It's not random, a fluke, or an anomaly when a person takes advantage of or abuses you; it's a warning sign worth heeding

A few weeks back, Em and I shared the school run together. With just under twenty minutes before we were due to leave, I hopped into the shower and he was surprised when not only was I stood at the door with the kids ready to go, but that he had to go and get himself ready…. He claimed that based on “historical data”, he hadn’t expected that I would be ready on time. My ears pricked up immediately.

Historical data is something he deals with in risk software where they use the past to forecast the future including where they’re potentially exposed to risk. Based on his experiences of me getting ready, which wouldn’t necessarily be based on the school run…, he hadn’t expected me to be as ready as quickly as I was. Now of course, he could have written this off as an anomaly but instead, he’s had to adjust his understanding of the ‘data’.

This got me thinking: Aside from us using what we regard as historical data about ourselves to then predict potential negative outcomes and to cap our potential, we misuse, misread or just straight up disregard historical data that we hold on others by marking what we’re experiencing as an anomaly, or by deducing that whatever it was occurred due to a set of conditions (real or imagined) or deciding that we are that condition.

Now, when we experience something, it might be an anomaly in the sense of, this is what we perceive as being our first experience of it. We may decide that it’s an anomaly because we also think that it’s going to be our only experience of it. We may come up with all sorts of rationalisations for why whatever it was occurred and based on plans to people-please, work out that we can eliminate the possibility of it happening again. Or, we may genuinely believe that it really is anomaly. Of course if and when it happens again, that means that it wasn’t and it’s at this point where we need to heed that information.

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Living in the past has a lot to do with why a person becomes the Other Woman/Man. They want to be the favourite again or finally be chosen over someone elseI’ve been exploring recurring themes that exist between childhood experiences and feeling almost at home, not only in an unavailable relationship but particularly in an affair, and reading through the many stories I’ve been sent, the same dynamic kept popping up:

If as a child, we were favoured by one particular parent and treated better than say a sibling or the other parent, we are used to a dynamic where we are preferred at someone else’s expense. If this is how we derive our worth and we also see it as normal or even flattering, this becomes an almost automatic precursor to us being the future Other Woman/Man.

It’s not always overt favouritism either. A concurrent theme was feeling sympathetic to one parent and almost apathetic to the other parent who is/was likely perceived as too passive or difficult, or even a ‘nag’. Whether it’s contempt that’s felt at the extreme end or pity at the other, this perception of things is likely based in part if not all, on looking at things through a child’s lens where assumptions and reasoning that ‘makes sense’ (even though it doesn’t), is used to rationalise why certain things have happened. These become beliefs that are used to inform our subsequent thinking and behaviour. We do things that agree with our outlook.

Those same beliefs are then used to adjust our own behaviour to ‘fit in’ and avoid what we perceive as negative outcomes.

We’ll ensure that we’re not ‘like them’ and this can translate into not voicing needs, opinions, feelings etc., and not wanting to be perceived as a source of ‘drama’. Cue people-pleasing and even Florence Nightingaling. Many of the stories I read referred to not just affairs but also being with people they attempted to fix/heal/help. It’s feeling for a time that they were favoured over that person’s problems and by deriving worth from being needed, feeling special. On some level, we can even derive some of our worth from feeling superior, whether it’s to the person with the problem or feeling superior to the person who is being cheated on.

When we learn to derive worth from being the favourite or certainly from not being like people who that parent did not like, love, or respect, we learn to appreciate and desire being loved or appreciated by someone who somebody else has to work even harder for the same thing or isn’t able to get it. We’ll even choose a someone who shares similar traits with that parent and may not even be aware that we’re doing so.

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Future Faking

One of the most popular subjects on Baggage Reclaim is the area of when people overestimate their capacity to be or do something, or overestimate their level of interest. When done habitually whether it’s with one person or across several relationships, it’s called Future Faking - talking about and even amping up the future to get what you want in the present.

Some people bestow time, effort, and emotions. Some people bestow future talk – gets the same result, possibly even more in record time plus they may not even have to be around for when the future rolls around.

Future Faking is bedmates with the people-pleasing habit of telling people what they want to hear. We’re all guilty of the latter at times but when we do it on the regular, we’ve become adrift not just from who we are but also from what we know that we’re actually going to do.  We’re also being far too short-term. If we were truly thinking beyond the moment and not enjoying the flattery of their reaction, we might think a bit harder about the expectations that we’re creating and even any commitments that we’re making.

We’re getting high on our supply of a dreamy future.

Let’s be real – it’s a magic bullet that’s got many of us into bed far quicker than we’d intended, got us back into a relationship best left in the past, and has even gotten us to part with our money.

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Relationships don't just happen; they're built.

So many people who feel twitchy about commitment say stuff like, “Natalie, it’s too much to expect somebody to know if they want to commit in the early stages of the a relationship”, which is the same as saying, “It’s too much to expect a person to make any decisions no matter how basic, in the early stages of a relationship.” A bit of probing and it becomes clear that that they’re twitchy about commitment because they associate the term with forever. Personally, I’d be damn scared of dating and being emotionally honest if I thought that me saying, “I like you. Let’s spend more time getting to know each other”, was going to be taken as an iron-clad forever agreement.

Commitment is a decision and we make decisions in all areas of our life and without even being conscious about half of the ones that we’re making – we use habits to take care of a lot of our decision making, sometimes too much so.

In terms of dating and relationships, when it comes to commitment, we phase it in – something I’ve written about before. At its most basic level, commitment is about showing up and then choosing and re-choosing to keep showing up to the relationship in a committed (decided at that level) capacity. If the person you’re with cannot show up for and with the basics, they’re not someone that you should be strapping yourself to for the long haul.

No matter whether we’ve just been introduced via a dating site or just met (stage 0), whether we’re dating (stage 1), whether we’re in a relationship (stage 2), whether we’re evolving into something more long-term (stage 3), or whether we’ve made a level of commitment that says that we’re in this for good (stage 4), all of these require us to show up.

This past Monday marked our two-year wedding anniversary – incidentally, after two years of being blanked, my father called and apologised but we’ll save that one for another day. One of the things I know with absolute certainty is that I can’t decide that I don’t feel like showing up to my marriage tomorrow. I can’t decide to emotionally check out or start shopping around. Well actually I could but in doing so, I would be making a decision that takes me in the opposite direction of commitment.

If I’d had a problem with showing up in the previous stages, that in itself would have indicated that we shouldn’t have been making another level of commitment through marriage.

I see relationships and the phases of commitment in a similar fashion to children learning to read. Here in England, they have different reading levels (by colour) and as the kids move up the levels, they enhance their literacy skills. Somebody who is on yellow – a preschooler – won’t have the same literacy level as someone who is a few levels along.

When we go from stage 0 and move along, we are becoming emotionally and relationship literate about each other, or at least we hope we are if we’re both working together.

Problems arise for instance, when we take stage 4 declarations seriously from someone who we’ve only been introduced to via a dating site (stage 0) or when we have ‘forever’ feelings and expectations for that person. This is Fast Forwarding and Future Faking. It also shows a lack of comprehension for what a relationship takes – action with time and experience.

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Being the bigger person: It's best to consciously choose your own response because yours is the only one you have any control over.

Recently I found myself having to take every ounce of patience and willpower I had and bite my tongue. I had to choose me instead of choosing that person’s behaviour or what they might have expected out of me. This is what some would refer to as ‘being the bigger person’ where we forgo the temptation to retaliate at that person’s level or to let our ego rule and instead choose a course of action that reflects who we truly are. We choose to slow down enough to be conscious of what’s really going down and where we can be pulled into a dynamic that will not serve us.

Inwardly, we might have to rein in that part of us that wants to:

It’s tough, especially when somebody has crossed our line, to not respond impulsively. If like me, you spent most of your childhood and some of your adulthood defending what shouldn’t have really needed defending and feeling confused, there can be a temptation to make up for lost time and unleash. It’s easy to say, ‘Eff it. They’re not playing/fighting fair anyway’ and then go down an old path that essentially takes us away from who we truly are.

The trouble is, it’s often those moments where we go ‘off message’ that we beat ourselves up for, and we judge ourselves unfairly and decide that that moment represents who we are in the main. We can end up feeling ashamed for having taken a detour due to feeling provoked or just feeling that we had no choice.

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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!