emotional airbag

If you’ve ever found yourself involved with someone that’s recently broken up, still not over their ex, separated, divorced, or widowed, they’re a Transitional, someone with emotional and/or legal a relationship ending, which means that they may not be over their ex, are still going through grieving the loss of the relationship/person and are struggling with their feelings about commitment and being emotionally available. They’re not ready to be vulnerable yet, which means no intimacy or commitment.

They may be typically emotionally available and going through a period of temporary unavailability due to the transition, or they may be habitually unavailable anyway. Either way, you don’t want to get caught in the crossfire because if you do, it’ll be on the rebound because you will help them avoid uncomfortable feelings about the transition and the loss.

It’s very possible that under a whole other set of circumstances, that maybe you could have had a committed relationship, which of course would be under the proviso that not only are they typically emotionally available but that under the new circumstances you wouldn’t be a Fallback Girl (or Guy) either.

There’s an element of this situation that’s down to ‘bad timing’, but to blame it mostly on timing is to miss some glaring problems. Don’t get things twisted – they’re not under different circumstances and you’ve missed the one piece of information that deals a crushing blow to anything you have in mind – they’re not over their ex. It doesn’t matter whether it’s that they’re scared shitless of commitment or intimacy or whether they’re moping after their ex or creeping around behind your back having talks with them; they’re unavailable.

It’s code red, abort mission, game over, no credits, the moment and I really do mean the moment, that you discover that you’re involved with someone on the rebound.

They’ve overestimated their capacity for a relationship and pushed down their feelings about their ex because they use you, albeit not always intentionally, to help you get them through this transition. If they’re typically emotionally unavailable or just the type that likes to be in a relationship, they won’t be good at being on their own but may be operating under the misguided notion that if you’re special enough that they’ll magically get over their ex and be available to you, which is pretty damn lazy.

Unfortunately, we need time to process and heal to be truly available and when we don’t, we use other people as emotional airbags.

If you have been involved with a Transitional, you are a Buffer, the person that lessens the impact of the fallout from their previous relationship. You cushion their exit by providing a soft landing and unfortunately, if you don’t heed the great big glaring code red that they’re not over their ex, you’ll also be the bridge to another relationship and a revitalised them. Ever fumed that you were with a Transitional, only to break up with them and them becoming available in the next relationship? It’s almost like you’re Heartbreak Hotel or Emotional Rehab.

You may not fully realise your role but you’re basically helping them get over their ex with the view that when they are over them, your compassion and support will be rewarded with the relationship you want. You avoid your feelings by buffering them.

Often too compassionate and likely to make yourself indispensable by trying to be and do everything that you think they need in order to be distracted from their transition, you hide your commitment resistance behind theirs. You may even substitute being indispensable for actually being intimate in your relationship, which is why I hear from so many women in particular that have practically turned themselves into skivvies, sexual play things, and bankrollers in barely there relationships.

In trying to prove your worth and ‘win’ their affections, you compete with their ex, old life, baggage etc and end up being boggled if not downright infuriated and indignant that they can’t give you what they appear to have given to others. You then get that horrible message that you’re not good enough.

You think that being good ‘enough’ is when you have the power to drag someone out of their grief. It’s like “How the frick can you be thinking about them when I’m here ready to give you a relationship and love you?”

You’ve accommodated so much it feels like you’ve put in too much to leave so you’re waiting around for your investment to come good while also hiding your fear of putting yourself out there with someone who is genuinely available and not trapping you in a holding pattern of waiting for a sequence of events to take place for you to get the relationship you want.

Eventually you realise it’s not the divorce papers, or the the fact that their ex keeps pestering them, or that they need ‘more time’; you realise that they don’t want to commit and are not available for the relationship you want. The Transitional also picks up that you can’t be that serious about commitment if you’re hanging around with them, even though they may have Future Faked and being obstructive about letting go of you.

To be fair, if you’re the Buffer, the Transitional likely recognises that on and off paper, you’re a great catch so they want to keep you as an option should they ever get their shit together. They’re afraid of making a mistake in letting you go and are afraid that if they do, someone else will snap you up. So they hedge their bets. On your time.

Often when you’re a Buffer, you don’t recognise how wrong this is because you’d be involved with someone when you’re not over ex also.

It’s critical to grieve the loss of relationships instead of avoiding your feelings by hopping back into the dating saddle and if you stay, those feelings they’re avoiding don’t get resolved – they get numbed and create more walls between you both. You deserve better than hanging around in someone else’s shadow.

There’s nothing wrong with being hurt from the end of a relationship or having feelings to deal with as a result of what’s happened. Breakups happen, people separate, divorces happen, and sometimes we lose a loved one through death. There’s nothing wrong with any of these four things (although I do caution against getting involved with separated people that are not definitively divorcing and ‘on a break’), but there is something wrong with you being used for the fringe benefits of a relationship without the commitment, with being kept in their back pocket as an option, being used to avoid difficult feelings that prevent being available to you, and expecting you to wait around like you don’t have better things to do with your time.

If you ask anyone if they’re ‘using’ you, even when they are, they will deny it.

It’s not how we like to be seen, but fact is, that’s what a rebound relationship involves. Just because they think you’re getting to have a ‘good time’ out of it or that you probably don’t want to commit anyway doesn’t make it right.

While some people will be honest when they recognise that they’re not over their ex/unable to commit, plenty aren’t. They hope for their feelings to catch up and like everything else in life, actions speaks louder than words. Your relationship will be missing the landmarks such as commitment, progression and intimacy.

Don’t leave it up to them to do the right thing – you have to be the one to opt out. Someone who is avoiding their feelings is not in an emotionally honest position to do the right thing by you, never mind for themselves.

Never get involved with or remain with someone that’s not over their ex because you will devalue yourself and believe you’re not good enough when in actual fact, they’re in denial about a past relationship. They might be a ‘great person’, but they’re not available and it’s best for them to come back when they are instead of using you like some high absorbency kitchen roll to soak up their pain. But don’t wait around. That will stop you making someone else your rebound.

Your thoughts?

Check out my ebooks the No Contact Rule and Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl and more in my bookshop.


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163 Responses to Rebound Relationships in a Nutshell: Transitionals, Buffers & Why You Should Step Away From The Light When They’re Not Over Their Ex

  1. Barbara Doduk says:

    I willingly allowed myself to be a buffer in a rebound, and I knew it all a long the way… I even used the words ‘living in her shadow’ all the time.

    He would deny it – claiming full out hatred for the women… yet still she was there ever present in the relationship as the elephant in the room. He would talk about her for hours. We were together for 2 years! And even after we broke up she was still his ‘hot topic’ of discussion. I used to wish I was her, and wish I knew what made her so special etc.

    He did exactly as you said, he kept me on the back burner in case, because he knew I was ‘perfect’ and ‘wished he could love me as I deserved’ basically saying he didn’t want anyone else to have me – even though he knew he didn’t desire me the way he should.

    Eventually I had enough, and kicked him out of my life, but for months after he would find ways to break down my resistance… then I accidentally & miraculously found out I was pregnant.

    It is 2 years later now, and I can say I am finally over him, and my idealizing of ‘who he is’ – and I no longer want to be that shadow girl that I never felt I could live up to.

    I have found my own self esteem. I realize looking back, I was in just as much of a bad place as he was – when it began. I had only been out of a 7 year long abusive relationship for 6 months – when I met him. So really, I can honestly say my reasons for being with him were just as equally wrong. I suspect I picked him because I knew he was emotionally unavailable – as I doubt I could have been healthy emotionally either.

    I’ve been single since I found out I was pregnant. I am loving motherhood. He and I have finally got to a place where we are more like business workers for the benefit of our child. However, I am staying single for as long as I feel I need to – to completely heal myself after an adult lifetime of bad relationships.


    • MaryC says:

      Is that your daughter? What a cutie. Stay strong for her.

    • NML says:

      Your post made me smile Barbara. Gorgeous picture, moving story, and keep loving you, your child, and moving forward with your life. You’re at a very emotionally honest place – that is a very good place to be. Take care.

      • Barbara Doduk says:

        Mary, yes that is her, she is my greatest gift.

        Natalie, I do feel I am finally healed from every mistake I made. I don’t blame anyone for whatever hurt they may have caused me, as I know I allowed them too. I have forgiven myself too, for all the blunders and hurt I caused myself.

        I am now focusing on making myself complete, and all my love goes into my daughter. I want the best for her, and know that currently I am incapable of being a positive role model to her ‘relationship’ wise, so I am staying single.

        I know my own defects (learned from bad role models) and never want to repeat the same mistakes I have made with regard to picking men and relationships.

        My daughter has made me change – as it is no longer about just me.

  2. Natasha says:

    Rebounds are a definite “Hell NO” situation. You do not ever, ever want to be the Carrie to anyone’s Jack Berger. No one wants to be running around buying replacement Sharper Image sound machines for a simpering asshat, only to be left with a post-it to show for it. Ex mentions of any nature on the first few dates are a huge turn-off for me and my signal to say sayonara. However, they won’t always say something and it may not be really apparent until later on. In that case, just cut your losses, hard as it may be. I’ll leave you with one of my greatest first date horror stories: I was out on a first date with a guy who got incredibly intoxicated and then began to recount a charming break up tale. Apparently, he was having problems with said ex-girlfriend (her name was Rachel, I don’t remeber his last name…that’s how long the story went on for) and was so distressed that he spent $800 on lap dances at a strip club and proceeded to drunk dial her while walking home…on the shoulder of a highway. Several incredulous voicemails and texts later (one reading, “I don’t understand why I’m being ignored.”), it became apparent that he couldn’t fathom why I didn’t want to go out with him again.

    • Lisa says:

      Simpering asshat…that made my laugh out loud and I needed it. Thanks :).

      I just realized that on my first date with the asshat, I was the one who told him the story of my last break up (very recent) where I found out he was married. My charming asshat showed me his ring finger and id to prove he was single and was who he said he was but my story likely didn’t scare him off because he knew he would never commit to me anyway.

      • Natasha says:

        Lisa, asshat is one of those terms that cracks me up too haha! :) You know, it’s funny, because I was just on the phone with a girlfriend that had been disappeared on by a guy who was a shining example of an assclown. They had been seeing each other for two months and she decided that he must have disappeared because she mentioned her ex (casually, i.e. I know that company, I dated someone who worked there.) the last time she saw him. I said, “Sisterfriend, he was an asshole. You could have pretended to have spent the first 25 years of your life in a nunnery, he still wouldn’t have stuck around.” Good riddance indeed!

    • MagicPotion says:

      You might have dated the same guy that I did- was this around 1992? lol…

      My friends kept bugging me to go out with their mutual friend- can’t remember his name at all…anyway, they had a small party and he proceeded to get seriously trashed in under an hour and spent the rest of the night screaming his ex’s name mournfully, “Tammmmyyyyy! Tammmmyyyy!” while vomiting…then he had the nerve to ask me out again and my “friends” couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t give him another chance!

      Anyway, no good can, ever has or ever will come from being a rebound- you’re a bandaid, sedative and distraction- nothing more.

      • NML says:

        Jaysus MagicPotion, your friends need to get some taste!

      • Natasha says:

        MagicPotion, how could you NOT fall in love?! Sounds like something out of The Exorcist XIVIXI: Ex Girlfriend Of Doom. Good thing you made up your own mind on this one haha!

    • NML says:

      Funny guy Natasha – the good thing is that you heeded the warning of his behaviour. Some people don’t realise until they are on a date or have started something that they are not as over their ex as they thought. Wow, he must have been *terribly* distressed to spend $800 on strippers…. 😉

      • Natasha says:

        Mmmhmm! I knew there was no way I could be his solace, my girlfriends and I tried on those clear heel things in Vegas once as a joke and I nearly ended up in a bodycast. I’m not that woman…I lack the coordination.

  3. Magnolia says:

    Lately I have realized that despite all the time that passed, I never “got over” a bunch of abusive relationships / date – assaults that I went through in my early twenties. I have dragged that baggage into new dating situations, sometimes consciously, sometimes not.

    I would never have described myself as transitional or on the rebound, but I recognize your description of having feelings go unprocessed and them turn into numb/hot spots. There are many ways people can stuff their feelings (whether through dating a buffer, or overwork, or whatever) and not really go through the process of getting over something or someone.

    I have been wondering why the heck after 8 months (the relationship was really only nine!) I’m still very much not over my ex. Fortunately this time I’m keeping the focus on me and realizing the pangs for my ex are pangs of wanting some other, deeper hurts to be resolved.

    I never realized quite how still being angry over old incidents counts as “not being over” people and effectively makes me unavailable. I was never in love with these guys but they certainly count as dates that I am not over. I certainly did approach new relationships as places to ‘heal’ from the old ones!

    The last thing I want to do is have my next partner be some kind of buffer. I want to be good to someone, and create a partnership that sticks! So onward at letting go of the heavy baggage!

    • Lisa says:

      Interesting food for thought as always Magnolia. When I think about the baggage I bring to relationships with people who actually like me, it’s devaluing them because of all the ghosts of rejections past. Somewhere in the background there is a voice in my head that says, “the majority of men I liked took a pass on me and said no thanks so what’s wrong with you…you must be defective/have really low standards”. It’s hard to build self-esteem in the face of what feels like a boat load of rejection. This is my challenge, this is my baggage.

    • runnergirl says:

      Nicely stated Magnolia. I’m getting frustrated that I can’t make him go away and I want out of stuck. But I know there are much deeper level demons I’m battling and I’ve got to off load a tremendous amount of baggage. Good thing I’m not thinking of flying anytime soon. I’d down the plane. When my denial broke with the ex MM, I’d accuse him of driving a giant uhaul of his baggage into my house. Little did I realize, my house was already filled to the brim with my own baggage.

      No more using guys as buffers while they are using me as a buffer. Will this ever end?

      • outergirl says:

        Hi Runnergirl
        I have been following your posts and we sound as if we have had similar experiences. Do you mind if I ask why are you still allowing him to engage w/you? It’s just hurting you and stroking his ego. Everytime my ‘asshat'(!) resurfaces [about every 6 weeks wether it’s a ‘gift’, a text..something non-confrontational & cowardly] it’s a setback and I do not engage him, he leaves what I lovingly refer to as ‘rat droppings’ in my life. If this guy calls you, please don’t answer. Instead do something loving for yourself and maybe pay forward someone who’s been kind to you.

        • NML says:

          ” rat droppings” *snigger*

        • runnergirl says:

          Hi Outergirl,
          Love the “rat droppings”. I’ve followed your posts and it does sound like we have had similar experiences. So as not to get off topic I’ll keep it short: After a few suck it and see phone calls, I finally figured out that he is going to keep trying (because it sure was good for him while it lasted) and that is all he has to offer me is the reset button. You are right, it’s about stroking his ego at my expense and it was also about me seeking his validation which I don’t much need anymore. I’m committed to me and moving on. But darn, it’s difficult sometimes.

          • EmLAW says:

            Runnergirl – sending you strength….look out for #1! What really helped me was when I started separating the wonderful guy I created and felt bad for in my mind from the self centered guy who pushed reset buttons, future faked and just keep me around with crumbs for his for his own needs, pleasures and desires. I am not out of the woods yet and mind you he is still trying his hardest to keep me roped in but I can see the light and I do not want to be his emotional airbag and the one who makes his unhappy marriage bearable. I agree….its soooo difficult a lot of the times.

          • EmLAW says:

            LOVE IT……rat droppings!!!

          • outergirl says:

            Hello Runner and everyone else.
            Sorry I did not reply sooner. Thank you very much. I follow your posts too and find them so helpful. We can all learn from one anothers’ mistakes. It’s great though isn’t it? To see we aren’t sucked right back in anymore. It wasn’t all that long ago that I’d have seen his simpering gestures as if it was a whole cake! I have Nat and this blog to thank for that. ((hugs))

    • NML says:

      I hear ya Magnolia. Basically you have to break up with or grieve the previous incidents. Been there. When I was ill several years back was when I discovered how bloody angry I was and holding on to each rejection. You sound like you’re getting a lot of clarity and that is a huge amount of progress – you’re not avoiding your hurt which means you can work through it and get to being available.

    • Natasha says:

      Magnolia, been there too! If I could get a new jackass to commit to me, it would totally heal the fact that some other jackass didn’t want me. Every time it didn’t work out, I would blame myself for the classic open and shut assholery cases and be way more upset than logic would say the situation warranted. Talk about hot spots. I would never have described myself as on the rebound either! Last year I developed this godawful autoimmune/food intolerance disorder out of nowhere and it’s one of those things where, if you weren’t born with it, extreme stress can bring it on. I finally had to accept that it was highly possible that hanging onto all kinds of anger and misery was ruining my health. I’m finally taking care of myself and letting it all go – good to hear that you are doing the same! :)

      • Magnolia says:

        Yup, I developed a serious fibroid problem over this last year, while I was with the AC. I’m not a total Louise Hay believer, but when I broke up with the AC and found myself now seriously hemorraghing monthly, I looked up the issue and affirmation to go with fibroid problems: “Nursing a hurt from a partner. Blow to the feminine ego.” Of course her affirmation is about letting go of the pattern in me that created this.

        I went for acupuncture today and they did a special thing where they bled my toe. “In Chinese medicine,” the acupuncturist explained, “heavy bleeding comes from too much ‘heat’ in the blood. We let off some of the heat.” I thought, if that’s like saying my blood has been boiling for way too long, I buy that.

        Grieving the things I’m not over may take a bit of time, but I’m so pleased to have something to do that does feel like it lifts weight from me and helps me feel lighter and clearer. Not that the grieving process is going to be fun. How do you grieve, oh, your innocence?

        Why on earth anyone who had the kind of healing to do, that I now need to do, would pick the dudes I did, is beyond me. There is no way these guys could be supportive of, or genuinely understand, this work.

        I mean I get it, I thought they could help me get over stuff – no, that’s not right: I thought that being with them proved I was over stuff. And that they would help me get over stuff in other areas. Boy oh boy. WTF was I thinking????

        • Natasha says:

          I buy the boiling blood theory too haha! I mean really, when you think of what stress can do to the body and stretch that out over years? Oy vey. I feel completely the same way about mourning a more innocent me – I guess we should be grateful for what we’ve learned, but it’s tough! Believe you me, you’re not the only one who thinks, “WTF? Why did I pick these people?!” In any event, we should be proud of ourselves for dusting ourselves off and doing the work, hard as it is at times – it’s worth it :)

  4. Mango says:

    Ugh. I feel sick. This is me splattered all over the place. ugh. I think I need to re-read this and try to process, and maybe write a bit more another time.

    I should have known better…….

    I feel like *such* an idiot.


  5. leisha says:

    Perfect Natalie and right on time!

  6. RES says:

    so true….. I learned this the hard way with my former EUM… Sound advice, as always!

  7. izzybell says:

    oh good grief. this article is spot on, and arrived just a couple of weeks after it finally got through to me that things were not, in fact, getting better. I decided to cut my losses and move on, but it hurts like nobody’s business.

    It really sucks being someone else’s buffer, where their emotional turmoil and painful loss overshadows your own needs and provides the perfect excuse why, if you’re a caring partner, you should just hang in there and be more patient and understanding. not recommended, not worth it, and not a good time!

    When I suggested he wasn’t fully over his divorce my ex actually said “but my therapist told me I was ready for a relationship.”

    Here’s a great book on the subject– even though I still had to get to the realization on my own, it helped me recognize the signs, opt out sooner and protect myself a bit more than I might have done otherwise. “Dating The Divorced Man: Sort Through the Baggage to Decide If He’s Right for You” by Christie Hartman.

    • NML says:

      Hi Izzybell – This man doesn’t even have his own mind. The fact that he is reliant on someone else articulating his thoughts for him spells trouble.

  8. susie sunflower says:

    Well i am so glad you have written this about getting involved with someone who has just broken up from their partner/are separated etc, because after my relationship broke up 9 months ago and i am doing great with NC, i tried dating once again, as quite a few men asked me out to lunch/dinner/theater/cinema etc, so i consider myself lucky to still have men interested in me after feeling pretty worthless from breaking up with my partner, and being hesitant to trust once more.

    The thing is, one of these men who is great fun to be with, and we hit it off straight away because we do have chemistry there, is still living with his ex until they get their new living arrangements sorted out and all the legalities of having shared a property which is being sold. He tells me, and of course i do not know for sure, that there is nothing else in the fact they are still living together, it is purely until they are sorted out financially etc.

    Now my question is Nat, do i hang around and see this man whenever he asks me out, am i myself dating again too soon after my break up, is he though living in the same property as the ex available, or does he need time to get over his ex and he is unavailable right now? Apparently they have been together 6 years, and he hasnt gone into detail as to why/how they have decided to split. Its a bit confusing really, i have never been in a situation like this, so any input would be appreciated. Should i back off and wait for him to leave the house he and his ex share?


    • runnergirl says:

      Oh, oh. Be careful Susie. I’m no red flag expert but included in Natalie’s lists of red flags is “still living with the ex”. I did my five boundaries this weekend and attached males was my number one red flag, abort mission boundary. In my mind, still living with the ex is attached. Natalie is the expert though. Also, I used to be a big fan of “chemistry”…hugs to you.

    • NML says:

      Susie, I think you have to judge things based on your comfort levels and also whether any of this relationship is ‘familiar’ to you – if it is familiar, it’s likely not a good sign. I dated not one, but two men in a row that lived with their ex, and I personally do not recommend it. Everyone needs time to get over their ex and yes he is unavailable – he’s not free and easy to start up a relationship with, and I think you have to question whether you really want to literally run alongside his relationship aeroplane and lay out yourself as a crash landing for him.

      I know some people who met one another while one was with someone else. They’re still together. You know why? Because they didn’t try to have a relationship while they hadn’t got their shit together because it would likely have killed things stone dead.

      Short of embedding spyware on them (don’t), it’s just too insecure a situation and the fact is, if things are that great, it’s nothing that can’t wait until he has got this part of his life done and dusted.

      • susie sunflower says:

        Thank you Nat you are so right on with your advice. After splitting up with my ex it has been a long haul, still is in many ways, so maybe i am not over him myself yet, i still get the odd day, with the odd pang and remember some of the good times we had, because there were good times. He told me he doesnt remember past lovers so he obviously has the ability to switch himself off and get on with his life far quicker than i can.

        To get to this new man, i will be extra careful because although he explained why he is still living with the ex, he asked me not to ring him up/txt him (red flags?) until he got in touch. His reason was he doesnt want to rock the boat until things are settled moneywise etc.

        To a certain extent i can see where he is coming from, but i am anxious not to make the same mistake i made with my ex and will be taking things slow this time around.

        Thank you once more.

        • Magnolia says:

          Susie, what does ‘extra careful’ mean? Does it mean you’ll wait before entrusting your heart? Because it sounds like you’ve already invested a fair bit of trust in someone who is asking you not to call because it will “rock the boat.” Total red flag. Red. You deserve someone for whom a call from you is fine and rocks his world, not rocks some boat filled to the brim with baggage and complications and potential drama.

          • outergirl says:

            “You deserve someone for whom a call from you is fine and rocks his world, not rocks some boat filled to the brim with baggage ”
            Thank you for that Magnolia. I will remember that. Hearing from you should rock his world, not his boat! Well-said.

        • grace says:

          Slow? Death by a thousand cuts is slow. He’s living with a girl, taking his sweet time sorting it all out, with you on the sideline doing as your told. That’s not a relationship.
          Tell him the only calling there will be is when he’s moved out and not had any contact with her in any way shape or form for x months (I say six months). Until then, get your life off hold and live it for yourself.
          If a man says I can’t call him or doesn’t return my calls or even answer them, he can push off (unless he’s on the moon or similar).

    • Siren says:

      Listen to your gut instinct and follow that through!

      You have a lot of questions, which I read as you being uncomfortable. Take your discomfort as a sign that something is wrong! Get out of there for a while at least, if he really cares he’ll try to win you over – but don’t give in so easily. He has got to move out of that house, that’s an ick situation you want no part of . Distancing yourself will help you gain better perspective into the situation. Do you really think this guy is so great anyway? Is he worth giving up the freedoms of being single? You’ve got all the answers you just have to believe in yourself.

  9. runnergirl says:

    Great advice and analysis as usual Natalie. I just read your 100 dating tips article (Sept 2010) and I’m in awe of all the complications associated with dating. You’d think that at 52 I’d have some clue? Of course, I’m not over the ex and on “men-o-pause” while I focus on me. However, the healthy dating articles and landmarks of a healthy relationships have been extremely helpful in reconstructing my crime scene investigations with past involvements with Mr. Unavailables. Without a doubt, you are correct, the red flags were always there within the first few moments. And true to Fallback Girl style, I ignored the red flags because I’m Miss Independent, Miss Self-Sufficient and therefore I could win them over. Maybe I did but it wasn’t pleasant when they got there and I paid a high price when they finally arrived.

    Additionally, I’ve been guilty in getting out there and using guys to get over the former ex which has ended up being involved with transitionals who aren’t over their ex’s while I wasn’t over mine. Talk about a recipe for disaster. Apparently, being a buffer and using someone as a buffer simply doesn’t work. It does make for a good cry into our respective beers, however. That doesn’t bode well for the landmarks of a healthy relationship.

    I’m taking to heart that no male is my last chance saloon these days. It seems I may be my last chance?

    I’m finishing Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl tonight. Simply the best book ever.

    • Magnolia says:

      Men-o-pause! Sounds like I should have heard that one before! Snort and that’s me spouting coffee all over the place!

      • runnergirl says:

        Opps, “men-o-pause” was from a brilliant post on this site that has always stuck with me. It isn’t my phrase. It has worked for me since I’ve never had one. It also works due to bio reasons as well.

    • Mango says:

      Well said, about the buffers. and the beer. le sigh.

    • NML says:

      Too right Runnergirl. If you regard men as your last chance saloon, it’s like saying you’re a woman with limited or no options, which just isn’t true and the moment you hop on the last chance saloon, your mentality adjusts to accommodate it so you’re already selling yourself short and magicking crumbs into loaves while blowing smoke up their arse. Not good.

  10. Lisa says:

    The guy I was involved with never mentioned his ex until our last reconnect. The only time ex’s ever came up was in relation to my requests to meet friends or family and then he would say no because he had bad experiences with that in the past. The time he did get into detail was when he was going through a rough time fueled by self-doubt in his life and was worried I was pulling away (his ego’s food source). Then he said he still has unresolved feelings for her. The relationship ended a few, maybe even 4 years ago so it just felt like a convenient last ditch effort to pull my heart strings and excuse his not ‘showing up’ for me since his other excuses had been rolled out one too many times.

    I want to believe SO badly that he was EU/AC for this or other reasons so I don’t play the not good enough tape over and over in my head but in my gut I feel like he just wasn’t that into me. I heard that when a guy is into you, he doesn’t look for reasons not to be with you (unless it’s a fresh break up or something). This was far from fresh and he was far from committing to me and it’s making it really hard to move on emotionally. He is a handsome, cool, tall, Alpha that could get a girl in 5 minutes and I feel discouraged about my ability to attract someone I really want to be with. How to move on when the reasons I read on this blog for unavailability don’t necessarily apply to me. The rejection just feels so personal and reminds me of other men before him that didn’t want me either. I think these experiences make me hold tighter to men who aren’t truly available to me for whatever reason because I just don’t believe I will find what I am looking for; someone who I am attracted to who actually wants a relationship with me. Some people do have more options than others, that’s a reality but it’s a painful one that makes it hard for me to let go. Move onto what…..? I feel really alone tonight, really missing him and want to call even though he dropped me real easily. I just can’t seem to accept fully the reality of who he was and how he actually felt about me, it hurts too much but it keeps me hangin on. Anyone else having a hard time letting go, moving on, believing that it’s EU due to rebound or otherwise that their guy didn’t commit?

    • Natasha says:

      Lisa, this guy sucks and don’t think of it as him not “wanting you”. I’m getting the sense that maybe you were in a boomerang relationship like I was? In my case, my ex-AC begged me to take him back, said it would all be different, etc. After he pulled a disappearing act after acting like a jackass, I was furious and told him never to contact me again. His excuse, you ask? He had “too many old ghosts to bury”. Mmmmhmm. Mind you, his “old ghosts”, as I heard throught the grapevine later, did not prevent him from skulking around bars looking for girls while professing his adoration for me every other minute. He was also a very good looking alpha and yes, my self esteem took a beating as well. My point is, in some cases it’s an excuse, in some it’s the truth, but in any event it doesn’t really matter. At the center of 99% of boomerang relationships is a selfish assclown, from what I’ve heard and experienced for myself. He is who he is and, if he gets his act together, it’s when he’s darn good and ready – this has nothing to do with you. Feel better! *Hugs*

    • ICanDoBetter says:


      I can relate somewhat to your story. My ex-AC used to play the sympathy card like that as well, to excuse his bad behavior. He had lots of other excuses and defenses, too. To me, that is what made him an AC, because he took no responsibility for his behavior, and didn’t seem to have any remorse for how his actions affected me.

      From what you shared in your post, I would say your ex is BOTH EU and AC. Not being ready for a relationship after 4 years is a long time. Even if it was just an excuse, he was being an AC by stringing you along and making up excuses, rather than owning up to his lack of availability or interest in the relationship.

      • NML says:

        ICanDoBetter and Lisa – This is one of those fine line situations where only you both know how you have been treated by your partners. However what you both have to do is recognise that via actions and words, these people do communicate what their capabilities or lack there of are. The key is not to decide you know better in these situations, to make excuses for them, or to hang on and see if they get their shit together because when most people are presented with the option of having their cake and eating it too, they eat the cake. Yes they could do the decent thing which is why we always have to do the decent thing for ourselves and not wait for someone that doesn’t know their arse from their elbow to make up their mind.

        • Natasha says:

          That is so true. It’s possible to be EU (whether on the rebound or otherwise) and still be a fundamentally decent person. I have a good male friend who’s EU and he’s VERY upfront with the women he gets involved with, the problem lies in that they really like him and decide they know better. This is not to blame them at all, we’re human, we have feelings, it happens. I will say for him that he doesn’t keep going back when he knows they want more. I’m not absolving him of responsibility, but he definitely does not sit around saying, “I’m going to use her. How am I going to bullsh*t her into getting what I want?” or, “What excuse can I come up with?/How can I throw the blame for the situation on her?” The assclown reveals himself in the the *other* stuff that’s going on outside of being unavailable.

          • cavewoman says:

            I’ve been one of those women who failed to take responsibility for doing the decent thing for myself. I was the one who went back with an agenda, and in perfect EU form, I convinced both of us that I really didn’t want more. It was pretend friends, secret crush. Although we both agreed we had an intense “connection” thing, he had been upfront about not being available. – Right after sex, only a couple hours too late, the jerk… Truth be told, he may well have told me earlier and I simply ignored it. I really don’t know what I was thinking, it’s all a haze. Maybe all his “ambiguities” would not even sound ambiguous to a sane person. Heck, we used to talk about how I would find the right guy for me! Perhaps he honestly felt he could be the best-male-friend that I was pretending to want him to be… and frankly, I was the one who would have willingly thrown more of the attendant fringe benefits at him. While secretly moping that he really isn’t interested in more. Shoot, I was so dishonest about my own intentions.

            I was myself rebounding/transitioning, and he knew it, from several years’ perspective on his own transition out of his significant relationship. This all happened during my divorce. I was already over my ex-husband, but not over the fact that suddenly I was single. I was in a mad rush to replace him ASAP, and this man was the one I latched on to. Classic! In my deluded state he could have taken way more advantage, but subconsciously I guess I managed to pick a relatively harmless EU, who has a decent level of awareness and restraint.

            One day I’ll have to stop being mad at him for disappointing and disappearing. It was for the best.

        • ICanDoBetter says:

          “when most people are presented with the option of having their cake and eating it too, they eat the cake”

          I agree, NML, they DO show us who they are EVENTUALLY, but sometimes that doesn’t happen until AFTER the hot pursuit, future faking, etc. I was not relationship/dating smart at all, after having been married most of my adult life, and having very little dating experience. I found Baggage Reclaim after the ex-AC and I were completely over. It gave me a lot of clarity into so much of the situation, including my own responsibility for looking out for me.

          However, after learning all of that, I still think it’s shady behavior for people to eat their cake, just because they can. To me, it just seems cruel to take advantage of someone, just because they allow it, for whatever reason. I sincerely hope that isn’t true that “most” people would do that.

          • NML says:

            iCanDoBetter It’s never in question as to whether or not they should avail of the cake – not everyone would even when it’s jammed down their neck. However, and bearing in mind that my mother said these exact same cake words to me when I wept over the fact that my ex was still with his girlfriend and hadn’t left yet, I realised that he was a shady pisstaker for eating the cake and rolling about in it like a pig in shit, but he couldn’t avail himself of a cake that didn’t exist in the first place.

            Yes there is all the Future Faking et al, but there are also at *least* a few signs that all is not good in the hood, and if I’d spent more than a minute looking at myself properly, I’d realised I behaved like a walking, talking all you can eat cake buffet. The best way to remedy the cake situation is not to give out the cake so freely in the first place or at least have the self preservation to withdraw it off the menu, or at the very least slim down the rations.

          • ICanDoBetter says:

            “and if I’d spent more than a minute looking at myself properly, I’d realised I behaved like a walking, talking all you can eat cake buffet.”

            Oh, NML, you do have a way with words. That is hilarious, and, looking back at my relationship with the ex-AC, and others for that matter, it rings so true for me! I always learn so much from your insights. If only I had found BR sooner! But I am definitely taking all the things I learned into any future relationships.

            It’s funny how I used to think of my “story”, about my ex-H or the ex-AC. I used to think of myself as long-suffering, such a giver, blah blah blah. Now I realize I was more of a doormat than I wanted to admit.

    • NML says:

      Lisa, as others have pointed out, length has nothing to do with it. I have people reading this site who are not over someone from 20 years ago. Yes he might be talking out of his ass, but he probably isn’t and even then, it’s like missing the point – he’s not available for a committed, mutually fulfilling relationship.

      You’re also unavailable and when you not only address your own commitment issues but your feelings about yourself, a man on freeze frame won’t be so attractive to you. You’re getting the man that fits your mentality.

      • Lisa says:

        Oh I so want to believe that Nat, I am just hell bent on believing that it’s cause I wasn’t attractive enough to him. He told me with his actions and his words that he didn’t want a relationship ‘right now’. He did string me along in some ways but never begged me to come back when we would have a fight/separate. The fights usually were about me feeling hurt/disrespected by something he did and then he would get mad or avoid. No doubt he behaved in a shoddy way with me and definitely was having his cake and eating it too but I fear he wasn’t E/U, he was just E/U to me. I understand that with an increase in self-esteem I would likely not be chasing someone who showed any signs of disinterest despite sleeping with me, telling me he had feelings etc. etc.
        He kept walloping me and I kept saying with my actions, “please sir, can I have another”? It is so sad what I was willing to endure to get to be with someone like him, it is the price I felt I needed to pay. Still really struggling with how to rebuild and look at myself in the mirror and feel desirable cause sometimes I see it but then the world offers a totally different message. Oddly enough, when I was with him even though overall he was rejecting me, I felt pretty…I used to think if he is sitting on my couch then I must be pretty. Chasing that validation…acceptance is a bitch.

        • NML says:

          Lisa, no-one is emotionally unavailable for someone in particular. You can’t just turn yourself into an unavailable person for one person because you’re not that into them. Someone can be emotionally available and not interested or even not that interested in you. You can’t *make* him EU and to put yourself at the centre of this man’s thinking and problems, is to not only give yourself a power that you don’t have, but is to completely distort the truth and absolve this man of his character, actions, and responsibility. He’s not EU *to* you – you’ve chosen to be involved with him when he’s not over his feelings from a previous relationship. You could substitute a million and one women, and whichever you was next in line and around when he was feeling around for a Buffer, you were going to get it. It’s not you. You can keep making it about you, but it’s not you.

          • meagen19 says:

            I see what you’re saying but I think I get what Lisa is saying. I’ve had the experience of a guy being EU to me- by which I mean that at this point in time, due to break up or whatever, he is emotionally unavailable, small e small u. And yes if it were not me it would be someone else. But I don’t take that version of eu personally i.e. I know it’s not about me. And I know he’s not like that all the time/is temporarily like that. As compared to say my ex EUM whose actions I did take personally and was EU to everyone his whole life. I don’t know if this makes sense. But before the work i did on myself, I never would have made this distinction. The EU is a bad guy, the eu is just messed up for now (although you should still stay away from him).

            • NML says:

              Meagen, you’ve lost me a little so if you can please reexplain *although* I will caution with – when you have to come up with a complicated double logic that agrees and then disagrees, it means you’re coming up with a reason/excuse to justify why you’re there or to legitimise your worst beliefs.

              Let me tell you something for nothing – When you want to believe it’s your fault you will find a way to confirm this.

              You and Lisa are not going out with the only Mr Unavailables in the world. They’re like Barbie dolls – there’s millions of them and yes you have a special attachment to them, but you’d be surprised how many women can sit in your hot seat and tell an uncannily similar story.

              But here is something else to consider: you’re unavailable too. If you’re responsible for his unavailability, who exactly, is responsible for yours?

              • meagen19 says:

                yes I’m not translating well what’s in my head onto paper. I’m saying, there is a difference bet. someone who is -maliciously and consistently- EU and someone who is EU as the result of a break up, separation, etc. I’m not saying either is good to date (and I WON”t date either) I’m saying that I have been in the position of being attracted to or witnessing someone eu from a break up and instead of lumping him in bitterly with all the other chronic EU – and really all other men- in my life – I understand where his eu is coming from and that he IS in fact unavailable to me . But that’s ok, and he’s not a bad guy for it. You’re right the logic is not coming out right…I wish you could step into my brain and you might be able to get it…but you’d run out screaming pretty fast!!

                • grace says:

                  Do be careful of saying “he’s unavailable …. but he’s not a bad person”. Apart from the out-and-out ACs, most EU people are basically all right. They have friends, family, work hard. That’s why we like them. They’re not evil or bad (well, no worse than average). They can be accomplished, gifted, funny, kind, humanitarian, heroic. I have to give famous examples cos they’re people we’ve heard of (no point mentioning my friends/acquaintances you don’t know them): Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth I, Charles Dickens, JFK, Picasso, Prince Charles before he stood up for himself, Flaubert, military leaders – terrific people but I wouldn’t want a relationship with them.
                  I was crap at relationships and I’m not a particularly bad person. I was certainly not malicious. And, no, I did not realise I was emotionally unavailable or what I was doing. I hadn’t even heard of the term. The men were “worse” than me in obvious ways so there was no reason for me to question myself. Yes, people can be that clueless. Even now I don’t know if I would be better at relationships cos I haven’t been in one for over five years.
                  Nat does recognise that some people are not habitually unavailable, but a victim of circumstances but they’re still unavailable.
                  If he/she is recently divorced, widowed, dumped, broken up, or still living with ex, soting out child custody don’t rush in where angels feel to tread. If you’re someone with a history of poor relationships be extra careful. In some ways a nice EU is even more dangerous than an AC cos you can spend a lot of time waiting for the potential to materialise … yet it doesn’t. Or he uses as an airbag/companionship/a bit of fun until he’s ready for … the girl after you.

                • NML says:

                  I think there’s always a danger in villainising Mr Unavailables although there are some exceedingly shady versions of them (assclowns) that are indeed malicious.

                  There is a very specific reason why I warn of the perils of this: while some are malicious, and some are even narcissists, most of them are not and if we view all unavailable people in this way, that would make Fallback Girls guilty of the same thing.

                  It’s not about malicious or intentions and when we use these to distinguish them, it’s called More Reasons To Find Bullshit Excuses To Explain Them.

                  Unavailable is unavailable is unavailable.

                  A few days ago, an acquaintance told me that she loves a man who has a girlfriend that he can’t leave because he can’t find anything wrong with her. Many men are like this – it’s like even if they don’t love them anymore or aren’t putting their feet in, they can only leave if they call say she’s a bitch, a psycho, or that she’s done something ‘wrong’.

                  We won’t accept that it’s not us unless we can pin something heinous on him and even *then* we’ll blame ourselves and we won’t accept that unavailability of *any* kind means that the relationship is dead in the water. We think we know better.

                  Unavailable is unavailable is unavailable. Even ‘10%’ unavailable can cause big problems in a relationship. You’re either in or you’re out – it’s literally as simple as that.

                  • Barbara Doduk says:

                    Great advice again Natalie.

                    In my case, I know my daughter’s father isn’t a bad guy even if he is still technically an EUM. I know there are very big reasons for him to be an EUM and he needs to heal and let go of all his nasty baggage.

                    Yes he should be aware that he isn’t capable of having a relationship and I fault him for continuing to start new relationships which all seem to end badly because he is emotionally unhealthy.

                    He can’t function alone though, and he would rather be in a bad loveless relationship then alone. It is sad, but I certainly do not think it makes him malicious.

                    As any woman who gets involved with an EUM – after being told in the beginning from the horse’s mouth that he was not ready for a relationship (or whatever excuse he might give – those red flags) – well she is equally to blame.

                    I willingly tried to fix my ex- EUM, I was determined to love him better blah blah = I was the fool.

                    Like the famous line in the movie Star Wars:
                    “Who is the bigger fool? The Fool or the Fool who follows?”

                  • j d says:

                    This strikes a nerve. I remember the ex-gf saying she couldn’t tell me why she was breaking up; she couldn’t find anything wrong with me! But break up she did. It is incredibly frustrating feeling when someone tells you that, to know that you treated them better than anyone ever did and it doesn’t matter. Truthfully, I didn’t even matter; I could have been anyone. Think about that; the person I was with was living out their own problem cycle and I just happened to be there. It totally devalues the relationship, all my feelings, everything.

          • meagen19 says:

            I want to add too that I think eu men/ppl are aware of their eu. I have one whose been flirting with me for months. He’s recently divorced, and wants connection but realizes he’s not ready and so he won’t go full throttle. He has not future faked, strung me along or used me as rebound. He likes me but knows he needs time to recover. Which the typical EU does not. I would never be with him while he’s in recovery and I respect the fact he is self aware.

          • Jennie says:

            I just wrote something which I think addresses the heart of the matter, right here: http://toohardtofindaurl.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-about-frustrated.html

            The unavailability is there right from the second this stupid guy starts talking to you. You will not change him no matter how attractive you are because he doesn’t even like himself.

    • grace says:

      “handsome, cool, tall, Alpha” How I’ve changed, I read that description and immediately thought “d!ckhead” (sorry).
      As for him not being that into you, it seems he was “into” his ex and where is she now?
      He is not better than you.

      • Natasha says:

        Grace, you are awesome. If I end up half as wise as you are, I’d consider it a huge accomplishment. It is really true – a few months back when I first went NC, I was lamenting on here that my ex-AC had girlfriends and it seemed like (based on Fbook photo assumption – totally reliable gauge of relationships, obviously) he was really into them and I couldn’t understand why, why, why wasn’t I good enough to get that out of him? One of the ladies on here said something like, “Where are these women now? I hope they’re not all sitting around trying to figure out why he acts the way he does.” When you have no idea what actually went on in their relationship, it’s doing yourself a huge disservice to decide that you’re not good enough because your involvement with them was different/they are still hung up on said ex.

      • Lisa says:

        I love that you read that and think dickhead…I so want to get there. Apparently the girl he was into broke up with him but it was after 7 years. She ‘broke his heart’ and he never had ‘closure’/knew why. He just said she started to pull away after her dad died.

        I get what Nat and everyone is saying about people not becoming E/U or AC just for you. Arguably he had some not so nice qualities (avoiding, manipulating for his own gain) but I am not sure he had no depth or was incapable of love. It’s sad to say but I would have liked the chance to have a fully sanctioned but possibly dysfunctional relationship with him where I got to meet his friends and family, go out etc. He didn’t even give me a shot (or blow hot at the beginning in hot pursuit) so that’s what makes me feel he is not incapable of having a relationship/committing to someone hence the intense feelings of personal rejection.

        • Natasha says:

          Lisa, mine blew hot at the beginning and I got to meet his friends…same icky result. Unavailable is unavailable and it has nothing to do with you! I get why you feel rejected and, believe you me, it took me some time to get past that as well. The best thing you can do is get your self esteem back, so that when a great, emotionally available guy comes around (which he will, I have no doubt), you’ll be in tip-top emotional shape to enjoy a wonderful, fulfilling relationship. That’s how I look at it and it helped tremendously!

          • Lisa says:

            Thanks Natasha. It gets so ridiculous that I am sad that I ‘wasn’t good enough’ to invest more time manipulating!!! I wasn’t worth the effort. Sick. I guess the not meeting friends thing made me feel like a) he didn’t like me enough to integrate me into his life and b) he was embarrassed of me…like I wasn’t the kind of girl he would be proud to introduce to his friends. Just a lot of levels of degradation in my mind…hard to get past and figure out how to feel good again. And I miss him to boot…layers of pain. Unrequited love sucks.

          • Natasha says:

            Oy, how those of us who have low self esteem take every situation and turn it into shining example of how we fall short. I’ve done this exact same thing and I wound up creating a million times more pain for myself! I’ll give you an example: The ex-AC an I lived over an hour apart and he inivted me to visit and meet his friends. Well, not only did these friends (all men – I never met any of his many female friends) have no clue who I was, but some of them were a little rude, none made any attempt at getting to know me and one even made an outright sexual comment to me (not hitting on me, just being inappropriate). The ex seemed panicked trying to get them to act normal. Immediately after this, the jackassery started. Now, of course, I decided that I must have said something reallllly stupid for these people to act like that and my ex must have been ashamed of me and that’s why he was uncomfortable introducing me to people. Makes tons of sense right?! Honestly. What actually most likely happened was he’d never mentioned me to them because he had no intentions of being in a relationship with me. As for the way that they acted around me, they had probably been told that this was “just a hook-up” or Lord knows what else when they asked who I was and why I was there. The best thing you can do is not look at it as not being “good enough”, but accept that you’re a great person who was in the wrong situation. Believe me when I tell you I’ve been there and I’m sending you a big hug!

        • onemajorfool says:

          You are not alone Lisa. I could have written your comments myself. The rejection is so hard to take, and my self esteem is so low because the man I wanted and cared so much for, was happy to use me, but didn’t want a relationship with me. Hopefully time will heal your broken heart and mine. Reading this helped me a lot. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not just about me. He’s got some issues that I will just never understand, and I have to find happiness on my own, and wait on relationships until I feel strong enough to stop being EU myself.

        • cavewoman says:

          I hope you’ll do better than me, who’s never been involved with a tall handsome alpha, always dismissed them as the ‘dickhead’ prototype, but who still has plenty of EU experience from short/skinny, eccentric, bookish, whatever, other types….

          • Magnolia says:

            Sorry, cavewoman, this made me laugh. Like yeah, why, if I was going to date EUMs for the past fifteen years, why didn’t I pick the hot, buff Alphas if the geeky Napoleon-complex EUMs were going to blow up anyway!!? Kidding, of course.

        • Natasha says:

          Lisa, I just got home from having dinner with a friend who’s in a similar situation and I think I kind of missed part of the point of what you were saying (sorry)! Not all ACs/EUMs blow remarkably hot at the beginning – for example, my ex-AC was only blowing super hot/future faking because I’d told him the (second to) last time that I was done with him that I had no interest in being an interstate booty call (just sounds classy, doesn’t it?) and made it clear that I thought he was a jackass. I think sometimes the more obstacles are in their path, the hotter they blow – which has nothing to do with these types actually wanting a relationship. Was my ex-AC blowing hot with me because he was madly in love with me, missed me terribly and wanted to have a committed relationship? Absolutely not. This is why you can’t base anything that you feel about yourself upon their actions/lack of actions, because it’s about them and them alone.

          • Lisa says:

            Thank you so much all of you for taking the time to respond and share your ideas and experiences. I have also had the thought that he could have taken way more advantage of me than he did, waaaay more and he didn’t. I was never sure if that was because he had some decency or because he didn’t want me to have higher expectations and knew it would result in that. Either way, I do tend to ascribe even his lack of gross maniupulation as a rejection! I had an agenda as well and sometimes it was stated, sometimes it wasn’t but I did communicate that I was willing to take the scraps because I didn’t leave. I would love to have someone to distract me from this pain right now but that’s how I keep getting into these messes. I have to sit in my own filth for a while but like some of you have mentioned, I need to stop making it worse. I keep adding more dirt by telling myself how unworthy I am, obsessing about my looks alone and with my friends which results in my negative beliefs getting even more reinforced. I feel like I need a lobotomy. While I await that surgery lol (and obsess about the many plastic surgeries I want), this blog keeps me sane and I feel supported.
            Thank you all so much.

          • Natasha says:

            Girl, looks aren’t the answer. I’ve been down that road, trust me, I know how you feel. If looks solved everything, the supermodels of the world would never get dumped (and they do!). Look at the Bar Refaeli/Leo DiCaprio situation – I mean, this woman is so beautiful, her picture was painted on an airplane. Did this magically make him the settling down type? Nope. Same thing with him and Gisele. (I am a long time subscriber of US Weekly, can you tell?) As for plastic surgery, I’ve had both my nose AND my boobs done and, yes, it did make me a little more comfortable with myself, but it has yet to do jack for my love life. That stuff has to come from within, trite as it sounds.

    • EmLAW says:

      Lisa – You deserve so much better than what he is giving you! Been there, done that, and still working threw it. Journaling helped me a lot. I even resorted to putting read sticky notes as flags when my boundaries were crossed my boundaries. It hurts to accept it but if they really wanted to be with us they would be…nothing would keep them away. Another HUGE red flag was when contact became almost an inconvience for my MM. Someone who really loves you shows you. Don’t settle for being an option. Committ to reading BR each and everyday and really think about each post. Before you know it your self esteem will come back to you. You are not alone we will help you!

      • Lisa says:

        Natasha you rock! I want to get my nose and boobs done and I am a little worried that nothing will change and then I will want to jump off my balcony. I don’t know…you are right, beauty does not guarantee a relationship but it certainly would give you more opportunity. To make the best of the opportunities you do have to have your shit together and look for the same but like I always say, I’d rather be depressed in a Penthouse than in a basement apartment.

        • NML says:

          Lisa, I’m sure your aim is not to make light of either suicide or cosmetic surgery, but I want to say this to you:

          Cosmetic surgery is called cosmetic for a reason – it changes the appearance of things. If you don’t address how you feel about you internally, you’ll end up feeling ugly in a skin you’ve just shelled out your hard earned money for. You are attempting to make external things the solutions to internal problems. You may feel somewhat better initially but you’ve still got to live with you. I personally know of people who others think are ‘penthouses’ and they think they’re a ‘basement apartment’ and try to upgrade. You need to do some deeper work than surface renovations. If you want to change something that badly, do what would benefit you most – improve your self-esteem *internally*.

          • Lisa says:

            Nat, you are right. I did not to make light of either cosmetic surgery or suicide. Unfortunately these themes have come up for me a lot lately. When I met the guy I was involved with I was 95 lbs heavier and thought if I lost weight I wouldn’t stay with people who were mistreating me because I would have more options. I lost the weight while we did the push/pull dance, ended it, got back etc., he wasn’t more attracted to me for having lost the weight, it was like it didn’t matter at all (because I was just a stop gap for him anyway). In fact he told me that chubby Lisa was the best Lisa (after I lost all the weight). So now, I am faced with the harsh reality that losing weight did not solve all my problems so I had to conclude that it was because I wasn’t pretty enough. Now I have loose skin from the weight loss and feel very self-conscious (not aided by his erection problems during the last part of our union) and I feel ugly. Not just because of him but because of my dating history. This grief plus the grief of the relationship has brought thoughts of suicide (no plans or actions), depression and obsession with the idea of changing my face and my body because I want to feel like I have options. I also hear you that I need to work on my insides too. My fear is that even if I do, I will still won’t be good enough to attract the kind of opportunities I want but I guess I will be more at peace with that. Accepting how he didn’t feel about me and thinking about it as a microcosm of how men at large feel about me is painful. It doesn’t make it not true, but it feels so painful and like admitting defeat. This is what is keeping me from moving on. Not wanting to let go.

        • Natasha says:

          Lisa, you rock too and you need to give yourself the chance to appreciate you! Everything Natalie said about plastic surgery is absolutely true. There are people who have it done and still aren’t happy with themselves – that’s a terrible outcome after going through the expense and a LOT of pain. Like Natalie said, I know a ton of women too who think they’re basements and, in fact, to the rest of the world are penthouses! I am also living, breathing, augmented proof that it is not the answer to anything going wrong in relationships. Trust me, none of it has ever made a man commit to me, treat me better than the other women he’s been inolved with, respect me or value me more. I don’t even think I’m approached by men more often because of it – ogled, perhaps, but what’s that worth? Nothing, in my opinion. I am a great one for picking on myself as well, so I understand how you feel. What I do is make a conscious effort that, should thoughts like that crop up, to remind myself that it’s not rational and doing so has made a world of difference for me. Also, if you really want a relationship, it’s much more important to deal with the inside than the outside, because no man who really wants a relationship is going to say, “Well, she doesn’t seem to like herself very much and that’s not terribly attractive in a mate, but what a great nose!” Seriously, tackle the inside before the outside (I did so in reverse, big mistake) and I promise you it will be worth it :)

        • Natasha says:

          Just to clarify my last line – I’m quite sure that there’s nothing you even need to tackle on the outside. What I meant to say was, feel good about yourself as you are before you worry about anything external!

          • Lisa says:

            Thank you Natasha. I do think I need to be very careful because it could be a huge set up if I go down that road. I know that looks are not the only thing that you should value in yourself or that others should value in you but as women, our worth is so tied to it. I don’t like it but it is what it is. Men are visual and they value the physical a lot. When I talk about how I feel about my physicality and how that impacts my dating life, my friends say things that reinforce the notion that I am average and that I have a good personality so a guy who isn’t shallow will see that, there is something out there for everyone, you need to stop focusing so much and just accept and work on other parts of yourself. It makes me feel like dog food. It makes the whole thing with the AC make sense and there the loop of pain that is my world right now starts and never stops…I am not pretty enough so of course he didn’t want me, no one else does or did either, over and over and over and it’s soul crushing. Loving myself after feeding my self to a wolf, loving myself when I have been cast aside and feel invisible in the world feels like a huge task. I hear women on BR talk about being told they are beautiful/know they are attractive so when they get stronger/become more EA, they will be able to move on with ease. I will get stronger and still have limited opportunity and it makes me feel kinda hopeless. So discouraged today. It feels like it’s getting worse. It’s been 7 weeks NC. The picture is getting clearer and uglier.

          • Natasha says:

            Lisa, first of all congratulations on the monumental achievement of losing all that weight! Seriously, I have a family friend that did the same, so I know the tremendous effort and discipline that goes into it. She also stresses over the skin issue, but I promise you it’s in no way as noticeable as you think. Trust me, I’ve seen her in a bathing suit and you cannot tell at all! (As an aside, when she wears form fitting clothes, she swears by Spanx – they make her feel much more sleek and confident.) I don’t like that this guy said that he preferred you heavier after you did all of that work – that’s thoughtless and a just plain dumb thing to say. Is it possible that your friends aren’t really saying you are average? When Natalie talks about the low self esteem lens, it’s totally true – it’s so easy to take things the wrong way. I’m guessing that they were trying to say that noooooo one, I mean no one, is perfect and someone who really values you isn’t going to care if you aren’t. I should also add that no man is perfect either and it’s the ones that hate themselves the most that tend to pick on a woman’s physical quirks. Yes, men are visual creatures, but the rational ones aren’t expecting a Victoria’s Secret model to walk into their lives. This sounds so corny, but I really and truly believe that someone that’s positive about themselves is way more attractive than someone who may be thinner, prettier, etc. that doesn’t like themselves. I have a girlfriend who isn’t thin, gorgeous or perfect, but every man she gets involved ends up crazy about her, simply because she’s such a delight to be around. Also, and this is the most important part, when she’s met a guy that didn’t value her, she realized that his opinion didn’t matter and told him to get to leavin’! *Hugs*

  11. izzybell says:

    my experience is that chronological time doesn’t matter when getting over someone.. it’s being willing to sit through and process the difficult feelings without resorting to a distraction, an escape, a fix, or a buffer to hold the pain and discomfort at bay.

    As they say, the best way out is always through.

    my ex was so used to avoiding his own reality and his own feelings that he had to cite his therapist’s (erroneous) opinion about being relationship ready instead of knowing himself what was really going on inside him. it took me breaking up with him for him to admit that perhaps he really fully available after all.

    I’m mad, disappointed, sad etc., but at least I’m not still there feeling used and sidelined.

  12. better_tomorrow says:

    Recently widowed men are practically all code red -99.9% code red.

    I started getting involved with one within a month of his wife’s body going cold. Their marriage towards the end was not a good one – by his description – and she likely suicided while he was on a business trip. He came back to the house alone & found her.

    Only I didn’t know it was like this when we first started going out. By the time I found out I was feeling emotionally (and otherwise) aroused. I also altruistically thought I could help him through it.

    I volunteered to be a buffer *knowing* I would become one.

    Seven months later, he abruptly withdrew. After 7 weeks of little contact, he finally met w. me (at my request) and said “I just can’t do this anymore.” Which quite honestly, I think, he couldn’t. So he moved on leaving me vaporized.

    That was my descent into the seventh ring of stupid. I am slowly making my way back up.

    • NML says:

      Recently widowed is a definite no-no, for their sake as well as your own and to be honest, you’d have to wonder how someone can get over a death so suddenly. While we all heal at different rates, we have to also judge things based on our own values. It’s not that you cannot move on after a passing – we’ve had this within our own family – but when the grief catches up or the *natural* expectations that you have become too much, it.will.hurt.

  13. Amanda says:

    high absorbancy kitchen roll! awesome!

  14. Mango says:

    It somehow came to my awareness about a month or so ago, that I was, indeed, his fallback girl. And what a painful process it’s been, trying to figure what where I went wrong (not paying attention to the red flags), and how to proceed from here: what to, or not to say, can we still be friends, how do i forgive myself, do I tell him …..anything?

    My radar has been up around married men, as well as recently divorced men, for years. I’d say “no thanks”, and not look back.

    But this one is different, because he was a long lost love from many years ago. Madly in love with many years ago, it was me who was the UA one. I fell in love with him years later, only to realize he’d moved on.

    So, when he came back into my life, I thought for sure, it was meant to be. sigh. I didn’t listen when he said, he was scared of relationships, didn’t want to be in one for awhile, etc. But he also said so many wonderful and loving and affectionate things to me; I just thought he needed more time.

    Well, looking back, I wish I had just giving him space, some breathing room. However, having not been in a relationship in a long while, and coping with an ailing Mom, I was stressed, and needy. He understandably pulled back. And the dance went on, back & forth.

    I cringe when I think about how reactional I was! It may not have changed our chances for ‘true love’, but I wouldn’t feel so wounded, and betrayed, and we certainly would have our special friendship in tact.

    I am so mad at myself! But I am mad at him too, and I want to tell him how I feel, how this has impacted me. I think he’s oblivious. Not because he’s a bad guy; I just think he also has some emotional & communication issues, so, who am I to judge?

    How do I forgive myself for getting so sucked in to something that seems SO obvious to avoid now? I did have some rumblings early on, to break contact when my needs weren’t being met (how could he; he said he wasn’t able to!), but for various reasons, mostly because I wanted to ‘stay by his side’ when he’d be ‘ready’, I didn’t heed them.

    Gosh, that sounds so pathetic when I write it out. Ideas on self-forgiveness? What, if anything to talk with him about, without anger, in the hopes that we can retain our 25 year connection?

    And, why not me? If he’s always had a ‘crush’ on me, crazy about me, etc., why not? I’m…

    • NML says:

      Mango, this has unavailable written all over it. I’ve heard so many startlingly similar stories about the one that got away, only realised you were in love when they were no longer available, now they’re single but not ready for a relationship so they’re not available, you’re going through a difficult time emotionally and otherwise, you’re both living in the past and getting carried away with history and neither of you are available. I wouldn’t go taking responsibility for all of his stuff – if your mom wasn’t ailing, you weren’t stressed, and you weren’t ‘needy’, he’d still be unavailable.

      Take some time out and only be friends if friendship is all that is on the agenda. Friendship with a view to upselling yourself by doing an ongoing pitch is a recipe for pain and a hidden agenda. If you both value the friendship so much, it’s best to leave the mind fuckery off the table. It’s not about judging him for having emotional and communication issues but do not mix up compassion and sympathy or project your own stuff onto him – you’re both different people coming from different places.

      Also if he’s always been into you, you can be assured that he is habitually unavailable and some other poor woman has had to put up with him. What is incredible about this is that he can be so crazy about you for 25 years and then when given a sniff of a chance, he can’t come up with the emotional goods. Red alert.

      • Mango says:

        Yes, wise words indeed, Natalie. Especially this part; “It’s not about judging him for having emotional and communication issues but do not mix up compassion and sympathy or project your own stuff onto him – you’re both different people coming from different places.” I’m now lacking clarity as to what needs to be said, and how. I’ve been keeping so much in for quite awhile so that I wouldn’t ‘lash out’, and now I feel ready to burst! I don’t want to yell, but I do want to vent to him.

        I don’t think he was ‘crazy about me’ all this time, as he was married for 14 during the 25 year period. Regardless, I do wonder why say those things, only to not follow up. I feel so used.

        I’m very clear he’s a red alert in the relationship category. I guess what I’m most upset about is how I could have spared myself sooo much pain & stress, if only I had heeded those red flags. And our friendship and good/special feelings for each other might still be in tact.

        Also, I’m feeling very Meg Ryan a la ‘When Harry Met Sally’, when she says about Joe, her ex, “but why didn’t he want me?” Nuts, I know. I fear that may get in the way of maintaining any possible friendship.

        • cavewoman says:

          Mango, and Natalie,

          the 25 year connection from the distance, this is the specialty of hopeless romantics, isn’t it? It’s all about pining for this idealized person from afar. I should know, I do it too… and it can literally consume a person. It’s and addiction to the longing itself, not to the real person. I had a long distance relationship in college that felt incredibly passionate and torturous, that is, until we would reunite. Then suddenly he seemed practically boring, and I’d wonder what the big deal was. Until we parted again and I had to stay up late into the night anxiously awaiting his long distance phone calls. And that was my idea of being in love!

    • Phoebe says:

      Hey Mango,

      My heart went out to you reading your post. It is just so similar to the experience I had (like EXACTLY) and the emotional rollercoaster ride both during and after. It is really painful for many reasons. I mourned the relationship I once had, for not giving it the chance at the time and thus missing the opportunity. I was full of regret for what transpired in the more recent past – castigating myself for not having heeded obvious red flags, for letting him use me as an ego boost and shoulder to cry on while his relationship floundered (the only wise thing I did was stay away from him sexually/romantically and limited contact). And once he finally was free and didn’t choose to be with me, I felt utterly used, betrayed, humiliated and stupid. Because I had to finally face the person he was when we were much younger (he lied to, manipulated and cheated on me numerous times – only found that out later), as well as the person he was in the present. Finally I had to mourn the death of my dream of the future. A future I had always felt certain of. It felt like everything I thought was true in the world had blown up in my face. I was utterly bereft and honestly didn’t see how I would ever recover. The absolute worst was it took me two decades to screw up the courage and tell him the truth about how I felt and rather than honouring it and bowing out, he decided to take full on advantage of it with absolutely no regard to the hurt or damage he’d cause. None. No empathy, no compassion.

      But here is the thing, we can rake ourselves over the coals for having been fall back girls, we can tell ourselves we missed out then because we were EU, but with time I have come to see (and re-reading my diaries) that deep down I knew who/what he really was. In a way I much more perceptive in my youth than I would be in later years. We chose not to become more deeply involved with them for a reason. And perhaps our suspicions were founded – look how we were treated this time around. So forgive yourself.

      I found NC, a lot of yoga/meditation, and eventually therapy helped a great deal. Another poster said that the only way to get over this is to get through it. And that is wise advise. In yoga, I would literally sit with the discomfort and let the pain, anger, shame etc. wash over me and realized it was a process that had to take its due course. It has taken a couple of years, but I am now truly over it and finally really really happy. Happier than I have ever been in fact. So, forgive yourself, give yourself the time to process all of this and heal. It honestly does get better. A huge hug!!! xo

      • Mango says:

        Hi Phoebe!

        Yikes, I can’t believe I am only first seeing this post of yours! Sorry, I’m late to respond; I got side=tracked catching up on other topics. I hope you see this!

        I so appreciate you sharing more of your story, as well as your inspiration of moving on.

        I’m in the feeling used, betrayed, and humiliated stage, not only because he didn’t ‘pick’ me when he was ready to start another relationship, after showering me with “I’m crazy about you”, etc., but mostly at how I behaved, and did not heed the numerous red flags. I feel just awful.

        And grieving the loss of the dream, of not being able to be present when he was available, and of what I thought would happen when he came back into my life.

        We are not in a good place now. I sent an email telling him how I feel, and he is understandably quite hurt as I don’t doubt he had no intention to hurt me, and he feels terrible.

        Trying to move forward……….I’m pretty much in a daze right now. Thank you again for reaching out. Hugs back!

        • Mango says:

          Edited to update: He does NOT feel terrible; that was my projection. Bah. All I got after finally sharing my truth about how I feel, “Sorry for everything”. That was it. He just wants to fast forward and be friends. As with you, “no regard to the hurt or damage he’d cause. None. No empathy, no compassion.”


          So crushed. But I suppose after reading many of these posts I should not be surprised. But it still hurts like nothing else to not be heard.

          You have inspired me to start taking yoga again and look into therapy. I am so glad to hear you are happy and feeling good about yourself and life again! xx

  15. HT says:

    This is SO true- gosh I wish I had read this sooner! My ex and I had been friends, while he had a gf- the short of it, he broke up with her, and we started dating immediately after. Bad idea. He broke my heart 6 months later (via a phone call, no empathy for me, and little to no reason besides “i cant be in a relationship right now”, guess it all caught up with him, sadly too late!) I tried to tell him when first started dating to take time for him, he insisted he wanted me, but if only I could go back in time. Even worse, now we share a ton of mutual friends so I am stuck seeing him all to often, and all I see is the hurt. Geesh- lesson learned!

    So yes ladies- rebounds are a bad idea, we want to believe they really want us, but now I see, i guess I was a fool to think so, and sure he may have really cared for me and I do think he did, but he def was emotionally unavailable..and too bad now I am stuck having him in my life, and learning to get past the heartbreak! Great site and another great read, thanks!

    • NML says:

      HT, this is one of the most prevalent situations I come across. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d be treated better because you’re ‘friends’ – he’ll be thinking you’ll be understanding of the fact that he’s fresh out of the relationship and that he has nothing to give. Don’t mix friendship, sex, and a recent breakup. The fire will burn.

      • HT says:

        thanks for the reply, and you are absolutely right. We were not fighting, we were having a great time together etc, so I did the whole blaming myself, what did I do wrong, why doesn’t he want me all of a sudden (ESP bc the week before we were planning a summer vacation, he told me how happy he was with me, etc..) Now I know, he is emotionally unavailable, and there was nothing I could do to change that, so better to let him figure himself out, too bad I got hurt along the way, and I am just so angry at how he handled it all. Cowards! But it is a life lesson learned. Rebound man (esp if a good friend!) = RED FLAG :)

  16. colororange says:

    I’ve been out of a serious relationship since late last year and had only a “thing” with EUM briefly. This is the first time since I was a young teenager that I am single for this long. I look back at how one long-term relationship ended and I hopped into another one (which in a way I see as a blessing because I NEEDED to get away from the first guy). Had the second long term relationship not come along, I don’t know that I would have gotten away from the first. While I still struggle, this has been a real time for me to come up for air and B.R.E.A.T.H.E. On my own.

    At times I think “ok, seriously it’s been over half a year since my 4 year relationship ended, why am I still single??!” But then I look at the little mess I got myself into earlier this year and think I still have sorting to do. Heck, even today at work I was struggling with some feelings and validating myself. I was pretty sure some coworkers had been laughing at me. Inside I was hurt. Pissed. I would go from thinking “screw them, they’re not my friends anyway, they cannot be trusted. I’m going to be happy anyway” to feeling like I wanted to cry. And as corny as this sounds, I went to the bathroom and in the stall I gave myself a hug. Because as a child, that is what I wanted. When stuff like that happened, I wanted someone to be there, validate me, care for me. While I ask myself why am I feeling such a strong emotion toward this, I come up with a bunch of possible answers but not sure which/if there is the right one.

    I used to take that garbage home to my boyfriend, be all depressed and have him hear the horrid tale. Hoping he could “fix” me. Each day is another day to practice this. It can be confusing at times because I don’t know if what I’m feeling in reaction to something is “normal” or “healthy” or whatever. I know they’re my feelings and I’m always thinking about what I need to do with them instead of just being a sad sack all the time.

    • Magnolia says:

      colororange: yay to your choice to give yourself a hug. I’ve been in a similar place, crying in the bathroom at work, finding myself (again) the target of bullies. That seems like a long time ago, now. Only the other night I had a work function and still cried afterward from the stress. I totally used to do the same; use my boyfriend as an emotional air bag to help me deal. I’m so much better at talking myself down from the ledge, now.

      When you’re in a raw place, you NEED support, it’s just that it’s so much better if structures for that support are in place, non-romantically, before you get into a relationship so that they can continue alongside the relationship. That way your support needs aren’t always going to one place, and you’re not confusing your romantic life with your support needs. Also, makes it a heck of a lot safer to get into a new relationship, knowing that other folks can help with the stress of leaving the new relationship if he turns out to be EUM, AC or just plain incompatible.

      And, you’ve been single only six months? That’s really okay. Six months isn’t a whole ton of time to do the kind of self-reliance and growth exploring you’ve just begun.

      I think you’re very brave.

    • NML says:

      Sending you a hug and a squeeze Colororange. Breathing on your own is good and Magnolia gave some brilliant advice.

      Also half a year out of a 4 year relationship is quite a short period of time. Give yourself a chance. Your feelings are *your* feelings – you need to feel them all good, bad, indifferent and we can only understand our feelings retrospectively as to whether we were under feeling, bang on point, or even excessive. The point is that *in* feeling your feelings and not avoiding them, you come to learn where you’re at. I know that I used to get very defensive and scared when I thought I was being talked about by a partners friends and this was because an ex’s friends did this. What I learned in subsequent experiences is that it’s one thing if I got the wrong end of the stick but if someone is chatting shit about you, you have a right to be annoyed. Of course once you realise you don’t give a rats ass about them, you’ll still be hurt/annoyed, but it will dissipate. If it’s someone you actually value and care about, it of course hurts more.

      Sometimes you have to be sad, so that when happiness rolls around, you can grab it and enjoy it. That’s why we have different emotions – we can’t be ‘always on’. If you learn to accept your feelings and work through them, you’ll find that the cloud moves off.

      • Lisa says:


        I totally understand that feeling of hurt and vulnerability and feeling overwhelmed by feelings and what to ‘do’ with them. We never learned by example when we were young so we feel very young in that area now. I love what you did for yourself. Sometimes I think we don’t have to ‘do’ anything but be there with ourselves when the pain comes and reassure that we will be ok. You did the best thing, you were there for yourself. I hope it is of some comfort that one of us is probably crying and hopefully hugging ourselves in a bathroom stall somewhere. You are not alone.

        • Leigh says:


          Thanks so much for sharing this. At first I thought I was crazy after my split from my marriage and an affair with a MM. I would struggle to get through days and cry and I didn’t know why I was crying and felt like I needed a hug.

          Even today I felt that way. I had a terrific day at work, came home to an empty house and cried, so I wrapped myself in a quilt and gave myself some warmth.


  17. Tyla says:

    I unfortunately dated someone fresh out of a bad break up and didn’t realize how screwed up he still was over his ex until I was too emotionally invested in him. I was with him for years, I’d say the first year and a half I lived in her shadow, she continually “popped” up at his door at all hours, or ended up at the same places we’d go out to, or she’d call him, or he called her (he denied this but I don’t believe him). Our entire relationship he was emotionally unavail and as Nat’s post states, I stayed wanting s return on investment, bc I’d invested so much time, patience, care, love and I couldn’t deal with the thought that someone else may reap the benefits of my all my energy and hard work if I left, I wanted SO badly to be worth it to this guy. Unfortuntely I was never going to be a priority and nothing would ever change if I stayed. So I broke up with him and even our last talk he mentioned not being avail due to what he’d gone through his last breakup, OVER 6 YEARS EARLIER!! I’d had it. I still miss him some days, we’ve been broken up over a year now and he made many attempts at contact but I shot him down. He began dating someone else shortly after our breakup and basically just repeated the pattern. I believe he’s still with her but has texted me since being with her, has showed up at my place, we slept together (this was before I knew he was seeing someone, he told me next day). He’s a LOAD of issues and completely incapable of a relationship, he’s totally EU. Sadly his new buffer will endure what I did, and the dysfunction goes on and on.

    • NML says:

      And that Tyla, is exactly why being with someone that’s not over their ex is a no-no. You also get to learn that this isn’t about you. He’ll be lather, rinse, repeating till kingdom come at this rate. In the meantime, you’re free to be with someone more deserving of you.

      • HT says:

        TYLA- although my relationship was much shorter, it is very apparent that until they deal with the ex, they will just continue the pattern. I did not really think of my ex as emotionally unavailable til it was too late. I was his buffer, to get past the recent breakup, what a terrible place to be in huh?! It sounds like you will be much better off without him (as most us ladies will be as well). Props to you for shooting him down when he contacted you, I am not sure I’d be that strong just yet!

  18. lynette says:

    i agree that ideally — ideally — no one should enter into a new relationship where there is an expectation of progression and commitment without previous emotional baggage. i am not sure i think that is realistic once you are over 18 years of age. the older you get, the truth is that you will have baggage that will impact the way you are in a relationship, what you want out of a relationship, and how much you can give in a relationship. some baggage will remain with us always — ask anyone who is widowed, or been abused. the thing is to be aware of how that impacts how you will be in a relationship and be honest about it. if someone (like me) who is almost 50 would like male companionship after many lonely years being married to someone cold and distant and mean who cheated on me, but who never ever wants to get married again once we are finally done with legalities, and i meet someone who wants similar things as me, why is that not okay?

    my ex will always be intrusive — fact. it is something i will have to deal with because we have kids together. it is part of my life.

    i think overall the ideas here are right, but people meet and fall for each other, for different reasons and at different times. life is a journey — each person that comes into our lives for however long and for whatever purpose teaches us something new if we let ourselves be taught.

    the only thing i would stand strong on is never, ever get involved with someone married, who is still living with their spouse or even soon-to-be-spouse. it is too messy and it is not right.

    but like i said, at almost 50, girls, i would like to get laid — it has been almost 12 years for me, and i am not getting any younger, and if i meet someone who is not involved with anyone looking for some fun times who has no interest in getting married and who is a good fit, i can’t imagine why i should not let ourselves enjoy what is a natural and wonderful thing.

    • NML says:

      Lynette, this is one of those situations where you’ve taken something that is unrelated to what you’re talking about and then applied it to what you’re talking about as if this this post is some attempt to invalidate your choice.

      Everyone who has ever had more than one relationship and it has ended has experienced a breakup. Many people have been separated, divorced, widowed – these are not bad things and they are not baggage. Things happen, relationships change, people change. It’s called life. To take a meaning out of this post that you can’t be have sex or a mutual companionship is to take out a rather extreme, non existent meaning.

      I technically have baggage but I’m still in a relationship. Kids are not baggage and there is no reference to this in the post.

      This post is about people who end up in rebound relationships – not over their ex, having a relationship on their terms, which means not mutual. It’s not called Rebound Sex in a Nutshell or Why You Can’t Ever Have Another Relationship If Another One Ended or Why You Can’t Have a Relationship If You Have Kids and Are Over 50. That would be unbelievably assholic of me. It’s also not called How You Can Never Have Another Relationship If You Haven’t Just Arrived Out Of the Womb and Have No Past.

      Validate your own choice because you’re the only one who is questioning it.

      • lynette says:

        Natalie, I would never, ever in a million years refer to my children as baggage. Children are not baggage. I am merely saying that my ex will always be in my face (because that is the way he is) because we need to be in contact because of our children together.

        I think maybe you missed my point, and I am sorry I rubbed you the wrong way.

        I am also not sure why my comments irritated — I am just not in agreement on this one. I often find great ideas and thoughts in your posts. I am working on understanding my own feelings about my own recent awful break-up/divorce, and I am not looking from validation — I am simply offering another viewpoint.

        I think by nature any first relationship following a break-up or loss is going to be a rebound or a transitional one — you don’t know how you are going to be or feel that first time around until you do it.

        My age does carry some wisdom. I would like male companionship — am I ready? I have no idea. Probably not. Right now, I am all over the map. Frankly if someone is aware of that and willing to take it on, I am willing to go for it, because one thing you know at my age when friends are dying of cancer is that life is SHORT and I wasted too many years of it on my ex.

        • NML says:

          Hi Lynette, you certainly haven’t rubbed me the wrong way and you’re free to disagree with the post and you disagreeing isn’t an irritant. I apologise that you feel that I was irritated but I was actually disagreeing with your comment in the context of the subject of the post – I don’t disagree with what you’re doing/thinking in respect to the context that you are referring to, and saying I’m irritated would be like me saying you’re irritated by not being in agreement on the post, which I didn’t assume you were.

          Let me explain my original comment:

          This isn’t a post about sex and companionship. That’s what your comment is about. You’re disagreeing with me based on sex and companionship, which is fine, but it’s not what I was writing about, so while I understand that this is where you’re at and you’re referencing Transitional to you being divorced, being divorced doesn’t make you a Transitional. Being divorced with emotional issues that prevent a committed relationship from taking shape with someone that does want a commitment would be a different thing.

          Every year I get thousands of comments and emails from both men and women, but mostly women, who wanted a relationship, not just companionship or sex, but a committed relationship that has no limitations on it, from someone who wanted less. When a casual relationship or whatever the nature of it is, is mutual, this is great, but the subject of this post is about when you get involved with someone who is not over their ex and is going through the process of transitioning from that relationship, is dealing with both the emotional and possible legal consequences of the loss of their relationship, and gets into something with someone that they come to realise that they cannot be available for.

          Your needs for sex and companionship are valid Lynette and you want a mutual relationship – Totally different thing.

          I know a lot of people who have a relationship after a breakup – they’re not on the rebound. This is because they have worked through the loss of their previous relationship, taken some time out and got into neutral, otherwise most of the planet is in some level of a rebound relationship. Being next up doesn’t a rebound relationship make – being next up when they’re emotionally closed off or limited due to the fact that they’ve experienced a loss, does a rebound make, especially when avoiding the old feelings is the reason for starting a new relationship.

          I have a number of friends, family, and readers who are 40s, 50s, and 60s who have started over. My mother is 53, 4 kids, divorced a few years ago, both my father and stepfather are in her life and she’s got her own life and a new relationship. She has what she calls ‘major baggage’ but in her words ‘life goes on’. My grandmother died and my grandfather has met someone else. He’s pushing 80. My friend is 50 next week, divorced, 3 children, painful past, happy with a man she met online 18 months ago. Life is indeed short and sometimes you don’t know if you’re ready until you’re in it. You can only try. The difference is that when you’re emotionally honest, when you both want different things, you don’t lead someone up the garden path.

          • lynette says:

            Natalie, I really do appreciate your taking the time to respond to my comments, and clarifying how you understood the difference between your post and what I was saying.

            I will say that the marriage I am currently in the process of ending was in fact a rebound relationship for my husband (not for me — I had gotten myself into a good place, had dated for a while). We were both in the process of ending our first marriages. We have been together for almost 20 years, a good portion of which I believe he spent wanting to leave, and as a result his behavior was such that I spent a good portion wanting to leave. I was always willing to work things out — he said he wanted things to work, but that is a totally different thing — he seemed to have the expectation that I would fix it. In the meantime, he went about his own business, gave no time to me or our kids, and cheated on me in a most icky way. Of course I couldn’t “fix” things on my own. Almost 20 years of MY being led down the garden path, really, while I thought we were building a family and a future.

            So I do understand what you are saying.

            And thanks for the glimmers of hope ahead that I will maybe find a relationship that will work for me someday.

            • NML says:

              No probs and I imagine that it must feel strange if not somewhat liberating to be starting over. Marriages are difficult to walk away from and it is understandable and right to give it your best shot but of course when only one of you wants to row the boat with the one oar, eventually you recognise it’s time to fold. My one thing I would caution you on, is to go out and enjoy yourself but be careful of inadvertently repeating the same pattern, i.e ending up in something that started while your marriage is ending.

              There is much hope for you. Dating is trickier these days but people find love at all ages all the time. I see it with my own eyes. Never give up on you or sell yourself short. Your husband isn’t the best that’s out there for you – the silly fool will one day see himself in the mirror of his actions and the truth will hurt.

              • cavewoman says:

                Hey Natalie great image! One person rowing the boat with one oar, around in silly circles! Yup!

    • grace says:

      I’m 46 and been celibate for five plus years. While it’s a nice idea to have fun, no strings sex, it very rarely works out that way. I’ve yet to see it. The closest I’ve witnesssed is an acquaintance about my age who got out of a 25 year relationship after her boyfriend cheated and is now casually seeing a man for sex and companionship. She caught an STD.
      If you are seeing someone casually, don’t expect monogamy. If you want to be the only one, why not go all the way and have a proper relationship? I think that’s a really key question. If you fear you won’t find someone, or that you’re too old, then that decision is coming from a negative place and I would question all decisions based on fear.
      Of course, if you want to have just sex and companionship, that’s your perogative and I would be genuinely interested to hear your report from the frontline. My own opinion is that women who can do this deliberately harden their hearts but I’m willing to be proven wrong. I’d quite like to be!

      • Minky says:

        @Grace – The casual sex arrangement is different for different people, but my own experience is this:

        Before getting into my current relationship and after the EUM fiasco, i knew a couple of guys who i would meet up with from time to time (f-buddies as i call them). We would text each other from time to time, to arrange to meet up (and only for that reason). We’d hang out at a pub or something, spend the night together (and some of the next day), have a great laugh together and then they would go home. We would not be in contact in the interim, until one of us wanted to meet up again – nothing more was expected from the arrangement. I am still on good terms with both of them, if i ever see them out and about. They know i’m in a relationship and neither of them have tried to ‘hook up’ since.

        The benefits of this kind of setup is that it’s very clear cut – everyone knows where they stand. You know why you’re meeting up and no one is trying to get the fringe benefits of a relationship without putting their feet in (unlike the ex EUM who took the sex, the ego stroke, the companionship and the shoulder to cry on and gave nothing in return).

        The casual sex arrangement isn’t for everyone. I myself found it good fun, but very empty. I had found this site by then and started working on myself and i knew i wanted a relationship and that i couldn’t do the ‘casual relationship’ thing – it was either f-buddies or commitment for me, nothing in between! In a way the f-buddy arrangement helped me realise just how much i wanted a real relationship, so it was good in that sense. I think i’m rambling now! I hope some of this waffle is useful! :)

        • cavewoman says:

          It’s somewhat useful, and quite interesting! This topic touches on an anxious point for me. I want to be single, alone, independent, etc. for years to come. I welcome it, have plans with it, look forward to it, great. However, I can’t imagine willingly choosing to be celibate for as many years. Yikes. On the other hand, I find casual and non-exclusive sex dangerous, physically and emotionally. Now what? I haven’t thought of this (since sex even is too early right now) but this will come up. Are there really no decent men my age (late30’s, 40s) who are looking for long-term, monogamous partners? Aren’t we adults?

          • Minky says:

            Hey cavewoman,

            Like i say, the arrangement isn’t for everyone. The physical danger is minimised if you are stringent about protection (and i always am!). The emotional side is an individual thing and you have to go with your gut on that one.

            Re no decent men in the late 30’s/40’s age range: of course there are! It’s true that most people are settled in monogamous relationships by then, but there are billions of people on this planet, so the likelyhood of you never finding one is slim! Also, you can look outside your allotted age bracket. My parents have an 8 year age difference (dad’s older). The boyfriend and i have 4 yrs between us (he’s younger), my flatmate has a wonderful boyfriend who is 7 years younger than her. My other flatmate is dating a super guy who is 11 years younger. Another friend is married to a man 10 years older. Age is just a number :).

            Keep the faith! Hugs!

      • lynette says:

        hi grace, i understand what you are indeed saying. i am not saying i would not want monogamy (i do not want to catch any STDs, thank you). however, i am raising two teenagers on my own (my husband thinks it is the 50’s and sees them for a few hours on sunday afternoons), one of whom has a chronic medical condition. i have a full-time job. it is not that i do not want a relationship per se, but i am not interested in marriage, i am not interested in bringing a man into my home picture, my kids don’t need another parent.

        we’ll see how it goes — i think there are likely a lot of men in the same shoes as me at this age. 12 years is a long time to be involuntarily celibate, especially when that 12 years was within the context of actually being married. choosing celibacy when on your own is one thing.

        and yes, i will freely admit my self-esteem took an enormous hit as a result of a rather bad marriage. i have no idea how to be single and dating at this age.

        • cavewoman says:

          dear lynette, I’m not even 40 and my kids are under 10 but otherwise ditto to every word you said above. good luck to us!

  19. Sarah says:

    I recently got out of a relationship of 4 yr only to find out my ex found a new girlfriend only a couple of weeks after me. Of course this was very hurtful & I went through a ton of emotions but after reading this blog, I felt a little relieved. I’ve struggled a lot in dealing with the “How could he do this”, “How could it happen so fast, did I mean nothing”, “Maybe I should find someone else”, but I always knew that wasn’t for me. I guess in reading this blog it supported my decision in not jumping into a new relationship, I have to end one chapter to begin another. I guess not all people deal with it that way, but my ex has chosen his own way even if I don’t agree with it. After reading this blog, I sort of feel sorry for his new girlfriend, she’s just living in my shadow.

    • NML says:

      You’re absolutely right Sarah – just because he has to run out and hurl himself on the nearest emotional airbag, doesn’t mean you should too.

      Personally, if I met someone fresh out of a 4 year relationship and they were just willing to dive in with me, I’d have some questions over their emotional capabilities.

      The man that inspired my epiphany was fresh out of a ten year relationship. I think I met him about 2 months out of it. He was still living with her. In pursuing me, I *assumed* he was over his ex. Big mistake. Huge.

      I now realise that I may well be fabulous, but I don’t need to legitimise that fabulousness by believing that I’m *so* fabulous, someone can be over a 10 year relationship in the blink of an eye. I don’t have that kind of power.

    • colororange says:


      This puts me in mind of my 4 year relationship (nearly 4.5) that finally ended in September of last year. This was after several months of us “trying to work it out” but to no avail. I ended up miserable (though I know what I did to mess things up) waiting all that time for him to have his “space”. Even with therapy we fell a part. He sent me an email in December telling me he still loved me. By March I found out he was dating someone else, someone we used to hang out with together. Someone he was friends with and hanging out with last year throughout our turmoil. I don’t know if anything happened between those two during that time and I may never.

      Even now (after the ridiculous EUM I was “involved” with late last year), I still have moments of sadness over that 4 year relationship. We did A LOT together. Really expanded each other. And he had told me the break up was “killing him”. Well, here I am still experiencing sadness here and there and even anger at times and I wonder how he can be dating HER. Guess he has moved on and is stronger. Who knows. Granted I fooled around with EUM, but I’m single. And knowing I knew this woman ticks me off at times. Because he would say how she got on her nerves. It doesn’t matter though. If he gave me answers I would have more questions. I don’t know if he is fully over me or what. This woman might make him very happy. I know I am tearing up as I type this, getting myself worked up. But I know where you’re coming from Sarah. Hang in.

  20. Hiedi says:

    Izzybell: this is so true about chronological time not being the deciding factor but processing of feelings. I just got out of a 3 year relationship that was truly over a year ago. I am seeing someone now (it’s been 2 weeks) and I am truly emotionally open with him, probably because I was starved of emotional availability in my last relationship. We’re not going fast-only see each other once a week, that way I have 6 other days to process my hurt feelings and to grieve.

  21. Janine says:

    ” The Transitional likely recognizes that on and off paper, you’re a great catch so they want to keep you as an option should they ever get their shit together. They’re afraid of making a mistake in letting you go and are afraid that if they do, someone else will snap you up. ”

    I think this is one of the main things that confuses us. If a man does realize that a particular woman is a good catch and doesn’t want to lose her, why does he do any and everything to avoid being with her? I do believe that some guys have it in their mind that once they get themselves together, they might want to try and make things work with you, but that’s giving you a false sense of hope cause it may not happen. It’s almost like a push-pull, fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, self-sabotage and fear of vulnerability wrapped into one!

    I’ve never understood the idea of a guy even if he has as gf as to why he would keep his options open if he chooses to be in a relationship with someone. I believe men, even emotionally unavailable ones know when a woman is ” The One”. They date, cohabitate, marry, have children with the woman who is ” The One”, but use their options (Fallback & Yo Yo girls) for when they want a cheap thrill.

    • grace says:

      Too simple I’m afraid.
      These men don’t do everything to avoid being with you. They do everything to get their needs met without closing down their options. It would be easy to avoid us, just stop calling, stop texting and stop sexing.
      A man can see you as “The One” – date you, live with you, marry you, have children with you and still be emotionally unavailable. You could still have a relationship, and even get him down the aisle but it doesn’t guarantee anything – Jennifer Aniston, Diana Spencer, Cheryl Cole. By anyone’s standards these women are good catches. They probably saw themselves as a good catch. Their husbands saw thems as a good catch. Still a disaster.

    • cavewoman says:

      hm… mine said very soon before he disappeared that I’m wonderful and of course I’d find love. Just because they’re not looking for one, they can still know a good woman when they see one. Of course they picture for a fleeting moment what it would be like, how could they not? It just doesn’t change the fundamentals. I think in my case in the beginning he did actually vaguely hope he might get his act together. At first it was just bad timing, defined as very specific things, like his job search, then a child custody case. They weren’t bad as excuses go, but as time progressed, he started saying stuff like ‘it’ll be 10 years before I’m ready for a real relationship’ that was just arbitrary and meant for me in case I was still waiting around, as hints that it’s time to abandon all hope. I am stubborn though, and probably not very good at hiding my hidden agenda, so he had to be a little meaner yet for me to get the message…

  22. Minky says:

    The boyfriend and i got together shortly after he got out of his psuedo-relationship with his EUW. He finally realised he was the Fallback Boy and that they had never been in a relationship. They had been through months of arguing and head-fuckery and he had pretty much extricated himself from the relationship during that time. I was VERRRRY worried about the whole rebound thing. Truth is i wasn’t out of my EU relationship for that long either and i wasn’t planning to get involved with anyone, though i had moved on. It just happened naturally and seemed right. We had been friends for a while and i knew he was a genuinely good person.

    I was extremely wary though. I actually said to him ‘I am not your emotional airbag!’. He assured me i wasn’t and that he felt nothing for her anymore. Needless to say i was very cynical, waiting for him to turn into the ultimate ‘asshat’ and/or run back to her. I insisted on taking things very, very slowly, watched out for red flags. None materialised. Six months later and things are still great. We have commitment, intimacy and progression. He has only crossed my boundaries a couple of times, and when i flagged it up, it never happened again. I can honestly say this is the heathiest relationship i’ve ever had.

    I think you can start a relationship soon after another has ended, but only in rare cases. I was very reluctant to go there and i hope i’ve done the right thing! Time will tell i guess.

  23. grace says:

    I can come at this from a slightly different angle. I’m the ex that men haven’t gotten over. For years, a couple of them dipped in and out of my life. A woman might think “poor dears, they must have really loved her”. One of them dumped me for another woman, who he hadn’t even seen but was in his past (I detect a pattern) – he started thinking about her and wondering if she was interested. Another took drugs, had temper tantrums and would run off with other women on our “breaks”.
    Just because he’s crying over an ex, it doesn’t make him a wonderful sensitive guy.

    • Natasha says:

      True story. I think for some particularly douchey guys, it’s more about the dent to their ego than the woman that left them. Years ago, I dated a man once who was awful to me and after I broke up with him because he tried to downgrade me to a booty call, he went moaning to mututal friends that he so upset that I’d ditched him. Was he a wonderful man that was both emotionally available and crazy about me. Noooo! Sometimes, the ex is part of the highly vexing One Time In Bandcamp Tale Of Woe and It’s Not My Fault.

  24. Spinster says:

    Wow. This is a GOOD one.

    Reading this showed me that not only was I a Fallback Girl for this one man (I’ve mentioned him on here before – knew him since high school, on & off since high school until cutting him off completely over 3 years ago), I was also his Rebound. Damn….. he got a 2-for-1 deal. 😐 He broke up with his girlfriend of 11 years during our very last “on” period, claimed he wanted to be with me, but met another woman at a New Year’s Eve party that we attended TOGETHER and made her his next girlfriend instead of me. I am SO glad that we never went all the way to intercourse. I can look at this now and laugh (even though I’m still kinda disgusted that I allowed things to go on for so long AND he’s a creepy not-that-cute assclown), but wow….. this post just made the Rebound lightbulb go off in my mind.

    As an aside, he’s also the MAIN reason why I know that “intelligence” means nothing when it comes to relationship smarts. He is one of the many intelligent assclowns that I’ve come across that proved to me that “intelligence” means nothing. If anything, it forces me to be more discerning & careful because they can use their intelligence to play masterful mind games.

    Off to read all the comments (which seem to help me just as much as reading the posts themselves)…..

  25. EmLAW says:

    This post describes my situation to a tee!! I should have been wiser when MM said his marriage was over and he was leaving…. that was a year and 1/2 ago. I was the perfect emotional buffer and transitional person because we always harbored these special feelings for each other. It doesn’t matter how crappy his wife treats him or how long she withholds sex (or so he says) he is not leaving. I realized that by being this emotional buffer and the transition person I am allowing him to be happy in his unhappy marriage and its all at my expense. It wasn’t until I stopped believing in the foundation he had me trusting in….I got clarity. There can be not foundation if he is still married. It was all him keeping me hooked (yes, fishing just happens to be a sport his is very found of). MM and I will never have anything if I don’t walk away now and simply ask that he comes back when and if he gets divorces, gets over his wife and quite possibly has about five other relationships after that. Then and only then should he come back and see if I am still available. I am in such a better place having listened to all of you wise women here!! I deserve to be #1 and treated like gold. He is not the perfect person I have made him to be in my mind – actually quite to the contrary. I would never be where I am right now if it wasn’t for you Natalie, BR and those of you who have helped me along the way with your wisdom. I am forever greatful!

    • runnergirl says:

      Hi Em,

      Good for you but don’t do the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” routine if you can help it. I’ve done it enough for every OW out there. I think you are right about the OW being the buffer and emotional airbag that allows them to continue in an unhappy marriage. My heart goes out to you as we come to grips with the fact that there is no relationship, no foundation, no nothing when he is married. We are the transitionals being used to fill a void in their lives while the void in our lives is left unfulfilled and increases by the day. Stay in your good space. You do deserve to be number 1 and so do I. We will never be number 1 as long as we play the role of transitional, airbag OW. I’m saying this because I need to hear it too. I think I’ll go give myself a hug. Hugs to you.

      • EmLAW says:

        I am sooo not going to pretend it itsn’t hard every day…my greatest advice is to just accepted the facts…. its not real love if it hurts you, if he truly wanted to be with me he would and nothing would keep him away and I am not an option he can have when he wants. I had to gradually wean myself from him. The only way we both are going to find true happiness is to get away from these MM. They would go on like this forever and in the meantime we are the ones who would miss out! I got sick of crying at my desk every day and being obsessed with checking for text and email messages. I did enough crying in the last year and 1/2 for a lifetime trying to figure this out…

  26. Emily says:

    Natalie, I loved your comment….”I now realise that I may well be fabulous, but I don’t need to legitimise that fabulousness by believing that I’m *so* fabulous, someone can be over a 10 year relationship in the blink of an eye. I don’t have that kind of power.”

    I’m still in the middle of my healing journey from my EU/Assclown Epiphany relationship… today I’m having a rough go of it, but I’m in therapy and trying to look at the bigger picture of getting healthier and FINALLY beginning to give my self the “love, care, trust, and respect” I never have received from my male relationships.

    I’ve always been good about having boundaries about not dating separated and married men, and in the past I’ve turned down guys who were recently divorced, but alas with my Epiphany, I willingly took on the role of “emotional airbag” for him and his recent divorce (14 -year marriage where she left him and sent him reeling). My journals of those first few weeks I wrote about concerns that I was “just a pain killer for him” — but my friends convinced me I could “help with his healing”. Right. Like you- I see that I’m not that powerful.

    In my recent therapy sessions, I’m realizing that I am (and always have been) pretty EU given my abusive background and EU parents. I realized that I was in a bad place when I found my AC — and hoped that he would provide me somewhat of a fantasy, escape from my own life. Even though it didn’t have the hallmarks of a real relationship (I recently went through my phone records and realized in 7 months we had only 20 phone calls of more than 10 minutes — all the rest was texting and booty calls). It was 4 months into the relationship until I was “allowed” to spend the night. I let myself be blind to all of that.. as the weeks ticked by, I let myself use that as a marker that I could “sustain a longer term relationship” to “prove” to myself that I was OK and worthy of long term male attention.

    Yikes! all this has me reeling – especially today.

    Thanks for continuing to be a beacon of hope for us. That as we continue to work on ourselves and shed the layers of denial and rationalizing/justifying we will get more clarity and better and more real relationships as a result.

    Shared the “self esteem” blog with my therapist last week – she loved it and wanted to give out your website. Also have…

  27. IntuitiveEnigma says:

    My ex and I officially broke up last October but stopped really being with each other in January. I thought I was over it (I was, in fact, I rejected his advances and contact and was actively trying to move on with my life), until he out of the blue started dating another woman. He and the new girl have been together almost a month and a half and I’ve gone through all the stages of grief from that. I’ve processed it all and have some clarity. It still hurts like hell, but I realize that this too shall pass. I think no matter what it will still hurt, whether I’m with someone or not. Some people will stew (I have) over lost relationships for years w/o trying to move on and date other people…they just end up STUCK because they think that X person is/was/will be the end-all-be-all. At what point do you, despite hurt feelings, start dating again anyway even if you aren’t completely over an ex?

  28. Sally says:

    I had this great idea (insert HEAVY sarcasm.) 1.5 years ago to start dating one of my instructors 6 days after his 5 year relationship ended. He ended it, and she actually moved from his house to her home country. I was Queen Rebound. He was hot for a month and then informed me he was not ready for a committed relationship and knew I wanted one. For the next YEAR I pursued him and we had the typical on/off/push pull crap-tastic relationship. During this year his brother who lives with him contracted HIV and his father had a stroke and has died recently. To his credit, he has always admitted he was confused. He stopped the sex and intimacy several times to try to get me to ‘realize’ we could only be friends.
    In December we got together, date/sex and he TEXTED me AFTER that he could not do this anymore to me or to himself. I sent him a 2 page letter detailing every single thing that he did wrong and also decided to attack his character. He responded by apologizing for hurting me. I felt like a total ass.
    I got myself into therapy that month. We cut contact for 4 months and I realized, combined with therapy– that this was about me and NOT him.

    6 months later; we are dating. 6 weeks, 10 dates or so…No sex, only have kissed at the end of our dates. He is a wonderful person and timing was the reason why this sucked for so long, (also the fact that I had MANY big picture issues, that I am addressing at 34.) when I FINALLY let go and put myself first, and let him GO, I regained my happiness.
    Will this work out, I really don’t know. We are building a great friendship to start, and he is doing things for me that he has never done..this weekend he is taking time off his job to help me with a presentation at my fitness studio. He calls, plans, supports me. I am in a great place, and the only thing I actually am still trying to work through is forgiveness of myself for not believing I deserved more a year and a half ago. PS there also was never another woman, just his emotional unavailability and family tragedy. I am certainly not saying that rebounds can work out, I am more trying to convey that when you enter a relationship with someone who is clearly unavailable, for any reason—that the issue is you and you EU traits and self esteem beliefs, at the very least–Available ‘should’ be our first quality we look for.

  29. Sam says:

    I was very, very worried about using the guy I’m with now as an “airbag” from my ex of 10 months ago. I was out of the relationship as of 5 months when I met the guy I’m with now. While I was still angry with the ex, I was not pining away for him, wishing he would change and/or thinking I would go back to him if he ended up coming back around. I was worried that being completely over your ex meant that you were 100% indifferent to them. Well if that is true then I’m screwed as far as that definition goes. I still feel like I’ve been wronged but I don’t sit on it much anymore at all. I’m with an amazing guy. I made sure to take it slow so I made sure he wasn’t an airbag and worked through my feelings.

    But I have to ask the ladies n’ gents here – what do you consider being over the ex? I consider it forgiven but not forgotten – no pining, no fierce anger, NO CONTACT.

    I think I got lucky and am glad I could heal up as I did.

    • cavewoman says:

      Sam I agree, it’s simple. If you have to ask yourself, then you’re not over them. Being over someone by definition is an absence of that sort of inner conflict and ambiguity. Except in my case I have kids with my ex so no contact is out of the question. I’m quite the over-thinker and a woman of grand resolutions and declarations, but it’s not a matter of what I think or decide. I know I’m over him by my gut reaction to his presence.

      You know how when someone matters, your thoughts and emotions propel you towards them, either with aggression or desire? And even as you’re motionless this registers as muscle tension, in your chest or body, or you get the butterflies in your stomach or a tingly stressed out feeling (and if you’re me you hyperventillate?) Well, you’d simply feel none of these things. You feel relaxed and neutral, which would be glaringly obvious in contrast to the bad old days. Even with contact, he just doesn’t push your buttons and doesn’t trigger your triggers. It’s a beautiful place to be!

      I guess the NC version is, you suddenly realize you haven’t thought of him for weeks and when you do for a fleeting moment, again your body is relaxed and neutral. And you don’t have to ask yourself if you’re over them, neither do you protest too much like yelling inside “I am so effing over that loser!” :)

  30. Umi says:

    I dated someone for nine months and it dragged on for four years! He was out of a divorce and playing the field, I was married. Two unavailable assclowns. He moved on got engaged. I stayed married. We continued seeing each other in a mutually unfulfilling relationship where he was seeking extra curricular sex and someone to constantly listen to the drivel about his life and his fiancee and where I was unfullfilled as I wanted a relationship with him but was sabotaging a perfectly good relationship in my marriage. I am saying all of this because the red flags for me should have been his recent divorce and unfinished business and for him should have been my marriage. However what has happened has been two people who actually got on well, learning to absolutely detest each other where neither of us can even stand to speak or take each others calls. Its taken one final disasterous meeting for both of us to realise that our continued seeng each other is sabotaging our other relationships and maybe this is the issue we should both face. why if we couldn’t committ to each other, can we not committ to the people in our lives. Its not honest or respectful to keep someone on hold to feed your ego, listen to your woes and occastionally to have as a sexual partner. Its the most unfullfilling activity ever and lowers self esteem of both partners. As the song goes “love the one you are with” and I would honestly say that trying anything else is an indicator of how far you have strayed from your own sense of what is truely good for you. That is just my experience and it has been the most painful experience of my life.

  31. pty says:

    I don’t think I have seen this issue mentioned, but if he/she is complaining about the ex, stay away. They may not be willing to take responsibility for their part in what went wrong. The “white knight/florence nightengale” instinct kicks in, and we ride to their rescue. However, once they can’t blame things on the ex, we are next.

  32. kirsten says:

    There seem to be sooooo many men out there that bounce from one relationship to the next. I wonder if it’s because they don’t know how to be on their own/process their feelings/enjoy being single like us women do? Poor darlings *piddles*

    • j d says:

      I’ll disagree. I came here because I was on the receiving end of some terrible behavior by a woman. Also, reading the comments it seems women are guilty of doing the same things as men. Lead us not into generalization.

  33. Happy Girl says:

    When I started dating my ex I was one of these emotionally unavailable people, now that I look back on it. I had several guys do really crappy things to me, and though I was over THEM, I wasn’t over the hurt they had left. I didn’t date for two years, I was finally happy with myself, but I was still very wary of this new guy and getting hurt again. Instead of explaining what was going on with me, I kept things very surface. By the time I finally trusted him, he had pretty much lost interest. When I did try to have conversations about it, he would respond with something like “we both have pasts, no need to dwell on them.” Definitely made me think there were things that he wasn’t over as well. I feel like there’s a window of time to be honest and hash things out. We both tried to skip past the hard stuff and live in an “ideal love” bubble, and there wasn’t a way to go back and make things authentic. Simply not possible, at least for us. Lesson definitely learned the hard way. But it was for a reason. I needed it, and I will for sure use it in the future.

  34. anoosh says:

    while reading this post and many of the comments, i had a similar reaction to Mango near the top — just knocked back, full of regret… and so upset with myself for allowing someone into my life who was not over his marriage.

    there’s so much food for thought here! it really helps to read the stories of others who have been through similar experiences with separated/divorcing/divorced people. i’d always stayed far away from that, made the exception b/c it was an old friend, and he did move mountains in order to be with me. lots of future-faking, too. looking back now — i cannot believe i fell for it, or was so convinced he knew what he was doing. i can honestly say i’ve never felt so utterly blindsided as when he abruptly bailed out — and i’ve had more than my share of heartbreaks.

    i’m doing well now with NC (3 months, proud that i did not respond to his birthday email 3 weeks ago). it’s the only thing that is allowing me to feel like myself again. it took so much work (and a year!) to get here. i thought the very sad days were over, but this week my thoughts seem to be drifting down the spiral again. talked to a dear old friend last night, she said i need to back in the saddle, life is too short. i hate to keep bringing up age (46!) when i post comments here, but suddenly it’s so difficult to deal with. i didn’t pay too much attention until this breakup — there is the nagging feeling that it was my last chance, and i should have waited longer to get involved because maybe by now he’d be ready. i have to fight hard every day to talk myself out of believing that. the reality is that it is so much harder to meet someone at this age, when it seems everyone is at some stage of rebound or breakup. it had been many years before he came into the picture that there was anyone significant. in the last year, again there has been no one. how i wish i could have met someone nice, to have had some male company. no one’s knocking my door down these days.

    i give myself credit for sticking to NC mode, and doing the painful work that is necessary to figure out lifelong patterns. i’m trying to do lots of positive things for myself. but i do struggle with the idea that once this man is “ready”, he’ll have no trouble finding someone else or settling down again. whereas i cannot even get a date, and i do fear ending up without a partner :(

  35. Sheri says:

    Great article. I just wish I read it 5 years ago :-) i fell in love with a guy who was not over his ex, he was still dating her actually when we got involved, well, they were broken up, but then she changed her mind so he got back to her. then he changed his mind so he got back to me. damn i was silly. for year and a half the “relationship” was a hell and I just could not figure out what it was i was doing wrong. then one day he broke up with me for another woman, i went crazy. they are married now, expecting their first child. after 5 years I am still single, not able to fall in love, trying to figure out what it is I am doing wrong …

  36. Rebound100 says:

    I have just read this article and it’s me to a T.

    I entered into a relationship with a boy who had just been ‘dumped’ by his fiancee of 6 years a month of the dumping. I had no idea. It was only after a little digging that I realised there was no way he was over the ex…understandable…6 years together and then entering new relationship so quickly – but why continue to USE me as a buffer. I think I just reminded him of his ex..we look very similar.

    The crux of my problem came when he became EU and continued to fuck things up..like not returning phone calls, ignoring texts, and then ultimately wanting to go on a break to realise that in fact..I did matter and he wanted me back. I allowed it…a matter of months later he emailed his ex and told her he loved her – I was devastated. He said he was being nostalgic, it was around the time they got engaged etc and that he still loved me….RUBBISH.

    I have left a disaster of a relationship and got myself into this one – do these men see me coming.

    We are still friends – but only because I have a soft nature and don’t like arguments all the time. Not that I should even be giving this boy the time of day..it’s been a nightmare rollercoaster ride.

    Do some investigation BEFORE you get into the relationship – my advice. It is worth it in the long run! x

    • NML says:

      Hi Rebound100, it certainly does sound like a nightmare. The one thing that stood out to me in your recollection of things is that you describe him as becoming EU – this suggests that you believe he was available when you met him. He wasn’t. He was *single* when you met him, but he wasn’t available, in the emotional way followed by being physically and spiritually. He wasn’t over his ex, hence he wasn’t available, single or not.

      You are however 100% right that investigation is key. Most people after they break up, at the very least are in some form of contact and possibly even trying to work things out in the first 1-3 months. Due diligence.

  37. shattered says:

    Sheri – I sympathise. After a tumultous 2 year relationship with an AC who blew hot/cold/disappeared/talked about moving in together / several attempts at NC, a disappearing act of 2 weeks, followed by a text from him earlier this week, asking if we could ‘get together’ this weekend I finally told him (by text – his preferred method of communication) he could stay disappeared for good. I’ve since heard he’s buying a house with his ex-fiancee – from 20 years ago. This isn’t something you do on a whim, so he must have been planning this while he was seeing me. Hence the disappearing acts I suppose. It does make me feel crazy, upset and angry, more with myself than anything. What did I do wrong? Guess I’ll never know.

  38. Umi says:

    I totally agree with Natalie about the issue of villanising idiot men and women who are unavailable. I know with my ex, he was simply a man who had not got over the pain of his divorce and was simply sowing some oats as a means oif managing the feelings of rejection. Whilst I would love to blame him for all sorts the fact of the matter is that I choose to waster four years of my life on someone who was not available for me and who then put me as reserve. He didn’t make me choose it, I did. I think sometimes when we have been treated less then, we look for someone else to blame. ultimately we alone are responsible for who we invite into our lives and its sad to say it, but unwise choices and staying in when you should get out reflects on you really. An ass clown is looking after themselves and getting their needs met through you and You alone have the responsibility to look after yourself and choose something better. Its painful to sometimes admit to yourszelf that you alone are the architect of your own misery and that you have so many better choices available.

  39. Leigh says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

    I was with my exH for a total of 27 years. It wasn’t an easy relationship. I would say the last ten years we led very separate lives, especially the last five with him saying “Live your life and I’ll live mine.” We lived under the same roof being legally separated for two years. I wouldn’t say he was totally emotionally unavailable to me, but he was emotionally stunted due to his relationship with his Father. He was however EU for the last five years of our relationship. I put that down to my shutting him down and the various rejections I had over the years with him. I became EU myself.

    Enter the MM. I keep questioning myself and I think he was a rebound from the “love of my life” The very odd thing is that I never wanted him to leave his wife but he started off very “filled with fluff” conversations about a “life together” and could that be possible and he dared not speak of it but he planted the seed. It was very very odd as I didn’t want or see the longer term until he started with the maybes and analysis of what was going on between us. I felt like I loved him, but maybe that was a need to love someone because I had given out love and wanted to carry on doing that.

    What I didn’t realise is that I was scared of being alone. What I realise now is that I’m very capable of being alone and I have peace. I’m not EA at the moment because although I have got over my marriage breakup. I haven’t got over the fact that my family is fragmented. I have to accept that and the various changes that have happened to my children being young adults.

    Once I accept that I will probably be able to love myself better and not attract men that are not available.

    I don’t find myself longing for the exMM or the exH. I find I miss my children and the life they brought into my home.

  40. Used says:

    Ever heard of “A List” friends and “B List” friends? A List friends are the ones you get invited to all of the parties their friends who consider them A List throw, while B list get invited to only some.

    So is a friend who considers me “B List” even though I am a better friend to her than her “A List” friends in every way possible (and, deep down, she knows this) unavailable (e.u.) to me? In what respects and to what degree/percent?

  41. lynette says:

    what a great discussion this turned out to be! Natalie, thank you for your wisdom and for letting us all get it out.

    @cavewoman, right back at you — good luck to both of us :)

  42. milly says:

    So how do you respectfully get out of this type of relationship, if you are this girl?

    • grace says:

      ” I don’t want to pursue this relationship anymore as you’re not over your ex. My life is too precious for me to wait around for you to be ready. All the best. And, no, we can’t stay friends”.

  43. Sharon says:

    Haven’t been here in awhile and this article caught me. I am one who has used buffers. I am caught in a terrible mess which is ME. There is someone married I love who I have been seeing and then not seeing and trying to get over for 10 years now. I went no contact when I was with someone else for almost a year. I really thought being with someone else would help me get over it. It only worked for a while. Now I am seeing MM again and nothing has changed except I feel even more hopeless.

  44. Gina says:

    I have a confession to make….

    After dating my ex bf for 14 months, I realized that although he had been stringing me along with the idea that our relationship was leading towards marriage (he was so convincing that not only did he have me fooled, but he had both my friends and his friends fooled as well), he still had strong feelings for his ex who dumped him three years ago. He even admitted to me that although I was the best girlfriend that he’d ever had, he did not feel the same level of intensity for me that he felt for her (she would emasculate him by telling him that he was too short, too weak, etc.,) and feeling the “zsa zsa zu” in a toxic relationship with her was apparently was more important to him than being in a healthy relationship with me.

    When I broke up with him five months ago, prior to going into NC mode, I encouraged him to revisit that relationship and see if he could resolve his feelings. Truth-be-told, I was pissed off and wanted him to reconnect with her so that she could go back to stringing him along the way in which he strung me along, and he has. Part of me feels bad about the hand that I played in that situation and asks god for forgiveness on a daily basis. The other part of me still feels some anger towards him and wants revenge.

    As I write this email, I am working towards feeling indifferent towards him and whatever he does, because since life is often stranger than fiction, they could eventually end up getting married :-0

    • grace says:

      One day you’ll realise that this has got nothing to do with you. We would all like to think we have some kind of major role and influence in their lives but we really, really don’t. I would let it go. A man (or woman) who takes relationship advice from someone who’s just dumped them is a moron.

  45. Abe says:

    I can definitely (from experience) say that all of these things are true. I got involved with a guy who wasn’t over his ex, and I spent over a year with him, often letting him cry on my shoulder about how much he loved his ex and how much he missed her and how much she hurt him. I should’ve jumped ship much earlier, but he fooled me with some classic Future Faking. Then he realized that 1) he was just using me as a rebound but had no real feelings for me, 2) I actually expected him to back up his promises with actions, and 3) I can’t magically heal him. He picked fights for a while and then suddenly called and said he no longer loved me and it was over.

    The entire time in the relationship, I thought I could “rescue” him from his problems and that this was just a hard time he had to get through. Ladies, let men rescue themselves. Trust me. I tried too damn hard to help him only to get dropped like a hot potato when he changed his mind. He’d always say things like “you’re the most amazing, wonderful girl I’ve ever met” and “I wish I had met you before I met her!”

    I’ve finally learned that what he “wishes” doesn’t matter. He used me and then tossed me away, and even though he keeps saying he wants to be friends, I’m cutting him out of my life completely. I wish him well and know he didn’t purposefully hurt me, but these are the consequences of his actions, and he needs to be a big boy and take responsibility for what he did. It’s time to find someone who has his act together and will put me first.

  46. Me first says:

    Unfortunately, we need time to process and heal to be truly available and when we don’t, we use other people as emotional airbags

    I just typed that as note in my phone. I just distanced myself (no more sex) from at EU separated man when it became clear that I had a one way ticket to heartbreak town. While I heard him say he wasn’t ready for a relationship, I didn’t LISTEN. So trying to transition to just friends and give him time to sort his life out. I am open to dating again down the road but am putting me first. Setting boundaries feels uncomfortable sometimes but it gets easier especially when I see how good it feels to feel good instead of shitty because of a quasi-relationship with someone who’s not available in any sense of the word.

  47. Nick says:

    This fits what i’m going through my SO perfectly. She is scared to take that next step and I’m ready to. My SO is still SOOOOOO angry at her Ex husband while I’ve moved on from my ex-wife and I’m ready for the next step in my life. A great example was last month we were beholding the beauty of the Vatican on vacation with her two girls and she stopped and looked while the girls were away from us and told me how her ex used to be in places like this and then point out all the beautiful women to her. She was STILL mad! He never even took her on a real vacation. And she brings this up!! Ugh! She can’t let go which leaves us stuck. I know that you can still walk away even after almost 3 years invested in this relationship and I want to really tell her that I love her and want to be with her but she’s got to let this go. I’m not sure how to break it to her without breaking it off. I’m not sure she’s even going to buy it. And if she does, then what?

    • grace says:

      I’m no expert on how to maintain a relationship but I do know how to wreck them. And brushing big issues under the carpet is near the top of the list. You are going to have to tell her this really bothers you. There’s no need to issue an ultimatum “Don’t mention him again or I’ll leave you”. Tell her how you feel, and if she cares she will make the changes herself. And if she doesn’t, unfortunately, there’s your answer.

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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.