If you're going to remain friends with your ex, it will happen organically and when you're over them. Anything else is auditioning to get your old job back while playing the role of doormat.

Talking with a friend recently who was rather enamoured with a chap who was super ambiguous, a little probing revealed that this guy has a hell of a lot of female friends. A lot. Like when you see those shows about hoarders and then can barely move for all of the stuff piled up around them and they feel super attached to stuff that they’re never going to use or appreciate for that matter.

This guy collects exes, love interests that he’s turned down as well as becoming friends with the exes of his friends.

As soon as I heard about this, a code red alert went off for me. “You’d want to watch yourself there with all of those exes. You don’t need to be another one in the collection.” I was cautious because things were so ambiguous and not moving anywhere. At this point, she was still thinking that he was that special and putting him on a pedestal. I had to remind her that she is pretty damn great too. Undeterred, she reassured me that these friendships (erm, more like a harem) were genuine and that he has all of these female friends because, well, he’s so intelligent, funny, and quirky.

Here’s the thing: Some people love collecting exes.

I don’t mean that they go out of their way to make partners into exes by botching up relationships (although I suspect some do sabotage to resist commitment and then console themselves that they’re Really Great People ™ and A Really Good Ex ™) but more that their ego needs almost constant supply from the pool of people who have tried to forge something with them in the past.

These exes are like medals – Dear Ego & World, look at me. I’m such a good and great person that I can remain friends with all of my exes.

They’re also deterrents that tend to keep potential new partners at bay or are disruptive if it progresses. Even the most secure people in the world would feel rattled by going out with someone who spends most of their time juggling their exes including ex love interests.

People who collect exes and who in fact collect ‘supply’ are what I’ve joked are ‘haremologists’. If a person collects attention but is pretty indiscriminate about it and doesn’t have a harem per se (like people who trawl for attention on  introduction ‘dating’ sites, Facebook et al), they’re more of an attentionphile.

Some ‘haremologists’ extend this penchant for collecting exes to collecting those of their friends. “Look! Your ex girlfriend/boyfriend likes me and I’m making him/her feel better about having been with you.” A number of my early relationships started this way – the friend of an ex swooping in on his broken down donkey disguised as a white horse. In these situations, you love the attention and the diversion plus, let’s be real – you get a kick out of remaining connected to your ex but also out of knowing that it’s likely pissed them off. Note – some people like going out with their friend’s exes because they’re pre-approved.

Being friends with the exes of their friends elevates them and they may even enjoy listening to these people expressing their hurt over the breakup and then… gradually seeing that they’re now falling for them instead. Then the haremologist gets to have a brief romance and then turn it down or to claim that his/her interest has been ‘misunderstood’ and that they just want friendship. In fact, I’ve heard a lot of versions of this story where they claim that they’d assumed that they were kindred spirits who were coming from the same emotional place and leaning on each other for friendship and support. Yeah, of course.

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woman thinking: we have so much in common and can talk about anything except for what's going on between us

When two people are romantically interested in each other, they make it known and it doesn’t turn into this long, drawn out, ambiguous rigamarole of wondering whether or not they’re interested. It’s because one or both parties are being ambiguous why these ‘Whatchamacallit situations’ where people aren’t sure whether they’re “just friends” or whether whatever they’ve been doing is building towards dating or a relationships are happening in the first place. I’m still waiting for that email/comment/story that goes, “Our situation was super ambiguous and we texted / Facebook messaged for months/years and even slept in the same bed / dry humped / did everything but / did everything and still continued being ambiguous and here we are living happily ever after”.

What I do hear plenty of variations of is, They’re so interested in me that they don’t know how to show it and/or are so overwhelmed by it’. This is projecting and it leads to a whopper of an imagination hangover. Most of us struggle to predict the innermost feelings and thoughts of people that we’ve spent our entire lives around [family] and even those of us who think that we can must be careful of being complacent and assumptive. If you’ve come up with all manner of excuses for why your ‘Whatchamacallit situation’ is what it is, it’s time to ask:

How did you come to know so much about someone who is not expressing words and creating matched actions about the very thing that counts [what’s going on in this ‘relationship’]?

It’s tricky when friends and readers share tales of meeting “quirky”, “eccentric”, “super clever”, “poetic” and other such people who they ‘hang out’ with, talk about “everything”, and typically exchange a hell of a lot of texts and Facebook messages. Part of me wants to dress up as Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Ghost and say, “Molly, you in danger girl”. How can they spend so much time around or talking (or tippy tapping messages) to somebody who they say that they talk about “everything” with and yet still have no clue whether they reciprocate their interest and/or are up for a relationship?

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Expand your comfort zone so that you can expand your experiences

If you’ve ever been involved with a Mr/Miss Unavailable, you will be familiar with being managed right down into their status quo. If you imagine that on a scale of 1-10, their status quo is that they like things to be around a 5, whatever they do whether it’s blowing smoke up your bum and promising you the world or insisting that things will be different “this time” (going into 7,8 + territory), or whether it’s at the opposite end and frustrating you to the point where things become mighty tense or you give them the heave ho, if they have their way (they love doing things on their terms), they’ll eventually manage you and things back to 5.

One of the things that I’ve noticed about us humans though is that we are very loyal to our habits, even the ones that bring us pain and keep us in our uncomfortable comfort zone and this got me thinking:

When we end up in a cycle of doing and thinking variations of the same thing and expecting different results (think Relationship Insanity + the disappointment cycle), we are guilty of managing ourselves into our own status quo. We turn down the heat on ourselves as if we’re afraid we’ll overcook it.

Sound familiar?

You accomplish something really good. Maybe you get that job or promotion that you’ve been vying for. Maybe you win that client. Maybe you buy your dream property or start that business you’ve been talking about for ages. Instead of soaking up your success and giving you a pat on the back, you enjoy the good feelings for a nanosecond and then you get into a big fight with someone that on reflection, you wonder what the hell you were truly kicking off about. Or you get in touch with your ambivalent ex to share in your good tidings (Are you on feckin’ crack?) or you go on the hunt for problems and end up whipping you into a state of anxiety.

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Who peopl are

When people share their stories with me and a recurring theme emerges, I ask: If we look at this story a different way, why are you consistently attracted to and involved with partners who pretty much need to spontaneously combust into another person with a different set of values and habits in order to make you happy?

Many people believe that if a person loves you, they’ll change and make you the exception to their rule of behaviour and when this doesn’t happen, they personalise it and blame their worth. Why is our happiness and sense of purpose tied up in whether we can get somebody to make us the exception to their rule of behaviour?

‘I Can Change Him/Her’ syndrome is a habit of engaging in relationships that are fixer uppers. Like property, it’s where you take on a partner due to what you regard as their potential due to the return on investment you’ll make from renovating, redesigning, or even stripping them right back and raising them from the ground up.

Someone with an I Can Change Him/Her habit of thinking and behaviour believes that the love and relationship is valuable if they have to work hard for or even fight for it and ultimately be made the exception. This is a key reason why people get involved with unavailable partners especially the heavy duty commitment dodger and assclown versions. When the person blows hot or throws crumbs, it feels like more than the loaf that could be gotten from an available partner.

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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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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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