaluating what you are feeling when you are feeling it.

            You know, I just thought, can you imagine how much money and time we saved by working ourselves on our own issues? And with the help of BR and numerous books that we have read? It does take courage and readiness and bravery to unbad (new word I just came up with) ourselves. Not everyone does this. Lot of people deny, shoot other people, get on antidepressants, become addicts, etc., or simply remain EU or ACs for years or forever. We know those examples very well.

            I think we are doing a great job counseling ourselves and helping others. I don’t think any of us, who are here heavily involved in reading and writing and thinking and working on ourselves, are going to go back to our old issues. They won’t disappear overnight, but I am already seeing the progress. I would love to hear from people from 1+ years who came back on this board and can tell that they have changed for the better. I think I remember seeing few names on the board from 1-2 years ago (they said they were) and they sound firm and strong.

            • bethd says:

              Sofia, You seem like you really have a great attitude. I was thinking about you and hoping you were doing well. I know you have good days and bad but you seem to have a great attitude and you are doing the work. I always say the great thing about that “horrid” breakup with an AC/NARC?SOCIO or whatever gives you an opportunity to learn about yourself. I had many of the same triggers as you did. BR does shed light on ourselves and forces us to see the part we played. Keep on gf :)

              • Sofia says:

                Thank you, bethd! You are very kind:)

                Yes, you are right. I think that 3-month mark that I celebrate today is about the time where bad days are diminishing and the good days or neutral days (neutral is good for me as well!) are increasing. I had 2-3 bad days each week in the last 2 weeks. It is certainly getting more hopeful and better. I hope I will keep it up and won’t fall into a long spell of sadness, depression, or self-blaming. Even then, if it is couple days of down or anger days, I will take that and keep reminding myself it will pass.

                You are right. This last EU/AC appeared in my life, so that I can make a better and happier me for myself and perhaps for a great man that I might meet. Who knows? Maybe I had to face myself, abandon old habits, learn new habits, and become a new person, so that I will recognize and be attracted to a nice person that I might meet one day? If I don’t meet him, that’s fine too. What I am already having and will have even more as I grow and change is a more confident me who is not afraid of her own company and who values herself just the way she is. I remember someone was saying, I think RP, that improving self-esteem is not even necessarily working on something but recognizing and liking your great qualities. I think she has a great point. We can each think of our own good qualities and whether we appreciate and enjoy these qualities and values within ourselves. If we can say “yes, I do like you” to our qualities, it is already a great step up in our self-esteem and self-worth. The rest will come with practice and repetition of good, new habits.

                Another way of liking ourselves is not being too harsh on ourselves for our mistakes and perceived or real blunders. Being able to forgive oneself, learn from it, and move on, is another sign of a healthy self-esteem.

        • lizzp says:

          hand_turkey (I was about to use a short version for your name before realising that “turkey” sounds a tad rude)!

          I enjoyed and liked your comment. What you describe has worked for me during some of my darkest moments last year.

          Also, yes maybe it is not so much the truth that hurts as much as finally recognising what our resistance to the truth (our truth, ourselves) has meant. In any event, what you wrote propelled me to run off and find The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran on my shelves and copy out the following (I’m abbreviating a mini section to just the lines I like the most, so not a full quote):

          “…Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that it’s heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain…Much of your pain is self chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician and drink his remedy…”.

          Actually I haven’t revisited this book in some time and find it a bit preachy these days, but I do find value in the metaphor of pain as the cracking of our shells to reach the good kernel (our selve/truth, not KFC’s Mr Saunders of course). Simultaneously with this cracking, I can see hearty glimpses of my own path ahead and not too much of the old roundabout (of circular issues).

          • Sofia says:

            lizzp, that’s a wonderful quote. Thank you for posting it here. I will reread it. This is very in tune with the subject of this article and we can all relate. The peeling the layers of our oldselves to get to the core of us. Of course it’s painful, but it is the only way to get to the truth.

        • Sofia says:

          Hand_turkey,

          A thought came to me just now as I was thinking about my triggers for circling back into my old habits (people pleaser, very available at anyone’s call, doormat, man pleaser, and on the lowest level – filling the void with alcohol and casual sex and yet on another low side – get in touch with exes from the far past to validate myself that I am still attractive and desirable. Not even to them but overall.) So what triggers my issues, is that I feel this utter deep sense of loneliness or abandonment maybe ( I read about abandonment issues stemming from childhood, and that’s why maybe I think I have this problem because my parents were alcoholic most of my childhood and not emotionally present there for me). It hits me when I am alone and it’s Friday-Sunday time frame particularly. When I am with my daughter, I rarely feel loneliness, only glimpse of the fact that I have no companionship in my life. So when I am alone at home and it’s the weekend night, whether I am out or at home, but I am by myself – meaning with no relationship, I feel empty and it’s scary. Actually it used to be bad because I didn’t know what to do with myself and I would go back to old ways of getting buzzed and contacting exes from my past to fill my lonely times. They gladly did that, but in the end I felt even worse and disrespected myself the day after. So I now recognize what triggered my circling back to the old, “comfortable,” self-defeating ways. Fear of being alone. Now and recently since I have become closer to God, I have reconsidered the entire existentialism issue. I won’t go into theological discussions here, but gradually my fear of loneliness have been lifting along with the progress I have been noticing of learning to enjoy my own company and not thinking that something is wrong with me that I am still single and I don’t even have any friends to go out because everyone is married or a couple. Or because people don’t want to hang out with me. Along with the spiritual understanding of why I am living here and now, I have also been unlearning the fear of loneliness. I don’t feel alone anymore. Because I know I am not alone.

          Sofia is wisdom, you are right:)

          I noticed something this week. I am appalled at how I behaved, reacted, the things I said and did before the breakup. Not even related to the relationship but the entire life that I had. It’s like it was a different person in the same body. I can’t believe it was me. It is quite significant and unbelievable that so much change can happen in such a short period of time (3 months post breakup). Has anyone else had this experience? Looking back at oneself just even recently and being amazed at who we were? Not only in personal relationships but overall.

          I wonder if ACs and EUs ever get a revelation, epiphany breakthrough like this? It doesn’t matter though because they don’t matter to us anymore. We won’t circle back to them again because that would be circling back to ourselves. We are recognizing our triggers, our fears and battling them. The truth, hand_turkey, hurts. It does. But it is so beautiful and liberating, you are right. To recognize where and why you failed and work hard on yourself to change the old habits. To program new habits. And repeat and repeat new good habits so that they stick. Learn by repetition. That’s how we learned our bad habits. We can relearn them. That’s behavioral psychology as well as cognitive. Takes both conscious decision making to change your old ways and takes practice to get used to new good habits by repeating them.

          • bethd says:

            Even if they get that epiphany moment which mine did …..they eventually go back to who they are. They can’t keep it up because it is too ingrained. Mine hit rock bottom when I kept firm in the early years of my relationship and didn’t take him back even though he said everything I could possibly want to hear. He really was good for a few years after that but went full circle and we started to revisit the same damn issues. That is when I got out for good but it was so much harder since so many years involved.

            • Sofia says:

              bethd, you must have been very strong or indifferent to him by the time you decided not to take him back.

              I don’t even have to wonder if I can take my ex back if he comes asking because I am confident he won’t. I know I said I was confident he wouldn’t contact me and he e-mailed after 2 months of silence, but that was for his own ego and he did say, ” we will get in touch in couple months.” Also he contacted so that he appears a very caring good friend, to check on me, to show that he is there for me if I need anything and partially, I think to validate himself through my contact back to him, that he is not such an ass and a bad person. I broke up with 3-4 guys before (short-term relationships, no promise, no commitment talks, no future “potential” like I had with my last EU ex), and i never contacted them in couple months to check how they are doing. I know I hurt those people and I can’t offer anything to them even a friendship because I knew they wouldn’t want it and it’s just a slap in the face to offer a friendship knowing those people still had feelings for me. So that’s what I don’t get how some people break up and check on you in couple months. That’s not exactly kind, if he thinks and processes his feelings. If he is capable. I don’t think these EUMs are capable of changing, you are right, bethd, because they are EU to themselves. They run from negative conflicting feelings. My ex was always for positive feelings, happy music, happy thoughts. My occasional brooding or philosophizing and reflecting upon life, my feelings, thoughts, he called “negativity and pessimism.” He would tell me, “you have to be positive, you can’t think bad thoughts.” Or on another spectrum, when I was very hopeful and optimistic about something, he would say, ” you are being too dramatic and exaggerating, you are too positive and unrealistic about that.” Either way he controlled his feelings and didn’t let it become out of control: happy or sad. Isn’t that weird? Yes, they are too stuck and ingrained in their own issues. And given the fact that there are male and EU, it makes it harder for them to face their emotions and feelings. They run from it and repeat in circles. I am thinking now maybe he is dating someone. I do still get jealous imagining them holding hands, going out, laughing, having sex. But then, I imagine him, saying to her those subtle critical remarks he told me from the very beginning about appearance, my dress, my music, my eating habits, etc. Then how he was incapable of staying in bed after sex for more than 5-10 minutes. Always on the run – to not form a bond. That teasing, formality, permanent dating feel. It will all kick in in true force after couple months of real dating and any HEALTHY woman, will see that he is keeping distance. Keeps guards and walls really high and strong. Doesn’t let in his territory, places that are important to him (friends, family – even though they are in a different country – it is not a different planet – it was A PROHIBITED ZONE FOR ME). Anyway, so many things I can imagine what is going to happen with the next woman he is with. All the same. Or maybe it will be different? But who cares? He didn’t give me what I needed. Intimacy and progression. Closeness and commitment. These are basic requirements to expect and have in a long-term relationship. I wonder if EUs are even capable of those. Would I have taken him back if the miracle of thunderbolt strike had happened to him? No. I would never trust that he could change. And now that I am seeing things more clearly, I don’t like how he treated me. So that’s my answer to a hypothetical scenario. No. No more EUs or ACs in my life.

              • Bethd says:

                Sofia. I was far from indifferent lol I am a pretty strong person but I think all of us here have that in us. I think with me it was shock and hurt. How the hell could he do this once again? The big ole pullback. After that many years? Thought we got past all of the nonsense. I literally was sick to my stomach. I hated the him! Sometimes the greater the pain the more you realize time to get off the roller coaster. I got right out there and I met someone wonderful who I am still with. Believe me I almost blew it with him to go back to my pain source but I continued on. My ex tried all the old tricks but I was on to him. Yes it was hard because I still loved him but could no longer trust him or our love. Remember a relationship without trust is like a car without gas. You can stay in it all you want but it won’t go anywhere. :)

                • Sofia says:

                  Bethd, you are very strong. I don’t even have to test my own strength because he is not coming back. Luckily. I have made a good progress recovering and have been feeling good in the last few days. Gave me a gasp today, “Have I moved on?” but I told myself, “Not so fast, I had those calm days before and then hit low couple-three miserable days again.” Whatever comes, I will take it. It is all getting better. And I do feel like I am much better. However, here comes the weekend being by myself. I will see how it goes.

                  I am happy for you that you are with a great person in your life. I understand that you thought you almost destroyed your relationship with him because of the ex. Those ACs are dangerous people (mine is not, I don’t have to worry about that. His decision is firm, I am just confident. He is a firm decent reliable EU. Hahaha). I don’t understand how these ACs, like your ex, would just not let go and not let you move on. Sounds psycho to me. They have to realize at some point, they are either in and working on the relationship or they are out.

                  A lot of it depends on us though. Most of it. If we give up and take them back, we have the result. If we don’t take them back we have a new life, much better without them, like you do, Bethd. Your story gives me hope. My relationship was just one year old. Not years and years of on and off.

                  Did you have problems trusting at the beginning the person you are with now? I might have talked to you before about it. I think if there are no red flags and you feel the person is genuinely into you, it is not a problem to trust and not scary to be yourself. You don’t police yourself and are secure and confident. There is no ambiguity or fear. You just are. I do want a relationship like this. Just simple and clear.

                  • Bethd says:

                    I didn’t have problems trusting. I had problems accepting a zero drama relationship lol. It felt strange. I wasn’t use to being on such steady ground after all the years of uncertainty. I don’t think I realized it until I was out for awhile. I could never go back to the roller coaster. Peace is heaven and having a loving, trusting relationship is priceless. You will get there and you are starting to move beyond the hump. After 4 months is a really big milestone. Keep going girl! Xo

                    • Sofia says:

                      Bethd, I know what you mean. I had two relationships (my marriage and one guy after my divorce) with whom I felt Peace. Things were steady. I was loved and cared for. It is like a warm cuddly safe blanket around you. You feel so peaceful and steady. You are confident. Just like I am feeling now, curling up on my sofa all alone and content , resting and writing and reading on BR.

                      With those two men in my life, there was no questioning, “what is he up to? is he going to leave? is he still doubting we are a good match? is he looking at other women?” I know what it feels like to be loved. I have two great examples. You can’t even feel insecure because there is no reason. The person is always there for you. Not in a freaky stalking ways. In a steady “I am with you always” way that shows in his actions, presence, time he spends with you, caring he does. That’s what I mean. You don’t have to guess a thing.

                      Bethd, yes, I entered month 4. Actually month 5 after the first break up in January (he took a month to think things over and broke up for sure with me in February). I already feel so much better. And it’s Friday night and I am alone without my daughter and I feel fine! Got some shopping done, worked out and feel great. Some sadness hit me, and I recognized and registered the feeling – normal feeling of sadness of letting go – not even him – but my hopes and dreams. Everything I associated with him. Hopes for an emotionally intimate, progressing relationship and friendship with someone I could connect my life with.

                      It is a quiet and profound kind of sadness. Not as much as emotional and intense anymore. It is like a heavy weight that has been inside me is shifting out. It is like Flushing! It is a heavy kind of sadness that pours out with my tears and brought me such relief. I think I overcame the hardest part of post breakup. I really do. Let’s see what happens in the next couple weeks but I have a confidence I am out of the dark now. I can now say I have moved on. Pieces here and there of sadness and anger to clear out and let go, but generally, I do have a feeling I have finally moved on to the last stage. I do hope that is the case. It has been a very hard work. Very conscious, strong will work. It has taken lots of sources: spiritual, psychology, BR, friends, my own strength. The hard work is so worth it. It is already paying off. I have made so much progress in 3-4 months. Could not do without the help of Nat and the wonderful people, like you, Bethd:)

          • Catherine says:

            Sofia ~

            Your post really, really resonated with me. I used to be the same way. I’d get triggered by loneliness and then either seek out an ex or get in to a relationship with virtually anyone who asked me out just to avoid that awful hollow feeling I had inside. I too am amazed at how much I have changed over the years as I have either healed or gotten worse. I’m not sure. I have been divorced for 4 years now and have only dated a few guys since then. I have gone months or even a year or so and not had anyone. Several years ago, this would have driven me wild with desperation. Now, I don’t really care. I’m basically content to be alone. My worry is I have become too content with it! I can definitely relate to your loneliness being single and not having any friends due to everyone being married or just not synching with any females for friendship. I mean a real friend as opposed to acquaintances. But even in all this I have come to accept it and be thankful that I don’t have to deal with all the “stuff” when you have to answer to someone else.
            I tried to do what Natalie suggested about trying something new to get something different, but in the end I found myself slipping back in to my old patterns. Mainly denial of who the person was and how attracted I wasn’t to him, talking myself in to someone and basically settling for less than what I wanted. I guess the thing that kept me stuck was the disbelief that “is it really possible there are that many jerks in the world?” I mean, REALLY?! It’s been hard to accept. I know there are some nice ones out there, there have to be, virtually nothing is 100%, but still….do others seem to find nothing but jerks?

            • Sofia says:

              Oh Catherine, I know exactly what you mean. I don’t want to believe there are jerks out there only. I do want to believe there are nice guys out there. But where are they? All married? All taken? However, recently I started realizing that when I was looking for guys (match.com typically), I picked all the wrong types, settled for less immediately, didn’t continue carefully picking. I pretty much decided to date whoever I liked first and decided to WORK ON IT and denied all the red flags from the start. I liked him and it was not enough, I was attracted, and I will make it work and HE IS THE ONE. I must have been really insane!!! So, now what I think, a lot of the problem is that I picked AND STAYED with wrong guys myself. Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but nobody made me stay dating the same guy. I could have dropped it after 3-4 dates and start searching for another one and try and try and try. But I didn’t AND I didn’t have any boundaries, standards, or self-esteem. So I got the same results over and over.

              You are saying that you are much better but you still meet jerks. Well, I can believe you. I am terrified about even thinking that I will start dating eventually. Because it is going through all the work of talking, listening, opening up, trusting, believing, etc etc. It is so tiring just to think about it. I guess I am not ready emotionally at all. Or physically. And that’s fine. But the truth is, once I am ready, what’s there? The same old same. Non-committed, unavailable, lots of baggage or worse , addicts, abusers. I sound too negative, I know… Sometimes I feel I will be totally fine by myself single as I have been for 8 years. The only thing I need is an occasional dose of an antilibido potion and I am good to go alone and strong for the rest of my life. Problem solved.

              How do you meet guys? Where? How do you put yourself out there? I can’t think of dating sites anymore. All I have is bad memory associated with them although I realized I must have just made bad choices. yet I read many people don’t have a nice opinion about these sites.

              About friendship… Yes, it’s hard to find close friends once we become older. People just don’t have time anymore. They have families, kids to take care of. That’s understandable. Those close friendships usually are from childhood if we are lucky to have preserved any. Otherwise it’s just acquaintances, who are not frequently available to go out with or do things together. So we are bound by ourselves most of the time unless we are young and child free and have lots of time and so do our friends.

              All I can say, without sounding negative but rather realistic, is that we have to try our best to be content alone. I give up on being in a relationship with someone because it might not happen. So what I don’t give up is trying to build my own life. To finally live fully and give myself love and life I have been denying for all my life. I have started the process and I am liking it already. I do know I am fresh after the breakup and once I am healed, I must start feeling lonely again and wanting a man in my life. Well, but what is one to do? Dating sites? Blind dating? Meetups, bars? I don’t know anymore. I searched enough and feel I am done.

  2. hand_turkey says:

    Oona, everyone – I’ve figured it out, guys. Natalie lives in my closet.

    But it’s so true that you can’t wring anything out of someone else.

  3. Karen says:

    I kept attracting cheaters throughout my adult life. I hate cheaters, so I finally got fed up and realized, the only common denominator was me. Oh, fine, now what?
    It was gut wrenching to discover: I kept attracting them because I was attracted TO them. Gross!
    So I kept digging until it hit me–I was stuck in a pattern of reenacting my parents screwed up marriage. I was playing the role of my Catholic, suffering martyr mother and a variety of shifty women were playing the part of my dad, the skeevy philanderer.
    I was repeating patterns I’d learned in childhood because, even as shitty as my parents’ marriage was, I knew the rules of the game and it was familiar to me, therefore it was in my comfort zone. I chose to play my mom’s role because–well, who would choose the cheater? Mom was the lesser of two flawed characters.
    After that discovery, I kept digging and I realized both parents were emotionally unavailable–only mom kept her martyr/victim status by hiding her EU behind my father’s overt EU. See, the cheaters always take the blame for everything. ;)
    Once I got that excavated and examined, it took me right to my core issue: a lack of self esteem.
    Well I just ransacked Natalie’s archives, read read and read more, and I then had the tools to start fixing my battered self esteem.
    And I did, at least I thought so, but I had to test it out in a relationship, right?
    So I joined two dating services and decided to just turn the picking over to God and just wait to see who showed up.
    Long story short, a woman who fit me and my core values to a T showed up and said, “Let’s talk. We could be on to something here.”
    So we started talking, and there were no games or drip feeding or future faking or flattery bombs or wives still left to be divorced–THE BULLSHIT was GONE.
    So now I know what Natalie and others have said about love. Real love doesn’t hurt; it feels empowering, deep and just good in general.
    She and I are not renting U-Hauls or ordering a wedding cake just yet, but we have agreed that we both want to settle down into a monogamous partnership one day, and if this trajectory continues on this arc– we might just be each other’s one and only someday.

    Oh, and another good sign–neither of us has even brought up sex yet, except to say we don’t need to bring that up yet– because a loving relationship and good communication bode well for great physical intimacy.

    • oona says:

      Thank you for writing this it makes me feel there may be light at the end of the tunnel somewhere…Love and sunshine! Good luck to you both

      • Karen says:

        Thanks, Oona.
        I think managed expectations and living in the now will help keep things in perspective. There is no timer on what comes next, so I think a leisurely progression makes sense.
        It feels so sane not be rushing into the cheater’s favorite stage: seduction.
        A new relationship without any hidden agendas is a great relief. So is not having to hide from anyone’s spouse.

        • SoulFull says:

          Karen Ive read your (fabulous) comments and insights on here for a while now, and I gotta pipe up and say Im excited for you both – especially for you as the thought patterns have changed and now youre experiencing a new level of relationship, even though its early days, its on the right track, starting on the right foot…pls keep us posted x

    • Catherine says:

      Karen! Kudos to your profound insight to the drama you’ve been acting out your adult life! It is really rare and a wonderful blessing that you’ve been so gifted with such insight into yourself.

      • Karen says:

        Don’t get too excited, my friends.
        The day after I wrote my last comment here, the woman came on like gangbusters and started getting way too close and future faking like a mo-fo. So I channeled Natalie and started a hyper vigillance campaign, and within a day I discovered my dreamboat was a Russian submarine–a con artist, and one of many who prey on American dating sites for people over age 50.
        I spent Wednesday morning reporting her to the dating site and then to 3 different police jurisdictons, her ISP, and to my state attorney general’s office just for good measure. Then I told my bank and all my credit card companies.
        By then she was blowing up my cell phone with texts, frantic because she apparently thought a really good mark was getting away.
        Then she actually called, but didn’t say anything I guess because those Russian accents are hard to hide. So I knew she was listening so I lined out how I caught her and told her to get the eff away from me.
        She was so shocked, she texted me and acted incredulous that I would dare question her sincerity. She said I betrayed her and broke her heart. What balls! I think a part of her started to actually like me and it conflicted with her scam–but Jeeze, I wasn’t willing to give her sympathy after she tried to shake me down.
        Anyway, it felt good to con the con, but she’ll probably be back in a week with a whole new persona and a different line of bullshit. No problem–after her, I read all about Russian dating site scams and I know what to look for now. Just Google ‘Russian dating site scams’ and see for yourself–it’s very entertaining.
        If someone’s phrasing is just a tiny bit off–pay attention and try to trip them up. Like if they say they are from South Dakota–ask about the weather or some great little coffee shop you made up, and see if they trip up.
        Looks to me like they run cons on several people at once So don’t worry about them checking for the little coffee shop or the corect spelling of mayor’s name–they don’t have time for that.
        It’s pretty easy to catch them. If they ask personal questions like “do you own or rent?” that’s another red flag.

        I wasn’t too far down the rabbit hole with this nutter, so it wasn’t traumatic. In fact, I think I will add this chapter to a dramedy book I plan to write about my ex, the queen of the Internet assclowns.

        If life life hands me Russians instead of what I am looking for, I’ll just make chicken Kiev to serve to the real thing if and when she comes along.

        :/

  4. naina says:

    Hi Natalie, I find a lot of solace and wisdom in your writing, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    As much as I rationally understand that I need to like / love myself, and that I should not look externally for validation, and *I* need to “fill the hole”, I am very much struggling in terms of how to go about it. I try to incorporate a lot of the suggestions from your website – be kind to myself, do things that I enjoy, take care of my body, exercise, and so on. But I am still struggling with low self-worth. How do I overcome this constant feeling of depression/feeling low, wanting to run back to my ex-AC begging him to take me back…Why do I so desperately want to be with someone who treated me so poorly? I so badly want to feel “normal”, confident – the way I was before ex-AC barged his way into my life. I am a well-educated, successful, attractive woman. So, why? Please help. Any ideas, thoughts, suggestions are highly appreciated. Thanks all!

    • Helen says:

      Hi Naina, I think Karen laid it out well in her reply above. In order to change your inner game, you need to dig deeper and be willing to face the ghosts and fears within you.
      One tool is for example story telling: start writing your ugliest story you keep telling yourself on paper and then mull it over, do you really believe it’s true, what are the underlying beliefs about yourself that keep you locked to that story etc and then create your new story and decide means to achieve that. Be kind and in acceptance of yourself as a whole, there’s nothing wrong with you, you just need to start believing that for real.
      Check e.g. The Work of Byron Katie or Jim Loehr’s Power of Story. The ultimate change requires “a cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience” as someone wisely put it but you’ll get there and it will be worth every second.

    • oona says:

      I possibly feel similar to you naina – that I put the hard work in but where is my reward?…so I must be doing something wrong!…but…I am noticing that even though I feel that I am being more loving to myself and not hanging around assclowns and EUM’s – I am isolated and not actively going out, meeting and talking to people to mirror back the me that loves and respects myself.
      I am still actually hiding from myself – if that makes any sense? At the same time as withdrawing from the bad I also seem to be withdrawn from the good in life. And using fantasies and future expectation wishes for ‘external solutions’ to try to fill the good hole desperately – which it obviously isn’t filling.
      I notice that I am withdrawing from positive things with my incorrect diagnosies of issues – fear, fear, fear,fear and some more fear again. I feel I really can’t see stuff without some distance from it/others reflecting perspective for me/editing it. I am too aware of this and surpressing my reaction to any pain/instinct I receive….I might have got it wrong after all…. until I trust myself to judge the situation – by which time the moment is gone and yet again I am left berating myself for a job badly done and once again feeling used or abused….circle time!
      I found asking Natalies question in respect to something that happened yesterday – enlightening – roughly the bit – The vital clue to whether we are circling is the way that you are responding? How are you responding each time?
      It was hard for me to notice straight away – I looked at it for a bit…I wrote down 6 things – the seventh point being I actively hide/surpress my feeling of pain/instinct in the moment and leave it till I feel safe some time later before acknowledging it – which was really the first thought I had when I asked myself the question but didn’t allow it significance until I had written the 6 points before it…

      • Sofia says:

        oona,

        Great test question to check if you are circling back: how we are responding? Not only when we think about exes and how we talk to them (inner talk), but also, in our relationships with other: friends, relatives, coworkers. Are we being the same people pleasers, agreeable soft nice Saint ______ (insert your name)? Or are we learning to stand our ground, not let us be affected by someone’s bad mood, not take personally someone’s remarks or behavior, and saying “no” when needed? I noticed some changes already how I perceive myself and my reactions to the world. It is amazing to observe these changes within myself. I feel I am building my boundaries, which I never had. We know we are not circling back when we have new responses, whether verbal or unspoken, to the same situations.

    • LovefromNel says:

      Dear naina

      I can relate to your post. I also struggle with low self-worth and crippling depression and loneliness. So I am perhaps not the best to offer advice here, but I can shed some light on what I do to get by. You do sound like you are nourishing your health by exercising and eating well – and that is always my first trick to helping my mind, and coping with day-to-day life. Exercise in itself is a low-dose antidepressant, so when I’m feeling quite low, I ratchet this up a few notches and do quite big mountain walks twice a day with my dog.

      Do you enjoy cooking and eating really well? Can you stretch this to making your own bread, yoghurt, granola? This is also what I do to help me eat better, and it also gives me some purpose on the weekends etc.

      One thing that I know a lot of us would advise on here (and I am perhaps channelling wise words of Nigella here) – is to look for *triggers* for contacting the ex-AC? Is it loneliness? If so, at times of temptation, is there a really good friend you could meet for coffee or see a movie with? Is it when you’ve had a few wines? If so, cut back on this for a short while. Methods of distraction, and removing the triggers, are key here! It helps to write them down. I promise! This is only something I’ve learnt recently, through the wonderful people on here.

      Also, in terms of contacting him, there is a brilliant analogy on an old posted comment by Grizelda. She recommends envisioning the AC as a figurine in a fire, with his big hairy arse hanging out (and on fire!). Do you risk burning your hand to reach out to rescue him? No. Every time you contact him, you are burning (and hurting) yourself. Grizelda says – let the flames die down, let the arseclown burn down to a few ashes, so you can see what’s what. Perhaps he’s morphed into a more wonderful figurine (unlikely, but I’m – and so is Grizelda – an optimist, and I’m sure at times it happens) or perhaps you’ll see him for what he really is – nothing but dust and ashes (I’m quoting a Thomas Hardy novel there!), and the temptation to take him home and put him on your mantelpiece is there no longer. Please use this analogy – it does work. Grizelda says it more eloquently than me though.

      Also, another thing I’ve come to learn – these ACs generally enjoy those texts/calls as a form of power. That is their nature! I’m sure the EUM I dated loved getting three pathetically grovelling messages from me – for which I never received any replies. Don’t give him the opportunity to not reply. Each day of NC you will get stronger and the temptation to contact will fade, just imagine the fire analogy, and focus on looking after you, and also acknowledging (and avoiding) the triggers.

      I hope this has helped in someway. And I hope I’ve given credit where it’s due!

      Nel

      • DeflatedLady says:

        Brilliant post, Nel.
        I know what you mean about the triggers, mine is loneliness. so I find it helps try to keep busy and in recent weeks I have been making more plans with friends than I usually would. It helps in the physical sense i.e interacting with others and being out and about as opposed to sitting home alone doing the assessing and replaying cycle.

        I think if you are like me and have quite low self esteem, and you generally tend to blame yourself for another persons actions anyway it can be especially dangerous when the AC is verbally abusive. Because your anxiety when wondering ‘is it me?’ seems to magnify 100% as you wonder why they could be so angry/call you names at the drop of a hat etc…. so you rationalise that it MUST be you as why would a person be so nasty. If that makes sense.

        I can definitely relate to what Naina said above. I could’ve written her post word for word myself. It’s this desire to still remain with someone who treats you less than, and how you go about changing your thinking.

        Isn’t it amazing how, as most of us can attest to, when with these AC’s we do nothing but bend ourselves into pretzels for him and the relationship, because we want to be happy, live the fairytale bla bla. But we cant seem to (or at least struggle with) putting that same level of effort into OURSELVES!

        • oregon girl says:

          Hello Ladies,

          I broke up with my MM AC last August, and only just now am I to the point where I know I am completely over him and ready to move forward with my life.
          It was really, really hard, but I’m here to tell you how happy and free I feel now. I’ve never been happier!

          Back when I was with him, I was so stressed out all the time I had to take tranquilizers because I had PTSD from all the horrible anxiety my relationship with him was causing me. He kept promising to get a divorce but never did, he was an alcoholic, a gambler, and he was verbally abusive to me all the time. Not good!

          Some things that helped me get over him and move forward: I wrote a list of my values: family, creativity, nature, friendship, health, career. Every single day I did a positive thing toward one of those values: called my mom, did some sewing, planted flowers, called a friend, tried a healthy recipe, tried something new at work, etc. In this way I kept working toward my values, investing in myself. It helped me stay busy and so I wouldn’t think about AC as much. It gave me a good feeling every evening when I wrote down my accomplishments in my diary.

          I also took good care of myself: ate healthy foods, exercised, and went to a good counselor. I had to work on figuring out how my shitty childhood made it hard for me to keep boundaries in place. I’m still working on it, but the whole boundary concept is getting easier for me.

          He was such a jerk through the whole process–I had to change my phone number, block him from email, throw out his things, etc. etc. because he kept bothering me. He’d show up at work, show up at my house, call my friends. Finally one day I said to him on the phone: I am dating a new person now. Click. That ended his efforts.

          I decided to set some goals for myself and to work hard to achieve them. I joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary, so I could volunteer and help my country and also have adventures on boats with hot guys! I also earned a scholarship to go to summer school this summer. I will be taking classes in an area that I love and it is exciting to reach a goal I’ve set for myself.

          Ladies, you only have so many years to live, and then those years are spent and gone. You don’t get them back. If you only had 100 dollars to spend, would you go out and buy toxic garbage with it? No way!

          I remember when I first started reading these posts about two years ago I felt so hopeless, I was in so much pain. It was inspiring to read stories of women who found wisdom and strength here. It’s like a support group, like AA. I have also found enormous wisdom in Natalie’s books and I highly recommend them.

          Big hugs, kisses, and prayers.

          Oregon Girl

          • Sofia says:

            Oregon Girl, thank you for sharing your story! It is so inspiring. You are a very courageous and strong person. You took all the right steps and I am sure it was not easy and fast as it sounds in your post here. I see it took you several months to recover. I am so happy for you! I can’t imagine how hard it was also because he kept interrupting your healing process. Incredible what some people do!

            I like your plan to do something everyday that matches your list of values. Health, career, family. I need to think of something like that and make my own list and follow it daily. Even if it is as little as 15-30 minutes of each activity, it counts and grows and nourishes your values. Since my breakup, being in the early but recovering phase (3 months) I have been mostly busy reading and writing on BR and reading other related material to help me cope, but I too have been exercising and taking care of myself. I started going to church, met new friends and try to find at least one activity per weekend to go out and socialize. It is so important to stay busy (but not so busy as to shut down any thought/feeling process) and do things that are important to you.

            You give a practical and hopeful advise for all of us. Thank you so much for sharing!

            Hugs!

        • LovefromNel says:

          Thanks so much, DeflatedLady! A trigger of mine is loneliness too. I am actually going through quite an intense bout at the moment, though, and I really need to heed some of my own advice that I offered to Naina! Perhaps it has something to do with living on my own, and not being able to experience passive socialisation. Also, although I’m quite happy being single for the timebeing, I find that true, genuine friendships are quite hard to come by, and it’s this that excerbates my loneliness. Perhaps I’m just getting older (and cynical), and seeing through people a little bit more! Really good friends – genuine, honest, kind people – are seemingly a rarity these days? Geez sorry for my bleak post everyone! There’s good people on here – of that I am sure.

          And I totally understand about the pretzel analogy. There was a wonderful exchange of comments on here a few years ago between Yoghurt and some other ladies. Here is Yoghurt’s comment:

          “One of the things that I realised about the EUM was that I really really LIKED myself when I was around him. I was mega-understanding, mega-intuitive, mega-understanding and mega-wise – I was the best person ever! And the more he treated me badly, the more I got to be the ever-understanding, ever-sensitive, ever-kind person that I was so proud of.

          With hindsight, it isn’t terrifically surprising that I WAS so insightful, given that I didn’t do anything but think about him and nosy into his psyche and ponder all our conversations interminably for clues.

          This had two results, both of them heinous. Firstly, being rejected by him (in a shock turn of events, given that he’d been rejecting me ever since we’d met…) was extra-specially horrible, given that that was the very very best that I was capable of being. Despite all of my concerted efforts I was treated like an empty baked-bean tin and that was depressing. Because, after all if the very very BEST of me was only worth being discarded, what about the scuzzy bits that I hadn’t let him see?”

          I’ve saved and copied this quote for two reasons: 1) it was pretty much me in my relationship with the EUM and 2) it fits the pretzel analogy perfectly. Because we aren’t being true to us; just bending to ACs and their wants and needs (usually because of the fragility of the relationship). I was never really myself. I bit my tongue when I should’ve spoken out, I did things differently to avoid subtle criticism, I was a never-ending counsellor who should have realised the ex-EUM was so selfish he never considered anyone’s needs but his own. But I think the crux of this comment follows Yoghurt’s comment further down (and this is by Gentle Soul): “I too have been guilty of falling into the trap of wondering how I could possibly have been not good enough. This was short lived though as the more I though about things the more I realised the problem lies with the EUM.I could be the best person to walk this planet and still at the end of the day the EUM would respond in the same way.”

          There is a treasure trove of wisdom in the BR archives which I read on my lonely nights! And to the ladies I’ve quoted, if you’re still reading here, thank you muchly. They may have been written two years ago, but these comments are still reaching out to others!

          Deflated – I hope my reply makes sense! It is a bit haphazard and probably not as well structured as it could be!

          Best wishes to you. And most importantly, look after you! No more pretzelling for anyone. I promise I won’t either!

          • Sofia says:

            LovefromNel,

            Amazing quotes!! Both ladies, Yoghurt and Gentle Soul said the things I could say about my relationship with my EU. Exactly: no matter how hard I tried to be nice, patient, caring, adjusting, forgiving, lady like, gentle, sexual, pervert, proper, polite, relaxed, casual, formal, whatever the situation needed I fit it so that he will like me. And he still rejected me! And how true, if I was performing the best of me and he still didn’t like me or found something wrong with me.

            I have to requote Yoghurt because I can repeat exactly the same thing: “just bending to ACs and their wants and needs (usually because of the fragility of the relationship). I was never really myself. I bit my tongue when I should’ve spoken out, I did things differently to avoid subtle criticism, I was a never-ending counsellor who should have realised the ex-EUM was so selfish he never considered anyone’s needs but his own.”

            Are we all dating the same people? Oregon Girl said, this is like AA. I certainly see it and agree. We are addicts to something toxic for us and we are here to help each other to get rid of it. To cleanse ourselves and to be reborn. To vow to be sober and never touch the poison again.

            Thanks for sharing these quotes. They really hit home. I thought I wrote those sentences!

            • LovefromNel says:

              Dear Sofia – thanks so much for your reply. Yep I could’ve written those quotes by Yoghurt and Gentle Soul too. The comments that really resonate with me, or that have been directed to me, I tuck away into a word document and re-read when I’m feeling sad and down. I would encourage you to do the same! You’ll end up with a treasure trove of wisdom in no time and it really helps with keeping us on the right path of better self-esteem, stronger boundaries, and hopefully no future relationships with an EUM.

              In fact, the quote you’ve rewritten above was actually by me! Yay! I bent every which way in order to keep things flowing smoothly (but even this never worked totally). The fragility of a relationship with an AC/EUM can result in the ‘one false move and it’s all my fault’ mentality. Nat has a wonderful post on this (I’m going to find it for you). It’s the whole ‘if I hadn’t said/done that, then we would be having dinner/sex/whatever tonight, and it would all be OK.’ It’s important to remember that 1) we cannot blame ourselves for everything, 2) others’ actions are not all about us and 3) we are not that powerful! Nat puts this more eloquently than I do in the post: http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/do-you-have-a-one-false-move-its-all-your-fault-mentality/

              That post really helped me actually. I blamed myself when things ended with the EUM (he disappeared on me after I sent a text calling him on his crappy behaviour). For weeks I tormented myself by thinking that if I hadn’t spoken my mind, then things would all be OK. Obviously this is a big red alarm dinging directly over my ditzy head! In any case, it’s important to remain true to ourselves. By that I mean being ourselves.

              Thanks again for your reply Sofia, and big hugs to you!

              • Sofia says:

                Nel, thank you so much for this article. I read and will reread it. It really helps! Mine didn’t do strange acts for anything little like that (3-7 rings, delay in response, etc). It was a different kind of issue. Me blaming myself that I am doing something wrong and expressing my need for commitment that turned him away. For the entire 3 months (although diminishing) I have been on and off still blaming myself that I pushed him away by my actions, words, not being this or that enough and most of all by wanting some kind of affirmation that he wants to stay in the relationship physically and emotionally (he is from another country working on a contract and I literally never knew when he would leave – he told me he didn’t know. that kept me on the edge a lot. He would say he will stay for 2 years more, then it would be summer, then it would maybe in a month. I just never knew where I stood and it made more clingy and insecure.). Anyway, I won’t go into all the details again and again to not torture myself and bore others, but the point is that why I think I have so much control over the relationship? I don’t. At some point he just decided he didn’t want to be with me, for whatever reason and a ” I love you and want to be with you,” became “I don’t see you with me in my life” a month after.

                As I am getting better I am struggling to shut down the thoughts that I did something wrong. I am trying to bring up all the red flags and memories that clearly showed me and he told me openly himself that he is not looking to settle down. HE DID TELL ME. Did I hear it? No. I decided to settle for the crumbs and wait because I thought, like Nat would say, I was an exception to the rule. He wanted to pass the time with me. He wanted an exclusive, “serious” (meaning reliable available sex with one partner) relationship. But he didn’t have in mind any progression, more intimacy than needed, forget about moving in to try out living together. Or forget even about spending few days together in one apartment. I need to remind myself all the things that clearly (clearly now, not then, obviously) show that he was never both feet in. Barely one foot. I need to give up thinking that I had a power over him, over the relationship, or that I did something so bad and so wrong that I killed his “love” for me and he pulled away at my last request to solidify our relationship with some kind of commitment.

                I feel embarrassed for all the things I said and did that makes me think I am to blame still. That’s so complicating. I can’t believe I still have these thoughts in my head 3 months after. Means I still think I am too blame? Terrible. But I am learning to let it go. My self-blame, useless anyway, because the truth is , looking with fresh eyes, I don’t even want to be with him anyway. He made me feel bad. He didn’t value my great qualities and exaggerated my flaws to such an extent that my self-esteem really took a plunge and I am recovering just now with lots of work along the way. I am working really hard to get up from the ground. I wrote many times on this board how he subtly, very subtly, teased and criticized me, disapproved of me, was barely supportive, ignored my friends and family or stories about them and ignored my needs. I don’t need a person like that. So why I even worry about why it ended. If he came back tomorrow I wouldn’t want him. It would be like throwing myself into a dumpster or falling into mud or putting salt on my wounds, whatever it is, it is pain to be with him. He was not good to me or for me and that’s the most important conclusion I can make. Anything else doesn’t matter.

                • LovefromNel says:

                  Dear Sofia

                  I read your reply with much sadness. Along with the ‘One False Move’ article, I think there are a few others that I think may be useful in this situation:

                  http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/are-you-struggling-with-guilt-learning-the-lesson-changing-perspective-so-you-can-move-on/

                  The cover picture for the above article has a wonderful quote: “Guilt is there to remind us of who we are and our values or to even show where we’re taking on too much blame and need to adjust our perspective. Learn. Don’t torture you.”

                  I’ll come back to this in a minute because there was another of Nat’s brilliant articles that I think may be helpful.

                  http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/i-wish-id-done-it-differently-getting-over-the-regret-hangover/

                  These two articles, and the one in the comment above, focus on the themes of regret, blame, and guilt.

                  From what I gather from your post, you’re carrying around a lot of this on your shoulders (as I am too, and bloody hell (as we’d say in Australia) it gets heavy!). Like you, I said things I shouldn’t have too. But we cannot undo the past, only learn from it. As the cover picture in the first article says, guilt serves to show us where we’re taking on too much blame, and how we must shift this perspective. And that is why BR, Nat and her readers are such a gift. There is so much to learn, and we are devouring this knowledge. But no more torturing OK?

                  You also mention that your self-esteem took a plunge. I can relate to this! Nat has a post about this (and I’m sure there’s many others) which you may have read:

                  http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/im-not-good-enough-the-world-through-a-low-self-esteem-lens/

                  A key quote by Nat in this article states: “I’ve only had good self-esteem for almost six years. The difference between me now and back then is that I believe I’m a person of value, that’s worthwhile and worthy of being treated decently and I have enough confidence in myself that I will do whatever it takes to behave in line with that value and steer clear of anything or anyone that detracts from me. That’s the very basics of self-esteem.”

                  This is something I know I must remember, and please remember it too. You are not only a person of value, worthwhile and worthy, but as Nigella says, you are Irreplaceable. Imagine the people we could be – with strong self-worth – in six years’ time?!

                  But I think first it is essential to shift the blame. It is not ours to carry!

                  I wish you the very best, Sofia. I hope this has helped!

                  Nel

                  • Sofia says:

                    Dear Nel,

                    These are such wonderful articles! These are exactly what I need especially right now because I seem to be over him and now focusing on healing myself, getting rid of guilt, and self-blame and improving my self-esteem. I will save these articles to my favorites. Thank you so much!!

          • DeflatedLady says:

            Oh, Nel
            Your posts are beautiful! You wrote something to me on a previous post a few weeks ago and your writing has hit home to me both of these times.

            This quote is so spot on that its spooky! ‘…just bending to ACs and their wants and needs (usually because of the fragility of the relationship). I was never really myself. I bit my tongue when I should’ve spoken out, I did things differently to avoid subtle criticism, I was a never-ending counsellor who should have realised the ex-EUM was so selfish he never considered anyone’s needs but his own’

            My ex AC is definitely the most selfish person I have ever met. Yet there I was, up until very recently, still sitting there listening intently, empathising, encouraging, giving advice all the while smiling, ensuring a beautiful dinner was made, trying to ‘look beautiful’… But should I need to call upon him for re-assurance/ask a question he didnt like/ tell him about my day at work/ hell even just ASK for a hug (and we were long term relationship, living together!!).. he was ‘too busy’ or you’d get him rolling his eyes and moaning: ‘oh here she f*cking goes’ .. ‘for f*ck sake I dont need this right now!’

            I ended up never saying things that I thought or felt, even funny quips at something on the tv,for fear of enraging the beast. I would find myself just talking to him, about him, as this is when conversation flowed and for several minutes I actually felt like I had his attention. I mean I did, purely because we were talking about HIM, right?

            Anyway, I am sorry to hear that you are struggling yourself at the moment. If its any warmth, you are a massive help to myself and other readers on here and when you feel lonely just remember some people on the other side of the world are thankful you took the time to reach out. I can also relate to what you mean about friends. I know I said part of my coping with the NC that I started, was and is going out with friends recently more than usual, but let me tell you… out of 7 of them there is probably 1 who I would consider an actual friend. The others are nice and pleasant and all but, its like you say, in some way we can see through them?

            I would much rather stay in, get cosy and read through the archives and comments here on BR in a bid to help myself through this process and hopefully come through the other side. For all those currently doing NC, hang in there! Big hugs xxx

            • LovefromNel says:

              Dear DeflatedLady – that is also such a kind post, thank you immensely!

              Yep – that quote you’ve got there was my own and it was PRECISELY how I felt, and you’ve nailed it with your experience too! Cooking dinner, looking lovely, and listening to his day. It was all about him, and it was all take, take, take. It sounds like your EUM experience was eerily similar! And your comment about television – yes, me too! I somehow convinced myself that I was happy to watch ‘Grand Designs’ every time I was at his place (Grand Designs is an architecture/building show shown in the UK and replayed a few series’ later in Australia! It was his favourite show because he’s in the building industry, so we watched countless DVDs of it…). Anyway, it’s not such a bad show, but really, at 7pm at night, I just wanted to be watching ABC or SBS News. Did I say anything to the contrary though, about what I wanted to watch every so often? No. I thought – Nel, it really is interesting watching those trusses being put up, just suck it up, girl. Just be the perfect girlfriend because you REALLY ARE fascinated by how effective that solar panel positioning is. Bahahaha!

              Anyway, I think I’m getting at two things. 1) never sacrifice yourself in a relationship and 2) never be willing to compromise everything in a relationship with someone who is willing to compromising nothing because they think they are right about everything, it’s their way or the highway, and everything they like is the correct thing to like (and vice versa).

              Because, ultimately, you’ll end up compromising yourself, everything about you, your very essence, and values, and likes, and wants, and needs.

              Although I am never pleased to hear of similar experiences (for want of a better way to phrase it), it is somewhat comforting to know that I’m not the only one to ‘see through’ people, I guess. Talk about x-ray vision! And yep, I totally get the 1 in 7 figure! It is such a huge comfort to know that I have made a small mark in helping someone on BR, and that there are lovely, kind, genuine souls on here. Like you, I am quite happy to stay in my cosy house, with my dog, reading BR!

              Happy weekend to everyone, and thank you as always for your kind words.

              Nel

          • Nigella says:

            Nel,

            Not many people can communicate the sort of warmth & care you do through your words. They are beautiful & valuable. From what I gather, you are realizing that this treasure – your capacity for love – is something not to squander on thankless fools in whose eyes you’ll never be good enough. Even if you practically did the Chakrasana for such people by bending backwards to impress or please them, they’ll choose not to praise or appreciate you. If they don’t want to give-or-take love (from Nel), that is their choice – and their loss. I feel no pity for them. But, as I said earlier, I care about *your* happiness.

            Like you, I’ve played the unpaid, under-appreciated role of “a never-ending counsellor” to some people in my 20s. Once I stopped glorifying this role, and gave up drinking, I realized that I had absorbed a lot of the depression of the people I counselled. So, I could be wrong, Nel, but you might be recovering from *second-hand depression*. Like second-hand smoke, over the years you may have inhaled all the negative emotions of the people you tried to save and heal. The technical term for this is “compassion fatigue,” which is common among lawyers, who work with trauma victims, as well as among health professional such as nurses. If I recall correctly, you’re employed in the nursing profession, which is great. But you are, I hope, giving at least as much care & compassion to yourself as you give to others – or feel for others.

            For now, I think you deserve *more credit* than you may be giving yourself for the effort you’ve put into building good habits & taking care of your needs – needs that were definitely ignored or under-nourished in your crumb-driven relationship. For example, your need to be heard & appreciated for your thoughts & efforts. Honestly, thinking of you cooking potatoes for that chap, after he criticizes you and then relaxes on his bum, is upsetting. No one has the right to treat you “like an empty baked-bean tin”. Please remember no man is a Maharaja for whom you need to act like a maidservant. If someone doesn’t treat you like a princess, then you needn’t treat him like a prince. Love has to be earned, day by day, one action after action.

            Life is bound to be full of ups & downs – crests & troughs of happiness & loneliness. But instead of seeing these two as opposites, I think it may be helpful for us to see happiness & loneliness as two sides of the same coin – since both may be used by us to bring out the best in us. Periods of loneliness may be treated as periods of growth. Based on my own experience, I can say that periods of loneliness affected me negatively the more I tried to resist or lament them. Over time, I have learned to approach periods of loneliness as *opportunities* for growth. By being on your *own*, you’ve already *grown* so much in a short period. Giving up or reducing our dependence on alcohol & sex is not easy. The more you treat your mind-&-body as a temple – rather than a trashcan – the more benefits you’ll see over time. Even if progress may be glacial, keep giving yourself credit, care, and compassion for the changes – big or small – you are making.

            I see you’re doing a number of things to take care of yourself instead of frantically looking for another relationship: 1 exercising, 2 hiking with your dog, 3 eating well, 4 cooking, 5 making your own bread, yoghurt, granola, 6 meeting friends for coffee, 7 seeing a movie, 8 cutting back on alcohol. My goodness. That is a lot of good things. Yet, as you say, “living on your own” is making you feel that “something is missing”. I guess, after all is said & done, it is comforting to share our experiences, talents, thoughts, and interests with someone on a regular basis. Sharing is fun & fulfilling, with an equally *interested & devoted* person. It is comforting & exciting to have someone bite into one of your baked goodies and say, “Oh my. That is so delicious. Thank you”. Comforting to have someone hike up the mountain with you, holding your hand. Comforting to see a movie, nestled in the arms of a person, who makes you feel safe and needed. Exciting to exercise, and then share the benefits of your energy, your beauty with someone attractive to you, and attracted to you. Exciting to return from work, or from a meeting with a friend, and relate the experiences of the day to someone, who is just as excited to return to you with his own stories of the day – just as excited to listen to you and love you with your “scuzzy bits”, Nel.

            Give it time. Have faith – all of the above, and many more beautiful things are going to come into your life. It is easier said than done, but fully *own* your loneliness. Use it to learn to love yourself, just as deeply, (com)passionately, truthfully, you have tried to love others. Keep redirecting compassion & love more *intensely & consistently* towards yourself and imagine all the amazing things you’ll achieve & experience. Yes, “really good friends – genuine, honest, kind people” – may seem to be “a rarity these days”. I read somewhere: “people are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges”. It seems to me that you are not building walls of protection isolating yourself from others. Instead, you are trying to connect to others. But you alone cannot build the bridge of friendship – they too need to show up & put in effort. For now, by taking care of yourself, you’ll increase your chances of drawing good friends into your life by bringing out the best in you. “Misery loves company”. Happy people also love company – and they’ll come into your life or you’ll find them. Keep building yourself up.

            Here are three practical suggestions: 1. I’m not sure if you’re doing the following. If you are, at least for some time, stay away from romantic or sad songs, shows, movies, and novels. Doing so has made a *big* difference in my general attitude. Seeing or listening to anything romantic or sad is like twisting the knife. Example, YouTube clip from “Imagine Me & You” captures my situation with the criminally attractive auditor: http://is.gd/14jZni . Best to replace such things with lighthearted, funny things. 2. Make sure you’re not over-sleeping or under-sleeping: 8 hours is usually sufficient for most people. Daily, rise & shine on time. 3. To tame my thoughts & to stop myself from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, I listen to the following songs as I exercise on *full* bass. Except for the first, the rest do not really have any words – the absence of words helps to *clear up & energize* mind. They might improve your energy too – *lift* you out of the rut of sadness. Or you might not find them as uplifting as I do. They might be mere noise to you. Give them a try.

            1. Santos – Hold Home: http://is.gd/I1k1ro
            2. Gary Beck – Paid Out: http://is.gd/2CZbZJ
            3. Glender – Bring that Beats Back: http://is.gd/Mwif9m
            4. Glender – Hiawatha: http://is.gd/fKPdXU
            5. Wally Lopez – No Pare La Musica: http://is.gd/hXInhp

            Running through these songs is energizing. By the end of the run, my attitude for the rest of the day runs on this thought: if someone doesn’t have time for me, fine. If people can’t keep their word, fine. If they don’t like me, fine. They can lick my stilettos. Or sod off.

            • Sofia says:

              Nigella, thank you for your wise and warm post. I will keep reading and rereading it. You wrote for all of us, truly and for yourself as well. I will save it on my computer. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and love.

            • LovefromNel says:

              Argh Nigella you wouldn’t believe what I just did! I wrote out a lengthy convoluted Nel reply, and realised I hadn’t clicked on the link to witness the clip that captures the situation with your criminally attractive auditor and so I thought ‘I’ll just take a look here’ and arghhhhh I lost my whole reply!

              So this reply is going to be a bit truncated I’m afraid :(

              What I started writing was an enormous thank you for your always so generous advice, which you impart so selflessly! Reading the words is like pulling a warm blanket up over me, with a cup of tea, and thinking – yes, this is EXACTLY what I need to do.

              So coming back to the clip, which I’ve now watched, I can see why you choose to focus on lighthearted, funny things. Even that short clip got me a bit emotional on your behalf! I’m dying to know though (and if, of course, you feel like sharing), is there a possibility things could progress there? I do hope there is, because I know that, like you said to me, beautiful things will come into your life too. For someone that offers their advice/knowledge/experiences to others so generously, surely there can only be good and beautiful things in your direction.

              And that clip has very much shown that I too need to focus on more light-hearted things! I’m currently close to finishing Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier and absolutely love it! But it’s a romance and I’m dying for the happy ending and I’m sure Jem will come back to Mary and and and . . . I guess my imagination runs away with me and the EUM returning and apologising (just like Jem will do) etc! I think I need to remember that novels are not real life! I have an English Literature major and I adore the older romance novels (especially the Jane Austen / Daphne du Maurier type)! But I think I need to read something else for a change.

              I also mentioned in my previous reply (now in the ether) that I was going to pop those songs on my iPhone to listen to when I’m next walking! I trust you because I love Beyonce too (and on that note, no-one is more irreplaceable than you). In the spirit of sharing favourite songs, I was trying to find an uplifting one by one of my favourite singers, Robyn, but there were none which illustrated what I was trying to get at. At the moment, I really love ‘Every Teardrop is a Waterfall’ (Robyn does the most amazing cover of this track by Coldplay but helloooo sad songs for Nel!). Geez I’m not doing very well here am I! Romantic movies and sad songs!

              You advice on ‘owning my loneliness’ is truly priceless. As is the ‘compassion fatigue’. Like Sofia says below, I am going to keep reading and rereading this post because there is so much to treasure and learn from in it. But I must go to bed now because my eyes are falling out of my head. I apologise that this isn’t as long or as gracious a reply as yours warranted. But I must tell you how forever grateful I am for you sharing you words they way that you do. It is truly a gift!

              Best wishes as always,
              Nel

              • Nigella says:

                Nel,

                Thanks for your kind words and for the Robyn song suggestion. I like some of her songs, especially one I heard a few times last year. Here are lyrics from “With Every Heartbeat”: http://is.gd/cmDDgp (Youtube)

                “Maybe we could make it all right
                We could make it better sometime
                Maybe we could make it happen, baby
                We could keep trying but things will never change
                So I don’t look back”

                Yes, when someone repeatedly hurts & deceives us, and disappears on us, then it is best to *accept* they “will never change” and accordingly never “look back” in search of them. Look back only to learn lessons about their limitations & our own misconceptions.

                Two of my close friends, highly articulate & intelligent, majored in English Literature, and then became lawyers. How neat that you are a Lit major too – no wonder I’m drawn to your style of writing. I can understand your quest for “the happy ending”, but if the ex returned in *real* life, I think you know that he’d bring you more disappointment & grief rather than fulfillment & joy. Like caricatures or static characters in a novel, some people “never change” and even if they did, sometimes it is too damn late. Ultimately, you are the protagonist of your life. His disappearance simply marks the end of a chapter and, as the author of your own story, you are free to create a happier ending for yourself. Use that imagination of yours to *imagine* a better future and script different roles for yourself in personal & professional spheres – roles aside from those of a girlfriend, wife, counselor, or caregiver. These roles can be meaningful but so can many other.

                I’m afraid I haven’t read any romance novels – not for instruction on relationships; nor for distraction. These days I rarely get time to read for pleasure. But your mention of romance novels reminded me of one of my favorite stories, Wuthering Heights. I’m assuming you must have read it too – or seen a BBC adaptation. I think it could be read as an anti-romance, and for fun it could be read through a BR lens. I don’t have the expertise to do justice to this masterpiece. Still, I’ll attempt some brushstrokes: Bronte obviously enlists our sympathy for Heathcliff and Catherine, the central lovers of the novel. But Heathcliff is arguably an assclown: he overhears a conversation, feels monstrously jilted by Catherine (his object of desire), chooses not to discuss anything with her, disappears for a few years, suddenly returns to haunt Catherine (who is now married to Edgar), tries to control and torment Catherine by marrying her sister-in-law Isabella, and uses Isabella to exact revenge upon Edgar. Good Heavens. Heathcliff, despite his pity-arousing childhood as a poor orphan, is clearly a self-destructive and abusive character. He returns to Catherine, but only to bring more pain and drama into her life.

                I must say, I don’t think Bronte expects us to hold Catherine in high esteem either. I remember cringing the first time I read her famous lines: “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath — a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff — he’s always, always in my mind — not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself — but as my own being — so, don’t talk of our separation again — it is impracticable.” Nel, I’m sure you can read these lines in thought-provoking ways. In my view, they capture thought-patterns peculiar to the fallback girl: Catherine, despite admitting that her “love for Heathcliff” is “a source of little visible delight”, insists on perceiving such love as “necessary”. How masochistic is that?! Then, in case one overlooked her obsessional attachment to Heathcliff, she spells it out: “he’s always, always in my mind”. For whatever reasons, it never occurs to her that she could fill her mind with other things – like admiring the beauty of the moors or having hotter sex with her husband. Constantly, she is ruminating about Heathcliff. To top it all, she claims: “I am Heathcliff” – she sees no flipping difference between herself and Heathcliff because she has mentally morphed into him. She is defining herself as his clone. Far from creating an identity separate from him, she thinks that any talk of their “separation” is impractical. Bronte is brilliant. She illustrates not only how Heathcliff torments Catherine, but also how Catherine is deluded or misguided about her own identity and relationship to Heathcliff. This anti-romance is less about love and passion and more about revenge, control, obsession, and illusions about love. In any case, Nel, you might have a different reading of this novel. I, for one, have no interest in becoming one with any man or woman at this point in my life.

                I want to be free. To answer your question about the auditor, I’m unable to take things further despite feeling attracted to her. The care & interest she has shown me means a lot to me. But unlike her, I can’t envision dating someone with whom I’m professionally affiliated. Had she not been related to our firm, I could have dated her. However, even then, I’m sad to feel I’m not ready as yet to trust anyone. I read somewhere: “Date when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.” I don’t feel lonely. But I’m also not ready. I feel disillusioned, sort of numb as far as the romance department is concerned. Everything else is fine.

                I need to steer clear of romantic & sad stuff, and I’ll feel better about not being able to hold her close to me. I hope you’re feeling better and having a relaxing weekend.

                • LovefromNel says:

                  Dearest Nigella,

                  Thank you once again for your reply. ‘With Every Heartbeat’ is also one of my favourite. ‘Indestructible’ is another!

                  And ditto to your style of writing too! I only wish I could write as well, and as clearly, as you do! I am in a nursing area at work (and about to commence study to be a nurse) but I actually write speeches and I often think to myself ‘now, how would Nigella phrase this? What great word could I use here!’ So you have had far-reaching influence in my life, perhaps much more than you may realise! It’s truly Nigella wisdom in all facets.

                  I have read Wuthering Heights, it is one of my favourites too. I loved your BR analogy and I think you are spot-on. I am no big fan of Heathcliff or Catherine. If you spot a copy of Jamaica Inn anywhere, and you could snaffle some time to read for pleasure, I’d love to know what you think of it. And I am sure you would love it too. Daphne du Maurier’s most famous book, Rebecca, was, when it was written, kind of relegated to ‘female fiction’ and she was forever typecast as a ‘female writer’ and is only just now getting the recognition she deserves.

                  I understand about the auditor, and being attracted to someone in a work environment. Your consulting role sounds immensely fulfilling and challenging but on a professional level, may not be the ideal place from which to begin a romantic relationship. Perhaps in the future something may shift though. She may move jobs, and you may be more inclined and ready to date. I am an eternal optimist! But like you have said to me, I only want your happiness!

                  Your quote, as usual, struck a chord too! I think I may be similar. Lonely, but perhaps not really ready. And that’s just not a good enough reason.

                  Thank you again for taking the time to reply to me, Nigella, and for your caring words. It warms my heart to know that there are beautiful people that care.

                  As always,
                  Nel

                  • Nigella says:

                    Nel,

                    If I could read a speech of yours, I’m sure it’ll be a treat. Since I can’t, I’ll have to settle for wishing you all the best for your written work – don’t underestimate the quality of your style or the complexity of your thoughts. Congrats for the training you’re going to receive in Nursing. Regardless of the roadblocks you might encounter in this endeavor, I hope it’ll bring you success & satisfaction. In the long run, I hope increased financial independence prevents you from falling prey to lowlifes bent on deflating your self-confidence. Financial independence is not a substitute for *emotional independence* but I do think it makes it a lot easier for one to walk away from rubbish. To return to Wuthering Heights, Catherine settles for Edgar mainly because of the financial security he can offer. She, unlike her brother, doesn’t have the option of inheriting or owning an estate (to earn income from capital investment) or the option of educating herself to enter the job market (to earn income from her own labour). Financial dependence sucks ladies, says Bronte to her readers. Fortunately, unlike mid-nineteenth-century ladies, you & I can earn our own living. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences in Nursing.

                    Thanks for your kind words. In case it adds to your happiness, let me say that thoughts of you swim into my mind, particularly when I’m experiencing something that delights me, like picking a summer dress & wondering if you’d like my choice, or making focaccia & wondering if it’ll meet your baking standards. Such involuntary thoughts remind me of those amazing passages Virginia Woolf wrote, describing things that flow into the mind of Mrs. Dalloway as she sets off to buy flowers in London. The story is less about what she is doing and more about what she is feeling, sensing, and remembering, including memories of conversations or letters she may have exchanged with someone else. You know what I mean? In my mind, in addition to her “scuzzy bits” & current feelings of loneliness, Nel equals joy, optimism, warmth, talent, intelligence, and humor, and I hope that when she’s *ready* to date again – instead of a grouchy git like Mr. Ingrate – she’ll find a great guy who’ll appreciate all of these qualities.

                    Speaking of novels, although it won’t be anytime soon, I’ve made a note in my planner to read Jamaica Inn and to share a reading with you within BR framework. For the next few months, I’m under a lot of pressure as far as work and financial responsibility to my parents is concerned. Taking everything into account, I’m glad I’ve forsworn romance for as long as I don’t feel ready to trust newcomers. Planting myself in the dating garden seems pointless when I know in that context I’ll be thorny. I’m content to be on my own or with those I already trust. Even in the long run, I don’t think I’ll be unhappy without a romantic relationship. Occasionally unhappy? Oh yes. Cataclysmically unhappy? No. My need for respect surpasses my need for love & companionship. I’ll be unhappy if I spend my life accepting slights, crumbs, and lies & regretting that I didn’t make the contributions I could have because I spent my emotional energy on *slackers*. It makes no difference if someone is a superstar professionally or socially. If they’re lazy in showing their love to me, they’ll be slotted as a slacker & banished to slackerville! I don’t care if their pet chimp Bubbles died at age 2. If they’re being lazy & shady, they’re being lazy & shady. Slackers need not apply – and if through subterfuge they get hired, I hope I’ll have enough sense to fire them for their poor performance.

                    Thanks for suggesting another song by Robyn. I liked the tune & these lines: “I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before. I’m gonna love you like I’m indestructible.” I can’t foresee feeling this way about anyone but I understand the sentiment. Thanks also for your optimistic thoughts on the auditor. Miss Excel so far has proven to be dependable. So she is befriendable – and yes, if she moves her job, I suspect most likely she’ll be deliciously dateable. I won’t let her slip away because she does, I’m afraid, make me smile. For now, I dedicate myself to dark chocolate whenever thoughts of her threaten to overtake my imagination. These days I also swim like a wahoo so even if I overdose on cacao, I hope I’ll spare myself the trouble of buying new clothes!

                    I hope you’re well.

                    • simple pleasures says:

                      Ah, we spend so much time with our stories which are less about what (we )are doing and more about what (we are) feeling, sensing, and remembering.

                    • LovefromNel says:

                      Dear Nigella,

                      It is this wonderful post that I turned to after bumping into him last night, on the mountain. I’ve pretty much plastered it all over BR now, but he was with someone else (a girl). I did what you wrote to me months ago – it was along the lines of him not extending the courtesy to me to tell me how he felt, and that I should not feel obliged to say hello. Those words of advice coursed through my veins when I saw him up ahead. He ignored me too.

                      I felt a bit sick walking away. I can’t pinpoint why. I think it was for two reasons. One, I felt like I didn’t ‘deserve’ to be ignored so callously (I need to go back and re-read Nat’s most recent post) and two, I think it was also mainly a sense of nostalgia. I wanted to be her. Because that was ME this time last year. I wanted the thrill, the excitement, the fun of getting to know someone, the exalting feeling of thinking ‘yep, this man is the one’. The addictive sex, the friendship. I wanted it all back, with him. I wanted to time-warp. But he’s chosen her.

                      Anyway, enough of him. I’m trying to control my mind more. I couldn’t sleep last night and I wondered how I could control it better, and I thought of you and what you may do! I couldn’t listen to music of any variety at 12am. I kept re-playing the event over and over in my mind. Did he notice my hair? That I’ve lost weight? That my dog listens to me better instead of going off chasing kangaroos? Or did he want to put the greatest amount of distance, in the shortest possible time, between us? It seemed he couldn’t get away quick enough. But perhaps nor could I.

                      Back to your post, though, which as I have said, I adored. I’m glad I can somehow inspire summer dress and food selection! Despite living in Australia, I adore Anthropologie in the US and UK and often buy online from there. I am hazarding a guess you are an Anthro shopper!

                      I’d love to hear your wise BR interpretation of Jamaica Inn. I’m hanging out for it, in fact!

                      Most of all, I am so pleased to hear of the small possibility of the (future) potential of Miss Excel. The fact that she makes you smile, makes me smile! You deserve immense happiness.

                      Swim like a wahoo! How I love that saying! I used to swim competitively years ago, and love the feeling of diving in and letting all my thoughts dissolve in the water! These days, whenever I exercise, it’s with my dog, who I love to bits. Even when I swim with her, it’s actually quite excruciating because she won’t let me out of her sight, and I end up with claw marks all over me.

                      Happy weekend to you, dear friend.

                    • LovefromNel says:

                      PS, I am not sure how I missed commenting on Mrs Dalloway. It is one of my favourite novels. You brilliantly captured what that novel is about, better than my 2500 word essay I wrote on it eight years ago! Love it!

                    • Nigella says:

                      Nel,

                      Posted on May 12, my longer reply to you is somewhere below. Hope you are feeling better.

          • no_more says:

            Nel, Deflatedlady,

            I come back and read comments on here every day. These last few quotes, similar experiences resonate so deeply!

            I think I broke NC because I was triggered by loneliness, pressures at work and a small health scare. I wanted to be “validated” in that I needed to know HE knew and appreciated how wonderful I was. I listened endlessly to his aches, pains, his troubles with his wife, his needs, his angst. We would go over his heart rates after bike rides, and discuss the fluctuations of them vs. previous rides. It was so boring! Yet I stifled yawns, and cheered him on, and people-pleased the h*ll out of him. Blahhhhh!

            During our 3 phone calls last weekend- it started all over again. On and on about his stubbed toe, his back pains, his upcoming trip. I started to mention I had been in the hospital, but he was too busy blathering on about HIS life.

            It was then that I realized with painful clarity, that I was right back to being an ego booster, a support stem, to allow him to feel okay about treating me like crap in January. He’s really not interested, he’s just needy.

            I was “the never-ending counselor”. I was down grading myself AGAIN! He wrote on Saturday, he would call. He finally did: “Been biking, cleaned my garage, going out with some friends. Speak soon “. I thought- are you serious?? I’m like fourth on your list of things today? Behind garage cleaning?? Why not just add toe-nail clipping on there?

            And I looked in the mirror, recognized I felt that horrible anxiety again, that I was just circling all the way back to trying to get something-that isn’t there anymore, and never will be.

            I typed back: “I don’t think so. Take care”
            Then deleted his contact. I was stupid to imagine that I could have a fairy tale ending. The only difference is that it only took me three days this time instead of 2 years.

            The problem is him–not me. But right now my anxiety is high, my self-esteem has taken a kick, and I hurt. I cried- after not crying in 2 months. But I am more determined than ever to get on with it!

            He’s a Heathcliff, and I am NOT going to be Catherine!

            Thank you NML, and all you wonderful people. It’s my lifeline right now. xx

            • Sofia says:

              Dear no_more, I didn’t realize your ex was such a needy jerk for ego boost and whiner and complainer. It does sound like he uses you as a shoulder to cry on, among other things that he feels good about himself when he is in touch with you again. I wrote to you within last 2 days about maybe giving it a chance IF gets divorced. That kind of whiny, wishy-washy, weak narcissistic man will never get divorced. This kind of people can never make up their mind: one way or another. This saga would drag on for decades, if you let it.

              I don’t know much of your story or about him, but I recognize more good signs from you: you are very clear and realistic about his personality. I don’t think he is on a pedestal anymore. He is boring and ridiculous, from what I gather from your description of him. Extremely self-centered and selfish. It’s amazing how much we put up with these guys. I put up with a lot of “gentle” teasing, sarcastic subtle remarks and criticism. I laughed back like it’s no big deal. Trying to be cool and people pleaser, while still being called “sensitive to my opinions,” when I did say I didn’t like his particular remarks. So I was reprimanded for not liking his opinions about me. Just like you put up with listening to his problems and being his counselor for free, I was giving a free ride to someone who constantly inflated his ego by treating me like crap.

              You probably should write more about him, when you are in the mood. I didn’t like him at the beginning and I dislike him even more now. All the priorities he has on his list and you are the last priority of course. It happened to me to all the time. It’s work, his daily nap, his sports, his family, friends, buddies, and then, when he is available and need to pass the time, here I come. Wow…

              How could we possibly be so blind before. But our eyes are open now. Although we are still hurt and need time to heal, the great thing is that we are now seeing everything clearly like never before. NC does a great thing. Please stay NC and when you feel like breaking it, post something here. This board is my lifeline too. I log in every day. I couldn’t do without it.

            • LovefromNel says:

              Dear no_more,

              I read the comments every day too. It is also my lifeline! I wish I could give you a big hug, and I hope you are on the road to recovery in terms of the health scare.

              My two cents’ worth in this situation: don’t be too hard on yourself for breaking NC, because I think the gift here is the ability to reflect on what has occurred. You’ve identified the trigger (loneliness) and down the track, have also recognised your boundaries. You’ve also recognised old patterns of anxiety. And your text was amazing!

              So I think you must congratulate yourself here! Of course it is his problem. He sounds like nothing but a self-absorbed, needy d*ckwit who was after a cushion to dry his tears. The EUM I dated was the same. It was his problems that always took precedence. These men are too self-absorbed in their own life, their own woes, that they can’t see past their (stubbed) big toe! Haha there’s a little poem there.

              Best wishes, and take care of you. You have done this, despite the small setback. In a short time, you’ll be back to where you were, and this will just be a distant memory.

              • no_more says:

                Thanks Nel, Sophia..still churning a bit. But sitting on my hands (literally last night), journaling like mad, reading and going on a date tonight. Ugh..don’t want to, but I’m going.

                I’m trying to stay on a linear path, and get off the merry-go-round.

                “D*ck wit”..that made me laugh!

                Big hugs back.

                • LovefromNel says:

                  Dear no_more,

                  How did the date go? Any pleasant surprises?

                  I actually thought I saw the EUM last night, with a girl, on the mountain where I walked (and where we met). But I’m actually not sure if it was him after all. It was quite dark, and hard to see. Anyway, I wasn’t too bothered.

                  I just thought to myself – it really is YOUR loss, buddy. I had BR wisdom and confidence running through my veins.

                  Haha I’m glad I could prompt a small laugh. Another of my favourite descriptive words is f*cktard!

                  That really is what these men are!

                  xo

                  • Sofia says:

                    I love your expressions, Nel. That’s what I call my ex EUM whenever I have any nostalgia images popping up in my head, which become less and less frequent with every week.

                  • no_more says:

                    Hi Nel,

                    The date was a bust. Maybe my heart isn’t there. I read BR before and after the date. It, like you during your walk, was circling around my head.

                    My date kept yammering on & on about his ex-wife, nastily I might add, and I literally saw the words “Code Red! Code Red!”, flashing before my eyes. He said, “Well, this went well, want to try it again?”, and I almost replied, ” Thanks, rather have a lobotomy actually”.

                    I got home and was a little weepy. Restless, and missing the EX fuc*tard, (great word BTW). Blecccch!

                    My ex husband called, we chatted about our kids, then he texted me, “Glad we can get along. Have a good night”. He was an AC our whole marriage, but he’s being nicer than the recent EX! The irony!

                    I am sitting on a wellspring of emotions, sadness, recriminations, and KNOW these things take time, pain is not fun & you have to work through it all, but it effing all hurts A LOT sometimes!

                    So sorry to whine. It will get better, I’m sure.

                    On a brighter note: I am glad you weren’t too bothered, if that had been your ExEUM. Good for you! It gets better I know.

                    xx

                    • Sofia says:

                      no_more, definitely red flags. So glad we have BR and the experience to spot those signs immediately instead of ignoring them.

                      Dating is hard anyway and especially after what we have learned and gone through. I am terrified even to think about it.

                      I think maybe you need to give yourself more time to heal. And then date. Because whenever it’s not going to work out, you are going to miss your Ex, who will always be “better” in comparison to the next date, just simply because we are still not over them and miss them, amazingly.

                      I understand that your ex-husband seems better now. Especially in comparison to your Ex and your date. That makes sense. I had a similar experience before.

                      You are not whining at all. It is disappointing. I can’t even imagine dating. I am afraid it will make me miss the fun I had with my ex EUM.

                      Hugs and keep strong. Wait to date a bit, I think…The way you reacted to that guy seems you are not ready. And that’s perfectly understandable.

                    • LovefromNel says:

                      Dear No_more,

                      Geez what is it with men and their ‘psycho exes’. I now know to run a mile when they say that.

                      I wish you had said that lobotomy line! In fact, I think I could have used that recently too! I had my carpets cleaned about a week ago, and received a follow-up (flirty) text message from the carpet cleaner. Apparently my fake-tan was ‘yummy’ and I was ‘pretty hot’.

                      Ummmm, mate, this is really not getting you anywhere. Anyway, yesterday I received his offer to clean the carpets of the other two rooms for free so he could “get to know me”. When I wrote a kind reply saying that it was a kind offer but I wasn’t ready to take things further, he replied back – twice. The first was ‘who’s this?’ and the second was ‘did you just message me?’.

                      Arghhh!

                      Silence is bliss. Because that’s what he got in return! Deary me. Shoot me down for saying this but I’m becoming a cynic and wondering if there are any good men out there. (I know Nat has posts on this to the contrary though, and I must go back and read them).

                      And if it helps to share your pain a little, I bumped into my ex yesterday. I hope you don’t mind me having a small whine now.

                      I was walking where I normally do. As a bit of background, I met the EUM on this particular walk with my dog.

                      After he disappeared a few months down the track, he mysteriously also stopped walking the mountain. I later realised he had a little pattern of ‘car-spotting’ going on, and wouldn’t walk when my car was parked there.

                      Well, with some BR reading and wonderful advice, I got much stronger at the end of last year / beginning of this year, and didn’t mind the fact that I was being avoided and I knew I wouldn’t bump into him (although I desperately wanted to after losing 12 kilos bahahaha!).

                      Anyway, I had to move house and I now walk from the other side of the mountain, from where he can no longer car spot.

                      I knew bumping into each other was bound to happen sooner rather than later.

                      I was with my Mum last night, and sure enough, I saw him up ahead. He was walking with a girl. Not sure if it was his girlfriend, but they were chatting away. He put his dog on the lead to make sure it couldn’t stop and play with mine (a border collie called Nel).

                      Nel ignored him and his dog, anyway, but went to play with the girl’s labrador. I held my head high, kept walking, and called Nel away.

                      I felt saddened, and sick. I know I shouldn’t care. It’s been months and months. But it hurt. It hurt because he didn’t even have the decency and courtesy to tell me he didn’t want a relationship. And it hurt because he’s moved on (well, apparently) with someone who looks about 18 with braces. Not that I have anything against 18 year olds with braces, but it makes me feel a bit sick.

                      It’s almost like he preys upon the friendly girls who walk a dog and smile/say hello to others going by.

                      I’ve stopped doing that, and I’ve stopped being the people-pleaser that I am.

                      I feel like I’ve lost a bit of my inherent happiness because of him, and I hate him for that.

                      I also was saddened by the fact that he never said hi to me either. My mum tried to say that perhaps it’s because he’s ashamed about how he behaved.

                      He didn’t look ashamed, though. He just looked like a f*cktard.

                      But I still feel sh*t too.

                      SIGH!

                      Sorry for my whine! I’ve got to get out of this pre-weekend sulk.

                      xo

                  • no_more says:

                    Nel..

                    Replying to your May 9th post: Honey, everything you say goes right to the heart of NML’ s post here about circular issues. You are thinking how he would see how great you looked after the weight loss (good for you BTW!), and you are internalizing why her, not me?

                    Back into that vicious cycle again. I am in no way being critical, I have done that too many times to count! But look at how far you have come. Really, you have decided to change, you see when to say no, (the daft carpet cleaner- and what a piece of work he sounds like!), you walked away, and didn’t feel it necessary to be polite or chit-chat to the Ex, you did good!!

                    If you see them again-quite literally RUN in the opposite direction. Even Nel, your smart, wonderful dog was telling you, the EX isn’t even worth a sniff. Too bad she didn’t lift a leg, and “water” his sorry a** down…

                    I know about the weekend blues. But try and do something special for yourself today. Read, buy yourself a treat, journal, and look in the mirror and tell yourself how FANTASTIC you are over and over. Simply, because you are!

                    I know how you feel about being cynical. I feel that so much right now. But I guess that’s okay. I’m wondering if part of it, is that I feel a bit cynical about my choices, reactions, and inner self. It’s painful, but part of the process in truly getting to let go, and love ourselves.

                    I think you should be proud of yourself. You didn’t fall all over him, pet his dog, you discouraged another potential AC, (the carpet idiot-whom I might have been tempted to text back: “oh, shall I bring the wine for our rug cleaning date, you moron?”). Yeah for you!

                    You will feel better quicker this time. Let it all wash over you, then let it go.

                    Many virtual hugs! Xxx

                    • LovefromNel says:

                      Dearest no_more

                      Thank you so very much for your response! I was laughing aloud at the end of it! Yes it was quite strange that Nel didn’t even go up to his dog. She’s the friendliest dog in the world, and goes up to everyone but sometimes I think dogs sense more than people sometimes! She knew to stay well clear.

                      Do you think I should continue to walk where I do? The story actually takes a bit of a strange turn. On Friday evening, I walked too, and saw the girl with her sister. I actually had a friendly and lengthy chat with them (I didn’t mention the EUM of course – I might be sad and hurt but I’d like to think I’m always diplomatic!). I don’t actually think she’s his GF – just someone he’s cottoned onto whilst walking, like he did with me I guess. I felt a bit sickened by that. I know I’m creating a small story in my head, but I fear he seeks out friendly, chatty girls with perhaps lower self-esteem (when others with healthy esteem would not have given him the time of day).

                      But I don’t want to see him again, happily chatting away with her, and ignoring me. As much as a f*cktard that he is, that still hurts. So I don’t know whether to continue to walk.

                      Anyway, are you feeling better too? Is NC going ok? And I hope the lobotomy guy hasn’t sought out a second date!

                      Thank you again,
                      Nel
                      xo

                    • no_more says:

                      Nel,

                      Hmmm..my first instinct is to say walk wherever the dickens you want to walk! And he should scurry himself under the nearest rock and molt for all eternity.

                      But, honestly, if seeing him again, or worrying about it, is causing you to regress, or keep you wondering about her, or them, or anything that is going to keep you from your goal of being happier, then yes: change your route for awhile.

                      Look, you are (albeit diplomatically), possibly trying to glean information from this girl whether they are a couple, you are even fearing he might be using his AC techniques on other girls, and you’re circling back to him, him, him again.

                      Oh, how I know how easy it is to do! I still catch myself doing that. But think of all the progression you’ve made! All the months of NC! How hard it’s been. Do you really want to keep going back (figuratively & literally), to where you were? To the “dark” place?

                      It is up to you Hon, but really look at what you are feeling, what you need to do that is best for YOU! I say don’t give that f*cktard a chance to even glance at your greatness. He doesn’t deserve it!

                      That is my two cents. Others might think differently. Just really think of what’s best for you.

                      I am doing okay. Feeling 75% less anxious. I volunteered, hung out with some friends, and have not heard from the lobotomy guy. He’s probably stalking his ex wife, or taking selfies of himself. Echhhh.

                      Take care of you, ok? Let us know how you go.

                      xx

                • Sofia says:

                  I know how it feels – sitting on your hands. I have been in that situation before. How did you find a date? Have fun! Let us know how it went, if you wish to share.

                  Hugs!

                  • no_more says:

                    Hugs to you, too dear Sophia!

                    xx

                  • LovefromNel says:

                    Dearest no_more,

                    Thanks for your wonderful advice.

                    You’re spot-on! I was in two minds about the whole thing. I felt torn between ‘walking wherever the dickens [I] want to walk’ and at the same time, having the very real possibility of bumping into him/them again. I said on a reply to Sofia that it feels like I’m the uninvited third-party gate-crashing their mountain rendezvous!

                    I am circling, you are absolutely right. So I’m now going to avoid walking on the days that I know he will be there (Tues and Thurs). I’ll just have to run with Nel around the neighbourhood streets those nights. In my mind, I’m going to tell myself exactly what you have said: “don’t give that f*cktard a chance to even glance at your greatness. He doesn’t deserve it!” I just don’t know why I can’t believe that, and why my self-esteem is at such a low!

                    I am really pleased to hear you are doing well and are 75% less anxious. And good on you for volunteering. It is a common adage that ‘helping others, helps yourself’. Ohmygawshhh don’t tell me he’s a selfie guy! If there’s one thing I hate in this (often narcissistic) world, it’s those damn selfies! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wish I could teleport back to the days when men were more humble, and more respectful.

                    I hope you had a lovely weekend too. And please keep me updated on your progress also. I shall do the same, as I know I’ll be on BR a long while yet!

                    Love Nel

      • growingin says:

        I really liked what you had to say in the comment Nel. I am going through a pretty recent loss from an AC who told me after several months of dating that I “deserve better” and he was not willing to commit to me. He said he wanted to “be friends” to preserve the best part of our relationship which was our companionship and great communication. I have been in such deep pain ever since and reading Nat’s book AGAIN on the Fallback Girl….I realize I was an emotional air bag in this recent relationship and when I look at my patterns, I can see that I also have played rescuer to EVERY one of my xAC’s and I have always chased after them in some way and ended up on my knees begging them not to leave me. Ugh… I am disgusted when I write about this but I can see where the work I need to do is. For one, I could stop dating my father… who is a DREAMER, probably one with no core self, maybe narcissist/borderline personality disordered. I pick guys who have POTENTIAL but who are currently in some sort of vague/building/struggling place… and here I come- Ms. Savior. I am retiring from that role.

        • LovefromNel says:

          Dear Growingin,

          First of all, big hugs to you! Secondly, are you still friends with the EUM?

          And thirdly, helllooooooo me in your comments!

          And yes yes yes – I was an emotional airbag too! Have a quick read of my comment above to DeflatedLady – I’ve copied some older comments that I had saved about this exact thing. (My encylopedia of other people’s BR wisdom grows by the day! I keep a saved document of all the many wonderful comments I read! And then use them again later to give others advice!).

          But yes, I too was a constant counsellor. I think these men (that we seem to go for) also seek women with low self-esteem who offer the ‘rescuer’ card (read: simply have a caring nature). I often wonder why I am attracted to the good looking, masculine, emotionally wounded, can’t commit type of man. I seem to know at the time that I’m walking into a battleground, yet I seem to think I can magically fix it all by being Florence Nightingale! Clearly, I’ve learnt I can’t though, and I have learnt (finally) that I generally walk away (following on from the battleground analogy) with a bullet-wound close to my heart.

          Like you, I do think the most recent EUM had potential but was in a sort of no-man’s-land stage. He didn’t want to be with anyone, but he wanted to try with me as well. Like you, I got the ‘I can’t commit’ speech, but the following day there was firewood (I had a woodfire at the time!) and flowers from his garden at my side gate. He later apologised and tried to explain where he stood. It was like he couldn’t walk away, but couldn’t commit either. From then on, I was the one in no-man’s-land, because I was going along for the ride (with full knowledge of how he felt). I should have had better boundaries and been able to walk away but my loneliness (as mentioned in the above comment) got the better of me. So I guess that’s where I’ve learnt from BR that it’s important to recognise triggers.

          Argh another long-winded roundabout reply. I do help I’ve hoped though.

          Best wishes!
          Nel

          • growingin says:

            Nel…. wow… I think you may be a psychic and I need to read what you write more carefully. Last night I broke NC and spoke with BH… he had emailed me after running into one of my girlfriends at the gym. He said he wanted to “be friends no matter what” and he called me 11 days after he told me we had no future together “longterm” and that was back in April, then I heard nothing for 3 weeks and the email came asking how I was. A few text messages and a phone call later, I am here… wounded again. Realizing that the “friendship” that he so has seemingly easily transitioned into is REALLY painful for me because I still want to be with him. I re-read the part you wrote to me

            “But yes, I too was a constant counsellor. I think these men (that we seem to go for) also seek women with low self-esteem who offer the ‘rescuer’ card (read: simply have a caring nature). I often wonder why I am attracted to the good looking, masculine, emotionally wounded, can’t commit type of man.”

            And that was basically what the conversation consisted of… a bunch of rescuing and places where I would try and touch upon a feeling I was having and receive NO input regarding the feelings on “us”. He kept it very “FRIENDS” which felt odd to me bc less than a month ago, we were sleeping in the same bed, and acting like a “couple”.

            Being that this guy (in my mind, never did anything to really hurt me) broke up with me because he said he was not going to give me what I wanted (“deserved” in his words), I did not leave the r/s feeling like I was abused in any way so the whole NC thing has been a bit difficult for me because I feel as though I have lost a friend. So when he called, I wanted to know how he was doing. In speaking with him for a little over a half hour, I left the experience not feeling very “friendly”. I came to grips with the fact that what I WANT from him is to be more than his friend and I also have a fantasy in my mind that if I can just be a “good friend” as I have always been TO HIM, that one day he will go to therapy, get on a stable path emotionally and realize that we are good for each other. The conversation felt very matter-of-fact and void of deep feelings, at least on his part. I told him that I missed our conversations and I listened to his woes about the struggle to find work. And I felt like it was a pat on the back. I realize I still want more. Less pats, more intimacy. And I know I am not going to get it from him.

            • LovefromNel says:

              Growingin, sounds like you’ve reached a turning point: ‘less pats, more intimacy. And I know I am not going to get it from him.’ My question is – they need to stop ‘searching’ for these pats in the first instance. Give, and you shall receive. But it’s all take, take, take with these buggers.

        • Sofia says:

          growingin, the same story here. Mine said when he was breaking up with me, “you will find someone better than me. no reason wasting your time because I am not staying and you are not the right one for me and I can’t commit.” Along the same lines.

          Yes, a lot of it is from childhood. My father was an unavailable type. And alcoholic. And so was my mother. They both were. Here I had been: chasing all my life mr. Unavailables to validate myself through begging, nagging, searching, extracting love from wrong sources but because it feels familiar – it hurts – the pain that we are used to experience in our childhood – the lack of love and affection – fragile, uncertain, charged situations – we are replaying it by acting out the same stories. Because we don’t know any different. We seek the “attachments” we are conditioned to.

          I should have rather used past tense in my paragraph above. Every verb I have changed to the past tense already. I am breaking away from my past and will never chase and ask for anyone’s love anymore. I am giving the love I have not received from my parents – to myself. And once I have established a love and respect relationship with myself, I will be ready to recognize, accept and receive a normal, painless love and care from someone else. I don’t think I even know what love feels like. I think I have been finding it out now by practicing it on myself and I enjoy the experiment, which is turning out to be a life long habit!

          • growingin says:

            HI Sofia… you are right on with the feelings that I relate to on the chasing after UA guys because my past is full of feelings of not being worthy of closeness or even space. Boundaries in general were somewhat of a struggle in my family. They were either rigid or nonexistent. So, What I have learned from this last relationship is that I can let the fantasy take over and it moves SWIFTLY. I also know that my actions which followed my thinking were frantic from day one with this guy. I was so smitten with his looks and charm that I let the fantasy whisk me away and I blatantly defied myself and my own standards by rushing into sex, divulging too much information about myself (trauma bonding) and integrating him into my friends circle. By the time he told me that he did not “feel the same feelings” for me that I was displaying and expressing to him, I was already so far gone in fantasy that only four months of us dating and him ending things left me shook. However, I have been re-reading a lot of the feedback on this forum and reading Nat’s book, so I am reminded that the work is MY work to be done, or else I will continue to attract what I am. And I consider myself happy, one who has boundaries and respects those of others, and ready for a TRULY intimate relationship. And those type of relationships take TIME to build, so going slow when I meet men in the future will be my number one different way of behaving.

            • Sofia says:

              growing, I have the same problem. Or I hope no more, but I used to have the same problem. Moving too fast, fantasy, no boundaries. You are saying, “or else I will continue to attract what I am.” And you are saying that you will take it slower next time. That’s what kept bugging me whether I attached too fast and scared him away or he was not a candidate in the first place.I am guessing it is a combination of two factors. Attracting wrong people and they escape soon enough if we are lucky.

              • growingin says:

                YES SOFIA… for me to find out that he would not be a “candidate in the first place” would actually take TIME to find out right ??? And since I was coming from a place of loneliness and allowed the intensity to take over my executive level reasoning/thinking…. I jumped over HUGE red flags. BUT, I feel I have learned yet again from this most recent break up. HI JUST…. I will look up that book and add it to my collection. Right now, I am having a hilarious read called “maybe he’s just an as*hol*” (sorry guys, i did not name it ) and it is helping to add a little humor to why its been my patter to pick men who the author calls “emotional wimps”. Yes, it does help to lean on each other. Its been yet another week since that last contact from him and it gets easier sometimes and then hard again. I just breathe it out and let myself FEEL…. which is essentially what I was avoiding (by becoming an emotional airbag/rescuer/ cheerleader/GAMBLER ON POTENTIAL in men ) in the first place. I will practice gratitude in this moment and be proud that I did well in a final job interview tomorrow and I have a second interview for a different job today. Potential moves in my day job are here. And THAT is ALL MY DOING because I do not need a “him” for me to succeed.

      • Catherine says:

        Nel ~ I love your comment about being “triggered” in to calling the ex. I had never thought of it that way before. I’ll try to be more conscious of what triggers me. As to the texts etc. that never get a response, I know how that feels, and it is soooo humiliating! I’ve done it more times than I like but I’m getting better. I’m especially prone to this in the “fantasy” relationships. I’m hoping those are gone for good, but I’ve been prone to those ever since I was a little girl. I periodically get tempted to go “back” to an old fantasy relationship but then I do a reality check and tell myself that even if we were to be together it would never work, and then I remind myself of what he is REALLY like, and how it’s not close to the fantasy version I have of him really, at all. It’s kinda’ scary the tricks the mind can play. It is so hard to let go of the fantasy guy I’ve created….he’s really a wonderful guy! LOL Maybe I’ll find him someday! :o)

        • LovefromNel says:

          Oh Catherine, I read all of your replies and I’m like – this is me as well! I create fantasy relationships too. I often think this is probably an underlying reason we may stay with an EUM or AC. We don’t see their true selves because we’ve got a fantasy man in our heads? It’s all smoke and mirrors! Wonderful imaginations can truly be a blessing, and a curse. Even though I’ve not spoken to (and heard from) the ex EUM since August last year, I still go over conversations I’ll have with him should I bump into him. I’m quite a gentle soul, but I envision myself using the eff word quite a lot. Perhaps it is detrimental to my overall healing, I’m not sure. I know I need to reign in my thoughts sometimes (and I do) but other times I do let them rumble on like a film. Don’t be too hard on yourself for your active imagination though (I do love mine – it takes me to wonderful places when I’m on a 14 hour plane trip haha!) but it’s just important to, yes, recognise the propellants for our actions. Do we want to text (and receive no reply) because a) we may be lonely or b) because our imaginations think they are a better person than they truly are? Our wonderful guy is out there by the way. He isn’t just in our head!! Best wishes to you. And thanks for your reply. Nel

          • no_more says:

            Nel..I love your insightful, kind posts, as well as many others on here, too. Thank for that.

            The last 4 months have been such a learning process for me. At first it was horrid. And the “circular” process was me. Totally. But after reading NML’s EVERY post, I feel amazingly different. I recently went to visit my EU dad, who I think was at the core of some of my bad choices. I viewed him differently. He treated me very respectfully, though he has not changed, my expectations and reactions were different. It was nice.

            I need opinions here. I spoke with my ex EUMM last night. He had sent me a text stating still loved me and always would. I waited a week. I processed my thoughts. I texted him to call me because I didn’t deserve an off-the-cuff lazy text. He called. He was very apologetic. He stated that he has initiated his divorce, and he hadn’t contacted me because he felt until he got his $h*t sorted properly, and could give me what I deserved, he didn’t have the right to yank me around. I said, in essence: “you got that right”.

            We discussed a joint bank account we had opened together, which I had needed to know was closed. (My main concern, as I am gathering financial info, looking to buy a house.)

            He asked me how I was doing. If I could see my way to forgiving him. If he could possibly call again when and if I was ready. I told him I would think about it. I cut the conversation short, and then proceeded to process how I felt and what MY feelings, thoughts and actions were about. Not his-mine. For once. Is he good enough to be in my life-in any capacity? Do I even like this person anymore? Have I gained perspective? Am I circling back to the same issues, responses and expectations I have had in the past?

            I am still thinking. I genuinely like this man. He makes me laugh, and he ALWAYS was generous and sweet to me. We never fought. However, he did treat me as an option, and flip-flapped several times. What was different was that he mentioned all that, and acknowledged this. He said, “I don’t want to be an a**, I want to be the best I can be, and what you DESERVE.” I answered, “We’ll see.”

            I’ve never felt or reacted like this before. I’ve always JUMPED into frying pans, Florence Nightingaled, lowered expectations, and accepted crap. No more.

            It is strange, and I would appreciate input from anyone. Good, positive, negative, whatever..I trust you all.

            Thanks.

            • Sofia says:

              no_more, I think this needs to happen if your relationship with him is to resume: he needs to get divorced and become a single man. To not live with his wife, then, POSSIBLY, you could give him a chance if you are ready, to start again. Involving with him right now again would be circling back to the same issues because you and he are STILL in the same place. I would say, meet with him face to face, talk seriously about the situation and tell him to contact you once he is out of his marriage and single. That’s my take on it. Do not get involved with him right now. “He stated that he has initiated his divorce.” Didn’t he say it before? And you kept waiting and waiting? Don’t do any action on your part until he is divorced and single.

              • no_more says:

                Sophia,

                Thanks for replying. I have NO intention of resuming our prior relationship. That’s simply unacceptable. And I am a different person.

                I feel like NC was the best thing I could have ever done. It gave me perspective. Never again will I allow myself to be second best.

                I have poured over my journaling, NML’s books, posts and have decided that maybe, possibly, I can be friends in a limited manner. We’ll see.

                But no visits, discussions about the future, nothing until he is divorced. And truthfully, none of any of that has been mentioned.

                I asked myself, ” Do I even really, really want to bother with this at all?”

                I don’t think I do actually. A year ago, five months ago, I would have been riddled with anxiety, and circling over the same questions.

                Tonight, I’m going to finish a great book I bought, and go to bed. Xx

                • no_more says:

                  Post script: I just wished him well in life, and am restarting NC.

                  Thanks for the sounding board. I am back on track.

                  Day 1- here I come.

                  • Sofia says:

                    no_more, great decision. You sound very strong and determined. I understand what you are saying about starting with him again. Whether you even need it. Yes, 4 months of NC gives us a great perspective. I learned so much about me and the relationship. I wish he didn’t contact me 3 weeks ago. To check on me. It really messed me up. My intention is to never speak to him again. I don’t want to be friends with him. Are you sure you could be friends with your ex? I think it’s subconsciously maybe holding on to the hope that things might change?

                    Keep up the great work, no_more. I am afraid he won’t leave you alone though. But like you and I said, until he is divorced, there is no point of talking about it even: future, relationship etc. I agree with you.

                    • no_more says:

                      Sophia..I am NOT going to be his friend. I deleted him from my Skype, I didn’t respond to his half-a**ed phone message today, and I am NOT ever going to wait until he is divorced, decides to contact me,wants an ego stroke or starts dating a gazelle.

                      I am DONE. I’m not strong. It hurts, but it hurts worse “putting my hand back in the fire”.

                      Day 2- coming up. xx

                    • Sofia says:

                      no_more, wonderful! No friendship.

                      I think, you exactly need to do what you are doing. NC and moving on. Living your life. If he does get divorced and if he comes back and IF you might be ready to consider starting with him, then it will be a different story where both of you are in a different situation.

                      Even then… I am thinking. Is it even worth it. Memories will always remain. Distrust, hurt. Partially at least there will be there and might resurface during difficult times. I don’t know if people get back together and how successful it could be.

                      I am 2,5 weeks NC (after he broke 2,5 month of NC checking if I am doing fine). When and if he checks on me in couple months or so, I will not respond. Me responding set me back and made me upset. He was checking on me without even offering a friendship (which I don’t need), which had originally been on the offer. What was the point checking on me? Immature. You break up and leave me: don’t check on me. We are not buddies all of sudden. I don’t want to be friends with my ex either. Not out of hate, spite, or any of that. I just don’t want to have him as a friend. He is not special for that.

            • LovefromNel says:

              No_more, I am also so sorry for missing the original post! It has now been superceded by the outcome you’ve mentioned above. I wanted to say, though, that I am so proud of how you handled this situation! Gosh, I hope I could be as graceful in a similar circumstance! You took a week to process things, then said you didn’t deserve a text, and then you outlined your needs! Wow, woman! Go you good thing! I know it didn’t turn out as you had hoped, and that’s not ANYTHING to do with you. It it his behaviour, and his problems, and is testament to the adage ‘leopards don’t change their spots.’ You will find someone worthy of you! But it is not this man, who has squandered another opportunity. Let him be the fool he is. You have no time for fools.

              • LovefromNel says:

                PS, I actually don’t think it’s day two, honey. Just pick up where you left off pre-contact. This is just a small step off the path (like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road) but you don’t have to begin at the very start again. With this mindset, I think you’ll become stronger again sooner.

                • no_more says:

                  Thanks so much for the encouragement Nel. It helps immensely. Xx

                  • Sofia says:

                    no_more, I too think you don’t need to think it’s day 2 or 3 now. You have done all the hard work already. I had been NC for 2,5 months until he contacted and I sheepishly responded (that was almost 4 weeks ago). What a difference 4 weeks make. If I had received that e-mail now, I would have not responded. I have moved on. Yes, you are still 4 month, 5th now I think for you? NC. Not a 2-3 day. You are already doing so great! We will be free soon. Keep it up! All of you ladies encourage me so much!

    • RP says:

      Be patient, improving your self-esteem is a process, I think there is much confusion around the concept of self-esteem (don’t really like the word that much actually), for me, It is not so much about feeling good about yourself all the time (what an effort and not very realistic!), but rather about accepting yourself. Natalie’s drawing is an excellent depiction of circular thinking. Essentially, one becomes a walking contradiction. On the one hand you say that you struggle to like yourself, nevertheless, you describe yourself as attractive, educated etc. Are you valuing/nurturing important qualities, such as kindness, being respectful and had having healthy boundaries, or are you placing too much value on the superficial things that ACs praise you for during the seduction stage? This will lead you straight on the path to another AC! When you start appreciating valuable qualities in yourself and others then I promise you will wonder why the hell you ever wasted a second of your precious time on an AC.
      Wishing you well! RP

    • Nigella says:

      Naina,

      I like your name or pseudonym, which happens to be the name of one of my friends. She told me it means “eyes”. How beautiful. So I begin by saying that you can use those beautiful, real eyes of yours to look – not outward at the ex – but inward at yourself, at your feelings, needs, fears, and values. In case you are, please do not idealize the ex. I care not if Bill Gates or Warren Buffet recommend that your ex is THE man people should be investing their time and energy on. Do not idealize. Instead, realize the specific ways in which (1) he treated you poorly, and the ways in which (2) you – unintentionally & habitually – allowed him to treat you poorly. If you like, divide a sheet of paper into two columns, and write out answers to the above two things. This exercise is to give yourself a concrete *reality check* about his poor treatment of you, and the reasons underlying your acceptance of such treatment. From what I gather, you are feeling stuck. I can’t speak for you, but the act of writing helps me move past that feeling. Merely thinking – ruminating about the past or worrying about the future – is not enough. To grow & to gain clarity on who you are & what you want, it is possible to write your way out of confusion & depression.

      Once you start confronting some things, what to do next? How do you respond to those truths – those toxic things you see printed on paper? Based on what you say, for now you are “struggling with low self-worth…[and] feeling of depression”. I understand. Sofia at BR has shared insightful comments on this feeling of depression as a form of anger turned inwards. From age 12 – 28, I turned my anger inwards. Due to severe financial hardships, amongst other things, my parents had a miserable marriage by the time I was 12 and living with them. My mother made it clear that, as she put it then, I was “a liability” she could not wait to be rid of as soon as possible. She neglected my needs and often criticized me. In the past six years, she has changed a lot, so I forgive her past mistakes, care for her, and financially provide for her. In turn, she provides me emotional support & encouragement for which I am grateful. Nevertheless, from age 12-18, I used to inflict knife cuts on my arm after listening to her scream at me or my father. From 18-28, I indulged in drinking, smoking, and having a lot of loveless sex. In hindsight, I realize these are the ways I released & repressed my anger. Mea culpa. Since age 28, after giving up drinking & smoking, I have learned when & how to use my temper in response to poor treatment of me. Still learning.

      Please see, I share all of the above because I’m guessing that you’re not tapping into your anger. Instead, you’re turning it inwards and experiencing it as depression. If this is true, perhaps you could ask yourself: (1) what all am I angry about, (2) when & why did I *repress* my anger, and (3) how can I *express* my anger more effectively to myself and to others. Naina, anger need not consume us or ruin our relationships. Nevertheless, it is an emotion that one may feel in response to poor behavior of others. Think of anger like a soldier or an advocate that is prepared to fight for your self-respect. Use anger for self-defense not out of spite. If someone crosses a boundary or treats you poorly, your solider, your advocate shows up & protects you from further harm.

      In her thoughtful response to you, Nel urged you to think of the ex as fire. He burned you in the past. He did. He will burn you again & again. Stay away. Do not be self-destructive. In this vein, I suggest it might be helpful to learn to ignite your own inner fire – the anger & the emotional energy that enables one to act in a self-protective rather than self-destructive manner. Please see, I am not telling you to turn into a screaming, fire-spitting dragon. Or, to start exploding like dynamite at the slightest provocation. Or, to start unleashing your anger at people who care about you. The point is not to be inflammatory but to recognize things that inflame your anger & to respond to them. In case you are doing any of the following again & again in a circular manner, then please stop doubting, blaming, shaming, criticizing, pitying, & silencing yourself. These are forms of anger turned inwards. To move forward, recognize the mistakes you may have made in the past by coming into contact with the ex. To *kickstart* your progress – your movement away from the ex – it might be helpful to tap into your anger provided that it does not consume you.

    • Nigella says:

      Naina,

      To ensure you are not stuck in the cycle of depression & anger at the ex or yourself, you may also want to feed yourself positive thoughts on a *daily* basis. Positive affirmations have helped me stay afloat – and I often turn to songs for inspiration in the respect. Yesterday, after hearing a song, I told myself: “I want someone who treats me as an important & irreplaceable part of their life”. Before someone treats me in this manner, I need to believe that “I am important & irreplaceable”. Not perfect. Not the best. Important & irreplaceable. By treating you poorly, Naina, the ex conveyed to you that you are not an *important & irreplaceable* part of his life. Because if you were, he would have shown you consistent *respect and care* – and only you can answer what ‘respect’ & ‘care’ mean to you. You might not believe this right now, but the fact is you are important & irreplaceable. Don’t appoint him as the judge of your character or worth. He is a mere mortal. He is not Zeus. Or the son of Zeus. Here is the inspiration behind my positive affirmation – a stanza from the song “Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé (the goddess): http://is.gd/R5PTsO (YouTube)

      “So since I’m not your everything (irreplaceable)
      How about I’ll be nothing (nothing)? Nothing at all to you
      Baby I won’t shed a tear for you
      I won’t lose a wink of sleep
      ‘Cause the truth of the matter is
      Replacing you is so easy”

      Yes, Naina. Replacing the ex is possible – and you need not replace one bloke with another. Replace him with you. Replace thoughts of him with thoughts about you.

      Here are lines from another song that got me through dark times. “My Joy” by Quentin Harris feat. Margaret Grace: http://is.gd/WvCMIK (YouTube)

      Who are you to tell, that I can’t go on without you,
      why you’re tellin me, I’m never gonna survive,
      but once upon a time, yes I believed that lie,
      but sorry no way no how, you can’t control my mind.

      ‘Cause if I thought you were the end all, and my be all,
      I would’ve never left you alone, and I wouldn’t be on my,
      and I’ve never, never would have grown.
      No, no, no, ain’t no way, you gone take away,
      My joy, my peace, my strength,

      Thank you for the times of all the pain you gave me,
      the hate you showed to me, taught me how to love myself ,
      it’s funny how you tried to break down my pride and my spirit yo,
      it doesn’t even matter cause I’ve done moved on with my life.

      Yes, Naina. Don’t believe the lie that you need or want him. Don’t allow anyone to take away your joy, your peace, your strength. You are important & irreplaceable.

    • Sofia says:

      naina, I am not sure how far you are in your post breakup process. Who broke up and why? How long was the relationship and how long has it been since you broke up?

      I had the same feelings during the first 2 months and still unfortunately do have feelings that I want to be with him. But the good thing is that these feelings to want to be with him become less intense and more brief. It is like a degree of desperateness and neediness for him, desire for him whether emotional or sexual is decreasing gradually but surely each day. It is a slow process but I can certainly see at least 90 degree difference (if you think of a circle – only I am going forward and clockwise, not counterclockwise – no circling back!) from what I was feeling towards him in the first few weeks after the breakup. I couldn’t be alone on the weekend at all. I sat at a bar and wasted lots of money on wine and empty conversations with strangers. I even hooked up with a guy I used to know (not from the bar but it was basically a pick up anyway) and had sex with him 2 weeks after breakup and started crying during sex! Terrible.

      I had a feeling too I want him back even though he was not very nice to me, although subtly. It was a very low feeling and I hope I won’t experience it again. I hope this weekend nobody will see postings from me, ” I want him back, I want to text him, I want to see him.” And if I do have these feelings, I would rather come here and write it out instead of writing it to him. Recognize that these feelings will pass. Again, I don’t know how far you are in the process, but the same old saying, is that time helps. And BR. You have both. Please come back here, read as much as you can, write too, we will listen and help. You are not alone!!

  5. Helena Hart says:

    Great post, Natalie! I love the idea of building new habits around things that trigger us that seem to come up over and over.

    I always tell my clients that when we get triggered, we tend to go down the same “road” over and over again, without even thinking about it. It’s automatic – it may feel new, but it isn’t – so you’ve got to create some new “roads.”

    The old habits are just pathways inside your brain that we automatically go down. Scientifically, when we build new habits we’re actually creating new neural pathways inside our brain. I love looking at things this way!

    Love, Helena

  6. Rosie says:

    Karen- Thank you. You’ve just given me hope.

  7. shay says:

    Exactly… I’m in a new relationship and I could complain about his ‘inconsideration’ like a twat, instead of shutting my trap with the nagging and actually communicate what and why I don’t like something. They’re learning about me the same as I’m learning about them… They don’t know me as well as I know me. And that has been a theme in my life… that I don’t communicate I just expect people to know with my whining. Due to his responses it was almost a kind of ‘cut that shit out’ wake up call with… ‘we talk and then we compromise’ said repeatedly and Shay doesn’t do compromise very well cause its her way or no way. Eeek how very PA and AC of me. I have to fix myself before I fix another and finally I’m learning to do so.

  8. SoulFull says:

    Well Nat, this is the hurdle I am reprogramming the Im Not Good Enough internal server. I have had to cut myself off from ‘friends’ I got along with, where I had no issues with feeling anxiety when talking to them, but ultimately they didnt have all of the “love trust care respect” elements that have GOT to be there from now on. I do still have some friends from my drumming hobby, who are empowered wonderful people, but then I get the anxiety attacks when talking to them. I know why. I feel that these people are the real deal and my issues will be galringly obvious to them, and so I feel like a fraud. Awful.

    In spite of this, I have come on leaps and bounds, where I do love myself, and my acceptance of shit or agendas is no longer a problem. I can sniff out and bail when any AC/EU comes into my life. So I realise now its time to work on this anxiety crap. I feel I need a job where I can realise my potential I know deep down I have got, I am starting to learn guitar to express my creativity in another way aside from drumming, and I just want to be with me and focus on my career in nursing, as it will be a journey of so much exploration and learning and I intend to stamp on every one of those insecurity imps that are running amok whenever I come into contact with truly healthy people.

    I have a way to go I guess, so maybe keeping relations with others on a ‘Friendship-Lite’ basis til I grow within and without myself is what I need to do for me right now. I feel at peace with that, and not alone. Just chosing that for myself a cpl months ago has already brought self worth and confidence back within me. I need this time out living in total authenticity with myself to rewrite the script of the low budget film of my life. Even porno’s had better storylines ;)

    Its changed since I wore my own ‘wedding band’ to remind me of the commitment I made to myself and my life and those whose truly care and count. I have my own back, in a calm assurance I can deal with anything because I trust myself now. I just have a lil farther to go is all.

    This is a journey of true empowerment for us all people, and I see such wisdom from you all I have to wonder if maybe we were the lucky ones because we will learn the lessons and through this learning and later sharing what we learnt, we will be the catalyst for when men and women can be in healthy, respectful, loving, relationships with each other because we wont accept anything less out of self love. ACs will then have no choice but to look at their own mirrors and face their own journey. But that is for them, we will be in loving realtionships be it with someone else with authenticity and integrity, or with ourselves

    Love it!

  9. Pamela says:

    Natalie,

    Thank you so much for your wisdom and an another excellent post. I call it returning to old tapes of self-defeating self-talk. It usually happens when I am tired, afraid, lonely or allow myself to feel angry. I can default to old tapes telling me that I am an impostor.

    An old behavior I engage in, is spending money in an unconscious way. For some reason the act of not balancing my accounts lets me focus on the anxiety emotions associated with that, rather than feel the uncertainty in other areas of my life. I have enough money, but this is an old default activity. This uncertainty is a distraction I have unconsciously used to avoid uncomfortable feeling usually related to my career or my relationships.

    I just realized that today, after reading your post, that when I don’t balance my accounts on a daily or weekly basis, this signals overwhelm in another area of my life.

    Thank you for this post because today I will balance my accounts and become aware of this behavior tells me that I am feeling overwhelm in another area of my life.

  10. rewind says:

    “Don’t spend your life circling back because you’re being the bailiff trying to collect a debt.”

    I love this statement…I gave and gave to my Mr. Unavailable, including many, many material gifts, but mostly myself. I thought be doing so, I would get his attention in return. No matter how badly he treated me or how many women he slept with, I kept circling back thinking he would change. Ha. He will NEVER change.

    I went against the sound advice of others and actually sent him a really nasty email, detailing all his terrible ways. It is so against my nature to be cruel, but I snapped. And you know what he did….two days later I received a text saying “Good morning.” Really? Nothing phases him…and he wanted to see if I would once again respond to his crumbs. Not this time! I am done circling back!

  11. katie says:

    What if the tape in your head is all true information? What if you did waste alot of years of your life making bad decisions and you were with married men and still are jealous of your boyfriends ex and look them up for no reason? even while trying to live better at the same time? even when you drop the no good men, or friends,and try to live straight, what do you do when you realize you wasted half of your life and could have been so much more? could have gone to college or been better with money or experienced more, or been a better parent? That is what gets me. my tape in my head is all true

    • Revolution says:

      Katie,

      I’ve often thought this way as well, and I’m sure we will find we are not alone. But when I think these things (and it becomes this downward spiral right quick), I’m reminded of this thought:

      “I want to thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate to my looks and abilities.” –Tina Fey

      Don’t mean to make light of it, but this is SO TRUE. Whether we have parents that raised us this way or not, we can still work on this type of confidence. It results from having patience with our weak areas and systematically working on these, and from not constantly overlooking (or “poo-pooing”) our real abilities, whether we or others see them in us.

    • Louise says:

      This resonates with me Katie, but the past is the past, and it’s not much fun living in it. You did the best you could have done, with the skills that you had at the time. The education and the nurturing you received, maybe they weren’t the best a woman could or even should have received, but you are still here, we both are still here, and we are trying to find a better way. We don’t all start at the same point in the global race. Class, race and gender all play huge parts, in what we are likely to receive whilst growing up. Religious indoctrination can also deeply mess up a girl. We need to have more compassion for ourselves, we are surviving and we are bright and not stupid.
      If we have these thoughts, try to let go of them and ask ourselves are they really one hundred per cent true, cause most of the time , nothing is completely one hundred per cent, well apart from death. x

      • Louise says:

        Plus – it’s taken from Byron Katie, but she always says, who would we be without these thoughts…these “truths”…
        Free to start again, free to take a different path, free to love and laugh with someone new x

    • You forgive yourself, Katie! You accept that you did the best you could with what you knew at the time, with where you were in your journey. We all do. And yet there is no one who is harder on you or who has higher expectations of yourself than you.

      Start where you are today, Katie, with loving yourself the way you deserve to be loved regardless of what you’ve done or where you’ve done. It’s never too late to begin again and do what you know now you want to do differently.

      But leave the beating yourself up behind. You deserve to be loved, to be happy, to be treated compassionately just as much as anyone else in the world!

    • igotout says:

      I consider myself an athlete. Friends and acquaintances used to come to me for advice on getting in shape lots of times in the past. I would always tell them to start slow, take their time, and most important, you gotta start somewhere, Everybody’s got to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter where. The important thing is to start.

      I am 59 years old. I just realized after all these years that my mother is narcissistic. I know it might sound simplistic to say that but this is after weeks of thought since February when I decided to take a break from interacting with my mother after spending some time with her that was not pleasant for me. She hasn’t reached out to me at all since then so it’s been relatively easy to do this.

      In my childhood, I was the ‘golden child’ and my sister was the ‘scapegoat’. I always felt so guilty. Even as the ‘golden child’ though, I never felt loved. I grew up thinking that my parents didn’t love me. (You can imagine how my sister felt). I’ve been reading and reading and reading. I don’t know what to do with this recognition. All of the signs describing this type of behavior on the internet, there were so many that fit my childhood. I was shocked. It’s explains so much. It was definitely an ‘aha’ moment. And I got here because of an AC! Now, I’m trying to figure out what to do with this knowledge. Me, a people pleaser to the nth degree. Get along with everybody. No boundaries.

      The best thing I can figure out is to remove the stuff in the house down to the studs, and start to rebuild. In other words, I get to decide what’s right for me now. I get to practice setting boundaries. I get to figure it out. There’s no right or wrong anymore. I used to be afraid of ‘making a mistake’ when I had to make a decision. Now I figure out what I want. Yes, it takes a lot of time and energy, because I’m not used to knowing what I want, only what other people want. But it’s so worth it already, because I feel so free. Already. And I’ve barely started. I’ve got a ways to go. But I have gotten a taste of where I’m going because people are responding to me differently now. I’m going to keep headed in that direction.

      You just got to start somewhere.

      Now I say, what kind of life do I want to live? It’s totally up to me. I’m free. For the first time in my life, I’m starting to really like myself. It feels pretty good. But you have to put in the time and the effort. To do something nice for yourself if you’re down. Just like you would with a friend. Even if you don’t feel like it. To be self-absorbed (if that’s the only way you can see it) right now, so you can teach yourself to care for yourself. Focus on pleasing yourself right now. No one else. One step at a time.

    • oregon girl says:

      Katie: Then start new tapes based on new truths! Do something positive each day, and every night write it down in your journal. Every day you can smile at a sad person, pick up some garbage, take care of your body, read a newspaper, be patient with your mother, stop for a pedestrian, etc. etc. Focus on what you are doing right. Create new tapes for yourself. You can do it. You are a true dreamer, and you can refashion yourself in any way you like!! Hugs!!

    • Little Star says:

      Katie. I feel the same about my life, full of regrets and keep coming back to my past, asking myself questions: “why did I use so much my precious time on men who did not deserve me, why I stayed in jobs which I hated, why I did not buy second house when prices were affordable???” It’s drives mad, but I have to stop otherwise I can’t move on, thanks God, I do not care about previous ACs, one positive thing! You must concentrate on positives which you ALREADY have, appreciate and cherish, I am currently reading a book: “Don’t sweat on small stuff”, it’s very helpful, please read it;) All the best x

  12. ThreeDLife says:

    katie, My advice is to accept what has happened is in the past and there’s no way to change it, forgive yourself, make positive goals for the future and move toward them. Don’t let the past storyline replicate into the future.

  13. Spinster says:

    Good timing, as my boundaries were tested yesterday at work by a potential client. Thanks for the extra food for thought.

  14. Tangerine says:

    I have an enmeshment issue with my mother (and my dad is a narcissist and never gave me the love I need). I have worked really hard with my therapist to free myself of my need to glean love from a Narcissist and I sincerely believe I am free from that. My self esteem is better, I have left my dad in his house in the country where he belongs instead of bringing him with me everywhere I go in my mind. I have boundaries, and have kicked three men to the curb this year for exhibiting lazy all-about-me behavior.

    I am still struggling with my mother. I pity and sympathize and empathize with her total lack of power in her relationship and inability to share feelings and be an equal. She has little to no self-esteem. Last night she threw a huge guilt trip on me about finally getting on my feet and not seeing her all the time. It was then I realized that both of my parents are feeding into my people-pleaser over-active guilt thyroid boundary-free lifestyle. I kept the conversation light and drama-free and just let her know she can watch the shows we like to watch without me if she wants.

    I can’t save her from herself and her choices. If she is unhappy, that is her doing and I have a right to be angry at her for trying to find her happiness in me, or have company in her misery. That is not my responsibility! My responsibility is ME. My parents have been using me to try to enhance their otherwise codependent and routine relationship that is completely void of emotional intimacy and that is not my role. My role is to be me!

    So as I go forward, I need to watch out for those triggers of what can I do to MAKE someone like me and provide for their happiness, because I have been trained to do that. I can be happy with myself by just being me, no compromises or apologies, so anyone who wants into my life needs to be happy with that too.

    To that end, I am seeing someone who is more unabashadly into me and consistent with his interest than I even knew was possible! I don’t have to do ANYTHING and it feels REALLY weird and REALLY good. My challenge is not to start compulsive pleasing (yes, I compulsively bought lengerie for the imaginary future, but he doesn’t need to know that). I have to admit I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I am going to trust in his character as long as he keeps exhibiting good character.

    Love you Nat!

    • A says:

      Tangerine,

      It was really interesting to read your post. I can relate a lot to the parent dynamics that you described.

      I’ve severed ties with my father, but my mother is still with him. It makes things difficult. I’ve been guilted for not including him in one life event already (I didn’t want him there as he’s never supported me and in fact has tried to sabotage me, though he would never admit it). I’m really not sure what I would do if I decide to get married one day. I certainly wouldn’t want him there, but there would be a lot of backlash if I didn’t invite him – I suppose my only choice might be to elope.

      For the most part no one discusses it, but they have blamed me in the past for the way things are between he and I (namely, that we have no relationship). I’m expected to just put up with him the way he is like they do.

    • oregon girl says:

      What’s wrong with buying sexy lingerie? Yes it pleases him, but it also pleases yourself! That’s one of the fun things about being in love: nurturing and sharing your best self.

    • EllyB says:

      @Tangerine: “To that end, I am seeing someone who is more unabashadly into me and consistent with his interest than I even knew was possible! I don’t have to do ANYTHING and it feels REALLY weird and REALLY good.”

      While this sounds good, I think we STILL need to be careful because seasoned future fakers/fast forwarders can give us the same kind of feeling. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen into that trap more than once (even fairly recently). You need to be absolutely sure that you can be a copilot with this guy and not end up in the passenger’s seat again. Before being certain about that point, I would try not too fantasize too much about getting intimate.

  15. kate says:

    Never have I posted on this forum/website but I read baggage reclaim nightly. I want to thank Natalie for such wisdom and guidance in so many aspects. It really does help me get through some heart wrenching, absolutely ridiculous situations that I have been in.

  16. Mike from Oztralia says:

    Great post Nat, the recent posts focused on our self image and self worth are really great.

  17. Little Star says:

    We need to ask ourselves a question: “if our ACs are good enough for US”?? They are not, moving on, NEXT!!!!

    • shattered says:

      I’ve maintained no contact for several months. I know the ex AC didn’t deserve me, but …my problem is I still have to see him from time to time for work reasons and although I avoid talking to him if possible, I can’t seem to let go of the feeling of being taken for a fool and just used basically. He cheated on me with several women and still has several women on the go. I never received an apology from him, he just carries on as if nothing happened. Someone asked him (in front of me) if we’d met before and he gave a knowing look and said ‘oh yes’. Later he said to me in private that he could have said he’d slept with me. That apparently was all I meant to him – just another notch on his bedpost. I feel so stupid and used. He must be laughing to himself at how gullible I was. How do I start to stop feeling ashamed and worthless?

      • laces says:

        How to start is not to give him another moment of thought, not another moment of your precious time. He has already stolen enough from you! I would act like I don’t even see him, let alone acknowledge him. If you learned from the experience then you are FAR FROM a fool, dear! Let him laugh if that’s where he gets his jollies. He is the one who will end up alone. Cheaters can never feel true love. When those thoughts creep into your head, remind yourself of how lucky you are to be away from him. The feelings will soon follow your thoughts and you won’t feel ashamed any more. Forgive yourself.

      • Little Star says:

        Shattered, YOU ARE NOT WORTHLESS, don’t you ever think like that!!! My two ex ACs used me for 6 years, no, I ALLOWED them to use me for sex…but later I realized what a fool I was;( thanks to Natalie, BR community and books!!! You need time, eventually you will forgive YOURSELF and forget your ex, I know it’s very hard to imagine now, especially when you still seeing him through the work, but you will…Ask yourself: why you still allowing this guy to control your emotions?! Who is he and what special about him?! Did he done anything special?! Did he make you happy?!!! I asked myself these questions and responded to myself: “Nothing. Zilch, Zero. 0″ YOU will get there, stay strong xx

      • Elgie R. says:

        Late reply, Shattered. Wish I had been in your body at that moment, cuz I would’ve uttered a version of the “Pretty Woman” line – “Yeah. For a time, we just used each other for sex. Glad that’s over.”

        Would not let him think for a minute that his intimate knowledge of my body is a way of blackmailing me. He is very juvenile in thinking he has some “big secret” to hold over your head. You’re allowed to have sex, and sometimes you have sex with people who do not work out to be worth your time.

  18. kate says:

    I have just walked out from my EU man because I am absolutely livid with how he treats me&how little regard he has for me. Im in agony and need some recommendations of posts to read in order to gain perspective. I am just torturing myself repeatedly by even being in this mans life. I have no one to turn to:(

    • oona says:

      Well done Kate!
      Welcome to the journey of your life. Sleeping beauty you have now woken up! – the next part is simply to stay awake……until yo find a safe places where you can grow/rest/live peacefully.
      As for an immediate starting point I believe most people would agree – if you recognize there is some kind of repetition going on within this relationship – YOU NEED – Non Contact! – rolled out immediately! You do not contact him or open/ answer any communication coming from him – at least until you have got your head back together and figured out what you want and how you realistically will get it. Never mind what HE wants anymore now this is your time. Take it seriously.
      Now read for your life! Read, read, read and… when you feel ready get talking/write – get it all out and the more you can say, the more people will be able to recognize things you are talking about and be able to recommend posts/words of wisdom that have really helped them on that particular issue.
      Best wishes to you! You deserve the best – really – and I look forward to seeing you writing more replies and receiving replies also! Good luck and a hug to you.

    • laces says:

      I stayed with a married man for 8 years. This site really helped me get over the relationship which was totally destructive. I still have the feelngs, even though that was two years ago. I still feel like I love him, but I love myself more now. Yesterday he texted that he wanted to see me and for 24 hours, I thought I would go. Finally I saw the light and told him no….that if he ever gets free, I would love to see him, but NO – I don’t want the karma that comes from feeling good at the expense of his wife. I TOLD HIM NO! I am not going to see him and start it all up again. I feel proud of myself. I want to be happy, and not have the loneliness that comes from a relationship with a married man, it is not worth it! I would rather stay alone.

  19. Hope says:

    Hi Natalie:
    I don’t understand how you know the exact problems that I am dealing with and then you have an article that nails it. Its unbelievable. I am too dealing with these issues. After my recent breakup, I had the lowest self-esteem I’ve ever had. I have always had these issues that I wasn’t pretty enough or that I wasn’t where I should be in the scheme of life, but never as bad as since my break-up. My ex-girlfriend. Made me feel as if I was ugly and unattractive. She told me on several occasions that I wasn’t enough. That I repulsed her. Who does that?!! When people don’t call or break plans, I automatically believe that it has something to do with me. That they just don’t want to hang out with me. That they have someone better to be with. I always bend over backwards to accommodate people, because I feel if I am that person they will like me. I’ve done it in relationships that didn’t last. I did it in this relationship that turned out to be the relationship from HELL!!! I constantly have this though process. I am currently in therapy because I needed to work it out. I needed to find the happy me inside of all this emotional judgment that continues to wreck havoc on my emotional state of mind.
    I’m praying that my outlook on life and personal relationships will become healthier, but I have you and I’m hopeful!!!

  20. Leika says:

    Natalie,

    I discovered your blog a year ago and i am regularly visiting it since then. It helped me more than anything else and i must say that i was in a bottom. I had very big issues with myself which had its root in my childhood. I was always addicted to men, living a lot part of my life in fantasy and there was a lot of humiliation involved. I am a young person but because of you i probably saved myself from further living like that. What makes you very credible is that as you mentioned you also went through all this and your posts sounds like you truly understand all the niuances. At the moment i am about a year without any connection including innocent flirt. I bielieve it is not a full recovery yet but as the time is passing i am more happy than ever, i am became very concentrated on my development and truly important things. What i observed now after breaking the old habits is that the type of women (and men but maybe they seem more obvious) you are writing about it is like the phenomenon of is near the epidemic. It seems to me like almost all the women i have around me (which are very different) place a romance with a man like it is the only thing that wakes them up in their lives. I can’t believe it sometimes and it makes me more convinced in my attitude. I have grown up in a culture that glorifies victim type of woman a lot so maybe it also has something to do. If you read that post Natalie, i would be interested in how have changed your perception of people and life and breaking your old habits?

    Thanks for everything! :)

  21. Revolution says:

    Dear Miss Natalie,

    Though I’ve been commenting sporadically at best lately, I didn’t want to be remiss in expressing how (as usual) you are spot on with your articles, timing- and content-wise. I would suspect that you were working with the NSA if you were a Yank, but since you’re a Brit….well…I have no answers. :) However you’re getting your “intel” (you’re probably just THAT good), I say good on ya, darlin’. You are doing the public a wonderful service, as per usual. Keep up the good work, and all that jazz.

    Hugs and kisses (especially to those BEAUTIFUL daughters of yours–they sure are getting big judging from the Instagram photos!),

    Revolution

  22. kate says:

    Oona, thanks so so much for your reply. It has helped me to feel more positive already. Im gonna read read read for sure. Then take action. Your right, no contact is going to be the only option. Instead of going around this cycle forever more. Thank you for taking the time :)

  23. Alice says:

    It’s funny, I’ve been waiting for my heart to catch up with my brain, and now that it has…ughh. There are so many things in life I thought I could control, but I can’t control them. I can’t change so many things I wish I could change. :(

    I’m limited in what I can do. So many things really are uncontrollable. I have to sit here, and know I can’t help the people I love, including ME, the way I want.

    So, I’m feeling anxious and out of control, so to regain the illusion of control, I could resort to my old habits, but since I know the truth–I don’t just understand it–I believe it–I just feel sick, and I just want to rest here for a while. I don’t want to think about what I can change.

    I just want to grieve the loss, and let go of ….

    I feel these cries from my younger self not to give up hope, but I’ve told her we have to accept the truth, and move forward.

    I don’t want to say goodbye to those hopes and dreams, but I’m moving forward,

    Natalie, this really sucks.

  24. teachable says:

    I dealt with some internal circular stuff tonight – related to depression. I did not distract myself from it as I typically might as a coping strategy. Instead, I allowed myself in the privacy of my wounded self to go fully into the emotions of what I found myself experiening. I noticed & felt the self judement, hopelessness, despair & sadness. Eventually a cried, just a little & that helped. All of this was for a limited time only, in which I permitted my thoughts & emotions permission to just be. Having honored my inner world I was then able to move on with my evening, happily in my own company. Life is hard sometimes but seeking a quick fix or avoiding it’s sharp edges is even harder. This I know.

    Thankyou for this post Nat :)

  25. Peanut says:

    You know, if I vow to so something, it’s done. I made a commitment to not go back to the ex, and I didn’t–over two years and I stayed strong.

  26. Peanut says:

    My (well at least one) circular issue is as follows: I am honest and alone. I consistently lose friends because I am am forthright. I refuse to dumb down my personality, expectations, wants, and needs. I am a strong woman and have no problem being me and letting it known what my perspectives are.

    I lost near my entire family because I stood up for myself. Though I ache from isolation, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I will always choose me.

    I refuse to hide in a blanket of positivity to be liked. You say you want my opinion, you’ll get it. My job in life is not to be nice to you or placate your ego. I am not made to soley love–I am made to be me.

    I am sooo tired of this rampant virus of positivity. I am allowed to disagree; I am allowed to be angry; I am allowed to hate and voice it. I am allowed to be honest.

    Sometimes life is miserable and horrific no matter how many blessing you may have. Instead of running from the horror we have to bow to it, respect it, dive into it, plow through and move forward. Anything less is being a robot.

    Recently I lost a friendship with a lovely man because I was honest and said I didn’t want a relationship. He respectfully stopped pursuing. I am so sad–like drink and cry sad, but I still don’t want a relationship.

    To all those (not referring to here–I am allowed to be me here and am grateful for that) you can keep your upbeat psuedo life of love and happiness–I’ll take the torment that inherently comes with being human–I will be a cranky, miserable torrential fuck and feel every drop and ounce of pain, then I will take medium to paper and do what I do–create things that mean something to myself and what seems to be a few others no matter how tired, lonely, or sad I am. I will keep writing, drawing, and asserting my right to be who I am no matter how hard or painful.

    I will say fuck off to the positive thinking crowd because I know value resides in reality, personal endurance, a willingness to be real vs. liked, and that no matter how positive we think our life here is finite, no amount of positivity can make someone love you, bring back the dead, mask the waves of depression, or quell deep seeded anxiety.

    We don’t get to bathe in a sea of balloons of happiness–we get to slop around in the filth of being human until we learn to be strong enough to pull ourselves out. No one gets a thinking positive stamp of “get out of humanity card.” Life is often horrid for everyone. We just have to seep into it, so that we may come out with humility. And that is to live fully.

    I am not liked and yes I care but I am fighting with the utmost tenacity to be real becasue that is the only thing meaningful in life. If we miss the opportunity to be ourselves, we have forfeited life.

    I won’t stop being me even if it is unpleasant.

  27. Peanut says:

    Another issue (circular) uncovered:

    Where I’m from there are four crowds my age:

    1) Uber religous (not a problem per say except they want me to be like them).

    2) Satanic/drug users/hedonistic (no joke and I don’t pass judgement–just not my thing).

    3) Coffee crowd (coffee is their God, they compete coffee, get coffee tatts, talk coffe language)

    4) New age “only think positive thoughts/I am uber spiritual/no negative thoughts or feelings EVER”

    And me. I am a near thirty agnostic art student. I don’t know how to get my social needs met and still be honest. I feel I have to choose one or the other.

    My previous conment is robust and angry. I am cracking under isolation, fear, and social pressure.

    I have one more idea at having something good social here. (Art alliance). We shall see.

  28. Peanut says:

    Perhaps I think people need to be just like me in order for me to feel safe. But, given that I am authentic now, this is impossible. No, can’t be that-my best friend couldn’t be more opposite than me (I need more social outlets than her). Dunno. Maybe it’s my expectations. I am digging so deep to try and figure what’s going on.

    Today I went to a favorite spot (though I feel inferior for some reason) and had a drink and food at the bar. A waitress politely asked me to move down so that other patrons could sit (I had been long done with my meal and had paid). I stood, said “I feel awkward.” and walked away then cried.

    I have won on another circular issue. (self sabotage). I just finished my portfolio for a drawing class and have created a body of work that is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I don’t know how to feel about that.

  29. Peanut says:

    Ah!!! AAH–HAAHH.!

    I go around feeling like everyone hates me because my family hated me and I only know what it feels like to be hated especially by an outside group (never was “in” with the fam b/c i refused their insanity).

    So whether I am hated or not–I still feel hated because that is all I know for the most part. So anything social feels terrible because of the deep-seeded assumption I am being actively hated whether or not true.

    Then with people I like I run (too scary to be hated by what you want) or I get off as needy because I want all the validation in the world that they do not in fact hate me so that I may feel safe.

    whew. im going to get tacos.

  30. Mirror of My Faces says:

    I keep circling back to my abusive childhood, but I’m content with my route because I know many of my behavior patterns are childhood coping mechanisms, used by my -self, -parents, and -siblings.

    I perused a book about how to know if you were abused as a child, and as a result, I finally figured out why I do some of the things I do.

    One behavior pattern has always made me feel ashamed of myself. But when I read about why child abuse survivors do it, I stopped feeling ashamed. Also, I remembered my mother doing the same thing, and I felt better about her in that moment.

    It brought sanity and a much needed understanding of SELF. It awakened self-compassion and self-appreciation, which led to increased self-esteem. :)

    Hmmm, it isn’t enough for me for someone to say ,”You needn’t feel ashamed because blah, blah, blah.” If I feel ashamed, I feel ashamed, and in this particular instance I figured out why, and I worked through it using my heart and brain, and I changed some negative beliefs I’ve been harboring about myself. But, I digress….

    I was just a little girl, dealing with these giant ‘crazy’ people, but I prevailed, and I finally thanked ME.

    Now, the adult ME is just trying to heal my battle scars.

    However, there are some things “I just won’t do” I think I really need to do. For one, I really think I need to work more directly on my self-esteem, in addition to what I’m already doing. And two, I think I also need to have more fun because I just want to have more fun in my life. :)

    Three, I’ve been pushing too hard of late, and I don’t want to push myself too hard. However, I don’t want to con myself: sometimes when I think and feel things are getting too hard, I’ll bail, and circle back to something easier, more comfortable.

    Yep, I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I get really anxious, flustered, and lately, I’ve become aware of my flight-fight-or-freeze mechanism. I think it’s in overdrive, er, overactive, and extremely sensitive to outside stimuli. I really get that now Natalie.

    Today, I tried to stay in the present, and let my mind and body learn it was a false alarm…trying to sit through and face the anxiety.

    I need to continue dealing with my anxiety issues–that would be four–I’m sensing my goal of self-protection, and it’s extreme–I’m hardwired to avoid discomfort. Ew, I have avoidant behaviors in my repertoire. I understand how this benefited me as a child, but it’s limiting me as an adult.

    Thank you Natalie.

    OK, then, it’s back to “the work.”

  31. Nigella says:

    Nel,

    I write from the perspective of someone who feels contempt for Mr. Ingrate. True, he didn’t knee you in the groin, say that you’re worth less than offal, whip your four-footed furry friend, embezzle your savings, dash your car into an oak tree, shag your best mate, or leave you bare-footed & famished in the middle of the Tanami. He didn’t starve you, physically or emotionally. He fed you scrummy crumbs for a few months. He didn’t behave like a total nutter – I know. Even if I knew that he – like the poor orphans in Dickens stories – was raised by scoundrels, who picked on him and used him for their own ends, I’d still feel less compassion & more contempt for him because he treated *you* in an unkind manner. This chap dated you for a few months and – aside from his condescending & controlling behavior – disappeared on you. Not surprisingly, you’re still seeking closure.

    There is a part of me that sometimes imagines people like him being stripped & walloped in public. But there are no repercussions for their *unkind* behavior. By hook or crook, they – and their supporters – can excuse or minimize the negative impact of the things they do & say. Merrily, the lone wolf can return to mountaineering & ingratiating himself to Little Red Riding Hoods. He can do whatever he wants under the guise of a wounded lamb. Ultimately, as you already know, what matters is what you do because without your *permission* he can no longer do anything to you. However difficult it must have been, you walked away from him! Cheers to the new you! You’re no longer one of the red-hooded girls, ruled by social niceties or her own fantasies, or accustomed to seeing life through rose-tinted glasses. Of course, this doesn’t mean you must now see life through a glass darkly.

    *Give* yourself credit for the changes – internal & external – you have made. It makes no difference if he recognizes your new look or new connection to Nel. Even if he found the prettiest, smartest, richest, coolest, happiest, hottest girl to date-love-marry, none of this alters the fact that you’re an *important & irreplaceable* person. He is lily-livered – someone who didn’t offer you a proper relationship or a proper goodbye. It doesn’t matter whether he feels “ashamed,” embarrassed, or scared. He doesn’t matter. He isn’t a god or even loving, loveable, & lovely as a dog. Just a painful lesson.

    You already know this but I’ll say it as a gentle reminder: expecting respect, recognition, or a response from him is like expecting nectar from Oleander, which looks, smells, and feels like a benign flower but is in fact toxic. Other than observing it from a safe distance, you can only expect to be poisoned by this enticing flower. Please see, I’m not advising you to stop having *needs & expectations* as though you were an android. I’m reminding us that once someone has dashed our hopes & expectations, then it’s best to stay away & stop expecting anything from such sources.

    Thanks for sharing your experience of trying to control your mind. I understand it isn’t easy to “control” our mind – easier at times to tame horses than our thoughts. Your experience reminds me that *external distractions* – songs, books, exercises, friends, or material treats – cannot adequately help us to handle a difficult situation. Momentarily, such things may help. Eventually, one has to learn to *build & draw on* their inner strength. Innately, some people may be better equipped than others in this respect. But this is also a learned strength – an acquired habit of mind. Since the break-up, you have learned new ways of thinking & coping with a challenge. Give yourself credit! Changing our inner landscape takes time as well as consistent & patient effort. Fighting emotional & psychological demons is an ongoing battle. But it gets easier, provided one is determined to defeat such demons. Remember, I believe, you are the Unconquerable Nel. Do you believe this about yourself? If not, why not? If not, what can you *do* to change your self-perception? I read somewhere: “Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your own two ears”. Our negative thoughts about ourselves – and thoughts about others who don’t care about us – are, I think, our toughest adversaries.

    So whenever I’m assailed by such thoughts, I ask myself: “How are these negative & obsessive thoughts helping me or helping someone else?” Or, “How are they stopping me from getting what I want?” Such questions help me at least *slow down* & shepherd my thoughts into a different direction. In writing all of this, I’m realizing it might be more helpful to invoke the term *concentration* instead of distraction. The point is not to distract us from something that bothers us as much as to concentrate on something that gives us a sense of purpose & fulfillment. The bond you share with your border collie is beautiful – and only you can discover other things that ignite your passion for life. [Side note: in case you haven’t already, consider reading “Bashan and I” by Thomas Mann, a story in which he explores themes of loneliness, companionship, and communication through his connection to his beloved pooch.] I’m sorry you lost sleep over the incident. Not too long ago, I lost many nights of good sleep. Here is a quote that helped: “Never lose sleep thinking about someone who doesn’t stay awake thinking about you”.

    I’m sorry you’re feeling down at the moment. You say: “I feel like I’ve lost a bit of my inherent happiness because of him”. Over time, I hope you’ll *gain* happiness from new sources. He isn’t the only oasis in the desert. Someone else could quench your thirst for love, excitement, sex, and companionship. I understand you’re feeling “cynical” about men & relationships. You didn’t deserve to be used as an emotional airbag, criticized, ignored, and dumped callously. Call me an optimistic fool, but I think there are good-hearted men & women in this world – and in time you’ll find a man who is as loving & caring as you are. It makes sense to feel disillusioned after what has happened. There is no need to fast-forward the healing process or pretend to feel as jolly as bunny in a Beatrix Potter fable. Life isn’t a bed of roses, but usually it helps me to remember nor is it a bed of thorns. This is something I remind myself in an attempt to battle despair & depression. Good to be disabused of my illusions about people & relationships. Disillusionment doesn’t bother me. Perpetual despair, listlessness, anxiety & depression do – and none of these are illusions. They are as real as rainy clouds – but I hope as short-lived. I don’t know if any of this is of use to you. I write to water your inherent optimism & happiness. Both of us, I hope, can fight off thoughts of gloom and doom & look forward to sunny times.

    I’m not suggesting one needs to be constantly cheery & insufferably optimistic like Pollyanna. That would be imprudent & impossible. But perhaps it isn’t a matter of choosing between optimism & cynicism. Rather, our options might be between being naively optimistic & *realistically optimistic*. Recognizing our mistakes – disappointments & betrayals – is important. Building new habits is important. Obviously this process takes varying lengths of time for different people. For the long run, surrendering to negative moods & feelings seems defeatist to me. Here is something I wrote in my journal last May: “So what is the big lesson? To love or not to love? I want to be able to love again. But I must question, must doubt a bit more. Optimism needs to be tempered by skepticism. Life is too short to squander time on unreliable people. Must exercise caution. For now, on the palimpsest of my mind, need to overwrite memories of him even as I miss him. Long to create new memories & pursue new things.” One year later, Nel, I’m reminding myself to continue overwriting disappointments by creating new memories & pursuing things that matter to me. Sometimes, all of this feels like an uphill climb. Still, I’d rather move ahead, slowly & steadily, than remain stuck or slide back. I share all of this in an attempt to encourage you not to give up on love, passion, and the optimism inherent in you. *Give* yourself time to understand who you are & what you want. Give yourself time to achieve greater *congruence* between your actions, feelings, and thoughts.

    You guessed right: I’m indeed a patron of Anthropologie! By the way, you inspire much more than “summer dress and food selection”. You inspire joy, care, respect and a renewed love of stories. Take good care of you.

    • LovefromNel says:

      Dear Nigella,

      I feel so blessed that you take the time to reply and share your thoughts, particularly when I know you are so busy in your work and have little free time. It was with absolute glee that I saw your name on the side! Like a good book or nice chocolate bar, I read it in small doses throughout the morning, savouring the words and never wanting it to end, really!

      And this response means so much to me, Nigella, that I was actually a little emotional (in a good way!) reading it. I have also printed it and popped it in my handbag. It solidifies and, with so much heart, clarifies, the BR knowledge that is often a bit wish-washy in my mind.

      But most important things first, haha, I’m not sure how I guessed the Anthro shopping! Perhaps similarities conveyed in your writing! Although the shipping rates can often be expensive, it’s handy when your sale stock is our next season stock – if that makes sense! I am on a budget at the moment though, in an effort to save for purchasing a second property (my first was a little investment house). As you have said in a previous response, financial independence is bliss, and we are by no means a ‘Catherine’. But for the moment, it sadly means less Anthro shopping. I’ll live vicariously through you there! I’d love to hear of some of the summer dress purchases!

      Now, this may make you hate Mr Ingrate more (as I likewise hate Mr Liar), but he did in fact “whip [my] four-footed furry friend.” Horrific, isn’t it? And how I didn’t walk away from the awful man then, I’m not sure. Nel (the dog, that is, not me! ha!) has a habit (as Border Collies do) of chasing kangaroos, which often graze where I walked with Mr Ingrate. I would normally put her on the leash when the temptation proved too much and her little eyes indicated she was about to set chase, but Mr Ingrate believed that you can only teach a dog by punishing it when it does something wrong. And this is what happened, and she did get a whack or two from him. I’m horrified that I let this happen to my dog, who is also my best friend, and I’m not sure what I’d do without her. I feel really sad writing about that, because I should have been strong enough to never allow that to happen.

      So there is, in fact, part of me that wishes him to be stripped and walloped in public, with Nel nipping at his ankles (and even exposed loins!). She is, however, too kind to do this though. But, in actual fact, as you said, he’s going about his business (as the lone wolf) ingratiating himself to Little Red Riding Hoods. I love this analogy so much. In expecting a greeting from him, or even an apology, I was seeking recognition of his *unkind* behaviour. But Liars and Ingrates often aren’t self-aware enough to even know how they’ve behaved, are they? They go about their wolfing business, with an air of perfection. As an innocent red riding hood, I’m admiring what big teeth they have, while these teeth are ready to eat me whole. This actually brings me to the Oleander analogy.

      And it is also correlated to what you’ve written in your journal last May: “… But I must question, must doubt a bit more. Optimism needs to be tempered by scepticism. Life is too short to squander time on unreliable people. Must exercise caution…” This is not only going to be my mantra for the year, but it also really gets to what I see as the crux of the matter. In tying this journal revelation, the red riding hood analogy, and the oleander one together, I have realised that I (and perhaps you may too) give people the benefit of the doubt too much, before they have proven they’re worthy of our kindness, care, trust, respect, and ultimately love.

      I know I must work on a healthy level of cynicism (or perhaps scepticism is a better word) while maintaining a reasonable level of optimism. In the past, my often overwhelming optimism has shown to be my downfall. One good date does not a good man make! And perhaps too, this is why I’ve been feeling a little sad about ‘the lack of good people out there’. If I had used my brain, eyes and ears a little more, I may be better equipped to weed out the good characters from the bad earlier in the piece, and be spared disappointment down the track. It is the saying ‘I can show you better than I can tell you’.

      Thank you again for your heartfelt response, Nigella. I hope Miss Excel is still a smiley beacon of light! You are certainly a beacon to me. And I have just gone onto Book Depository to purchase Bashan and I. It is neither a book I’ve read nor even heard of, but I just read the summary and I’m already eagerly awaiting its arrival! Thank you for sharing. I know you have less time for leisurely reading than I do, but another author you may be interested in reading is Jean Rhys. I read ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ many years ago, but recently read ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ when overseas. It’s quite a sad novel, but wonderfully written. And her novels (I find, anyway) are quite intellectually challenging to read. Like Mrs Dalloway, there is often stream-of-consciousness thought processes intermingled with reality, and I found myself slipping into the narrator’s confusion. It’s a wonderful book.

      Thank you so much again, Nigella.
      Love Nel

      • Nigella says:

        Nel,

        Thanks for your delightful response. Months ago, one of many things that drew me to your comments is the mention of your border collie. Besides English setters, this breed of canids is my favorite. It sounds to me that Nel, like most collies, is agile & energetic – and most likely craves a lot of exercise including her inborn impulse to chase animals. In “Bashan and I”, you’ll find chasing scenes that don’t end in the dog being punished. The narrative illustrates other methods of distracting the dog from his objects of play or aggression. Hope you relish this story! I rarely cry but the fact is my eyes filled with tears as I read about Nel getting whacked. Cruelty in general and in particular towards animals & children strongly affects me – and in my eyes, hitting a dog to modify her behavior is a form of cruelty. There are many choice expletives I could use for the self-appointed punisher, but for now I’m rebranding him as the Brute.

        No wonder Nel ignored the wolf prowling on the mountain. Like you, Nel is kind but not stupid – so she snubbed the Brute who had shown her little respect. She deserves kisses on her forehead for being so smart! His dominance-based style of dog-training consolidates my belief that the Brute had control issues. You know this already but I must get this off my chest: Nel is not an extension of him. Nor are you. Thank goodness! She has her own individual quirks & drives, one of which involves chasing roos. You too have your own individual beliefs & methods of doing certain things including how to manage the behavior of *your* dog in case it gets others or her into trouble. I don’t care if he’s a protégé of Cesar Millan, the Brute had no right to *impose* his beliefs or methods of discipline on your furry friend or you. No one has the right to dominate or hit Nel under the pretext of correcting her behavior. She is not his slave. Like you, she need not obey his commands. Perhaps he is (willfully) ignorant about more effective & *empathetic* methods such as clicker-training that use positive reinforcement – rather than punishment – to modify dog behavior. Nel, in case it interests you, visit the website of this amazing animal trainer, who applies clicker-training to pets of different ages, including a border collie: http://is.gd/8ZsSwI . “Keep Training Paw-sitive!” is their motto. Brilliant!

        In any case, expecting empathy from the Neanderthal for Nel or for you is like expecting empathy from a python for a gazelle. Such miracles occur only in Disneyland. It seems to me that this dingo tries to fashion himself as the top dog & expects others to conform to the norms he sets for them. If they don’t conform, he copes with his sense of loss of control over others by slowly withdrawing or disappearing on them. Nel & you deserve much better than his alternating acts of machismo & cowardice. He couldn’t manipulate or punish you for being you – so he disappeared. Emotionally underdeveloped people like him cannot be content around loving people because it makes them recognize their own limited capacity for love. Ultimately, when their lies & passive aggressive tactics don’t get them what they want, they run away.

        I see you’re feeling “sad” about being complicit in his punishment of Nel. This is understandable. But I’m sure you won’t permit such an offense ever gain. Denying & repeating our mistakes is easy. Done so myself. Recognizing & learning from our mistakes – and accordingly changing our thoughts & actions – is the key to being stronger, wiser, and happier. Here is an uplifting quote on this topic: “I’m stronger because of my hard times, wiser because of my mistakes, and happier because of my sad experiences”. Compared to last year, you are much stronger & clearer about what is acceptable to you. I read somewhere: “No relationship is ever a waste of time. If it didn’t bring you what you want, it taught you what you don’t want”. Regardless of what happened in the past, now you know that *you don’t want* anyone punishing Nel or using you as “a never-ending counsellor” or controlling you. It makes sense you’re wondering why you didn’t “walk away from the awful man” or “let” him hit her. Perhaps the answer is that back then you thought like a people-pleaser, thus operating from a place of confusion & self-doubt rather than *clarity and self-confidence*. Perhaps you were scared of the consequences of being assertive, that is, of speaking your mind & putting limits on how he can behave towards you and Nel.

        Perhaps, unconsciously, you were thinking on these lines, followed by brackets indicating underlying fears & wants: If I say or do X, he’ll dislike me or think poorly of me (fearing disapproval; wanting acceptance & approval). If I forgive him or give into him on X issue, then I’ll show him what a good catch I am because of my understanding & forgiving nature (fearing criticism & conflict; wanting peace & companionship; want to prove something about yourself to him). If I disagree with him, he’ll pull back or dump me, thinking I’m too opinionated or conceited (fearing judgment, silent treatment, & abandonment; fearing passive aggression or rejection; wanting the relationship to last). If I disagree with him in front of others, he’ll create a scene & embarrass me (fearing public humiliation; wanting to save face in public). If I agree with him on X, then maybe he’ll agree with me on Y (fearing disagreement; wanting him to agree with you on something else). If I go along with what he says or does, then he’ll feel more attached to me & interested in a long-term relationship with me (fearing loneliness; wanting intimacy & friendship). If I accede to him, he’ll be fair & good to me (fearing unfair & unkind treatment; wanting care & respect to be reciprocated; wanting him to be like you; wanting him to mirror & learn from your behavior). If I lose him by putting limits on what he can do or say to me & my dog, then I’ll feel uncomfortable around others over the break-up (fearing failure & judgment; wanting to impress, to win, to compete, or to assure others that like them you’re normal & successful in the relationship department).

        These thought patterns – along with underlying fears and wants – may not resonate with you, Nel. Drawing on my own experience & those of others, I thought I’d share these in case they might be of use to you. Over time, reducing self-doubt, taking adequate responsibility for our thoughts & actions, and managing our fears does help – and, as you know, all of this requires consistent effort & time. There is no need to tolerate behavior that may seem *unfair & unkind* to you. In this vein, it might be helpful to ask: “How would I respond to a self-appointed cross-examiner, punisher, helper, fixer, or controller in future? Do I *really* need someone to help me fix or figure out X? How can I tell someone that I don’t need them to help me fix something? Do I trust I’ll be able to determine whether they’re good enough for me? How can I learn to be *more discerning* – a better judge of character of newcomers? Do I foresee myself (1) denying that they’re not good enough for me & (2) persisting in trying to save the relationship through my good behavior? Do I know what are *my* limits & time caps regarding how much & how long I’m willing to give in a relationship before I decide to opt out? Do I see myself applying the Triple-R approach of recognizing cheaters-controllers-choppers-crybabies-cowards, rolling back interest, and removing myself from contact with them? If not, what is holding me back from looking out for my own best interests? How can I stop thinking like a never-ending bailiff? If I’m not getting what I want, why wait & waste my time? For how long will I wait to receive a return on my investment? Others may deceive, disrespect, and disappoint me. But ultimately, who is responsible for cutting my losses & folding the account – and who is responsible for my happiness & success? My sadness & setbacks?”

        The above are questions I expect to ask myself on a timely basis. The more confidently I learn to answer these questions, the easier I think it’ll be for me to take decisions to care for myself. Right now Nel, there is minimal room for additional stress in my life. I don’t have the time to put up with confusing or confused people. There is a lot on my plate – and I don’t want to buckle under pressure. So I ask myself this simple question in assessing a person: “Does he or she repeatedly put me down, let me down, bring me down?” My aim is to *decide* whether someone is behaving like a chopper-controller, disappointer-deceiver, or downer-naysayer? Mentally, divide my mind into two columns: provide pro-examples & counter-examples. Balance. Reflect. Decide: do I need to minimize or cut contact with this person? If I have to interact with them, how can I minimize the impact they have on me? How can I *communicate* my needs-expectations-boundaries to them? I feel too old to be squandering my time on undeserving folks. I go by the saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. Being an inveterate planner, I’ve come to accept that even if you plan to succeed, things don’t always go as planned. Life throws curveballs at us – and the point is to build our resources & resilience enough to be able to handle unforeseen & undesirable situations. Investing our time on unreliable people is like planning to fail – it is like shooting yourself in the foot. Learning to rely on ourselves – and on people who have *earned* our trust over time – is like planning to succeed. Essentially, there are no guarantees in life – only one thing is certain: someday I’ll die and I’ve got *finite* amount of time to do what I want to do before I die. I’ve realized I want to do certain things & be a certain type of person not so that I may attract a similar & suitable person. If I do meet someone compatible, great. Regardless, I want to be a certain way for my own sake & for those I care about.

        On my agenda, I haven’t got space for people who put me down, let me down, or bring me down just as I haven’t got space for trash that rots, stinks, or falls apart in my house. On a weekly basis, trash is chucked out, recycled, or used as compost. Otherwise, it is worthless. Most importantly, I’m trying not to put me down, let me down, or bring me down – the inner chopper-deceiver-downer is not an easy enemy to conquer, dearest Unconquerable Nel. Cleaning up our mind is a lot harder than cleaning up our house. But it can be done. Bit by bit. Day by day. So regarding your battle with low self-esteem, I suggest first of all please dial down the inner critic that may be making you doubt or dismiss your abilities, perceptions, values, needs, expectations, and priorities. If I asked you to list all of the above, could you? For example, what are your top-five values? I know you value Nel because you value her kindness, company, love, and loyalty towards you. Instead of expecting yourself to transform quickly like a cartoon character, make sure you’re setting realistic goals for yourself in terms of things you might want to change or improve in yourself. Self-esteem, I think, is a matter not just of feeding ourselves positive affirmations but also of doing things that make us feel good about ourselves rather than set us up for failure – and so you need not discover the cure for cancer or write a Booker Prize-worthy novel in the next two days to feel good. You don’t have to be lauded as a genius by Friday to feel good. You are beautiful as you are right *now*.

        I’ll repeat the advice I got at BR: Be you. Nurture you. Focus on you. I understand you’re still seeking closure & as a result asking if “Liars and Ingrates often aren’t self-aware enough to even know how they’ve behaved, are they?” To me, it doesn’t matter whether they are obtuse or aware of their behavior. Psychoanalysis never piqued my interest. I don’t buy the belief that all adults are at best dimly aware of how their behavior affects others. Their level of self-awareness doesn’t change their behavior towards me. For this reason, I now prefer to figure out how I can make myself & them aware of how their behavior is impacting me. In other words, it is *my responsibility* to be aware of how they affect me & to put limits on how they may treat me. I want to be self-aware in terms of my feelings & needs as well as aware of how their behavior fails to meet my needs. The focus is on me – not them.

        Truth be told, I think EU people are aware of what they’re doing but they’re not interested in changing. Rather, they’re able to rationalize or minimize the impact of their behavior on others. For example, an EU could think: “I know what I’m doing is cruel but I’m being cruel to be kind. She’ll probably think I’m being cowardly? Immature? Insensitive? Better to leave her alone than to tell her I’m fantasizing about X, flirting with X, or fu*king X. I know this sucks but in time she’ll see I did the right thing. I feel sad. Regretful. I’m sure she’ll find someone down the road. She must’ve seen this coming – it’s not as if I professed undying love to her or married or impregnated her. I dropped hints, caveats. She knew I didn’t love her. Only a few times I said “I love you”. I didn’t mean it seriously. Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes we don’t mean what we say. Sometimes we get carried away. I can’t give her what she wants – what she deserves. She & I aren’t on the same page. I tried. But too many differences. In any case, I’m sorry & busy. Oh, a text from my work-buddy: Bar & Beer at 9! First I’ll book my flight to Paris. Can’t wait to see the Louvre, walk on Champs-Élysées, and post Facebook photos (with clever captions on my adventures). Done. Things are good. I’m good. I’ll be fine. Tomorrow I’m taking Mum to an art gallery. Oh, an email from Bro: Great, he wants to play squash on Thursday. Reply sent. Now off to meet Buddies and Budweiser! Feels great to be Free. Feels good to look forward.” Nel, constructing stream-of-consciousness passages is not my forte but I hope the above paragraph illustrates what I believe: an EU person doesn’t spend too much time thinking about those he or she burns. They land on their feet & move on because emotionally & practically they never made the burned-discarded person the center of their life.

        I plan on becoming more or less emotionally attached or invested in people depending on the trust they are able to earn *over time*. I think learning to trust more judiciously is at the core of our exchange on optimism-plus-skepticism. To increase or decrease trust one needs to assess the reliability of a person: can I rely on this person? Can I rely on what they say? Can they walk their talk? Have they shown that repeatedly or usually they are able to do as they say? Of course, assessment of this sort is an *ongoing process* that takes (1) a lot more time than a few good dates and (2) a resolve not to allow our need for sex or companionship or approval to blind us. Besides applying these questions to others, I think it is equally important to put ourselves through the same assessment: can I walk my talk? Can I rely on myself to take decisions on my behalf regardless of how others behave? If not, what can I do increase my self-confidence & self-reliance? I could relate to what you described so well: “my often overwhelming optimism has shown to be my downfall”. This has been true for me. Yes, I too *used* to “give people the benefit of the doubt too much, before they have proven they’re worthy” of my time & trust. However, now I’m more cautious. I don’t aspire to act like tragic Greek heroes that are unable to overcome their hamartia right up to their last anguished breath. Being unintentionally impetuous or overly zealous about getting close to someone is a habit – a baggage – I have decided to drop. In the past, I trusted easily because I used to assume the best about someone or a situation. Thinking negatively or suspiciously is something that does not come naturally to me. I can’t predict if I’ll be fooled or blindsided by someone down the track. If I am, I expect to bounce back a lot faster than I did last time – and I think post-breakup resilience of this sort depends on not expecting a return on our investment & not seeing things through low self-esteem & high sex-obsessed lenses. One needs to believe: “I accept I didn’t get what I want & deserve. But I know I got a lot more going for me.” Nel, I have no doubt that if you continue to build trust in your abilities, you’ll be “better equipped to weed out the good characters from the bad earlier in the piece”. I also feel that if you build your resilience, you’ll be able to bounce back even if you’re not “spared disappointment down the track”.

        Congratulations for your first house and all the best for the second property! For you my respect & affection continues to grow: understanding the importance of following a budget & saving is admirable. I too am on a strict budget so I won’t be splurging on dresses this year. For now, I make use of the ones I have and take pleasure in seeing Miss Excel in her light-chambray dresses. Sheer elegance. Someday I might be able to wrap my arms around her lovely waist. No harm in hoping. I’ve added the books you suggested to my list of books to read. Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve seen the film adaptation of “Wide Sargasso Sea”, starring femme fatale Karina Lombard in the lead role. Surely, unlike the film, the novel does a lot more than paint tropical locations & torrid sex scenes.

        Hope the rest of the week goes well for you & Nel.

        • LovefromNel says:

          Dearest Nigella,

          Thank you for this wonderful reply. As I said on Nat’s most recent post, I am incredibly grateful for the time and effort you take in replying so beautifully and eloquently! This post, though, has made me turn a corner. I do actually think that it has changed me. I have you to thank for that. And I am so, so grateful.

          Cruelty in any form affects me and saddens me greatly too. From the limited information I’ve passed on here at BR, I cannot believe how accurately you have assessed the Brute. You say, “his dominance-based style of dog-training consolidates my belief that the Brute had control issues…Nel is not an extension of him. Nor are you!” This is precisely him, Nigella – imposing his beliefs or methods upon us! From peeling potatoes to my way of driving to inflicting cruelty on Nel – it had to be his way. He was right. In his reality, I was wrong. Everyone else was wrong.

          Before discovering BR, I must have had some inkling of this, and had been doing some research on the internet to provide some explanation for his disgusting behaviour. I came across an article “Emotional Nudity: 8 Signs You’re Dealing with an Emotionally Bankrupt Person”. These eight signs were: they’re angry, their self-centred behaviour, they use abusive behaviour, laziness, they’re greedy, there’s no empathy, control freaks, and hatred. He ticked all the boxes, except laziness. I suspect there’s probably a good chunk of narcissism mixed in there as well. I had researched this too, and bookmarked the pages to my phone!

          Again, your assessment of the Brute and his Top Dog nature, and the reason for his disappearance, left me awe-struck. All I could mumble at this point in your post was – I can’t believe that, from the somewhat limited information I have provided, someone who is possibly half-way across the world is able to provide such an alarmingly accurate character assessment of him. To have it all in writing was an eye-opener, to say the very least.

          In one of your older posts, you mention that for about 3-4 months after the break-up, you became a cherry-picker – recalling the good moments you shared with Mr Liar and neglecting to recall the *limited* care and respect he had shown towards you. Up until your most recent reply here, I too have been a cherry-picker. I’ve recalled the good bits (which I’ve probably applied a gloss paint too, as well) and neglected to recall the Brutish, control-freak, emotionally bankrupt, Top Dog behaviour.

          In this vein, I found an old post yesterday when I was rummaging around BR trying to find an answer to why I did this. Why was I ruminating a long-gone Brute who treated my dog and I so appallingly? I did a name-search for another favourite BR-poster of mine – Yoghurt. Her comments are amazing. In this search, I came across Nat’s article “Perspective takes the sting out of rejection: it’s broken, you’re not.”

          The first comment was Yoghurt’s, and she had written in the latter part:

          “Given that I’m so comfortable living in the past and feasting on the bones of long-dead relationships, I guess it figures that I eventually ended up in a situation where the entire ‘relationship’ was in the past from the get-go. I got rejected after about three ‘dates’ and after that I had a year and a half of trying to get back to where I’d been originally. And then I spent nigh-on a year wishing for the days when I had sporadic half-arsed interest and insultingly lazy communication.

          I can only assume that it’s easier dealing with situations and blokes that have been and gone than dealing with the future and the unknown. I don’t want to live my life like that anymore, though – the unknown can’t possibly be less satisfying or more soul-destroying than living in the past.”

          There are so many things I love about this post, which just resonated with me. I am certainly feasting upon the bones of a long-dead relationship with a Brute. Why? Perhaps because, like Yoghurt, it’s easier than dealing with the future, the unknown, my sadness, my loneliness.

          This also brings me back to your reply, where you write “I’ve got *finite* amount of time to do what I want to do before I die. I’ve realised I want to do certain things and be a certain type of person not so that I may attract a similar and suitable person. If I do meet someone compatible, great. Regardless, I want to be a certain way for my own sake and for those I care about.”

          While being aware of the fact that we are here for a finite period, and one day I will die, I still spend spare moments to check on his Instagram, Facebook (although we are not friends) and, as Yoghurt says, in my mind, feasting on the bones of something long dead. It is time, I have realised, to actually live what I know. Why am I wasting my precious *finite* time doing otherwise?

          The thought processes you provided resonated strongly with me, Nigella. To quell my innate people-pleaser, I am now going to ask myself when assessing someone: “does he or she repeatedly put me down, let me down, bring me down?” These wise words are ringing in my ears!

          As you advise, I am going to ‘be me, nurture me, focus on me’. I am no longer seeking closure (or feasting on bones!). It just does not matter anymore. I am no longer going to check his social media, because he does not matter to me anymore. I have Nigella-inspired strength running through my head, and a little bit more Unconquerable Nel through my veins. But I cannot just think it, I must feel it, know it, and live it.

          Miss Excel sounds divine, Nigella! There is, of course, no harm in hoping. I shall hope with you. In the meantime, you can only grow as a person with your amazing ability to self-reflect and put into practice all that you’ve learnt from BR and because of Mr Liar. There was one comment I recall reading on an older post on here (but it doesn’t seem to be one I’ve saved, unfortunately, so I cannot give credit where credit’s due!) but it was along the lines of – the next person I meet is going to be damn lucky to have me! (In reference to the changed person they are because of BR). All I can say to you, Nigella, is, the next person you’re with (perhaps Miss Excel, or perhaps someone else) is going to be damn lucky, and I also think, grateful for all that BR and Mr Liar have taught you. What a fool he was!

          Nel

          • Nigella says:

            Nel,

            I was thrilled to read your comment. It’s music to my ears to hear that you’re getting closer to living what you know. I hope staying away from his social media helps you to bring the focus back onto yourself. Even if you succumb to the temptation of checking out his online updates, please be patient with yourself – and remember that you are beautiful. Things will get better. There are mature, loving, and reliable people in this world, and I have no doubt that if you take some time to rebuild your self-confidence and raise your self-awareness, you’ll make good decisions and meet the right partner & friends capable of enriching your life.

            One major lesson I had to learn in the wake of the Liar is learning to let go, aside from learning to shed some self-destructive habits. Cherry-picking is one of these habits. Misunderstanding my own feelings, second-guessing my own thoughts, and giving others the benefit of the doubt are a few more. Regardless of the time it has taken to get this far, I feel grateful for the things that helped me pull up my socks and commit to taking better care of myself. It’s clear you’re also doing your best to make progress & to figure out how to assess people more accurately, including looking for signs of emotional unavailability. One way or the other, I’m sure you’ll reap the benefits of these efforts.
            Thanks for mentioning the article on emotional bankruptcy. I found it helpful in its insistence that after a point it is pure madness to make sense of an emotionally bankrupt person, and it is always important to listen to our “emotional compass”. This is such a neat metaphor for emotions, suggesting how they can point us to the right direction even if someone else might be misleading us. In or out of a relationship, the focus needs to be on our *own* emotions & thoughts, including the unsavory ones. Lesson learned: instead of ignoring unpleasant emotions & thoughts, realize that doing so basically makes it easier for shady folk to make a fool of us or treat us like a doormat. However comforting it may feel in the short-run, cherry-picking sets us up for rude awakenings & perpetuates illusions about a person even after the break-up. In future, despite my best efforts to steer clear of such habits, I could be mistaken in my assessment of people, and I could be fooled. No one is immune to injury. Ultimately, all I can do is learn to see people as they are – not as I may *imagine* them to be and not as they *say* they are (except for the unfavorable bits they admit). Having learned our lessons, Nel, I’m certain you & I can make better choices in forming new relationships, platonic or romantic. It can be done. In fact, as you said earlier, you’re already seeing through people. This is great.

            Since last year, I’ve battled with my fear of not being able to assess people more accurately. Finally, this fear is losing its grip over me – and I must say that one of your earlier comments helped me greatly in this respect: “I don’t NEED to give people the benefit of the doubt”. I re-read your comment, and realized this is what I need to use as an anchoring point for myself. Cynicism is not my cup of tea. Nor is endless negative thinking. But I do need to doubt people more so that I may do a better job of looking out for my own best interests. Insufficient scrutiny of others and lack of self-awareness didn’t help me make the best decisions in the past. So I’ve come to *accept* that lying, cheating, drip-feeding, and disappearing are patterns that some people have normalized for themselves. To get what they want, they’ll say & do anything. In her latest post, Natalie coined this perfect phrase: “Mo’ assumptions, Mo’ problems”. Brilliant. Keeping this in mind, I’m going to continue ensuring that I don’t assume things about people or buy things they might say. I’ll take my time to assess them.

            Thanks for sharing that amazing quote by Yoghurt. It makes perfect sense. The fear of the unknown can make us live in the (painful) past. I understand that “dealing with the future, the unknown, [your] sadness, and [your] loneliness” has been holding you back sort of like crabs in a bucket that prevent a fellow crab from making its escape. Unlike the original reference, it may not be other people, but sometimes our own habits that hold us back. From past experience, I know that leaving behind outer crabsters – folks holding me back from achieving happiness & success – became doubly difficult only if I had not left behind my inner crabsters. So, I suggest, if there are any lingering habits that might be holding you back & feeding your fears, sadness, and loneliness, then getting rid of these crabsters is going to help. The following quote also gave me the extra motivation I needed to get rid of habits I knew were holding me back: “The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging”. Each time I felt myself sliding back, I drew strength from this message. To get out of a hole (or bucket), a *circular* problem, a negative pattern, first & foremost, I realized I need to stop doing things that got me into a tough spot in the first place. One by one, Nel, you can conquer each habit that holds you back from realizing your dreams. One by one.

            I have found that dealing with the future seems less daunting to me if I keep setting achievable goals for myself. Because of my goals, I look forward to the future. Because I *know* I have to do certain things to meet my goals, I concentrate more on what I know, rather than the unknown. I know you’re already trying your best to stay active. Continue doing all the things you do to take care of yourself. If I had super powers, I’d use them to banish sadness & loneliness from your life, and ensure that these intruders never return to haunt you. Unfortunately, I have no such powers – only these words to offer, and to say that I’m hoping for the best for you. Don’t give up.

  32. no_more says:

    “What am I not accepting here? What am I refusing to see? You may be stuck on feeling entitled to something that hasn’t come to pass. Don’t spend your life circling back because you’re being the bailiff trying to collect a debt.”

    I have been using this over and over in my mind the last couple of weeks, and I think it struck home because I WAS the bailiff for so long, and now I am not. Uncomfortable at first, but so much better in the long run!!

    Hope everyone is doing well. xx

    • LovefromNel says:

      Dear no_more

      I hope you are doing well honey. I really relate to one of the middle sentences of the quote you’ve selected: “You may be stuck on feeling entitled to something that hasn’t come to pass.”

      I was thinking of this on my walk today. I think I’m stuck on this too. I feel entitled to kindness, care, trust, respect because I give the same. It often doesn’t come to pass, with either friends or relationships. Which leads to me being disappointed and disheartened about where all the good people are. However, as one of Nat’s recent posts says – don’t turn loyalty into servitude.

      I’m pleased to hear you’re no longer the bailiff. No more debt collecting from no_more! Your enlightenment has inspired me.

      Best wishes,
      Nel

      • Sofia says:

        Nel and no_more, I have the same problem too. I think it’s one of the reasons why I can’t let go. I keep thinking that I didn’t get I wanted: a relationship with mutually shared feelings, care, and respect. Being stuck in these thoughts is like trying to collect the debt. That’s so true. Maybe it’s like bankruptcy. You invest, hope, and things don’t work out. It’s all lost and gone. You just have to pick up your pieces and move on. I had been working hard on myself all 3 weeks and lost it all in the last 2 days. I almost contacted him and feel like doing it now. But I won’t. I never broke NC and will not do it now. I know I can do it.

        • LovefromNel says:

          Of course you can do it, Sofia. You have a big crowd of us in your corner. You have put it so eloquently above too. It’s really hard to let go when we circle back to what we never got (love, care, trust, respect).

          I re-read an older article of Nat’s today: “Coping with feeling rejected by EUMs and Acs” (ihttp://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/coping-with-feeling-rejected-by-mr-unavailables-assclowns-part-one/).

          That really helped. This quote of Nat’s really struck a chord: “I think on some level, many of you recognise that these guys are not worthy of your time, and the confusion and rejection kicks in, because you can’t understand why someone who is unworthy of your time would reject someone like you, because you know you’re better than a guy like him…yet you’re not interested in a guy who would actually treat you better….”

          And I think that’s what perhaps we are circling back to. Also, as a lot of the comments in this older post illustrate, I know I have low self-esteem, but HOW do I change it. The first comment (by CDK) says: “But I still have this assclown sitting on me day after day. HOW can I improve my self-esteem? HOW?” In the same vein, Nigella has said this to me in her most recent (and wonderful) reply: “Remember, I believe, you are the Unconquerable Nel. Do you believe this about yourself? If not, why not? If not, what can you *do* to change your self-perception?”

          It’s a combination, no_more and Sofia, I think, of letting go, and improving our self-worth. Not only knowing that we deserve better, but believing it, and living it.

          Big hugs ladies!
          Nel

          • Sofia says:

            Nel, thank you for your kind words and support. I immediately feel stronger reading your post.

            I know another reason I circle back because no one ever dumped me before. Not in my adult years. When I was 16 my boyfriend and my first love and sexual partner dumped me. After that relationship my next one was marriage and we separated 8 years after mutually although I initiated it due to incompatibility (or my immaturity at that point in my life. I was 28). After my divorce I didn’t have a long-term relationship. Most guys were either one-two-night stands or assclowns with whom I just did NC because I knew it was not going anywhere or met casually when I needed. Actually there was one who didn’t dump me but left to pursue his academic ambitions to another state. That was a 2-year relationship but it was never defined as such. I never even tried to define it. It was not clear what it was although I did miss him very much and thought I loved him. He continued bothering and calling me for years after and still does. I have no feelings for him anymore. So this last boyfriend, long-term one and serious as I thought and I thought he had feelings for me and even loved me. So I think I keep circling back because I still can’t believe that it felt like he was into me and then he just broke it off. No feelings, we are different, he said. Let’s be friends. It’s just so shocking. So circling back is trying to heal my ego or make a sense of what happened. But it’s so hurtful and damaging. It’s not healing going back over and over what happened and trying to make a sense out of it. So partially I think it’s a hurt ego thing. And of course, Nel, I agree with you, we do recognize in the depth of our heart that they didn’t treat us well while we were so kind to them, so how could they dump us? We are so good, and they are not. Ego hurt.

            I have been learning in the past few months about God’s love. Not turning to religion here but ultimately, we live here temporarily. All the feelings, all the worries here on this earth are temporary. People come and go, troubles come and go, and it will all pass. It is easy to say all this but hard to comprehend and accept. It is a learning process too.

            We talk about learning to love ourselves and that’s true. We need to do that so that we know how it feels to be loved by others. I just realized that because I never loved myself, I didn’t know how I am supposed to be loved. I mean, how it feels and what’s right or not. I am just now slowly starting to understand.

            Nel, you come out in your posts as a very kind, loving, caring, and selfless person. You are very open and I feel you care for people a lot. Like it comes natural to you to heal their wounds. You ARE Unconquerable. You have so much love to give. I can feel it in your words. With all this love and warmth you have inside you, you are a very strong person. And no one should put you down and make you feel bad. I don’t understand what’s wrong with these men that we meet on our way. I think the only thing that’s wrong really is that we allow them to stick for too long until it’s too late and our hearts are broken. Yet I think, why couldn’t I meet anyone nicer in all the years I have been single. Why I meet ACs only? I used to meet, I would rather say. Because now, I am too well prepared to detect an AC or EU miles away.

            Nel, from what you are telling about your ex AC/EU, you dodged the bullet too, like all of us here. I believe (if I am not confusing) he broke up with you by disappearing, right? If that’s the case then it’s just your luck you are not with him. My EU did a very gallant, formal breakup. Unexpected but nevertheless face to face. When people hide and run… that’s just disgusting.

            Really, why nice, kind, educated, and beautiful ladies like us are meeting such people. That’s my question. Is it our fault? Our fate? I don’t know anymore. Of course part of it is because we are attracting people like that. But where are the good guys? I haven’t even had a chance with a good one yet (except for my ex-husband).

        • no_more says:

          Sophia,

          I think you are stronger than you know. You are here, sharing, but also trying to process a lot of things. From reading your posts, I believe, while it is so difficult to do, you are examining & questioning behaviours from men that you knew were unacceptable. It hurts, knowing that they were sh*theads, you only wanted a certain level of love returned. That’s okay to acknowledge. But please keep in mind, this is about you, and not about them.

          I notice you are slowly, but surely making it less about their stupid AC behaviours, and writing about your thoughts and feelings more and more. Yeah!

          I don’t think wanting to talk to him again should be considered “losing it all”. It is natural, but you are fighting to get out of your “comfort zone”, ie: pain with him, and moving it back to YOU!

          Examine what is going on that is triggering the need to contact him. Look at it. Turn your focus back to what is
          good for Sophia. Remember, that fleeting high you might get from breaking NC only lasts a second, and then you’d have to start everything all over again. Is it worth it?
          Not: is HE worth it, but am I worth more? And yes, you are! Unequivocally- every time Sophia.

          Hang in there! We are all cheering for you!

          xx

          • Sofia says:

            no_more, thank you! You and Nel are so wonderful and supportive!

            I definitely won’t break the contact. Sometimes I think I won’t just out of the principle. I am so stubborn and goal oriented:) If I said no – it means no. No matter how drunk, depressed or hormonal. I still have the control. I love it!

            Of course, there will be a high for a moment and then I will hear what? That he is dating someone else, he wants to be friends, he doesn’t have any feelings for me? I don’t care to hear any of that. There is nothing to talk to him about. I don’t think I will ever be friends with him. There is just no point. We were not friends to start with. It was a romantic relationship and not based on friendship. Once that’s broken, there can be no friendship. A civil relationship is maintained when there are kids involved, like with me and my ex-husband. Otherwise, I see no reason. I have enough friends already including couple guy friends, who are not my exes.

            Your support and Nel’s support are so valuable, you can’t even imagine! I barely made it through Friday night-Sunday night. Monday at work was ok. Got distracted by work. No more wish to break NC but just sadness. I think it’s a grieving process. It must be it. No matter how not good a relationship was for us, it is natural to grieve it. It is a loss. Loss of what we thought could be. We invested ourselves deeply, emotionally and sexually. You know, I can’t think of sex lightly anymore. Prior to that relationship I was fine with casual sex and flings. Now I can’t even think about it. We are so vulnerable when we share our intimacy. I certainly can’t treat sex lightly anymore. When it happens it will only be for the right reason and with the person who is good for me and to me. No more sex on the 2nd date (used to be my timing). Whenever and if I meet someone, it will be many dates before that happens. In a way, it makes me feel freer now. I used to feel need for love and man’s attention. Now I just don’t care. I really love this newly found feeling of freedom. I am fine by myself and once grieving wears off I will be even much better.

            no_more and Nel, how are you coping yourselves? Isn’t it amazing though how as time goes by, we do notice that some days or even weeks now, are better and stronger, but then, something happens, even with no trigger at all, and I feel I am losing it. Losing my strength and determination that ” I have moved on. yay” It feels like square one, but I know it’s not. I know all the hard work has already been processed. It’s just the remaining grieving stage when sadness and pain still lurk of course. I have to recognize and not be scared of that. Certainly this ” I moved on!” feeling is not overnight thing. How many times I thought I did but I didn’t. couple weeks are good and then crying again for couple days. But the truth progressively it’s better and better with each time. My trigger was actually going to ob/gyn office for my annual papsmear. Last time I went to that office was with him because I was pregnant and the rest is history. You probably know the story. So that was a big trigger on Thursday that brought all the memory of those doctor visits and the main visit, and it ruined my weekend. Too much booze and crying. But no breaking NC. No matter what. I am proud of myself. All the support here, I couldn’t make it without it.

            Thank you no_more and Nel!!!

            Big hugs!!

      • no_more says:

        Nel,

        You are such a dear. I so look forward to reading your honest & thoughtful responses. I am in awe of you and Nigella particularly You are both, (as well as many others), so prolific. I come away thinking, reflecting and struck by your intelligent outlooks.

        I simply can’t believe your EX wolf hit your beloved pet. Monstrous! I imagine you would never allow that now, so please don’t berate yourself. The “exposed loins” comment made me laugh, and I think it reflects a righteousness of deep anger that is richly deserved. Good for you. And for the record: may 1,000 rabied wild boars descend on your EX’s exposed loins someday.

        As a side note, I am a somewhat sceptical, mistrusting person, partly because of a childhood where sarcasm was presented as love. Part of that mistrust is because of my long law enforcement job. My recent EX broke down that wall: I trusted him with my entire being. I think my journey back to being me again has been a lot about learning to trust, but to offset it with “healthy” caution and basing my feet in reality. That has been hard to do.

        It is a delicate tightrope to walk. I feel I am getting things I want, which for the most part, is circling now, only back to what is or isn’t good for me.

        I will share that 4-5 years ago, I had a serious problem with crippling depression. After the recent break up, I could feel myself falling down that well again. It is only with reading this blog, journaling, and some head-on painful
        self introspection, have I been able to arrive to a better me.

        I guess, in short, I think I have sorted out the entitlement, and settled on getting actions to show me whether someone “deserves ” me. We will see.

        Hope you had a good weekend. Take care of you.

        xx

  33. LovefromNel says:

    Dearest no_more,

    Thank you so much for your kind comment. That means a lot to me (I have never had much self-esteem or confidence in my abilities)! Similarly, your posts too are rich in thought and exude much warmth!

    ‘Healthy’ caution is a very wise sentiment. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but one of Nat’s pictures on Pinterest says ‘be hopeful, but not naive’. This is so accurate! It is one of my favourites.

    I think I may be the polar opposite to what you’ve said (a somewhat sceptical, mistrusting person). I was (and probably still am) more blindly trusting to the point where I sometimes lost sensibility. It is only since becoming an adult that I’ve noticed the world is perhaps not as kind as I had once thought. Not everyone has others’ best interests at heart. Not everyone can be nice. Not everyone is like my beautiful, loving family.

    It’s been a long time coming, but I have finally realised that I don’t NEED to see the best in people. I don’t NEED to give these EUMs the time of day. I don’t NEED to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    But we are still on the same wobbly tightrope, no_more, trying to find more stable ground. You are coming from the mistrusting, sceptical side. I am coming from the blindly trusting, hopelessly naive side. We must balance (and meet!) more in the middle of the tightrope. As Nigella says, optimism needs to be tempered by scepticism. We need a healthy dose of each.

    I am sorry to hear you’ve also suffered from depression. It was quite enlightening to read how you came out the other side, and avoided the sometimes slippery slope towards it following your most recent break-up. It was food for thought, actually, because I have offered considered my own depression as unavoidable. But you have pointed out that this isn’t always the case.

    And I’m really pleased to hear you’re ‘settled on getting actions to show whether someone deserves you’! One comment on an older post said something very similar: “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I think this was written in the negative – meaning that, when someone shows you what an awful person they are (helloooo EUMs), believe them. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Believe what they are showing you. But I think, importantly, the comment can also be read positively too. When they show you good, healthy behaviour with kindness, care, love, trust and respect, then I think it’s fair to say you should trust that, until, of course, they show you otherwise.

    Take care of you too, no_more. I hope this has provided a little more food for thought too!

    Nel
    xo

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!