Is it fear? Or, is it knowledge?

“I’m afraid that X is going to happen.”

“I’m afraid that they Y…” ‘y’ being “can’t be trusted”, “are going to leave”, “cheating on me”, “surfing dating sites behind my back”, “are too good to be true”, “not over their ex” and other such concerns that can keep you awake at night and hog up a lot of your brain power.

“I’m afraid that I’m not good enough/going to do something to mess it up.”

These concerns may be very familiar to you, especially if you end up ruminating and flip flapping about what course of action, if any to take next, and invariably end up painting yourself into a corner.

If we’re willing to be in and pay attention to reality, plus are willing to listen to ourselves, we can figure out whether we are worrying about something that isn’t happening or hasn’t happened yet, or whether we are actually aware of pertinent facts.

The trouble is that many people operate on fear, veering between being very reactive to it, or paralysed in anxiety, rumination, and indecision. When you experience the former, you may have a knee-jerk reaction and make a decision that may not be rooted in the actual situation and the facts presented to you – this may be because you experience uncomfortable emotions, feel afraid, run with it, take the message as a sign to act fast, and bail. You’ll be familiar with this if you’ve ever had someone get close to you and then exit like a bat out of hell or sabotage by creating problems.

When you experience the latter, you spend more time being afraid, thinking about being afraid, thinking about what course of action you should take/imagining that you don’t have any options, and being afraid of making a decision and getting it wrong, than you do responding to the fear and taking action.

What isn’t asked often enough is: Is it fear? Or, am I dealing with knowledge?

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat.

Knowledge is being cognizant and aware of the facts. You’re aware of the truth of something or even the indications.

What I realise when people tell me about their experiences, is that knowledge is often mislabeled as fear due to denying, rationalising, minimising, and trumping up excuses.

If something was happening, you’d like to think that you’d be handling it – that’s why they say fear means it’s not happening, so in effect, if there is real reason for concern, you have time to take pre-emptive measures and act. Unfortunately when you don’t trust yourself or don’t want to let go of your hopes or any illusions that may be held, you deny the knowledge you have but continue to feel the fear anyway. Also your idea of ‘acting’ may be trying to work harder to ‘win’ them and blaming yourself instead of pushing your flush handle.

If you were afraid that you were being robbed or ripped off, what would you do?

  • Take precautions.
  • Distance yourself.
  • Investigate and increase any precautions you have taken as you discover more facts.
  • Act.

What would stop you from acting though?

  • Fear that you’ve got it wrong.
  • Fear of ‘conflict’, in particular, a confrontation.
  • Fear of the responsibility of using the knowledge to think up a solution and take action.
  • Fear of consequences such as loss, starting over, and trusting again.

This means you now have knowledge that you’re being robbed, but deny it and label as ‘fear’ and don’t act, or act in line with the fear instead of the knowledge.

Then you have fear that you’re being robbed plus fear of being wrong and being hurt/exposed further, plus knowledge that you have put truth last and acted against yourself. You’d almost hope you’d be wrong about them robbing you, so you could end up being right!

One of the worst things about these feelings of ‘fear’ which may actually be knowledge that you’re not responding to, is that instead of addressing what you should be, aside from potentially exposing yourself to emotional harm if not even physical harm, by excluding the knowledge, you tend to focus on giving yourself a hard time.

This is why I hear from so many people who feel afraid about something and then follow up the fear with something that essentially boils down to “I’m not good enough.”

When what you already know doesn’t change and does indeed prove to be true, you end up feeling bad about ignoring your gut or even obvious facts around you and feel bad about running yourself down. Then you feel regretful that you were doing these things instead of taking action.Using some of the examples from the beginning, particularly when people tell me that they’re concerned that someone is or isn’t something, it’s because, even if they’re not consciously acknowledging it, they are aware of facts and/indications of the truth. They know that the person has done something that makes it difficult to trust, is flaky, hooking up with their ex or has a wandering eye, has an active dating site profile, has been moving too fast, or has not been out of their relationship long enough to not feel concerned about the ex.

When you feel afraid, you should always ask “Is it internal fear or external?”

It’s internal on its own if there is no external evidence to support your concerns. This means you can work out whether it’s general insecurity that you showed up with, or whether there is something familiar about the situation (experience) that brings up anxiety, and ultimately calm yourself and take action to support and nurture yourself. Address whether you’re being insecure about being insecure. Note as well that if you look at experience from a different perspective, it can give you a helping hand in taking a different course of action.

Let me assure you that feeling afraid and then piling on negative self-talk is not going to help – be a friend to yourself!

If there’s external evidence to support your concerns, then while there may be some internal fear mixed in, you have very valid, real concerns about this person/situation which makes it at best code amber (stop, look, listen and don’t proceed until it’s fully addressed), or it’s code red (abort mission). If you can’t figure out where you end and they begin, it’s a sign that you’re too enmeshed anyway and that you need to step back.

What you shouldn’t do is do nothing at all or do the equivalent of running a red light at a level crossing.

When it comes to concerns that you have about you, it’s important to remember that you’re good enough and that you have to show up and behave like a deserving equal and not some ‘less than’ person shielding your eyes from the light radiating from the arse of someone on a pedestal. It’s also important to remember that it’s not all about you – the success or failure of the relationship/situation doesn’t rest wholly and solely on you.

If you spend most of your time trying to anticipate what’s next or worrying about what isn’t happening, or worrying about the fact that you’re not acting upon knowledge, you create a great deal of unnecessary anxiety in your life that would be lessened by being in your present and where appropriate taking action.

Fear is ultimately just a feeling. You are still behind the wheel of your life – please drive and navigate!

Your thoughts?

Check out my book and ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl in my bookshop.

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123 Responses to Is It ‘Fear’? Or Is It ‘Knowledge’ That You Haven’t Responded To?

  1. Tinkerbell says:

    Natalie, I’ve connected with a guy who could be my son — he’s that much younger and you know what? It feels damn good to be complimented and admired by him. I feel totally in control. He’s even said that, and that he cannot do anything I won’t allow. He wants to meet me this weekend, already after an hour and 1/2 of emailing. Yeah, this is crazy and I know I have to be careful. I’m totally aware of the risks that he might me married, have a girlfriend and/or a million other things. I’m convinced that after what I went through I am an EUF. I don’t want alot of fuss and bother. But I do want to be taken out on dates and I’m definitely ready for the intimacy. I think we can learn a few things from each other. I have learned a lot and I’m really ready to take it slowly. We seem to have a lot in common and he is respectful. Our birthdays are 4 days apart. If you have any advice for me you can post it here or email me. Thanks.

    • Magnolia says:

      Tinkerbell, I assume by “ready for the intimacy” you mean “ready for sex”! How do you even know this guy is who you want intimacy from?

    • AngelFace says:

      Tinkerbell? “I’m totally aware of the risks that he might me married, have a girlfriend and/or a million other things.”

      Haven’t you learned anything from this site? If a man ‘might’ be married, have a girlfriend… You should know that info before the first date. And before getting all butterfly-ish about him.

      Also, depending on your age: If you hit it off with the younger guy… live with him etc.. , you must be willing to be ‘dropped’ by him in your older age…. thus making it even harder to find a Good Decent Man who is a compatible match….

      Best Wishes to You… but I had to make this comment to you. Hope you have a good weekend.

    • jasmine says:

      tinkerbell, i have some experience in the matter. people say age doesnt matter when it comes to love. i think its kinda bullshit. yes, im aware i had a deep connection with a guy 10 years younger than me and him to me and we will always have that something. we even professed love to each other, but we both ackowledge that had i been younger or him older, we would’ve gotten married. however im realistic, it couldn’t be a long term thing. like you, compliments from these younger men seem to excite me as well. men will use older women for experience sake, then they move on, when they realise they want children and want a much younger girl. i must say, that a guy that was 10 years younger than me treated me far better than the one that was 4 years younger than me. he took things really slow and didnt pressure me into anything… but ultimately i feel at 30, i don’t want to mother these boys and it feels like i’ve had to and its the little things. i had my drivers licence for 12 years, and the younger guy just got his probationary licence. it just felt really weird for me. if its a short term fling go for it…however dont let your ego get in the way because a younger man is attracted to you. i recently refused to have a date with this 22 year old because although he appreared nice , charming, we had a connection. he’s never going to want to marry me and i had a feeling that i’d be just another notch on his bedpost. sounds cruel, but men love to brag.

      “i think we can learn a few things from each other”….
      yes, but do you want to learn it at your expense. its fine for them as they are younger, and they will learn something however realistically we’re getting older and do we want to waste that time when we could be out there forming the right connection with someone that could be long term….

      there are cases where younger/older relationships work, but there are few and far between…you’re simply in different stages of your life and it won’t work.

      • Jim says:

        Jasmine, I’m a guy who has had 3 relationships with women older than me, the oldest being 10 years older, and I can totally confirm everything you’ve said in your response.

        However, I think it strongly depends on whether the guy has had experience with younger women before or not. I, for example, before my current relationship with a woman 7 years older than me, enjoyed dating younger girls through dating sites and out-and-about. I feel much calmer now with my current partner because I got that “out-of-my-system”, so to say. It’s also true that, even though my partners have been older than me, they have all appeared much younger, and have had a younger spirit. I think this has played an important role.

        I assure you that the relationship with the woman who was 10 years older than me would have lasted for longer than the 5 years we were together if she hadn’t have left me. I had very clear intentions to marry her and start a family. But I still agree with your opinion: “there are cases where younger/older relationships work, but there are few and far between”.

    • sushi says:

      hour and a half of emailing? Did you meet him online? What do you mean by “our birthdays are 4 days apart” ? What does it have to do with anything? Sounds like you are after a fling, is that correct? If it`s not, I think you are about to run into oncoming traffic. No, I KNOW you are about to run into oncoming traffic.

    • MaryC says:

      Tinkerbell, I think you’re playing with fire and you’re the one who’s going to get burned. He said he cannot do anything you wouldn’t allow, I’m sorry but that’s creepy and that would be my first red flag . And I’m not sure what having birthdays 4 days apart would mean in any relationship. All I can say is keep your wits about you.

    • grace says:

      I know of a few long marriages where the woman is over 10 years older than the man. To me, ten years either way is irrelevant.
      There are issues around having children – but that would arise whatever your age. I didn’t want children when I was 20 or when I was 30 either.
      If the man was 15 to 20 years older not many people would be bothered so I say if men can do it, why not us? If it’s a bigger gap than that, I’m not sure because my experience is limited.
      Age doesn’t determine the success of a relationship. Most of us have been involved in men very similar to us in age and it’s still gone spectacularly belly up. If he’s gonna leave you for a younger model, he will do it regardless of how young/hot you are when you get together *cough* mick jagger.
      Who knows what the future will bring, sometimes the younger spouse is the one who gets struck down by cancer/heart attack/ degenerative illness. My father is over 10 years older than my mother but she’s disabled and in a nursing home while he’s in good health and his eyesight is better than mine.
      Do be careful, though, of men who think that older women have given up on long term relationships and just want fun and sex. Er, no.
      A bigger issue is that you don’t know this man. Emailing means squat and yet you’re already projecting yourself into a relationship with him (and, yes, I know I’m doing something similar but at least I’ve eyeballed the man).
      Women always feel in control until they have sex. Read nothing into that.
      By all means meet him (in public), find out if he’s single, don’t have sex with him. anything beyond that is premature (which I must keep telling myself too).
      BUT BUT BUT if you’ve been exchanging sexy emails, forget it. And I’d still say that if you were 20. Especially if you were 20.

    • Tanzanite says:


      I know you addressed your post to Natalie but I hope you don’t mind my input because I have been through exactly the same.

      My younger man could talk the talk but he couldn’t walk the walk and I ended up emotionally bakcrupt and on the brink of financial bankruptcy.

      The word ‘ Toyboy ‘ says it all really and with all toys you are supposed to get fed up with them before they get fed up of you.

      In the short term it works,it does sometimes work in the long term but that’s usually an exception.

      He was EU too which turned into being an AC.I could give you many examples of his behaviour but here is just one

      He said-

      ” I will always love you,you taught me how to love ”

      I wasn’t offering love lessons to loveless men, I was loving him like an equal which is exactly what he wasn’t.He got a lot of positive out of it but I only got the negative.

      He told me his age when I met him and he was still the same age when it finished 3 years later.

      Also,if you end up heartbroken, be prepared for-

      ” you were old enough to know better ”

      Go slowly and be careful.

      Good luck

  2. I just had to make this call with a guy and realize it’s the truth and not my fears saying that he is unavailable. And this after a year and half of abstinence from dating…I still have lessons to learn. After the third missed phone call due to an “emergency” I finally had to realize for whatever reason (married, player, CIA agent), this guy is just not available for a committed relationship right now. He is still emailing and messaging me and I am ignoring him and moving on. Your column helps me stick with that. The great thing is I get to see my progress. Before my hiatus, I would have been devastated over this or dragged it out for months. Now after six weeks I have come to my senses and say… NEXT!

    • sushi says:

      Feast to Famine, this is how it`s done. This is how I believe I will act in the future, reading your post is very calming, thanks

    • Flower White says:

      Well done, Feast. Yes he’s not into you and more importantly, you’re not into drama! Keep on ignoring him!

    • tired_of_assanova says:

      Yes, it is ALWAYS an emergency right then and there. This con has been put on me multiple times and I am such a sucker for it – not any more!

    • button says:

      so interesting, I had to do the same thing. He claims to be interested and wants to date “..but,” and so I put a stop to the situation. You almost get irritated (at least I did) with yourself for no longer being able to ignore the things that would let you have immediate satisfaction, bc you know it’ll lead nowhere good long term. Telling myself my reward for being good is in avoiding drama…

      • runnergirlno1 says:

        “so I put a stop to the situation. You almost get irritated (at least I did) with yourself for no longer being able to ignore the things that would let you have immediate satisfaction, bc you know it’ll lead nowhere good long term.” So darn true Button. So darn true. If only I could have ignored the fact he was married.

  3. grace says:

    Of course none of this has got anything to do with me.
    But, yes, I need to repeat: I am not less than
    And the flipside: He is not more than
    That’s calming to the mind.

    • runnergirlno1 says:

      Yup Grace, this has got nothing to do with me either. Only it does!
      Whoever he is, he isn’t better. He’s just a person. You and I aren’t less than. We are just people too. That is calming to the mind.
      Okay, no more ruminating?
      If I run into Mr. Looks Like a Nice Guy Stud Muffin at the gym, I’ll suggest meeting for coffee. I’ll tackle my fear of distrust, rejection, and all the other fears I cannot name.
      It is amazing how when I approach the opposite sex, it is really different. Gotta get my new sea legs.

  4. mangoqueen says:

    I was always fearful that my ex AC had another girl on the side. The signs were there….girly shower gels in his washroom, I even found a used pad in the trash bin…but I chose to ignore it and tried to rationalize it etc. (must have been his sister, his mom, a friend…) Looking back, I had the knowledge but labelled it as fear even though all the signs were blatantly obvious. This was two years ago…now I am a lot wiser and am with an EAM (emotionally available man!) :)

    • Tinkerbell says:

      Well, that ended quick. He was emailing me from his Blackberry. So I suggested a phone call or a text. Of course he texted me. I emailed him that I suspected he was married or had a girlfriend. He admitted he had a girlfriend. I said, “So why are you looking? You’re not satisfied? If I were your girlfriend you would be sneaking around behind my back. One thing you need to learn about an older woman – we are not fools.” He said he was getting ready to tell me and was not intending to lie. I simply said, “Nice talking to you, but no thanks.” ANOTHER EUM! No way in hell am I going to be bothered. I think dating websites are poison, now. I was suspicious about them anyway. I don’t need to take risks at this stage of my life.
      Guess I don’t need advice–yet. I think I’m on the right track. Not upset, either.

      • Fearless says:


        I agreed with the point you made in your first post which I read last night:

        “Yeah, this is crazy…”

        You were right about that even before you knew he has a girlfriend and is a cheater. Trust your instincts next time. You cannot really know anything about a guy until you meet him and take the time to get to know him – online chit-chat does not count. Neither does texting! If it feels like “crazy”, it’s because it is crazy.

        I am also with the others re what respective birthdays being four days apart have to do with anything. The implication that there would be anything at all significant in that is very perplexing, to say the least.

      • grace says:

        Lol, I just typed out a reply to your earlier query, but what I said still stands.
        I’m glad you flushed him early.
        Friend of a friend is marrying someone someone she met online, so it can and does happen. You do have to flush the losers early. And expect a lot of them.
        Another thing you might try is the agencies that set up social events such as dances and meals. At least you get to SEE them and there isn’t the same room for emailing/texting/chat craziness. And you get a night out.
        I met someone who seemed very nice. He fetched me stuff, introduced me to the friends he came with, but sadly I couldn’t pursue it because I was still in love with the playa -ex.
        I’d try it again if I wasn’t going to church and been getting some interest from … more than one man actually, come to think of it.

  5. truthhurts says:

    I had something at hand the other day where your advice came in handy NML! I had a little flirtation going on with this guy I knew from work. It got more and more personal (not physical), on his initiative. But all the time I KNEW something wasn’t right. His somewhat nerdy and shy exterior threw me off for a bit ( I thought he was a good guy, how can he be a smooth womanizer Assclown?!) but the things he said, it was all a bit too fast and too smooth. I asked myself, if he was better looking would you have even been sitting here talking to him? No!

    So I backed of. A couple days later he told me he has a long term girlffriend and he shamelesly fished for an affair. “as long as nobody gets hurt”. Yeah right!

    I learned from you Nathalie; No rationalising, no being fooled by the looks, the talks, my own needyness. I just was honest with myself and dared to see what was really going on.

  6. Claire says:

    Since I started a low dosage of anti anxiety/depressants, most of my anxieties around my terrible obsession with my EUM have gone. I’m not saying this is the answer, but for me it has worked, and it has given me a much needed emotional break. I am no longer focused on my narcissistic shit head EUM, and I really don’t care what he does, or what anybody else does for that matter, and it suits me fine! For the first time in over a year, I’m finally giving myself a break, and it feels really good! Xxx

    • grace says:

      I had to take ADS too. I was POSSESSED by anxiety.
      I couldn’t keep soldiering on. I was doing everything right – going to the gym, taking an evening class, eating properly. But when my boss called me into his office because he was worried about how unhappy I looked, I figured it was time to see the doctor.
      I think when we get suicidal (not saying that’s you) it’s gone beyond self-help. Though seeing a medical professional is helping yourself too. Mental illness is very treatable these days (even though it can still be a slog).

      • EllyB says:

        Anxious used to be my second name. As a child, I was extremely anxious over my parents’ verbald attacks, their cruel remarks, their death threats, their sexual attacks… At school I was scared of my bullies there.

        I always thought anxiety was the problem.

        Many people told me so. Anxiety was just in my head according to them. I was a sick, crazy child, anxious over nothing – that’s what I was told. Not only by family members and bullies, but also many by many teachers and neighbors. I was this little girl, frightened to death, shivering, crying – and they told me I was crazy!

        Many people fell for my parents’ lies. My father had extremely high status and reputation due to his job, and momster came from a millionaire household, went to posh boarding schools and had a degree from university.

        It was a crime, committed by many people together. All those “good”, Christian, conservative, educated upper-middle-class people in my hometown.

        No wonder I have “trust issues”. I think they will persist for a while, and that’s okay. It’s hard to trust anyone after an experience like this. It does take decades getting over those first 20 years. So what. Does that make me a loser?

        During our first session, my counsellor urged me to take anti-anxiety drugs. I refused point-blank, and I would still say no. Oddly enough, at work I act totally cool, even with very powerful people. Anxiety occurs only in my personal life. I guess it’s mostly because I’m still letting anxiety-inducing people come too close to me. I think I still need my anxiety as a “warning system”. I would resort to drugs only if I was sure there were no external factors in play anymore.

  7. Happy Girl says:

    Another great breakdown of a complex issue! I was doing just this. Having a lot of gut feeling mixed with some knowledge and a few hard facts and trying to go about life like I was some kind of super important diplomat who must keep the peace at any cost. I would ask questions or explain myself from every possible angle because I was just so damn afraid to rock the boat or get something wrong in the name of still being that “cool” and “good” person. (And I noticed that many of the people who give me that label are the ones who kind of painted me into a corner using it-“I’ve told you that you are a good person, and I know that is important to you that people feel this way about you, so don’t you dare knock yourself off of your pedestal by letting me down, i.e. calling me on my stuff or not being at my beck and call.” And I would eat this up). All that did was leave me open to manipulation. And the other parties always knew it. And realizing this made me beg this question of myself: Do I think I’m so “special” that being angry with someone or having them angry with me should never apply to my life? I’m so awesome that I never get mad? I seriously want to be the one person, or an elite few, in the entire world who never, ever written someone off or told another to get effed because they treated me like shit, or just opted out of something because it didn’t have what I felt was a healthy place in my life? It was a really effed up way of trying make myself feel superior when other people made me feel less than. When I want some perspective, I think of my friends who used to be very hard nosed and are now striving to be more compassionate. There isn’t anything “wrong” with my qualties-but they need to be balanced with REALITY. And that’s where I’ve finally chosen to live now.

    • Acceptance says:

      Happy Girl,
      Thanks for taking the time to think this one through, I would never have put it so eloquently! I’m a peace wh*re too!

  8. Kathie says:

    Natalie…. I love your post !!!!!! U always hit the nail on the head with me & my Mr. Unavailable… We were together for 9 yrs. Yea, I know its a long time of just dating but we were both just divorced when we met , had kids to raise & in no hurry to rush anything. But “I” believed we were in a commited relationship…In the last 3-4 years I noticed some things but convinced myself I was being paranoid . He would always tell me I had a wild imagination. I remember one time by accident his email account was up when I went to look up something on his computer..I noticed some emails from POF (plenty of fish) . My heart sank to the floor.
    I confronted him and he brushed me off saying that he always got junk mail from them blah, blah but I knew in my gut he was lying. If I would get suspicious about where he had been or who he had been with I didnt want to act like some crazy girlfriend and he always seemed honest. He has alot of single, divorced guy friends around his age 50ish and they would meet for a drink or two.. If I was unable to go out for some reason he still always went out alone.. Always said he met up with John, Jim, Ed ect… Long story short one night we agreed to meet at his place at 8. He called and said he would be right home. He showed up at 1 am.. I was so mad I pretended I was sleeping. The next day I got up ,told him how angry I was and left.. Long story short found out a few days later that he met someone that night . She walked into the bar and it was instant attraction/chemistry . I advised him a few days later to never call me, email me, text me again in my life… That was 5mths ago.. Looking back I know I should have walked away 3-4 yrs ago. I know I was so afraid of the truth, I knew something was not right but I chose to ignore it, push it aside because I knew the end would be so very painful… It was, it is, but I have come far in my healing…. I never want to feel this heartache again. I never want to be not good enough again. I failed myself and he failed me in so many ways…. Thanks for your book, love it, and your site ..

    • Polly says:

      Kathie, I feel for you. My ex relationship was shorter than yours but I also reached a point where I knew I needed to get out but didn’t do it because I feared the pain of the loss too much. So I let it die a slow and lingering death with a pretty appalling ending. I’m 4 months out of it now and it is very hard. The heartache is awful. But not as bad as the pain of the relationship. That is one thing I can be 100% sure about

      • Kathie says:

        Polly…. We can get thru this one day at a time & hopefully learn from our mistakes…. I wish I would have had the courage ,strength and wisdom to leave long b4 I did but that is water over the damn… I didnt know what I didnt know… Everyday I am one day closer to healing & moving on with my life without the EUM… She can have him & all that comes with it !!!!

    • Little Star says:

      Kathie, I am so sorry…I am on POF right now, and so many men are lying about being “single”, and probably your EUM did the same:-( What make me angry, how easy these guys can give up their long term relationships for a girl they just met!!! JUST shocking. Natalie is right, we have to stop thinking that we are not good enough and blame ourselves that we done something wrong, it is not worth it!! I wish you all the best xxx

      • Kathie says:

        Little Star….. Thanks for responding… POF is full of future fakers, cheaters & ect… I am sure there may be some really nice guys on there but they are few & far between. I was reading some of there profiles and had to laugh at how easily u can read between the lines of what they write. Some of the pictures they post spell narccisist immediatly… Its easy supply for them being on that site. They pose half nude w/all these muscles showing. Really !!!!! I have my profile in hiding but I get on & read thru them just to sharpen my skills at picking the losers which is most of them :) Yes, we deserve better & need to kick these EUM to the curb… I believe what comes around goes around…It might not be tomorrow, next week, next year but eventually they will get what they deserve…. God Bless

        • brenda says:

          Since we are on the POF topic,You are right about everything…
          My exEUMNARC is/was on there,And I can tell you,the garbage spewing out of his mouth about who he is is utter bullshit..
          He has listed Random things you should know about me starting from 1-20..
          And no where does it say ‘I’ have anger issues
          Blow hot and cold
          Hate my mother
          Hate kids
          future faker
          Messed up shit head….

          But I guess why would he tell the truth???

          • Kathie says:

            brenda…. I met the last EUM on a dating site a very long time ago and the one b4 him too… I am completly done with dating sites… If I cant meet someone in my daily life I would rather be alone…. Those sites are full of EUM’s !!!!!

    • EllyB says:

      One guy I used to date for a few months always had this other “friend”, who often stayed in his apartment until late at night, and he cooked for her (while I got only convenience food when I saw him – we had a long-distance relationship), and she was so very important to him, but just a “friend”, as he said…

      Oh, I’ve beaten myself up like crazy for my “stupid distrust”. I told myself: I’m so much more attractive than he is (which was quite obviously true), and she is so much younger than he is, and she is a little overweight, and she has a boyfriend… So it MUST be me! He can’t be cheating on me! It has to be my craziness, my “fear issues”!!!!!!!! I’m a bad woman!

      I’ve dumped him quickly, but always blamed myself for my “trust issues”. Time to stop it.

  9. Nat says:

    The hard thing about deciding whether it’s fear or what’s actually happening, is that when you bring your concerns to the table, they deny there is a problem. I almost broke it off with my boyfriend the other day, but talking to him, it seemed like all the issues where in my head (he didn’t see any issues or any future problems), and I secondly felt like even though my gut told me too, that breaking it off would be leaving a relationship and hurting someone who didn’t deserve it. My first comment is way too long for this blog to describe my story, but can anyone advise;

    How do you know whether something is just all in your head? I have felt anxiety throughout the entire course of my relationship and the whole time I’ve been putting it down to me because I didn’t know what “evidence” to give proper credence. What I would consider red flags, my boyfriend doesn’t see as a problem.

    For example. I finally had a talk to him about how fast we moved in the relationship (he told me he loved me within two weeks, to which I responded by exiting the situation, but some well meaning person gave me advice to try it again because I was hurting this poor guy and I was scared). I have felt like he wanted me to fix him- from the very first day he presented me his life issues and has wanted to spend a lot of time with me (it was instant commitment from the first “date”). He didn’t feel that perhaps we had an unhealthily codependent relationship, even though he’s said things like, “with you I feel complete” and “you are my world, my everything” and does little outside of me. No, he’s just “imbalanced”. Of course I framed the problem as my issue, so it ended up being me genuinely apologising because I believed what he said at the present (then later it seemed like words didn;t match actions). I asked him how he felt about the relationships, and he sees absolutely no issues to solve.

    I haven’t been able to fully trust him. He started being nit picky about my appearance, little jokes regularly, not trusting my capabilities, neither of us communicate truly openly. I started feeling like he was showing minute signs of control and manipulation. I just felt it. And I feel in my gut the relationship is becoming more and more about sex. Although sex is regular for us, for the first time when together, I said I was tired, needed sleep and so I slept instead of sex. Later that night while asleep, he initated sex while I was half asleep, and penetrated me with his finger while I was half asleep. I remember drifting in and out. And i’m not sure what else happened in between that and other things, but I also remember being half asleep when he used my hand and then his hand to masturbate himself. I was frozen. Not frozen out of violation (not immediately, though that feeling is entering me now, a week later). Frozen that instead of asking me or waking me up, he chose to do this when I don’t satisfy his urges?

    I’m just really damn confused. He tells me he loves, me, he shows his commitment, but I pick up on little things that hold me back from having two feet in this relationship and I really feel like i’m the emotionally unavailable person. I really want to have a healthy relationship and I feel like i’m creating issues in the relationship. My boyfriend says he wants to take things as they come, but the thing is, in my view, there have been things that have happened that weren’t resolved and could cause future problems. Am I living in the future for extrapolating small things in the present into the future?

    • Tulipa says:

      Hi Nat,
      It seems to me you have skipped a step in the dating process and that is using the initial period of dating as a discovery period.
      You are entitled to break up with someone this is not a democratic process nor do you have to justify yourself as to why you are breaking up and finally you are not responsible for how the other person chooses to deal with the break up.
      It seems that you are in the relationship to please others and not yourself and now suffer anxiety as a result.
      You don’t trust him and he belittles you that is not love time to opt out don’t get stuck this is always to your own detriment. This I know from first hand experience.

      • Nat says:

        Thanks Tulipa,

        My recent talk with him involved me doing a lot of apologising, because like you said (and I realised right after it) I went into the relationship with blinkers on. I wasn’t looking for a relationship, but my impulsiveness and lack of self responsibility put me on this path. A lesson i’ve had to learn, so i’m glad i’m here.

        Thank you for validating my experiences. The great question that I think I am left with- is why did I need validation for my gut feelings so much? and that opens a HUGE can of worms- something i’ve been working on intensly over the past few months. In my past relationship my gut was telling me that this person was manipulating me to take care of him; I confronted him about this (looking to seek resolution) but it was thrown back in my face (admittedly I delt with it immaturely and I instigated that mess). Looking back now it’s unbelievable how emotionally unavailable i’ve been myself and it’s easy to see why my compass has been so out of whack.

        I guess what makes it hard for me to believe my feelings and act, is that I feel like i’m so aware of how i’m not pulling my weight in certain areas (i’m human) and feel constantly guilty. Like Nat says elsewhere, you can’t seek validation from people who wont give you validation, and it’s so hard to accept that because that’s what you do in normal, healthy relationships- I mean healthy relationships don’t involve obtaining validation from someone because you can’t give it to yourself, but there’s validation in the sense of ability to be fully present to the relationship and addressing concerns. Denying issues when evidence is presented, is ultimately invalidation. I used to think evidence meant something extremely tangible everyone can see, but people like you and Nat help me to realise that while yes, “things could be in my head” my -authentic- feelings are evidence enough.

        If you’re in an unhealthy situation, you internalise, if they convince you the problem is not external and within the relationship. If it’s not out there, it must be within you.

        Thanks Tuli for talking from personal experience, it means a lot. I wish to learn more from people who have experienced what you have.

        • A says:


          This man touching you while you’re asleep is absolutely not okay. It’s a huge violation, and this alone is reason to never speak to this man again. What kind of sick person does something like that? Please stay far away from this man. He has already shown you that he does not have even the most basic level of respect for women–he does not feel that he needs your consent for sex.

    • Jane says:

      There are a couple of people (and myself included) who have said ‘is it me?’, that when they raise concerns their ‘partner’ says there is nothing wrong, it’s them not him and that happened to me in two relationships for a total of nearly 20 years! I came to believe it was always me, my fault, that I was responsible for all teh bad things in the world….my ex husband even told me I was – he told me I was a bad luck attractor – I made my parents die, my baby die, my job loss…..
      what I want to say to you is that it isn’t you and don’t go there. What I have learnt from this site is to trust yourself. You have intuition for a reason, you have feelings for a reason – they are there to tell you something – you have to figure out the message but there has been a warning signal…..its like Natalie says here – you have to figure out if its internal (ie insecurity and you have no evidence) or external – (you have signs and evidence).
      From what I read here its external. He has stepped over your boundaries and when you raise your concerns he says there are no concerns…of course he does! He doesn’t want this to end, but its not about him its about you. Its your decision – if you have concerns, and they sound real, then trust yourself and act on them. I say this with years of hindsight behind me – I knew things weren’t right in both relationships but I stayed in them because I was afraid I might be wrong, afraid I’d be alone, afraid to trust myself….but I was right and if I had acted I could have saved myself A LOT of heartache – from which I am still recovering.
      Read some other articles here, Natalie does talk sense. I wish you well.

      • Nat says:

        Hi Jane,

        When I read comments like yours, I feel like pieces of me are finally unravelling and i’m being given permission that it’s ok to trust myself. It’s interesting how sometimes the issues arrise from such fundamental parts of a person, and that getting healthy means a HUGE committment to yourself- for the rest of your life. Am I ready to take that step?

        I feel that you really know where i’m coming from, so thank you deeply for sharing your experiences that relate so closely to mine. I’m so focused on seeing the good, constantly juggling the red flsag signs and the goodness in him I am afraid to not see, that it causes a lot of strain, me trying to balance them. Honestly, the reason why I think I struggle is because I feel bad for judging. I’ve always had great intuition for things that feel off, yet I struggle to balance seeing the positive and negative in people; I don’t focus on the negative. Though when I do see the negative it triggers my inner critic and shame. I feel like im the abuser, i’m the monster, when someone tells me they are good and my intuition tells me something is off. How horrible i’d feel to be accused wrongly, which I think I have done myself in the past, when my fear has been in overdrive. I have hurt people. My intuition though has rarely failed. In my last relationship I suspected the guy I was with was manipulating me through playing the victim. He at first didn’t understand, then came to vaguely agree, then he became angry. For months he’s had a blog online providing snapshots of how hurt he has been. I never realised what damage I did to him, and what damage that did to me. I accused him and became an abuser myself, but I also felt guilt and great remorse for what I did because it seemed like I thought wrongly about him. Sometimes I snap out of this and remember the patches of anger and strong gut feelings I had that something was very very wrong.

        I’m considering doing something very different than i’ve done before this year, and that’s reach out for therapy. So i’m making changes and am almost relieved to do so.

        I hope you continue learning from walking down your path. Thank you for stopping by and helping me on mine. I believe we’re both on worthy ones and that the struggles are absolutely worth it. I read a lot of Natalie’s articles. I understand them cognitively, but they haven’t sunk into my body yet. I haven’t been ready to heed their messages, but I believe i’m on my way there.

    • Magnolia says:

      Nat, I’m a little furious over here for you because I keep hearing the same story over and over and I have lived it myself. I don’t know if these guys have any idea how damaging it is to make someone doubt their own feelings, intuition and instincts. It’s SO fricking selfish of them.

      Here’s what I wish someone had said to me: it’s all in your head? So what. Let’s look at that sentence: It’s all in YOUR head. It’s your experience, your call. What does “all in your head” mean, anyway? If it means, your mind is filled with doubt, you feel uneasy, you have incidents that you have to convince yourself don’t feel as bad as they do, etc – then that is your smart, observant head trying to come to terms with its observations.

      Him trying to make out like you’re making things up that aren’t there is like saying, sweetheart, because YOU are thinking it, I can’t possibly take it seriously. I don’t have a problem with us, if YOU have a problem with us, it means nothing, because it’s in YOUR head, not in my head. You can bet that if concerns were in HIS head, he would not doubt their validity.

      I can’t count the number of times a poorly behaved guy has used the tactic of making me doubt myself whenever I have tried to address his disrespectful behaviour, or simply tried to tell him about my discomfort.

      NML says it over and over again here, just read all the articles. You’ll see that what you need is not some kind of clairvoyance that will tell you whether his version of reality is more accurate than yours, what you need is the confidence to realize that everyone has to act on their own senses and gut instincts, and everyone should be encouraged to do so.

      By your own testimony, this relationship is not bringing you peace, support, joy, love or trust. Do you hope he will one day say, “You’re right, this relationship isn’t good for you,” and then man up and change? Don’t hold your breath. Besides, you don’t need his version of things if you know how you feel. Believe me, if you ever get him to say you deserve better, it will be because he wants out and wants to look like the good guy.

      Actually, oops, I’ll add that alternatively, you could get him to say you deserve better, as I have managed to do, and extract promises of change, but then I have always found that anything that has to be promised like that doesn’t actually happen for any sustained length of time.

      I’m rambling. I think you’re unhappy and that is more than enough to act on, so opt out.

      • Doubtful says:

        Magnolia. Thank you for putting your thoughts in writing here. I opted out of a relationship I wasn’t even in! Someone who I saw almost everyday at a gym with a girlfriend but who connected with me over several months. Not much happened but several months in, he expressed his feelings to me, I sort of panicked over some things I subsequently shared, and there followed a change in temperature. Seems they got more serious, and I was on the outs. I spent MONTHS trying to “put things right” so that I could stay around, even as a friend. I kept asking friends/family if what I was feeling was “true”. Did he mean what he said when he shared his feelings, and I ruined it with my discomfort over what I shared? Was I getting ignored? Did his girlfriend tell him not to speak with me? If he was still sort of friendly but hardly like before, was I right to feel insulted? Was I welcome?

        In the end, I had to believe that if I FELT ignored, insulted and unwelcome, then I was. So, I opted out. I left that gym and now two months have followed and guess what? I am back to doubting myself. What if I overreacted? Can I go back to that gym? Was it really as bad as I thought? Was there even any kind of relationship in the first place?

        I ultimately reached out to him, and he told me he had gotten serious with his girlfriend and needed to check with her in order to speak with me and that he would call me back. He never called back. So, that in itself confirmed for me that we must have had some kind of relationship.

        But the big question is, why do I need all this outside confirmation? From him? From friend? From family? I don’t trust my own experience.

        My head spins, I am obsessed, and I am more than sure he is living happily ever after. By the way, this follows over a decade of not dating after divorcing an addict/alcohohlic. 12 years with him totally undermined my self confidence, but I thought I had it all back together. I know I am EU because of the hurt from that; however, I did not realize I would bounce right back into those self-doubting behaviors after all this time. Especially when I thought I was ready to make myself available.

        • grace says:

          This is the risk you run when you talk to men. You can avoid talking to them altogether (which I have done), or be more responsible – mainly to yourself.
          If you know for sure you like him romantically, then a close friendship is a very difficult thing to pull off. I don’t know if it’s possible and there’s no shame in him or you ditching it. There’s no need to think what did I do wrong etc? It’s one of those “shit happens” things.
          There is always a risk that the girlfriend/boyfriend will object and – it hurts but that ‘s how it goes. She/he comes first.
          It’s a lot easier to deal with when your life is full of other things. If you’re an obsessive, try a hobby. I spent over six months embroidering a sampler when I got dumped. It stopped me going over the edge. Otherwise, it’s a lot of sitting at home alone persecuting yourself. I know it can feel productive but it really isn’t.
          You can’t think yourself out of self-doubt, obsession and anxiety. You have to DO stuff. It is exhausting making yourself do stuff and you’re allowed to breakdown every now and then. But try to keep it to an hour a week (or whatever fits your timetable).
          Don’t give into it full-time.

          • Doubtful says:

            Thank you for responding, Grace. I have been in my head everyday with this. Almost all day. And I work full time! One hour a week sounds like a dream.

      • Spinster says:

        Good stuff, Magnolia. Thanks for this food for thought.

        “Here’s what I wish someone had said to me: it’s all in your head? So what. Let’s look at that sentence: It’s all in YOUR head. It’s your experience, your call. What does “all in your head” mean, anyway? If it means, your mind is filled with doubt, you feel uneasy, you have incidents that you have to convince yourself don’t feel as bad as they do, etc – then that is your smart, observant head trying to come to terms with its observations.

        Him trying to make out like you’re making things up that aren’t there is like saying, sweetheart, because YOU are thinking it, I can’t possibly take it seriously. I don’t have a problem with us, if YOU have a problem with us, it means nothing, because it’s in YOUR head, not in my head. You can bet that if concerns were in HIS head, he would not doubt their validity.

        I can’t count the number of times a poorly behaved guy has used the tactic of making me doubt myself whenever I have tried to address his disrespectful behaviour, or simply tried to tell him about my discomfort.”

    • sushi says:

      Nat, he is a controlling manipulator. And a creep, actually. And it goes like this; you raise a concern ( and at this point you KNOW that whatever you are bringing up makes you uncomfortable, distrustful, worried ect or thinking WTF). You expect to have an honest conversation and for him to acknowledge your concern. What you are in fact doing is telling your manipulator that you think they are manipulating you . He then says- no- it`s in your head, denies, minimises, destorts, lies, puts the blame on you, tells you or implies that you are wrong or even crazy. And that he loves you. And you are hurting his feelings. You end up more confused than before because you have just been mindf***ed. And you might end up feeling like you are going crazy too. Been there, done that. There is only one solution, and it is to trust your gut 100% and not be afraid to make a mistake and hurt him or lose him in the process. People in good relationships have concerns and different opinions but they don`t buldoze over the other person to get their way and dismiss their feelings. The only way to trust another person is to trust yourself. And no wonder you are starting to feel violated because he did violate you. I`m feeling the creeps come over me because I`m recognising this feeling from my past.

    • grace says:

      Cut and run.
      My ex who physically abused me started with picking on my appearance. This man has already started pushing the physical boundaries.
      Not wanting to hurt someone is no reason to stay in a relationship.
      If I have another relationship again I’d want it to be because we both love each other and want to be together. Not because one of us wants to leave and the other is too scared to do it.

    • Kathie says:

      Nat…. the part of your story that sticks out is the part that you think the relationship is becoming more & more about sex. The part about him doing things to you while u were 1/2 asleep really, really set off the code red alert in my mind. I find it very disrespectful & it would give me an uneasy feeling if I were you..During my marriage I could be so sick with the flu or something and it didnt matter to my husband, if he wanted sex , sex it was.. I felt so disgusted , used, by him eventually… I will never allow myself to feel that way again. Sex is a mutual thing that shared with 2 willing partners can be great but when u feel violated it ruins that and u build up resentment…. Good Luck, follow your gut instincts

    • Fearless says:

      Nat – what he means is that *he* doesn’t have any concerns (of course he doesn’t – he’s having all his needs met!) and it’s not a good sign that he does not see that *you* have concerns as something he should be taking note of and discussing. He sounds like a bloke who wants his needs met with little regard for what is good for you – selfish, self-absorbed and manipulative. You do not need to provide him (or yourself) with any *evidence* or prove anything to him (though what you’ve said is evidence enough for me!). Your own take on the situation should be good enough for you. Trust your own gut. I think it’s telling you something. I don’t like the sound of any of what you have said. This guy sounds like he wants to control you. Re the selfish sex acts? Your fears are justified, as far as I can see. If you don’t want to dump him (I have a feeling that would be your best move!), at least re-think your own boundaries. you don’t need his agreement for that! As someone has said your boundaries are not his business (you don’t need his vote of approval! This is not a democratic agreement), they’re your own business and and will protect you – he doesn’t seem to be concerned about what’s good for you – but you need to be.

    • Jen says:

      I think that what everyone here has been saying is really your only solution: FLUSH!

      My ex-ac did the same thing with the subtle little put-downs. That is the first sign of abuse. No one who is emotionally available will make subtle little put-down jokes to someone they love. Ever.

      People told me that at the beginning of my relationship, but I didn’t listen because I was so desperate to be with him. You don’t seem as desperate, and you are definitely better educated on this subject than me.

      Get out now while you still have some shred of self-esteem in tact. Abusive manipulations are the worst, most insidiously damaging thing a person can do to their partner, especially because it really doesn’t seem like much at first.

    • ByeAC says:

      One word of advice: FLUSH! He’s selfish and won’t admit when he’s wrong. These are character flaws that don’t go away unless a person is willing to admit their mistakes & work on themselves, which he is not doing. Actions speak louder than words.

      It’s better to be alone than with an AC, trust me. The pain and suffering that comes with being involved with one only get worse with time. You are not his therapist or toy. He has been treating you like a toy. Cut your losses and move on. There are better men out there. You deserve better.

    • T says:

      I understand your fears. My ex-AC did the “instant couple” routine on me. He was calling me his girlfriend within week. He called me nightly, texted me throughout the day. I tried backing off, but kept getting told how I was so different, how our chemistry was amazing, blah, blah, blah. I KNEW this was too much too fast, he introduced me to and got me involved in his kids lives way too fast, he wanted my kids to instantly like him (and was put off when they didn’t exhibit instant love). Once he got me, though, the criticisms began, the walking on eggshells began, the downright nastiness began. If I tried to say anything in my defense I was ‘wrong’, ‘misinformed’, ‘silly’, and he even once tried to tell me that I wouldn’t do any better than him. My mistake was that I met him on the rebound after having been cruelly dumped by my previous SO. I was feeling wounded, and the attention from the AC felt like it was bandaging the wound. After a year and a half of INTENSE together time, with lots of future faking, he told me he couldn’t be in a relationship. I think he was checking out the on-line marketplace and thought he could do better (My cybersleuthing lead me to find him on a dating website within a week after the breakup and he wasn’t labelled as a “new user”. My evil side has continued and he is still on dating sites with the label, “on line now”, or “one line in the last hour”. So much for the grass being greener)

      I’ve been seeing someone new since November. It had been several months since the breakup with the AC, I’d been on a few dates with others in the meantime, and my desire to find a “partner” was waning since I was starting to enjoy my time alone. This new guy is everything I have wanted in a partner, kind, generous, intelligent, a good dad. Listens when I talk (like porn for a girl, no?). He’s very respectful of my relationship with my kids and since he has custody of his kids I have to do the same. What this has done is make it so we HAVE to go slow. And did I mention the chemistry is outrageous?

      So what did I do? Panic and tried to break it off last week. He did something that pissed me off, something that on a normal week would have had me asking a simple question, but I went back in the “archives” and felt the way he was treating me was too similar to the way I was cruelly dumped a few years back…

      • Flower White says:

        Congrats for listening to your inner self “but I went back in the “archives” and felt the way he was treating me was too similar to the way I was cruelly dumped a few years back…” well done!

        A year and a half was a good run.

  10. Magnolia says:

    When I was in my early twenties, I went travelling in Indonesia, and allowed a man to travel with me. I WAS getting robbed, literally, and chose to ignore it because I could not deal with that reality: far easier to kick myself for “misplacing” my money then face that I had to tell this big man in a strange country to get away from me! I stuck with that dude for a week after the first bills started going missing from my wallet, crying in front of him about the loss, figuring if it was him, he wouldn’t steal from me again knowing how much of a loss it was to me … ! Really, I’m lucky I wasn’t raped (yes, I let him share a hostel room with me because he said he had had his wallet stolen!). I was very young and a tadnaive as NML would say! My goodness, and have I not conducted some of my relationships that way!!

    Today I was crying in the bathroom and I was saying to myself, okay, this is fear. How are we going to deal with it? I was crying over the feeling of instability and uncertainty around money and this path I have chosen. Having chosen the arts, it seems like I should have known what I was getting into, and that I shouldn’t expect security. Yet, there are people who make it, who make something work, and how, if not by ignoring the messages and “realities”, did they do that? The phrase that goes through my head is: “I fear that if I don’t leave this work I will never have a home or be able to support a family” and the question of whether it’s fear, or just ignoring the obvious, is very much on my mind right now.

    I have to ignore those fears in order to complete the dissertation – all my waking moments now are about figuring out what I can do to act on what I know about the job market and my own marketability. How can I bring stability to my life? is one of my main questions. It certainly helps having that clarity in the dating scenario: this guy this week was telling me about how much money he lost in one business venture, how rocky things are in his current self-employed state, and I was like: nope, there is no way I’m introducing more “I fear things might be unstable” into my life.

    • Jane says:

      Hey Magnolia I just wanted to comment – I felt for you – I, too, am in the arts and working for a company where the funds have been cut – we are sat in the cold, switching lights off to save money! And I have been through enough that I long for stability now. Working here has helped me take a long look at why I am doing it – I came from a finance background and wanted to be in the arts so changed 3 years ago – I even thought about going back to finance and that leaves me cold. I know why I’m doing it but I know I want more security so I will compromise and look hard for a role where I can fulfill my desires, act out my values but will give me a future……oo as I write that I think its a bit like a relationship – take the same approach.
      I’m sure thats no help but I wanted to support through similar experience.

    • grace says:

      Things aren’t so secure in the non-arts field either. Two words:
      Lehman Brothers.
      That guy struggling with his start up could be floating his company for millions in a decade.
      I guess we tell ourselves “we can deal with it”. And we do.
      And you’re going through a stressful time so crying in toilets is to be expected. It will all be worth it.

    • Magnolia says:

      Thanks ladies – well, at least the idea of going into finance to ward off these feelings is seeming just as frought –

      • runnergirlno1 says:

        Hey Magnolia, stay with your passion and focus on finishing your dissertation. I know the fear of completing a degree in a field where jobs are scarce…try finding a job as an anthropologist! I hit the panic button when I finished my degree and could only get part-time teaching gigs for five years so I went to law school. I did it too, wtf was I thinking, anthropology? Give me a break. At least you can write beautifully.
        I ended up getting married to a 23 year-old philosophy major, I was 29 and pregnant with our daughter and in my third year of law school. I was in major panic mode trying to finish law school, teaching everyfriggingwhere part-time, and working in a convenience store while throwing up in toilets across the land due to morning, afternoon, and evening sickness. I had NO health insurance (it’s the US way), no full-time job, and new hubby was a grad student in philosophy! Talk about fear and financial instability. Talk about needing to act on knowledge.
        At nine plus months pregnant, I applied and got an interview for a full-time teaching job. I was throwing up in the toilet 5 minutes before the interview. My best pregnant dress was wet with spit up and crumpled. I didn’t have a pen. I really didn’t know where I was cos I was so sick. Thinking back, it was probably fear.
        I ended up getting the job, gave birth to my daughter two weeks later, and getting a divorce 3 years later, suing the board 10 years later and hooking up with the exMM years later. Only thing I still regret is the exMM.
        You are going to be fine. Have faith in yourself.
        I remember when my daughter told me she was going to major in Anthropology and then told me she fell in love with pianist!
        We need poets, pianists, novelists, writers, politicians, lawyers, doctors, bankers, computer geeks, philosophers, and even anthropologists. Actually I need a plumber at the moment!

  11. little feather says:

    “When what you already know doesn’t change and does indeed prove to be true, you end up feeling bad about ignoring your gut or even obvious facts around you and feel bad about running yourself down. Then you feel regretful that you were doing these things instead of taking action.”

    Yep. I’ve been beating myself with a stick since the recent ending of a relationship. It ended abruptly without me being able to talk or ask anything. I have tried to make sense of it, my part and his part. I wasn’t completely happy about things and had my own thoughts of opting out (no cheating or fighting, I was confused because he felt vaguely distant and rigid, but was blaming his distance on me), but what hurts is not so much the ending but how disrespectful he was to me at the end and how he ended it. I didn’t deserve the way he handled it…..mean and cold, telling me how awful I’ve been, then just gone. I thought he had more integrity than he ended up having. I wasn’t awful, I was good to him. Too good, for him. Having so much blamed on me has been difficult for me to brush off. I wish I had kept a journal during this relationship, then I would remember with more clarity how much of it was not my fault.

    • Jane says:

      I’m struck by how many people are told its their fault and I am finding some comfort in reading that as I thought it was only me! And I want to say what I said above – of course they will say its your fault – they are not going to say ‘yes, hunny, its my fault and I’m sorry’……
      As my exEUM and me were ending he was texting me his rage, telling me it was all my fault, I was incapable of intimacy, I was harsh, controlling etc etc, that I didn’t deserve the respect I was asking for, that I had treated him really badly, poor him, evil me. And I was so upset, ready to believe all that but I went for my run and as I was running I was going over and over it and then thought of course he will be angry! He hasn’t got me anymore! He hasn’t got me running round after him, massaging his ego, paying for him, bending over backwards for him in readiness to believe it was all me – if I’d lost my plaything I’d be angry!
      You sound like you know it isn’t you. Good.

  12. Jane says:

    I’ve been reading for a while, putting into practice things I read. Natalie, you are right, NC is the best way, and even though NC I had to get him out of my head and spend the time thinking about him on me instead and once I started to do that things got easier. I’m still working on me but I’m starting to see who I am, what my values are and I understand that when the time is right I will feel able to put this information into practice nad try dating again.
    I wanted to say that the comment about internal and external fears really hits home for me. And fear topped up with fear. In both my past relationships I reached a stage where there were warning signs, I felt fear but I also felt fear of being alone, fear of being wrong (that was a massive one and has been a massive one to get over! Telling myself I’m right after a lifetime of being told I’m wrong and not capable of making decisions for myself!!!) Fear on fear paralysed me into doing nothing until I was completely dismantled on both occasions.
    I look back now and see I was right. And that has taught me to trust me and if I feel that way again to act – but the internal and external comment helps even more because I will check that I have evidence, that my fear is real and not from my own insecurity.
    Thanks Natalie you do help.

  13. Jennifer says:

    In my last relationship I completely beat myself up for feeling ‘insecure’ and being scared. In fact, after a while my partner began beating me up for it too (not literally however given time I’m not sure…). He would claim I had no basis for doubting him and not having faith in him. In hindsight (isn’t it a wonderful thing), I felt insecure and scared in relation to the speed he wanted the relationship to go, the proclamations of ‘I love you’ after one week (before we had sex), the intensity, the stories he’d tell me about past lovers. It didn’t seem normal. I had every legitimate right to be concerned and insecure and wary because in my mind there was no possible way he could love me after a week. He didn’t even know me. But I proceeded (I was desperate) and got very very burnt. He back off as soon as I came to expecting , wanting and needing anything from him. Suddenly the man who was telling me he wanted to marry me couldn’t stand to be in the same room as me!!! I’m over it now but it has taught me a valuable lesson. Listen to your gut and actions speak so so soooooooooo much louder than words.

    • T says:

      yep, I went out with that guy. There was marriage talk, not started by me, and though he claimed he didn’t want to get married again, he said that if I said we couldn’t have a relationship without marriage, he’d marry me. Then he would tell me how he felt coerced into marriage when he married his ex. Any time I had a need for comfort (like when my son went to college for the first time, when my ex stopped paying child support and I was BROKE and scared, when I was just having a down day) he would somehow let me know what my needs were a) ridiculous b) making me seem needy c) a pain in the ass for HIM. I might get a quick hug (though if you can actually hug someone and maintain 18 inches of personal space, somehow it doesn’t seem heartfelt). Once he even implied that I ENJOY feeling bad because by staying with my ex husband as long as I did, I got off on the emotional abuse…He told me he loved me, but after that, anytime I said it to him, he refused to respond. Blech! What was I thinking? Pure insecurity, pure feeling like I was incomplete without a man. Pure believing I didn’t deserve better. Now I think about this guy and I cringe. Part of me it totally embarrassed I stayed with him as long as I did and subjected my kids and family to him.

    • Stephanie says:


      The AC I dated also told me within a week that he would marry me. At the time I believed it and thought wow, not out of desperation but because I thought “this guy has no reason to make up shit like this” he seemed to have so much going for him. I was feeling good at the time, the insecurities crept in when his actions were not matching his words and I subtly called him up on it and he slowly performed a disappearing act, never to be be seen or heard from again. I beat the crap out of myself for it for months. I still have his number because I wanted to challenge myself to go NC without deleting it and I’ve done it, its been just over 4 months. Now I have no desire to contact him because there isn’t really anything to say any more. Like you I learnt a valuable lesson and should have listened to my gut early on.

      One more thing, I remember after 1 month of him going NC on me and I was crying on my best friends shoulder saying “why did I have to learn this lesson with him, I liked him sooooo much” She said sometimes you have to learn from the best, or else you won’t take it in the lesson! This is very true. At first I had the fear but now I can’t deny I have the knowledge.

      • Jennifer says:

        Yes, I’ve been in NC now almost a year after him only too gladly accepting my decision not to be with him anymore. I do kick myself from time to time thinking of ‘why didn’t I listen to my gut’…I did see reasons unlike you Stephanie why he’d make that stuff up…he wanted sex and it appeared like he needed a smokescreen. Then again there were some things he did like integrate me into his life particularly his social life that had me wondering ‘well, he wouldn’t do this if he didn’t like/love me’. Now I realise these gestures mean nothing really if love, care, trust and respect were absent. He certainly didn’t respect me..the relationship was more his relationship than it was ours…everything was done on his terms. I will red flag in future a guy who wants to speed things along quick…wow when I think of it a few years ago I would have ran like the wind from a man who told me he loved me after a week!!! It seems so obvious. I do not know what happened.

  14. anon says:

    Thanks NML for a well timed post! I suffer from an anxiety disorder that although has improved over the years, still clouds my judgement. When normal everyday things, situations and people can make me feel fear unnecessarily, it can be almost impossible to distinguish what fear is protecting me from real life dangers and dodgy people… and what fears are part of my over-active fear reflex to life at the moment. I recently found out that someone I know has been in my email accounts. Everyone I told this to admitted that would bother them massively to find that out. I am finding it hard to know what the healthiest perspective is on this. I am in the process of investigating this further by contacting my email providers. I have blocked contact from this person. I may well be over-reacting and if I’m wrong about the extent of the situation, then I’m sorry about it… but I am starting to see that I am just doing my best here with the information available. If the guy feels hard done by, that’s a shame, but that’s something they will have to get over and learn from. The other day I made a vow to myself “If it’s a choice between being a ‘bitch’ and being a fool, always be a ‘bitch.'” I don’t mean I’m going to start going out of my way to be mean, I just mean that I’m not going to allow my fear of looking like the bad guy stop me from protecting myself, even if that means at times over-protecting myself. I think it’s time to take responsibility and trust my doubts when there is some external factors provoking the fear I feel. This post of yours has cleared up something for me- it’s made it easier to be clearer about my fears and which ones are more valid. There’s a saying that fear is False Evidence Appearing Real… but in some situations the evidence is true. I feel like I can be more confident in weighing up situations and people with this in mind.
    It’s funny… when everything scares you, it’s almost the same as nothing scaring you, because your fear signal is not working well… so it can lead to poor decision making….

  15. Marzipan says:

    Makes me think of the book “Gift of Fear”.

    • Tea Cozy says:

      I recently read “Gift of Fear,” and found it to be very eye-opening.

      Before reading it, I’d too often pooh-pooh’d the idea of intuition and gut instincts. I guess I fancied myself a hardcore empiricist, and thought those instincts were irrational and not to be trusted. I now realize how wrong I was, and it’s given me much more confidence in trusting my own feelings of “Gee, something just seems off here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…” Very useful in dating, and dealing with people in all arenas of life, really.

    • ixnay says:

      I second and third that. The Gift of Fear is brilliant. I think everyone who posts here would get a lot from it.

      There’s one narrative in there, about how a woman comes to be raped in her own home, and it begins as the guy, good-looking and friendly, insta-bonds with her — I think her grocery bag fell apart and he’s helping her pick up the groceries — by using “we” language. I think she has cat food and he says, “We’ve got a hungry cat we need to get this food to!”, thus inviting himself up in this cozy, pet-lover way. And she feels strange, but is afraid to be rude when he’s being so nice. It’s a telling parable for trusting our anxiety when someone starts fast-forwarding and future faking.

      For me, and I live in New York, the book helped validate certain caution I exercise without feeling guilty or neurotic. I won’t let anyone tailgate me into my building. I don’t care if they’re little 20-year-old fresh-faced blond girls. I don’t know you. I have been guilt-tripped about that, and one political canvasser, a young white guy who probably never hears no, pulled a face like I was an anal nervous nellie. Another guy, trendy and black, accused me of being a racist. In these cases, I don’t try to evaluate who is safe and who isn’t; the one-size-fits-all policy protects me from making a mistake. Because I remember, as many of the young people in this neighborhood do not, news stories throughout the ’80’s of hallway attacks and murders. And though I didn’t think the young canvasser guy was actually dangerous, his sense of entitlement and moue of disdain at not being accorded his usual free pass, showed that he was not used to hearing “no” in any situation, and that in itself disturbed me because he didn’t recognize boundaries.

  16. Mary says:

    Anything that is too fast, too intense, and feels too good to be true will most likely end in the same manner. That little voice inside your head that signals fear is there for a reason. It’s your gut telling you that something isn’t right. Sometimes we second guess ourselves out of fear. We are scared to be alone, our friends think he is amazing (he’s wooed them too!) , we are insecure about our choices. Relationships seem to be trickier these days and we have to be smart women. Pay attention to the signals. Of course these EU men will blame us strong women in the end. They realize that they can’t possess us or control us like they want. It hurts when they end things so abruptly and blame us. Remember, they are NOT healthy. Of course they won’t blame themselves…they will simply move on and take a bit of our heart with them.

    • Stephanie says:

      Ahh Mary, I couldn’t have said it better. If its too fast, too intense and feels too good in the beginning, its sure to end that way. In my case it did! I maintain that this guy is NOT healthy. Someone who IS healthy just doesn’t behave in such a sly manner.

  17. Lia says:

    “When what you already know doesn’t change and does indeed prove to be true, you end up feeling bad about ignoring your gut or even obvious facts around you and feel bad about running yourself down. Then you feel regretful that you were doing these things instead of taking action.”

    Boy oh boy do I know the feeling! I went through that exact thing, and trust me, the hardest part in all of it is learning how to forgive yourself for it. After everything was said and done, I remained in a state of either severe anger or severe emotional pain, and I think I stayed there because I was so focused on him. I kept thinking that I needed to resolve what he did to me, and forgive him for how he treated me, but it just didn’t do me any good because all I was doing was replaying everything in my mind over and over again. One day I had an epiphany that I really wasn’t dealing with my feelings, and when I actually thought about it I felt even worse. I couldn’t believe that I had let the situation go on for as long as it did, when I knew in the back of my mind that I was not happy with the way things were going. I wasn’t able to forgive him because I had yet to forgive myself. It was extremely hard to accept the fact that I had kept myself in this situation despite what my gut was telling me, I could see it pretty much the whole time, and I sure did hate having to admit that I made a mistake in judgment, but it was what it was.

    We all make mistakes, but some of them actually are avoidable. Operating in a fearful state of mind kept me from trusting myself, but I’ve learned that my gut instincts are more trustworthy than I ever used to give them credit for. It honestly feels so good to know that I actually can listen to them. This post was right on the money about everything.

  18. SM says:

    “Is it fear or is it knowledge?” Big question for me this week. In the last month I have been assigned a male partner at work and started dating a guy with real potential. And I am the person with ‘am I worthy’ problems working on both ends. Here’s what I am struggling with and have started to come to grips with this week, ‘Everyone has different personalities and different ways they like to communicate and do things’. I keep thinking my business partner doesnt think I’m worthy because he doesnt react to things the way I would tend to react. Then I’m thinking my new bf may not be as ‘into me’ as I think because he doesnt call me as many times in a day as I’d like, but he does regularly keep in contact with me, makes plans and I havent had any bad gut feelings about him the whole time we’ve been dating. So I read this article and it gives me some clarity that I dont need to stress out about something that isnt reality yet and then if my ‘fears’ do materialize, then I have all the tools I need to handle it.

  19. Flower White says:

    I fear that I’ll be too nice thus I have to be aware of my boundaries.

    A guy whom I’ve already vetted was emailing me, asked me for a date, what days would work for me? I replied. Guess what? He flaked, zero response, nothing. Of course, I did not write him back. However, he joined one of my facebook ‘fan’ pages and about a week after her flaked, he ‘liked’ one of my posts on my fanpage, without apologizing to me or anything!

    I immediately blocked him on Facebook. I did everything right but it’s still a yucky feeling.

  20. Margo says:

    In my opinion, they will only “take a bit of our heart,” if we let them. By doing the inner work (with resources like BR), I believe we eventually will recover with our hearts fully intact and the awesome realization that we are smarter, better people from having walked. Don’t romanticize any of his crap — you are the “keeper” of your heart.

    • Polly says:

      I love this post Margo. It is so optimistic and has made me feel good today. I think you are right that our hearts can certainly fully recover and get stronger. It can take time – particularly if it was abused and hurt over a long period of time. But so good to absolutely believe that they don’t get to have a little piece of anything from us!

  21. Tinkerbell says:

    Well! I certainly got a rise out of you all. I am not serious. Just a bit lonely I guess. I fully realize that these feelings can get me into trouble. I’ve ditched him. I had not even met him (to the first responder) so ,no we did not ever have a date. Instead of feeling flattered I need to keep my head on straight. I’m convinced after the MM experience, I am now not really interested in a relationship because I’m scared to death. I just recently finished reading a book called, “Living Beyond Your Feelings”, by Joyce Meyer nationally known tv bible teacher. I need to read it all over again. You all succeeded in shaming me and , yes, it looks like I haven’t learned a thing, but believe me I’ve come a long way from where I was. I spent 25 yrs being married to an overprotective man. He’s been gone (deceased) 6 years now and I still have not learned to be a responsible adult. Grace, thank you for your less judgemental comments. I will be more careful. A person who remains as naive, trusting and gullible after what I’ve been through should not even be on internet dating sites. Yes, I’m playing with fire. NO MORE! Hopefully, you all meant well.

  22. Jones says:

    Hi all, I need advice… This guy has been chasing me on and off for a few years now, so now we are both single again I decided to give it a shot but the problem is the relationship is going to be a long distance one. Its only been a week but i feel like the communication isnt as strong as i would like it to be infact I am the one making the calls, I didnt contact him yesterday and he didnt bother too so I cant not wonder if maybe he never really wanted anything with me. I dont wanna raise this issue because I dont wanna seem too forward. After writting this I sorta feel stupit cause i already know what to do but how do I do it, do I stop contacting him and let the thing dissolve on its own or do I speak up???

    • grace says:

      Speak up.
      Then give him ONE chance (I say that cos I know you’ll give him two).
      If he lets you down Once more (and I know you’ll let him do it twice), then flush.
      Keep a list of the letdowns and read it in the cold light of day.

      • P. says:

        ha ha ha ha ha Grace, you are so right!!! I feel good I am able to laugh about the “extra chances” now :).

    • Lia says:

      I really do feel for you, but in my experience the phrase ‘closed mouths don’t get fed’ rings true, so I say speak up. In relationships, communication is so important. Not only does it show that you have respect for your partner to have the conversation, it also shows that you have respect for your own thoughts and feelings by tending to them. It is not doing you any good to sit there and think of the possibilities that may or may not actually exist, it’s probably causing you to feel more anxious, so please don’t continue to use your own mind to try figuring out what’s going on in his. You can’t read his mind, and obviously he can’t read yours either. You have to speak to him to find out where this relationship lies on his list of priorities. I’m wondering why you haven’t spoken up yet, is it your pride, or are you not comfortable expressing yourself to him? If it’s the latter, then you may have a problem, because a relationship is one of the few places we can expect to be comfortable opening up. And if you’re not comfortable with him, then you’ve got bigger fish to fry than him not carrying his load in the relationship, but I digress. If you express your concerns to him, and he truly cares about you and your connection, he will make more of an effort on his part. But remember, make sure that his words and his actions match one another. If they do, then it was a productive conversation. If they don’t, you already know what to do…

      I understand how hard it is to do, but don’t let your pride get in the way of doing what is best for yourself. Even if he thinks that you are being too forward, so what? It’s not about him, this is about you. At least you’ll have real information that gives you the ability to make an informed decision for yourself. Good luck…

      • Stephanie says:


        Speak up, and like Grace says, only give him ONE chance. One of the mistakes I made was I didn’t speak up at first, I just asked him the questions in my head and thought about what his response might be, until it festered and became unbearable, then I didn’t know how to ask the questions, I became mute. Remember its not about him, its about you. Good luck :-)

      • Sam says:

        Very good advice. I was too scared to speak up and thought I would upset him if I raised my concerns. Turns out my concerns were right, so you don’t do yourself any favours by not speaking up! I’ve learnt the lesson to open up communication and speak for myself. I have to protect me and my feelings, no-one else has that reponsibility but me. I’m getting stronger and happier :) so glad to have found this site and for everyone who shares their experiences I don’t feel so alone or so dumb anymore.

    • tired_of_assanova says:

      This guy has been chasing me on and off for a few years now, so now we are both single again I decided to give it a shot but the problem is the relationship is going to be a long distance one. Its only been a week but i feel like the communication isnt as strong as i would like it to be infact I am the one making the calls.

      The touch test: I am able to physically touch my partner or date on three different days of the week consistently.

      The situation you describe immediately FAILS THE TOUCH TEST This is a fantasy! After just one week you are already displaying signs of relationship anorexia from his crumb/distant communication, and you can bet that there is someone else in the picture. I mean how else is he getting his intimacy needs met?

      Fantasy relationships always have three elements:

      A moderating excuse in the form of “if only X then Y” which restricts the flow of contact in the
      Crumb communication

      You have to ask yourself why these types of relationships are attractive to you because they signal deeper issues. Why not have a proper relationship with someone you can actually see, someone who is actually going to physically be there? Trust me, I’ve had a long string of barely there, takeoff-failure ‘relationships’ and if you do not conclusively and solidly cut this person off for good, they will always boomerang in and out of your life.

      I know I sound harsh, I know I sound like I don’t understand your situation or the guy, but my friends all warned me and I wondered “how can they say this when they don’t even know my guy”, trust me, THE RULE in these situations is that they don’t work because they lack intimacy.


  23. Broadsided says:

    Wow, this post has really spoken to me today. It is a keeper. I am sorting things out in my relationship with a guy I’m giving a second chance to (the one who broke up with me being in a profound state of grief, now who’s back with me but I’m a little unsure). Because of the post, I actually made a list of the “facts” of the situation – yes, it is code amber, stop look and listen. It is any time something out of left field happens, and you’re trying to get past it. Reading the article, I was able to tune into areas of fear and unknown – these aren’t worth anything – the future IS unknown. For I have to realize that I, too, am in the driver’s seat and my job is to look out for myself – worrying about “where it’s going” is not the point right now. The facts are, we are still in a relationship as of now, still having fun together (not much emotional expression on his end yet but had a blast out dancing), had a traumatic incident we’re trying to move on from (the breakup, his mom’s death + a couple of other tough things for him), we are finding some ease and common ground right now. So….for people like me, historically, it’s been hard to be in a place of unknown. But truly spoken, I am not the creator of this relationship. My job is to do my part, but also pay careful attention to what he is bringing. I am not the world’s most patient person, and I know that – I just long for closeness, love, everything to be good – whereas in fact, most relationships seem to present a challenge and a need to step back and watch what’s going on. Considering the circumstance, and that we had a good thing before….I’m willing to lay back and give him the space to see if he gets back into a good emotional place in his head. I am proud of myself through work done at BR and my last BF, that I’m looking clearly. No longer is my worry that “he doesn’t want to be with me” – but I sit with the question “Do I want to be with him?” I will not know until the truth of the situation reveals itself, which it should in another month or so. Anyways, this post is very, very good food for thought, and I’ll be rereading it a lot this upcoming week. NML you do so much good in the world for us gals.

    • Elle says:

      Yes, keep the question whether you want to be with him (until it fades away, as other, real bonds form). Often people, new to a relationship, ask the person they’re with for assurance about whether they want to be with them, which is a quick way to get a boost, but, not only can this boost be based on fake feelings, it also means that your intimacy is then paved out of your own insecurity, a relief that someone in the world appears to have accepted you, and not an active, positive desire, a choice, to be with that person.

  24. Sam says:

    If it doesn’t feel right – DON’T – put yourself through any further pain or anxiety no man or person is worth it.

    I recently ended it with an AC had known him for a few years working on the same project, he was very flirty from time to time so when he invited me to lunch / dinner I was flattered. He had it all going on, good job, athletic, intelligent, seemed credible; told me his father was a minister, he had 3 sisters, was very mannerly and very popular. We both changed jobs then at that point he laid it on thick; chasing me, constant texting, making me feel special to him, kept asking me what I wanted out of a relationship. However, due to the distance that we lived apart 200 miles and his squash games he was never available to meet up with that was unless he was on a business trip near where I live. I fell for it hook line and sinker. But I couldn’t believe that I had fallen for a CAD and his tricks. He eventually showed his true colours; always had time to go on holiday 5-6 times a year, even told me he was going skiing with 6 females (just friends not FWB), but he was never available to see me, who knows who he was going with, I never challenged him. DUH! We had two brief intimate moments (5 minute man if that) and I felt like crap afterwards, he just switched from being interested in me to a low-life who had no heart or feelings towards me. He was brutal and ruthless with my feelings. I had plently of fears running around in my head before this happended but ignored them as he was very very clever at making me think otherwise. What a trickster!

    The proof is always in the pudding and from now I will listen to my fears / gut instinct and act accordingly. No-one or man is worth the pain and upset. I am responsible for me and who I let into my life. No more ACs. Love to all xxx

    p.s. ALL the experiences on this site sound so familiar, it feels like we have all been dating the same guy or similar types of guys i.e. ACs! But I feel we now have the power and knowledge from this site to empower ourselves for the future – thanks Natalie xxx

    • Stephanie says:


      My heart goes out to you, I’ve been there. I dated what seemed like the perfect guy, good looking, good job, good social life, good family, Christian upbringing you get my drift. He blew extremely hot at first and couldn’t get/see enough of me (which was all at his convenience) all of a sudden, he was too busy with his new job (allegedly), family and friends to see me by which time I had fell for the numerous tricks he played with me. He was very clever and we never had a cross word because he was always so damn polite, which made it hard for me to be angry with him. I found out that he went to a concert (whilst we were dating) with a group of friends male and female and didn’t invite or tell me about. I ignored this and the fears and red flags and went full steam ahead with trying to have some sort of relationship with this guy. He just passive aggressively stood me up one day and dropped me like a hot potato and hasn’t looked back since.

      Once you are out of the situation you can see where you went wrong and never allow it to happen again. You have come to the right place my dear. :-)

      • tired_of_assanova says:

        He was very clever and we never had a cross word because he was always so damn polite, which made it hard for me to be angry with him. ***I found out that he went to a concert (whilst we were dating) with a group of friends male and female and didn’t invite or tell me about.***

        He cordons you off from his life
        My AC did exactly this. “I’m not good with groups”, yet his facebook page was FULL of him in groups. They only saw me when they were around or 1 on 1. Another EUM told me that I couldn’t go to their 21st birthday party because it was “only for close family and friends”, and that was after telling me ALL about it. Another EUM told me that they couldn’t see me because they were going to see their friends, like I and seeing their friends were mutually exclusive things.

        I’ve had this con pulled on me so many times, now I sit up and learn the lesson!

        Oh yes, and the “other people” are always written off as “friends”. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t “friends with benefits”.

      • Sam says:

        Thank you for your support

        I’m getting my smile back and my confidence – step by step. This site means so much to me – I feel like its giving us all an education in relationships and what values matter in life.

        Keep loving yourselves peeps x

    • tired_of_assanova says:

      We both changed jobs then at that point he laid it on thick; chasing me,constant texting, making me feel special to him, kept asking me what I wanted out of a relationship.

      However, due to the distance that we lived apart 200 miles and his squash games he was never available to meet up with that was unless he was on a business trip near where I live.

      I fell for it hook line and sinker. But I couldn’t believe that I had fallen for a CAD and his tricks. He eventually showed his true colours; always had time to go on holiday 5-6 times a year, even told me he was going skiing with 6 females (just friends not FWB), but he was never available to see me

      My analysis:
      1. He cordons you off from his life (I’ve noticed that Mr Unavailables and AC’s often keep you containerised or in relationship quarantine – you don’t meet their friends/family or if you do, an event with you is always separate to an event with their friends. I’ll never forget the time my EUM told me that I couldn’t go to their 21st birthday party because it was “only for close family and friends”, and that was after telling me ALL about it.

      2. Failure of the touch test: The three elements of a fantasy relationship are present: distance, a moderating excuse in the form of “If only X then Y” (i.e. if only I had more business trips/lived closer/more time. The touch test: I am able to physically touch my partner or date on three different days of the week consistently.

      3. He drops references: Reference dropping is a common theme I’ve noticed – they make vague offhand comments like “oh, I will have to get you a new phone” or “oh, I will have to show you how to do X” without actually promising or committing to anything. This softens you up! He asked what you wanted out of a relationship, but did he actually say “Do you want to be in a relationship with me?” talking about chocolate ice cream isn’t the same as being offered chocolate ice cream.

      4. Crumb communication Self-explanatory. Add in walking and talking facebook and twitter feeds as well to this.

      5. Other people are written off as “friends” They do this so that you think that you’re the only one. Question – do you really think that he’s only sleeping with you? When I rang up my AC only to hear a car indicator going off in the background and finding out they were on the freeway driving off to a late night hookup with someone else, quite happily told me that “Oh, I am just seeing a friend” and wished me a good evening.

      Trust me, is it fear or knowledge? – definitely knowledge! You know he is an AC, good on you for flushing him!

      • Tulipa says:

        Hi Tired,
        I’ll never forget the time my EUM told me that I couldn’t go to their 21st birthday party because it was “only for close family and friends”, and that was after telling me ALL about it.
        Had the same thing happen to me not a 21st though and I even helped with the invites.
        Even worse is when you are invited somewhere with their friends and they completely ignore you as though they didn’t turn up to the event with you. I thought this must be in my head but I know if I went and asked people they wouldn’t have put the two of us together as a couple. Left me thinking wow he must be ashamed of me but really it is a reflection of his extremely rude manners. Just a shame I didn’t know where I was to leave and find my own way home. (Doubt he would have even noticed I’d left )

        • EllyB says:

          @Tulipa: “Left me thinking wow he must be ashamed of me but really it is a reflection of his extremely rude manners. ”

          Are you sure it was only “rude manners”, or rather his desire to keep all doors open? Maybe he didn’t want to introduce you as his girlfriend because he was looking for other hook-ups. Many of those guys seem to operate this way.

          If I meet a guy somewhere who is with a woman, and they seem to be more than acquaintances/colleagues/relatives, maybe even act a bit like a couple, but he claims they aren’t together, then this is a red flag for me now. Yuck.

          In any case, all this wasn’t about you at all!

      • Sam says:

        Thank you for your insight I only wished I knew this beforehand, but better luck and armed with knowledge for next time.. only there won’t be a next time with an AC or failing that the AC will be flushed out before he can say hot potato! :) No more mrs nice girl..

    • Natasha says:

      Sam, good for you for flushing him! Talk about a dude who’s, “ME ME ME! I’m so great! Can we talk some more about ME?! What do you like in a dude? (ME!!) Girl, I’ve got five minutes in heaven with your name on it!”

      You’re very right that a lot of us have dated (and by a lot of us, I’m including myself in that group) this type of jackass. I almost choked on my Diet Coke at “his squash games”….sweet JESUS, what a jerkoff. Onwards and upwards!

      • Sam says:

        Yes he was/is obsessed by his squash and high-flying life style.. Bragged about his holidays and I just felt inferior.. Though I know now that he probably treats alot of women this way, what a creep. And I can definitely say it wasn’t 5 minutes of heaven lol..! Thank you for your support :)

  25. kmac says:

    Oh. My. God. I just got a text from the guy. The guy who dumped me over the phone 5 months ago while I was at school in-between teaching classes. The guy with whom I broke 4 months of NC after drinking a shot on my birthday, who then sent me several texts wanting to get together, you’re so pretty, blah blah, I want to be your friend. Now, by that point, I had found out that this guy is now in All Over Facebook Madly in Love Land with ‘the one’ he’s going to make it work with (his words), even though she has 3 kids and smokes (I’ll never be with her, Kmac, really I won’t…I don’t want someone else’s pack of kids and I hate smokers) And then, I sent the nasty gram. The Very nasty gram that I’m not proud of, telling him he’s an a-hole, and about how devastated I was having to practically be carried out of school by my principal (a man) while sobbing in front of my students, telling him to never contact me again. Which I guess means: you still have control over me, so go ahead and contact me again. So, what did the text say, you ask? Simple: Kmac, what was the name of that restaurant we went to with the awesome mushroom salad…we want to go there for my birthday.

    Wow. If I ever had a flicker of self-doubt, that text just extinguished it. And no, of course I didn’t answer him back, although I did come up with some pretty inventive names for the restaurant in my head :)

    • ixnay says:

      that’s downright sadistic, kmac. can you block him on fb, phone and text?

    • Natasha says:

      Oh girl, I’m with ixnay…this dude sounds like a sicko. Well done for recognizing his abominable-ness. Block him every which way you can (for serious, no good can come of any contact with him, Fbook looky-loo-ing included) and keep reminding yourself that this is no loss. Don’t be jealous of New Chick – he’s going to suck just as much with her AND there’s kids involved. Keep looking past this fool!!

    • Kmac, your ex is a turd. You’re well shot of him. He’s either incredibly stupid and devoid of empathy, or he actually thinks that you like him so much that you’ll help him out. The restaurant is called FOYT – F*ck Off You Twat.

    • ByeAC says:

      Kmac, your ex is a a-hole. FLUSH him. He does not deserve one more second of your time. You are too good for him.

  26. runnergirlno1 says:

    I want to join back in the convo. So tell me this, professionally I act on knowledge. I’m greatly respected for calling a spade a spade cos it’s a spade. Folks rely on me for standing up and doing the right thing professionally. Why can’t I run my personal life as honestly and respectfully as I run my professional life? If I truly operate on knowledge, I knew he was married, yet I figured I’d be lucky in love like parking?
    Arrgh, it is so difficult to face and integrate these fragmented pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. Some days it feels like I need a large thumping upside the head.

    • Sunshine says:

      Sounds like instead of a thumping upside the head you could use a hug and a little more gentleness and tenderness with yourself.

      It’s over, you’re done with him, it’s not happening anymore. We are human. All of the choices we make and experiences we have are influenced by infinite factors that span back to the very beginningless beginning of EVERYTHING. The punishment paradigm is SO ready to be done with. My experience is, the kinder I am to myself, the more relaxed I am, and the better choices I make naturally. Can you let go of the need to understand WHY? I’ve found that when I let go of needing to figure something out, I just get on with my life and the “why” of it reveals itself without me ruminating or beating myself up or making myself crazy.

      Love yourself for making mistakes, for being imperfect, love yourself for being fragmented. It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok.

      • RadioGirl says:


        “Love yourself for making mistakes, for being imperfect, love yourself for being fragmented. It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok”.

        Absolutely! My therapist says much the same thing. We all tend to beat ourselves up and wear a hair shirt over our mistakes, when it really does help with the healing process to do the opposite and accept that we are only human.

    • EllyB says:

      Runner – I’m quite sure calling a spade a spade didn’t help you as a child. From what you’ve told us, you had to normalize a lot of bad and crazy behavior. Being as smart as you are was useless, because your parents held all the power. You had to cope with it. It became a habit.

      How do I know this (or at least I believe I do)? It’s because I’m exactly the same. I’m known for accurate, independent judgment at work, but whenever I meet a man I like, I’m tempted to twist reality. I’ve even done it with my former female friends! I still don’t know how to date without doing this, but at least I can stop myself from running into oncoming traffic again.

      • EllyB says:

        Even as a child, I often tried to call a spade a spade with my parents. I stamped my foot, I yelled “this isn’t fair”, I said “you are crazy”, I tried to explain to my parents why what they were doing was wrong. To no avail, of course. My correct observations were treated as if they were OUTRAGEOUS, as if I was the sickest child in the world by making them.

        Until very recently, I was ashamed of my childhood behavior. I thought I had indeed been crazy. How could I upset my parents that way all the time? My reasoning seemed entirely logical to me, what the hell was wrong with my brain??? Why was I an “A”-student at school and still (apparently) so completely mentally ill at home???

        I had been right all the time. I’m capable of good judgment. I have always been capable of good judgment, even in my personal life. Only I was way too scared to use it because they punished me for using my brain cells when I was little.

        Sorry for rambling. I guess my case was somewhat extreme. But don’t such things happen in all toxic homes, at least to some extent?

        • runnergirlno1 says:

          EllyB and Sunshine,
          YES! Calling a spade a spade as a child never worked for me either.
          I so tried to explain to my parents that there was a problem too. Of course, I was dismissed and learned to normalize truly bad behavior.
          It is over now. I don’t need to normalize shody behavior in order to survive as a fully-grown adult.
          Just a quick trip down memory-lane if you’ll indulge me. One evening as I was showing the exMM some childhood photos, there was one pic when I was about 10 years old. He remarked that it was strikingly similar to a photo that was recently published in a meeting where I was saying something important but nobody was listening. I was right when I was 10 and I ended up being right 30 some years later.
          So I guess it’s best to stop talking when nobody is listening and move on.

    • Izzybell says:

      Hi Runner,

      There’s a wonderful book called Mindsight that talks about how it’s totally normal for each of us to have various “states” or selves- some of which (especially those having to do with relationships) may be rooted in childhood. He says that we must accept our multiplicity, the fact that we can show up quite differently in the various parts of of our lives. The book talks about ways to integrate the learning we’ve done in our lives, and the selves we’ve developed as a result.

      Beneath all our self-states, I believe there is a core self that is an open, receptive “you” beneath narrative and memory, emotional reactivity and habit. Once you tune into it, this core can serve as an inner sanctuary that embraces all aspects of yourself in its shelter.

      “The key to well being is collaboration across states, not some rigidly homogenous unity. The notion that we can have a single, totally consistent way of being is both idealistic and unhealthy.”

      • P. says:

        I have that book, but it is difficult to read while working on my (very quantitative) dissertation. Thank you for posting some of the stuff here, this is extremely helpful.

    • Natasha says:

      Runner, I think you need to stop giving yourself such a hard time! What’s done is done and you’d NEVER go back there. I spent a lot of time flogging myself for my crappy relationships it really didn’t accomplish anything (really!). We’ve learned our lessons and we’ve now come to the point where we can really enjoy our lives – let yourself celebrate and take pride in how far you’ve come :)

    • Runner…..breathe…… You now live congruent with your values and your cockroach of an ex is a past decision, not a current one. Don’t persecute yourself. It’s done, you’re out, it’s over and you know why it’s done. We have all been and done things that go against the grain of what people who we don’t shag and share our emotions with, would challenge what they believe about us. You’re not a fraud – you’re human, which involves making mistakes. You think these people who respect you have got their shit together? Er, no. I was always known for calling a spade a spade and for being able to cut through the shit and give good advice…until it got to my own love life. We can be more pragmatic and less ego driven with our work.

      Look I’ve been there and you can go from here to eternity persecuting yourself for why you were with him and feeling regretful, or you can make the decision to Forgive yourself. Forgive you. Redirect the energy you use for being angry with yourself and him into positive purpose. It doesn’t mean you forget, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to welcome him back into your life, but the only person that all of this rumination, anger, frustration and flogging is affecting…is you. The fact is, he was married. The fact is, you deviated from this because you made an exception. He’s still married but you’re no longer deviating from your values. He is a very muddled up man who avoids problems and pain in his own life by playing truant. There were no doubt good qualities and good times, but he could not give you what you want. Get your unsent letter, mementos etc and have a fire and a celebration – more pit fire than Angela Basset style fire though… Celebrate all that it was and all that it wasn’t and say farewell. Or have a funeral in the assclown cemetery. But either way, say goodbye.

      • runnergirlno1 says:

        Hi Natalie and ladies,
        Thanks so much for the reminders to stop beating myself up and My rumination/persecution was triggered by an event a work where I instinctively acted on knowledge in the face of others reacting out of fear. When I got home, I was dumbfounded as to how I could be so clear headed when it comes to some things and totally muddled when it comes to personal relationships. I see the difference between work and personal relationships and I was feeling like a fraud when I ended up being right and acting on the work red flags. I’ll check out the book Mindsight, sounds interesting. I like the vision of collaboration vs. rigid homogeneity. And, your are so right Natalie, it’s time to focus on forgiveness. I made a giant mistake cos I’m human. I’d never go back or ignore this lesson in the future. I think I’ll do both, gather the mementos, unsent letters and burn them while having a funeral in assclown cemetery and say fare the well. That sounds very soothing. There are reasons for funerary rituals and this is similar. It is time for GOODBYE. Experiencing the stages of grief for the first time has been exhausting. Anger is easier for me than acceptance and forgiveness because I’ve never really been here before. Thank you all for helping me through. Natalie you this blog are heaven sent. Where would I be without you all?

  27. Ruby says:

    Fear and tired of being alone is what has kept me in the
    pseudo relationship i am now in. I can’t call it a real relationship as we have never talked about being exclusive. We only see each other on weekends (im a single mom who has full custody and he’s a workaholic with an insane schedule). I broke up with my former EUM in October and met this new guy via online soon after. I recognized him as being EUM from the second i met him. But because i didn’t want anything serious at the time i ignored my gut and continued seeing him. I thought that this was the perfect arrangement for me since i’m the mom of a young kid who doesn’t have alot of time for dating. I’ve been EU throughout this “relationship” too. I think its to protect my heart. I fell really hard for the last guy and believed that i could have the fairytale life. I allowed myself to be vulnerable (which is something i NEVER do) and got burned. So i’ve been seeing new guy for the past five months and find myself wanting more, but not from him. Honestly i dont even really like him! The only thing i really like is the sex. I have struggled with low self esteem my whole life. I’ve always felt not pretty, cool, smart enough. I’ve always felt like an outsider. So sadly taking the “crumbs” from guys is my MO. I can’t continue this destructive behavior if i want my life to change. I want a healthy relationship filled with love, affection and respect. I want LOVE and commitment in my life. I want to stop being EUF! So, I must end it with him in order to work on myself and be the kinda of person i want to LOVE, cuz i dont love myself right now :(

  28. miskwa says:

    Acting on your knowledge reminds me of when I lived in Montana, in Grizzly country. I did lots of solo hikes. I appreciated the wilderness but kept all my senses alert: smell, hearing, sight,terrain, vegetation, wind direction, etc. To be caught up in your own daily crap and not pay attention could be fatal. I saw 11 bears one summer. The bears are justing being who they were, it was my job to be aware and act accordingly. If I got my sorry a$$ mauled, ut was my

  29. miskwa says:

    Sorry, this bloody smartphone decided to send before I was finished. Dealing with men is like what I described with Grizzlies, these guys are being who they are. You have to drop your fear and get out there but with eyes and ears open and be ready to leave if needed; otherwise you can get mauled. Interesting to read about POF; I am on three sites and they’re just as full if AC ‘s and other misc nitwits. I have been future faked three times and someone from Ghana attempted a romance scam. My female buds and I had fun with that one. Then there are the guys which apparently cannot read or they’d figure out that we were in no way a match. I find one good fit for me out of every 250 that I look at. It is a good exercise in picking out the desperate, the playas, the losers, though.

  30. Uptownlady12 says:

    There is a guy I met a year ago through a friend of mine. At first I wan’t really interested and had just gotten out of a relationship. But he was very persistent about seeing me. I agree to go out with him, come to find out…he has a girlfriend..that he lives with! I told him there was no way we would hook up. But we remained friends anyway because we work in the same industry. However, a month later, we end up in bed. At first, I was ok with just hooking up with him. The sex was AMAZING and it was a good filler in between other guys I would date. But then I look up and it’s a year later, and I’m still sleeping with him! I came to the realization that even with other guys I dated who appeared to have potential, he was kind of a cloud over everything. Also, I realized I had become attached to him, and that was scary because I knew it was a dead end. For all I know, he’s proposing to hi girlfriend! He said if that happened he would “do the right thing,” whatever that means!! So one day, by some miracle, I actually ran into him while I was out shopping. He was by himself and we end up hanging out for a few minutes. All of a sudden, I felt this overwhelming feeling that the universe sent him to me to handle my business! So I told him to his face that I didn’t want to see him anymore and this wasn’t working for me. it was so hard, but I had to do it then because otherwise, i din’t think I would be stong enough!! He was cool and said he respected my decision. He emailed me a month later to “Check on me,” – the day after Valentine’s Day! I responded in a pleasant, friendly way and that was it. But let me tell you, I have been MISERABLE!! I miss him so much!! I didn’t relize how much I had grown to care about him. It’s just been complete AGONY!! I wish I had cut it off sooner, because what I’m feeling over this jerk who wasn’t even available to me is not worth it! But I accept my part in it and I accepted crumbs from him, so it’s my fault. I’m just thankful at least I never asked him to leave his girlfriend – I would feel even more pathetic. I jsut hope what I’m feeling goes away soon. In the meantime, I’m staying strong.

  31. ChiTownKitty says:

    I needed this post so bad but for slightly different reasons. A year after ending my long distance BS with my married AC/EUM, I have just started seeing someone. I have come to this site for strength and guidance….to remember to set my boundries (which he has accepted), to well …to try to do this the right way. Sometimes though it is so hard to see this person in his true light. I am constantly on the lookout for ANY AC behavior and he’s done none of it. We had a wonderful day yesterday and this morning I sent him a text…and haven’t gotten a response…and now Im acting like an idiot 14 year old wondering if that was it. I’m flashing back to the hot and cold days of mr. married moron and its so not fair to this new man!!! I’m not trying to make excuses but there are a million reasons not to hear back right away. Why do I always jump to the most hurtful ones? How can I find the balance between being “on guard” in a good way and being paranoid and self sabotaging?

  32. GettingBetterAtIt says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been NC with my ex AC for a little over 2 weeks now. NC is something I’ve believed in for sometime & I don’t believe in friends with exes ; when your done, your done & a million other reasons.

    “When what you already know doesn’t change and does indeed prove to be true, you end up feeling bad about ignoring your gut or even obvious facts around you and feel bad about running yourself down. Then you feel regretful that you were doing these things instead of taking action.”

    This is exactly where I’ve drifted while taking a walk thru my relationship with honesty & open eyes. The day we 1st met I could tell he was interested in me. He added me on Facebook the next day & other shenanigans. I crossed him off the list of potentials when I saw what his relationship status was & that he changed it to “it’s complicated” that day. I don’t really remember if he went to single a week or a month after that. For 3-4 months thou, he kept popping up or pursuing me. Eventually, I gave him a chance.

    At this time I was thinking “I didn’t want to be rebound girl before, he’s been single for awhile now, it’s okay.” What I FORGOT about, was “HELLO! This guy started pursuing you while with someone else!”

    When we 1st started dating, I blatantly asked him if he was friends, had relationships with or any weird dealings with his exes. He said no. This is #2 on my “you don’t have a chance in the world we me” list. From alot of conversations we had, it really seemed like we were on the same page with this. Then, after about 6 months, I told him I thought it was about time to clean up his Facebook friends after an ex commented on something. I expected it to be no big deal, boy was I wrong.

    He started with ignoring me & my inquires. Or ending conversations with “nevermind this.” Then telling me my feelings about it were “silliness,” “if you go digging for snakes..,” “we don’t hate eachother, so we’re friends” blah, blah, blah. I was blindsided! The sad thing is, even thou he deleted this ex & apparently a bunch of others that were on there, what I FORGOT about was “Hello! This guy has lied to you about this!”

    How it ended? After a year together he added two of his exes back on Facebook as a passive aggressive maneuver. I ended it. He boo hoo-ed he’d change, he’d change. Got back…

  33. Shiv says:

    It’s like you’re writing specifically for me every time I come here. Damn. I think I may have run that red light:

  34. alexine says:

    Thank you Natalie for this one! One of the best blogs yet which has been so helpful to me in sorting out my feelings. You are one clever woman…when my daughter is old enough she’s getting Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl. I wish I had been close enough to my mum for her to teach me about relationships and men. Hopefully I will be able to do better for my daughter.

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.