Most people can be on their A game during the honeymoon phase or when they want something but the question of whether they've changed or are changing is answered in the way in which they deal with things that have typically challenged them and your relationship.

Over the years of writing BR, I’ve covered the issue of what to consider when someone is saying that they’ve changed and like all subjects I cover, I’m always looking for new ways to bring clarity to the situations and decisions that perplex us. Deciding to re-engage requires us to ‘take a punt’ because regardless of what is said right now, the truth of change is really only going to show up in the future where you get to see whether what is said and done now continues to consistently show up moving forward.

It’s not about expecting a person to never put a foot wrong ever again – they can’t promise to never hurt or disappoint you and you can’t expect that – but it is about growth.

How do you know if someone has changed? It’s really simple – you get a true sense of whether someone has changed when they’re faced with the typical situations and issues that have created the friction in the areas where the growth needs to come from.

For example, if the primary issue was how conflict situations were handled, you will see whether they’ve really changed when faced with the next and subsequent conflicts. If it was about being unable to commit, you’ll see whether commitment shows up in them following through and being able to deal with small, medium and large decisions. You’ll see if they’ve changed the next time things don’t go their way.

It’s very easy to claim change on day 0 but people who haven’t changed but claimed that they have or would, tend to either conveniently forget to talk about it and follow up with the actions (and you feel uncomfortable bringing it up for fear of looking like you’re on their case) or… they just talk about it and think that words are enough.

If someone has changed, their habits have changed which means that if they really have changed, they will not respond to previous cues (a signal that’s responded to in a particular way) and triggers (an event or thing that causes something to happen while also prompting a response) in the same way.

This is why it’s pivotal to be aware of what the issues were so that you are cognizant of what the typical cues and triggers are that prompt the responses which they’re now saying have changed.

Life will still keep chugging on and much as you might try to never put a foot wrong or attempt to prevent life’s inevitable stresses from happening, or even try to shelter each of you from those typical cues and triggers that have brought out the problematic responses, all you basically trying to be a Transformer and attempting to control the uncontrollable is going to do is bring you pain and a whole lotta bullshit.

If someone has changed, it’s not that those cues and triggers have disappeared – it’s that they’ve learned to respond differently.

Each time I’ve faced conflict, I’ve learned new things and over time I’ve got better at it, which is great because my old response was to storm off/threaten it which my now husband made clear after I tried to pull it a couple of times over disagreements, that it wasn’t cool. I was so mortified over my actions that I sent a rare email (we don’t send many) promising it wouldn’t happen again. I stuck to my word.  Incidentally, you don’t learn how to deal with conflict by avoiding it…

Most people can be on their A game during the honeymoon phase or when they want something but the question of whether they’ve changed or are changing is answered in the way in which they deal with things that have typically challenged them and your relationship.

  • Do they stick or do they fold?
  • Does an issue bring you together or divide you?
  • Do they reach for an external solution so that they can avoid their thoughts, feelings and problems or are they facing these?
  • Do they try to open up where they’ve typically clammed up?
  • Do they push you away or do they let you in and keep letting you in?
  • Do they flip-flap or do they follow through?
  • Do they leave you guessing or do they communicate?
  • Do they make excuses or take responsibility?
  • Do they keep their options open or do they commit?
  • Do they tell you what you want to hear still or are they biting the bullet and being direct?
  • Do they turn on you when you say/show NO or do they respect you?
  • Does sh*t hit the fan when things don’t go their way or are they learning to cope with disappointment better?
  • Do they attack/stonewall/bail when faced with conflict or do they engage respectfully?
  • Do they have a sense of entitlement or do they empathise and respect?

Whatever it is, look for genuine growth (don’t make it up). If they’re still being, doing, and saying things how they used to then their habits are still the same. Anyone can pitch you something but they still have to deliver.

Your thoughts?

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188 Responses to If someone has truly changed, there’s growth and a change in their habits

  1. Luna S says:

    This is well written. I am on the other side of this now, as the person who has changed and hoping to get a chance to show my ex. I dont know if that will ever happen, but whoever is in my future, is better off for this time of discovery that I have had to endure.

    • Sandra says:

      I am 51 years old and tomorrow I am going to the Doctor for anti-depressants, it has been 3 months since I broke up with a man I spent 5 years in a horrific off and on relationship, and in that time I felt crazy. He would stand me up, call me names, I was accused of not putting him first, I would constantly dump him then take him back (my daughter said she had never hated anybody as much in her life and this is a girl who is gentle and giving) he called my children spawn and always asked why their dad couldn’t take them, I was married to their dad for 22 years and we have maintained an amicable divorce and friendliness.
      I was not allowed to join the Social Club at work, I was told not to see my brother, as my brother didn’t like him..my brother said he was a user.
      When we first met I would only see him once or twice a week as he lived a couple of hours away, little did I know he was still seeing his ex at the same time, she lived in the same town he did, well we both found out about each other, the worst thing was he ran away and left us to deal with it ourselves, he went back to her and I waited while he decided whether it would work. Yes I know what you are thinking, what a bloody idiot.
      We argued all the time about the boundaries he overstepped and I went through hell trying to get through to him.
      He would say he had changed and I would think okay, cool, lets carry on. But you guessed it a week later he would be doing the exact same things we had argued about, standing me up, not letting me know if he was going to be late, he preferred to be with his mates and was happy about me staying in the background as I am a friendly person and I get on well with people, he didn’t like that.
      I went from being this quite strong independant woman to a doormat. There are too many things wrong that I could go on @ all day. So to cut to the chase I finally decided enough was enough after we had some really bad arguments and he offered me 3 days a week to be able to spend time with him, take it or leave it, so I left it.
      The trouble is I try to do the no contact and have managed to get to 4 weeks but then felt so down that I contacted him, now this is a guy who used to get right up close and stand on my toes with his steel cap boots on, he broke my possessions, never left his phone around, has locked me out of his vehicle because I was opening the door too much.
      Who I spent weekends working for doing firewood after working all week, who I would run around after like a mad person while he relaxed on the chair playing play station.
      I have decided to see a therapist to help me move on, I mean this guy is hated by my family and yet I still can’t let go. He would say he should marry me but of course that was never going to happen. He will never ever change…he says all his ex’s were bitches and it was never his fault.
      I have decided to just go it alone, I don’t know if I can ever ever be in another relationship.

      • Sandra says:

        Yesterday I got a text telling me quote “jst leting u no that I have meet sum 1. jst so u no” had a wedding to go to that afternoon and seeing happy couples was really hard. Have absolutley cried my heart out today..I know he won’t ever change and the new lady is in for a shock.

        • Wiser says:

          Sandra, It may not seem like it now but in my opinion, having this truly APPALLING sleaze bag find someone new is the absolute best thing that will ever happen to you. From your description, he sounds almost subhuman – why would you want to spend MORE time with this abusive, thoroughly unpleasant specimen?? You do not NEED this kind of creep in your life. Your daughter certainly doesn’t.

          Please, please commit yourself to therapy to find out why in the world you would think having a relationship with a lowlife like this, who everyone hates (with good reason, apparently!) is something you want. Better to be completely alone the rest of your life than with someone like this! But it doesn’t have to be that bleak – find the strength to be alone for awhile and start believing that you deserve better, that you deserve real love and caring, because you do!

          • Sandra says:

            Thank you for you support Wiser, yes he is an appalling person, as soon as I read what I had put it all became real to me, what I have put myself through, everytime I went crazy at him he would make me feel guilty and say what on earth had he done to make me like that, I in the end became the abuser..I have spent the last 10 years after my marriage ended pulling myself up and just getting on with things but I feel I have hit the wall with this one, I don’t seem to have the strength anymore to carry on but of course I have to, my kids depend on me, so I finally admitted to my mum that I need help with this.
            I think the worst feeling is I don’t understand why I just kept on letting him in again, I used to read articles and realised he hit all the red flags but I couldn’t seem to accept that I could be with somebody like that, I heard the stories about his ex’s but thought that would never be me. I would break it off and he would just be constantly texting me until I gave in, he even told me to harden up lol as my mum and friends said I am a nice person who sees the best in people. One of his friends actually told him not to go out with me when we first met as I was too nice, apparently they all knew what he was like.
            But after finding this site I realise I do deserve better and it’s time for myself and my family.
            She is welcome to him.

            • Fifi says:

              Sandra
              I’m thinking these relationship s are like putting on weight, or the frog in the gradually heated water – you don’t really notice anything is wrong until the damage is nearly done. But it is reversible – although like bad habits they take time to shake, but you’ll get there. I hope you’ve blocked him from text etc, you don’t need his stupid updates.

              • Sandra says:

                Hi Fiji,
                No I can’t block him as my service provider doesn’t allow that, but I have decided to change my number anyway,not that I think he will contact me as he gets caught up in new relationhips and believes that they will be the one…thats what happened with me, plus he hates the way I can read him and have no problem in letting him know I can, but I have managed to get into counselling through my doctor to try and understand a few things, feeling alot more positive today.

  2. lawrence says:

    As someone who has wanted to change certain behaviors and attitudes – and I have claimed that I’ve succeeded to one degree or another – I’ve often been greeted with skepticism from both friends and family and in online discussion groups. The usual response is: “Leopards don’t change their spots.” I’ve seen people say something similar here on more than a few occasions.

    My experience is that even when I knew I wanted to change – that I needed to change in order to be the person I want to be and to have the life I want – the process was far more difficult than I’d expected. I sometimes strongly believed I had changed *until* I encountered the “typical cues and triggers,” as you say. And you have it spot-on when you write “You’ll see if they’ve changed the next time things don’t go their way”!

    It’s so easy to believe you’ve changed when you’re calm and in a good mood and everything is going your way. Heck, I didn’t even know I had a jealous streak or something of a temper *until* until I first fell in love! Something about that particular experience brought out the worst in me, it seemed.

    It’s been ten years since I first decided to keep my cool during conflicts and be a calmer, stronger person under the onslaught of insecure emotions (and eventually to eliminate or greatly reduce those insecurities). What have I achieved in those ten years? It’s hard to be objective about oneself, but I do take satisfaction in hearing from my ex-wife and children and other family members that while I’m far from perfect, I have become a better person in many ways. And when button-pushing situations arise in my current relationship, I do see myself doing better.

    So I do believe change is possible (not one’s basic personality, of course, but in ways that matter). But considering the difficulty and work and time involved in achieving it, I think one is justified in being at least initially skeptical about such claims.

    Lawrence

    • Learner says:

      Lawrence,
      Yes, I agree with you – people CAN change. They may not change their spots, but they can blur them a little bit, or grow new ones. I am so happy to hear that you have worked on grappling with your insecurities, and that significant people in your life have noticed. Kudos to you!

    • Little Star says:

      Lawrence you are spot on by saying: “I sometimes strongly believed I had changed *until* I encountered the “typical cues and triggers.” I changed with my friends and colleagues, but with AC – still the same. I have this bad habit, when they provoked/upset me, I kicked them out from my apartment:( I think I need to enroll myself to Anger Management classes!

    • stacey allam says:

      an incredibly honest post lawrence while i dont believe that people can chane one can learn from the mistakes that othegrs have made to you and you copying those mistakes into other relationships because its all that youve ever known kudos to you from one unintentional ass clown to another.

    • Kit-Kat says:

      Lawrence. I commend you for being honest & open. I believe you can change your behavior with will,determination & commitment to it. The first most important step is admitting that one needs to change & acknowledging your shortcomings. I read a book about commitmentphobics & the author(a commitmentphobic) was able to overcome it but as he admitted it was not easy or quick. It seems in todays world we want the easy & quick fix. I read this quote and it rings so true for me at this time in my life: ““I no longer believed in the idea of soul mates, or love at first sight. But I was beginning to believe that a very few times in your life, if you were lucky, you might meet someone who was exactly right for you. Not because he was perfect, or because you were, but because your combined flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge together.”
      ? Lisa Kleypas, Blue-Eyed Devil

  3. 2fearce says:

    I want to believe the best in people. So I often have to remind myself that few ppl will do the work to change. I will give you the chance to show me…. but I don’t assume that just because you came back you get it or want to proactively do anything to change.

    And oh yeah, extended probation period!
    (Yup you’ll be getting the sideeye for a minute)

  4. I used to be skeptical that people could change, REALLY change. To an extent, I still am (which comes from writing an advice column, probably!) but not as resolutely, because I’ve known people with quite serious habits / destructive behaviors suddenly up and change. Not overnight, and there was a one-step-forward-two-steps-back thing going on at times but it was still a dogged effort, the regressions recorded on calendars and a vow to keep on going reiterated.
    Which resulted in very significant change over, say 3 years.
    But, I agree with your points above, and to add some of my own about people with deeply ingrained habits such as being cheaters or substance abusers or chronic liars, for instance:

    A) the person has to be completely sick to death of their own behaviour and habits fucking up their life and relationships – a rock bottom, of sorts – and

    B) the vow to change may come when they are faced with really losing something they deem precious,

    C) it has to come completely from them and not from anyone else and

    D) it may take a long time to set new behaviors and have those behaviors become the norm.

    The hard part is for the person on the fringes who has to decide whether it’s worth it to keep the faith or move on.

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Rachel@RR. I agree with everything you said. Being disgusted with one’s own behavior certainly is a catalyst for change. But even more than that is the DEEP, DEEP unswerving desire to make the changes. I think it all begins with desire, because we can be fed up with ourselves and yet still be too damned LAZY AND LACKING TENACITY to do the work. And, yes, it is just as hard for the involved party, significant other, etc. to make the decision on whether they want to stay or go.

      • Thanks Tinkerbell. I agree about the deep unswerving desire, for sure. But you can have that and still come unstuck when it comes to the habit-breaking thing. In the case of a heavy drinker or drug user for instance, there may be regressions but they may lessen over time because the person really is committed to changing, but it takes time to break the habit properly and completely.
        I think for the SO on the fringes it’s about setting a deadline and if you’re not seeing real change by that date, and improvements in situations where they would’ve regressed before, you move on.

  5. Peter says:

    Dear Natalie,
    Where I often admire your gifted writing, cutting through the surrounding mist, right to the heart of the matter, I must object to your last story.
    Unfortunately you propel the idea that the change in one of the (ex-) partners can be assessed by the other half of the couple, by asking and trying to answer/assess the list of questions you have listed in the last part of your writing.
    I do not agree with that. Although your questions and assessments seem reasonable enough, they cannot and should not be answered by the person that is asking herself/himself whether or not to re-engage, and seeks clarity in this respect.
    The kind of questions you list, and their profoundness, are also badly served by the example you gave, about the fights/disagreements you had with your boyfriend/man – you seemed to be able, even then, to reflect on your actions in such a way that you brought yourself to a corrective action, and kept to it. While this seems to illustrate your point, the situation was ofcourse much less derailed than the situations you allude to by the list of questions you put at the end of your article – there simply is no comparison.
    Even more important is your ommission of mentioning that people, especially people that are intimate, can get into specific reaction-patterns that can be quite damaging to both, and for which both parties need to change – not only one single party, but both. A lot of couples recognize this type of behavior, see how damaging it is for their relation, but still are not capable of change — unaided that is. Hence the rather big proliferation of couples-counseling, or marriage-therapies, or whatever you want to call it – yes, work should be done, but often from two sides. Only then their is a fair chance that things may work out again, and it can be a long road, and it can become a desillusion, still – as I have personally witnessed, and grieved.
    I would like you to consider why change and growth should come from one party only, to be assessed and evaluated by the other party ? Perhaps the individual craving for the change of the other person should consider his or her growth first, or, preferably, together they should consider each-others individual growth, and if there are still reasons to re-engage – or not. Not re-engaging can be an act of love as well, however badly it hurts.
    So, in short, why is this not a story about two people, interacting, growing, and taking responsibility, but just a story of one party measuring-up the growth of the other party involved ?

    • Grizelda says:

      Peter,

      It’s interesting you ask, if I’m understanding you correctly, ‘why is this all about one person’s behaviour when in fact it’s often the interaction between two people’s behaviours that causes damage?’.

      What I think we’re getting at here, with Natalie’s post, is the concept of what happens after an individual has been emotionally hurt. I don’t know whether you’re actually familiar with the concept of emotional hurt or what it really feels like to experience. If not, I can assure you it’s not like having a tooth pulled or losing a prize possession in a burglary, or falling down some stairs and getting some scrapes and bruises. In those situations, yes, you’d probably need to reassess what you’re doing about your oral hygiene habits, your home security, or your cheap plastic 4-inch spike heel shoes, before you can think about redistributing the blame to dentists, burglars, and clubs that have steep rickety dark staircases.

      No. What it’s like is this. It’s like having slow-motion, three-month-long open heart surgery performed on you without anasthetics or analgesics. Fully awake, without any painkillers, sedatives or sterilised instruments. All performed by someone who swore up and down they loved you more than anything else in the world — and sometimes still telling you these things while actually knifing you open.

      We’ve come away from our experiences not just with an itchy scar, a bit of soreness, and a sense that we must somehow ‘learn’ from it. The immediate aftermath holds days, weeks, or even months of nightmarish memories, an overwhelming sense of confusion and horror at the situation being so out of control, desperate depression, a distinct decline in health, and in many cases full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder. The urge to re-engage with the person who has caused the hurt, to try to get them to somehow ‘undo’ all the damage, make all the pain go away, make it up to us, and start fresh again, is pretty irresistable. However, it invariably and without exception does nothing but make the pain worse, more intense, and longer. Personally I feel it’s like trying to talk a box of grenades without pins in them into not blowing up in your face. Go right ahead if you want to, but um getting as far away from that box of grenades is probably the better option.

      However. If someone is dead-eye determined to have anything to do with this individual again, this is where the idea that ‘they’ve changed’ comes in. We either like to think they’ve changed because of deep-seated incredulity and denial that anyone could behave so badly towards us, or because they’ve said they’ve changed. Yeah, said they’ve changed, and still being emotional mincemeat, we dearly want to believe them.

      So, assessment time. Presuming we’re not talking one-off mess-ups but a whole pattern of nasty behaviour, if they’ve really changed their nasty behavioural patterns permanently and forever, are they even worth it after all that’s happened? Are they just that special? Do people who’ve really changed come running to you to tell you they’ve changed? Do they make a big song and dance about it? Do they have a speech prepared for you which details all the ways in which they’re matured, with all the latest supporting evidence in footnoted asides? Do they want something from you in exchange for their big-boy changes (sex, money, ego pump, whatever), all the time ‘reassuring’ you that this time they really, really, really, really, really….

      Imma leave that there.

      • Tabitha says:

        Grizelda you are amazing.

      • Tanzanite says:

        Grizelda

        Brilliant !

      • Sm says:

        Demke thanks for sharing that, I think what you’ve written is very important. That’s one of the major things I’ve learned about myself, when a situation causes instant anger in me, I wait a few hours or maybe over nite before addressing it to give myself time to calm down and think clearly before addressing it. Another thing I’ve learned is that my own or another persons perception of realty may not be true. So if I think I may have judged a situation incorrectly in my own mind, I wait to see if the same situation happens again before taking action on it.

      • Sm says:

        Griz great analogy!

      • Tinkerbell says:

        Hi Tired.

        I’ve seen from your posts that you are doing well. I’m very glad to know you’ve improved in your English class and your writing is better than it was when you first came to BR. BUT, I also have noticed that you sometimes post about your friends problems. Do you think you are better off than they are? Why don’t you tell them about BR and maybe they would post for themselves? My point is that I really think you should KEEP THE FOCUS ON YOU, because you are not out of the woods yet. You’re still talking about him indirectly and it may be a little early for you to be doing that. Maybe a year or two from now when you are really more detached from him and his life, but not yet because you have only NC’d him a few monthsago. It seems that you are still very much aware of him and watching from afar. Old habits can be tough to break. You have shown that you have the ability to change, if you want to. Keep doing YOUR OWN work. It’s great to feel compassion for your friends, but they have to do their own work and it’s not your job to tell them what to do to make it easier. Unfortunately, we all have to learn the tough lessons for ourselves. When are you going to get another dog? That’s something for you to do for YOU.

      • BethD says:

        Fantastic post! You hit the nail on the head!

    • Einstien says:

      I agree with Grizelda. This site isn’t devoted to garden variety relationship issues. It is about dealing with the trauma of being involved with someone who is/was emotional abusive. People who are not the least bit interested in their partner’s needs, wants, desires, well being. People that don’t have a low that is too-low. They’d have my sympathies for how messed up they are, but I save that for their victims.

      You’ve got to care enough about someone or something else to change, and Nat reminds us that this is NEVER going to happen.

      • Peter says:

        Dear ladies @ BR,
        As some of you reacted to my post I guess your reactions deserve some answers. Please allow me the following notes:
        @ Einstien: I do not think this site is devoted to dealing with the trauma of being involved with someone who was/is emotionally abusive, only. One of the core issues related to in most all stories that populate these BR-posts is the clash of, or contrary, lack of, emotions, and emotional availibility, between partners. I would go as far as stating that the EUM and EUW are concepts that Natalie has by now deeply engraved in our way of looking at the other, and, in looking at ourselves. Your claim that BR is not for the “garden variety of relationship issues” is rather condescending: what do you know of other peoples pain, how this was inflicted upon them, and how they try to grow and conquer such pain ? Stamping this with ‘garden variety’ seems out of order.
        Also, read a bit further, and you may read that some people *do* think that people can change, albeit very slowly, and hesitantly, but they do think and experience this is indeed possible. I would take those signs of hope over anything else.
        Also, nowhere in the original text Natalie wrote she states or reminds us that such change is ‘NEVER’ going to happen. I ask you to point us to that paragraph – it is not there.
        @ Grizelda: as a 59-year old man, with a son, and having had a relation of 17 years with a (still) lovely lady, I do know a bit about being emotionally hurt – I have had my share. Perhaps I am not as versed as you in describing the hurt in a very graphic manner, and honestly, I do not wish to. However, I do see your comments taking a strange twist (in your reaction on EllyB), where all of a sudden the focus is put on persons with a ‘personality disorder’, lacking any and all empathic capacities. Which, according to your own words, … in a abstract nutshell, is the problem.” I wholeheartedly disagree with that stance, and point you to my previous comments.
        @ 2fearce: please re-read Natalie’s text closely, and please see how the questions are formulated. These are formulated not by the person claiming he or she has changed, but they are formulated from the perpsective of the person seeking clarity whether or not to re-engage with this ‘changed’ person.
        It is very simple: an assessment can only be made over time, and actions always speak louder than words – this is what I read, and this is where Natalie warns us for. And yes, that is about two people, by definition – and such possible re-engaging can go right, or it can go wrong.
        And, for what it is worth, I am working on myself, for many years now, following intensive therapy – individually. I was merely hinting on a possible re-engaging of (ex-) partners – this will need a change on *both* sides, to have even the slightest likelyhood of succeeding.

        In general, if there has been a prolonged pattern of abuse, physically, emotionally, or both, (ex-) partners should seperate – bar none.
        In all other cases we should practise hope and foregiveness – often there is still a lot to gain, also in seemingly very difficult situations. Condition for such positive development is that *both* sides recognize and embrace their responsibilities, and act accordingly.
        Peter.

        • simple pleasures says:

          Peter, you’ve made me do a lot of homework today! I have read your posts and Grizeldas responseover and over. I think Grizelda really got what Nat was driving at, but let’s review for you.
          You have made a lot of observations about various posters but this is what you have shared with us, you are 59, have a son, and have been in a relationship with a (still) lovely lady for 17 years. But
          you landed on BR for some soul searching reason.
          So let’s pose these questions of the post again to YOU and 17
          year still lovely lady.
          Do the two of you stick or fold?
          Does an issue bring you together or divide you?
          Do you or lady reach for external solutions to avoid your thoughts, feelings, problems..
          Do you or 17 year lady open or clam up?
          Do you or 17 year lady push
          or pull away?
          Do you or 17 year lady flipflop or follow through?
          Do you leave guessing or do you communicate?
          Do you make excuses or take responsibility?
          Do you keep options open or do you commit?
          Questions only you 2 in a relationship can address.
          But if something is wrong, if you or she suffer emotional hurt,if at 59 the 2 of you don’t want to be together until death you depart and face the adversity and demise that aging will present to you, then I suspect neither you, or 17 year lovely lady want to change your ways to be in a committed relationship for the longer haul.

          • Suki says:

            I see both points of view – Peter and Grizelda’s.

            I think viz Peter that part of the question is what is each individual’s responsibility. I know that you (we) didnt do anything to have people treat us badly. You didnt make them do it. But on staying or going back, or not calling them on it, or not removing yourself, you put yourself back in a situation where you were aware of the dynamics. You didnt cause the dynamics, but by staying you let the dynamics dance around on your (my) poor pointy head.
            So I think you’re both right – Grizelda might want to see this post as being about those truly one-sided abusive relationships, but it can equally apply to your own personal development irrespective of any relationships. I like the idea of imperceptible changes, and whether or not you still respond to triggers the way you used to.

            Why do we ask if he/she has changed? Because we are still hoping, we are yet to realize that we need boundaries, that people who were that crappy to us were hooking something so deep in you that the odds are low that we’ve both magically changed into something else. I’d be curious about how many people broke up with someone twice or thrice for the exact same reason. Thats because they didnt change and neither did you and neither did that important third element – the relationship that you create together.
            I think the relationship is a separate entity – the third party, the most important party. Thats why we get along with some people and not with others even though we might be ‘good people’ and they might also be ‘good people’ but the relationship isnt there. So its not only did X change, but also did I change, and can our relationship change toward something better.

          • Peter says:

            Hi Simple Pleasures,
            I really do not know what you have reviewed here for me. I find your message to me does not bring anything new to the table, not in the interpretation of Natalie’s original article (you simply think Grizelda is right), and not as a reaction to what I have written – something Grizelda at least did do, although she and I do not fully agree.
            The way you now follow-up is rather disturbing, with your repeated usage of ’17 year lady’, in a rather distorted English – and taking the original questions completely out of context, rephrasing them in a manner that suits you best.
            Apart from the fact that answering these (original) questions for my situation is irrelevant (I will explain later) in this manner you forgo the questions that I have tried to pose completely, and that is a pity.

            Perhaps I was not clear enough – please allow me to try to correct for that.
            I have lived with the mother of my son for 17 years – when I wrote this up, I was trying to illustrate that, yes, I do know what Grizelda calls ‘emotional hurt’ – for one, the breakup from this relation was the single most painful emotional hurt I have ever encountered. But this was eight years ago, and neither of us have any intention to ever get together again – although we happily co-parent our son. This situation is very much OK as it is, and we have peace with that, already for many, many years.

            This (my/our) breakup, and breakups I have seen happening around me, the emotional impact of these ruptures did however pose some very fundamental questions: how did/do I function, as an individual, and, how did/do I function, within relations. And: could I change, for the better, and if so, how to achieve such improvement ?
            And, importantly, the next question became undeniable: is separation always the best option out of a complicated relation ?


            I think the subject of this article is of great importance: when is change possible, to what extent is it possible, and under what circumstances could such change lead to a form of re-engaging ? And when should this definitely be avoided ?
            Natalie has written a first attempt at answering this problem. And surely a good attempt it is. However, it lacks two angles of approach: first, people hardly ever really fundamentally change, and if they do change, it takes a really long, long time, and lots of effort, and secondly, when such re-engaging is considered, based on an evaluation of the ‘change’ or ‘growth’ of one of the partners – should it not be an evaluation of the change or growth of *both* partners re-engaging ? Several reactions to the blog actually indicate the changing (real or only perceived) of both partners over time …..


            BTW: I did not come to BR to do “some soul-searching” – I have been following BR for several years now, infrequently reacting when I felt the subject to be of importance.

            Peter.

        • Einstien says:

          Peter,

          It doesn’t sound like you are a long time follower of Nat’s site. Her message that EUMs/ACs never change is a big part of her mantra. I’m sorry you are insulted by the term garden-variety. Your post read as though you thought it took two to change. If both are willing, that is true. This site is about relationships with the unwilling and unmovable. Also, if you don’t think EUMs/ACs/narcissists are emotionally abusive, then you’ve never been involved with one. I’m sorry you took what was said so antagonistically. I’ve never seen that from anyone here.

          • Tabitha says:

            I agree with Einstein and Grizelda. Peter I don’t think Grizelda was saying her own pain was extra traumatic and everyone elses was garden variety. If I have understood her correctly she was explaining that, like me, many of us have had plenty of break ups in the past. I am 47 and have been divorced twice plus plenty of other break ups. They hurt. I cried. I mourned the loss of the relationship, the marriage. I have been cheated on and dumped. All of those were garden variety hurts. The relationship that brought me here, and I was here long before it totally broke down, was COMPETELY DIFFERENT. It was emotionally abusive, it left me not knowing who I was or how I would ever recover my self esteem, or get over the pain. It required me to do a lot of work on myself, and yes I have had to change. If you are a long term reader of Natalies posts you will have seen her say over and over again that we need to focus on our own healing, to work on creating boundaries in our relationships and thinking about core values. This does mean that we need to change.
            For me, the point of Natalies post was one that she reprises in various forms, but it is that “Actions Speak Louder than words.” If someone who has treated you badly wants to get their foot back in the door and is telling you it will all be different, what should you do? How would that feel? How would you determine whether they had changed and whether you wanted to take that risk? Peter you ask why the formerly injured party should feel entitled to make that assessment/judgement. Well it is because they are the ones deciding to take the risk, or not.
            I think you should be asking yourself why you have reacted so badly to the content of this post.

  6. Ell says:

    I’m the one who has not changed.

    Six weeks. Getting myself together, moving on. Thought I was doing well. Then the email arrives. He’s moving to a new job in a different state. He loves me, but…

    Did I respond? Did I go see him? Or have I changed my habits, and grown?

    *insert uncontrollable laughter here*

    Of course I responded. Of course I went to see him. I have not changed my habits, nor grown, not one little skinny inch, in any direction.

    Now he is gone, again. And it hurts, again. Like the first time wasn’t painful enough…and I am back where I was six weeks ago, just as if there was no time in between.

    I know my issues. What I don’t seem to know is how to *change*.

    I am beginning to believe I am going to have to accept being emotionally dysfunctional forever.

    • Grizelda says:

      Ell, please don’t be so hard on yourself!

      You’re not emotionally disfunctional, you’re just emotional. You can’t help your emotions, they just happen. What you can help, in quite a determinted and disciplined way through NC, are your reactions and responses to emotional triggers, at least until those emotions deflate a bit and become more manageable.

      It will get better, I promise, the more time you give to NC. Don’t give up, least of all on yourself!

      • Ell says:

        Grizelda,

        Thank you for your compassionate response. I *was* quite emotional when I wrote that post. I feel better now, and I am going to impose a new rule on myself–leave the computer and do something else when I get overwhelmed.

        However, there’s no getting past the fact that I *am* emotionally dysfunctional, and I *am* responsible for inflicting this pain on myself–and that is why this post speaks so strongly to me.

        I have abandonment issues, and am emotionally unavailable, and over the years I have invited into my life three emotional train wrecks with the same issues, because I want from them what I feel I can’t get or have—love and feeling that I am worth something.

        I always think if I can help these guys and prove how kind and loving I am, they will love me back. They’ll LOVE ME!

        I don’t want to change them. I just want to *help* them through the emotional turmoil of their lives, and be THE ONE! THE ONE! And they’ll LOVE ME BACK! YAY!

        Except of course it doesn’t work that way.

        Three strike-outs proves how wrong that idea is, as does the information and sharing on this site.

        Here is the crux of it–I am the common denominator in my failed relationships, and no doubt I have caused as much grief as I have received.

        It is past time for change–real change, of habits and growth, as Natalie says, on *my* part.

        What I wrote in the first comment was my fear that I can’t make the necessary changes–primarily because I have attempted before and failed, and fallen back into the same pattern, just as I did when the email from train wreck #3 arrived, and just as I did when he showed up in my life to start with.

        Today, at this precise moment anyway, I have more strength, and I am going to take a different approach. Instead of analyzing, over-analyzing, and trying to glue myself back together, this time I will leave the pieces lying where they are, and move on.

        *Insert dopey butterfly cliche here* :)

        At least I will try. Failure is always an option–and I have lots of practice so I’m good at it! :)

        I thank you again, and I thank Natalie for this site.

        • Lilia says:

          Ell,
          I strongly relate to what you describe – you want to respond differently, you know what you Shouldn´t Do, but you still do it. In this case, the only thing that has worked for me was the old fashioned advice of Go through the motions. Even if I didn´t want to maintain NC and just get in touch with him, even while it felt unnatural and wrong, I still did it. I discarded all emotions and thoughts about him and almost blindly did what I had to do. That way, I cut the lingering and doubts and what-ifs and other timewasters back and suddenly I realised my new habits had become second nature. Just by doing it, you change. Not by thinking or worrying about it.

        • Rachael says:

          Ell,
          “I want from them what I feel I can’t get or have—love and feeling that I am worth something.”
          Honest words, Ell. You might work on the differentiation between thoughts and feelings. I think what you really mean is…”I want from them what I THINK I can’t get or have — love, and THINKING that I am worth something.”
          Take back your power, Ell. With the knowledge that YOUR error (or one of them) is your own thinking, you may find yourself less subject to the circumstances in which you find yourself and more in control of your emotional experiences.
          Also, WANTING love is a problem. When you EXPECT from another what you are not getting for yourself, you are at great risk of being abused because you are in a position where you NEED them.
          All the best, Ell

  7. Jessica says:

    It’s also important to note that change is gradual. People can say they’ve changed, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t falter when faced with the trigger situation.

    Rather than waiting for them to display grace or fold, it’s important to know the difference between no change and genuine effort to change. We can’t always tell them to take a hike for failing the first time. When you feel a person as genuinely changed, forgiveness will take more effort.

  8. Learner says:

    Natalie,
    “if the primary issue was how conflict situations were handled, you will see whether they’ve really changed when faced with the next and subsequent conflicts…If someone has changed, it’s not that those cues and triggers have disappeared – it’s that they’ve learned to respond differently”

    I am sitting here after reading this with tears in my eyes. Tears of recognition, of realization, and of relief. Recognition because when I look at the two men who have been in my life over the last several years, this post of yours so clearly shows which one has my best interests at heart, and which one never did from the beginning.

    The exMM/AC kept saying he had changed but kept behaving in the same crumby, self-serving ways. I never knew whether I was coming or going, and I felt anxious all the time. There were soaring highs and deep lows.

    My (ex) husband actually went for several months of therapy, told me he had changed, and has shown me this consistently over the last five months. He has changed his old pattern of avoiding conflict, or blaming me, by listening to me, being accountable, empathizing, and actually admitting he has made mistakes! I know where I stand with him. He calls when he says he will (while texting also, in between). He tells me how he feels!

    I am still cautious about moving forward with getting back together with him, but I can’t help but notice how his actions are matching his words. He truly seems to be a changed man. I had feared casting him as a “fall back guy” after things went South with the exMM, but I can honestly say that I would rather spend time with him than with any other man. He has shown consistency over several months, and I hope to see this continue. On the other hand, I feel I have changed also. It’s amazing how free we are to just enjoy each other when we are not constantly seeking validation from each other, since we are now validating ourselves (for the most part!)

    I will always credit you, Natalie, and your wonderful community for helping me to see the light. Change IS possible. We CAN have real relationships with people who treat us with love, trust, care and respect. I wish this for all here on BR, whether it be relationships with partners or with ourselves. Truly hoping I am not dreaming still!

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Learner. You can answer or not, but would you, at this point in time, or ever consider re-marrying him? Would you wait and see longer? Obviously, I can relate which is why I am asking.

      • Learner says:

        Hi Tinkerbell,
        It’s funny you should ask this, because just the other day, he told me he was thinking of some new vows he would like to make with me. He said they included ideas like honesty, commitment and sharing. I almost fell off my seat when I realized he has been busy clarifying HIS values too! I would not be surprised if we ended up back together 100% as husband and wife. You say you can relate – are you considering a reconciliation with your exH?

        • runnergirl says:

          Learner…stay on your BR toes. You know the “I’ve Changed” drill. Actions have to match the words over the long haul. I wish you the very, very best. Stay in the present. NO DREAMING allowed.
          When does your daughter leave?

          • Learner says:

            Runner. Yes, we all need to stay on our BR toes. Thank you for the good wishes. Our daughter leaves in two days, on the same day I get my repeat mammogram and ultrasound. I am hoping the changes in my exH are evident that day and beyond, as I feel his strength and reassurance will be needed! How is the house hunting for *your* daughter coming along?

        • Tinkerbell says:

          I took my husband back after 11 years, who I had divorced. He had changed! Much for the worst. He’d been physically abusive, and then after taking him back I learned he had a new hobby dealing drugs. I threw him out and changed my locks. I did think that I was probably making a mistake since I had no knowledge of his activities all those years. I refused to listen to that wiser inner voice. I wish you all the best.

    • Tanzanite says:

      Learner

      It is so nice to hear your story and I really hope everything works out for you.

      I too,thought the grass was greener on the other side and I can also see who the better person was now.

      I haven’t got back with my ex husband even though he as asked but that’s because he has been with someone else since we split up and it would cause a lot of pain.If I had found this site a long time ago I would have never left him in the first place,but being honest with myself, the real reason why I strayed will always be there.

      You have both changed and there is no reason why it can’t be great again.

      I wish you well.

      • Learner says:

        Tanzanite, thank you. Your reply made me feel sad for you, since it sounds like you have lost a relationship that may have been good for you? Although you do say the reason you strayed is still there, so perhaps things worked out for the best?
        Yes, we have both changed, and I must say our relationship patterns were really put to the test last night. It was actually the one year anniversary of “breaking up” with the exMMAC, which may have explained my behaviour. I spent the night together with my (ex)husband last night. During the evening, he said something that would normally not bother me. However, it was a trigger when the exMM used to say similar things. I had had a few drinks for the first time in a while, and so my tolerance was a bit low. Anyway, I ended up yelling at my exH and saying things he did not deserve to hear.
        In earlier years, he would have made excuses for his behaviour, told me I was being too sensitive, and then clam up with a cold look on his face for hours or days. Last night, he kept the communication open, tried to understand my strong reaction to what he had said, and would not end the conversation until we had some kind of resolution. I am so glad he did that! He made a minor error, I gave him hell for it, and he handled it with maturity and understanding. He has left me wondering if he is now healthier relationship-wise than me! I apologized last night, and I stopped by his work today while he was on break to apologize once again. I must be sure to be mindful of this trigger, which is a ghost from the exMM days. My exH deserves to be treated with respect, and I must strive to continue to grow in this area of relating.
        Thank you for the well wishes Tanzanite, and all the best to you, too xo

        • Tanzanite says:

          Learner

          Don’t be sad for me,i’m not.

          My ex husband wasn’t perfect but I was certain he loved me and I was a priority in his life.He was 95% a good bloke but the 5% that was missing was filled by a cute little stud muffin/AC.If I could piece those two together I would have the perfect combination for me.I have moved on from both of them and I have found peace of mind whilst being alone.My ex husband is free to be with someone who loves him and i’m genuinely glad he seems happy.My opinion of him is the same as the day I married him.

          We all have triggers ,so you yelled at him and he didn’t deserve it.You also apologized because you knew he didn’t deserve it.He got what the MM AC deserved.I would hate to think you failed at reconciliation because of the ghost of an AC.He wouldn’t end the conversation with you until you reached some kind of resolution.That sounds like change to me.It sounds healthy and a good start.

          We do tend to take our partners for granted and they are different to us in the way they react but you are taking a chance in good faith and there is nothing wrong with that.We gave the MM AC’s chance after chance after chance and we knew they didn’t deserve it….eventually.

          One more thing,you might get back together 100% as husband and wife but there is no urgency.Time will
          tell.Relax and enjoy. x

          • Learner says:

            Tanzanite,
            I am happy for you as you have found peace of mind after disengaging with both your exH and the exAC. You are right about giving exMM/ACs too many chances! I will take your advice and relax\enjoy the newly reestablished relationship with my exH. Btw, I realized yesterday another factor in my overblown reaction the other day. It turns out I was PMSing. It is not an excuse though. I am determined to continue growing and changing as a person.
            Thank you for your reply xo

  9. Amanda says:

    I am currently in the second NC phase of getting Mr. Unavailable out of my life. About 2 years ago I decided enough was enough and walked away. During the first month or so he attempted to contact me a few times (keep in mind he only contacted me a couple of times a month for a shag), but then stopped when he had no response. About a year later he texted me that he had changed and that all he wanted was just to talk as he couldn’t stand the thought of me, in this world, thinking badly of him. I was emotionally fine by that time, totally over it, so I agreed. When we met he acknowledged how terrible he was to me and profusely apologized. I was suspicious, but agreed to be cordial and stop ignoring him. Things went slow at first as I didn’t trust him, but he proved to be kind, respectful, showed up on time, did what he said, spent real time with me, called me every day, things were really great. For 4 months I watched him very closely to see if he slipped up. It took me 4 months to begin to trust him again. After 4 months we slept together and things were great for about another month. All of sudden he started to make excuses for things, not respond to communication, stopped talking openly with me, stopped having sex with me and I was starting to feel like I was an annoyance to him. I didn’t let this go on long at all as I knew what was coming. I asked some very direct questions about other women etc. and he adamantly denied anything was going on, he actually tried to make me feel foolish for asking the questions (red flag!!!). I knew he was lying and about 2 weeks after I started asking questions he pretty much went totally cold. I did some digging and discovered he had been bonking a 21 year that works at the marina where we keep our boats. That was it. I went NC for the last and final time. I gave him another chance and I don’t regret it, he truly showed me an entirely different person, but unfortunately he just couldn’t keep it up. He came back about 3 weeks ago begging for a ‘friendship’ and I completely ignored him. It’s funny how this time round the recovery period is MUCH shorter.

    Amanda

    ps. oh and he has dumped the 21 year old and moved onto an 18 year old… all in 4 weeks (he’s 41).

  10. oc says:

    Sometimes, people don’t deserve a response.

  11. natashya says:

    it is entirely possible to change. perhaps not the core of your being, but the way you deal with circumstances and situations, for sure.

    i am not proud of it, but i behaved like an assclown with my ex HB, and with the AC i dated afterwards.

    i am NOT that person anymore. i know better now. if i’m not happy in the relationship, i’m not going to sneak behind someone’s back or do the slow fade.

    kind of ironic, how the last EUMAC actually exhibited a lot of ridiculous behaviour i engaged in before him. it was as if he was holding up a mirror of my past. however, when i saw what he was doing, i knew for sure that even though i recognised that behaviour, it wasn’t something i’d ever do again. in that way, it was very enlightening.

  12. EllyB says:

    I think it’s a tricky topic, because personality disordered people definitely are NOT going to change. I think if we believe to witness any “change” in the behavior of a true psychopath/narcissist it’s either because we are deceiving ourselves or because we are being manipulated astutely.

    On the other hand, there are also quite a few people who become toxic and shady themselves because of their association with other toxic people. As I’ve mentioned before, toxicity seems to “rubs off” over time. I’ve witnessed this with people who stayed closely involved with their severely abusive parents in adulthood, people who repeatedly dated toxic partners, people who maintained “friendships” with known bullies, people who stay in toxic workplaces (I think I am guilty of this one)…

    They tend to become loyal only to the toxic beings in their lives while trampling all over the more decent human beings. Sometimes they turn into bullies themselves. One obvious example are OWs who badmouth the wife while refusing to blame the guy for ANYTHING. Another one was a former women friend of mine who made endless excuses for her parents’ abusive/controlling behavior while throwing tantrums at me whenever we had the slightest disagreement. Also, whenever her parents talked sh*t about her boyfriend (because he didn’t have an Ivy League degree, only one from an “ordinary” school, among other things), she sided with them against him.

    I think those people are capable of change, but only if they are willing to face the true nature of the creeps they used to associate with. It’s a difficult thing to do, but luckily many of us are currently working very hard on this!!!

    • siena says:

      Hey Elly,

      A very good comment of yours.It is so interesting how so many people do not see that there ARE toxic people out there and how they draw them into their lives.

      I have a friend who has a very, very toxic mother. First, she (my friend the daughter) was involved with an alcoholic for many years. But he wasn´t even the worst case. Later on she became the OW and had a baby from a certificated Assclown, who wanted her to get an abortion when he learned that she was pregnant from him (while he of course still had a girlfriend). Then she had the child anyways and now he is going in and out of her life and the MOTHER of my friend is the worst in this horrible combination.
      First, when my friend separated from the alcoholic, her own mother went on holidays with her ex, the alcoholic!! And now, the mother meets the Assclown father of my friend´s child and they hate on my friend together!!The mother is highly toxix and always has been! When I was younger I used to protect my friend from her mother but when we grew older I moved away and studied in different cities while my friend stayed at the city where we grew up together.
      Well..each year there are a couple of times when she comes, completely exhausted crying… and we work out a plan for her that would be more “healthy”, without the mother in her life and the abusive Assclown. But she never follows through. She goes back to her mother and the Assclown that by the way, never wanted to marry her and never wanted a relationship or anything but..he could do the one thing: make her pregnant…

      This is as bad as it gets..well, there is some very disturbing “normality” in this whole situation.That simply is their life and all of them do not seem to see that it could be different, that there could be change…

      My friend has huge anxiety problems, chain smokes (with a small child at home) and feels unable to change her situation most of the time. Not to mention her self esteem level…it is basically as good as non existent…

      And I really love her and often think: How could I help? But there is no real way…Now, she is involved with a new alcoholic.

      And did I mention that she is a great person, intelligent, nice, wonderful? Well, they destroyed all her self love and self esteem and keep destroying her health. And she is not strong enough to change this dysfunctional BS situation…

      It makes me really, really angry to write about that… do you think I could help somehow??

      • EllyB says:

        Siena: Maybe you could point out to her how she is wreaking havoc in her OWN child’s life by putting up with all that crap from her mother & assclown. Sounds as if she is an empathetic person… maybe it’s easier for her to see the light if she understands that she is hurting someone else (a small, vulnerable child!) beside herself!

      • Tinkerbell says:

        One very good thing you could do is tell her about Natalie and BR, Siena. This blog is tremendous. Natalie and everyone’s stories are therapeutic and give one hope that they can little by little make changes in their lives for the better. I’ve found in my own life that even though I started out on BR because of the horrid MM affair, I have learned much more than just how to have a healthier relationship with a man.
        That is just the tip of the iceberg compared to so much more. Anybody who comes on here with any kind of continuity can learn and grow, from Natalie and from each other.

    • Tabitha says:

      Yes I agree EllyB. My PD Ex could not change and it is so sad. I think he honestly believed that he could make it work with me, that I was somehow the exception to his rule. I had no idea what I was doing or what was coming, I was just a blissfully unaware passenger at this point. With hindsight, and six months NC, I think he was just as disappointed as I was that he hadn’t changed and could not change.
      I, however, have changed considerably in that time and continue to work on myself. I have boundaries, better self esteem, am able to take charge of my own behaviour and let other people own theirs without making it all about me and whatever I have done/not done.
      I am trying to stop my lifelong fantasy/dreamer behaviour and that is a toughy, but I can do it and I am starting in small ways, all thanks to Natalie and all the posters here.

      • Tinkerbell says:

        Amen Tabitha. What is a “PD” ex?

        • Tabitha says:

          Personality Disordered.Sorry! he had Narcissistic personality Disorder. In bucketloads. It manifested itself in his dealings with everyone, not just me. He literally cannot change as no amount of therapy/whatever can “cure” such a disorder. It is pervasive and permanent. I think he would like to be able to change but he genuinely cannot. Not my problem now.

          • Tinkerbell says:

            Of course! Personality Disordered. Duh! I’m convinced my brain is slowing down. I just could not come up with that. I should have been able to guess by the trend of the post. Thanks, Tabitha.

    • Grizelda says:

      Love your response, EllyB.

      Most people can change all sorts of bad habits and negative behaviours — but that change requires empathy:

      “I’m guilty of doing X to someone. I will never, ever do X for as long as I live I swear because having done X I feel embarrassed* about myself, I feel remorseful*, I feel deep regret* and shame* about my behaviour, I empathise* with the person I damaged, and I have at least a dose of human* warmth* inside that is aching* to express itself for the benefit* of the person I’ve hurt*.”
      That’s a damn good impetus for change.

      * For the personality disordered, remove these words and replace them with the terms ‘pencil’, ‘lampshade’ or ‘jam doughnut’.

      That, in a abstract nutshell, is the problem.

  13. 2fearce says:

    Peter,

    It is about one person (“you”) bc that is the only person whose actions, reactions and growth you control. While I can urge my partner to engage in this growth, I cannot make them (nor do I want to) and certainly cannot tell them to do this at my pace or level.
    What if you engage in this work only to have your partner falter or decide its too hard or not worth it?? is all your progress then lost? Or inconsequential if the team doesn’t make it?

    Why the hesitation to consider /conduct this work on your own? You entered the world as an individual and it is as an individual that must decide and commit to living it. No one can do it for you and no one can tell you what your reality is… Of course i decide if I’m gng to believe you changed… A life lived solely by concensus is no life at all.

  14. nancyw says:

    The AC that I am dealing with has been in solitude to because he is “trying” to change. Ha. He still text me these sad messages about how he is suffering, etc. Yesterday he sent me an email listing all the wonderful things about me…most were nice but some were very explicit and sexual. Then 5 minutes later I get an email saying “I want to apologize deeply for any hurt, embarrassment or disappointment I have caused to you. Very very sorry.”

    I continue to be more and more confused.

    • Einstien says:

      Been there, done that Nancy. All that ‘solitude’ when they’re ‘working their stuff’ out is like every other excuse. He’s busy chasing skirts, or whatever else he is chasing, but he sends a text every now and then to gauge your level of interest.

      He’s so sorry? If he’s that damn sorry, he would feel compelled to say so to your face, or at least over the phone.

      Trust me when I say that he’s following the Assclown Playbook to the letter.

      • nancyw says:

        Guess I am the one that needs to change, huh. He won’t…he’s out looking for the next victim that hasn’t caught on to his game yet.

  15. Demke says:

    It’s very difficult to “change”. And that’s for anyone. When it comes to relationships, in my opinion, if you’re with someone who compliments you.. then certain things that were in issue in a previous relationship, are no longer an issue. There may be one or two distinct situations (handling conflict, communication) that one may notice carries on to the next relationship, and once someone recognizes (‘oh, crap.. I reacted the same with the last one’)their behavior pattern, then it’s possible to react differently.

    My sister and I work together on occasion, 3 years ago, we got into a disagreement, it turned ugly. And it was pretty embarrassing how I reacted to the situation. We both could’ve handled it very differently.

    3 years later, same kind of disagreement, I felt I was being provoked, once again, except I chose not to entertain it. I was fuming inside, but I waited until the next day when we both weren’t so tense about it, to discuss it. I had to tip-toe, and figure out what might piss her off, and communicate in a way where she wouldn’t be on the defense.

    And when you realize that you’ve changed in a certain way, but the other person hasn’t, that’s when opting out isn’t such a heartbreaking experience. It’s when one person grows but the other, not so much. When both people recognize how they behave, and they want to behave differently to work towards a different outcome, there’s growth and change within that relationship. It really does take two.

    • Sm says:

      Demke thanks for sharing that, I think what you’ve written is very important. That’s one of the major things I’ve learned about myself, when a situation causes instant anger in me, I wait a few hours or maybe over nite before addressing it to give myself time to calm down and think clearly before addressing it. Another thing I’ve learned is that my own or another persons perception of realty may not be true. So if I think I may have judged a situation incorrectly in my own mind, I wait to see if the same situation happens again before taking action on it.

    • EllyB says:

      Being assertive doesn’t always fix things either. I thought this might work at my toxic workplace – but I was mistaken. For years, I was scared of our boss who used to attack people in meetings in a completely random way. His favorite modus operandi is to blame people for mistakes that were (obviously) made by another coworker or even by their superiors and then yelling at them when they point out that they weren’t responsible for this. He never seemed to feel sorry either. It was obviously his way of exerting control.

      Most recently, I learned to fight back which made the attacks a little bit less hurtful and also lead to fewer attacks… but it DID NOT make me any happier! I rather felt as if I was growing toxic myself.

      Last week, when our boss announced my departure (as mentioned before, I’ve accepted another job but I have to stay with my current employer until the end of the year), at the same meeting he attacked another (rather decent) coworker who has been with us for much longer than I. As usually, he blamed him for something for which his boss was responsible. Luckily, the guy tried to fight back, but it was an ugly scene anyway. I found it almost unbearable to witness. I stared at my table, fighting back the tears.

      This didn’t make me a coward (or a whimp) even if some people would say so. And “being assertive” isn’t always the solution either if the cards are stacked against you. Sometimes we just need to vote with our feet.

      • EllyB says:

        I think the best “outcome” you can achieve with truly toxic bosses is that they stop attacking you… and abuse someone else instead. Then you have to sit still and watch.

        For some people this might be ok, but for me it’s not. I think we’re getting damaged either way if we stay around.

        Many people seem to believe that any family, classroom, workplace or other group needs their “pecking order” in which the “losers” at the lower end are always to blame for their fate. At least that’s what I’ve been told over and over again when I was at the lower end of those “pecking orders” in my family, at school or at work.

        I refuse to buy into this theory. I don’t want to live/work/learn in an environment that’s determined to destroy somebody (usually someone with above average skills and integrity – because those qualities are considered “despicable” according to bullies).

        • Sm says:

          Right on EllyB, toxic bosses just move on to the next employee. I had a situation recently where I was verbally shredded by a boss at my company. Thanks to BR, I didn’t take it personally as I would in the past but I acknowledged that it did damage me. I’m still trying to decide how I am going to handle my interactions with this person as my job requires the use of his support. He isn’t ever going to change his actions, I’m just trying to figure out how not to be on the receiving end of them again (if that is possible).

        • Wiser says:

          Amen to that! I once worked in a very toxic environment that systematically set out to destroy people. I had never experienced anything like that before. If they wanted someone to quit, they didn’t fire them (because they’d have to pay for unemployment), they just made their work lives a living hell until they couldn’t take it anymore. I watched colleagues being forced out right and left. I figured I would be next. In one of the boldest moves of my life, I made a formal, very professional complaint against my boss to HR after deciding I was prepared for the consequences, which was most likely getting fired or some other unpleasant retribution. But to my astonishment, not only was I not fired, people actually respected me for what I did. I had to endure the horrid boss for another six months, but she finally got fired herself. The work environment was still a hellhole, but as I no longer had any fear, they had NO power over me. It was a huge epiphany. Eventually, I left on my own time, in my own way and with my self-respect intact!

          What I learned from that has helped me in my relationships as well. Number one, don’t let fear stop you from standing up for yourself, leaving a toxic environment or deciding what you simply will no longer tolerate. Two, don’t be afraid of the consequences – usually they aren’t as terrible as you think they’ll be. Fear only paralyzes you from taking care of yourself. Three, even if the consequences are serious, believe that you will be ok, you will cope, you will figure out what to do. The universe really is friendlier than we think. People will help you. I left my toxic job with no idea what I’d do next, but knowing I could no longer participate in a regime that could treat people so terribly. The uncertainty was scary, but nothing dire happened. In fact, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Bottom line: DON’T stay in toxic situations, ever. Get out.

          • EllyB says:

            Wiser: Thank you! I think reporting our boss to his boss would be rather pointless because our CEO seems to be even more toxic than he is. People tend to refer to him as a “psychopath”, and I’m afraid they might be right. Of course, it might be our boss misrepresenting him, but on the other hand people from other departments say the same about our CEO which makes the horror stories quite credible.

            I have taken some steps regarding my deputy team leader though because she seems to be toxic in her own right. I’ve told management that she regularly seems to sabotage people and to steal their ideas (especially mine) and that I think she is doing serious damage to the entire team’s performance. If she suffered consequences, I wouldn’t feel sorry for her, but I’m not sure how likely this is.

            Luckily, I’ve managed to land another job. As our economic prospects look fairly bleak I couldn’t see any reason for sticking it out any longer, even if the new job – while seemingly decent – isn’t a step upwards on the career ladder (sideways, rather). Plus, my workplace issues had started affecting my health which I consider a red flag.

            On the other hand, the new workplace could certainly turn out as toxic as my current one. In such a case I would maybe have to opt out without having something new lined up… better unemployed than seriously sick.

  16. Sm says:

    I know people can change because I did, it took divine intervention but I did it. My words, attitude and actions changed and the people close to me noticed and they are still changed to this day. I even lost friends over it because I was no longer ‘go with the flow’ and would only allow good healthy things in my life. I’m still changing, once I found this website and the common sense logic Nat puts forth, I’ve changed even more. I’m now even recognizing opportunities to flex my new found muscles when situations and conflicts arise. I’ve even learned I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that I am not going to change the way I do certain things just because they don’t like it. I firmly believe treating people with respect is all I owe anyone.

  17. lo j says:

    Grizelda … Lol! So true!! Not even necessarily the personality disordered even, just ones who can’t “see past their own noses”. I’ve been there. It’s not a good place to be. Hopefully if these ones (not the pd) have consequences for their actions and hurt enough, they will decide for themselves to take action and change. It’s our moral obligation to let them suffer their own consequences. :-) Most importantly to protect ourselves.

    • Grizelda says:

      lo j, how right you are.

      It’s our moral obligation to let them suffer their own consequences indeed. I feel a novel coming on, entitled “When Shop Window Dummies Go Bad”.

  18. lo j says:

    Natalie … Thanks again for being real and sharing your human self. It’s good to know we all do and will continue to do things that are not always so flattering to reveal. I know I feel better to know it is always a process, there’s no finish line at the end of the race. It keeps me from beating myself up and staying stuck in one spot. You rock!!!

  19. oldenoughtoknowbetter says:

    Hello Natalie! It has been a long time since I posted, although I still read your site occasionally and send my friends to you when I see unhealthy patterns (which I no longer engage in supporting…I just send them to you to fix, lol!).

    I would just like to comment that the only person who we can change is us, and when we really truly get that, and make the hard, hard effort to be responsible for our own change, these dysfunctional people never make it through the gate anymore. When we see them with a new perspective, and we can stay empathetic but disconnected, they just disappear. It is a very amazing thing. Those friends that just wanted to complain and stay in their circle of pain will not bother to come here or explore their options to change themselves. They don’t want to change themselves, they want others to change. Change requires accountability, that is the hard part.

    You, your site, and your followers were a big part of my change for the better, along with getting counseling, changing the friends I was hanging around (birds of a feather…), and addressing my own issues within a relationship. I was emotionally unavailable myself. It was not easy undoing that, but I am proud to say I am more authentic and emotionally intimate with people than I have ever been in my life. I have a long term boyfriend I met on match 20 months ago and I am not the same person I was in relationships before. It was not easy, but very worthwhile. There is no better project to spend my efforts on than me!! And it does get easier and easier….

    I would not say I am healed, I would say my perspective has changed, and therefore I have changed. I still fall back to the same habits, but I recognize and adjust them very quickly. The change process was very hard, with a lot of ups and downs, breakdowns and breakthroughs, and it took me over two years to emerge a stronger, happier person. My journey is not over, but it is so many miles from where it was. The ex MM occasionally texts me still, and I delete without a single thought. He is part of my old life, and I have a new life.

    I have changed my work situation, my friends, put boundaries on my family, and have learned to hold my own in a relationship with healthy boundaries, and a good man will not only allow this but expect it. I am moving across the country with the man I met on match, but not living with him because I am still not 100% sure it is a forever relationship. I am comfortable making those types of decisions, doing what is best for me, not so someone else will like me more (which as we all know, backfires anyway!). And I am finally only worrying about changing the one person I have any right or power over changing…me!

    Thank you for what you do, thank you to your long time commenter’s (hi Runnergirl!! I hope you are enjoying your journey again!). To all of you working on changing yourselves, I would love to share this quote with you -

    “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse”

    Make yourself important enough, no excuses! I have faith you will find your way. Best wishes to all of you!!

    • siena says:

      Hello oldenoughtoknowbetter,

      I just wanted to say that your post has truly inspired me. I am at the beginning of my journey after many years of relationship insanity and all that is connected to it. I am only beginning to understand how I victimized myself while thinking I was brave. When being authentic and being truly an honest person means a lot more than that.

      Thank you so much for lightning my spirit through sharing your experiences!! I am so thankful for this. I had the last breakup from a non existent relationship only two months ago and I am still seeing this person in my dreams or think of him when I wake up.

      He betrayed me,used me and lied to me, knowing I had too little boundaries and I see now that my trust was not well placed with this person.

      BUT.I will no longer betray myself, that is what I learned and like all of us here, I have learned the hard way. And I have come to understand that I MUST change myself. Not to have a healthy relationship- this a common misunderstanding in our culture. But as you wrote, to “relate” differently to everything around me and to myself.

      Now,as you wrote you changed everything from work, to friends and so much more. I think this is kind of happening for many when they start to become different. I feel so strangely lost sometimes, thinking: What do I REALLY want? Was it the field I am working in now, the people who surround me? So much is shifting now… I hope it will all be for the better, but I think you have been there too as you write:

      “The change process was very hard, with a lot of ups and downs, breakdowns and breakthroughs, and it took me over two years to emerge a stronger, happier person. My journey is not over, but it is so many miles from where it was. The ex MM occasionally texts me still, and I delete without a single thought. He is part of my old life, and I have a new life.”

      Wow, this is SO uplifting and I can relate to it in some ways. Thank you and I wish you a life of happiness that you truly deserve!

    • Selkie says:

      Old Enough,
      What a wonderful comment.
      Thanks for not forgetting us and checking back in with a reminder that what we’re working for is possible and worth it. I don’t now you but am still really happy for you.

    • runnergirl says:

      Hi Oldenough! Good to hear from you. I’m still here, learning and loving every moment of my new life sans a guy. Particularly sans the exMM who, like your situation, still sends random emails (two years later). You are moving cross-country? Sounds like a ton of change on your part and congratulations. I loved the quote. Nope, no more excuses for me or for anybody. Keep us posted on all the changes…please?

    • Little Star says:

      Old enough, thank you for your post, I have to agree with others – it is very inspiring! Glad that you doing great, hope one day we will be all happy:)

  20. Tinkerbell says:

    This particular post coincides with me so well, right now. I have changed so much, and become more grounded and less confused and with less self-doubt. Yesterday, my sister came over and we spent the day shopping. I did not realize that she noticed the change in me, but she has. She told me that I have to be careful because when a person changes so much and interacts with others differently, the relationships change also. She was telling me that I’ve gone from Ms. Insecurity, always unsure what to do and asking other people’s opinions about any and everything. Now, she said, I am much more assertive, self confident and a bit overbearing in that I am giving unsolicited advice at the drop of a hat, and directing others what to do. I’ve become Ms. Know It All. I’ve noticed even here on BR, I’ve been doing this so I will try to tone it down. I told her that this is the first time in my life that I can remember ever really liking myself. She said, “I haven’t quite gotten there, yet”. But, I told her “Well, no one would know that because you’re able to mask it very well.” We were raised in the same house with the same parents, so it’s not unusual that we would both be insecure. So, bottom line is, I am the one who has changed,(Much for the better) but I have to be prepared that my relationships will be affected and, in turn, will be somewhat altered. But, that’s okay as long as I believe my thoughts and resulting behavior is much healthier than in the past and I’m not in any way hurting anyone.

    We teach people how to treat us. When YOU change they cannot help but begin interacting with you according to your new growth and changes in your perspectives and habits.

    healthier for me than in the pa

  21. Tired says:

    My friend is going through this . Her ac she was seeing on side ( he had a girlfriend ) and he treated my friend appallingly . I tried many times to get her to move on . Couple of weekends sgo she pursed someone eles and ac finished with his girlfriend says he loves her and will do anything to be with her . I said hell have to prove hell change , as he has lied time and time again . I said actions will proove it . She has told him he has to stay on own for three months bf she will consider it . Im really at a loss as to what to suggest . I recently found out the ex ac /mm is a total bullshiter and its made me low as i never really knew him at all it was all a fantasy in my head . Do they really change liars ? I continue nc and am doing just fine getting A’s in my English olevel thats what spuring me on and im getting used to my own company so am proud of my little steps x

    • Tabitha says:

      Tired you should feel proud. “A”s!!!! You have come so far and it isn’t easy is it? A huge life lesson for us but one that has made us stronger and will serve us well for many years to come.

  22. 2fearce says:

    Please by all means tell me what I read n interpret it for me… and if I dare to voice a different opinion tell me I didn’t read it right.
    Yeah…. Is it me or does the turn of this exchange harken to the crazy-making post??
    Smh. Walking. away.

  23. runnergirl says:

    As usual Natalie, a timely post. We are going to see if I’ve changed. I’m trying. I met a nice gentleman and we have absolutely nothing in common. He is a “Mechanical Engineer” who programs computers and things. I had no idea what he was talking about but I hope I nodded at the right time. He has no idea about Anthropology but laughed at the idea that the aliens built the pyramids. That’s a plus. I love softball, he loves soccer? What? I’ve never even watched a soccer game, sorry soccer fans. We had a lovely evening, although I can’t figure it out. Since I’m dating with my self-esteem in tow (I think…I’m trying), at the end of the lovely evening, despite nothing whatsoever in common, although we managed to talk for three hours (no ex’s, no horror stories, no past trauma/drama) I decided I did want to see him again. There seemed to be a similarity in core values vs common interests. I was remembering my BR reading on the difference. He asked me to…yup…go to see the Galaxy (professional soccer) play tomorrow. So, off I go to my first soccer game. I don’t know much after three or so hours but I do know I’d like to see him again. I’d say that’s a big change for me on many different levels. There was an underlying respect. He called today and we made plans for the soccer game tomorrow. Soccer? Egads. Sounds like fun! That’s a change for sure.

    • Tabitha says:

      Wow Runnergirl. Very exciting! report back :)

    • EllyB says:

      Runnergirl: This sounds good NO MATTER what the outcome might be. I think it is very important to realize that a disagreement in hobbies, tastes, career choices or the like ISN’T a negative judgment about ourselves at all.

      This used to be a GIANT issue of mine (still is, to some extent, I think). Whenever someone didn’t agree with me regarding my frugal lifestyle, my career choices, my taste in clothes, my hobbies, my dislike of most brand names and the like, it sent me into a tailspin of self-doubt. I ended up hating either the other person or myself or BOTH.

      I think this is the main reason why I had almost NO healthy relationships or friendships in my life. It was one giant act of self-sabotage. I don’t even want to think about how many good people I’ve repelled throughout my life only because I was so desperate to be “completely in sync” with everybody around me.

      Of course, you should NOT become an avid soccer fan either only in order to please him. I have been guilty of this in the past, too (and many other women were too I think). But I think you’re far too wise to fall into that trap now!

    • Tinkerbell says:

      WooHoo, go Runner! Sounds good. It doesn’t matter that you may seem to be opposites. I think it’s a great opportunity to learn about things you didn’t know and didn’t think you’d be interested in. As Natalie says, it’s the core values and goals that are most important. And, you don’t want a carbon copy of yourself, anyway. So happy for you. Keep us posted.

  24. MRWriter says:

    We are not static, like it or not, aware of it or not, we are in constant state of flux. Who I was a week ago writing on here is not the exact same person I am today. My daily routine has not safeguarded me from change as I have engaged with others, (practiced maintaining boundaries—see that Nat?), have discovered I do not like kiwi vodka so in the future will not order that, and so on. These are not BIG changes. My point is to illustrate that change occurs with every experience, engagement, realization and requires awareness within our self to acknowledge that we are always morphing, soul shifting to some degree

    My friend Tim called me as I reread Nat’s post and wrestled with my thoughts. Consciously or not the subject landed on change. More specifically, do people ever really change?

    To sum up his response: Most people do NOT change. They don’t know how because they don’t reflect. They don’t attribute their actions as the cause and then examine the effect.

    I pulled out dusty ole Aristotle and quoted, “An unexamined life isn’t worth living.” He said,

    “Absolutely, kiddo.” Then he leveled the boom.
    To quote, he said, from The Big Chill, “People cannot exist without their justifications.”

    I shut up. He pressed on. “Most people justify their actions to avoid feeling uncomfortable. They do not, especially now in our multitasking, techno-driven, online glut of info, and social media, take the time out to stop, self-reflect, practice objectivity (to the best of our abilities), self-account, take responsibility, admit our errors/shortcomings, make amends or STOP and judiciously weigh the consequences of their actions/behaviors/habits. Most people avoid such internal introspection at all means necessary: justification.”

    I can justify up to a point, I argued, but not the whole enchilada. I cannot justify the unjustifiable.

    Can you accept that other people and I believe most can and do, he countered.

    No.

    “And therein is your difficulty because that is your truth. It is who you are and your values. I agree with you. I am always trying to change for the better but sadly, most people are content to justify their bad behavior.” He went on to cite a former friend who could justify anything she did, no matter how hurtful or terrible, even if it finally amounted to “I was in a bad mood that week.”

    “That’s crazy. She couldn’t think back and reconsider that her actions were hurtful? She couldn’t empathize? Hell, she couldn’t rationalize that she, yes, might’ve been in a bad mood but that was no justification for taking it out on someone else who didn’t deserve it.”

    “Nope,” he said. “Once she justified her behavior by saying ‘I was in a bad mood, or they did such and such some time ago so what I did is fair game or whatever the excuse was…once she provided that out for herself it was game over. She didn’t see past her own bellybutton.”’

    People stop short, way short of owning their actions. Most people are basically too lazy to turn off the TV, close the door, hang up the phone, take time out to assess, reassess and institute change, even if broken down into smaller bits of change—they don’t want to do it. Maybe they are scared. Maybe they are too comfortable. Maybe it serves them NOT to change, at least in their mind. So long as others cater to them, they will not change. So long as there are those who enable, who deflect, who do their own justifying of others bad behavior, etc. change is unlikely to occur by osmosis. It requires an impetus.

    And, yes, even with the impetus, people resort back to their old behaviors and ways because either that is who they are fundamentally, who they accept being, or because changing requires more of them than they have at their disposal: empathy, self-awareness, responsibility, honesty, humility, bravery, to name a few.

    If someone, presumably from my past comes back around for another go on the basis that they have changed, I’m going to react as if someone were to hand me a drink with kiwi vodka, “No, thanks, I tried that and didn’t like it.” Said person, “Oh no, you need to give it another chance.” Maybe I will, but I know I won’t swallow it in one shot. I’ll take a sip. I’ll be slightly wary because my first experience was so negative. If, after the sip, I find that it tastes better than before, I’ll continue to nurse it until I’m sure that this is indeed something I enjoy drinking. Somehow, I sincerely doubt kiwi vodka will become my new favorite liquor, but I’m open to trying it again.

    If, however, I take a sip and it tastes like poison, I’m going to shake my head and say, “Sorry, no, still don’t like it and it’s not for me. Thanks.” That’s probably the end of my trial run with kiwi vodka.

    So too, if someone approaches me and claims to have changed, I won’t throw my arms open wide and say “Gimme some of that lovin’ baby cuz now I know you changed.” I will possibly hear them out and see if they pass the first test: sincerity. If they appear genuine and forthright, then I will give them a sip, not a sup, not a shot, not throw caution to the wind suck down, but a fair yet permissible sip of their “changed self.” This has happened rarely in my life but it has happened and if I had been guzzling down their highball of change, I would’ve been hurling. I practiced what constitutes as experienced behavior. I experienced kiwi vodka, didn’t like it and won’t be as quick to try it again. Someone does me wrong and swings around with a story of change I will weigh the claim, what went wrong in our previous engagement, what I did to contribute to the situation and change myself moving forward to avoid the old pattern.

    I had an on/off again friend who frankly constituted as a frenemy. She had some great attributes and not so great. She was always a call. She was also a lot of energy and emotional work. I hit a breaking point and went NC (before I knew no contact was a tactic). When I’m done, I’m done. Years ticked by. I changed. She changed. Such is life. She enlisted a third party mutual friend to warm me up by professing how much she missed me, how she’d changed and so forth. I wasn’t having it. Mutual friend kept at it—wearing me down. Basically, he said I should at least hear her out and then decide. He gave her the green light and she called one night.

    We sort of picked up where we left off. Things were okay. Not perfect. She did not spontaneously combust into a different person but there seemed to be more respect for boundaries and feelings on BOTH our parts. I never fully came back 100%. Due to my years of prior experience, I just couldn’t muster up total trust, affection and accord. I tried. I thought over time as she earned my trust, that we would be stronger for it. Frankly, it just never came to fruition. She maintained change long enough for me to enjoy her company while it lasted but once she felt enough time had gone by, her true former self emerged. Change was an illusion. Elusive. God bless her, it had me going for a while, but not totally. When you’ve been burned, you don’t stick your complete hand on the stove. You lick your finger and tap it.

    The person that returns like the prodigal son should not expect the other person to welcome them back as though suffering amnesia. If a person truly means good, has changed for the better and is willing to accept another’s reservation and earn trust and good graces, then I say, proceed with caution if you feel this person enriched your life in whatever way they did. Proceed. WITH CAUTION. Throwing caution to the wind suggests that you couldn’t have been hurt so bad as to be so speedily accepting of their presence. It is not a punishment. It is not revenge. If someone did you no good, then armed with the knowledge that they in past had the capability of busting your boundaries requires even stricter more clear boundaries drawn. You also can’t overact as Natalie stated if someone does something that has no relation to your previous history—harder than it sounds as I had to really discriminate when my aforementioned girlfriend did something insensitive. Was it shades of her previous behavior or something else? I had to discern based on my prior knowledge. Sometimes I wasn’t sure, but my guard was up. As she continued to behave in a less than manner over time, I came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter if this was a Repeat, it wasn’t making me feel good to be around her. End of.
    I’m glad I gave it another chance because I did learn you can open that door but once it revolves, you can step out and move on too.
    Change is ultimately our own choice. It is a decision. I reflect on Natalie’s recent article about choices. I think change is something we self-elect. To change to suit the needs of another either requires compromise on both parties, or is probably a façade, a falsity that in time will fade only to reveal the true person underneath. My friend changed because she missed me. I asked her. That was her answer. I didn’t love it. I had serious misgivings right there. Had she said, “I changed because I thought back and didn’t like the way I treated you and others. I lost out on some wonderful friendships because of XYZ. I realized I couldn’t continue to act like that if I wanted to keep friends like you around.” Had she said something to that effect, then I think I would’ve been more optimistic about her so-called “change.” Missing me, while flattering, didn’t dig deep enough. It’s superficial. No surprise that her change was just as skin-deep.

    To change, one must dig, and dig, and try to find the root cause. Fear of abandonment? Fear of intimacy? Fear of…change? Whatever it is, it isn’t the topical, easy to see stuff. It’s way down there in the muck and yuck, strata of ourselves. That takes a lot of work and examination. Most people, my friend said today, are not so hip to do that kind of work. They’d rather brush it off. It’s that person’s fault, not mine. It’s my childhood. It’s my karma. It’s something I wish could be different but not enough to actually do anything about it. They latch onto excuses, justifications.

    Natalie is dead on correct that we have to measure a person’s change by their habits. Peter, the one playing devil’s advocate is correct that change does require two people to create a new, healthier dynamic. I think that’s the point he keeps driving at. For him to recommend that the person being presented with the other’s ‘new persona’ should not ask questions is ridiculous. Change cannot come at face value. It cannot be stated as a matter of fact and don’t you know you better believe it without actions that reflect this so-called change. I think the above questions Natalie posits should also be internalized for both people as well. In order to revive something new, both parties must adapt, evolve unless they want to find themselves playing the role of Pete and Repeat on a boat. It doesn’t fall completely on the shoulders of one person. It is mutual, a shared responsibility that I frankly don’t see many people nowadays mustering that kind of dedication, commitment or effort when they can just start fresh anew with someone else.

    Core values are doubtless going to change. There are those who’ve successfully managed it, but I think they are a minority. If someone has exhibited misogynistic attitudes, are manipulative, exploit kindnesses or generosity, degrade, disrespect, take advantage or insert typical AC maneuvers, I have serious reservations that this bloke is going to do a 180 and be non-judgmental, empathetic, giving, supportive, respectful and conscientious. It’s too much of an overhaul. If the person shut down instead of communicating and was willing to change that, then yes, there’s an opportunity for change. To undergo a personality transplant is not gonna happen. If they presented themselves as one thing but pulled the ole bait and switch then I’m not sure how change is even going to matter a hill of beans if they’ve proved duplicitous.
    The amount of change required may be more than a person can cough up. Our expectations have to reasonable. I don’t want to believe that people would rather justify away the opportunity to be a better version of themselves but I think there’s some confusion between healthy self-love and self-appraisal. I keep seeing pretty images with lovely affirmations that on the surface seem like positive reinforcement…until those who are already narcissistic or self-promotional get their grubby hands all over them and basically cherry pick what is convenient. “Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love you.” A normal person can take away the positive message. An AC can see that and say, “See! I don’t need to change. All I need is the right woman (doormat) to love me!” Yippee!! Been seeing this more and more lately. Other affirmations include “You’re wonderful just the way you are. Never change who you are,” and the like. On the face of it, these are not harmful. But I’m seeing a lot of self-love that isn’t the kind Natalie preaches on here but is the narcissistic, selfish sort of love that I think is being overly indulged. Not seeing a lot of the Golden Rule. That which promotes the self or the ego…yeah, it’s out there with a cute little kitten tangled in yarn.

    Regret has become a verboten word. It’s baaaaaad to regret. Is it really? Gotta say that my regrets are more than a few and regret is probably the best impetus for change. Self-flagellation is bad. Beating yourself up with a brick of regret is counterproductive. But if you can walk this earth beyond the age of your teens and not have regret means either you weren’t paying attention or you’re not experiencing sorrow for that which you would do differently given the opportunity. Now isn’t that the kind of stuff that illicit change? When did regret become so awful to admit? I regret choices I’ve made, things I’ve said or done, bad decisions and yes, I thought at the time I was probably making the best decision based on what I knew at the time and who I was, but regret schools me whenever I feel that pang in my heart. It is what makes us human. It is necessary and living with regret doesn’t mean paying for the sins of your actions but to do better in similar circumstances. I’ve run into a dozen people in the past year that boast “I don’t have any regrets!” like they are above it all and I have to say these people have got plenty to regret. Are these folks capable of change? I somehow doubt it.

    If we’re confusing healthy self-love with giving ourselves an overabundance of passes, if we pass along this ‘regret is a useless emotion’ (saw it on Facebook recently), if we keep maintaining that we are so special that we are justified, not accountable or whatever and it’s everyone else that needs to deal then I’m not sure how change can occur when regret, remorse, and realization are really best to be avoided or fobbed off on others, not ourselves.

    I think people are more willing to change partners, friends and loved ones then to do the work and change themselves. Change does then exist in that we have become interchangeable.

    • Peter says:

      Dear MRWriter,
      Really well written, an asset to this discussion, thank you so much. You should consider writing your own blog, if you do not do so already. And yes, you did understand me well – I do indeed think the dynamic between two people is the responsibility of both of these two, interacting – but you have already put it into words much better than I could have done.
      Thanks again, for your insightful sharing.
      Peter.

    • Wiser says:

      Great post! Reminds me of one of my favorite T.S. Eliot quotes: “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” Reality, especially facing what’s real about ourselves and our behavior, our choices, our justifications, our regrets and our resistance to change, is very hard for many people to bear. My therapist, who had been practicing for over 30 years, says only about 10% of her clients ever take that scary journey. The rest just want relief for their symptoms, but they don’t really want a “cure” because that would require them to change.

      I recently discovered research and videos on the subject of “self-compassion” on the internet (as opposed to self-esteem, which I was surprised to discover has actually fallen out of favor with many therapists. To discover the interesting reason why this is, check out any Youtube videos of researcher Dr. Kristin Neff or go to her website at http://www.self-compassion.org). Self-esteem, in many cases, has degenerated into how to “feel good about myself” at all costs – usually avoiding the kind of painful self-reflection required for genuine change. It often manifests as that kind of selfish self-love and narcissism that you mentioned, and avoiding necessary regret is a common tactic. For many people, just rearranging their outer situations is as much change as they want to do.

      As you said so beautifully, “…people are more willing to change partners, friends and loved ones then to do the work and change themselves. Change does then exist in that we have become interchangeable.”

    • Tanzanite says:

      MRWriter

      I like what you have written and although your friend says most people don’t reflect,the Women/men on here have reflected.

      I also agree with you about the no regrets thing.I have regrets and prolonging my own agony and not knowing when to fold in regards to the AC is right up there with my difficult relationship with my mother.

      I have been single for 4 years and never felt so good in my life.

      Thanks Natalie/women/men on this site.

      We sometimes have to accept that we are fundamentally incompatible and the only way is forward.If they really have changed the next person is going to be very lucky.

    • oldenoughtoknowbetter says:

      MRWriter – This was extremely well written and insightful! Thank you for taking the time to share this, I very much enjoyed reading it!

      I have regrets, I have insight, and I am learning self awareness and to avoid self-flagellation (which is really just a major pity party, woe is me, I’m so bad, boo hoo hoo, poor me) because it does not clear the space for growth and learning from our mistakes and creating change. But when you get that, it is so incredibly powerful, it is like once you see, you cannot un-see. I am 100% responsible for who I am and where I am at today. If I don’t like that direction, I have the power to change it…if I choose to…or not!

      Excellent!

    • pinkpanther says:

      MRWriter,
      What a concise thinker/writer you are, thank you.

      You scared the beejeezee’s out of me, articulating some of the ills of society. It’s a big messed up puppy out there in gimmie gimmie land.

      All I can say is that we all better make damn well sure of the company we keep. We’ve got to find the people with the capacity to go deep, and keep the rest at an amused arms length.

    • rsj says:

      “I think people are more willing to change partners, friends and loved ones then to do the work and change themselves.”

      This is one reason why I suggest the culture of positive thinking promotes unhealthy beliefs/ideals. By suggesting that people only surround self with those of a like mind, or only those who validate/affirm etc, essentially results in a population who’s development is stunted.

      Unfortunately, the popularity of the messages you mention seems to be as you suggest – because they give an out (justification) to those who do not want to do the self work: “I am me – accept me as I am, take it or leave it”.

      • EllyB says:

        At my workplace, apart from all those other issues, they have also started doing things that are clearly unethical and even possibly against the law. Of course this is due to our difficult economic situation… but to me this is inacceptable ANYWAY.

        Seems as if I was the only one who objected though. My coworkers act as if I am simply being “immature” and “unwise”, possibly because I’m younger than most others and without family.

        I’m quite sure they are NOT going to change. I, on the other hand, refuse to change as well. I don’t want to support this BS only because everyone else does it and pretends it’s okay.

      • Selkie says:

        It’s easy to just give up, bail, and look where the grass seems greener (if you’re the one bailing, not so easy on the bailee). But does it end? The grass is always greener somewhere else after you’ve eaten up all the fresh stuff where you are. That’s why farmers make hay from the green grass they have. It keeps them through the lean times in the winter. It’s so true that many folks go through life avoiding self growth and change when they can just switch circumstances. They may argue that that is growth by living simply without conflict, but I don’t buy it. It’s more like becoming vanilla. I prefer some chocolate sauce and gummy bears on mine please. It does seem rampant. It’s a very deep well we’re looking down on this one. Has it existed all along, is it just divorce and on line and multi dating make it more acceptable and accessible? My grandparents where happily (for real) married 60 years before he died. Does that even happen anymore? Too many choices? Entitlement? Numbness? What is it? Telling children in school they are all winners when some haven’t even tried? I agree with the extreme of self help just being positive through all emotions can make us lose touch. It may make us incapable or inept when we are confronted with bad times and a smile just doesn’t cut it. I’m rambling here. Too much coffee.

        • EllyB says:

          Selkie – were you referring to me who has “given up” and decided to accept another job after realizing that there is just too much toxic cr*p going on at my current workplace (where I’ve been working for almost a decade)? I TRULY believe I am powerless against this and unable to single-handedly change an entire company that’s seems so set in its ways (especially since it looks as if I’d become a target of bullying myself lately).

          Yeah, I really hope that the grass will be greener elsewhere… and hopefully I will be right!

          On the other hand I agree that many bad things happen in the world simply because people refuse to change their unhealthy habits.

          • Selkie says:

            Oh gosh, no EllyB, I was agreeing with RSJ’s comment, who was quoting MR Writers comment about changing partners frequently to avoid self reflection and making needed changes within oneself. It just happened to fall under your comment when I used the reply button under her comment.
            But since you asked, I think your work environment sounded toxic indeed. I wouldn’t stick around in a situation where I felt folks were being unethical and doing illegal things either, then bullying me to comply. We spend much of our life a work, it makes sense we should feel comfortable there. If you found a better situation I applaud you for doing what’s right for you.

          • Wiser says:

            Getting out of a toxic situation is never “bailing” or “giving up.” Sometimes the grass really is greener somewhere else, absolutely. I think the difference is whether or not you’ve done the hard internal work to look at yourself and your own motives and intentions. Just jumping ship without struggling with the process and enduring the pain and discomfort that comes with this is what’s immature. I just had to make a decision on whether or not to leave a social group I belong to because I didn’t like the way they operated and they weren’t open to change. Small potatoes, but oh it was agony! I had about 10 voices in my head all trying to play devil’s advocate. “You’re just quitting, and quitting is immature.” “You’re just pouting because you’re not getting your way, so you’re taking your marbles and going home.” “You’re just unable to commit to anything and you’re being disloyal.” “You should be grateful this group exists at all and start focusing on what’s good about it.”

            See? Not an easy thing to deal with at all. (And even harder when applying it to bigger things like jobs and relationships!) But I had to sift through these voices one by one to clarify my own intentions and motives. My decision was a good one I think, based on sound reasons, and I hope a sign of growth rather than an avoidance of it. But oh, it was not easy!

            • EllyB says:

              It’s those double binds that are really the problem. For example, on the one hand management always attacks our team for poor performance. On the other hand, I’m often doing stellar work and getting praise for it, but this means that my deputy team leader does everything in her power to make me abandon my excellent projects instead of following through. And then she proceeds to steal my ideas whenever she can…

              She has done so for years, and it is crazy making. Whenever our team leader is away and she is in charge, I have to hide in my office all day long because otherwise she would constantly try to talk me out of my projects. I end up feeling extremely lonely and isolated.

              Somehow nobody else seems to believe that she has ill intentions, even it is so totally obvious to me!!! They all seem to believe she is just some nice, big clumsy girl.

              The problem is that management doesn’t seem to care all that much either. Somehow they don’t want me to get “too big for my britches”.

              • EllyB says:

                And btw, I’ve read a lot of career “advice” that is effectively blaming the victim. Believe me, I have done everything in my power to support her, to empathize with her, to make it clear that I didn’t want to compete with her, that I understood her worries, that I wasn’t after her job, that I was on her side and so on… but apparently this has only made things worse. She has systematically exploited this supportive behavior of mine FOR YEARS.

                • grace says:

                  Elly
                  It’s a job. They pay you. You work. There is no other relationship. You may or may not form friendships there, but it’s not what you’re there for. You’re under no obligation to learn any life lessons from these people. When you leave you will forget them, as they will forget you.
                  HR is there to protect the company from lawsuits. Management don’t want to deal with “issues”. Accountants and the like are not interested in that stuff.
                  I’ve left many jobs, no regrets. There was one I was a bit sorry about but the company was wound down a few years after I left so I couldn’t have stayed there anyway.
                  I had a toxic supervisor in a previous job who is still doing it though everyone ignores her. I just laugh about it insofar as I can be bothered to think about it, ie not much.
                  Screw ‘em!
                  Your next job will be better, I’m sure.

                  • EllyB says:

                    Grace: You’re right. I still seem to believe that I am (at most) as good as my professional achievements. Which means, if I “fail” at a certain workplace, this means I’m a failure myself.

                    This is wrong of course. My toxic, narcissistic parents made me believe this. And then, when it turned out that I was getting straight “A”s at school all the time, they told me I was a horrible child anyway because of my (purportedly) abominable character/personality…

                    Also, the fact that my coworkers seem to do shady/unethical things frequently makes me think I have to stay around in order to fix/counterbalance whatever they are doing even if this is a) impossible and b) means I have to get corrupted myself in order to survive.

                    But yeah, I simply don’t have the POWER to single-handedly “save the world” or even to change a company that is way more powerful than I am. I don’t have to feel guilty for this. It is not my fault.

                    Of course, as a child I used to believe I could somehow change my abusive/personality disordered parents even if they had all the power while I had none and even if were totally UNWILLING to change (due to their obvious lack of empathy). As a child, I was unable to get out, of course. This is why I needed to tell myself this lie about possibly being able to change them.

                    Now I can GET OUT of unhealthy situations. No need to BS myself into staying.

    • Rosie says:

      MRWriter, I look forward to your posts. You articulate well what I often think but can’t describe. You have a gift! :)

  25. Tired says:

    It is about us and alot about how we change to . Ive started to stand up for myself a bit more and old habits are hard to break . For instance i was telling my ex hubby about helping my friend clear the house of his ex who was my friend who died suddenly. I could see that old dissaproving look and i could feel myself explaining why and i thought what am i do ichoose to help so be it !!!! Its my negative thoughts i need to wk on and how quick they nring me down . Like this. Oh ex mm has a gig over this way , oh hes had one every night , oh his life so busy and full ,hes moved pn and im forgotten , my life is empty etc etc , thats how quick i can bring myself down . Wheres as now i. Try and do this . Yes he gigs alot , yes hes a musician that is what they do .musician yes , good , decent man ? Smoke and mirrors ? Yes , people see the act yes . You yes are fine and clever because you have seen through it . I try and rework it. But it is a really hard habit to break a real hard one , twenty odd years of the worry factor i call it . But ive started and that must be a ositive . Its as nat says getting out your comfort zone and for a good reason to

  26. paolo says:

    ”If someone has changed, it’s not that those cues and triggers have disappeared – it’s that they’ve learned to respond differently”.

    Took me a while to learn that one. It’s a good post Natalie. x

  27. Superbad says:

    What do you do when you think you were the one who made them run away? I recently wrote about the guy I dated for a short term, and then I ended it.

    I reviewed it all in my head in an effort to keep my side of the street clean. There were two places I need to forgive myself for: one conversation where I feel my tone was pulling and needy, and another time when I did not listen well.

    I feel like the conversation was what drove him away – eventhough before that he had dropped loads of hints about his unavailability in words (so busy, women don’t understand him, relationships based on intensity, fitting someone into his freetime). Do you believe the words? His actions until then had been stellar. Now I feel like my words/tone stopped his actions from continuing….

    How do you know it was you or them? How do you forgive yourself? Was I safe, but fearful, or was my fear based on something real?

    Ladies and gents, please tell me your thoughts….

    • Selkie says:

      If a conversation asserting your boundaries drives someone away, then you know it was not a good match. Assuming your boundaries are not extreme and impossible, and if I remember yours was not ( no sex until exclusive, right? ). Do you want to go back on your boundary just to have this person in your life? No sex until your exclusive seems reasonable to me, if that scared him away then let him go. It’s also up to him if he agrees and feels the same. He doesn’t, but that doesn’t make you wrong. It makes you incompatible. You can like someone but still be incompatible. Boundaries aren’t meant to change him or his mind, but to stay on your own course according to your values. I am not into casual sex or sharing partners, or std’s, so it would be a deal breaker for me and I’d let him go his own way. Asserting boundaries doesn’t always mean instant gratification but it will save you trouble down the road. Trust it.

    • Rosie says:

      Superbad, you’re not responsible for his behavior; he is. I’m not a mind reader but often people drop hints to relieve themselves of all responsibility when they want the benefits of being in a committed relationship without being in a committed relationship: “It’s not my fault you’re hurt and didn’t get the relationship you wanted with me. I told you what I was about…”

      Please, please search Natalie’s posts on being a blame-absorber.

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Nothing you did chased him away. If it did, he wasn’t planning to stick around anyway. Have you read Natalie’s book? Get really involved in reading this blog and her other stuff so that you can stop feeling that his behavior is your fault. He is not extension of you, and you’re not an extension of him. You are two separate individuals with different thoughts, wants, needs, Don’t over think what is going on and make it complicated. He’s not that special and may not be as that interested in you as you may think.

  28. twistinmysobriety says:

    I was wondering if any of you know real ACs, who have changed for the better? What did it take for them to change? I know that people can change, but I have never witnessed an AC turn into a decent person (those that are still ACs into their 30s, 40s or 50s). Sometimes it just seems impossible, when no matter how assclowny they get, more and more women (or men) keep running after them.Do they need to experience some kind of a life altering event?

    My ex-AC has gone through a major disaster, where all his shenanigans have been revealed to the world (talk about karma haha). Someone got really angry and publicly shamed him. Even though I really want nothing with him anymore, I do wish that he could become a better person. So I wonder, can they ever REALLY change?

    • pinkpanther says:

      Yes, I do know AC’s that have really changed. They took hitting bottom. Crisis forces change, but it’s always preferable to change because you want to not because you have to.

      An Ex of mine came to me 15 years later to tell me she was sorry. In this case it was a wonderful thing. Mostly because I was long over her, and I was happy to know she understood the harm she caused.

      We are good friends (no lingering lover feelings), she’s one of the coolest women I’ve ever known, and I am proud to be her friend!

    • Silverbee says:

      My EUM/slightly assclowny Returning Childhood Sweetheart has changed. Really. We’ve gotten back together as good friends (with some mild, infrequent but playful benefits – I just can’t get away to visit him that much anymore) and it’s working well. I have my ups and downs with it but they are not his fault – it’s just at 62 I wish there were some things that were different, that I could go back and make some different decisions regarding our shared past. Regrets, I’ve got a few.

      I give him some leeway too, as his physical ailments are getting worse and they do make it difficult for him to always be totally “there”.

      But the changes from our first 9 months together are quite amazing. Gone is the sarcastic, cutting humor that he often turned on me – there hasn’t been a speck of it in more than a year of regular communications. He is much more gentle, thoughtful and easy-going about a lot of things that used to make him tense, angry, withdrawn and accusatory. He has been willing to admit, openly (something he NEVER did before) that many of his problems with his exes and his kids were at least partly his responsibility. He is more forgiving of people when they do things that used to really upset him, and cause him to either fly off the handle or just cut them off (which he did to me). He expresses his appreciation to me and others much more readily than before – he seems to have realized that he was taking a lot of good people and good circumstances in his life for granted, and that wasn’t okay.

      He always spoke very movingly, and sincerely, of his spiritual faith and ideals, which was one of the things I loved about him. During our estrangement in 2011, he told me he spent a lot of time praying and meditating and trying to get closer to God. I’m certain this helped him make some of the changes.

      Frankly, I do feel that he knows he probably doesn’t have many more years to live. His diabetes is bad and the terrible pain of neuropathy is advancing. He complained recently of some problems with his vision, which is also not a good sign. All of this, I believe, has put many life issues in a different perspective for him and helped him make real shifts in his way of doing things.

      It could be argued that given the physical pain he is in much of the time, he’s entitled to be a little AC – but he is actually far, far less so. Which makes me love, respect and admire him A LOT. If I were living in his wrecked body right now, I’d probably be a raving bitch.

      I just give thanks that he and I can be loving, close, communicating, laughter-sharing friends again until the sad day comes when I have to say good-bye to him for the rest of this lifetime.

    • BethD says:

      Very hard to get permanent change from an ac and if he is a narc forget it. My ex hit rock bottom 2 years into my relationship when I left him and refused contact for a few months. He begged me back, relentlessly pursued me and i broke. He was Prince Charming for the next 5 years. It was actually amazing. Last few yrs with him he slowly went back to who he is. Selfish, conceited, arrogant, and no empathy. It was quite shocking but I did dump him fast because of the early years crap which I thankfully didn’t forget. Permanent change is practically impossible for these disordered types. They are too hard wired. Nc is essential as someone else said. Those mixed in great times always leave you vulnerable to their hovering. Peace and freedom from their web can only come with total NC.

  29. Tired says:

    Tinks
    Yes you are right , i did tell her to read br but i think she to scared as shell see the truth . You cant wishy wash it away can you when you come on here . Lol i recognise the signs now with me , early morning low , once i get stuck into day im usually okay . But i know and understand its me and neg feelings and thoughts . That is what im trying to change . Arh the dog . I know i should wait till summer out way but im missing a dog so bad lololol !

    • Furry White Dogs says:

      Hi Tired,

      Not sure if you saw a reply I made two articles previously but if it would be better to wait ’til summer to get a new dog but you really miss having doggy company perhaps you could foster for a rescue group until it is the right time to to get your own dog. Having a doggy face to interact with certainly gets you stuck into the day right away!

      I totally sympathise with you missing your dog. A lot of my fears and worries around the future are about ending up without my furry companions. I have to really work hard at not overfeeding that worry goldfish and and trust that I will make the right choices for the three of us.

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Keep trying Tired. I know it’s not easy what you’re trying to do. I’m just super glad you are maintaining. I just get concerned/ nervous at some of the tings you say, and then I say to myself,
      “OH, No Tired. Don’t go back.” I guess my concern about you replacing your dog is so that you can feel better. But that not all of it. If I were not allergic to furry pets, I’d certainly have one. I ADORE DOGS!!!

  30. Selkie says:

    Wow. I’m blown away at the comments lately. The degree of self reflection and foresight are beyond amazing. So glad to be a part of it. This blog is invaluable.

  31. teachable says:

    Peter. The short answer to yr Q to Nat is this. The types of r.shits most ppl on BR are extricating themselves from / seeking clarity about, are not typical, healthy, ‘normal’ r.ships. Rather, in the main, they are one sided power plays, ruled by arrogant, dishonest, abusive (not always but mostly) men. Nat DOES encourage ppl on the other end of these unhealthy r.shits (against mostly, though not always, women) to change – by GETTING OUT & no longer tolerating abuse & BS!

    • FX says:

      Amen to your synopsis teachable!

      I think BR is valuable for personal growth and understanding any relationship but the focus is clearly not on the “garden variety.” This is evidenced by No Contact as a cornerstone of recovery on BR, including a separate ebook and email subscription. At the end of a “normal” relationship, NC may be a choice but is not a necessity. With an AC/EU/PD person as 1/2 of the equation, it is almost always essential.

  32. 2fearce says:

    Rev., lucky charms… Thank u for adding the polo to my marco! Sincerely.

    That sd, made plans w my ex that led me to BR for a sit down. (Wait wait hear me out) Made it clear the amount of time I had available n WE set the time. Has gone on n on about the soul searching she’s done btw. Yet in still… After all that change talk, she still wasn’t there when we sd then proceeded to call me n get mad at me bc she didn’t like the “uh-uh” I gave her when she told me she was lost (gng to a place she’s bn b4 (3 times) in a city she has several lifelong friends w a navigation system). I calmly asked her if she was done n told her goodbye (Yup, for good). Plain n simple– She’s used up all her chances; I’m not spending one more second waiting for her.

    Scenario synopsis:

    Her Words– I’ve changed.

    My Response– ok, I’ll suspend my skepticism and give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m still giving you the side eye n making my boundaries very clear.

    Her Actions– I haven’t changed a lick, was just hoping u wouldn’t notice (or u hadn’t changed either n was still willing to accept my crumbs)

    My actions– Yeah…. about that… buh-bye!

    If her actions had said otherwise, I would have taken it as given n proceeded w caution.. but they didn’t.

    The End.

    Ps– no far reaching pain or hurt for me in the living of this drama

  33. Rosie says:

    My dad died of cancer. When he was in the hospital, I remember looking at the IV drip into his veins and thinking that that’s how transforming grace works (I’m a religious person). Change isn’t overnight; it’s a drop by drop process.

    I found religion about 13 years ago and thought that that was THE ANSWER to what ailed me. However, in therapy (and through grace, I believe) I discovered that I just exchanged one external manifestation of dysfunction for another. As “spiritual” as I thought I was, it was inauthentic. All it was was spiritualized dysfunction. It’s taken 13 years but I am becoming “the real thing”, meaning that I’m learning to accept that I’m mere creature and, thus, want to accept life on life’s terms, able to develop meaningful friendships, have the courage to be vulnerable and to truly see myself, strength to live out my convictions (most of the time). I’ve stopped trying to control people and have even managed to stop micromanaging myself (most of the time). I’m learning (not “there” yet but trying hard) to let go of self-absorption.

    13 years it’s taken me to get this far. 13 years!

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Rosie. You may not be where you want to be yet, but you’re not where you were. Love yourself for that.

  34. Lilia says:

    Reading this post and all of your comments I had a light-bulb moment that consisted of the following:
    When you want someone else to change, it means you are not willing to change yourself.

    Meaning that when we´re all set on changing the ACs of this world so they´ll finally see the light and adapt to our needs, we are also insisting on our view of how things should be – namely, that we should be involved with those particular ACs and only them. When it would be so much more logical to change our idea of how things should be and just change our mind and move on! Wow I feel like some scientist cracking a code, I hope I don´t sound like I´m on dope or whatever (because I´m not), but I came to the following conclusion: wanting or needing someone to be different, to change, means that we ourselves have a red flag.

    (I hope that makes sense, it sounded a bit Du-uh when I reread it.)

  35. Tired says:

    Tinks and furywhitedogs
    I prob will wait till end of yr as i have rallies and a holiday. If i get a puppy now it means finding someone to mind it and id rather waiting then i get all autum /winter to do puppy training . I walk my friends dog now :) . Tinks i only slipp backwards in my head and thats change i have to work on . But it is getting less and less and on fri night have a drink with friend i was saying how good it feels to be away from a person like that . The only reason it brought me diwn a bit was because i felt i never really knew the person at all and at how easily i was duped .that was in the beginning i might add . Toward the end i could see lie after lie lije bug flashing neon alert . Lol only wish id had the strength back then and sooner to binned it off .
    It is a constant battle with the old neg thoughts and how quickly they spiral but now adays i can see it and i stop myself and re think it . And that makes me smile because im learning .
    Ps tinks it takes a long time to break out the invisible prison of victim mode . But ive squeezed my way through the bars and im about half way there . Im glad im on my own because if someone eles was here i would have never dealt with any of this id have brushed it aside and thought about another soul sucking idiot . Its uncomfatable but being on your own makes you work on you . !

    • Tinkerbell says:

      I’m happy for you. Tired, and you have my continued concern and encouragement. So proud of you for continuing to work on yourself. I know the struggle. But as you have seen it gets better. Fall will be there sooner than you know and you’ll be busy with your new little friend. You have much to look forward to. Remember that.

  36. teachable says:

    I think that sums it up Nat. Peter you are either not wanting to discuss this topic (as you wish to discuss an alternate topic suggesting two ppl need to change for some reason). Happy to have a posr on two ppl changing though. It would be rather short, I suspect, reading simply,

    ‘when someone treats you badly, FLUSH ASAP & don’t look back (even if they later claim to have changed, unless there is concrete, & consistent evidence of this over time AND they were NOT abusive in the first place.) Better still, as a guiding principle don’t givie ex’s a 2nd chance to screw you over. They’re ex’s for a REASON & that REASON is highly unlikely to change (except for the WORSE.) The End. lol

  37. getouttahere! says:

    Im a 26year old female living in Australia. I started talking to a guy via instagram (I know, not wise) and then after some time, he asked to call. We spoke on the phone. He had to come here for a property management seminar. He’s younger (24) and comes from a small town.

    We met for a date (as it SEEMED we had a connection by phone) but, he didnt look quite as good as his pics. I put it aside though, not wanting to be superficial – as he was ‘nice’. Though, something didn’t feel quite ‘right’ about him.

    When he told me he wanted to be near me, he moved to my big city a week later. I told him to be careful being rash because if we didnt work out, there’s nothing I could do. He told me not to worry.

    One time, he disclosed that he was a Jehovahs Witness – red flags appeared – why keep it a secret all this time? He also neglected to say how seriously his family took it until he started going to meetings 3 times a week. I found out that his dad is an ‘elder’ – a leader. His dad doesnt even know he’s had sex before, let alone a girlfriend (he’s only ever had one proper gf – the rest were sex/hookups – yeah, ‘by the book huh?’).

    When he told his dad about me (because I told him to be open otherwise I wouldnt see him), his dad had a major problem with it. They had huge arguments apparently. Anyway, he left to be near me and god knows what threatening things his dad had said to him since.

    Then things started to change. We were intimate and he drank a few times while out, he started getting competitive when he found out what i earn ($), he started hating his job (he’s a coffee maker). He then quit that job to find a new coffee job (he hated the people). Which is exactly what he did twice in the small town – quit two other jobs on a bad note. I couldn’t help but notice that he kept leaving jobs and relationships on sour terms.

    He was so intense about me, especially when I showed disinterest or that I wasn’t sure about him. Always texting, calling – it stopped being romantic and started being too much. Ironically, when I gave in and returned interest, he became moody and competitive.

    He applied for a job at the coffee house across the road from my work – thats when i thought ‘oh my goodness..ths is too much’. He started going there all the time and texting me saying ‘i’m here if you want to see me’…during my work day…

    He kept saying he loved me and he’s never had anyone like me etc. and to challenge him and his promises, I asked what his intentions were. I said that if we weren’t working toward marriage/something stable (not to get married but meaning, toward something tangiable) then I wasn’t interested. I didn’t want drama, or a fling, or loose ends…

    He said he wanted something serious and to work toward a longterm thing – he was ready for it. Well, weeks later, he started getting moody, irritable, kept bringing up how he hated making coffee, how he wanted to be ‘somebody’, and when i saw his flat, he acted dejceted and said ‘you think its crap dont you…’ – i wasnt thinking that at all.

    He kept taking me to dinners and i told him that wasn’t necessary, he kept buying things and missing the point. The more we spent time together, the more he seemed to resent me.

    Eventualy I couldnt stand it, who i spoke to on the phone was much more ‘together’ and mature than him in real life. He started to talk about jehovahs witness and the bible and was concerned i didnt know certain stories and psalms…i realised there was no future and that he was confused about himself, his role, gender roles, religion – pretty much everything? No sense of self.

    When he changed around me, I asked what the problem was, he ended up telling me that he felt inadequate around me, like he couldnt provide what i needed and was looking for, that he was unsure of everything from his purpose, to his career, to his abilites to give as a man. I told him to cut the crap and take care – as id tried to help him with his confusion about all of these things.

    He went from being down to earth – to superficial and ‘star gazing’ in a big city – desperate for recognition, wanting new shiney things and more money and to ‘impress’ me (or maybe himself?).

    My question is, if he knew being jehovahs witness was a huge part of his life and something he wouldnt walk from, why did he push for something with me? DId he think that because im liberal and open minded, that i could figure it out for him and own his decision?

    Also, if i was disinterested to begin with, why did he push so hard, only to become dejected and pull away? Whats the point in all that drama? Why not just get a girl to screw?

    Thoughts?

    Oh!In addition, he doesn’t talk to his mother – at all! That was another fun fact later disclosed. She cheated on his father years ago and ironically, is the one who brought his dad to the Jehovahs Witness faith! His dad took it very seriously, adopted it ‘hard core’ and is now, an “elder”! Meanwhile she gets off scott free with no interaction with any of them – unless its to say ‘hi’ and grab a coffee where my ex worked.

    Too many issues in that basket!

    NEXT!

    • Tabitha says:

      Sounds like a textbook narcissist to me. Google the symptoms and see if Bob is in fact your uncle. The fast forwarding and future faking, losing jobs because he can’t get on with people, nothing is good enough, grandiose ideas, chasing you the more disinterested you are, all textbook. It might help you make sense of the “scrambled eggs” and help you maintain NC but really, whatever was wrong with him (plenty) you need to put some distance between you, and don’t get sucked back in.
      When I first came to this site and was truly heartbroken, at the lowest I have ever been in my life, I remember one poster (may have been Grace or CC) telling me, “You will soon be doing the I dodged a Bullet Dance.” I couldn’t see it at the time but boy oh boy now I do!!!!

      • Tinkerbell says:

        And Stalking! Very bad sign. The behavior escalates and they can be quite dangerous. Flush him (if you can) as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Good luck!

      • grace says:

        Tabitha
        It wasn’t me but I know the dance!

  38. grace says:

    I think people can change but it’s long and hard work and in most cases you’re better off just moving along. It’s probably less timeconsuming to date again and meet someone new than it is to get back together, observe, negotiate, get disappointed, react, deal with your own negative reactions, overcome trust issues, tackle incompatibilities. It may be worth the effort if you have children together but it still doesn’t mean it will work. And it could be hard for the children in the middle of it. It’s difficult to call because there is no guarantee that the changes will stick or be enough. The last thing I want is to be spending my life caretaking a difficult or complicated relationship.
    It’s still early days, coming up to a year, but I really like how well the boyfriend and I simply get on all the time. Life has been throwing us some curve balls but we don’t throw them at each other!

  39. rita says:

    I wish there was a Baggage reclaim for gay and lesbian people, 2 woman together is just different and i cant always use this advice because the circumstances is just so different.

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Really Rita? I’m surprised.

      • pinkpanther says:

        Rita,
        Until Natalie makes a queer clone of herself, all this is just too good to pass over.

        I’m gay too, and yeah it doesn’t always translate word for word, but the bigger picture is generally relevant. This site has helped me more than I can say.

  40. teachable says:

    Twistinmysobriety,

    I’ve been a member of various 12 step fellowships for 26+ years & ALL 12 step groups are about ppl fundementally changing, at a deep inner level. Many DO change with great effort over many years & much hard work practising & consolidating thoses changes. However, (& PLEASE pay attention to this as it’s CRITICALLY IMPORTANT), there IS a particular species of person, most often male (although occassionally female – in these cases usually a borderline pd who is a victim of abuse rather.than perp) known as sociopaths / psychopaths &/or the personality disordered (there are various catagories of these narcissistic pd applies mostly to males, anti-social pd roughly either gender & borderline tends to be mostly to females).

    I have seen borderline pd’s change in two serious cases (both females). These women were more victims of violence than perps but dished out their share of ‘trouble’ when they were running amok. One has.been in a stable long term r.ship for over a decade now, the other, still in her 20′s is single but non the less leading a responsible prodective life.

    These two ppl are examples of genuine change.

    Then there are the sociopaths, psychopaths, & NPD’s. (often bi-polar also) These (I have only seen this in males in this context, although I’ve known females in work settings). THESE GUYS NEVER CHANGE. NOT EVEN AFTER DECADES OF SOBRIETY IN WHICHEVER 12 STEP FELLOWSHIP THEY BELONG TO.These guys are charming, popular, often.good looking, have the gift of the gab & are DEADLY. So, there are some who NEVER change, even in 12 step fellowships renowned the world over as the epitomie of personal change agents against iossible odds.

    There you have it. Some change. Most do not. For every 1 person who sticks around a 12 step group (just using tht as an example) & fundementally changes, I’d easily watch another 50 if not MORE come & go!

  41. rita says:

    @Tinker, why surprised?

    • Tinkerbell says:

      I guess because, imo, we women are deeply feeling souls, very adaptable and because of our training as relates to me, we try hard to please. I seem to me that two women, knowing what they want, would give and behave that way toward each other. Although, the flip side of the coin is that women can be far more scheming and venomous than the average man. So, I don’t know. Your thoughts?

      • Tinkerbell says:

        I meant to say as relates to men. Excuse the typos. I’m supposed to be napping not on BR.

  42. Kitty66 says:

    Hi guys. I’m not sure this is completely on topic but I need an outlet. I’ve been NC for two years after a toxic 5 year relationship. I never found the NC part to be difficult because my life just kept getting better the further from the assclown I got. However, two years almost to the day he has emailed me and the temptation to tell him all about himself has been pretty huge. So here is the email that I will NOT be sending to him. I will keep my dignified silence and not engage but if I did this is what I would say:

    There is nothing you are selling that I am buying. The email you sent me was sneaky and an attempt to be manipulative. You probably thought it was sweet and seductive, I thought it was insulting. Of course there is nothing you could have said that would make me want to have anything to do with you again but at least it confirmed you are as you always were and have not grown at all. Still no empathy, still no self-awareness, still that huge sense of entitlement.

    How you could possibly think I would want you? There were all your lies, how you always tried to cut me down to make yourself feel bigger, how you treated me not as a person but a reflection upon yourself so that my appearance, career, behaviour were constantly criticised to make sure I knew what was expected of the girlfriend of such a great man as yourself and that I was never quite cutting it. By the end I just found you incredibly unlikeable, boring and dumb. We have no shared values in common. None. At all. You are racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. You think you are funny because you tell those awful, stale, inappropriate jokes. To be honest you came across as an embarrassing real life David Brent when you did this. Am I imagining it or did you actually sometimes use the phrase “I’m an entertainer”?

    Just a couple of examples of your delightful world view. You think people living in poverty are happier than those with disposable income because their lives are simpler with fewer demands. You think dolphins in captivity are happy because they are always smiling.

    You are an idiot.

    I heard this and thought of you!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8VZX4sHn-4

    • MRWriter says:

      You go, Kitty66! Thanks for sharing this with us instead of someone who probably wouldn’t read much past the 2nd sentence.

      • BethD says:

        Great letter Kitty and made me lol. I do agree that it is good you posted here instead of sending. He really wouldn’t get it and ignoring him will eat at him more. He sounds like a narc and ignoring a narc is the worst punishment you can inflict.

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Kitty. I’m glad you’re not going to send that letter. It would not accomplish what you think it would. It will not changes his thinking or his ways. If he thinks he’s so great, he is not interested in changing. So actually you would appear foolish to send him that letter. But, most of all, you are sending him the message that even after 2 years you are still as angry as if it were yesterday. If he had any doubts or wondered, you have settled that score for him. When you are totally over him you become disinterested and ambivalent. There’s no more room for anger. I don’t want to be mean, but it seem you’re still not over him, although the words in your letter express how much you hate his guts. That’s a dead givaway, also.

      • FX says:

        Yes, I could write a similar letter and it, too, would reveal I’m still pissed and wouldn’t result in him changing into a better person or feeling any remorse or responsibility.

        Unfortunately, I recently made the mistake of typing an outraged reply to a text hoover telling him he was a Narcissist and no longer my concern. I was just venting and had every intention of deleting it but before it was even done, the screen froze and in my effort to unfreeze it, the text was sent. Lesson learned! I should have just immediately deleted his text as I have before. I had been NC about 10 months and I was actually annoyed about someone else and conflated my issues. I guess the only upside is that maybe he’ll stop hoovering if he thinks he can’t hit the reset button even after all this time or that I’m unhinged since the random unfinished text didn’t sound quite like me. At least I stopped myself from sending another text explaining that I didn’t mean to send it. LOL And, I’m back to NC, of course.

        I am obviously still working on not caring who he is or what he thinks, too, and wish I could achieve indifference already. I know he won’t/can’t change. Years of random intermittent reinforcement have changed my brain chemistry, though, and it is just taking a long time to repair the damage.

  43. 2fearce says:

    Rita,

    There is.. its called baggage reclaim. ;)

    Seriously, while the timelines n complexities of gblt relationships can be intricate (including an intensity level that is through the roof) people are people and… people have issues. Period.

    I wouldn’t discount BRs usefulness; take what u can, and leave what you think doesn’t apply. Be careful in your dismissals however; I often find that I want our relationships to be special cases so I don’t have to apply the same “rules”. Alas, (fortunately or unfortunately depending on my headspace) my exes are not that special. I will acknowledge that we do attach quickly and to a level that our partners become closer than family which makes it particularly difficult to extricate ourselves. In a world where our lives (and relationships) are discounted, dismissed and denied, it can indeed be traumatic to lose even one person (when there are already so few of support).

    One advantage… I seem to get over these fools a lil faster…perhaps bc I had to deal with my identity issues before all this. I just need to shake awake my voice and power up my (ever evolving) sleeping giant of an identity. Pretty sure we’re well represented in the BR fold though of course I have no proof lol.

  44. rita says:

    @2fearce i agree and am not dissing BC, it has helped me alot but i cant seem to make a choice if i want to give my ex another chance.

    she lied about her being in a relationship because she is afraid of rejection which i can understand and thats why i say i wish Nats could give advice on lesbian relationships as well. because their is a bigger chance for rejection with gay people hence the lies!!

    i hate lies and thats one of my values, my ex doesnt see it as a problem because of her reason and after her explantion i could’nt help but to try to understand her point of view! After 6 months she still wants a second chance, she admits after 6 months that she was wrong which she didnt admit 6 months ago, now she wants to go and see somebody to help us with this issue and to try the relationship again!! i just cant make a choice because i understand her reason but i also know that i will always wonder what she does on her fb,bbm,whazzup and e-mail. she told men that she was single her reason is because she was afraid of rejection and my question was why lie to people that she doesnt even know but she cant answer me on that all i know is that she cares alot about what other people think of her and it makes me crazy. i dont expect her to tell them who and what, i just expect her to tell them “yes i am in a relationship’

    she looks really sorry and i think she relized what she had, my question should i take a chance or not? everybody makes mistakes!! ughhh i cant express myself so well in english, hope this makes sence..

    nobody likes being rejected so i do understand and everyone deserves a second chance, i am giving myself a hard time because i cant give her the second chance. she was and are still good to and for me, i just dont know if i should go there again. shes also a flirt and doesnt understand that i dont want that in my relationship, she tells me this is who she is. now, i have learned to accept people as they are, to not want to change them or judge them so what do i do. i dont want to change her but i want to change the fact that shes a flirt!!! grrr now i am even more confused!!

  45. 2fearce says:

    Rita,
    You said honesty was a value to u— she lies. End of. The fact that she doesn’t see it as an issue doesn’t mean it isn’t still an important issue for u. This just in– you are not her! You are your own person with your own values and ideas. Just because she wants another shot doesn’t mean she automatically gets one. Don’t abdicate your responsibility in your own life… The decision is yours not hers. Truth is you’ve already made a decision, you’re just hoping to change your own mind. Go back and read your post…she says, she wants, she thinks… What do you think??!!

    Ps– its okay to love her and not want her for a girlfriend.
    Pps– Sadly, I’m talking to myself as well.

    • Rosie says:

      2fearce–Going only by your comments, you really seem to have your head together. I’m not understanding why you’re ending up in the unhealthy relationships that you are (I don’t expect you to answer. I mean all this as a compliment, though it’s coming out differently than how I mean it, sorry. :( )?

  46. 2fearce says:

    Tink…

    Two women knowing what they want and who they are can… Problem is sometimes there are only two confused, unsure n insecure little women/ big girls.

  47. Tinkerbell says:

    Thanks. There are VERY FEW pat rules in life. I’ll remember that.

  48. redflagcity says:

    I have a friend who broke up with a guy 2 years ago hoping this would make the Eu commit to marriage. When this didn’t happen she continued injecting herself into his life by txtng him and showing up places he was. She acted like a grade a doormat. He still wasn’t interested and rudely told her so. Even after that she really never moved on and barely dated. He was on datingvweb sites and was seen on dates and yet she was still keeping a foothold in his life by staying friends with his friends. She got herself invited to an event he was attending and low and behold he professed his love to her and said he had been thinking about her for months and had changed and now wants to be engaged in a month. Of course she accepted him with open arms after crying over him for two years. So I say this is a bunch of crap and the only reason he came back is because he couldn’t find anyone else and knows shes been sitting their waiting for him. Shes always made things easy for him. I mentioned some of this and she ignored my concerns ofcourse. How does she keep making the same mistakes? Its so annoying.

    • FX says:

      redflags, she may be in for a spectacular crash which may result in her making the actual efforts to change from a doormat into a whole person and an equal in a relationship. Sadly, all you can do is watch this likely train wreck from the sidelines. She sounds like she’s living in la la land now so she wouldn’t even be receptive to BR but she may be soon…

  49. 2fearce says:

    Rosie,

    It’s cool… I understand what u meant…
    Most of this insight comes AFTER devastating unhealthy relationships where I contorted myself into impossible positions to for others who would not do for me.

    Like everyone else I get weak/lonely and settle for what is offered instead of what I deserve. I now find myself horribly aware that I’ve been avoiding shining bc it made them insecure/ pale in comparison. And it meant I didn’t have to do the hard work of living my life purpose bc I was so busy catering to their every beck n call.
    I still hit panic every now and then at the prospect of failing/ falling at my life n start dating… the pool however hasn’t gotten btr and I have changed. Maintaining this change is one of my tasks to do till it becomes second nature.

  50. teachable says:

    I agree FX. Although Nat’s down to earth wisdom can be applied to relationships of all kinds, it is NOT NEEDED for application in healthy relationships, as healthy r/ships are ALREADY based on shared values, trust, care, honesty, respect.

    It is UNHEALTHY r/shits (which of course come in varying degrees) NOT based upon these fundemental things that BR is most concerned with educating ppl about (it seems to me at least).

  51. teachable says:

    EllyB

    Just a passing observation. If you were male my guess is you’d have moved on by now to a more senior position where you had space to fill britches as big as you could talk yourself into & have no hesitation in doing so.

    I often see women holding themselves back professionally in situations where a male would not.

    Just some food for thought. :)

    • EllyB says:

      Teachable: I totally WANTED a management job! And I was well on my way to get one, as it seemed… until there was some major disagreement with our management which led to my demotion and a reduction in pay. I’m still 100% sure I was right (it was also about something unethical/shady – plus it seemed as if they were intentionally setting me up for failure and I was fighting that).

      Now I somehow feel “guilty” that I ever wanted a management position… I’m also full of self-doubt, wondering whether I’d be good enough for management? But I guess that is BS. Plus I live in a very sexist country where women are constantly being told that we SHOULDN’T even want to be in management because it wouldn’t make us happy (or so they say).

      Unfortunately, I work in a shrinking industry which means they are very few options with other employers (again, especially for women!). This is why I’m doing a sideways step now, unfortunately, again not into a management job…

  52. teachable says:

    Rita. Just a brief observation. Everyone does NOT deserve a second chance. You need to get clear about this & why it is so. ;)

  53. rita says:

    Tinker lol youre excused!!! And yes one would think 2 woman together would work much easier but believe you me, there is always drama, its much more complicated dont know how and why because my brain also tells me we know what we want in a relationship and what to expect but somehow 2 woman also just dont understand each other! i have never felt so exausted with a woman after and in a relationship grrr!!!

    2fearce,so no exception then?

  54. rita says:

    teach, in the circles i move there is so much disloyalty, jelousy and fights over nothing that this lie is nothing compared to what the couples that i know is going trough. i feel so unreasonalble not to give her a second chance! i just dont know if she really learned the lesson and i cant create a situation to test her because we are not togheter, if she can admit to next person that she is in a relationship then yes maybe i will take the chance but as i said i cant test her, how?

  55. rita says:

    @ 2 fearce, o ja somebody mentioned that for us to change that we should maybe try to change our thinking, so i thought of this situation as, maybe i must look at it from another prospective and not see it as a lie but just as a way for her to protect herself and that this lies has nothing to do with me but to do with her. still i dont like the feeling i feel knowing that she would still lie about her relationship status.
    jip i am a people pleaser and never know when i am being unreasonable or to sensitive it makes it very difficult to make choices with these caractaristics, joh excuse the grammer lol!

  56. noquay says:

    I learned from 15 years of dealing with my slowly dying fathers habits/rationalizations/etc that it often takes something extremely radical to occur in order for people to want to or to have to change. For him, it was literally threat of death from a combination of heart/kidney failure that made him see that a life of overeating and overdrinking had consequences. Consequences less severe often do not resonate with many folk. There is a huge discrepancy between the numbers of men and women in this town. A good many of these men have major lifes issues that make them undatable or should be undatable but even though they get nothing but rejection, the incentive to change is not there. From my AC induced reading on narcissism, I think folk with these types of personality disorders are probably unable to change.
    To Peter: I think that you have some valid (and well written) points in your posts. There are circumstances where a couple has an unhealthy dynamic where understanding and change is needed on both sides. however, as alluded to by many other posters, many of the issues brought up here are eggregious examples of unacceptable behavior towards one party in the relationship (such as abuse, cheating) and at that point it is critical to understand that the perpetrator is probably NOT going to change and the change that we must make is to bail out of the relationship. I think what Nat was trying to get across is that getting back together with someone who has claimed to change is a bad idea unless there is super solid evidence to back it up.

    • runnergirl says:

      Noquay, I would have to agree. There would have to be major life changing circumstances for there to be a modicum of change in most AC’s, even then, I agree, it is doubtful. When I slipped off the wagon and broke NC, it was just the same thing, different day. I simply got to the point where I had to bail. If I wanted something different than being an optional OW blow up toy, I had to change. I could still opt back in to that doormat option after two years. As Natalie so often points out, he’s not that special. Noquay, I’m betting dimes to donuts the exAC in your life simply isn’t that special. Let go and move on even if that means staying where you are.
      I’m in the opposite geographic circumstance. I’m in sunny So Cal where there are warm sandy beaches, fun in the sun, and many, many opportunites. It’s still the same gig as you describe in your mountain town. The life issues for the guys in my neck of the woods are a bit different but the same. They are up to their neck in child support/spousal payments. They claim to be semi-retired which I’ve found is code for unemployed over 50. I’ve never met so many men over 50 who still have “room mates” and have no job, despite the affluence of our geography. I haven’t had a room mate for 30 years. I just scratch my head in wonder. Our geography is totally opposite and my experience is similar to yours.

  57. teachable says:

    I get it EllyB & not at all surprised to hear yr story. It sucks. Most serious career orientated women have experienced similar sidelining, ironically, often perpetrated by women in more senior roles. My observation is only this. If you were a male, odds are, (especially with that BS backstory), you’d have applied for a better position elsewhere by now. Hopefully the sidestep will enable you to get to where you want to go. Hugs T :)

    • EllyB says:

      Teachable: Thanks for your encouragement, this really helps!

      Anyway, I’m afraid that with most our competitors, the glass ceiling is even lower. Which means, I might have been sidelined much earlier over there than I’ve been here. My company is slightly smaller and a little less in the spotlights than the others. Salaries used to be a little lower too, compared to our competitors (some of whom went out of business in the meantime, though). This meant they had to give talented woman a chance out of necessity (because most skilled guys flocked to higher-paying jobs), but only so far as it seems…

      The problem is that many people claim that there is no “glass ceiling” for women and that it is entirely our OWN fault that there are almost no female leaders in our country. I’ve been told a lot of BS about why I “didn’t cut it” or wasn’t “management material” or what I’d (purportedly) done wrong. It is crazy making.

      Plus they say that women belong home with their kids full time and that those who don’t want kids (like I) have mental health problems and thus don’t belong in management either…

      It can be really soul-destroying. This is why encouragement from other women (like you!) is so important. It helps us regain some of our self-esteem!

  58. noquay says:

    Runnergirl
    Yep, “semi retired” means “I am a deadbeat”. learned this one numerous times here. I have NEVER had a housemate, even when I bailed from family at age 17 when I was raising a sibling. About a month ago, I was chastised by a 60+ year old self professed ski bum who is being supported by his brother because I mentioned his non-employment status. Whazzup with older men these days? Wherefore art thou work ethic?! Now you can understand why the whole issue with the AC is so damned heartbreaking and devastating: good looking, seriously employed and responsible, healthy, addiction-free in a region where 99+% of older men have none of these traits. Yep, it would be much, much easier to move on from AC if there was something to move on to except settling for the damaged or settling for completely alone.

    • Einstien says:

      I’m not having a problem with settling for alone. I have a happy life, with great people in it. If some great guy comes along, I hope I’m not too jaded to see it; if he doesn’t, I can’t imagine being more blessed than I am now.

      When the pain of the experience is gone, peace of mind and contentment takes hold.

  59. simple pleasures says:

    Noquay, the mathclownprofessor was good looking,
    seriously employed (university professor and engineer who pioneered and patented development of digital technology-thank him for the digital clock),healthy (leader for mountain hikes with Appalachian Mountain Club), and never a cigarette, drop of alcohol, drug, cup of coffee passed his lips. Ok, I put him on the very high up pedestal. But he was not relationshipworthy
    like your enviroclown. A zillion accomplishments
    and all the other yaydyada attractiveness…THEY
    ARE NOT that SPECIAL. Hard to believe, but they are little egotistical boys in older men’s bodies. I consider myself now too special for him. When I am in the same room I do not make eye contact, he can seek out and socialize with everyone else in the room, and I ofcourse am aware of it through my peripheral vision, but I say to myself, “I’m the one person here he’s not allowed to talk to and dazzle, because I AM SPECIAL”.

  60. lo j says:

    Noquay… Looks, good job, physical fitness, charity contributions, charm, status, nice clothing, designer shoes, fast cars, the ability to save the planet or whatever else these guys have or can do mean very little in the big scope of things if they have not worked on their character: are honest, empathetic, humble, and capable of loving another. Period. That defines a real man. Or woman. The other stuff is just the icing on the cake or if there is no true character, the icing on the fake.

    • noquay says:

      LoJ
      I agree but in addition to having good character, a good man has to be able to be a responsible adult, be addiction-free, take care of himself, and one does have to have some level of attraction for him/her if there is to be any sort of real relationship. The kindest man in the world is not relationship material if he is on the verge of a heart attack or he is not able/willing to have a work wthic, or is addicted to drugs/alcohol. Good men seem to be rare animals indeed, at least in the mountain states.

  61. lo j says:

    Good character includes all that you mentioned as well. If a man abuses himself, he certainly isn’t capable of loving another for sure. I just think sometimes we, myself included, miss the forest for the trees. I have met many good men who possess good character, are loving, kind, respect themselves and others, but they didn’t give me butterflies because they weren’t “flashy” or charming enough, or muscular or handsome our whatever. Now I think if I were to meet them, they might be just a tad more sexy to me just because I’ve changed my values and because I appreciate steady, kindness, and respect more than passion, good looks, and muscle.
    And I don’t think I’ll settle by any means, I am content being single, and goodness knows I was settling with the fellows I dated before, because they did not treat me well. I won’t stand for that nor will I look back and lament when they do. When a person can not treat another with love and respect, regardless of their others “qualities”, it’s a reflection on them, not me.
    I do believe there are men who are capable of being in a loving relationship. I see it daily. I now believe I am. Having that believe is half the battle, I think.

    • Selkie says:

      Lo J,

      “If a man abuses himself, he certainly isn’t capable of loving another for sure.”

      Very true. This is where we with Florence N. tendencies stumble. If a man can not handle his own emotions and drinks to escape them, avoids truth and goes hot and cold to keep himself ‘safe’ then he can’t handle a relationship where both parties bear responsibility. It’s like hiring a job applicant who has no skills to do the job and then getting upset when they can’t do the job. Wishful thinking and betting on potential aren’t enough. We sell ourselves short too much. Good guys are out there when we take off our ‘relationshit’ goggles and see clearly. And that includes how we look at ourselves.

  62. lo j says:

    Now getting out there and actively doing something about it is another story. Lol! I guess when I am less content with my singleness I will.

    • Selkie says:

      I am content with my singleness too. This last week I was asked out be three men. (A bit unusual but Okay, so where were they when I wanted a bf???) I really just thought…thanks, but no. No big reason really, not still healing, not that I am still getting over an ex, not that I’m not ready, just hmm….no. I said I was enjoying my time alone. Each of them, of course tried to convince me I needed to be talked out of enjoying my aloneness. A few months ago I was getting bouts of loneliness but I worked through it and feel good thee days. I’m sure I will still have days where I feel lonely but I think it’s normal. Time ( and NC ) does heal. Meeting a man now that I want to date feels like it’ll be more grounded and organic. Not filling a void.

      • noquay says:

        Selkie,LoJ
        I am not terribly content with my singleness even though I do far, far, better as a single than most being the capable, self sufficiemt sort. I probably am filling some sort of a void in that non work friends and family are non-existant and that probably is not going to change as long as I am here. I cannot depend on family that does not exist nor can I or should I change the demographics / values of this area. However, like a normal human, I yearn for human affection, good conversation, being touched. I understand that I fell soo hard for the narc but beautiful AC because he DID match so many of my values and not a single other soul anywhere near here seems to. Isolation, vulnerability, loneliness are a really bad combination. I don’t just look at the icing on the cake, I have dumped good looking men, including a local, because I felt disrespected or they were racist, unethical, dishonest, etc. I just am not going to settle for someone I cannot feel anything for, and yep, I really want someone that I can be on a par with intellectually and yep, I have zero tolerance for self abuse of any kind including addiction to food. Florence I am NOT!I understand, however, that I am an odd duck with very different values from most in this region. On one of my dating sites I put “green” for political affiliation and from the responses (or lack thereof) you’d swear I’d written “baby killer” or “worshipper of Satan”. And here I though the west, land of Ed Abbey, would be chock full of fellow enviros – not so.

  63. Outergirl says:

    Hello All,

    I have not commented in some time as nothing much [read:A good thing]has been going on with me. I continue to visit this site and cannot thank you enough as I am now so aware of behavior and patterns and establishing good boundaries. The a/c re-surfaced, he does this about once a year, like an algae bloom or a dose of poison ivy. Personally, despite N/C, I can manage a cordial e-mail exchange. It is when it goes further that I shut him down. He had the NERVE [or cheek as you would say] to write “I would like us to get together”!! Really?? What else would he like? I wrote back “you’re married, so we can’t meet”. I have been light as a feather ever since [about one week ago] I feel like the heaven’s gave me that opportunity to re-write history; I replied to him with the response I should have given him several years ago when he re-surfaced [we shared a past]. Have not heard anything since and why would I? He could not have what he wanted, always about him. I really feel cleansed by this, I struggled with closure and now I feel I have it. Thank you BR.

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Sorry Honey. You don’t have closure yet. Establish NC STRICT, NO COMPROMISES. That means NO CONTACT of any kind. You are misinterpreting what NC really is. If he is married, that’s even more reason to not interact AT ALL. Once you are resigned to doing that, then you can say you have closure and have moved on. Not until then.

  64. Jeanette says:

    How is one to use those bullet points if you are the only one that uses them time and time again and the other party doesn’t honor any of it, doesn’t see anything he does as wrong and doesn’t care whatsoever to improve in any way, shape or form. I think I’ve been with a AC so long, I don’t even know what normal is anymore…

  65. Frustrated & Confused says:

    Even as I write this I’m sure I already know the answer. I think I’ve been involved with an assclown! Here’s the story…
    After a lot of thought I decided to get involed w Mr.G. I hesitated cause we were friends and I knew a lot of the dirt he had done-cause he told me. I too havent been the most faithful at times-so decided to give him a chance. At 1st-he was so amazingly attentive, romantic, mushy, etc. He is the COMPLETE opposite of mr. Unavailable cause he tries to marry EVERYONE! When we started dating I found out he was married years ago. He got a divorce, met his 2nd ex-wife on his old job. They were friends-then he married her after he was divorced from wife #1. They were married a few years but didn’t like that she was happy being a housewife so-he whored around! He got into a relationship w one of the chicks that he cheated on his exwife with! He got divorced cause he wanted to marry his then current gf. They were together a few years n cheated on her too-but claimed he loved her n wanted to marry her. Guess she got fed up w the bs n broke up w him. Then..guess it was my turn…
    We were friends for like 8-9yrs n only dated for 8-9 months! He of course wanted to marry me n have kids within a yr. I was lookng to do the same thing. Then like clockwork-he cooled off, became distant. To me-actions speak louder than words-so just cause we both want it-doesn’t mean it will happen! N I didn’t fully trust him so I remained cautious. And of course he is still good friends w his 2nd ex wife n wanted to stay friends w his ex gf and told me the same-that he wanted us to stay friends if we dont work out. So during the course of our tomultuous relationship he was beyond selfish, tried to be controlling, passive agressive…the assclown trifecta! But I learned a lot abt him-and sadly in dont even think he realizes it. Also his ‘mom’ told me a bunch of stuff (learned during the brief dating period that she isnt his real mom-just another female that ended up taking care of him). She told me that he would justify getting-fellatio from girls but it wasnt cheating cause he didnt have sex w them. He told me that his 1st ex wife cheated on him and he rememberd that feeling and didn’t want to do that to anyone else and I’m thinking-you’ve done that in all your relationships! She said that if somethng bothers him he puts it out of his mind cause he doesn’t want to deal w it and I even told him that he could never learn from anything cause he ignores it. And-he actually let this jewel slip out during our last discussion ‘when I say-I can’t change you I can only change myself’ (which of course he would say in an argument )-that means there’s something I want you to change. I was dumbfounded! Later of course he tried to switch around what he said-which was pointless cause he knows I remember every convo verbatim!
    Anyway-broke up w him anyway. I kept my distance-he of course stayed on contact-asking for another chance blah blah blah. Some issues came up in his place (renter of course) and he moved back into his ‘moms’ place and he was going to have to leave from there too! Do you know he actually called/txt me asking if he could stay with me! There is no way in hell I’m letting an ex stay with me. I told him I had no room. At this time of course he is still texting/calling me-saying he loves/misses me. He ended up staying at his moms again-according to him. So his “mom” called me to talk and then said he hadn’t been living there n moved back in w his ex! So I called him out on that and then he wantd to get an attitude abt it.
    So he’s still trying to get back w me and wanted to talk-ok fine. We talked like 8 months after we split. He also kept wanting to see me/hang out, telling me his dad wants to shoot pool w me…his daughter misses me-just really reaching! So when we talk of course he wants to hit RESET. I told him that wasn’t possible n of course all the things that pisses me off-the same things I told him when we were still going out-now all the sudden he understand/sees what I’m saying…but his words don’t say that. He still being impatient and my aunt has been sick. So he of course is wishing her well-but then gets snarky cause I haven’t talked to him and poured my heart out to him. Its like he wants to b there for me THE WAY HE WANTS TO B THERE FOR ME. He sent me some stupid text saying-ur more than just a thought, more than a friend-I just wish you would see that. Then he kept on and he said I know u have reasons for why you do what you do and I told him that I explained all that to him and he said-yes you did and we agreed to disagree. No the hell we didn’t!.
    This all tells me what I already knew deep down-he’s an assclown, trying to keep me in the picture-perhaps as a fallback girl. He does that partial truth thng and I even told him that I could never call him a liar cause he never tells the whole truth!
    I’m not even sure why I even thought about giving him another chance!

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!