co pilots

Ever since I wrote about casual relationships followed by the landmarks of healthy relationships, I’ve heard from many readers who wanted me to expand on these subjects some more.

After much observation and plenty of experience, I believe that healthy relationships have joint agendas and co-pilots and unhealthy ones have drivers and passengers with solo and hidden agendas.

When you recognise the importance of being a co-pilot sans a hidden agenda, not only will it be far harder to be swept along by an unavailable or assclown tide, but you’ll no longer be ‘helpless’ in your relationships and will have the ability to work out where you’re at.

We can become very focused on the ‘hallmarks’ – these are what we consider to be the ‘markings’ of a relationship such as sleeping together over an extended period of time, having things in common, great sex, a ‘connection’, ‘chemistry’, future talk, being introduced to people, etc as well as big ticket commitment items like moving in, babies, marriage. These are nice, great even, to have, but without the landmarks, your relationship is all shirt, no trousers.

Many people chase stuff like passion, chemistry and common interests and then wonder why it’s not working. They assume that if these elements are present that the landmarks will automatically follow.

The landmarks of healthy relationships are intimacy, consistency, balance, progression, and commitment as well as shared values and what should come as standard in any relationship – love, care, trust, and respect.

If you have the hallmarks without the landmarks, your relationship is either casual and/or unhealthy. Before you go doing any big ticket commitment items, I suggest you make sure that the landmarks are present first.

As individuals, we each have our own agenda which caters to taking care of our self-esteem with boundaries and healthy beliefs, as well as our values that tell us what we believe are the most important things for us to live authentically and happily.

We use dating as a discovery phase to discover the facts about one another and ultimately whether we can have a shared agenda that respects each party healthily as individuals while creating a common journey for the relationship.

Healthy relationships have co-pilots steering them along with open discussion about the joint agenda as well as all of the landmarks – no hidden agendas. You will steer and plot your journey together and even if at times, one has to man the steering, they continue with the joint agenda. These are mutually fulfilling relationships.

Unhealthy relationships/casual relationships have a driver and a passenger.

The driver steers the relationship on their terms, agenda, and ‘route’. They may have a solo agenda that they’re open about and/or may have a hidden agenda. They’re sometimes egotistical enough to assume that their agenda is the joint agenda because it’s what they want.

You will know you’re involved with a driver if you attempt to co-pilot and meet restrictions and conflict – they take a parachute and jump, or pull up on the route to say that they need to go to the ‘toilet’ and then disappear. Or maybe they’ll steer the relationship so crazily that you panic and agree to let them be in control. You get the gist.

Drivers are about getting their needs met. They often need a passenger for their ego etc, but they don’t want to step up and put the needed effort into a co-piloted relationship – they’re controlled and often controlling.

Passengers basically take a backseat in the relationship. They tend to get swept up in other people’s agendas because they’re not as street smart (read: relationship smart) as they should be. They may actually be on this journey because through a lack of boundaries and latching onto the hallmarks of a relationship, they were not paying attention to code red and amber behaviour.

They will tack on to the drivers agenda assuming that this is what ‘love’ is about, so they end up not living congruently with their boundaries and values.

Many passengers however, actually know the driver’s agenda and hope to change it. They think if they love enough, get the driver to change, cry, beg, plead, wait, give them their money, that the driver will become a co-pilot and they’ll have a joint agenda.

Passengers with very low self-esteem look to others to create their agenda for them and give them validation. When the relationship ends, they feel lost.

Passengers tend to have hidden agendas even though they won’t always admit it. Sometimes the agenda is about changing the relationship (could be a mix of playing Florence Nightingale and trying to be the exception to the rule or I Can Change Them), but it’s also often about catering to the self-fulfilling prophecy of negative and unrealistic beliefs.

Sometimes passengers try to be drivers or backseat drivers and get shot down. When they end the relationship or they get back together after the driver has promised that things will be different ‘this time’, they may actually feel like the driver.

In some instances, it can seem like it’s passenger:passenger – ie you’re both really messed up together but you will find that under those layers, someone is actually the driver.

Most drivers and passengers are trying to be drivers – they have ‘ideas’ about how they want the relationship to be and try to steer it that way. There are some passengers who actually want to take a backseat role and may be inclined to be victims or helpless.

Passengers and drivers have unhealthy relationship habits and are invariably emotionally unavailable so until they address their issues, being a co-pilot in a mutually fulfilling healthy relationship is unlikely because they are not prepared to be honest and vulnerable enough to risk a joint agenda.

They forget that in a healthy relationship, each party is sharing the risk of being vulnerable to healthily emotionally engage and be authentic in the best interests of their own sense of self and the relationship.

I’ve written before about why relationships don’t always work out – because you’re two potentially compatible people who may be doing stuff that’s counterproductive that eventually ends up making you both incompatible or because you’re actually incompatible, whether it’s because you’re two great people with different agendas due to your values etc or because it’s an unhealthy relationship.

It’s important to recognise that addressing issues in relationships needs to be co-piloted too – you can’t work at something where another person has their foot out the door, has already moved on, or is in denial.

When you leave a relationship that isn’t working for you, it’s because you recognise that your agendas cannot be a joint one.

If you want to establish a relationship on a good footing or quickly determine if you have a ‘driver’ on your hands, do not accept the default role of passenger and take an active role in shaping your relationship with partners. If you discover you’re involved with a driver, don’t burn up your life fuel trying to sort out what you think are their problems – address the issues that make you a passenger first.

In some instances, when you change, the driver may adapt as well, but you’re also likely to find that the relationship is no longer attractive because your mentality has changed.

Basically always seek to be a co-pilot with a co-pilot.

That is relationships in a nutshell.

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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90 Responses to Relationships in a Nutshell: Co-pilots, drivers, passengers and the importance of a joint agenda

  1. raven says:

    Very interesting – I recently encountered a ‘driver’ who was keen to get moving quickly. I tried to be a co-pilot, suggesting a gentler start together. He agreed initially but quickly got bored and disappeared, presumably to drive some other poor woman off a cliff at great speed. I’m just enormously grateful that I no longer mix up my landmarks with hallmarks and didn’t fall for getting physical too soon. I have emerged unscathed with my dignity intact in record time!

  2. Magnolia says:

    Great description, Natalie. It reminds me of the adage, from who knows where, that described most relationships as two people facing each other (i.e. two individuals meeting head-on, but going in totally opposite directions, and kind of like a tug-of-war), but that the best relationships is two people facing the horizon together (ie. both looking, and headed, in the same direction, side-by-side).

    Especially good point that beyond all the drama of assclowns and EU people, we must be strong enough and know ourselves enough to step back from relationships with good men who are incompatible – that is, simply headed in a direction that conflicts with our most important personal agendas.


  3. Lynda from L says:

    The analogy is so clear! I think you know you’re with a co-pilot if you can share the whole responsibility for the journey. When external stress hits one of you offers to take the wheel. When they are a bit tired, you volunteer…. Noone has to prove they are the better map reader…
    I’ve been in relationships where it was all about enjoying the view, doing the grand tour and never really arriving.(Last EUM!!!)

  4. TeaTime says:

    “You will know you’re involved with a driver if you attempt to co-pilot and meet restrictions and conflict – they take a parachute and jump, or pull up on the route to say that they need to go to the ‘toilet’ and then disappear. Or maybe they’ll steer the relationship so crazily that you panic and agree to let them be in control. You get the gist.”

    Oh yes! My xAC started getting more and more distant each time I asked him to up his game or just to keep his word. Simple things to ask of someone. I thought we had a balanced relationship so I could ask him those things. Well, he would disappear on me for a few days, then come back and do the same things all over again. He wanted to be in control. Always. To make it worse, I would feel horrible for making him react that way. As if I did something wrong. Absolutely crazy!

    And looking back, I see this in his other relationships too. He would boast about how he never makes plans because people ask him to hang out with him and he chooses between them. As if he’s gracing them with his presence! As if they should be so happy he chose them to hang out with that night!

    I guess this is a common characteristic amongst narcissists? I can’t imagine how people like him can ever be a co-pilot!

    • Sandra81 says:

      Tea Time, I think your ex and mine must be estranged twin brothers! 😀 And this thing about “choosing between people”, he has it too. His friendships are numerous, but superficial. He switches groups when he feels like it, spreading himself thin. We share the same group of friends from an organization where we’re both members (for him, it’s just one of the many groups of friends), and often we feel like he doesn’t care enough about us (not just me, the others too). 1 month ago, when we had our last argument, it was about something like that too: pulling away from a plan we had made with our group several weeks before, in order to do exactly the same thing with another group. Appartently, in that group there was another girl making moves on him. Then, he tried to “buy our forgiveness”, with invitations to the museum, or to various parties. And NOBODY was going. As for me, after almost 4 weeks of no contact, he found an excuse to get in touch, seeking some professional advice from my mum. Let’s say things between us are civil right now, but I still intend to keep a distance, which means no private contact, apart from organization meetings and group e-mails.

      • ICanDoBetter says:

        I’m sure it takes some effort to keep him at a distance, when you are together in a group situation like that, but you really sound like you have an excellent handle on the situation, and have set some very healthy boundaries. (I have seen your previous posts on this as well.)
        While there may be certain situations where absolutely no contact is best, in your case, it does seem like you have a very healthy awareness. And it made me think that it’s probably good practice for other life situations as well, because boundaries are not always all or nothing. In fact, I think it takes a lot more strength to enforce them on a consistent basis the way you are.
        Anyway, just wanted to tell you how much your post has inspired me, and encourage you to keep it up. I think you are doing great!

        • Sandra81 says:

          Thank you so much, ICanDoBetter! You can’t imagine how good your words made me feel! 😉 In fact, I make a huge effort to act with rational judgement (a.k.a. my “tough cookie” side 😀 ). But the thing is that I’m also full of contradictory feelings. I know his behaviour towards me as a “girlfriend” or “dating partner” was wrong, deceitful, and without a definite ending. And I didn’t want to suffer anymore! On the other hand, reading the article about how to spot an EUM, it said that he also has some “nice” qualities which keep attracting women. Indeed, of all the people in our group, he is one of the few who took more time to know me as a person, beyond all the fun. There are many things about me and my family that he knows and the others don’t. Even in a recent family problem I had (before our argument), I preferred to talk about it with him rather than someone else in the group. So, he does have a sensitive side, too bad that he doesn’t use it constantly! :-) And, last but not least, I still feel very attracted to him physically, and I feel it’s mutual. Therefore, as a conclusion, I am aware of the fact that he is unable/unwilling to commit to a stable relationship, and I don’t think I would have just a fling or a FWB arrangement (not my thing), and…if I ever take him back, and it’s a pretty big damn IF, he will have to give me a well-deserved explanation first, and then prove himself through actions and not through empty words and high-school flirting! But right now “distance” is the word. It hurts, but I have to do it! 😉

          • TeaTime says:

            With the risk of sounding cynical, I think the sensitive side you were seeing was just another way to stay in control. When I spent time or talked on the phone with the xAC, I thought he was a good listener because he would ask questions to get to know more about me, my family and he would remember little things I said even after a long time had passed. I was also thrown off by thinking it was normal for him to be like that given he is a psychologist by profession (I did not meet him as a client).

            But looking back I realize he would use these questions to keep me thinking he was a good guy who cared, despite his actions blatantly showing otherwise. He would also bring up those little tidbits of information he remembered at moments where I was second guessing him or when it became obvious I was upset with him because he broke yet another promise to meet up.

            I have come to learn that these men are incapable of being sensitive. If my xAC (or yours) was truly sensitive, he would have done more. He wouldn’t have just collected information. To be sensitive and caring toward another, you have to be a co-pilot. I’m not sure about you, but my xAC collected information more than he gave out. It’s almost as though he needed information to use in the future, rather than genuinely listening and being there for me. To them, appearing to be sensitive is another way for them to stay in the driver seat and keep you as a passenger.

          • Sandra81 says:

            TeaTime, I think you may actually be right! I was thinking about this possibility too, or something along those lines, because NORMALLY someone who is sensitive and caring about you as a person would not behave like a jerk to you as a girlfriend/date/significant other. Your ex is a psychologist, mine is a lawyer. And he did give out quite a large bit of information about his family, to the same extent that I did, but there are other bits about his life that are uncovered. Such as his everyday life, his friendships, his journeys… Relationship history or whether he’s dating other people – that is out of the question! He never spoke to me about his exes, and actually neither did I, because to me it’s all completely in the past. On the other hand, he may not be honest if I asked him something. Now I refer to him as “Austin Powers – the International Man of Mystery”! 😀

          • Magnolia says:

            For what it’s worth, the ‘sensitive guy’ shtick is my absolute achilles heel and is, I believe, one of the main avenues that ACs have gotten in deep with me where they shouldn’t have.

            Because I hadn’t built up enough resources to talk myself out of emotional upsets, or to reason my own way through confusions, I felt super consoled to have a man ‘help’ me or give a manly ear to my problems. I would forgive a lot of crap behaviour because of the gratitude I felt for the listening.

            Now: 1) I’m working on my own confidence and working on trusting my own judgment, so that I turn less to outside sources to help me assess a situation; 2) when I do seek outside advice, I turn to people I know have not behaved AC with me, ever, and who do not confuse me with their behaviour.

            Needing other people’s reassurance or advice was part of not being ready to be a co-pilot, not trusting myself to chart my own course. It made me overvalue ‘sensitivity’ and blinded me to the faults of the kind of person (a driver) who is attracted to a woman who wants their guidance, rather than a co-pilot.

            • NML says:

              Very, very, very well said Magnolia. Especially “Because I hadn’t built up enough resources to talk myself out of emotional upsets, or to reason my own way through confusions, I felt super consoled to have a man ‘help’ me or give a manly ear to my problems. I would forgive a lot of crap behaviour because of the gratitude I felt for the listening.”

          • Sandra81 says:

            Oh, but speaking of the “sensitive guy” façade… Once we were talking about it, and I was telling him that this is the side of him that I like the most (silly me! 😛 ). And you know what he answered: “Indeed, my deep self is very sensitive. But, for defense purposes, I prefer to show a different side of me. But not many people understand that”. :-O Defense from what??? From whom??? Your opinions on this? :-)

            • NML says:

              Sandra, let me give you a piece of well intended advice. You spend far too much time investigating what he’s thinking and doing or sometimes what other friends are thinking and doing, and none of these things really address what *you’re* doing. You’re seeing meaning where there is no meaning and as you have decided to continue working with this guy, which is your prerogative to do, it’s you that needs to get yourself together because whether you admit it or not, you have a hidden agenda. You are holding out hope that he will change and you are not talking like someone who is getting on with their life fully – you talk like someone who •is* getting on with their life but isn’t going too far in the hope that he will see what a great person you are and open up. People are not selectively sensitive and just because someone asks questions or appears to take an interest it doesn’t mean they’re sensitive – a lot of men AND women are very skilled at doing this to deflect and keep themselves safe. The shadier types ‘appear’ sensitive because people like you overvalue it and keep trumpeting how amazingly sensitive they are no matter how shit they behave. He’s talking out of his bum and you are reading too much into it. You are not over this man and I suggest you consider that in any subsequent interactions with him.

              • Sandra81 says:

                Natalie, what can I say? I appreciate your advice, and I like that you are always “the voice of reason”. :-) As I said in one of the comments above, I’m in a continuous conflict with myself right now (rational vs. emotional). I’m not over him in a sense that I still feel attracted to him when I see him, and I can’t just press “delete” and get myself sorted. :-) On a rational level – I’m aware that he did behave like s**t, and as far as my actions are concerned, I’m successfully managing to keep him at a distance, which means that I’m ignoring him outside of organization meetings: no meeting up just the 2 of us, no calling, no e-mailing, no texting, nothing at all! Sometimes I miss the happy times (a.k.a. “when he was blowing hot”), sometimes his mind games scare me because they prove a sh***y character (which is likely to remain at any age), sometimes I think about considering other people (beacuse in my active life I keep meeting new people quite often), and so on. A hidden agenda? There are moments when I feel like you describe, although I don’t SHOW it on the outside. Many people could think that I am 100% fine. I think the best I could do right now is to find a way to avoid these “mood swings”.

                • grace says:

                  A hidden agenda can be so hidden that your friends can’t see it and even you can’t see it. Fortunately, Nat CAN see it (having read a zillion emails and posts from all kinds of men and women with hidden agendas) and, unfortunately, the EUM can see it, since he’s an expert at identifying women’s weaknesses.
                  Why are you attracted to someone who treated you like shit? Being aware of it is one thing. Knowing it is great. But having the gut reaction that IT’S UNACCEPTABLE is a whole other thing. Trying to understand why he did it is a way to accept it. “He did x because of y. If he fixes y then we can be together. If I can figure out why he does it, maybe he can to” (or whatever thought process it is that keeps us wondering about them). Not “he did x so he can push off!” Not “he did x so he must be JOKING if he thinks my mother will help him!” It’s tricky when you’re still in contact, though, not sure how I would handle that.
                  Anyway, maybe everything’s fine and I’m just projecting.

                  • Sandra81 says:

                    Yes, Grace, it is tricky indeed when we have to stay in contact! A good way to handle it, as I said before, is to keep things civil, as in not giving each other a hard time, or not letting our personal problem stay in the way of our common purposes, especially considering the other guys, who didn’t do anything wrong. At the end of the day, we are part of a team, quite a solid one, and we’re not that numerous either! But all the contact between him and I stops there. I thought it was the best thing to do, I’m doing well so far (it’s been a month), and he seems to do the same (so far, that is). Maybe everything is fine, and maybe you’re projecting? I don’t know what to say right now… Let’s see how I’m doing in another few weeks! 😉

              • grace says:

                Yes, we know we’re over it when we no longer care why he does anything. I very seldom mention any of my exes, except for illustrative purposes, cos I really don’t give a hoot about them anymore. All these EUMs are pretty much the same. While we all (mostly) have unique and special qualities, flip-flapping, blowing hot and cold, pretending to be what we’re not, telling fibs, playing around with other women, unreliability – that’s not unique and special. It’s boring. As I looked up my ex for the nth time on facebook I realised that it had become extremely TEDIOUS. I have no hope whatsoever that we will get back together or be friends (ha, as if! He should be so bloody lucky). I don’t even want it, I’d run in the opposite direction if I saw them – out of embarrassment that I even gave these numpties the time of day.
                It was a difficult journey – I didn’t suddenly wake up and decide I was over it, it did take NC for months and months and months (with the penultimate one) and weeks (with the last one – practice does help!). It ALL had to go – the texting, facebooking, the lot. I can imagine it would be very hard to get over them while still in proximity with them. I know you did it with the ex you worked with so it’s possible, I guess it must take a huge amount of self-awareness and self-protection.
                It’s important not to overestimate ourselves, we might think that it’s okay to hang out with them, or to text them, etc. cos we’re over it, we’re strong, we’ve got boundaries. That’s what I told myself – a bit of facebooking doesn’t hurt. I think the acid test is – am I comfortable with the amount of time I spend thinking about this person? And if I am comfortable with it, it maybe it’s time to get uncomfortable!
                I know we can’t suddenly stop but at least be aware of what’s going on with youself. Denial does cushion us, people can live their whole lives with it, but the truth really does set you free.
                If we knew to the nth degree everything about him and his motivation – we would still have to deal with ourselves. Skip him – we’ve already given them far more time and consideration than they’re worth – what about us?
                Oh, and the bonus is that you WILL then see…

                • Sandra81 says:

                  Grace, your comment is 100% spot on! I will always keep your words in mind, and re-read them whenever I feel weak/confused/not-over-him! 😉

                • grace says:

                  I didn’t realise that was such a long post – the bonus is that you’ll then see what motivated him, and it’s not going to be anything extraordinary. It’s what Nat says – ego stroke, sex, etc. The good news is – by the time you realise it – you won’t care anymore

              • Natasha says:

                Natalie, if I may say, that is one of your best pieces of advice yet! It’s so true. I told Sandra about my ex-AC, who lied to get me to take him to take him back and who insulted my religion (of all things), while telling me what a kind, sensitive and wonderful “changed man” he is. It’s another twist on words that don’t match actions. I once had a writing teacher who’s mantra was “Show. Don’t tell.” This is where these men fail miserably.

  5. Movedup says:

    That is it in a nutshell – no doubt. I can see that soooo clearly now. I was a passenger for so many years and a backseat driver. Its a pattern and I wonder why I didn’t get it before. I get it now maybe because I am in a healthy relationship which is very much a co-pilot situation about damn near everything! From what shall be have for dinner to did we want to rsvp for an event/social gathering. Everything is discussed and there is no fear of voicing my own opinion even thou we may disagree. We can agree to disagree and find a workable compromise. Its a whole different planet. Excellent again Nat – keeping me on track – you make one hell of an engineer!

  6. grace says:

    Yep, this is it in a nutshell. I’d go as far as to say that if you’re a fallback girl, if you find yourself being FWB and don’t like it, if you pursue men who aren’t available, or end up with abusive men – you don’t WANT to copilot anything, despite your protestations. We’d rather hand our life on a plate to a man and complain about him and how helpless we are in the face of our great love than take responsibility for our own life and happiness. In our defence, our relationship history is so bad, often going right back to childhood, we don’t know HOW to be a copilot, we only know how to be helpless.
    And don’t imagine that when you step up to the plate that the guy will magically fall into line. The only reason the EUM/AC is with you is because he doesn’t want to copilot anything either. He’s the driver, it’s his way or he’s outta there. I asked my counsellor for a man’s viewpoint: “How would it have been different if I’d stood up to these men?” He said to me, with absolute certainty, “They’ve wouldn’t have wanted to know you.” Ding ding, bingo!
    Ladies, that’s why he’s with you. Because you let him treat you like crap. In his defence, treating women like crap is all he knows. He might even believe he’s doing you a big favour. The day you stop allowing that to happen is the day he disappears.
    Get rid of him pronto!

    • Tulipa says:

      Yep, this is it in a nutshell. I’d go as far as to say that if you’re a fallback girl, if you find yourself being FWB and don’t like it, if you pursue men who aren’t available, or end up with abusive men – you don’t WANT to copilot anything, despite your protestations.
      Couldn’t agree more Grace.
      Since reading this article and thinking back over the past I can now see I didn’t even bother to check what type of car I was getting into I just got in fell asleep in the passenger seat and was often surprised at my destination or the car wreck I ended up in. I didn’t even think a smooth car ride was possible. It has taken me a long time to learn the basics that I dont have to get in every car that passes my way and if I do hop in a car and decide it isnt to my liking I can get out I dont have to try and make it drive smoothly always at my expense. Simple things but not learnt due to a very dysfunctional childhood that basically taught me you don’t matter just get in the car and shut up, but it is timeto take responsibilty for myself and be aware of what car I’m actually getting into.
      Thank you, Grace, really liked your response to the article.

      • NML says:

        Amen Tulipa – I’m glad you are seeing it!

      • colororange says:

        Tulipa I love your car analogy. Helps me visualize what has been happening: getting into every car that comes my way……..and then paying the price later. I look back and can say most the cars I got into I would not have. Vroom vvrrooommm!!

    • colororange says:

      Oh grace, I like your post too!

      “In our defence, our relationship history is so bad, often going right back to childhood, we don’t know HOW to be a copilot, we only know how to be helpless.” Yes!

      “How would it have been different if I’d stood up to these men?” He said to me, with absolute certainty, “They’ve wouldn’t have wanted to know you.”

      Very insightful and helpful.

  7. Sandra81 says:

    This article is very, very correct!
    Actually, come to think of it, when my ex first started blowing cold was when I started expressing certain needs of my own, from simple things like a ride home (BTW, I was getting a ride home only when it was him who suggested it), to more “important” things like suggesting some time away just the two of us, or for him to visit me in my city on the summer holiday. Probably, he felt like the fact of fulfilling some needs of mine, no matter how small or how big, would make us look like a stable couple, which he was scared to death about. And yeah, now I realize that everything has to be mostly on his terms. I always felt he had a gazzilion priorities, and he would make time for me just afterwards. He would always mention family, study, work, trips (we never know with whom, as he never tells and in the pictures there is always just him…and the landscapes). He would never admitt dating other girls, but nothing would stop him from dating around. He only mentions some nameless, faceless “female friends” sometimes. The only time he mentioned getting back together with another ex was after we first broke up, but in a few months he unwillingly unmasked the fact that he had made it up to make me jealous. 😛
    Therefore, first it was HIMSELF (with all his hundreds of priorities included), and then, maybe, me… :-(

    • TeaTime says:

      Wow Sandra from what you just wrote here I think you’re right – they MUST be estranged twins!! Especially when you say you felt like he put you after all his other priorities. My xAC made me feel like that too. And then it really takes a toll on your self esteem. Today marks 4 months AC for me, and I can say I’m just starting to feel like myself again. We should celebrate that these guys don’t have control over us anymore!

      • Sandra81 says:

        Oh, they definitely DON’T have control over us! 😉 And what puzzled me at that time was that I was never that type of needy girlfriend, who would carry her boyfriend everywhere (including when going shopping, like some of my friends), or who would expect him to do everything for her and with her. But spending time together is a must for every relationship. And, most of all, each partner has the right to deicide and initiate these things, not just one of them! I think that as a boyfriend he was very selfish. :-(

    • Allison says:


      This is why I can’t understand you would do any favors for this guy? It doesn’t sound like he went out of his way for you.

      • Sandra81 says:

        Allison, to be fair it was a simple question & answer thing, not like “going out of my way” to help him. Plus, take into account that by seeing him all the time, he would keep asking. Although, mind you, he did send me a message about it one day before our weekly meeting just to ask about it. It kinda reminds me of that cake story in one of the recent articles. His enquiry was the cake. But, at the end of the day, I treated it as “just cake”: he asked, mum answered, life goes on and each one of us does their own business! :-)

  8. Robin says:

    What this article goes to show is that, while supremely rare, if a guy ever did manage to change for the better while he was in a relationship with you, it isn’t because he did it for you… it’s coz he GREW UP (or, more likely, has another secret agenda)! LOL!

    • Sandra81 says:

      Robin, do you believe in “growing up” as a reason to view and treat relationships differently? :-) I’ve been talking about that with some of the ladies commenting on this site. My ex is 26, and some people would put his inconsistent, undecided behaviour down to age (I’m also a couple of years older than him, but I’ve seen even bigger differences with the woman being older). On the other hand, I’ve seen many guys his age or even younger, in stable, committed relationships. And this is also the feedback I got from the other Baggage Reclaim readers. At this point, I’m quite skeptical about his ability to change, even at an older age. You can get pieces of information about my story from my other comments on this article. Unfortunately, based on the things he’s done so far, I’m afraid it’s a question of character… :-(

  9. leisha says:

    It’s hard to co-pilot when the plane doesn’t even exist…the man I’d fallen in love with consistently showed he was unable to share his time with me…I was always his girl in waiting…so many times I took the wheel and promised I’d lose the endless merry-go-round…I saw him only 3 times last year…found out he’d been involved with someone else and when that didn’t work out he came back for a few more hit and runs. No Contact is now in effect initiated by texts because I was sure he would not speak with me on the phone…and if he did that I would be unable to say good-bye as I still love him…I kept hoping things would change…but I’m now in rehab of this addiction…I’m taking the wheel and no longer anticipating that he would realize how awesome I am. No more words without action. No more disappearing. No more girl in waiting. He can’t drive nor trust me with his heart. Took me a long time to convince myself that all the love and care I offered wasn’t wanted; that his well was shallow and poison for me. I had to set myself free. I wish him well. I wish him love. I just won’t tear myself up anymore for the sake of a nothing situation. There was never a plane to fly; it was all in my mind.

    • runnergirl says:

      Leisha, you are awesome. I kept hoping things would change to. Things didn’t change for me either, no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t have a plane to co-pilot, it was all in my mind.

      • leisha says:

        Well, Runnergirl, we’ll just fly solo until and if we find a
        GOOD co-pilot, okay? That’s my plan…So glad you laughed and Thanks so much for the complement…this site is so great

        • Sandra81 says:

          Leisha, I really understand how you feel! I also made 2 “emergency landings” in the last 10 months of knowing my EUM. I still love him too (or whatever THAT feeling is), but my brain is fully aware that he is not capable of becoming a co-pilot. He is still part of my life, due to our life circumstances, but that will put my strength to the test, and I’ll have to stay strong and not give in to believing him and his superficial interest for the 3rd time!

          • leisha says:

            Sandra don’t you just love “suck it to see”? The thing is we are capable of change…so we give that credit to others…the trick is knowing that they truly haven’t changed and to see that their actions fail to correlate with their words no matter what the reasons are. Once we have the info we have to make choices. Even if they were sincere with their words when they said them they have every right to change their minds. It would just be nice if they’d tell us about it and not leave us to find out the hard way. Ah well, courage is something not everyone possesses in equal measure. I requested that “he” not contact me for at least 6 months. This is definately tough love but it is necessary. Well, in your case the guy will have a chance to see you and this is your opportunity to practice your social skills of being polite and distant with a person who doesn’t appreciate your greatness and the gift of love you had given. I wish you grace.

          • Sandra81 says:

            “It would just be nice if they’d tell us about it and not leave us to find out the hard way”. Exactly, Leisha! That’s my main problem with him, and why I consider him an AC. I would have preferred him to tell me to my face that he didn’t want a relationship, or that he didn’t think it would work between us, or anything similar, instead of pulling away for no reason, and occasionally doing some not-so-nice things to me. But, you know what? A couple of days ago, a (female) friend of mine told me that I expect too much. Do I, really? I’m in my late 20s, I’ve seen and heard enough stories in my life, and I’ve seen and heard about men saying clearly that they were not interested/available/unwilling to have something serious. Or at least who did not act ambiguously towards women. Or, still from this friend, that men don’t see their interest in “black & white”, like we do, especially when they’re still very young (below 30). Hmmm… What do you think? Maybe just our exes, or the typical EUMs don’t, but otherwise…I don’t know what to believe….

          • grace says:

            You don’t expect too much but don’t get trapped waiting for someone to do the decent thing. You don’t need actual words to know their intentions. If he doesn’t call, disappears, is mean – he doesn’t want the kind of relationship you do. There’s no need to wait for his verbal confirmation of that. For that to happen he would need to have the self awareness and sense of responsibility that would have prevented him from taking advantage of you in the first place.

        • runnergirl says:

          Liesha, good plan. I’m flying solo until I find a co-pilot. Flying solo sometimes sucks though. But it doesn’t suck as bad as being the passenger, FWB, other woman.

    • Cindy says:

      leisha, when you are going to realize how awesome YOU ARE? :)

      • leisha says:

        Oh I know I have some wonderful traits of loyalty and such. I think I’m pretty awesome. I come with my flaws without a doubt. The flip side is with loyalty comes blindness and a refusal to see at times what is so obvious…it is hope that refuses to die and the knowledge that anything is possible…however, I do get to a point where I see a pattern has been created that the other party is unwilling to alter but for a few tweaks…I no longer am willing to go through the drama. I’m making many changes. It’s not easy. But, yeah, I know I’m awesome…I just get lonely.

        • Cam says:

          “What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?” – T.S. Eliot

          • leisha says:

            oh nice…thanks…the lonliest I’ve ever been was lying beside someone and feeling alone…very cold feeling. I realize it is so much better being alone and at peace. I generally am fine with my own company. Truly. I sleep well alone. The feelings of closeness and intimacy followed by complete abandonment…those are the ones I hate

          • leisha says:

            Oh, and to be fair, “he” taught me who he was early on. I just didn’t want to see it. BUT: I know the things to watch for now thanks to this site and I will bail out next time before making investments. I thank him for the lessons. I wish him well. He woke me up and ultimately the experience led me here. No regrets. Yeah, trust is essential. Without it there is nothing.

          • erinr says:

            I love that quote Cam! That was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. My biggest struggle with my exAC was always that I would leave, break contact, and then feel lonely and contact him for the ego boost/someone to talk to/physical stuff. Ha! What a waste of time! Assclowns will never make you feel good, they never satisfy, their whole shtick is they leave you wanting more. I guess I finally got bored with wasting my time.

  10. leisha says:

    I also want to add that I have been reading this site for awhile. I’ve ordered Nat’s books. I know people can change. I know there must be consequences for actions. I am one of those people who can imagine so may possibilities and want to believe the best in people. Always giving lots of rope to those I love and believing in them and in me being able to handle all that comes my way. I believe in explanations and not leaving someone hanging. It would be so nice to be informed of changes that have a bearing rather than having to “figure it out” on my own…ah well, action does speak louder than words. A man who doesn’t take the time to call after sleeping with you is telling you that you are not important to him no matter what he said before.

    • Cam says:

      Leisha: You said two things that struck a chord with me. 1) “Took me a long time to convince myself that all the love and care I offered wasn’t wanted.” Me too. As much as I hated to admit it, he meant something to me and he did not have the room or capacity for my love. 2) A man who doesn’t take the time to call after sleeping with you is telling you that you are not important to him no matter what he said before. Again, my issue too. I made all kinds of excuses for him, but it boils down to this – the plane has to exist for both of you. It was hard to face that it only existed for me. That complicated mixture of pain, hurt and freedom is what I call healing. I wish healing was simpler but its not.

      Leisha: Thank you for sharing your words.
      NML: Another great post and a great kick in the pants that you always deliver to me along with that compassionate voice that you share so wonderfully.

  11. ph2072 says:

    Good read & food for thought as usual.

  12. ICanDoBetter says:

    This one really hit home for me. I realize that not only have I been a passenger in my romantic relationships, but my friendships as well. I always felt validated in some way if the other person was pursuing me, be it a romantic relationship or a friend asking me to do something. I took the attitude that if I have to ask someone for something, and they give it to me, then it must not mean as much as it would if they had thought of it on their own. And then, of course, when the things I needed (but didn’t ask for) didn’t materialize in a relationship, I would sulk and feel unloved because they didn’t figure it out.
    More and more lately, I have been reminding myself that people can’t read minds (and really, who would want them to?). So, when I find myself getting to that sulky place again, I snap myself out of it, and either ask for what I need, or somehow make it happen for myself. And you know what? I found that it is still meaningful, even when I ask for it. And it’s empowering, to take responsibility for my own happiness and welfare.

  13. runnergirl says:

    This is such a great analogy for relationships. I had to stop working to comment because it hit so close to home. Thank you Natalie for the descriptions of healthy relationships and healthy dating patterns. Of course, I’ve always readily assumed the role of passenger, wanting to be a co-pilot but not knowing how as I was taught from childhood to put my needs last. This post triggered childhood memories of long trips with my parents and siblings. As the eldest of five, I rode up front and sat in between my parents in order to keep my dad company (and to keep him awake at the wheel) while my mother slept. Very symbolic of their dysfunctional marriage. I was taught from early on to be a good little passenger and companion for the driver, my dad. As I’ve been focusing on me and my past relationships, I’m clearly the common denominator in becoming involved with EUM’s because I have been EU passenger/back seat driver with a hidden agenda. And, I’ve always known the EUM’s agenda but thought I could change it by being a good little passenger…back to childhood stuff.

    Leisha’s comment made me LOL and think of the Autopia cars at Disneyland. Remember little race cars with two steering wheels on the predetermined track? I loved them as a kid because I got to steer…only it was on a predetermined track and I wasn’t steering at all! Pretty much sums up my entire relationship history. Even though I had a steering wheel and could make believe I was co-piloting, I’ve been stuck in an Autopia car at D-land with a fake steering wheel.

    Thank you. This has been the first time I have laughed about the ex and my past.

    • Dbear says:

      “Even though I had a steering wheel and could make believe I was co-piloting, I’ve been stuck in an Autopia car at D-land with a fake steering wheel. ” ……………..This is totally how I have felt lately………thanks for putting it in words :)

  14. paintedlady says:

    This really brought home to me the fact that i had not noticed i was letting my ex be the driver in more ways than one.

    When we first met he was so ‘full on’ flattering me, buying me gifts, future faking which at the time i fully believed he meant every word he said, then after 3 years the relationship collapsed like a pack of cards because i realised i had been a passenger all along and had put up with so much, especially always singing to the driver’s tune. Looking back i dont think i had the love, care, respect and trust either because there were certain things he did that i questioned in my mind but never challenged him about openly for fear of upsetting the boat. He was a great one for making arrangements and then they did not come to fruition, and he was always saying i did not trust him. Well, of course, when i found out about the cheating i realised that although i always told him i DID trust him, in the back of my mind there were questions which i could never get an answer to which made me wonder, especially when he said he was in one place and then i discovered he had not been that at all.

    So yes, i realise now just how i let myself become the passenger and he the driver. One good thing though, which is now crystal clear to me – i shall never let myself be strung along on a tide of future faking and be led to the slaughter like a sheep. I shall be the one with eyes wide open and be looking at the road ahead for any pot holes which may appear. I will be keeping the ‘danger ahead’ sign in my sights from now on.

    Thank you Nat, you really are an inspiration. I really think you should be on tv doing an Oprah type of show,your advice is so ‘spot on’ and i for one have been helped such a lot with reading your site. Bless you.

  15. leisha says:

    Runnergirl We were trained to be good passengers. I too had unhealthy models and I continued to change those patterns and go another route but I never knew how to just let go…nor what truly healthy patterns were…this site is teaching me so much and introducing me to folks in similar boats who are paddling through this life and fighting their storms and are strong enough to seek help, admit their problems, and find solutions…Go Lightbringers!

    BTW I mean truly bringing light to a dark situation that has kept you from being your happiest and most giving self and knowing when to opt out of situations which consistently prove to be detracting from that…using your energy appropiately and trying to learn and teach as you go along…and being a friend to yourself and give to the light what you are unable to alter…we all learn at our own pace and sometimes it’s best to love at a distance. Peace.

  16. leisha says:

    BTW I mean truly bringing light to a dark situation that has kept you from being your happiest and most giving self and knowing when to opt out of situations which consistently prove to be detracting from that…using your energy appropiately and trying to learn and teach as you go along…and being a friend to yourself and give to the light what you are unable to alter…we all learn at our own pace and sometimes it’s best to love at a distance. Peace.

  17. Findingmyself says:

    “Passengers with very low self-esteem look to others to create their agenda for them and give them validation. When the relationship ends, they feel lost.” I must admit I do feel lost, however, I was once in the co-polite mentality. and somehow along the way, I became the back seat passenger. I don’t know exactly when that happened (or how it happened) over the years, but I lost that self-esteem I had when I first met him. I knew what I wanted, where I was going, I was happy, outgoing, and never took any crap. Over the years, I allowed that to be slowly taken from me. Piece by piece, bit by bit. The blinders are now removed, I see what every one else saw all along…”The driver steers the relationship on their terms, agenda, and ‘route’.” Eventually, that’s how things went for a long time. I finally see that clearly. It took many, many years-but it’s now crystal clear. I am now my own driver, going on my own journey, to my own destiny; where that leads remains to be seen.

  18. debra says:

    What I love about this website in general, and this post in particular, is that there is solid, practical advice on how to have healthy relationships, not just how to recognize and get out of bad ones (although that’s where we all started from and what brings us here).

    I love what you said about equating street smart and relationship smart. I am a very intelligent woman by any objective measure and in my arrogance and delusion, it never dawned on me that I could be so stupid about men, my life, and how emotionally unavailable I was. I mean completely clueless. I grew up in a dysfunctional household – no body got beaten or abused but my parents are the most emotionally unavailable people on the planet. They met basic needs – food, shelter, education – but I don’t remember a single I love you or even a hug. So, in hindsight, I guess it isn’t surprising that I wouldn’t know a healthy relationship if I tripped over one, that I am almost totally emotionally shut down (although fighting tooth and nail to open up and live in a healthy way), and that I attracted a long line of EUM/assclowns and ended with the abusive narcissist. I never thought of relationships in terms of drivers/ co-pilots,although its a brilliant analogy. I just thought you latched on to anyone that paid attention to you and tried to get them to care about you. Very sad, very dysfunctional and extremely unsuccessful.

    This post is a road map for how to do it right. Bless you, Natalie.

    • leisha says:

      Too bad they don’t teach “relationships” in school…we have found this site and all the awesome people on it and our guide/guardian angel Natalie…that’s real smart…so take heart

      • runnergirl says:

        Debra, I thought the same thing, just latch on to anyone who paid atttention, ignore all red flags, and try to get them to care about me the way I cared about them by being a good little passenger. Totally unsucessful. Leisha is right. Healthy relationships should be taught in school. I didn’t realize I had a choice until I hit this site. Thank you Natalie and all the wonderful folks who post on this site.

    • NML says:

      Another great comment Debra. This line “I just thought you latched on to anyone that paid attention to you and tried to get them to care about you. ” – that was me. To a tee.

  19. Kay says:

    This is an excellent road map for a successful relationship.This is simply a MUST READ for anyone embarking on the relationship journey,not just us crash survivors that come here.I’d love to see an extended version of this out there on the relationship shelves of the bookstores.

    Congrats not only to Natalie but to all the above commenters! All your comments are awesome and sooooo helpful.Every time I visit this site I learn so much. Huge thanks to all!

  20. Cathy J says:

    Sometimes it looks like a real relationship although some men just seem slow to marriage… but then

    “Passengers tend to have hidden agendas even though they won’t always admit it. Sometimes the agenda is about changing the relationship (could be a mix of playing Florence Nightingale and trying to be the exception to the rule or I Can Change Them), but it’s also often about catering to the self-fulfilling prophecy of negative and unrealistic beliefs.”

    Thanks Nat, and Kaye. Ditto to having this in hard copy, extended version on bookshelves!!

  21. dawn says:

    Bravo Natalie, this was beautifully and expertly written. A masterpiece!

  22. Bri says:

    So many of these posts are incredibly inspirational to me. I am currently in a relationship with a married man and we’re closing in on a year and half this month. Not only is he emotionally unavailable but he has intense mood swings and tends to either be obsessed with me or completely withdrawn – presently he’s in his distant phase.

    I am madly in love with this man and although this relationship often makes me anxious, miserable and insecure, I have been fighting for it for almost 18 months.

    A couple of points in this post really resonated with me: I realize that I have been chasing the “passion, chemistry and common interests” that we have but it came to light after reading this that we have NEVER had the consistency, balance, progression and commitment that it takes to have a healthy relationship.

    I’m 26 and he’s 37. He was my boss when we got together and we still work together currently. He has a wife and three kids at home, while I am single and unattached. He says he’s scared of hurting his children but he’s not ready to give up on the happiness he feels he could have with me, so we’re stuck in neutral. He also says he has been unable to love me in a healthy way because his feelings are so intense and he’s trying to find a balance…I’ve never had someone stop themselves from being with me because they love me too much, but I suspect this is a cover-up.

    I am a bonafide passenger here and I keep hoping I will be the exception to the rule. We talk on IM at work everyday, but see each other very infrequently. He control every aspect of this relationship right now and I am at his mercy, waiting for the “crumbs” he throws me and hoping he’ll come back around like he has before. I’m hurting quite a bit and I spend a lot of my time waiting for a call that never comes.

    He claims this is ultimately what he wants but we’re no closer to a “real” relationship than we’ve ever been, and I just don’t know how much more I can take…though I fear I’ll hold out hope forever.

    • leisha says:

      You are in a world of pain girlfriend. PLEASE read this site for all of the info you can get.

    • grace says:

      He’s kept this going for eighteen months – wife and kids at home, you sexing him up on his timetable. He has no incentive to rock the boat. He’s already got everything. The only thing he’s covering up is how well this works for him.
      If he was that scared of hurting his children he wouldn’t be having an affair. The only person he’s scared of hurting is himself. If this gets out he’ll lose the house, he’ll have to endure the disapproval of his wife’s family (not to mention his wife), he’ll have to pay child support, she’ll get the kids, and he’ll be in trouble at work (it’s not okay for bosses to have affairs with staff).
      I know married man tell a good story but he’s just looking out for his own interests. Time you looked after yours.

      • Rachel says:

        Dear Bri, I can tell you from most painful experience that the advice of NML, Grace and Leisha is right on. It is so true, as NML says, that your situation is not at all unique, although it probably feels otherwise. I was in a very similar situation to yours that dragged on for many excruciating yrs. (years that I consider lost and ruined in many respects, although I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself). Like you, I rarely saw the guy, our “situation” was text/email based, and he called all the shots while I waited in agony for a little crumb to come my way (he wanted the occasional shag when he could fit it into his incredibly busy schedule). Also, he too didn’t want to hurt his kids. I discovered BR last year and what an eye-opener! My special non-relationship wasn’t unique at all; it fit the unhealthy profile of so much of what NML writes about (READ this blog as Leisha advises) and often mirrored to a t what other posters here have experienced (read Grace’s comments in particular – they were so helpful to me). I wouldn’t even consider myself a passenger on that hellish ride, but rather something stuck on the bottom of the tire. Let me tell you, I was completely relegated to the sidelines and just kept waiting, hoping in agony for a little crumb to get thrown my way. And when the little crumb came, there was a very fleeting moment of euphoria immediately followed by even more intense agony/stress/pain/need for validation. My self-esteem suffered greatly and my health deteriorated (the body can take only so much stress). I felt at times that I was becoming crazy, really. I abandoned so much that gave my life value – people and various activities. And my self-respect: I really humiliated myself in the name of this Great Love (ha!). I implemented NC last year (very hard, but possible; and it does get easier which I didn’t believe would ever happen; amazing what you’ll learn about yourself with some distance). Please take care of yourself, read this site and do whatever you need to do to extricate yourself from this tormenting nightmare (I know it’s hard to see beyond the obsession of the thing). xxx

    • NML says:

      Bri, I know it feels like your situation is the most unique ever, but this story has been told a million times with different people. This isn’t a relationship – you’re a lady in waiting being controlled by a man who throws you crumbs periodically. Listen to Mary J Blige’s No Happy Holidays – that’s you. It’s bad enough to be involved with a Cheat that you do see regularly but to sideline yourself for this joker, is like putting yourself in prison. Trust me, if he wanted to leave his marriage, he would, and he would certainly treat you a lot better in the mean time. Do not ever wait for someone to make up their mind about you or to be with you. Ever. You are devaluing yourself.

  23. PJM says:

    Very timely as always, Natalie! Here in Australia we are ‘celebrating’ the split between ex boy band hearthrob Bryan McFadden and the beautiful Delta Goodrem. I thought this article summed it up well, and was also quite comforting: even intelligent, thrifty, teetotal ladies can get it wrong sometimes.

    But he still LOOOOVVVVESS her …



    • leisha says:

      I looked at the clip. From what I saw they handled it well. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean that love is enough. Seems like they gave it a good run…and in the spotlight yet.

      • leisha says:

        oops! Probably shouldn’t have commented as I didn’t know what was going on…only saw the clip. Thanks for the heads up Nat!

    • NML says:

      I love that you called him a heartthrob – lOL. He was originally a Mr Unavailable in this relationship. It’s also unsurprising that if he’s spent a few years being insecure that it’s sucked the life out of the relationship.

  24. leisha says:

    Sandra81, I think that men are capable of saying what they mean and of changing their minds AT ANY AGE. It depends on the male, and like us, they can learn. Very seldom are things black and white. It is contextual. Knowing what you will and will not stand for; or cannot stand for anymore is also key. We are all entitled to change our minds. We are even allowed to make very bad choices and have them bite us. The hope is that we learn from them. It sounds like your friend has different opinions on what is acceptable in relationships and that is her perogative. I think holding out for what you find acceptable is what is good for you no matter what anyone else thinks.

    • Sandra81 says:

      Thanks Leisha! Well, I believe that learning from experiences and getting to know yourself is part of growing up, or, at least, in my case I take it as such. 😉 I wish you well, and please keep up with your positive attitude! 😉

      • leisha says:

        I agree with you on the growing…may we all flourish through the changes we encounter. Moods are hard to cope with in the NC. I sit on my hands and know (having gone through a few practice runs) that I will feel better and acting on the whims of the moment are not going to change things for the broken relations unless BOTH want to fly together to the same destination. My job is to work on myself and not allow repitition of the same ole game. My action will prove my words. This I can control. I journal daily. I read this site. I have bad times. I wish things could have been different. But again, I can only work with now and the future as it happens. The road led here and I am grateful for the journey. Have faith. Know you deserve better.

  25. Area 51 says:

    I’ve decided to be the pilot of my life again. I started off with threatening him to never call me again. I’m not sure if he’ll take heed. But I tried to be a co-pilot with him and he has disappeared. Less than 30 mins of convincing me that things were different, his actions stated other wise. I called twice no answer, and messaged, and he messaged back half an hour later, I suspect he was with someone who was not quite as bothersome as I was that night. So NC for me till July and beyond, if I have my way. I was going to do it the way by hiding, diverting my calls to a friend’s phone, but I need to know that I am finally strong to ignore the feelings I get, because I need to be stronger for myself to get away from this game he plays, just to not be the bad guy. Him and his hidden agenda, he isn’t as good actor an as he thinks he is. His emotions show on his face and his voice changes. He definitely is my epiphany.

  26. paintedlady says:

    I wonder why these AC/EUM/Psychopathic types are so charismatic – anyone? I used to think my ex was one of the two former types until i read up on the profile of a psychopath by chance (‘The Psychopath Next Door’). A friend said she thought he sounded like he could indeed be psychopathic, and it hit me instantly after reading up on these types of people like lightening just how he fitted into that type of personality. He would never hurt me physically so i would not say he was a malignant type of psychopath, but mentally and emotionally it is 100% descriptive of him, even down to the fact that these personalities have a ‘game plan’ from the very start, usually to get what they want from you, be it moving into your home, money, sexual favours etc, all the future faking, flattery, buttering you up etc is all part of their game/plan!

    It completely threw me as i read more and more, but it answered a lot of my questions after we broke up, it even mentioned how sexually promiscuous these types are and had no qualms about instantly forgetting you when they decided it was time for them to move on once you either found them out in a lie, grew tired of playing cat and mouse with you, or sussed them out in other ways.

    I really feel i had a lucky escape on reflection, but before i did read what i did, i went through hell after we split, blaming myself, blaming him for doing his disappearing acts, cheating etc, but i now know that they really cannot help themselves as they are apparently born with this condition of having no conscience, shallow emotions and absolutely no compassion/empathy for anyone but themselves. It has made me realise a lot of things i wondered about and realise now that he could never have had control over the way he acted.

    So now i know what to look for having been associated with one of these types of men and as soon as i see the signs, turn round and run the other way!

  27. I'mFree says:

    I have been so so guilty in the past of spending an embarassing amount of time thinking of ex’s and wondering, agonising, over what they are doing, who with and the like… I think a huge part of me accepting AC behaviour was having such low expectations of men and what I deserve. I’d see some friends with decent men and think they were exceptionally lucky – like they’d found one of the very few lottery tickets out there, and I’d just have to settle with current AC, as hey, the next one out there is likely to be an AC too, and better the devil you know…

    I’d often wonder how friends never seemed to find these ACs, but realise now, when I look back over my dating history, had my friends had the misfortune to come across an AC and agree to a date, they would have been out the door at date 2/3 relegating the AC to a non-story, where as my O.M was to keep flogging that horse turning the whole palava into my entire life for sometimes years. I may have been unlucky to have bumped into them, but I take responsibility for keeping it going when I should have run like Forest…

    Anyways, It is a very interesting idea about not having enough emotional resources to look after yourself and trying to get the same end, by going to others. I’ve been talking alot recently in therapy about this idea of not being able to self soothe. I still struggle with it now, although I’m getting better. AC would make me feel crap, and then I’d look to him to make me feel less crap, sometimes it worked (albeit very temporary) but most of the time it left me feeling worse. I was a total passenger in a very small budget airlines plane.

    Re: NC – every time I started to think about an Ex AC (notice the plural here!!) I would stop myself and ask “Do I want to spend the next 10 mins thinking/looking on fb etc about him, or do I choose ME, and spend that 10 mins doing something nice for me, eating, talking to a friend, or even working.”

    I’ve given up on wondering what motivates these AC, or wondering what happened in their lives to make them like this. All I needed to know what that they are selfish, self absorbed and no good for me.

  28. Brittany says:

    The last few weeks I have been all broken up about a guy I was dating for a few months. I am only 19 and he is 28 (I’m a junior in college and he is working on his PhD), so of course there are many consequences of the age difference. After reading this, it has opened my eyes to the fact that I am not alone and this guy definitely falls into the “driver” category. I never thought I was passenger type of girl and I don’t know how I let myself fall into this position. I have always worried that I am too controlling and that maybe I should let a “man be a man.” I think it is easy to confuse control with chivalry. He would always plan things and act like a gentleman, but it was only on his time and at the places he liked. He would (and still does) make nice comments about how I look and how cute he thinks I am and asks me, “Where the heck have you been?” every time we run into each other. When we are in public around other men, he usually tries to make a few remarks to let the guys know he’s into me. I just want to tell him, “HELLO, if you wanted to see me you could have!” I am dying for the moment when he will ask me out again so I can tell him no. After reading a few of the comments on here, I am starting to think he may never ask me out again because I have already made a few efforts to gain some control in the relationship and it seems like “drivers” don’t like girls like me. It’s funny how we start convincing ourselves that we did something wrong. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a co-pilot. I think sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we don’t have to settle for a guy who is only going to treat us like we are slightly cooler than their can of beer.

  29. syeda says:

    I realize what’s been said here about being a co-pilot, and it’s just so good to read your site NML. I’ve had a series of nasty relationships, and most of it has had to do with my low self-esteem. I’ve established no-contact, and it’s been 22 days. Every time I think I want to talk to him, I just read one or more of your posts. We met in Florence while I was vacationing in Italy last year. I had come out of a relationship six months before, something that had left me shattered because that particular ex basically stole 3000 USD from me before running away. Anyway, I met this guy and he seemed great, and keen to get to know me better. We went back and forth Italy a couple of times, and I realized I was spending all my waking hours chatting to him- and I guess he was too, although the time difference between NYC and Italy ensured I was sacrificing my social life to do so. He never understood this. For him, it was always about how he felt, and the fact that he was dating this woman before me was always in the picture. Later I found out that he got back with her in a “casual” relationship three days after we broke things off. According to him, she was his rebound from me. I don’t know how I’m supposed to understand this, especially because he told me in November that even if things didn’t work out between us, he was going to minimize contact with his ex. I don’t know why I’m crying while I write this but it’s helpful to talk about it at this point. Here’s a list of code-red crap he said to me that I just didn’t want to believe:
    “There was nothing wrong with my relationship with her. I just met you, that’s all.”
    “It’s none of your business that I slept with her for 11 days straight right after we broke up. I will never consider you as a rebound though.”
    “F*** you, I tried to be there for you.”
    “What was I supposed to do? She doesn’t have anyone else in Florence.”
    “I don’t know what’s going to happen between me and her because we still share a car.”
    “So how much would I have to pay your family to get married to you?” (ridiculing the fact that I was born Muslim)
    “I was never positive about the future between you and me. I just wanted you to come to Florence to say goodbye…

  30. smash says:

    This is all so true. One of my favorite posts. I survived an unhealthy relationship with a driver–there were so many red flags, and yet I allowed myself to be swept up in his tornado because my cool meter was low and I was looking for validation. I thought that if I just stuck it out, eventually we’d reach some kind of mutual understanding and make an emotional connection and be on more of a level playing field. I was holding out for what I’ve always wanted in a relationship, but looking for it in all the wrong places. I was in complete and total denial about him, the kind of person he really was–constantly directing traffic and not listening to me or wanting to venture over to my neck of the woods, walk on my side of the street. It was all about him: in 5 months, I met his family, his coworkers, his friends, went to his shows, did what he wanted. In the course of our relationship he met 2 people I knew–one only because we ran into that person in passing…! But I was hesitant. Emotionally available too, I guess, to let him in, in part because of all the red flags. I want to get to know someone before I start parading them around! He fast forwarded me, was way too pushy, and didn’t back down when I expressed concern about something or just said no. I didn’t have boundaries. I let him walk all over me, let him convince me that there was something wrong with me as a person if I didn’t concede to what he wanted. Needless to say I learned a lot from that relationship. This post reminds me too about the saying that there’s always a “gardener” and a “flower” in relationships. I hope that’s not always true…I’d much rather be a copilot. I want to offer someone as much of myself as they give to me.

  31. DarQ DawG says:

    This is a very good article. However, you didn’t address two categories of people in relationships. You mention backseat drivers, but there are people who actually aim to be controllers who sit in the backseat and set the agenda. They are often successful at this strategy of getting their way without actually contributing anything to the relationship. They usually end up with another category of people I call chauffeurs. Chauffeurs do all the driving and heavy lifting in a relationship, but they rarely set the course. They may appear to be in control of the relationship to the outsider, but they are merely operating at the direction of the controller. They take all of the responsibility for getting things done and all of the accountability for when things go wrong. However, they receive none of the credit for when things go right.

  32. Anonynon. says:

    OMG! THIS IS MY LIFE. I went from freakishly controlling driver, emotionally blackmailing my poor bewildered passenger into playing by my rules all of the time, and leaped straight into being a pathetic no-count silent passenger, scared of making any waves and wasting oodles of time and passion on a man, who to this day, hasn’t ever spent more than twenty minutes in my home.

    Is there hope? Can I still be a co-pilot one day?

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

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

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

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