Dear So-and-so. You're officially off the hook. Congratulations to me too

Being let off the hook is about being released out of what could be an unpleasant or at the very least difficult situation, or being released out of something that we don’t want to do. When we feel that we or someone is on the hook for something, it’s fundamentally tied to a sense of obligation, after all, if we didn’t feel that we or they were duty bound to do something, we’d opt out without fanfare. The decision to step away wouldn’t be laden with such turbulent emotions and even a fear of appearing forgiving.

Two scenarios in life are likely to hold on tight to the negativity even if it’s near killing us to do so:

#1 We do something that affects us in such a major way that we feel that it’s too big to let go. We feel so angry and even ashamed about where we feel that we’ve erred that we relive it and critique ourselves for it as often as needed, just in case we forget and eff up all over again. Our inner critic berates and punishes us under the misguided impression that we will be prevented from whatever it fears for us. It then becomes that we won’t be self-compassionate and forgive ourselves because we think that we’re taking the easy way out. We feel that we haven’t served a long enough sentence.

#2 Somebody burns us and we feel so angry, hurt, and sad, that it becomes our purpose and security blanket. We either chase them for their remorse debt like a bailiff or we make it our vocation to change this person or to prove ourselves worthy of their better selves because not doing so has us afraid that 1) we’ll look like a fool and that 2) we’ll be making life too easy for them. We then feel obliged to pursue this person for what we feel is a suitable response because otherwise, we then feel that we’ve failed in our obligation to ourselves. Unfortunately, trying to make sure that they stay on the hook can cost us our dignity because we often end up saying and doing things that we later come to regard as at best embarrassing and at worst, humiliating.

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Is the friendship appropriate?

We are creatures of habit and have to pay close attention to where there are running themes in our lives because it points to where we are not only repeating a pattern of thinking and behaviour but that we’re doing so because we’re getting something out of it.

A recurring theme that some Fallback Girls/Guys experience in unavailable relationships is being the person who lends a willing ear, a shoulder to lean on, and even a bed to lie in for people who are having doubts about their current relationship, who want to have a bitch and a gripe about their partners, and who essentially want to avoid their problems by enjoying the attentions of an interested but nonetheless inappropriate party. It may be that you have the label of ‘friend’ but tend to be disruptive in this person’s relationships, believing that you have the right to do so because you’re friends and that anybody who doesn’t understand this and hold back comment about it mustn’t be right for this person. You may feel quite territorial about the friendship and struggle to step back. You’ll let them know that you’ll be there when not if something goes wrong.

It’s very possible that you’re either an ex or that at one point you expressed interest or even slept together but then for whatever reason something didn’t happen and you’ve instead ensured that you’re a fixture in their life and can keep an eye on what’s going on. While you might be open about this, it’s very possible that you have buried your feelings and so are not even aware of how your (and their) behaviour plays out. It’s also very possible that you keep in touch with this person behind their partner’s back. Note: If it’s a secret, it’s inappropriate.

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re a Buffer - someone who takes up an emotional airbag role with a view that once you’ve shown how indispensable and supportive you are, they will get over their ex and choose you. Buffer means rebound relationship territory. You have The Replacement Mentality so you tend to see your way into involvements as you effectively replacing somebody who couldn’t do their ‘job’ properly.

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Wolfie saying ' The pig won't notice that I'm a wolf if I say that I want a future with her'

Any toxic relationship that I’ve been involved in, has always kept going due to me essentially cherry-picking what I wanted to remember about the person and the relationship whether romantic or otherwise. While I did spend most of my life feeling wounded by my father’s absence and the sporadic periods or even moments spent with him, what I mostly remembered was how I felt around him and the happy times, which of course there were some but I’d admittedly romanticised the hell out of them. I’d selectively remember spending visitations with him and how thrilled I always was to see him, but I’d conveniently forget how we used to sit on the side of a cricket pitch or in some pub and how I’d have to pretend that I didn’t want to spend real quality time with him. I wanted to be involved instead of being an observer or accessory.

I was a sucker for a returning Mr Unavailable. Suddenly my resentment, hurt, frustration and all of the things that I’d identified as being unhealthy or unsuited to me were forgotten and instead I’d press the Reset Button and be back to the time before they first started showing signs of who they were and what was to come. Each time one particular ex that I dated on and off for four years and saw a handful of times a year phoned (this started around 96/97 so it was all landlines and radio silence in between), I only remembered possibilities, how I wanted to feel, and what I perceived as his good points – tall, made me laugh, good looking, clever, smelled of Polo Sport, good kisser. It clearly didn’t take much! What I didn’t remember – he vanished after each date despite making out that we were imminently seeing each other again, he was ridiculously ambiguous, sometimes pretentious, talked a lot and mostly about himself, and he did a couple of really disingenuous things that communicated that he wasn’t to be confided in.

I also returned to a highly toxic relationship that left me anxious, unable to sleep, and questioning everything about me right down to my race and I’ve given out more chances to other exes because basically I’d forget the downside of being with and around them.

Even if we focus on a person’s good points, we will always deal with the consequences of them coming as a full package.

And this is ultimately where anyone who has ever tried to remain with or get back together with somebody for the ‘good points’ ends up feeling the pain: They remain or go back because they’re blinded to the whole package due to wanting to reap the benefits of those points. They represent potential and seeing the person as a whole represents disappointment. They wish they could extract these points and multiply them into being full-time, but this all ends up happening at an increasing real-time, full package cost that isn’t worth it.

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They've lied about their name, where they live, and their age? FLUSH with Jessica Fletcher

Picture this (adopts Sophia from Golden Girls voice): You meet somebody on a dating website (read: introduction website after all, you can’t actually ‘date’ on it), you exchange a few emails and texts, maybe you chat on the phone a few times and then you meet up, hopefully within the first week or two because beyond that you get into building sandcastles in the sky territory. Between reading their profile, viewing any photos and these initial exchanges, you glean information about that person but at some point, maybe when you meet up, it comes to light that this person hasn’t been truthful and you feel uncomfortable.

  • Maybe they lied about their age. Some people knock off decades, some people knock off a year or two. It can seem harmless but it more often than not rings alarm bells.
  • Maybe they lied about their identity because they claim to be scared of “fake people showing up at their door”. The irony of course is that the person is then faking aspects of themselves to prevent fakes. O-K…
  • Maybe the picture is a misrepresentation because it’s very old or not even them at all. It then looks like they’re living in the past or flat out living a lie. It all gets a bit Catfish-y.
  • Maybe they’ve lied about their qualifications or what type of job they do, where they live or something. This can seem harmless until it becomes apparent that it’s representative of either a double life and/or their perennial need to exaggerate themselves in some way.

Whatever the lie is and whether they regard the lie as big or small, when it comes to light, it tends to create an awkwardness at best and at worst, a sense of deep confusion and even being defrauded.

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You can change your version of normal at any timeWhen you’ve witnessed or been through a lot of stuff as a child, a chunk of adulthood is spent trying to work out what’s normal because it quickly becomes apparent that what was ‘normal’ to you isn’t how things are in general or what you want to continue with, especially as you’ll be feeling the pain of putting your pattern on repeat.

Normalising what may be really poor behaviour and dynamics only really equips you for abusive and dysfunctional relationships. It trains you to be a pleaser devoted to trying to influence people’s feelings and behaviour while also trying to minimise conflict, criticism, disappointment, rejection, and abandonment. It trains you to stay when you should run, and to run even when there’s an imagined threat.

One teen summer while camping in Brittas Bay (I was raised in Dublin, Ireland), I witnessed a woman being beaten by her husband. Even though my friend and I were scared, we stayed until he took his hands off her and backed off. I know a lot of women who ‘walked into doors’.

I was a kid who walked into doors. I went to school with bruises and was terrified to go home around report time, begging and pleading with teachers to amend a grade that I thought would result in severe punishment. I was raised during a time when unless you were turning up almost dead at school, no one was going to say anything or investigate issues.

The funny thing is that when you don’t talk about this stuff, you can feel ashamed and even crazy but talk to people and you will find kindred spirits who understand your experiences. Sat with a friend a few months ago, we found ourselves weeping laughing at the absurdity of parents who go batshit on your birthday, cuss you out, scare the crap out of you, and then the doorbell goes and it’s your friends and your parents are like “Hi!” and going into Crystal Carryington hostess with the mostess mode while you’re thinking, Erm, did that just really happen?

Over the years I’ve met and corresponded with many people who had similar childhood experiences and a very confusing aspect of being physically punished as well as getting what may have been verbal tirades and/or mind effery, is that it teaches conflicting messages when you have good times and you’re hugged afterwards or they seem really remorseful, or they even say that they wouldn’t have ‘had’ to do what they’d done “if only” you hadn’t done whatever it was.

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My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!
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