rose tinted glassesIf you’ve ever said “I don’t know what was real and what was fake”, “But it’s hard to let go of the fantasy” , “It feels like I was in love with an illusion” or “I’m finding it really hard to move on and accept what has happened”, you’ve got reconciliation issues. When you’re faced with making fantasy and reality consistent with one another so that you can accept the truth of what has happened, what you feel, do, or are being, you opt for the illusions which basically suspends you in No Man’s Land while opening you up to problems in the real world.

An illusion is a false idea or belief, or a deceptive appearance or impression.

A fantasy is an idea with no basis in reality and is basically your imagination unrestricted by reality.

Reality is the state of things as they exist. It’s what you see, hear, and experience.

So let’s imagine a few scenarios.

Scenario #1: You break up with someone because for whatever reason the relationship wasn’t working. Maybe it wasn’t progressing (see my post on landmarks of healthy relationships), or there was code amber and red behaviour but whatever it was, you’re not together. However, you keep remembering the ‘good times’ and the fact that you both like running in the mountains, eating jellied eels, sleeping in the bed at a 17 degree angle, and you have amazing sex. Time goes by and even though you were bloody miserable in the relationship due to the aspects that weren’t working, you keep focusing on those ‘good times’ and particularly on the beginning and wonder why they can’t go back to being that person. They get in touch, you think you’re getting back together, you have a whirlwind night/week/even a month and then you’re back to square one. You’re hurting and struggle to get over them. They get in touch again or you reach out. You think you’re getting back together, they haven’t changed and lather, rinse, repeat.

When you keep going back to a relationship that broke for a reason and where the person didn’t live up to the reality of all the wonderful things you thought they were, you let your focus on the ‘good points’, your feelings etc run unencumbered by reality. If you restricted yourself to reality or at least balanced the fantasy with very real prior experiences and knowledge of boundaries and why some relationships don’t work, there’s no way in hell you’d keep putting your hand back in the fire.

Scenario #2: You meet someone who’s attached. Maybe you know immediately or maybe they keep it under their hat until their feet are wedged firmly under your love table. You imagine that you’re destined for great things because you know, obviously they must be taking this massive risk and the connection and sexual frisson is so immense and they’ve said all of this stuff that makes it sound like you have a future together. Then the excuses start rolling in and they’re not behaving like the person you thought they were or rustling up that future they promised you. Things come to a head and they may even do that manipulative BS where they claim they were leaving but because you haven’t been ‘patient’, they won’t. You end things because you know it’s not good for you but every time they get in touch, you accept and are wondering if they’ve left yet and are going to become the person you thought they were.

When it becomes apparent that things are not what they seemed and yet you keep entertaining them it’s because you’re hoping that you can avoid admitting that you made a mistake in the first place by having them come blazing in on their white horse offering you the fairy tale. Instead of tempering the fantasy with reality – they’re married, talking out of their arse, and have done things that have left you feeling pretty damn crappy – you let the fantasy just keep running and running!

Scenario #3: You meet someone and they start talking up the future, Fast Forwarding you by introducing you to various people, pushing for commitment and so-called sexual and emotional intimacy, and basically taking you on a whirlwind romance. You’re having such a good time, you don’t want to pay too much attention to some things that are making you uncomfortable or even worried. Whether it’s weeks, months, or even a year, eventually the needle is ripped from the record and you land in reality with a cold, hard bump. The pain is immense and you can’t work out if it was all lies, half lies, 20% or whatever. You feel duped but at the same time you remember just how good it felt at times and you don’t want to invalidate that either. So you struggle to accept the truth, which isn’t that your relationship was all lies (it wasn’t unless it was a complete con or you actually know it was all lies because you were in denial) but more that 1) it didn’t work and 2) there are very specific reasons that indicate why it didn’t work that will have showed themselves, good times or not, if you’re willing to look at and accept them.

Unless you’ve been in a complete fantasy, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – it just has to be real. Just because your relationship didn’t work out and they may even have proved themselves to be a bit (or a lot) of a tool, it doesn’t mean that the good times didn’t exist or that everything was a lie. This is extreme and a bit childish – instead of going around chopping up their clothing, you’ve erased the past – that’s a fantasy too!

If you can’t differentiate between what was real and what was fake, it means that you were too swept up and cloaked in too many illusions to have a good grounding in reality. It’s not that you can’t or shouldn’t remember the good times or good points but if your imagination runs riot and doesn’t get rudely interrupted by reality, you’re opening yourself up to pain. This is exactly how people end up going back to someone who at best took advantage and at worst abused them. If they restricted their thoughts to reality in full colour, 20:20 vision, they wouldn’t be going back.

If you only remember the hot sex it’s like assuming that in reality they’re one walking, talking penis or vagina. Truth is that the hot sex may be packaged up in someone that doesn’t treat you with love, care, trust, and respect, that leaves you feeling worthless once the sexual high has passed.

The key is to work out what reality is and that includes the good, bad, and indifferent. What you think, can always be denied, rationalised, and minimised, but doing a stock take on what you’ve heard, seen, felt, and basically experienced is real.

What are the facts? Strip out the excuses and BS (whether it’s yours or theirs) and stick with what has happened – what are you left with?

Why didn’t your relationship work?

What did you ignore that in retrospect you recognise as a code amber or red warning?

What reasons did they give the last time they got in touch? What happened the last time you got back together? And the time after that?

When you focus on something good what do you have to ignore? What are you avoiding by focusing on the fantasy?

The truth is that when a person or a relationship are that great, you don’t need the fantasy because you’re living the reality. Are you living the reality? Did you live the reality?

By restricting your imagination with reality, you also ensure that you have healthy boundaries. Put a limit on how much bullshit you have in your life because in fantasies and illusion clad relationships you control the uncontrollable, whereas in reality you’re in control of yourself and can drive your own life.

Your thoughts?

For more advice on illusion free relationships, check out my book and ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl in my bookshop.

Image source: Vogue. Definitions illusions, fantasy, and reality adapted from Oxford English Dictionaries

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174 Responses to Fantasy vs Reality: When you struggle to differentiate between what was real and what wasn’t

  1. ella says:

    Natalie, I love what you write, but what if this is MY Reality. I have been married nearly 21 years, we adore each other, but after so long, as health issues that I have, we no longer have sex. We cuddle, kiss, show affection, but there is no physical passion. I cannot leave my marriage, I have had my dalliances, all which have taken a claim on me and my husband has stood by me. It is just he is happy with looking at young scantily clad girls on the internet and fantasy and I need real – when I am well a need a man to make love to me to make me feel like a real woman. I wish it wasn’t the case, I wish I could say that my marriage is perfect and complete, but it isn’t, just like the world is not complete and perfect, even if you know what is the right thing to do. Conflict is everywhere, it is the way of the world. Even if I had been armed with your insightful knowledge over 21 years ago, I could not predict I would be here now and contemplating how I am going to cope. I have had some terrible experiences and given my heart away to men I shouldn’t have, so it has come at a cost. This is my reality Natalie and it hurts. I love your work.

    • NML says:

      The trouble here Ella is you’re both doing the same thing in different ways. He avoids intimacy by immersing himself in porn to the detriment of the intimacy in your relationship. You avoid intimacy by becoming involved with other men. What neither of you are doing is dealing with whatever the problems are in your marriage. You coil substitute porn and cheating with alcohol, drugs etc – you are both avoiding yourselves and your problems with other ‘activities’ which probably make you feel better in the short term but crappy beyond that. You also got to question what the point is in playing away – bad enough to be cheating but that must been one hell of a fantasy you’re pursuing if you’re leaving home to be treated badly by other men.

      • yo shizzle says:

        another goodie. the narc/eum came in for his regular visit at my work and again i was businesslike with no interest in conversation. I realized later, buddy doesn’t want to meet me in the reality of what happened? fine. he said and did stuff, i said and did stuff; we have a history and it’s not a nice one. I’m not interested in the reset button or even just wiping the slate clean and being friendly; when you run into someone you have a bad history with, you can see their acknowledgement of what happened in their eyes. And from THAT, you can meet in reality and yeah even be friendly why not. But the absense of any acknowledgement that his penis was ever in my vagina…like i’m just another twit on the street that doesn’t know his dirty secrets and will abidingly soak up his talking about his fantasy self with doe-eyes, gimme a break! We screwed, we dated, we had some words, i told him not to talk to me… yeah come get what you need in the store but don’t try to chat me up! Or glare at me when I’m not interested or otherwise busy. Ugh!

    • cavewoman says:

      Hi Ella,
      what you wrote here could have been my words during the last several years of my marriage:
      “I wish I could say that my marriage is perfect and complete, but it isn’t, just like the world is not complete and perfect, even if you know what is the right thing to do. Conflict is everywhere, it is the way of the world. Even if I had been armed with your insightful knowledge over 21 years ago, I could not predict I would be here now and contemplating how I am going to cope.”
      It was ‘only’ 15 years and we had other distractions, (no porn and I didn’t cheat, but still the same things in other different ways as Nat said. She is right. What matters is not what insight could or could not have saved you from ending up here; what matters is that you ARE here now. It’s not the Ella of 21 years ago who can remedy your current unhappiness. It’s the Ella who is reading this today. Do you want to merely cope? It’s a choice.
      I’ve been there. I used to make excuses like life isn’t perfect, with a touch of martyrdom, gotta respect the ’til death do us part’ bit of the marriage vow, for the sake of the kids, not to betray the few good years we’d had, at least we’re better than [insert dysfunctional couple], blah blah blah. I had chosen to cope and doggonit, I was sticking by that. I would have coped my youth away, I swear. Then he left, luckily for me.
      Maybe if you’re lucky he’ll decide he’s had enough coping and you won’t have to do the hard work, but why relinquish control over your own happiness and well-being? Coping is not the way to go. Take care of yourself, with or without him. Abandoning your spouse is best reserved for severely abusive situations, but putting both yourself and him on serious notice is fair, healthy, as well as the only dignified course of action.

      Like I said, I’m glad to have lost the marriage I was never going to leave. In the end, I consider myself fortunate that my ex-husband took the initiative to move on. But when we get lucky, we still have to deserve our luck. I wasn’t quite ready at the time to take responsibility for myself yet though, so I fell for the first ‘eligible’ EUM to come by. Then I had to do the hard work to get myself out of that one. No freebies! Gotta work for good Karma.

  2. Natasha says:

    “They get in touch, you think you’re getting back together, you have a whirlwind night/week/even a month and then you’re back to square one. You’re hurting and struggle to get over them. They get in touch again or you reach out. You think you’re getting back together, they haven’t changed and lather, rinse, repeat.”

    Oh, was I guilty of this. I had so many illusions going on, I should call that part of my past “The David Blaine Era: Attempting To Pull A Decent Man Out Of An Assclown’s Hat”. I’d cling on to whatever faux-nice thing my ex did and completely ignore anything red or amber. I can remember on my second-to-last go-around with him going out on what I convinced myself was a “great date” with him, where he was so “loving and attentive”. Mmmhmm. Yes, he had taken me out to a nice dinner and was looking deeeeeeeeep into my eyes and kissing my hand. Fine. However, I decided to mentally edit the evening to exclude the part where I caught him blatanly eye-f*cking another woman over my shoulder. That part I decided was moot because he’d been drinking and I’d best just forget about it. Oy. Friggin’. Vey.

    I finally had to get real with myself and acknowledge that when he’d come back allegedly crazy about me, the logical conclusion to come to was that was a lie and he HAD to be nice, because he wanted something. In a way it was very freeing, even though it was obviously hurtful, because I realized that I hadn’t “lost out” on anything, because the person I’d thought I was crazy about didn’t actually exist. I have a new saying that goes like this: If you’re confronted with a Jekyll & Hyde situation, believe the Hyde, not the Jekyll.

    • NML says:

      “If you’re confronted with a Jekyll & Hyde situation, believe the Hyde, not the Jekyll.” Love it. I also loved what you said about editing – some of us have had better production skills than a film or tv studio…

      • Natasha says:

        Ain’t that the truth! If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that if someone’s words/actions are giving you that icky gut-feeling that something is off and you’re even feeling the need to “edit” – trust that it’s not right. That and stay the hell away from anyone that’s bs-ing or trying to bs you into doing something that feels wrong – whether it’s getting back together for the 900th time, taking responsibility yourself for their actions, staying “friends”, etc. No one who does that means the person on the other end any good! It makes me so sad that I see so many women doing what I did, i.e. mourning someone that doesn’t actually exist and blaming themselves for something going bust when the guy had no intention of it going anywhere to begin with. We all deserve so much better!

    • blueberry girl says:

      @ Natasha, “If you’re confronted with a Jekyll & Hyde situation, believe the Hyde, not the Jekyll.”
      Thanks for making me laugh today. Just frickin’ brilliant and in time for Halloween, too!

      • Natasha says:

        Glad you enjoyed girl! :) Here’s to everyone having a wonderful Halloween without The Ghosts Of Exes Past haha!

        • Bonnie says:

          This line was my favorite – “The David Blaine Era: Attempting To Pull A Decent Man Out Of An Assclown’s Hat”.

          Sounds like your eyes are open and you are on your way to better things. Good for you!

          • Natasha says:

            Bonnie, thank you so much for the good wishes! :) It’s definitely a huge moment when you find the humor in these things. I finally realized that when I was whining about this guy I was starting to sound like a woman in a Lifetime Movie – you know, the ones where they are like, “I know he hacked into my email, slept with my boss, and burnt my house down, but he can so sweet. Maybe I was too needy?” That’s pretty much the point where I stopped crying and started laughing.

  3. Becky says:

    You’ve outdone yourself here Natalie! This must be THE best post you’ve ever written! Every week I learn something from your wise words, and you always make me smile or laugh into the bargain. My only sadness is I didn’t discover your blog sooner! In fact I wish something had been around like this right from when I first started dating…30 years ago…gosh – it could have saved me so much pain and frustration! You know maybe you should compile your blog into a publication for schools or format it as a ‘relationship course’ and we could petition for it to be taught on the ‘necessary Life skills’ part of the national curriculum in all secondary schools! Many thanks for your wonderful work. Becky xx

    • NML says:

      Ah thanks Becky! I’ve had quite a few people ask me about adolescent focused material funny enough! Better late than never to know this stuff – I’ve got readers who are just finally living a happy life at 50 and beyond. What matters is getting happy no matter your age.

  4. diet coke gal says:

    So so true, this describes many of my relationships, unfortunately! being in denial -often right from the start -but wanting a ‘relationship’ & to be ‘normal’ so much I give the guy the benfit of the doubt -when I shouldn’t! If only I followed my instincts (and probably self-esteem quietly whispering no, no steer clear) I could have saved myself alot of heartache pain, money, wasted years and embaressment. Those ‘good times’ can happen at any juncture -not just the start -that keep you hanging on & also lets be clear it’s not always them that keep asking for you back, I did most of the wanting to get back together, as I was lost without him. He ticked alot of boxes (athough my criteria is different now!) No, I did not want to be wrong, expecially after all the emotional, physical and financial investment… not getting younger etc.
    Unfortunately the more people I come accross, the more I realise many (if not most) people’s ‘relationships’ are more like ‘units’, from which they have a base and facade that fits in with what we ‘should’ be as humans; coupled up. Many of them, then under this guise have affairs etc.
    Lets face it many if not all men will find it very difficult to never ever stray into an affair of some description, it pains me to say it but the more I see and hear the more I realise it is true. Therefore -where does that leave us?
    It makes me feel like I shouldn’t expect much, should just have a little of what I fancy -like every one else (I have been cheated on 8 times or more). Whilst we’re on the subject of what’s not real -expecting a man to be faithful forever… is that real???!!! Look at the evidence! Is it even in their nature?…

    • Paul says:

      Diet Coke Gal

      Cheating is not a male thing. It is a human thing. I think you should take a reality test and look for the statistic on male and female cheating for yourself. Its around half of all people of both sexes.

      I am a male and in my mid 40s
      I have never cheated and it is not in my nature to do so.
      So please don’t lump all of one sex in a box.
      All people are different and they need to be seen as so.

      • Tanzanite says:

        Hi Paul

        All people are different, and there is no doubt both sexes cheat.I see cheating as the worst symptom of something not being right in a relationship and sometimes we just have to accept we weren’t right for them.I don’t agree with those that say once a cheat always a cheat.If you are with the right person ,you wouldn’t cheat.

        There are those that are serial cheats,they probably will always cheat until they can’t do it anymore.In this case i would say ,” once a cheat always a cheat “.

        It still hurts though.

        • jupiter23 says:

          I have never cheated and never been cheated on (that I’m aware of). However, I have very strong feelings about the subject. I don’t believe that once a cheat, always a cheat–people learn and grow and change. But I don’t believe cheating signals anything wrong with the relationship necessarily; it signals something wrong with the person cheating at that point in time. And I feel like saying it’s a symptom of not being with the right person blames the victim of cheating. If you’re not with the right person, then you leave–you don’t cheat.

          • Tanzanite says:

            Hi Jupiter

            Don’t get me wrong .I don’t think it’s the victims fault and I have been cheated on several times.It is an indication something is wrong,the relationship isn’t working.In an ideal world the person would leave but it’s not always easy when there are children and property involved,so what seems like the easy option is taken.

            I do believe when you truly love someone you wouldn’t dream of cheating.

          • jupiter23 says:

            Hi Tanzanite,

            There is no reply button on the bottom of your comment so I’m putting it here.

            I really do agree that when you truly love someone you wouldn’t cheat. When I’m deeply in love, I can’t see anyone else.

            But I do think there are people who, maybe at this point in time, really can’t or don’t want to be in love. That’s why it’s so important for the person who does care to get out as soon as possible and not beat themselves up for not being lovable. And not analyze the motives of the person who didn’t love them.

        • Aimee says:

          @ Tanzanite

          “I see cheating as the worst symptom of something not being right in a relationship and sometimes we just have to accept we weren’t right for them.I don’t agree with those that say once a cheat always a cheat.If you are with the right person ,you wouldn’t cheat.”

          I absolutely have to disagree with this. I have actually been on both sides. I have seen people that had amazing relationships and one cheats, yes it can be a symptom of the “relationship”, but in my experience it is the symptom of the “person” cheating.

          When I was a teen 15-20, partying, drinking, I cheated on my boyfriend left and right. It had nothing to do with him – he loved me very much, was kind, respectful, amazing sex life AND I STILL CHEATED – speaks more about my lack of integrity, immaturity, lack of self-esteem, lack of respect not just for him but most of all for myself. It was never his fault that I cheated.

          I also disagree – if you are not with the right person – then get out – you do not have to cheat. Quite frankly, I am tired of this mind set (one I have carried for way too long) – if I was just pretty enough, if I just didn’t make waves when he busted my boundaries, maybe if I had not farted in front of him once – he wouldn’t have cheated. I will not accept nor tolerate this idea anymore. Cheating is about the person cheating – period, end of story.

          Trying not to be harsh, but I had to write these words for myself cause I am not buying that “I wasn’t good enough for him or the right person”. YUCK!

      • NML says:

        Yep Paul although I saw the subsequent comment so it seems because everyone is a liar, not everyone will be truthful! But yes – basically not all men shag around just like not all women do, and the ones that cheat have someone doing it with them…

    • Lynda From L says:

      people’s ‘relationships’ are more like ‘units’, from which they have a base and facade that fits in with what we ‘should’ be as humans; coupled up.

      This is such a good call, Diet coke gal and one that I agree with,given my last relationship. I do think many of us have an image of relationships , of their status and of what we should be doing. I realized that my guy had me as his ‘main’interest, whilst continuing to explore other options. Its pretty chilling after eighteen months to be referred to as his partner,be making plans to move city, move in etc and find out there’s a potential woman f buddy elsewhere. Did I know this…No…but I did have strong gut instinct that all was not as it should be. I chose not to look further at first and to accept other bad treatment in order to stay in a flawed relationship. This was me dealing in illusion because I couldn’t face the truth and as you say the investment in time and money,loss of face is high. I sometimes wonder how people who stay in these types of relationships live with themselves,perhaps its just a transaction or the turning of a blind eye but like you it’s not for me. I enjoyed your comment. Thanks

      • diet coke gal says:

        Lynda from L
        So so please you enjoyed my comment. Reading your story it sounds tough, and of course there feels some similarities. But also what stands out is that I get a sense somehow that you are very strong woman although you may not feel this way or appear it at times) you’re capable of great love and this my friend I wander whether it is why we find ourselves in this position. Qualities such as forgiving, loving, thoughtful and nurturing, yet also strong enough not to withstand s**t for years and years, as many others may do -but cover it up from others and live with it, so it becomes thier ‘normal’.
        That is one reason that helps me to justify wht some attached people seem jealous of the single status and will sometimes make less than constructive or very insensitive comments.
        I guess everyone is different and some people are in situations that would not make be happy making or feel true, such as ‘swinging’ type activities etc, that’s not for me.
        I once asked a ‘smug’ aquantacne how her love life was going and she instantly turned away and couldnt look me in the eye whilst telling me that everything was fine/good etc. It certainly didnt look it. I think it takes a lot more strength to get up and move on than it does to stay inside for the sake of the ‘social norm’.
        It’s been nearly a year since the split and BR has helped so much, I have only recently really got over it all and starting to recover my self esteem.

    • Tanzanite says:

      This a good post Natalie.

      It’s not exactly as it was for me but bits of what you have wrote make sense.I thought I was in love with the fantasy but was in fact, in an illusion.

      When his words weren’t matching his actions there were times when I thought I was going crazy.That’s how it was always going to be.To still be in the relationship would be like winning the booby prize.I pulled myself to pieces trying to find out why it wasn’t progressing.Was I too fat? Was I too old? was I good enough ?Was I too short ? Was he ashamed of me ? I regret that now. According to him there was nothing wrong with me.Was it him ? It was neither of us,according to him.I once asked him directly if we had a future together and he said yes.He was still saying he loved me right up until to the end.He started to say things like-” I want you to know that no matter what, I will always love you” as if there was something stopping him that was beyond his control.There comes a time when you have to stop analyzing because you will never know the truth about them ,just the truth about you.To say I have been no contact for 2 years is ridiculous in itself…’s over !

      I am not in denial,never have been, but I have been frustrated and suspended in disbelief. I can’t feel anything after all this time and I feel like a failure because other people can just say, next ! I know when you say you are done with men someone always says you will feel different in the future but I don’t think I will.For me it’s more realistic to find other ways to be happy than with a man.It’s safer.

      • Gina says:


        “There comes a time when you have to stop analyzing because you will never know the truth about them ,just the truth about you.”

        So true Tazanite…so true!

      • NML says:

        “.I pulled myself to pieces trying to find out why it wasn’t progressing.Was I too fat? Was I too old? was I good enough ?Was I too short ? Was he ashamed of me ? I regret that now. ” That in itself is a sign that this was a very unhealthy relationship.

        “There comes a time when you have to stop analyzing because you will never know the truth about them ,just the truth about you.” Brilliantly put. There’s no point in us trying to work out other people’s truth when we haven’t even worked out our own.

        “I am not in denial,never have been, but I have been frustrated and suspended in disbelief.” I’m not sure there’s a difference. If you’re familiar with the grieving process, in the denial stage it’s “I can’t believe that this is happening” which is…disbelief.

        I don’t think other people can just say NEXT. They can if they meet someone who shows they are a jackass and they leave immediately but if you stick around, it takes some time to work through. Some people throw themselves into another relationship for their ‘Next’, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ‘right’.

        • Tanzanite says:

          It seems I am being misunderstood a lot today.

          When I was pulling myself to pieces I trying to force some answers out of him in the hope that he might just say-it’s not progressing because of, blah blah blah.I didn’t believe I was unlovable because of who I am.I can’t change that anyway.

          I was suspended in disbelief when I had no money for gas ,couldn’t put food on the table,going to work with holes in my shoes , in a trance, developing an under active thyroid gland,being on the sick. I couldn’t believe how much this effected me. I was dealing with the fall out.I have had to rebuild my life.I was distracted.

          I do find it hard to believe that sometimes people appear to have no conscience,but they do.It was clear for a long time I was with someone who was talking the talk but not walking the walk.

          I am also a very factual person.I wouldn’t say I love you and bullshit someone,so when I come up against someone who is full of it, I struggle.

    • diet coke gal says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comments. Point taken, you are of course 100% correct women are no different to men.; both can have affairs. Youre right I shouldnt lump people all in one box, wasnt actually trying to do that tbh, just highlight what seems to be a reality for many many people.
      As far as the statistics go though Paul, who knows! Haviig worked in govt funded sector where stattistics and what is actually happending on the ground can be worlds apart, I don’t put much store by them. I only say what I see around me & beyond!… and i really don’t want to be naive any more! Surely NML is teaching us to be aware and not wear rose tinted spectacles and the fur coat of denial. Being as that affairs are based on and full of deceit – do you really think that statistics on the matter are going to be accurate & full of truth?
      I’m trying to find a middle ground between what is reality and what I want!
      BTW where can I take this ‘realilty test’?
      Thanks again for your comment:)

    • NML says:

      Diet Coke Gal, I think many people get caught out on the ticking boxes, good on paper. In reality when you’re in a good relationship, you don’t think or talk about them in terms of ticking boxes or being a 7 or whatever – you’re too busy living your life.

      By your comment, everyone is deluded and living in units that they think others should put them in. Also all men are now cheaters and all women will be mistresses or victims at some point in their life. We all may as well give up now. Truth is, the only reality you can talk about is your own. That’s the one that you need to concern yourself with. What you’re saying reflects what you believe – that all men are liars and cheats and that relationships are about pretending to be happy when you’re miserable. You have to decide if that’s the belief you’ll stick with as if you do, you’re predisposed to be with flaky, lying men while pretending to be happy or will put up a fortress to be alone because it’s too ‘scary.

      • Carrie says:

        I used to wonder if anyone was ever really in love.. or if they were all just faking it? I couldn’t fathom that feeling because I had been living with the reality that I didn’t love my then husband the way I should. I lived it for so many years that I became convinced the feeling wasn’t real and people just did what they thought they were supposed to do. Then I met my current ex and fell head over heals for him. Though I am sad how it ended, I’m still grateful to know that I could feel that way and that love was,indeed, real. It gives me hope that I will feel that way again someday.

  5. Madeleine says:

    I’ve faced reality after I realized I was beginning to be ‘managed by text’, phone calls being sent to voicemail and then only offered a specific day of the week to see him; before he was available everyday after work. So I went no contact for 30 days, broke it, made plans to have a sit down and he stood me up. So I started no contact again and am on day 43 (why do I feel guilty for counting?)
    Today of all days my reality hurts, I’m crying and thinking about him, but I know I will not allow myself to continue to be disrespected. I saw all the signs and broke the hell out FAST but I just hate how reality feels……

    • Tanzanite says:

      Hi Madaleine

      Don’t feel guilty about counting that will stop eventually and you should be really proud of yourself for not allowing yourself to be managed by text.

      Natalie’s posts are great and the two best bits of advise are no contact,and don’t be managed by text-being managed by texts prolongs your agony.If we all stuck to that we wouldn’t be here.

      It’s so easy to be wise after the event.

      He is already giving you specific times and dates when you can see him, and letting you down because the last thing he wants is to talk. I can relate to that.It means-I have something in my life that is more important-it’s usually himself .

      I still cry and i believe crying is good you,it’s like an emotional clear out.

      It will get better, and that’s a fact.

    • NML says:

      Madeleine, reality is bound to feel crap now – you’re grieving the loss of a relationship. This isn’t reality forever. It’s not like this is how you’ll feel in one year never mind 3 months. Give yourself a chance. All that coming off the wagon for a debrief has done is confirm you were right to cut contact. Don’t ever give him the opportunity to piss your around ever again.

      • Madeleine says:

        Thank you for sharing your truth Natalie. I appreciate that you take the time to respond to our comments. It makes the your blog feel so much more authentic than others. And I bought your book and promised myself to not sell myself short and to “Make This Experience Count”

    • Natasha says:

      Madeleine, good for you for ditching this guy! I used to get upset all over again when my ex would make contact, I’d listen to whatever mallarky was on offer and then he’d reveal himself, yet again, to be an ass. Nat is SO right – his behavior is 100% confirmation that you are doing the right thing. I actually think it’s awesome that you are counting – it’s like, “Here I am on Day 43 of continuing to respect myself!” Eventually, you won’t even notice how much time has gone by (unless they pop up and you’re all, “HOW is this fool getting in touch when I haven’t spoken to him in *mental calculation* six months/nine months/27 years.” – by that point you’ll just be all, “WHATEVS.”). Even though it hurts now in the short-term, you’re on the right track lady, keep it up :)

      • Madeleine says:

        Thank you for the support Natasha! You made me smile :)
        Glad to know I’m not alone in the struggle. But we’ll make it!

    • Natasha says:

      Madeleine, I almost forgot – when the early days of NC are hard, it’s very helpful to have a good Buh-Bye Jackass Soundtrack. This was one of my favorites and it’s a hell of a great song – turn it up and enjoy! *Hugs*

  6. Mango says:

    Um…., gee….., I have no idea what you’re talking about! Heh. ;-)

    Need to give this some thought and read it more carefully before I post, though, I do want to say thank you for the thought provoking questions. Homework! I appreciate the guidance to look more introspectively, and move f o r w a r d .

  7. TRL says:

    This website has been an invaluable tool in helping me begin to heal and move forward and away from the recent throes of a very unhealthy relationship with an AC/EU MM. He did all the future faking such as talking about marriage, kids, etc. and of course my self esteem was so low I bought into it and excepted crumbs of his time and attention. I was so caught up in the fantasy, that now, seeing who he really is for the first time…I’m horrified that I claimed to have loved someone who could be so hurtful and vile towards me. Once I stripped away the physical connection and passion we had and the fact that I was the only one giving 100% into us, I realized there was nothing left. When reality hits and you see their true colors it is such an eye opener. I obviously had no boundaries with this guy, and now will be VERY careful not to fall for the fantasy and actions MUST match words! Every part of this website applies to what I’m going through. I wish I could be stronger and go NC because responding to his texts/calls is getting me nowhere and prolonging the hurt. NML, you are genius and thank you for this website and helping all of us. I can’t wait to read your book. It’s on it’s way!

    • RadioGirl says:


      “responding to his texts/calls is getting me nowhere and prolonging the hurt”.

      *Exactly* – you just said it!!! If you’re having difficulty getting started with No Contact, try signing up for Natalie’s No Contact e-mails (link is down the left-hand side of the screen) – they are incredibly helpful in doing it and sticking to it for the first 3 months.

      All the best to you!

    • Tanzanite says:

      Hi TRL

      I agree with you totally, especially the bit “-I’m horrified I claimed to have loved someone who could be so hurtful and vile towards me.”

      The thing is, they change so quickly and we don’t want to believe it because we are blinded by love at this point.

    • NML says:

      Ah thanks for buying my book TRL! Now, I know it’s not what you want to hear, but imagine a gaping wound and you throwing salt on it and then even opening it a bit more – that’s what you’re doing with all this contact. Really, all he has going for him is his penis. The man on be end of it isn’t up to much. Penis vs feeling good about yourself – I know what I’d choose.

  8. ms.option says:

    That is what I constantly struggle with what’s fantasy and what’s reality. But like Natalie says the reality is he is married and none of his promises have come to pass, not even the simple ones of being consistent with contact.

    • AdrienneBytheSea says:

      Ms. Option, as a former OW here, I can say with conviction: his promises don’t come to pass because he *bloody* well knows they don’t have to–that you (and formerly me) will just continue to accept your role as FBG because you continue to do so. That is the reality. In my former “relationship” the MM brought me a birthday present *finally* after *six* years but he made it plain before giving it to me that he did so *because he wanted to* — his exact words. This is the MO for these types — they operate from a selfish mentality of doing stuff *because they want to.* Actually, when you think about it, there is a lesson to be learned here for FBGirls–to get REAL about *what we really want.* And to do things “only because we want to.” Can we get real and honestly answer the question: Do we really want to continue the struggle between fantasy and reality? For me it still seems weird that I’m out of the struggle, for the most part. But I am still replaying (although to a lesser extent) certain scenarios in my head as to what was *real* and what was not. I realize now, for my sanity, that it doesn’t matter–all that matters is that I finally took off the rose colored glasses and ground them beneath my boot heels. However, bottom line: he is married and he flat out said he wasn’t getting a divorce. Reality. No way to get around it. Done. Finally.

    • colororange says:

      ms. option,

      Like Adrienne, I heard most the same things from the married guy (MG). He would say he would do this or that, and half the time he didn’t and he’d be sure to list why he couldn’t. He’d throw around things about his girlfriend, who he has since married, that he did not like, that her mothering skills were questionable, etc. Evidently he liked her enough to marry! He was not about to live up to his “what I’m gonna do’s” because he KNEW I’d be hanging around for whenever he needed that bit of attention from me. And he said once that he was not needy at all. Yeah. Right. Just a different brand of neediness. It is still rough from time to time considering I was so very attracted to him in more ways than one. Possibly I could be good friends with a man down the road but often it winds up one of us likes the other then it gets sticky. And I have a hard time discerning whether a man is being “friendly” or coming on to me. But this MG said some heavy stuff and he had ample opportunity to take it to another level but he would dodge it while taking “us” around in circles. And our “friendship” was neatly hidden. Smoke and mirrors. He probably thinks I over reacted, and has moved on to another gal to hit up for some attention. God bless her unsuspecting soul.

      • Bri says:

        Scenario #2, that’s me. The MM came back, realizing he “couldn’t imagine his life without me” and talked a big game about how he’s been more serious than ever about trying to figure out what to do and if/when he can leave. It’s been almost two months since and nothing has changed – in fact, I think I’m more miserable now than I was before because every time he falters or future fakes I feel more beaten down and kick myself for putting my hand on the stove for the 16,000th time and expecting not to get burned.

        I’ve finally realized that even though he’s a narcissistic jerk who acts like a petulant child whenever I start to move on or challenge him, this is on me now. I’ve let him back in knowing he’s unavailable and knowing how this is all going to end and how unhealthy this relationship is. A big part of me wishes me had stayed gone after we broke up because I’m not strong enough to tell him to go. But this is reality: he’s married, and as much as he tells me he loves me and can’t live without me, the thing that’s keeping me here is the fantasy (not to mention my pounds and pounds of baggage from childhood).

        Adrienne, you’re so right – what do I really want? It sure as hell isn’t someone who is unable to even come close to giving me what I need and making me feel anxious every day. I don’t need someone who will only see me on his terms, or only talk to me when it’s convenient for him. I don’t need someone who disrespects me and doesn’t make me a priority in his life. I deserve better than what the past two years have brought me. My desperation to be be loved, and the idea that any attention is better than no attention, is killing me. He’s a liar, and the sooner I let go of the fantasy and stop putting stock into his empty words, the better.

        • AdrienneBytheSea says:

          Bri, I so resonate with what you wrote. It’s a difficult place to be in — having the awareness but feeling powerless to act in your best interests by going full (not faux) NC. I know very well that feeling of not feeling strong enough to take care of yourself, putting others’ needs first, spinning fantasies out of lies. I so get it. All of this touches a deep and vulnerable emotional space–that little girl inside of us who wants to be loved and who (speaking for myself here) did not get that love and nurturing in a stable, consistent manner when she was a child. So what I have been realizing lately is that although my coping mechanisms from childhood allowed me to survive, they are not helping me now (or rather haven’t helped me–I have almost three months’ NC marked off on the calendar). As difficult as it may be, you have to parent yourself and nurture that little girl inside who wants to be loved and accepted–but she needs that love and acceptance first from *you.* If you did that for her, you would not continue to put her tender self into the shark tank. You would own her desires and your adult desires and you would have boundaries that serve you both. All of this is a work in progress for me, and right now it has been very difficult for me to grieve all that the little girl in me felt she lost–both in childhood and in the situation with the MM. The first one I couldn’t do much about. But the second one–that was all down to me. Bri, you and all of us former OW’s and current OWs deserve so much better for our precious selves. Thank goddess for this blog and all NML’s no nonsense (yet compassionate) postings–and all of us wonderful women and men who comment here. It’s a support that has been invaluable to me in this sometimes emotionally arduous journey toward healing. Bri, I am sending you thoughts of peace and healing from across the Atlantic! :)

    • NML says:

      Ms Option, you’re like someone with Relationship Amnesia and a Relationship Crack habit. Haven’t we been down this road before? Him being married is old news – stop being surprised that he acts like…a married man. A cheating one at that. You’re stuck in Groundhog Day.

  9. Michelle says:

    I can relate to this 100%. This has been one of the most difficult things for me, the fact that when I do remember things I only look upon the “good times” while absolutely disregarding the bad that were present and which I either overlooked or made excuses for. Like you said I present myself with this fantasy when reflecting back choosing again not to be realistic and see the whole picture, the bad as well as the good. Thankfully, I now recognize this behavior so when my brain decides to take a little trip down memory lane I automatically jolt myself out of the fantasy and into reality seeing things as they were, taking accountability for the negative that was present and reminding myself that this so called “relationship” was not just those handful of great moments, that there was so much happening at that time that left me feeling miserable and unhappy.

    • blueberry girl says:

      @ Michelle. I agree with you that this has been the most challenging aspect for me in my search for healthier, more positive relationships. Reading BR has taught me to stop always looking at people with rose-colored glasses and see and accept reality, but it’s still difficult & painful. I was just romanticising this morning the way it felt to kiss my beautiful man but I also need to remember that he is an alcoholic who pulled a disappearing act every time we got closer. That he made me feel worthless and, because he couldn’t sleep with me, undesirable. Ugh, why do I waste my tears?

    • NML says:

      And you know what Michelle – everything is a learned habit which means you jolt yourself often enough, it will become natural. I had to jolt myself from talking shit about myself to myself. Now I don’t do it anymore because I consciously and consistently broke the habit I’d learned from childhood.

  10. Lynda From L says:

    So true Natalie…to stay in that relationship ‘What do you have to ignore?’.
    The question I ask myself these days is;
    ‘ How switched on did I allow myself to be?’
    I was def staying in the relationship with my EUM for reasons not entirely based on reality. It was like I would see all his ways and characteristics and array them in a pecking order in my head from great(cultured,funny,gsoh,good in bed) down to downright horrible(appalling verbal abuse and put downs,fallback girls on the sideline,many many lies) and only refer to the good. I was so shaky on certain boundaries and he was so capable of recognising that and taking advantage that the relationship could go from bliss to pain in the blink of an eye. I remained the Florence from Hell…FIX,ACCEPT,FIX!!!!
    I went back into this situation more than once, blindsided by good times that were becoming less frequent and truly at the end had become a shadow of myself. One thing about being in an unreal relationship is how draining it is on your energy and well being,you’ve no anchor. Stress is high.
    The questions to ask ourselves at the end of this article are great, focused without being self pitying and although the experience is behind me I find on certain days I need to make sense of it and these questions will help me do that. Fantasy relationships are a waste of time whatever scenario1,2 or 3 is involved. My real life at the moment is being myself and that means not dating for now,may think of that in a few months but for now I ‘m still getting real with me.

    • NML says:

      “It was like I would see all his ways and characteristics and array them in a pecking order in my head from great(cultured,funny,gsoh,good in bed) down to downright horrible(appalling verbal abuse and put downs,fallback girls on the sideline,many many lies) and only refer to the good.” Spot on Lynda. It’s funny how we deprioritise the things that actually *break* the relationship!

  11. Kmac says:

    Listen to Adele’s “You Melt My Heart to Stone:” When I hear the words that I made up, or You say my name like there could be and Us, I think of Natalie’s point, and on a good day, I can even smile. I think the trick is not to take the drip-feed and then start to run with it and make up something that just doesn’t exist. And then when we see the signs that it doesn’t, be as aware as we can of all that is wounded in us that makes us want to compensate for all we are not getting back by loving more, loving harder. And when it ends, because these habitual patterns (theirs and ours, and more importantly the way they work together) really aren’t the stuff love is made of, and so it always ends, it’s hard to sort out. We loved hard, afterall. How could I miss him, when the essence of who he really was was not at all someone who valued me and could love me with both feet in? On a clear day, I get it. On others, I just feel unbearably sad.
    It’s because when I was in it, I really had a penchant for taking that for which I was desperate, and making the rest up. We need to stop making stuff up. But before we can do that, we need to stop being desperate to be loved. We need to work on feeling safe, and loved, all by ourselves.

    • AdrienneBytheSea says:

      I hear you on that one, Kmac: “We need to stop making stuff up. But before we can do that, we need to stop being desperate to be loved. We need to work on feeling safe, and loved, all by ourselves.” I see now that this desperation to have someone else love me and validate me got me in a mess with the MM, who was the living embodiment of my mother & father combined–both of whom (all of whom) have EU issues. It’s challenging for me to own how much I’ve made up over the years in many different scenarios, not just in the last one. I see now that in childhood *making stuff up* was a survival mechanism–problem is, that inner child can no longer (should no longer) drive the emotional car. Time for the adult to get behind the wheel in a sensible vehicle than that child, wearing dark FBG sunglasses, careening around in a little red Corvette convertible, going 90 in a 65, and getting pulled over by the reality cops.

      • Tanzanite says:


        Very funny and very true but I think it’s a lot easier for someone one who had a good childhood with a abundance of love to tell someone who hasn’t to not feel the pain in adulthood occasionally.I’m not suggesting that’s you by the way.

        I have broke the pattern with my own children and they are well balanced happy people,so I have no doubt what the power of love can do,and the damage not having much does.

        It took an ass clown for me to realize what the root cause of my problems have always been and that’s the place to start for me.

    • NML says:

      “We need to stop making stuff up. But before we can do that, we need to stop being desperate to be loved. We need to work on feeling safe, and loved, all by ourselves.” Well said Kmac. When you do all of these things, shady behaviour cannot prevail. It really does start with changing how we feel about us and our habits. The sadness is a natural part of grieving and it will dissipate over time especially the further your life moves on.

    • Lynda from L says:

      How could I miss him, when the essence of who he really was was not at all someone who valued me and could love me with both feet in?

      I feel your pain Kmac…but the line above that you’ve written will get you through. Yes, we hear what we want to hear at times… but sometimes they say exactly what we need to hear to keep us in the relationship and they do this for that outcome. I am well out of my situation now and can distinguish my desire to be selective in my hearing from his BS, and he did spout a lot of crappy promises to me.
      Don’t be so hard on yourself, as you say he drip-feeded you stuff too, remember that…and remember that you do not deserve to be in a relationship with someone who does that.

    • lilylee says:

      I so relate. “How could I miss him, when the essence of who he really was was not at all someone who valued me and could love me with both feet in? On a clear day, I get it. On others, I just feel unbearably sad.”

      This is exactly how I feel.How the process of grieving and coming to understand ourselves and what we participated in is clear one day and blurry the next.

      The missing them is the yearning to be loved, to have love.It is the aching that we feel deep in our being that makes us vulnerable to taking whatever is on offer.

      What I have come to realize is this; I keep thinking that I want to be in a relationship and when I go on the occasional date with someone I just don’t feel as happy and peaceful as when I am on my own. I have been on a few dates with nice men, but I’m just not feeling it.

      Over the years, since my divorce, I think I’ve placed so much weight on finding a partner, as if having that will mean that I am okay again…that I have survived the divorce.
      I was married for 12 years’s like you don’t realize how much you identify with being in a partnership and how much it frames your life that subconsciously after you divorce you just start looking to fill that space where some one once was. But in truth my gut keeps telling me that these years on my own are not to be resisted, they are actually a gift..
      I’m starting to get it now…each time I go on a date and I feel better once it is over….I know I’m not ready…and that’s okay..I’m just going to sit with these feelings and see what comes up and learn how to be okay with not knowing what will happen next or if and when I will be in a partnership again….To me this feels right and it actually feels like love…love of self.

  12. Marina says:

    I really do struggle with this very subject. And me and my assclown only got back together for one week before the sh*t hit the fan last year! I still have my moments, especially around this time of year (our “anniversary” of sorts), but I MUST face reality, which is, that he is a drug addict and is only out to USE women for his own purposes. He always came to me under the guise that he was going to “better” himself, so in many ways, we were in the “fantasy” together! But of course, he went right back to his old tricks and now he still can’t bare to face me because he pulled such a disastrous number!

    A year later and I have fallen for yet ANOTHER emotionally unavailable man. This time a completely different kind of man (a closeted gay), but the end result is still the same– I’m left alone and miserable! What is interesting though, is despite how different both men are, they BOTH sat me down and gave me the “you deserve better than me” (aka “I can’t handle a relationship”) speech.

    I have read all your articles Natalie, every last one, and you have me convinced that I really am attracted to emotionally unavailable men, and therefore, must be emotionally unavailable myself. What’s so strange though, is through no fault of my own I ended up meeting and falling for this new guy. He even led me on, and I had absolutely NO idea he had so many problems until he told me (but by then I was already nuts for him!). So, in short, I must start looking at the REALITY, no matter how hard my mind slips back into the “fantasy” of what these men could be. :(

    • NML says:

      Marina, Marina, Marina, Marina. I’m surprised that you’re only just getting convinced of your own unavailability – drug addict followed by gay man. You’re a Florence. You’ve decided to abandon your degree in trying to change a drug addicted man (you think you can love and give and fix and heal and help him into choosing you over drugs) to enrolling in a degree in sexuality converting. These two relationships tell me in no uncertain terms that you have extremely unhealthy love habits. Someone else would hear ‘drug addict’ or ‘gay’ and press their eject button. You don’t.

      A relationship is more than the beginning and if you look back you will see signs and similarities between your relationships including in your own behaviour and feelings. The drug addicts etc will gain your confidence in the beginning and will be deceptive about the extent of the problem and then once it becomes apparent claim they’re planning to sort themselves out. The gay boyfriend, obviously has his own honesty issues. Don’t get things twisted and assume that because you’re there that *obviously* he’s waiting for the ‘right’ woman to change him. Find a new purpose Marina – make that purpose you and get as much additional professional support as you can.

      • Marina says:

        Thanks for responding Natalie!

        To be fair, in this latest case (with the closeted gay bf), he had recently gotten out of a disastrous relationship where his ex cheated on him with a close friend of his (he then confessed to me that this is the second “girlfriend” he’s had that cheated on him– and with how gorgeous this man is, that in itself is a HUGE red flag!!). He was devastated and I thought he’d need time. Although from the very beginning he made a lot of damning comments like, “I think it’ll take me years this time,” “I don’t know if I could look at a woman that way again,” etc. We also were such a perfect match physically (were both models), emotionally, and we even have the same job (where we met). So naturally I figured if I just gave him time, his feelings for me would develop because we were such good friends in other ways. But now he is really keeping his distance because he KNOWS I want it to progress and he doesn’t. And I know looks aren’t everything, but this man used to be the face of Gillette– there is simply no replacing this man in the looks department. :( Plus he is everything a woman could want and more (kind, generous, a perfect gentleman… except straight, of course)!

        As for the drug addict, he’s the one I knew from when I was very young (14), and really couldn’t believe or accept what he had turned into years later. Plus, since the only drug he ever did was pot, he always made it like it was a “cultural” thing and like it was no big deal. Sadly, little did I know in the beginning, his entire LIFE revolves around it, so it’s a VERY big deal, and twice I’ve found out that he’s left me for women who will “do” things for him (pay his phone bill, put a roof over his head, etc.), as he is ALWAYS broke (big surprise!). But because he never asked these things out of me and made it like he was going to “better” himself, I’d give him another chance. Which was of course, a big mistake.

        So in many ways you’re right that I AM a Florence Nightingale because I do seem to be attracted to (and naturally ATTRACT) troubled men. I know you probably see a big neon flashing “UNAVAILABLE!” light when you read my post, but my hand to God I would be THRILLED if this latest man were straight and we could have a real relationship. So it’s not as if I don’t want one! I just don’t want to settle for a man I’m not…

        • NML says:

          Marina, being superficial AND a Florence is very dangerous territory. The face of Gillette? You want to get off the crack Marina. I realise your addiction is appearance. Really, what good is to be with a man that advertises razors whose sexual orientation is men?

          I can categorically say after reading *this* comment that you definitely don’t want a relationship. You think you do but you only want one that’s 1) fucked up and 2) against the odds.

          “I know you probably see a big neon flashing “UNAVAILABLE!” light when you read my post, but my hand to God I would be THRILLED if this latest man were straight and we could have a real relationship.” I’ve heard this in so many guises.

          I would be thrilled if this man wasn’t an asshole so we could have a real relationship.
          I would be thrilled if this man didn’t take all my money and shag all my friends so we could have a real relationship.
          I would be thrilled if this man didn’t use me like an unpaid hooker so we could have a real relationship.
          I would be thrilled if this man gave me the time of day and stopped blowing hot and cold so we could have a real relationship.
          I would be thrilled if this man left his wife and stopped screwing me behind her back so we could have a real relationship.
          I would be thrilled if this man wasn’t an alcoholic/drug addict/ sex addict so we could have a real relationship.

          Being superficial gets you superficial relationships. That’s why you’re with Mr I Used To Advertise Razors. Looks great on the outside, not interested on the inside and from what you’re describing, showing it in his actions too. It’s time to get off the Relationship Crack Marina.

          • Marina says:


            I know it sounds like I’m just addicted to appearances, but my past boyfriend was hardly a model, and the reason I’m so crazy about this man isn’t JUST based on appearance. He has a lot of other great qualities which makes this even MORE of a shame! I’m just saying the fact that he is SO good looking only makes the whole situation WORSE and MORE painful, if possible, because men like him don’t grow on trees!

            I know you’re right though about my “dangerous” combination of being both concerned about appearance AND being a Florence Nightingale. I’ve always thought that your two best articles, and the two that I really identified with was, the “I can’t believe they don’t want me syndrome” (which I suffered from terribly (and still do) after my drug addict ex left me), and “the tale of two commitment resistant birds.” Because in some ways I know I must choose these men because I KNOW they won’t commit to me. I really am going to make an effort to find a man who actually WANTS a relationship, because especially after this last fiasco with the closeted gay man, I am literally weary from the struggle.

            Thank you for all your insightful articles though! If it wasn’t for you, I really wouldn’t have figured out HALF of these things about myself!

          • Finally Caught On says:

            “I would be thrilled if this man wasn’t an asshole so we could have a real relationship.
            I would be thrilled if this man didn’t take all my money and shag all my friends so we could have a real relationship.
            I would be thrilled if this man didn’t use me like an unpaid hooker so we could have a real relationship.
            I would be thrilled if this man gave me the time of day and stopped blowing hot and cold so we could have a real relationship.
            I would be thrilled if this man left his wife and stopped screwing me behind her back so we could have a real relationship.
            I would be thrilled if this man wasn’t an alcoholic/drug addict/ sex addict so we could have a real relationship. ”

            OMG! I am still laughing……. “I would be thrilled if the facts were not so……and I could live in La-La land ” ” I wish things would be different so they could be different.” and pigs fly too!
            Nat, this made my day! Especially Number one: that kinda covered it all……. ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you!

    • colororange says:


      Once upon a time I had a huge crush on this guy. I hung all over him like a wet sheet and dripped on him with attention. He said he was gay later on. Did that deter me? Naahhh. He probably could have been a serial killer and I would have made it my mission to be the ONE to make him stop that! I was hard up for anybody to want/love/pay attention to me. Then a year later he hits me up, we hang out and “dated”…. or whatever you want to call that episode. But whatever it was, not too long after he dumps me. At this point, he’s not gay, he’s bi. Fast forward years later, he is married and I guess he is straight now????? Not to mention I’ve heard through the grapevine his wifey is messed up on pills. And him? Well, he is just messed up and HOLY COW what was I thinking??!?! Soooooooooo glad he dumped me. Cringe even thinking about what I did now. I hope he figured out his sexual preference. Sheesh.

      • Marina says:

        Colororange, I can definitely identify with your “he could have been a serial killer” comment, because the fact that this guy pretty much came out and said everything but, “I’m gay,” DIDN’T deter me! I STILL clung on to (false) hope! I really have the tendency to get obsessed on one particular man and not move on like a normal, healthy person once I realize something is terribly wrong. And this guy literally told me that he was trouble and that there was something terribly wrong with him! Yet it just goes in one ear, and out the other! :(

  13. pinkpearl says:

    Great post. Hits pretty close to home, but get this – when I was involved with the most recent EUM, I also happened to be seeing a therapist (for other concerns), who was CONVINCED that I was NOT seeing things clearly and pressured me to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and to wave away all the red flags. Somehow she got the idea (not from my actual history, which she knew nothing about) that I was projecting my insecurities or past hurts onto the new relationship. Therefore, she pressured me to do the opposite of everything my instincts were telling me. It was the strangest thing. I had no idea that she had this agenda, and over six sessions I figured it out, but this was also while I was figuring out the non-relationship. I didn’t know which end was up! Of course this made it easy for EUM to manipulate and use me before dumping me.

    So, the moral of the story is, even THERAPISTS can get caught up in fantasies and illusions. I think this therapist was uncomfortable with the idea of some people simply being bad news, a negative influence, so she rejected my concerns. I once put it as bluntly as this “I think he’s just in it for the sex” and she said “Maybe he just wants to get closer”. That’s how deep HER denial was.

    Or, maybe she wanted to keep me in the bad relationship so I’d stay miserable and stay in therapy, so she could keep the checks coming in.

    Be careful out there!

    • SM says:

      Pink, I’ve lived in a fantasy world where things just didnt add up with a relationship. Thank goodness when I finally ‘got’ that the common denominator in these relationships was me, I was seeing a therapist who specializes in women who continuously choose men who arent available for a relationship. I dont know if you are in the U.S. or not but there is an organization in some states called how to spot a dangerous man before you get involved and they have therapists that specialize in this area. And dangerous could be that they are just emotionally unavailable. They do some stuff in Britain too.

      • pinkpearl says:

        Thanks. The irony is, I don’t particularly have a history of choosing emotionally unavailable men. That’s not why I was seeing the therapist.

        I just happened to start seeing this guy at the time and mentioned some of my concerns – the red flags were starting to pop up – and suddenly it was all about my trust issues. I’m not kidding when I say she had no idea about my history; I mean literally nothing. We just never got into it.

        She just could not or would not accept that I was seeing the situation clearly. At 43, I’ve been around the block a few times!

        • ixnay says:

          Some therapists are just incredibly limited. About a decade ago I saw one for just a few sessions. I mentioned that the guy I was besotted with online often treated me like his mother (casting me as authority figure to rebel against). The therapist said “do I remind you of your mother?” I was like, um, no, I am actually trying to describe a dynamic here that has nothing to do with you. I got the sense she was grasping at straws and had this psych 101 playbook that told her “if they mention the word ‘mother’ it’s transference, and your way in to the motherlode, so to speak.” I felt so unheard I left therapy, although I really needed help. And it turned out I was spot-on about the guy; a decade of an in-person relationship later I was continually taken aback by being cast as the repressive meanie; sometimes it was like living with a moody adolescent home for summer from college.

    • NML says:

      That’s a therapist that you need to stop seeing. That is very unusual carry-on and bad enough to experience mind effery in your relationships without paying by the hour for it. There are some fantastic therapists out there – find one that is working *with* you, not against you.

  14. Good Monday evening to you Natalie.

    I didn’t know what reality was, I was so enmeshed in fantasy and illusion.
    Thanks to your site, I’ve gotten MUCH clearer.

    But I look from the sidelines now – no desire to get involved, and thankfully, don’t see the need for a relationship anymore for happiness.
    I work at being happy and independent on my own, which for me is lovely.

    You give good advice to many. I love reading what you always write.

    • Gina says:


      “But I look from the sidelines now – no desire to get involved, and thankfully, don’t see the need for a relationship anymore for happiness. I work at being happy and independent on my own, which for me is lovely.”

      Amen! This is SO where I’m at right now too!!!

    • NML says:

      Hey Cinderella11pm. Good to hear from you! It is always tricky when happiness is defined as being you in a relationship. When happiness is defined as you being happy whatever your status, you’re free to go and live your life, single or attached because you know you’ll always be happy *with* you.

  15. ltg2011 says:

    Wow! This addresses what I have been going through. I remember the good times and I feel sad and lonely. But then I start asking myself why I left him? I start to list all the red flags, disrespectful behavior, broken promises, lack of commitment, flirting with other women, denying me to his children, secret conversations with his wife in another country, lies, the fact that he slept with our neighbor less than 2 weeks after I left and told her I was terrible to him when I was the opposite (funny he said I was a good woman to him before I left), valuing his friends opinions over me and faithfulness, and on and on and on… This is the only way I can keep it real and keep myself from ever contacting him again.

    • NML says:

      Er that’s a lot of stuff there going on ltg2011. I think that with that type of stuff going on – it’s not like you’re saying he forgot to take the bins out or has annoying habits around the home or is a smart ass – means that exchanging them for ‘good times’ isn’t a fair or equitable exchange. You’d be selling yourself very cheap. When you factor in the whole picture, the good times, really aren’t *that* good.

  16. LA says:

    Wow – this entry came at the most serendipitous time for me.

    My Assclown broke up with me about six weeks ago. We had been together for three years. He broke up with me over the phone; told me there was no one else, and within a week I had discovered through Facebook that he was not only seeing someone else, but that they had moved in together.

    How does this relate to fantasy? Well, he was one BIG red flag. A child trapped in a man’s body; always lurching from one drama to the next; always in debt; always struggling to get work; nothing was ever his fault. He lacked no insight; and if things got to hard he would chuck a childish tantrum and give me the silent treatment.

    EVERY family member, friend and acquaintance I knew told me that I could do so much better than him; that he was a loser; that I deserved so much more. They practically threw up their hands in relief when he did break up with me, they were so relieved.

    Intellectually, I KNEW I deserved better, BUT since the break up I have struggled with the FANTASY of him, our relationship and his current life.

    While I was unhappy for a large part of our relationship, my mind could only recall the good bits. I saw images of him as a strong, rugged masculine man, cooking me meals, telling me how much he loved me. I couldn’t recall the reality. Even though I tried. My mind also tortured me with thoughts about the PERFECT life he must now be living with this new woman – how happy they both most be. All his (massive) faults seemed to have melted away post break up, leaving me with the agony of yearning a man and relationship that never was – and worse, that another woman was now enjoying this “perfect” man.

    I know if I can remove my rose tinted glasses and see him for what he really is, I will finally be able to heal and move on. I’ve started to slowly do this, but it’s a hard process.

    So, if anyone has some suggestions as to how to recall the reality rather than the fantasy, especially when the mind doesn’t seem to want to, that would be really helpful.

    • jupiter23 says:

      Since you know intellectually this guy was a loser, I do think it will come to you. It’s been six weeks, not that long.

      What I would suggest–and the most important thing I could suggest–is to go NC completely. That means not looking him up on Facebook or getting information from mutual friends.

      Do you have anything you love doing? Do that. Are you in therapy? Maybe that’s something to look into. Have you tried cognitive techniques to stop obsessive thoughts when they go on too long?

      • LA says:

        Thanks for the support and suggestions Jupiter23 and FedUp. I’ve been crying all night. It gets worse. I couldn’t help but look at the Facebook profile of the woman he is now living with and, a long with pictures of the happy couple, she has written the status updates:

        Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gently bestows upon us a glorious fairy tale….” My darling, you are my ‘happily ever after’ xxx As well as “Four months of pure and utter bliss”

        So now not only do I have to deal with the fact that the man I spent three years with, and knew for 6 years; a man who told me he loved me, that he was so lucky to have me, that I was his oxygen; has not only left me and discarded me like a piece of trash; refusing to contact me; relegating me to non-existent status, BUT also appears to be living out his “happy ever after” with another woman, in a state of “pure bliss” while I sit here in pure agony and pain.

        I’ve been attending therapy now for five weeks, which includes cognitive behavioural therapy. I know I shouldn’t look at Facebook, but I keep hoping that one day I will go on there and find out that their “happy ever after” has turned into the same sort of relationship that I had with him, and they will have split. My fantasy also involves him coming back to me, telling me he loves me and that he was crazy to leave me for her – a form of validation – but I know now that will never happen.

        It really, really hurts. I just want the pain to go away – I’m sick of it.

        • jupiter23 says:

          I am sorry you are hurting. Truly sorry. And I do understand some of your pain.

          The thing is–what people put on Facebook is usually a bunch of BS. I have cried over a boyfriend, friends, THE exEUM. Never once did I put that I was miserable on my Facebook. I have seen up close some of the worst kinds of relationships, but reading the couples’ Facebook I would be none the wiser or think they were living in bliss.

          This new girl, she has no prize. Believe me. And I do think you know this. I have to tell myself this too many times. My ex EUM is with someone new, and when I first found out, it really hurt–even though I was the one to finally cut the cord.

          I read this other blog Getting Past Your Breakup, and there’s an article about checking on your ex through Facebook.

        • RadioGirl says:


          I feel your pain, and my heart goes out to you. Your descriptions of your ex fit *exactly* with mine – the man-child character, the high drama and chaotic life, the massive debts, nothing ever being his own fault, going silent when he found things hard, breaking up over the phone. Like you, I also got the “nurturing” side where he cooked meals for me, held my coat out for me to put on (must have been the fur coat of denial), walked on the pavement between me and the traffic, included me in decisions about furnishings and pictures etc in his new home, made promises and talked about things we’d do in the future together. And like you, I’ve had terrible struggles to come to terms with, as Natasha calls it, the Jekyll & Hyde sides to him and discerning which bits of “us” were real or fantasy. We broke up at the end of February, and I cut off all remaining contact in early June. I confess to looking at his FB profile too, and it’s a slippery slope which always sets you back on your road to recovery, because you see the *apparently* happy image that he wants people to see on there. It took me longer than 6 weeks to start being able to use the bad memories – of when he treated me like I just didn’t matter and behaved disrespectfully and dishonestly both towards me and behind my back – as a cognitive trigger to get real. I do still slip back sometimes, but the intensity and duration of the grief is becoming less and less. 6 weeks is still *very* recent, as jupiter23 says, especially if you were together for 3 years. As for his new gf – well, “four months of pure and utter bliss” is exactly what I had at the start of our year-long relationship before it began to slowly fall apart and he started showing up as the thoughtless, immature and shallow person he really is. Though I only saw that in hindsight, of course, having taken off that fur coat of denial. I doubt your ex will be able to keep up being the “perfect” man either, as he sounds like my ex’s identical twin.

          Incidentally, I discovered that his previous ex-gf looked at his profile on FB and saw in photos of us and posts on there that he was, apparently, idyllically and blissfully happy with me. But, by then, the reality was *very* different – and that was partly down to me being in denial and joining in with putting out the fantasy image to our friends even though I knew in my gut things were going downhill. Now I’ve had time to reflect on this, it’s really given me a lot of food for thought about my own behaviour around fantasy and reality.

          Keep feeling your feelings, don’t keep them inside you – take good care of yourself.

        • Ramona says:

          Hi LA -
          I haven’t posted for a while but I couldn’t resist after reading your post. Hopefully the lovely old timers and NML remember me. My ex got involved very quickly after us living together for a year. I had the facebook trauma of the girl he moved onto and in with. They broke up and he came back telling me a bunch of BS. I was freaking out. The recent ex of his and I share a mutual friend on FB and she actually sent me a note. I ended up speaking on the phone to the ex girlfriend for 2 hours. He screwed her over way worse than he did me. She moved and quit a job for him and 6 weeks later, he dumped her. MORAL – Facebook is BS. Not true and HE IS STILL A LOSER. Trust me….you don’t want him back for validation anything else. Love and hugs. Ramona

        • Bonnie says:

          Hey LA – I know how much this hurts right now because it hasn’t been very long. It is normal to pine away for validation, long for him to “see the light” and the error of his ways. What these two actions have in common is they are about him. He is gone and doesn’t deserve it. You need to move the focus away from him. whatever he is doing, and focus on yourself. He is not here anymore, but you are. He is now making some other girl’s life miserable (if their relationship is even true) and thank goodness that is not your concern anymore. You deserve more than someone that ends a 6 year relationship/friendship with a phone call. Shift the focus off of things you can’t control and make yourself the priority.

          I know it is easier said then done but you can do this. Your “happily ever after” with this AC was fiction, but there is so much more in store for you. Best wishes

    • NML says:

      What’s interesting LA is that you’re more than capable of recalling the reality – you just did in this comment. It’s breaking a habit of having a lack of self-control. It’s interrupting the thought process as soon as it starts. Put a placard up in your home, a post it on your mirrors, phone, a message on your mobile, your screensaver. Write down the list of all of the reasons why the relationship broke down. Read it every day. Add to it. For every thing you think he’s going to do with another woman – list what you know about it. Does that quality exist NOW? Have you experienced that quality? Does the fantasy contradict the reality of what you know? For example, you can’t exactly call someone a child in a man’s body and then suddenly cast them as the starring role in The Perfect Relationship. Where the frick would that come from? That’s like plucking a person out of your bum. What is he in this fantasy? Write it down. Get it out of your head. Talk about it. Get the detail in black and white. This is thought processing as opposed to letting this stuff roll around on spin cycle on a permanent basis. Go through the detail. How much is real? What would it literally take for him to do to become and do these things? Is he capable of them? Go through them one by one. Anything you deem him capable of, provide evidence to yourself of it. You’ll soon get tired of the fantasy at this rate. I would also spend some time with a professional and make keeping a written record of your day and thought processes mandatory until you are an honest with yourself again.

      Oh and I should add – I think his subsequent behaviour after the breakup has only gone to prove that he is actually a man child. All that in six weeks – not something to be taken seriously. I know someone who did exactly the same thing. Neglected to mention to the new woman that he was cheating. Moved in pretty much immediately. They’re still together although she still doesn’t know he was cheating. She doesn’t know that he’s been trying to get back with his ex, proposing, and trying it on with everyone else. He hasn’t changed.

    • Artemisia says:

      I know where you are and it gets better, trust me, feel all you pain and learn from it, take back your power
      Also put a rubber band on your wrist, every time you get misty eye about this guy, pull it and let go, ouch it should hurt.

      Get a vacation from Facebook. Honestly torturing yourself looking at her profile and thinking – why her and not me – will not help your grief. Some guys – the emotional-avoidant jump from one girl to the next with no breaks because when their level of anxiety reaching toxic level over commitment and facing up to their insecurity. They find a new girl as an escape route ( they have prepared this for a while even if to you it looks out of the blue) hoping for a fresh start with a new girl while never facing up and dealing with their shortcomings because they are scarred shitless.
      Take this test and learn

      My cousin dumped his girlfriend on the day she was moving in with him ( her truck was in the driveway) to start a relationship with a barmaid, that his brother was romancing, from his local drinking hole. He texted his girlfriend goodbye as she called him all day to find out where he was and his parents had to picked her up so afraid she was going to ransacked his furniture ( because of course they would have to pay for a new one) He is now a father of a small baby, she is a good person but his gambling habits ( he feels trapped) is making their life miserable. He is incredible in the sack ( he slept with so many women so practice makes perfect) and would charm the habit off a nun, but boy is he a shit! He is preparing his escape with another unfortunate, you could not talk her out of it.
      I once met the girlfriend of guy I slept one – flirtation – no mention of girlfriend – drinks – brain cells take a vacation – sex – ignore me and act like total jackass – calling out of the blue for seconds – no thanks. She did not know who I was or I would have died of shame . She told me he was an angel, her soulmate, the only man she ever truly loved. And I though – come again, are you on crack? Because few weeks previously to add insult to injury I had found out I was not the only woman who had fallen for his crap.
      Do do wrist band, a lot.

      TLC your way.and take it easy, you will grow out of this experience. He will still behave like a jerk letting his insecurties rule him, while you will have learned from yours.

    • Lynda from L says:

      LA…this might help because I have been where you are and occasionally know that I too go down ‘nice memory alley’..Natalie has a set of stock-taking questions to ask yourself at the end of the article above…do them, they may help you get perspective?
      Also, to break after three years by text?C’mon, you know that you deserve better. A guy that can do that is not someone to give houseroom to.
      I do not know the circumstances of his new relationship and its so understandable that you feel like crap but does he have a track record of this…doesn’t bode well for his future relationships, does it?( I found out that my EUM had been promising the world/marriage to a sequential series of women for years, including me). Read Natalie’s articles on ‘Disappearing Acts’ and you may get the gist of your boyfriends motivation. As Jupiter wisely says… No Contact,absolutely no contact, do not do the Facebook obsession…it is the route to madness. And you are entitled to be sad but you do not deserve to let this asshole make you crazy. You are well out of it. Truly.

      • LA says:

        Thank you all for your wonderful comments. This site has been an absolute godsend.

        RadioGirl – Looks like we were dating identical twins! Yes, he played the nurturing and loving boyfriend so well. That’s what I’m struggling with. How someone that professed to loving me SO MUCH could just cut me out of his life like I never existed. It never occurred to me that he knew that our relationship was not working, and that he was “feathering his nest” with someone else, readying himself to make the leap from me to her, and this started at least three months before breaking up with me. His justification in his mind is that as we weren’t intimate during this time, so it wasn’t cheating.

        Ramona, Artemisia, Bonnie and Lynda from L – Yes, there is a pattern. When he started seeing me he had come out of a 6 year relationship, however, surprise surprise, had told me that “it had been over for a year as they weren’t sleeping together.” However, he still kept me hidden from this ex – so really, how over was it actually!

        Facebook is a killer. I’ve defriended him but I can still look at his and the other woman’s accounts. I go for days without looking, but think to myself, “Ah, I can handle it now” or “Maybe things are not as good anymore”, but when I do look, I just get their “fairy tale” romance rubbed in my face, and I go away feeling upset and tortured.

        From the sounds of it, she is just as child-like as him, but is giving him the love that he craves. I’m waiting for their honeymoon stage to be over, and for the reality of the relationship to emerge, but I’ve got to stop caring one way or the other. She might be on his level and not expect a lot from him, so it might work out or it will go the way of every other relationship he has had in his life – great at the start and then turns into constant fighting, before he jumps to the next woman. Funny, though, I keep thinking I was *special* and that I could have changed him. I tried. But in the end, it meant nothing.

        NML – thank you so much too, for responding. Your questions are great. I’ve been moping about all day thinking about how wonderful his life must be now with this new woman. I know it sounds silly, but I torture myself with thoughts of “I wonder what they’re doing now?” Knowing that I’m not being given a second thought is hard. I shall write the answers to those questions. I know I’ve got to stop thinking about all his good points, but it’s hard when his new partner thinks he is SO wonderful.

        • Artemisia says:


          I know it sounds silly, but I torture myself with thoughts of “I wonder what they’re doing now?”

          It’s not, it’s part of the grieving process. This obsession is a way for you to escape your pain of being rejected – of not being that special that he left you out of the blue. That pain needs to be felt, not repressed, learned from and dealt with. I was rejected as a child and a series of emotionally unavailable guys who made me feel special because instead of focusing on my failings ( plenty ). I used all my energy to fixed them, to make them better men ( ah ah), avoided fixing myself. They were lying, I was lying, I deceived myself as much as they deceived me, we were both in on it.
          I know I am healthy now because when I meat a EU / Toxic person I run the other way, I do not deal with them or try to make them whole – not my fracking job.

          Focus on you, take care of yourself, become OBSESSED with yourself, how to make YOURSELF feel whole, strong, beautiful – become a selfish bitch – become aware of your weaknesses and apply as much love to them as possible so no man / toxic person will be able to play on them and use your shame about them to get one on you. And exercise, walking, gym if you can afford it, nothing like an 1/2 hour on interval training and weights to make you feel better and able to fight the “ why her and not me feeling”.
          Get hold of Women who love too much by Robin Norwood or Men who hate women and the women who hate them by Susan Forward and get many Aha moments.

  17. Isla-gurl says:

    Thanks again Natalie for a great post! I forwarded this to a girlfriend that really needs this nOw for scenario 1 and I am still recovering from scenario 3! The good news is that because of your blog I am well on the mend and everyday is getting easier, 2+ months NC and I feel so strong, ready soon I hope to start deleting contact info, photos etc. I’m dating someone new and my assclown radar is on high! Not taking any crap if it should arrive and will flush handle him at the first sign because of what I have learned from you! Thanks for helping and good luck to all wading through this BS we have to face in the relationship world!

    • NML says:

      Hey Isla-gurl. Good to hear that you’re feeling better. I would caution and say that if you’re dating again, that means you should have deleted the stuff especially if he is of the AC radar. Date when you’re over someone otherwise they’ll be your Buffer in a rebound relationship distracting you from the old hurt. That’s not to rain on your parade – that’s to hopefully help you not fall into a similar relationship or be oversensitive to any remotely false moves.

  18. D says:

    Well, this couldn’t have come at a better time… I have been involved with a Fast Forwarding Future Faker who hasnt treated me decently in… oh, 16 months? Something like that. Today I woke up sick with worry and at the receiving end of some really nasty stuff from him. The thing is, I’ve completely shielded myself from the reality by conjuring up and being stuck in the past where he was, for the briefest moment, a decent person.

    I’ve felt so bad for so long it feels NORMAL to be queasy, sad, worrying about if he’s still interested, reading between the lines constantly, and putting myself through the grinder all for someone who, when I’m real about it, I don’t like that much! Sure he’s interesting and attractive but he has shown himself to be an aggressive, self-serving puffed up clot of a person. I can do better, just by myself!

    I really am having trouble separating the fact from the fiction, the fantasy from the reality. Like all people I want to love and be loved but by choosing him and catering to my negative thinking and whims, I’ve just sat back in a pattern that hurts me and reflects how little I want to take responsibility for myself and love myself.

    But he’s not that great so I’m going to go NC again and stop blowing smoke up his you-know-what. It isn’t going to happen, he’s not the one for me. He can go on dating girls who look like something you’d dress up as for Halloween, while i need to take this one day at a time. With him I have no boundaries, with him I don’t love and choose myself, with him I see a fantasy and give according to that, whereas the reality disappoints me endlessly and finds new ways to bust up my self respect. From right now I’m on NC with him. It’s my birthday soon and I know he’ll be back simpering about that… but whatever.

    This is really really hard, for every pep talk I have hours of what feels like agony. I hate that I’ve normalised feeling so bad and buying into this drama.

    • NML says:

      “With him I have no boundaries, with him I don’t love and choose myself, with him I see a fantasy and give according to that, whereas the reality disappoints me endlessly and finds new ways to bust up my self respect. ” Even if you told me not one piece of information about him, the fact that *you* act in this manner D says that this is an incredibly unhealthy relationship. People only have to only use the word boundaries on a continuous basis and talk about them being overstepped when they should be getting the hell out. Give yourself a chance – of course it’s going to hurt initially.

  19. brokenhearted in LA says:

    wow this was so PERFECTLY timed for me today!
    i’ve been broken up (scenario #1 per your article above) for 2 months and NC for a bit over 1 now, and once i got to let in the reality of who he is and how our relationship really was, i started getting over him a bit so the longing and all that were GONE.
    but today i got invaded by this sadness, not really missing him but feeling like the person i was hoping he’d get to be, died. it does feel a bit like a death, i feel i’m back at grieving.
    feeling like this made me think about contacting him, or driving by his place… thank god i haven’t. this is why it’s SO capital to keep in reality.
    i think it got triggered by the fact i had to mail him some money that came from the insurance, which i did after a month of strict NC, and even though i just put the check in an envelope without writing a single word to him, that still did something to me. i have to admit i somehow hoped to hear from him – although i’m glad i haven’t.
    this is going to pass, i know.
    it’s a weird feeling. like i said, i’m not missing him as in wishing i was back with him or anything like that. i hated how miserable i felt with him, and that was most of the time. i just feel sad, maybe at the loss of the dream, at the loss, period, however much i stand to gain from it. the person i loved doesn’t exist anymore – maybe he never really did. ouch.

    • NML says:

      What you’re feeling is totally natural Brokenhearted in LA – that’s why it’s called grieving. You may feel great for a bit and then feel like you’re sliding back. You’re just working through a kink in the grieving tube. Whatever capacity he did or didn’t exist in, if you let the grieving take its course and gradually accept the reality, which may be just recognising how YOU feel and how this didn’t work for YOU, as opposed to trying to work out if he 10% or 22% or 72% real, you will come to terms with it. Every single person has experienced someone who they started out with an initial perception and then have had to readjust it – it’s normal. It’s how we learn to use our judgement and educate ourselves about what does and doesn’t work for us. The trouble is that some of us take people not living up to the initial hype or even our own error in judgement seriously to heart – that is what can slow down the grieving and healing process. Even if it turns out it was mostly illusions, at least you won’t be caught up in a fantasy again because you realise going out with your imagination actually *hurts*.

  20. FedUp says:

    If only the so called “good times”could be permantly erased from the brain. The problem is how do you know “this time” is any different from any other time [the past]?

    • NML says:

      FedUP – You don’t. If you have to call it “This time” it means you shouldn’t be going there.

    • Carrie says:

      I was just thinking about this today – that I now totally understand “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” when I totally didn’t when I saw it. Guess you have to go through heartbreak to understand the desire to have the possibility of someone popping into your mind totally wiped away! And it’s not like I’m ever thinking I want him back, or I wish he was here, or anything like that. Just going through my day and suddenly BAM he’s in my head. Ugh can’t wait until that goes away!!

  21. Magnolia says:

    I came across this passage today in a Sam Shephard play and it made me laugh because it reminded me of the AC and it’s relevant to this post:

    Austin has just stolen a bunch of toasters from the neighborhood houses to prove to his brother Lee, who has been a petty thief all his life, that he had the nerve to do it. But then he feels guilty, and says to his brother:

    A: I guess it’s best not to even think of the victims. Is that the right psychology?
    L: What?
    A: Is that the correct criminal psychology? Not to think of the victims?
    L: What victims?
    A: The victims of crime. Of breaking and entering. I mean is it a prerequisite for a criminal not to have a conscience?
    L: Ask a criminal.

    I laughed and laughed because this is it EXACTLY. Lee somehow has blanked what he does so well that he doesn’t even register the word victims, and doesn’t even think of himself as a criminal, even though he commits B&Es *for a living.* Lee isn’t struggling to put regret for his actions out of his mind, he never regretted them in the first place!

    This scene, I thought, illustrated so well why we wonder what ACs are thinking, and why they do what they do, when the fact is they live in a completely different reality to ours.

    I KNOW my exAC thinks of himself as a hero, a good guy, a philanthropist, etc etc and friend to women: his reality. My reality: being with him hurt, and there are a string of hurting, angry and psychologically injured women in his wake, of which I was one. Him: what victims?

    I stayed way longer than I should have because I kept talking to him to try to validate my reality. Whenever I said what I thought was going on, he’d have a different version. Only when I was like, well, my reality is this sucks too much to keep going, did I have the clarity to make the break no matter how convincingly he pitched his alternate universe.

    What I did and still sometimes struggle with is that his status and money and connectedness were real. The improvement in quality of my life was real – I learned a lot, I experienced a lot. What was a fantasy was that it could last. What was a fantasy was that I would get to genuinely share in what he had built for himself without losing every last shred of who I am.

    • NML says:

      Thanks for making me clutch my sides laughing! Whoop, there it is.

      I took a photo of this paragraph from a magazine (a search made me realise I must have read it at the Doctors surgery as it’s the mag for the Daily Fail…anyway…) and it’s from the book A Box of Darkness by Sally Ryder Brady. Your hilarious passage reminded me of it: ” ‘Upton didn’t repress his sexuality; he kept it in another world’ Dan looks sad. ‘He had two distinct and separate realities.’ Not two Uptons but two realities; two worlds that Upton must have struggled all his life to keep secret from each other.”

      • Magnolia says:

        Yep, that’s about it. Talk about the opposite of “integrity”!!

        • Tanzanite says:

          Hi Magniloia

          I like that.

          I used to say to my ex that forgiveness was wasted on him because he wasn’t really sorry enough to stop doing what he was doing.

          What victims ?

          Alternative universe.

          That’s about right.

    • RadioGirl says:

      Magnolia, that excerpt is just *brilliant*! Thanks so much for sharing it with us :-)

      “I KNOW my exAC thinks of himself as a hero, a good guy, a philanthropist, etc etc and friend to women: his reality. My reality: being with him hurt, and there are a string of hurting, angry and psychologically injured women in his wake, of which I was one. Him: what victims?” – this is *so* true! I can just see the look of sheer incredulity on my ex’s face now at the very concept of himself being anything *other* than the good guy – he even said to me once that “none of the girls are ever interested in going out with us nice guys”!!!!

    • Jennifer Mellors says:

      That’s an absolutely fab way of looking at it – thanks :)

      • Lynda from L says:

        Thanks Magnolia…agree that these guys are often obsessed with being seen as the ‘good guy’, someone of integrity, pillar of the community etc. I was with such a man, he actually referred to himself as ‘a professional gentleman of the parish’ jokingly. He too had a big job, high status and an image to protect. My final reality with him was torture…the gradual realisation that he had little empathy towards the mounting female carcases he was leaving at his roadside and that he had no compunction about making me one of them. Your post reminded me of how I struggled to make sense of the relationship and how glad I am to be free of him

    • allie says:

      Thanks Magnolia!!


      “I kept talking to him to try to validate my reality”

      that’s much what I have done. Kept giving him chances to “prove me wrong”, to validate my fantazy that he was a good man. I wanted to validate that fantacy rather than accept that I have misjudge him.

  22. Ivy says:

    I am a terrible, terrible one for doing this. I was Future Faked/Fast Forwarded a few months ago. I was addicted to his words, he was excellent at talking up a storm. My common sense told me quite loudly and distinctly that ‘No, it’s impossible that he loves you after only a week/he’s done a) b) and c) this means that he doesn’t love/ care/ trust/ respect me ..’ but I just allowed the fantasy to take over and conned myself into believing that his words, not at all backed up by actions … were real. I wanted the illusion more than I wanted him, on many levels I didn’t even like him or at least many of the negative qualities he exhibited. Some of the ways that he treated me and things that he did and said to me were nothing short of outrageous but a simple ‘I love you’ was just about enough for me to erase the sound of alarm bells ringing from my consciousness.
    I think what messed me up was my relationship with my father who was an alcoholic. I remember constantly living in a fantasy with him when he would promise me he wasn’t drinking or was really going to give it up this time and I would just kid myself into believing that he was staying sober even when it was clear he had been drinking because I wanted to believe it so much. So that I think just pretty much set a pattern. Creating illusions was what got me through my childhood because I had to create illusions to deal with some very harsh realities that as a child I was unprepared to accept or not even capable of accepting. I’ve taken this into my adult relationships now along with my other nasty habits developed from childhood.

    • NML says:

      I think Ivy it would be difficult to avoid not having some of these habits with a father like what you had. The pattern can be broken though and the first step on the path is recognising that you’re catering to the old dynamic. Addiction can train you put up with some pretty shady behaviour plus you can find yourself easily charmed and talked into stuff. Heal the old wounds first before you venture into dating again. There is a lot of great support out there so definitely find out what is in your local area.

  23. FedUp says:

    LA- What sort of person leaves a 3 year relationship and moves in with someone else 5 minutes later?! OMG! Does the new girlfriend now he just left a 3 year relationship? There’s never “anyone else” is there? How do they always manage to have someone else, when the breakup’s still fresh? Why does no one ever say anything to these people for moving on so quickly?

    • lilylee says:

      Fed Up,
      Absolutely right!! What these people do is keep their eyes open for other options when difficulties arise in their relationship. Instead of working out inevitable disagreements that come in all relationships, they go fishing for the love starved fish and throw their hook out…often they have a fresh catch waiting to be reeled in even before you know there is a problem…so then if you bring up any issue or have any expectations, suddenly you have become demanding/needy and this relationship stuff is all too much for them…fast forward a week later and their in a full on relationship with their fresh catch..

      This was the story with my ex..who professed to love me…and was great in the sack..he knew it too, but played it down with his shy, sweet, intellectual facade..once saying “I guess I’m a competent lover.” A week after we broke up…he had a lover, who was into threesomes and swinging….all at her request…with him stating that “I would be open to exploring that” ….yeah right….and where would he find such a gem a mere week later?
      Can anybody say “Craigslist”.
      Who are these bottom feeders masquerading as actual people.
      I mean really!! Flush!!

  24. Lessie says:

    NML and all the ladies here,

    I read the book you mention and it was wonderful. I remember her quoting the poet Mary Oliver “Someone once gave me a box full of darkness, it took me years to realize that this too, was a gift”…I read this soon after being broken up with by my separated EU MM and I remember thinking at the time, “Yes, how do you ever know what is real and what is not real with someone in a relationship (even after years of marriage too!).

    I have often joked with my friends, “Ugh, that dreaded word, reality” but the truth is, I am now realizing, is that, no matter how distasteful it can be, in order to be real with ourselves, we HAVE to at least “try” and live in reality. When I think back over my time with this man, the question of “What was real, and what was fantasy/illusion” is so easily over lapped and as one of the posters said here, “We will never know the whole truth of WHY it happened” and this is perhaps, for me at least, the most difficult of all to accept. The not knowing, and the pain from that.

    It’s all so very complicated isn’t it? Sigh. I was talking to a guy friend of mine last night and he said, “It’s too painful and it hurts too much which is why I will never allow myself to fall in love again”…and I thought, “Wow, that’s such a sad thing to say, much less feel” and yet, for me, right now, that is my reality too. I am such a romantic, and have such a great need to be in love, and yet…I don’t know if I can go through it all again.

    I really don’t. I read these posts from others and so many of us seem to feel this way and I wonder if it can really truly be any different, and we CAN find ourselves in a happy healthy and committed relationship. They must exist, but “where” does one find them? Perhaps they happen naturally and organically, when we stop looking for them.

    • sunflower says:

      I recently broke up with a separated EU man as well. I was/am in the same shoe as your friend is: I don’t think I want EVER fall in love again. The pain is enormous. I went completely NC with him. I don’t know and no desire to know what he is doing. It sort of weird to do it at beginning since we work together and I knew others may suspect. But I just can’t put myself to look at him not even mention to sit with him at same table. 2 months later I guess everyone was sort of getting used to it and they even helped to make me to maintain NC. I am at stage that I couldn’t care about others thinking. The pain is just too much. I am trying to be happy and to feel to be happy and to pretend to by happy. I don’t know what happened to him to change his mind to pull away from me and I don’t want to find out anymore. We can’t be together and that is reality.
      Sometimes I was really angry toward him and I want send nasty emails to him and yell at him (I didn’t say anything bad to him when we broke up. I was totally shocked and totally in denial so I didn’t say anything and went to LC right away.) Of course I didn’t send the email out. Thanks for NML’s NO letters these 3 months. Today is the 3 months date after our breaking up. Though it still affected my mood every single time when I run into him and that made me want to quit my job right away! but I knew I can’t afford it.
      It is really really hard to woke up from a fantasy world. Especially you have totally NO CLUE you were in the fantasy world. But I knew I will get better. Not in 3 months, maybe in 6 months, maybe in a year, two, …whatever it takes. Be happy again in the future seems impossible right now but I knew I won’t be happy with this guy.

  25. Bewildered says:

    Sorry to be repeating the same story for a few of you…

    I am really struggling with this very concept…. “I don’t know what was real and what was fake” because a year ago my husband led me to believe everything was wonderful between us…little did I know he had a secret friend. So now, I am out of the fantasy and no longer pretenting everything is all rosey – even if he says it is again and has stopped all conversations with his friend. Just how do I know – especially since “this wonderful feels exactly like last years wonderful”? Especially since he is yet to explain anything, show any remorse, be sorry, or do anything to rebuild trust. Funniest story last night he said a coworker called him 5 times yesterday with work questions – during the last conversation with his co worker my husband says 5 calls… that’s like stalking isnt it? Bit my toungue but wanted so badly to say oh what would you classify 8 calls a day to your secret friend as?

    I most definetly have reconciliation issues and have been very open about them. “I’m finding it really hard to move on and accept what has happened” I told him that he can not sit back and do nothing (which he has been) because I took the leap of faith and let him stay after having my son begged me to do so…now its up to him to win me back. Sucks to be in a marriage that has been reduced to this but, I deserve way more and if he can’t make it up to me and show me he is worthy of me then I will move on – slapping some false reality on him for a change and I am already half out. On days that he gives no effort he gets nothing from me…haven’t said I love you in months.

    Entirely different set of rules with a narcissist….basically better plan on counseling for many years to come becuase I will never go back to where I was settling for status quo being fooled by him has casued me to expect way more from him now.

    • NML says:

      Bewildered, I think you have this all arse backwards. His job isn’t to win you back – if that was the case, you would have told him to get the eff out of your house and do the mending of your relationship from afar under the proviso that there will no getting back together/moving back in until the relationship is sufficiently mended. That could be years or never.

      Nothing has changed – you know but let’s be real, it’s not really made that much of a difference and the moment you said he could stay, in his mind, he’d done all the winning back.

      How do you know whether he’s telling you the truth? You don’t. Asking that and calling him a narcissist is an oxymoron.

      If you didn’t realise he had a secret friend, what was it for 20 years, trust me when I say that you have no clue whether this man is lying and he is very deceptive and you may also not be as ‘aware’.

      If he 1) hasn’t explained anything, 2) has shown no remorse, 2) has not been sorry and 4) has done nothing to build trust, it is YOU that needs to get out of LaLa Land. What the frick are you doing with this man? Whatever game you think you’re playing or winning here, you’re not.

      When you get back together, it’s because the issues that broke you have been resolved and both parties are fully clear on what has happened. You have made a decision without sufficient consideration and you have many unanswered questions. The decision is quite frankly screwed as a result. You might as well have stripped your clothes off and jumped in a pool full of sharks. The only decision you have made is to commit to a narcissist, again an oxymoron.

      Don’t play cat and mouse. If you think you can do the ‘I kept you when I could have thrown you out’ or ‘You cheated on me for X amount of years with your secret friend’ or ‘You have to keep making it up to me until I deem that you’ve proved yourself’, you’re very mistaken. That’s relationship crack talk and this man KNOWS it. I am surprised that your counselor hasn’t told you this – I mean surely they must realise that it takes two to work on a marriage?

  26. Lessie says:


    This is such a great post. Yes, perhaps what confounds the emotional fall out from such relationships is that, while we ourselves are thinking a certain way, on one level, the other person (AC EU MM) is completely devoid of that and is not even approaching thinking on that level at all! And…wow.

    I think my particular guy really wanted and needed to believe that “I am a good person, I am a good man, this is not my fault” and in the end, it felt as though he had “dumped” a lot of his emotional baggage on me because he himself could not be fully honest with his own self and so therefore, it was somehow easier (and less ego damaging) to “blame” me in a sense.

    But then again, I don’t know and will never really fully know and the irony is that, even if he came to me now and said, “This is the real truth for why I said what I did” I know I could never believe in him again. I take responsibility for my part in believing the illusion, and allowing myself to become carried away by it all, even though in the back of my mind I was thinking “Danger ahead, there are sirens going off” (I always think of my beloved Smiths and “Louder Than Bombs” because that is what it was: the bombs were going off and I placed my hands over my ears and shut my eyes because I didn’t want to acknowledge what was going to happen).

    I often wonder if I did self sabotage myself in this way…perhaps I did. And yet, ultimately, just what I had always feared ended up happening: he wanted to try and work things out with his wife (so he said anyway). It’s a very surreal feeling to know that someone you once shared so much with on an everyday basis is now gone from your life, almost as if they never existed and you are left to wonder: “Did I create them in my mind”…

    Gosh, and its only Tuesday! Too much deep thought for one day! :)

    • sm says:

      Lessie, for them, blaming everything on someone else is their way of denial or fantasizing. Our way is to accept fault for everything, that’s our fantasy. That was the one thing in my last relationship that I really fought with. You see I had already been in therapy for my poor dating skills so I happened to have the wool pulled almost off my eyes. So when I started to internalize his poor behavior, I would alternate between thinking it was my fault to realizing I had nothing to do with it. Once I realized he was blaming all his actions on his last long term girlfriend, it was like a brick hit me. ‘Whats this guy going to blame on me’, ‘is he going to rob a bank and blame it on me?’ Literally that is the stone cold reality that hit me, this guy was capable of anything and was capable of blaming it all on me. I finally got out.

  27. Lessie says:

    KMac, Adrienne, Ivy and the other ladies,

    Your words resonate SO much with me! Thank you as always, for sharing.

    KMac, yes, very true…this desperation to be loved, often at any cost. What causes this, I wonder? Is it society, culture, our own inherent needs (being human and all that stuff). You wrote, “Some days I get it, other days I just feel unspeakably sad” and this is exactly how I have been feeling too.

    Adrienne, I relate very much to what you said here about the childhood way of making stuff up, creating the fantasy, as is were, to enable one to exist, much less flourish in an unhealthy environment (such as mine). I look back now and realize, this ability was (and still is, at times) both a blessing and a curse. As a former ballet dancer and then later, English major in school, I was able to use my imagination and passion to help me excell. Unfortunately, when it came to “love” and “relationships” these very qualities also were, in many ways, my eventual undoings.

    Ivy, I also had a very complicated relationship with my father and I can see now that in my own ways, I was “playing out” this relationship, over and over again with others (“Please love me, please love me ENOUGH to help me to feel worthy and valuable, maybe through your love I will start to love myself too”)…it’s such a vicious cycle.

    I am trying to be more aware, to own my responsibility for allowing myself for being in these type of situations at all and…its been very painful but at least now, I think, I hope, that I am slowly building my sense of self and creating healthy boundaries with others.

    My very best to all of you :)

  28. Anne says:

    I was in a casual (off and on) relationship with a man for about 2 years. There were several signs that I wanted more than he did and eventually I had enough and completely broke off contact with him; I was tired of the lack of commitment. Not even 2 weeks later I found out he started seeing a younger girl. I can’t help but wonder why a relationship is working with her and didn’t work with me. I’ll never know how serious he is with her or if he’s just going through the motions of their relationship.

    He once told me he likes dating younger girls because they have no expectations; I should have left then. Perhaps he thought I was too successful in my career and was scared he had to live up to something that he wasn’t. Perhaps he didn’t like how I eventually wanted marriage and children. I will never really know so I need to come to peace with what happened so I can move on.

  29. jennynic says:

    I was always dipping in and out of reality. When the reality would hit me in the face and I finally had my hand on the plug, the past AC’s and EUM’s would see that I was getting ready to jump ship and then push the fantasy hard as truth and shower me with love (manipulation) and promises (lies). I went back too may times only to be hurt again. We tend to ignore those glimpses of reality we see because to act on it means leaving and making changes. They quickly learn that we’re an example of ‘no action’ just as much as they are. Their dysfunctional actions cannot continue without our dysfunction reactions. So, the game goes on.
    I find that I have shifted the other way these days. I have my eyes wide open. I am learning to take a closer look at things and make sure I am acting on the facts and on my firm boundaries, not on fear or fantasy (not easy, I am always checking myself). It is a whole new world for me and I have not mastered it yet but it is such a relief to know now that I have the power in my life. No one will ever get the chance to treat me so badly again. I had the power all along but just didn’t have the confidence to use it. No more fantasy or denial. No more drama by using our boundaries as a way of life and not as a threat to get them to straighten up. If you live in reality, these future faker and liars cannot get a foothold in your life as they offer nothing but fantasy and games. I had a male friend of mine ask me this week why I stayed with a meat head who treated me badly for four years? It was kind of embarrassing that I did stay for four years. The denial I was in was incredible and I was complicit in the whole crap. He treated me bad because I let him. It’s as simple as that. I am not responsible for his bad behavior but I allowed it. Living in illusion or fantasy will always come crashing in on you eventually.

  30. Claire says:

    Mine was Scenario #3: the guy who talked up the future, Fast Forwarding etc. and when he finally ‘ripped the needle from the record, I did indeed land with a very cold, hard bump. The pain is and was immense, as is my (at times) overwhelming rage and hatred towards him for leading me on that way and being so ‘blind sided’ by his BS. I often dream of smashing his skull like a pumpkin, and other equally violent/graphic thoughts have crossed my mind, but that’s fading now, the less I have to do with him. He’s just an oxygen thief, and I don’t want to suffocate under the fantasy he created anymore. Letting go is hard at times tho, as I really wanted what he was ‘peddling’, but now I just feel deeply hurt and exhausted by it all. I just wish more than anything, that I’d never met him. :(

    • A says:

      I know how you feel, but I really do think that the more time and distance we get from these situations, the easier it is to realize that some good may come out of it. The pain may shock you into realizing some things about yourself and your relationship patterns, and change your life for the better in the long run. I know it sounds cliche and not at all helpful right now (and I sometimes wondered why I couldn’t have learned some lessons in a less painful way) but I do think it’s possible to come out of this stronger.

  31. TRL says:

    ladies thank you so much for your support. I have another issue with my AC/EU MM. We are co-workers in a cery small space. The breakup is fresh but it wasn’t so long ago , a few wks maybe that he told me we were going to go away together. We had taken the same week off at work supposedly to go away together. So now I have to deal with him looking online at flights and booking vacations IN FRONT OF ME! It’s like guy you already stuck the knife in. There is no need to keep twisting it. Any words of wisdom would be much appreciated. I am considering looking for another job but I feel like then he’s won or was too powerful over me.

    • Artemisia says:

      that is hard one.
      be cool as a cucumber, ( stay away from his push – pull crap because in his way he is hurting too) enlist a buddy at work so when your guy twist the knife ( his ego is hurt, a guy’s ego is fragile so he is going to make you pay) you can feel someone is on your side, ( but no hostage taking in the office as gossip will make your situation 10 times worse) put plants or something nice on your desk so your eyes can focus on things you like. Act like if he was hit by a meteorite in front of you, you could not care less.

      Be strong – if you can’t fake it, act like he is just a colleague ( I have had office romance go wrong so I know its hard to put in practice) and reserve your nervous breakdown outside 9-5, and focus on you and just on dealing with your feelings – not his. Act like he is kryotonite and you are Superwoman.
      You may have to find another job, but do not do so unless it is better than this one. He has no power over you. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said ” no one can make you feel inferior without your consent” and also my favourite ” a woman is like a tea bag, you don’t know how strong she is until she gets in hot water”

      Be strong or fake it until you are.

    • Bri says:


      I feel your pain – my MM and I work together too, and it has kept me from doing my job more days than I care to share. When he broke up with me in August, I chose to work in a different area so I wouldn’t have to see him and that helped. Is that possible for you? Honestly, I know the only way I will move on and finally be done with this “relationship” is to not work there anymore. I’m applying to grad schools in other cities and looking for jobs elsewhere

      Being around him not only prolongs your pain, but in my case, it has prompted him to come back and fall into old patterns.

      I wish you the best, you’re not alone.

  32. lulu says:

    Yep, I can relate to all of this.. Ended 14 month relationship with a very verbally abusive, angry and manipulative AC two months ago. I begged him to get help for his anger issues, and finally told him I’d leave if he didn’t. On the last meeting, I was so angry/hurt that I took all my stuff back and told him to go “f**k himself.” He was “hurt” that I ended it that way and sent me a long e-mail apology a week later…basically saying that he finally realizes he has an anger problem and sees that he will never have a healthy relationship or life unless he gets help, so he believes he cannot be in a relationship with me…boo friggin’ hoo..more b.s….I didn’t even respond; just hit delete.

    About a month goes by, I’m feeling a bit better, though still sad..and one day, I notice that his profile is active again on the online dating site that we met on… I lost it!! I must have been in a crazed state or something…and I really regret it now! I sent him a nasty e-mail telling him what a liar he was and that he just told me that he “can’t have a healthy relationship due to his anger, so what, did he magically cure himself?? ..” This, of course, broke my NC and sent him into the defensive mode, and more importantly, got me to respond to him…

    We had a huge text war (we did that during the entire relationship..) and he basically went back and forth and denied everything and in the end told me that “I was the reason the relationship didn’t work, because I was depressed and nagged him too much..” He told me that “if I had just waited and been patient while he worked out his issues, that we could have gotten engaged soon..” Are u kidding me? The reason we broke up is because he verbally abused me, blew up at me almost daily, threw my personal belongings on the floor when angry and threatened to hurt my cat…that is why. Sure, I got depressed after dealing with months of abuse and my self esteem plummeted in the end, and I asked (nagged) him to take anger management classes… but the fact is he was still in denial..even after a few months..Nothing changed a bit.

    I guess even though I thought I was getting over him, I wasn’t. I almost expected when I e-mailed him after the NC that he would have told me how sorry he was, how wrong he was and how terribly he missed me and that he would do anything to stay with me..So the moral of the story is: even when you have ex-communicated him, be sure to live in reality. If you are hoping/expecting him to come a few months later riding in on a white horse and swooping you up and everything is fixed now, just like the fairy tale running in your head…that is fantasy! It ain’t gonnna happen. Chances are, HE HAS NOT CHANGED AT ALL!!

    What a crock, so here I am, again in NC, but this time determined to stay that way, no matter what. I see that I need to work on my issues, namely, why I allowed myself to be treated in such a way for so long and work on my own self esteem and depression issues. Getting out of this abusive relationship has been one of the hardest things for me to do. Honestly, I think sometimes it is just easier to stay with an abuser because it keeps you so busy and drama filled that you hardly have time to even look at your own life or problems.

    • RadioGirl says:


      “Honestly, I think sometimes it is just easier to stay with an abuser because it keeps you so busy and drama filled that you hardly have time to even look at your own life or problems”.

      This is precisely why we all put ourselves into our relationships with the EUMs/ACs in the first place – as a distraction from looking too closely at our own issues and dealing with them. And yes, it’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard to get over them now that we’re on our own with no more drama to distract us.

      I was suffering from very deep depression and severe anxiety attacks during the final few months of my last relationship. I thought it was down to the contraceptive pill I’d been on or maybe the onset of the menopause. But then something strange happened after we broke up. Even with my heart having been ripped into shreds, and then stamped all over and ground into the floor by a brief post-breakup faux-friendship – my depression and panic attacks stopped soon after I went NC, and they have never come back. I know now that they were caused by my not being fully-expressed in the relationship, and by my identity being completely lost in the maelstrom life of a self-centred and emotionally immature man. Yes, even though I am still to this day going through the grieving stages and working towards fully accepting that my dream (fantasy) relationship is over, my tears and sadness don’t have the same overwhelming “black dog” feeling that they did when I was with him, and I am truly depression-free. Hope that makes sense?

    • Lynda from L says:

      Lulu, I’ve been through many many similar aspects to yourself in my last relationship. There is a very good book’ Why does he do that: Inside the Minds of Angry and controlling men by Lundy Bancroft which helped me a lot. My self esteem plummeted too because there was nothing he wouldn’t use as a put down. I also was promised ‘getting engaged’ frequently and told to just’ build, build’ the relationship while he systematically kicked the bricks away.
      Like you, my guy had a fallback(and dating sites) lined up whilst professing deep love and commitment to me and a deep desire to maintain the illusion that he was a reputable person. It ended for me when it became clear he would never take responsibility for his hurtful words and actions and when I woke up to the fact that it was easier for him to move on with someone else rather that stay with me. I ‘d sussed him, after all… I became replaceable overnight. Stick with the N.C, thinking of you.

    • ixnay says:

      Lulu, the thing from your post that jumped out at me was “… he threatened to hurt my cat.” It trumps everything; any fantasy of how great he could be if he worked on his anger issues, any speculation about how wonderful he’s going to be to the women he meets on the dating site, anything he says about why the relationship ended that puts blame on you. HE THREATENED TO HURT YOUR CAT. That is known abusive, controlling, fear-installing, bullying behavior, and the grotesque truth is that people who would even let that thought enter their minds, let alone express it, are totally damaged and often go on to physical violence against possessions, pets, and partner. Hurting animals is also a behavior precursor in psychopathic murderers’ biographies.

      In a way this completely frees you from what-iffing and rose-colored-glasses nostalgia. it’s like that definitive last straw natalie writes about some women longing for (when he hits me I’ll finally leave…) This guy is messed up, violent, and bad bad news for any woman, any friend, any employer, and any neighbor. You are so blessedly off the hook now of having to help him see the light and getting blamed for his issues. Please move on 100% and don’t even give him one neuron of precious headspace. Creep!

  33. Magnolia says:

    Your fantasy person isn’t just a fantasy… they’re a train wreck!

    I always enjoy these guys.

    • SM says:

      Magnolia I love Cloud and Townsend! I got to meet Henry Cloud once. All their stuff is good. One of my favorite books of theirs, Safe People, good read.

  34. TRL says:

    I was so stuck in the fantasy well really because who wants to face that painful reality? I bought into his fantasy big time. First it went from us vacationing in Disney with his son to his son can’t be away from his mother for that long (a three day trip) to visiting his relatives in Pennsylvania that we wasn’t going to tell about me and just show up with me as a SURPRISE! I can’t believe I believed all the nonsense lies but as I told him yesterday I am the lucky one because I got away from him. Oh, this was after he asked me what I was doing for lunch hour at work . Not because he wanted to have lunch with me. NO …he asked because he wanted me to “go to his car with him”. I am disgusted and appalled yes with him but of course with myself for pouring so much love, energy, and attention into someone like that. The one who said they couldn’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together.

  35. IceQueen says:

    I love this blog! It has helped me tremendously over the last few months and it was by accident I found it via a comment left by NML on another blog I read (Single filez). I honestly think I was meant to find it, I cannot explain how succintly this blog and book has explained the situation I was in (on and off) for the past 6 years…..
    I have been no contact since January 2011. The ex EUM added me on Facebook last week…..I declined his friendship request.

    I had a bit of a wobble and yes I can admit I fantasised about what it would be like to see him again blah blah…..however I reminded myself of all the things I have read on here. I am not going to contact him and allow him to press the re-set button as per usual.

  36. Mango says:

    Ok, I got it. Or close to getting it. His words most definitely did not match his actions. I overlooked most of them because I truly believed, based on our history and how well I thought I knew him, that he just needed healing time/space after his divorce. Yet it turned out to be all smoke and mirrors. An illusion. Or part of it was. Or not. I still don’t know. It doesn’t really matter at this point, does it? I was seduced by the illusions to create the dream in my mind that this was finally our time.

    So, at this juncture, where does one find peace with erroneous choices made? Yes, I’ve learned so much, and am grateful. Yes, time to restore self-esteem, boundaries, and a focus on creating a more lively, productive, dare I say useful life, one not consumed with the thoughts and actions of one quintessential emotionally unavailable man. Yes, I need to forgive myself for the all the downright stupid, needy, things I’ve said and done (hello 3 am should have not been sent emails!) Live and learn, move forward. Check.

    So, now, just a few months away from the usually dreaded 50 years of age, I question where I find peace within myself and my place in life. I never thought I’d still not only be single, yet also never had a single healthy long term relationship. Ouch! I feel, I don’t know, I feel scarred. That I’m missing something vital. And I don’t think it’s too late, at all. I suppose I’m just daunted at being a still needing to be trained puppy at this point.

    It’s not just the relationship aspect either. When I think of all the time and energy lost over the last couple of years, I cringe. I could have been cultivating so much more with friends, volunteering, travel, business, etc. It seems that’s the crux of it, isn’t it. Not just about ‘the man’ .

    Sigh. So, after all that, I wonder, is there truly a deep sense of peace to be found, having screwed up SO much, at a later point in life.

    Thank you for listening. I have a lot of great comments to read and catch up on!

  37. RadioGirl says:

    This is a fantastic post, Natalie. And you and all the readers are *on fire* with your comments and replies to this one. So many insights, thoughts and experiences being shared – it’s all really speaking to me this evening. Thank you.

    • runnergirl says:

      Hey Radio,

      I agree. Folks are totally on fire and every comment has made me think about how deep in denial and fantasy I was. I could cite so many examples but this fantasy illustrates how difficult it was for me to distinquish between what was real and what was fake. After the first X-Mas/New Year, home alone as a mistress and miserable, while he was with his cozy little family around the tree sending me text messages, I told him I would never, ever go through that again. I’ll never forget his miserable response: I don’t know where I’ll be next year for X-Mas/New Year. Worse than his miserable response was my dreamy, dellusional, Disneyland fantasy: We’d be together, with his daughters, my daughter, and even his EX-WIFE around my tree singing carols, while BBQ’ing lobster on the grill as a prepared my creamy homemade cesaer salad. I swear to god, I think I remember planning the menu and wondering if I could afford all the presents so I better start saving now. Dear lord, what an idiot I was. Of course, things blew sky high last X-mas as there was absolutely no way I could avoid reality. He was in the exact same spot a year later, all messed up but planning a cozy little X-Mas with his wife and family. I was in the exact same spot a year later as well, a mistress. No singing, no BBQ’ing, no creamy salad, didn’t have to worry about the presents though.
      Recognizing the vast discrepancy between what was reality vs my fantasy sometimes leaves me afraid to walk out of the door in the morning. Thank you Natalie and everybody for the reality check. And Happy Birthday Radio. As Fearless once said: “Infinity and Beyond”. It can only get better, right?

      • RadioGirl says:

        Thanks so much for the birthday wishes, Runner (and well-remembered!) – another year older and still inching round that corner of discovery towards a different kind of future from what the past 52 years have been like. I woke up on my birthday thankful that I am now truly getting to know, for what feels like the first time, the person that I will be able to count on for the rest of my life. I had a calm and relaxed birthday spent with my lovely family this weekend. What a contrast to the bitter disappointments of last year’s disastrous “celebratory” weekend with my ex, when my eyes started to see and my heart started to feel the painful cracks of reality appearing in the fantasy that was our relationship. Since returning to work on Monday, I’ve had this year’s birthday celebrations extended by my wonderful little team of colleagues – genuine, decent, supportive and interesting people every last one of them. I’m beginning to realise that the reality of my life is actually something I have never fully appreciated before.

        • NML says:

          Belated happy birthday RadioGirl! Big squeezy hugs and so glad to hear you had a great birthday – keep moving and looking forward. Life is good xxx

          • RadioGirl says:

            Thanks very much, Natalie – yes, life is just beginning to feel good again now. Something is at last slowly shifting (my attitude?) and there are longer and longer stretches of being able to look at everything through a fresh pair of eyes, and shorter and shorter stretches of sadness, tears and grief. It feels a bit like that calm, clean, sunny, brightly-coloured freshness you get the morning after a filthy, tempestuous rainstorm. That is down to a combination of love, care and respect from family, friends and colleagues that I am lucky to have in my life, a very empathetic person-centred therapist who is in tune with the work I’ve been doing on myself, and all the excellent resources and compassionate advice and insight you provide on BR. My birthday present to myself this year was a copy of “Mr U & the FBG” from Amazon uk. I’m halfway through reading it now, and have been nodding in agreement and recognition so vigorously and often that my head’s in danger of falling off! It’s definitely a keeper to revisit again and again for a refresher. Thank you for sharing and developing your insights with your readers, your authenticity shines out from every word of your work, and I hope the book is a massive success for you.

  38. Gina says:

    I am the kind of person who gets stuck in her own head. Therefore, I will analyze the crap out of things. Sometimes to the point where I give myself a headache. I am also a bottom line kind of person. Since the bottom line was that my ex did not see a future with me, that fact pretty much canceled everything else out. Going NC was the best thing that I could have done for me. It enabled me to grieve the loss of the relationship, to look more closely at myself, and to focus on creating my own happiness without a man. Yea, I have my lonely moments…in spite of this, life is good.

  39. yoghurt says:

    I’m aware that this has been touched on early on this thread, but I’m still struggling with it.

    My problem at the moment is that I seem to be struggling with an overdose of reality… I can accept that the father of my child wasn’t remotely bothered about me, I can accept that there was really very little that was positive about the ‘relationship’ and that he treated me in a particularly uncaring and unhelpful way throughout (including whilst I was pregnant), I can accept that he’s now in a relationship with someone who (as well as being 22 and beautiful, wouldn’t you know it?) he actually IS bothered about and IS prepared to treat properly and I can even accept that he’s actually quite alright with me now, and trying to build a positive and appropriate relationship with me as the mother of his child. Because now he’s not emotionally unavailable any more, because someone else cured him of that.

    Bother is, all of this has left me with zilch self-esteem. I’m okay generally and I can stay on top of work and looking after my baby (whom I love very very dearly) with very little emotional or practical support, but I can’t imagine ever socialising and/or meeting someone else again, mostly because a clear-eyed viewing of events indicates that I have very little to offer and few of the skills or attributes needed to succeed in either area.

    The worst thing is that I’m actually happier when I just accept this and think “oh well, we weren’t all born equal, I’ll just stay in for the rest of my life and hide my awful appearance and personality”. It’s when I start to challenge things in my head that I get upset and angry, and I can’t do that because I have to stay on top of things and maintain healthy relationships/not brain him with the food processor.

    Having said that, I’m aware that this isn’t exactly healthy and I don’t really want to turn into Eleanor Rigby – miserable way to live life. Also, the baby is nearly a year old, and he’s been in his ‘new’ relationship for ten months, so I’m getting a bit worried that I’m never going to move on or get better.

    • Bonnie says:

      yoghurt –

      First of all congrats on the baby and your work and all the great things in your life. I am glad that he is trying to mend his relationship with you – since you have to deal with him hopefully it will make it easier on you, and if it doesn’t figure out a way to deal with him on paper or via text so he can’t hurt you any more.

      I am not sure how you know that his new relationship is “all that”. You can bet that he is still pulling the same crap on her because most people don’t change. And you can be sure that he wasn’t “cured” by another person – this may just be a stage and he will be back to his old ways soon. Even if he did do this drastic turn-around, there is something better out there for you.

      So you need to work on you. You need to take the focus off of him, what could have been, and pump that energy into your child and yourself. Do stuff that makes you happy, put yourself in social situations, I bet that you aren’t as inept as you say.

      Learn how to love yourself. Get back (or start fresh) to where you and your family are the most important. Don’t put a time limit on it, just get back to feeling good about yourself and the rest will fall into place.

      Good luck!!

    • jupiter23 says:

      Hi yoghurt,

      I’m sorry you are hurting. I don’t know anything about your story except what is listed in this comment; however…

      One of the first things you should probably attend to is your self-esteem. At this time, you don’t need to worry about if you can imagine another relationship. If you have the resources to see a therapist (and find a good one!), that might be helpful. Perhaps they might recommend a depression screening.

      Everyone who gets dumped suffers from a drop in self-esteem, but you can rebuild it. No one else can decide your worth. He’s not that special.

  40. SM says:

    Yoghurt is there anything that you are doing just for yourself to make you feel better?

    • yoghurt says:

      Hey – thanks for replying everyone. I woke up in the swithers about such a whingy defeatist post, so thank you for not shouting at me!

      I would recount the story but it’s long and dull, has lots of twists and turns and invariably ends up with my justifying my actions a lot. Basically I got involved with an EUM, did my Florence Nightingale bit (just been reading NML’s latest post and it’s scarily spot-on), ended up going NC on him (and this was before Baggage Reclaim days… I was actually pretty savvy!) but ended up getting pregnant accidentally when I stuck my hand back in the fire to see if it hurt. He then saw this as a carte blanche to treat me as the FWB that he’d been after all along, and I let him until the situation was actually making me ill and I moved in to lodge with a relative to get away from him and his early-hours drunken shag-bys.

      This coincided with a lot of Bad Things happening in my friendship group of the time – a few of my closest friends moved away, I realised that some of them were actually very unequal and unhelpful friendships (amazing how a stressful situation will make that clear!) and I ended up avoiding the rest, partly because I was sad and whiny and partly because it was difficult in my new living circumstances and with an advanced pregnancy/baby.

      He carried on ringing me, declaring undying love in the middle of the night and other such sensitive and caring behaviour until he met his new girlfriend. She is, by the way, what he always wanted – I was always aware that he was after a glossy, shiny, envy-of-his-mates high-profile sort of girl (and I’m really not) so he’s actually pretty nice to her – I think that he’s been of the mindset that he’d treat ‘The One’ properly and as far as he’s concerned she is ‘The One’. I wasn’t, so naturally it was fine to treat me like sh*t.

      By dint of being kind and understanding and Not Shouting at him a lot, I’ve helped him and his family to build up a close relationship with our son – he’s a very good dad – but the downside of this is that him and his family have been the main figures in my life for a long-time. They, I think, see me as generally quite nice but unimportant in the scheme of things. I’m slowly building/repairing friendships but the fact remains that having a baby makes it difficult and limits your freedom a lot. So none of that has really helped on the old social life/self-esteem front.

      I’m generally pretty happy (I love my son ever so much, and have moved to a new place) and I’m no longer in humungous pain every day about the situation, but there are a lot of dragons to kill before I can get out and about, and in the meantime the ‘reality’ of the situation is in my face most of the time. I suppose that I wonder if it’s possible to live face-to-face with a situation and not let it bring you down, and if so, how?

      Thank you again, by the way, to the people who replied – Baggage Reclaim is an ACE place to get support and one day I hope that I’ll be able to come on and support other people a bit more without sounding like Eeyore! I really appreciate it (and the site as well – cheers Nat! :) ) so thanks again x

  41. TRL says:

    Thank you for responding. I have been trying to “act” happy and strong at work. I’ve had a cry…or four in the bathroom but not on front of others. I noticed that the days I’m able to put ip a good act of being happy/joking around, it almost seems to annoy him and the opposite is true as well. Just an observation and more proof of unhealthy relationship. You were so right with Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote. NO ONE has that power over you unless you allow it . Thanks again.

  42. chloe says:

    I know I know, I should not get caught up in illusion. My assclown was seperated, I guess i was the fallback girl. He has now told me that he does not love me, but loves me as a friend….but he sure liked having sex with me, so i don;t get the i love you as a friend. I was the one who broke up at first, then tried friends, not possible for me, then had dumpers remorse, but he didn’t want to go back, has too much shit going on with his divorce etc. I think he has found someone new, i guess it doesn’t matter. I must be niave, but I have fanatasies about the good (and there was more bad) i don’t get that he loves me as a friend. What the hell does that even mean? I can’t do that. I can’t be friends. Gotta let go of the fantasy. Thanks Natalie.

  43. chloe says:

    @ Mango

    When I read your post, I thought it was my life you were talking about. I too, almost 50, never been married, never had a long term healthy relationship. Wondering if it’s all over, but can’t believe that to be true. My biggest fear is to jump into another relationship with an emotionally unavailable man or some other form of unhealthy. My last guy if you read the post before this one is still seperated and going thru divorce now. I’m doing NC for a month now, it’s hard. Anyways, thanks for your share, I’d like to hear more if you care to share. Maybe we can crack this one, as we are all trying to do, but for women our age it’s different than the twenty and even thirty something. For one, I had to grieve not having children, something that really hit home in my mid 40′s. Anyways, thanks for the share.

    • Mango says:

      Hi Chloe,

      My apologies for the delay in responding. I appreciate you sharing your experience. I don’t think it’s all over for gals like us, I don’t.

      If your gut is telling you to not jump into another relationship, I’d heed that. I clearly don’t have the answers, though, I do believe Natalie is spot on when she says we might want to clean up our own issues first, lest we fall into another FBG relationship, borne from loneliness. Not fun.

      I’m touched my words meant something to you, even if just a glint to look at things another way. NC ‘is’ hard, but I swear, it really does get easier. Or makes more sense.

      Be good to you, treat yourself well. xx

  44. Kmac says:

    This one goes out to Mango (sounds like a line from a cheesey lounge act), from someone in her late 40′s who grapples with the same brand of shame. How did we get here? We judge ourselves so mercilessly by the rest of society, when we know at the heart of our being that in many cases, they are no happier than we. They are just packaged up in ways the majority understand better than they do a single woman who dares try to see herself clearly rather than run, and knows it’s the only choice, regardless of age. ‘Erroneous choices?’ I’m not so sure. I challenge you, and in so doing myself, to not be so hard on yourself. It’s just not helpful. In the words of Iyanla VanZandt: We did then what we knew how to do. When we know better, we do better.

    And we are always trying to know more. As for doing better because of it, well, I think that’s far more of a crapshoot than many of you might. I have learned as I approach 50 that the prize for seeing one’s self clearly isn’t that you get the guy and peace and happiness forever. The prize is that you are on the only path possible, which is a life of authenticity. Some never find that path. Many never live that life. Prize or no prize, what do you choose for yourself?

    • Mango says:

      Kmac, “This one goes out to Mango” made me smile. I had a visual of sitting home alone on a Friday night, in my late teens, listening to Casey Kasem on the radio, as he doled out song requests for the loved and the lovelorn.

      Thank you for your heartfelt response; my apologies for the delay. You’ve given me a lot to think about; thank you.

      “The prize is that you are on the only path possible, which is a life of authenticity.”

      Yes indeed. I love that. And you’re so right. Many, such as my Mom, never find that path. So, while we may be later in some years, we are no longer flailing and completely lost.

      I finally caught up with the comments, and read the one you left yesterday. Oh, your words ring so true for me!

      “And then when we see the signs that it doesn’t, be as aware as we can of all that is wounded in us that makes us want to compensate for all we are not getting back by loving more, loving harder. And when it ends, because these habitual patterns (theirs and ours, and more importantly the way they work together) really aren’t the stuff love is made of, and so it always ends, it’s hard to sort out. We loved hard, afterall. How could I miss him, when the essence of who he really was was not at all someone who valued me and could love me with both feet in? On a clear day, I get it. On others, I just feel unbearably sad.”

      I feel, or have felt, quite recently, the exact same way. Your words moved me, I’ll leave it at that as I’m feeling a bit worn to further express my thoughts and feelings.

      “But before we can do that, we need to stop being desperate to be loved. We need to work on feeling safe, and loved, all by ourselves.”

      Hollah! Yup, yup, yup, that’s it. Thanks for the reminder. Oh, I, too, am a fan of Adele.

      “Prize or no prize, what do you choose for yourself?”
      Love this question. I’m going to some writing/journaling on that for sure.

      Thanks, Kmac. Wishing you well on your journey too. xx

  45. Robin says:

    I am currently in Situation #1, and the reality is hitting hard.

    During college, it was all fun and games, my EUM and I were really more fwbs than what he said we were: bf-gf. At first I bought into it, as this was my first relationship, however bad. He’d talk about women he thought he was into and his ex-he even ran to talk to her and left me behind on one of our “dates” before remembering I was there. We broke up the first time bc after college, when we both moved back home with our respective parents, it was clear to me he wasn’t going to make the distance to visit me.

    The second time we got back together, it was cool, he seemed nicer, seemed to focus on me more. So I stayed. I ignored the hurt feelings I had from the first time and to this day still tell myself I’m over it (I don’t believe it anymore, though). I also had slight tinges of reality-that I wasn’t into a guy who didn’t establish an emotional connection with me first. I ignored this-he seemed to treat me better.

    The third year, the signs became more apparent. We have a lot of differences-he’s not a planner. Everything he says isn’t final until the day before he says we should meet. Any time I ask him if he wants to do something on the weekend, he always said, “Maybe.” Sure, he always ended up hanging out with me, but it felt like he just didn’t want to commit to anything with me. And sometimes, the favors he did came with strings attached. We seem to make each other worse, not better.

    All throughout this, he never told his fam about me (red flag). We were physically intimate, and he didn’t want his superreligious family finding out. So basically he’d rather keep having sex than tell his parents.

    I think my fantasy was that I was into this guy. The reality was, I wasn’t. I didn’t want to face it, so in a way I was emotionally unavailable. The reality was that the EUM didn’t want to tell his own family about me, even if it meant giving up sex til marriage. That actually stagnated the relationship and made me like him less.

  46. Layla says:

    I love this article.. its as if many lights all switched on at once and it really sunk in – all the amazing work and insight you put into your’e work !!
    The following quote cleared up my confusion as to why grief was malingering for me so much …
    The trouble is that some of us take people not living up to the initial hype or even our own error in judgement seriously to heart – that is what can slow down the grieving and healing process.’
    I’ve also realized I personally can overcome the brainwashing I learnt in childhood and which I have been perpetuating
    ‘…..everything is a learned habit which means you jolt yourself often enough, it will become natural. I had to jolt myself from talking shit about myself to myself. Now I don’t do it anymore because I consciously and consistently broke the habit I’d learned from childhood.’
    At the same time I’ve realized I don’t have to see my life as a tragedy ‘it would be childish to deny the good times existed ‘
    I have to be honest and say I did have some fun on the way . Relationship crack addiction has such a downside though.I’m grateful even if I’m in my fifties that I’ve ‘woke up’. I can be real and have fun but also love take care of myself and have respect for self and others .
    Thanks for support along the way in the last couple of years, I’m smiling at myself and thinking hell I’m a slow learner -but better late than never ….. Your’e patience is much appreciated !

  47. dancingqueen says:

    Loved this! And wanted to start also by saying “thank you” to Runnergirl, Colororange and Ixnay for responding to my last reply; I could not get back on in time to respond but I really appreciated the support. And Jekyl/Hyde comment waas brilliant!
    My problem is two-fold; one unfortunately….I can’t forgive! I am just such a grudge holder; when my rose-colored glasses come off they come OFF!…and get replaced by night-vision glasses that pick and remember every crap thing that I did not see before up! lol.
    But seriously I am getting exhausted from all this dating-drama-about trying- to-avoid-dating -drama; just had a one-month scenario stop for all the right reasons-he did really just not do it for me, although I liked him as a person, neither of us created drama we both were respectful and wished each other well-but even though I should feel positive that I had a healthy awareness that this was not the right thing for me-before I would have been obsessing about how I *should* like him and listened to my freinds who told me that, at my age, I am lucky to meet someone nice-I still feel a bit…blah. I know that some of this has to do with having a hard time meeting guys my age that meet some of my standards that I am okay with keeping high; I am educated, I keep myself in shape, I am curious and interested in people, I have hobbies and interests that I focus on, I am a good person who is respectful….it just is so hard in your mid-forties to meet men who are single who meet these criteria without resorting to the internet or dealing with a *lot* of baggage……I only get asked out by young guys, or by guys my own age who often act like they are doing me a favor, ( the “I could date younger” scenario) or guys who don’t take care of themselves and just think that I am age-appropriate. I don’t want rose-colored glasses, but I don’t want these cynical night-vision glasses either and I really don’t want to date younger men; I just really don’t want a May-December Romance. I want to date with my Donna Karen bi-focals on thanks:)

  48. chloe says:

    @ Kmac. Well put. Does knowing ourself add up to happiness? Yes and no. I find it hard to not fit in and I always thought and still think that there is a prize for all this inner work and that it would be true love. Not so sure anymore. The more I know myself, the more I analyze the man’s inner state, not helpful, especially since I see too much, and men don’t want to look at what I see. Some days I say I would rather be married to anyone, and do this inner work within the marriage, but it just doesn’t work that way, and feels like I’m cheating myself. After all, aren’t I doing it to find a man? In a crazy way yes, but I don’t think it works anymore. So, does one find love at our age? Not sure anymore, I think if you over look things, then yes, but if you stick to high standards…..well, I have never dated a man that met my standards, and I’ve dated alot.

  49. princessdiamond123 says:


    I want to thank you so much for all of this thoughtful relationship insight and advice, I have pasted through lots of blogs, articles, etc., but I have never encountered a blog that is as thorough as this one. I too have experienced a fantasy relationship for the 1st time in my adult life and I thank GOD the heavenly father everyday for helping me to get through it-over it(I’m dealing with it still sometimes when I revisit the pain but I’m in NC mode again), he hasn’t changed as he is not friendship worthy so I don’t want to talk to him EVER.

    I just feel so deceived when I think about what happened between us. Because I felt that I really loved him, I overlooked a lot of things that I would not have ever put up with, I mean EVER put up with any guy EVER(he was the exception to my rules, a big no-no!!), I was really naive/caught off guard, I believed that he cared for me in the same way that I did for him, but as you can see based on this blog “what HUGE MISTAKE that was/is now.” Sometimes, it HURTS me badly because it’s hard for me to accept or believed that I was disillusioned by an AC & MM that was even five years younger than myself (I can’t believe he lied to me about even being Married in the 1st place, “why would a ‘decent’ person do that? (red flag! yeah, I know b/c he wasn’t a decent guy, rite? Ok, I got it! you are correct!” But I had already fallen in love b4 finding out the truth of him being attached I liked him b/c he was attractive, had a sexy masculine voice, made me laugh, understood me so well, oh and yeah, the good sex didn’t help me to think any CLEARER either as I can tell you that much). Sometimes, I would try to understand why would he lie to me?? when I asked him all the important QUESTIONS upfront. ex. Are you married? Are you gay, bisexual? have you been to jail?etc..(I know rite, girls I don’t play..I’m straight up&straightforward& he still lied, what an @$$hole!) Well, my answer is…”It’s because he knew that I wouldn’t even have given him the time or day if I knew for a FACT that his AC self was Married, c’mon Mom raised me better than that, rite?of course, in addition,I’ve raised myself better as well, sure I did!” I have Never EVER knowingly desired or sought after a Married MAN, *yuke* were my thoughts about that idea, he pursued me.

    I’m hurt because it feels that he WON, or got 1 up on me and all I’m left to do is just to move on and deal with the pain of deception. Recently, he contacted me, as he tries to bring up the past his ‘future faking’ us having a child together (I told him that the experience between he & I was just a huge fantasy we were not in reality at all, it is best for us just to remain in NC because sometimes I think he actually is caught up in a fantasyland and he wished that he could have father my child*shrugshoulders*I don’t know what else to think but that it just wasn’t meant to be. I’m Married (a year and 1/2 now to a good man that loves me and I him) and AC/he wants to know if I’ve had children yet, if I’m planning to have children now/when, if not, then what’s the holdup? Is my husband wanting kids or not or are there any fertility issues, etc… It’s just best not to speak with him b/c I get upset when he brings up the topic ‘children’. Also, you are correct when you say that it doesn’t mean that his wife is PRETTIER or SMARTER, she just puts up with his ‘@$$CLOWN3$$’ behaviors and let’s him get away with whatever he wants, so how is he ever gonna learn a d@mn thing on how to be honest with a woman? I thank GOD for your Honesty Natalie, U R da TRUTH!! *HUGS* & *SMILES*

  50. M x says:

    @Lessie “I often wonder if I did self sabotage myself in this way…perhaps I did.” Well yes sweetie I guess so… he was married. Getting involved with a MM is an act of self-sabotage before you even leave the gate… Isn’t it…?

    I too have read Thirst by Mary Oliver… “There are days, when the sun goes down, like a fist…” Like the day I realised that there was no way I could manage the fantasy and the exhausting future faking (on both sides), any longer. I had seen too much of the truth of the situation to continue.

    It was such a relief, and at the same time, unbelievably painful!! I was myself (am still?), an MEUW with a back catalogue of preposterous relationships with a string of EUM (surprise, surprise!), who each have their own complicated stories. The last one was definitely the most painful, because he did such a good job of creating the fantasy that he really was honest and trustworthy and “different to those other idiots you’ve been spending time with..” and of course, he was the WORST of the lot!

    Living away from the fantasy, letting go of the belief in love (the heady rush of ‘in love’ as distinct from the safe, nurturing feeling that real love provides), is a bit like managing an addiction. We relapse regularly. Like all addicts, in many ways we know that life is always going to feel little bit empty if we abandon our drug of choice. I think NML refers to the ‘comfortable uncomfortable place’. This site is an amazing gift to those who find it in their hour of need, but it is also a fantastic opportunity for continued growth and learning for those of us who have (mercifully) escaped from the grip of addiction, and walk a (slightly) saner path.

    @NML I really, REALLY hope you understand what an amazing thing you are providing here. Reading the posts of the women on here is one of the most affirming experiences that I have had in a long time. Love and all good things to everyone here xxx

    • Lessie says:

      Mx and all the lovely ladies here,

      Oh yes, so very true! I loved what you wrote here about the feeling of addiction because that is EXACTLY what it feels like: an addiction to the heightened emotions and senses of being “in love”…in other words, all that “drama rama” as I like to say: “What is he/she thinking, will he/she call me, will he/she leave the other for me”…

      It’s utterly exhausting and draining and yet, at the same time, it also takes us “away” from our own problems and, too, our hum drum every day kind of life existence…it often feels like being in a movie (“The English Patient”, “The End of the Affair”) only doesn’t often have the “movie ending”…I am thinking of this great bit from the Elizabeth Gilbert book, “Eat, Pray, Love”:

      “Addiction is the hallmark of every infatuation-based love story. It all begins when the object of your adoration bestows upon you a heady, hallucinogenic dose of something you never even dared to admit that you wanted—an emotional speedball, perhaps, of thunderous love and roiling excitement. Soon you start craving that intense attention, with the hungry obsession of any junkie. When the drug is withheld, you promptly turn sick, crazy and depleted (not to mention resentful of the dealer who encouraged this addiction in the first place but who now refuses to pony up the good stuff anymore)…

      So, that’s it, you have now reached infatuation’s final destination – the complete and merciless devaluation of self”…

      When I first read this, I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s how I feel”…thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, and thank you, most of all, NML for providing such an enlightening and insightful place for those of us who want understanding of ourselves in the hopes of being able to move forward with our life (and our hearts)

      My very best thoughts to everyone here :)

  51. Growing pains says:

    Hi, first of all I want to say how much this site has helped me keep my sanity, and define the growth I need to do.
    I had been married for 20 years and with my ex-husband for 24 and had 4 children. I wasnt happy for most of the marriage, but he was basically a good man. Eventually I left after years of being left on my own with the children whilst he was working all the hours god sends, and when my boys began to hit their teenage years, was completely unsupportiveand actually passively condoned their disrespectful behaviour to me, which made me realise that he had no respect for me and I moved out with my 3 younger children into private rented.
    I didnt start seeing people until he was with somebody, 4 months later, and this was a relief because he now left me alone and stopped begging me to come back.
    I went on dating sites and had a couple of flings and did some stupid stuff. All this time there was a man at work who actively pursued me, he was married and there was no way I would consider going there, but I enjoyed the attention and there was ‘chemistry’. My mother was a single parent and began an affair with a married man when I was 6 and she still sees him now (Im 46) occasionally. So I was NEVER going down that route.
    However we became friends and his marriage sounded very similar to mine, his wife was doing and saying a lot of the things I had said. I knew him for 2 years, and the 6 months before we got together, I think I was grieving my marriage, and I didnt know who I was anymore, my identity had changed. I thought I was confident, but in reality I was in a very weird place. this was 18 month after I had left home. For some reason…I gave in to this guy and began an affair, I was absolutely smitten. I felt he understood me, that we were friends, I worked with him and thought I knew him, I loved the way he was at work with his staff and people and I was attracted to his intelligence. I thought I had a good measure of he was when I decided to get involved, although he had actually been grooming me for quite a while. He turned out to be scenario 3. It started as an affair, then his wife gradually extricated him from the house and he was supposed to be living in their caravan. In reality, he was staying some nights with me, some at the van, and always slept at the family home at weekends when he was seeing his girls….DOH!!! He very quickly…

  52. Lessie says:

    Hi Natasha,

    I really like what you wrote here:

    “It makes me so sad that I see so many women doing what I did, i.e. mourning someone that doesn’t actually exist and blaming themselves for something going bust when the guy had no intention of it going anywhere to begin with. We all deserve so much better!”

    SO very true, for me at least…as I see this with myself and my most recent relationship with a separated EUM that ended recently. I can’t even begin to tell you how much of this (if not all of it) I internalized to myself, thinking, “It’s because I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, good enough” when the truth was, as one of my very dear friends said to me, “It’s not that YOU weren’t enough for him, HE wasn’t enough for YOU”…

    I currently have a girlfriend who is in a similar situation herself and it makes me feel concerned and worried for her (she knows this too)…I think so many of us do this, we always think that how “they” behave is a direct result of us instead of realizing that they were probably always going to do this anyway…that in itself can be a tough thing to accept because I think as women in general, it just seems to be SO ingrained in us to be caring and empathetic to others (for the most part, unless perhaps you are Lady MacBeth or something!)…

    What I have now realized though is that I must first be good TO me and FOR me before I can even hope to be that and share that with another. And how I wish I had learned this years ago, but, as they say, better late than never, I guess!

    This past year has been just one big *sigh* of epiphanies for me.

    My best to everyone :)

  53. Lessie says:


    Wow, everything you wrote here completely resonates with me:

    “When I was pulling myself to pieces I trying to force some answers out of him in the hope that he might just say-it’s not progressing because of, blah blah blah.I didn’t believe I was unlovable because of who I am.I can’t change that anyway.

    I was suspended in disbelief when I had no money for gas ,couldn’t put food on the table,going to work with holes in my shoes , in a trance, developing an under active thyroid gland,being on the sick. I couldn’t believe how much this effected me. I was dealing with the fall out.I have had to rebuild my life.I was distracted…

    I do find it hard to believe that sometimes people appear to have no conscience,but they do.It was clear for a long time I was with someone who was talking the talk but not walking the walk.

    I am also a very factual person.I wouldn’t say I love you and bullshit someone,so when I come up against someone who is full of it, I struggle”

    This describes perfectly how I have felt (and still now, even feel)…when my separated EU MM cried in front of me and said, “I can’t cry like this in front of my wife” I thought, “He really does care about me” SO desperate was I for some form of…not just emotional validation but some EMPATHY from this man who claimed to love and desire me like no other

    I have been sick off and on for the past several months, one antibiotic after another, my self esteem shredded, it was the absolute worst. And the thought of HIM going back to Bermuda, to his happy life of “Barbecues, boats and booze” made me feel like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”…head spinning, pea soup vomiting all over…it’s not fair!

    But then, I realized that, “What is fair”…the hardest part (for me) has been taking MY share of the responsibility for what occurred and realizing that, just as NML said in another of her brilliant articles, “Jedi Mind Tricks”…we ourselves don’t have that much power and influence over what another person does…when I started to “get” that, then and only then, was I able to start the arduous recovery process (and it is still on going even now, some days are definitely better than others).

    My best thoughts to you :)

  54. Lessie says:

    Sunflower, SM, Claire and Everyone,

    Thank you so very much for your kind words and thoughts…I so much appreciate all that you have shared and, as always, find the sentiments resonating very much with me and my emotions as of late.

    Claire: I had to smile when I read your words about wanting to “Smash in his skull like a pumpkin”…I remember throwing my (rather substantial) keys at my EU guy during our break up and him sitting there, looked somewhat stunned saying, “No one has ever behaved that way with me before” and me suddenly feeling very much on the verge of a full out Courtney Love type meltdown…oh dear, not my best moment :)

    Sunflower: my very best thoughts to you…please remember that you are not alone, just read the words of the other lovely ladies here and you’ll see so many parallels it’s almost eerie at times…they are so very similar!

    SM: yes, I guess this is what I have done in the past: to quote from Nirvana, “I’ll take all the blame, aqua sea foam shame”…that dynamic works well until one day, it suddenly doesn’t anymore and you start to realize: “Umm hey, there are TWO people in this relationship”…

    My very best positive vibes to all of you :)

  55. chloe says:

    @ Mango

    Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I don’t want to think it’s over either, I don’t really think this and I couldn’t imagine jumping into something new right now, even though I have too much time on my hands. I am finding NC hard becasue of this though. I really miss him and I miss his daughter. I’ll hang in there for now. Thanks:)

  56. Em says:

    Hey all of you;

    here´s a nice musical peptalk to face the weekend, a wonderful moving-on song by the coolest women on Planet Earth; Katzenjammer:

    lyrics here:

    • Princessdiamond123 says:

      @ Em:

      Nice’s always a good feeling to have a fresh start & ‘Dance when I walk away’ and to not repeatedly go viewing the mess/the ‘crime scene’ (as NML says)over and over again, that simple move in it’s entirety is so powerful as it takes away a lot of PAIN!!

      • Em says:

        It sure is. It took me some time to get here, but I know I wouldn´t have been without the lessons it has taught me :)

  57. Princessdiamond123 says:


    I do agree with your response to Natasha…“It’s not that YOU weren’t enough for him, HE wasn’t enough for YOU”…

    I also believe that some things “Just are not meant to be” and that it will be okay as soon as we embrace it and accept it…’Love’ can cause a person to become lost with reality,dreams&fantasy can as well..we are human and we have so many encounters in life that one can become overwhelmed and caught off guard (it has happen to a lot of good people-as the world turns) it can be difficult to see the truth in people you always have to match words with action. It’s so RISKY when dating and trying to get to know a person sometimes you want to believe that a guy is good/can be good to you and go with that(but as you say “he may not be good enough for you”), you get tired of liars, you’re like, “can people just tell the truth at all anymore, or what?”
    So (not to be boring&put an end to the ‘Love’ phenomena,addiction or theme, but) I think it is best to take our power back & exercise self control(to resort back to tradition) and just to do not sleep with a guy until you are sure he wants you, has proven that he is with you & not going anywhere b/c he is actually with you (not leaving in an out,etc.) or until after you walk down the isle for marriage maybe that will put an end to this ‘open player’s field’ for anyone to get hurt/abused/mislead/sabotaged’ and chances of ending up so heartbroken especially by those men claiming to be ‘single&free’ when they are attached and using single women that they call ‘desperate’ as their ‘claim to fame&fortune’ unbelievable b/c “why are MM dating-they should go to jail for that-rite?” “Keep legs closed and don’t ever help them, well, after you are MARRIED then it is OK to do.”

  58. Susan says:

    A guy I had known as a friend for five and a half years, finally met me again at the start of the year .. for 15 minutes. We were closish friends but nothing more than that. Four months ago, he tells me that we have a connection, the 15 minutes made him revaluate his 2 year relationship (oh yes .. he had a girlfriend for the last 2 years) and despite my initial statement that we would therefore remain as friends, he bombarded me with text messages, was making plans for holidays and Christmas with the proviso that after we slept together, he would then ‘decide what to do with the girlfriend’.

    3 months of bullshit followed (I only remained in contact as I was incredulous that someone I had previously respected would treat me like this) – and there were more promises (unkept) and plans for the future (unrealised). When he started to talk about November and 2012, I decided to finally confront him in person about his blatant lying (he had gone, quite appropriately on a holiday with his girlfriend but had lied to me about it). Two days after his holiday, he arranged to meet me in his city – in his hotel room. I booked my own and had a very awkward evening culminating in telling him to stay the hell out of my life – and after it became very clear that he was not going to get a booty call, he did admit to the lies and of course, the fact that he was “still in love with his girlfriend and wanted to plan his future with her”. He also said that he could never cheat on her (so meeting me in his hotel was something all men do).

    He asked that we remain as friends – no friend of mine has treated me as he has so though I will eventually forgive and move on, it is hard for me to forget.

  59. Stepahnie says:

    This definitely relates to me! A couple of months ago I decided to give online dating a try. At 37 I was bored of being single for a year so I thought why not? After a week of registering I was matched with what seemed like the perfect guy, he was 35 good looking, had a good job (banker in the City), loved his two kids and family, we had the same interests blah, blah, blah.After a brief communication via the dating site he asked me out on a date, I couldn’t believe my luck and accepted immediately. The date went well and we seemed to connect, we spoke about our past and what we both wanted for the future, he wanted marriage and possibly one more child, same as me, however I failed to recognise some of the many red flags such as at 35 he told me he had met and dated a lot of suitable women but it hadn’t suited his lifestyle to settle down at the time, he didn’t like women that brought drama and that no woman he had met had ever met his two children.
    However, I over looked this and preceded to the 2nd date where he totally swept me off my feet by taking me out for a nice meal and stopping off at a few trendy bars, I was smitten. He took me back to his apartment, I was impressed although he had the ultimate batchelor pad I conjured up in my head that I would be the woman to make him realise that living the batchelor life was boring and he should be with me.We kept in touch via text and he would call me every day to see how I was, then he invited me stay over and cooked me dinner, I was impressed again, so I agreed. We had a lovely evening he told me how beautiful I was, we watched dvds, laughed and joked, I slept with him and everything seemed perfect. Although it seemed perfect there was a small niggling thought in the back of my mind saying this is all too good to be true but when I told my girlfriends they said just enjoy and don’t be paranoid about it.I called him a couple of days later to ask if we could meet up again and spend the evening and he kind of blew me off by saying he was going out with the boys, although it seemed a little weird I said no problem, a few days went by no contact from him so I texted and said what’s happening when we gonna meet up again he said I could come over one day next week, so I patiently waited carried on with my normal stuff we met up again but something wasn’t right he was…

  60. Misty says:

    I just ended a 2.5 year internet relationship (emotional affair) with someone in another country. After founding this website I feel I did the right thing with NO COMMUNICATION. He met someone 3 months ago I dropped out of sight he kept emailing me giving me updates so I had to block him. Although very painful a hard lesson learned for me but finding all these incredible women with all of these posts brought a smile to my face that has not been there in quite a while. This guy urged me after time goes by we can still be friends..under his terms? i think NOT!!!!!!!!!!!

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!