there's no shortcut to love, self-esteem first then a relationship

I often hear people discuss self-esteem like it’s something mystical and in short supply. Fundamentally, self-esteem comes down to treating and regarding yourself as a person of value. It’s about your confidence and perceiving yourself as being worthwhile.

How much confidence you have is directly linked to your beliefs because what you hold to be true about life, relationships, love, and yourself is intrinsically tied to what you believe your capabilities are in that context. If for example, you think that all relationships don’t last it’s because you don’t believe that you can have a lasting relationship. You’ll be afraid that you’ll balls it up or scare them off with your ‘flaws’ that make you ‘not good enough’.

With that lack of confidence, who are you likely to choose? A partner you can share a mutually fulfilling relationship with (a co-pilot) or someone that will take you on an unhealthy relationship journey dictated under their terms ( a driver)?

A ‘driver’ reflects your beliefs although you look for them to challenge them and love you, only for them to confirm your beliefs that you have no reason to be confident and aren’t valuable and worthwhile loving. You’ll try to change them and win them to bolster yourself – love against the odds.

With a ‘co-pilot’ that has a reasonable level of self-esteem, you’ll initially feel bolstered by their ‘investment’ in you and then because of your beliefs and the fears, you won’t believe in this relationship and treat them like a driver and act like a passenger. You’ll wonder what the hell they’re doing with you and may even lose respect for them for ‘making a bad investment’. You won’t put both of your feet in and you’ll sabotage it. When it ends, you’ll be back in your uncomfortable comfort zone.

With low self-esteem you default to being a passenger in your relationships and often in other areas of your life – you’ll look for people (and sometimes objects and substances) to create feelings in you that you don’t feel yourself. You make external sources the solution to your internal problems. You may also try to be the solution to other people’s problems to bolster yourself.

You’ll look for others to have confidence in you, to make you valuable or determine your value, and ultimately prove how worthwhile you are.

Good self-esteem requires loving yourself unconditionally – that’s loving and liking you consistently instead of it being conditional and linked to external factors. It’s acceptance instead of rejecting yourself otherwise you’ll internalise other people’s actions or something not going right.

When your self-love is conditional, when, for example your relationships end, it’ll be ‘Broken relationship, broken me’.

When people overstep your boundaries, you’ll think ‘What is wrong with me that they don’t think I’m worthy enough to respect my boundaries?’

When someone isn’t interested, you’ll think ‘There’s something wrong with me’.



People with self-esteem think ‘My relationship is broken, I’m not’, ‘They overstepped my boundaries because they didn’t recognise the line and/or they are disrespectful’ and ‘Bummer! They’re not interested. That sucks but…NEXT!’ and they also don’t jump to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with them.

Many of us think we like and love ourselves, maybe because we consider ourselves attractive, intelligent, good at our jobs, liked by our friends, able to ‘pull’ etc (these by the way, are qualities that people often describe themselves as to me) but you can tell a lot about how you feel about yourself by who you’re attracted to, the situations you engage in, how you deal with rejection/success, how deep you’ll get into an unhealthy relationship, and whether you’ll walk away – you’ll hear a lot more ‘can’t’ from someone that has self-esteem issues.

If you’ve struggled to process and act upon code amber and red behaviour and are boggled by boundaries, it’s because you’re not confident in your value and you don’t believe you’re worthwhile enough to have a line.

You either don’t know the line so can’t communicate it anyway or you do, but think it’s aggressive, confrontational, ‘scary’ etc to actually expect and even ask people to treat you with respect.

Often you’ll assume that ‘others’ get treated better because they have some magical quality, better looks, job, more money or something that has even the most jumped up assclowns in the universe automatically knowing where the line is. That’s completely untrue.

If ‘others’ get treated better it’s because they have boundaries and have at the very least a reasonable level of confidence in their value and believe that they are worthwhile enough not to put up with shady behaviour.

They say NO, opt out and believe they deserve better than what’s on the other side of a jumped boundary – disrespect.

Part of the reason why you can end up in an unhealthy relationship is that instead of learning to be confident in yourself and determining your own value, you get them to, and in knowing, even though you may deny it, that they’re unavailable too, if they do change, you think that it shows that you can change and that you’re valuable. On some level you recognise some ‘synergy’ and relate to them due to your own emotional circumstances, so by placing your confidence in them, it’s like a round the houses way of placing confidence in you.

You’ll often put them on a pedestal with potential and blindly love and trust them because you hope the overflow will swing back your way and they’ll see potential in you.

When they don’t, you not only continue to lose faith and confidence in love and relationships, but you lose an even greater amount in yourself. If even they can’t find value in you, you figure there must be something seriously wrong with you. That’s why some relationships are particularly tricky to let go of because you think ‘Hold on a frigging second here – what? Even they can’t love me?’

 

You may have spent an entire lifetime looking for people to confirm that you’re loveable, valuable, worthwhile, respectable, beautiful etc and because you don’t feel that way yet and have had various negative experiences, you may feel that the worst is true. However, it’s not true in the wider sense, but it is true of attempting to get love or validation from inappropriate sources. Change how you feel about and treat you and your beliefs and that ‘truth’ shifts dramatically.

Even if you haven’t felt this way ever before, it’s time to decide that you are worth the effort and that even if you have previously sold yourself short, that you will value you by committing to acting with self-love, self-care, self-trust, and self-respect from now on.

Self-esteem requires being out of a comfort zone where you’re not good enough.

It’s about taking previous experiences and using them as a benchmark to recognise that to continue taking shortcuts to get others to feel and do what you don’t is insanity.


Create value by setting and sticking to boundaries, opting out of inappropriate situations, refusing to go down the path of least resistance where you sell yourself short, asking questions, speaking up, treating yourself well consistently, and not believing that you’ve been singled out by the universe as ‘not good enough’.

Self-esteem is your responsibility – that’s why it has the word ‘self’ in it. As a result you and only you can build it and nurture it. Stop looking for other people and external sources to do what ultimately starts and ends with you.



Your thoughts?

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259 Responses to Self-esteem in a nutshell – When you believe you’re not good enough to drive your own life

  1. Natasha says:

    “When people overstep your boundaries, you’ll think ‘What is wrong with me that they don’t think I’m worthy enough to respect my boundaries?’”

    Nat, I had a moment of that (luckily, just a very brief moment), when my ex-AC (who is blocked on email, Fbook and cell), decided to dial me up from another number to tell me that he “just thought of me”, “just wanted to say hi” and wanted to whine about his life and the possibility of moving to the city I live in, a prospect that he used the last time as a carrot on a stick. I got off the phone as quickly as possible and reiterated that I did not want to hear form him again. I was so insulted, but did my best not to let the Drama Meter edge up! Part of this is the result of me being the Fallback Girl Who Cried Wolf for years. However, it doesn’t mean that I’m not a worthwhile person – it just means that he has no respect for me, is inclined to be an ass regardless of me and that there are consequences to the way I acted before.

    Thank you for this and all of your amazing posts lady :)

    • Allison says:

      Natasha,

      I might suggest that you simply hang up next time he calls. I think that any conversation with these types gives them encouragement.

      Good luck!!!

      • Natasha says:

        Allison, you are absolutely right! Hopefully there won’t be a next time, but if there is and I mistakenly answer not knowing that it’s an Assclown Telemarketer that is exactly what I’ll do. Thanks for the good wishes :)

  2. Fearless says:

    Excellent Natalie! it’s weird how you can have low self esteem for your whole life and not know about it! Someone said to me once after something I said which devalued myself: ‘stop bringing yourself down – there are plenty of people out there who’ll gladly do that for you’. That kind of struck a chord with me – but it has only dawned on me since reading BR that I have had low self-esteem. Am working on that now. I think it is crucial… so important to address that and I thank you for helping me see this as a huge problem- or I’d still be bewidered about what I did wrong!

    It’s funny you made this post, cos I’ve been thinking a lot on this theme today. I was explaining it to myself like this:

    We look to him for his ‘opinion’ and rate ourselves accordingly. So if he rates our value at 100% we think we’re great cos he does. If he rates our value at 25% we think we’re rubbish cos he does. And what we fail to see is exactly where he is getting his information from: he is getting his information from us! He rates us according to how he sees we are rating ourselves. If he rates us at 25% it’s cos we’ve communicated to him that this is all we believe we are worth. And when we know he’s rating us badly we look for constant validation and keep trying to get him to ‘up’ his rating – but he can’t ‘up’ his rating of us till we up our rating of ourselves because his rating info he gets directly from us.

    So, it is not him who actually decides for us what we’re worth – it is us who are deciding for him what we’re worth. And he simply reflects our rating of oursleves right back at us. How else is he going to know our value other than getting it from us! So why are we surprised then if he doesn’t think much of us when we don’t think much of ourselves. So until we love oursleves… there’s always going to be trouble?

    I think I’m so getting all this now. For a man to think you’re worth more, you have to know you’re worth more and communicate that to him. And if you know you’re worth more, you’ll walk away from crappy arrangements – cos your worth better. Well, I don’t know about anyone else but I am def worth more than the crappy EUM arrangement! I so am worth more! Even I know that! LoL

    • metsgirl says:

      That’s an excellent way to put it! In fact it would make sense now why people (not just AC) will test boundaries. They want to see how easy we’ll be to manipulate or whether we are safe (having self-love / self-respect)…

      If we fold like a cheap deck of cards then people know we don’t care about ourselves. However, an AC is an “equal opportunity” destroyer…his treatment has nothing to do with us individually…he does it because he can.

      • Elle says:

        Haha! Love the ‘equal opportunity destroyer’ term! I agree – also, true ACs react equally badly to boundaries (‘you’re not accepting who I am’, ‘this is me, like it or leave it’) as lack of them.

    • Mika says:

      Fearless,

      I’ve been working on my personal self-improvement for a year and I’ve notice I’ll occasionally slip back into my old way of thinking. I look to “him” for validation of my self worth.

      When I’m stuck in a “I-hate-myself-rut”…no matter how much he validates his love… I’m never going to feel loved or valued enough.

      The only way I can change my life is if I stop looking outside my external world and begin working on my internal mindset. That is something I still struggle with today. Thanks again for your insightful comment:)

  3. Clay Andrews says:

    I think you really hit the nail on the head here. I think one reason why many people struggle with maintaining a healthy relationship with someone else is because they place too much importance on their partner to validate them.

    Being responsible for someone else’s well-being is a huge burden to bear. Add to that the unconscious message sent out by such behavior (“I’m not good enough”), and it’s not wonder that some people tend to struggle with a happy and rewarding relationship.

    All that can change when you start to look toward yourself to find the love you desire. Once you love yourself and respect yourself enough you can naturally start setting healthy boundaries and naturally project an attitude that actually attracts people (rather than a quiet desperation for validation).

    Thanks for the great read :)

  4. Mika says:

    Great post…

    How you feel about yourself will have an impact on how you view the world and people around you. I strongly believe that the negative beliefs we hold to be true about ourselves will affect our relationships.

    Those who are in toxic relationships don’t have the self-esteem and self love they need in order to be in a loving, happy and healthy relationship. If you have an ingrained belief that you are not lovable, worthy or deserving… you will settle for relationships that make you feel anything less than what you deserve.

  5. Gina says:

    Amen, Nat! Amen!!!

  6. Fiona says:

    Thankyou for this post tonight, you don’t know how much I feel like youre talking straight at ME! I will read this post whenever I’m having a low self-esteem day and I know it will set me straight again! Thanks Natalie.

  7. Magnolia says:

    Thanks for the great reminder, Natalie.

    I remember asking a boss of mine, when I was learning how to pitch stories to reporters, to tell me how I was doing. He refused, and on a number of occasions refused to give me the thumbs up or down for a particular instinct I wanted to pursue. Look into it and you make the call. You’re building your own judgment, he said. He wouldn’t take responsibility for either my success or my failure.

    How great for us if we learn that lesson in all areas of our own lives! Should I buy these pants? The universe refuses to say. Should I take this job? No opinion. Should I date/dump/marry this guy? Look into it and make your own call. Other people might have their take but they don’t live the consequences. It IS scary when we first become responsible for our own mistakes. But then how great to also be responsible for our own satisfaction.

    Later in that job I remember telling that boss about a pitch I was working on. He was like, if you can place that story then you can … I forget … run the department, or choose his lottery numbers, something like that … something that indicated that HE didn’t think I’d ever place the story.

    Of course I placed it and he didn’t give me the reins of the department but I had the experience of trusting my own judgment even in the face of skepticism from authority.

    Now: my own judgment of my romantic attractiveness has always been quite low. So I have struggled with needing to trust my own judgment, when in fact my own judgment ranks me lower than I’d like. The challenge is you can’t just change your own judgment overnight. I have had to work to change my judgment – my esteem – of myself.

    That has meant a combination of not being so harsh on myself, as well as behaving “better” – behaving like a woman who believes she is a valuable quantity. The back and forth of risking new behaviour, seeing it pay off or not, risking another little bit, etc, is gradually changing my convictions about what kind of romantic and life success I can expect.

    It takes time, as you say. But it is worth every bit of effort to become the one I trust and value the most.

  8. colororange says:

    “When people overstep your boundaries, you’ll think ‘What is wrong with me that they don’t think I’m worthy enough to respect my boundaries?’”

    I experienced this very thing last week. One person made a comment about me not doing anything and jokingly blamed it on a girl having said it that was standing next to her. Well, that girl denied it. I thought one or both of them must have thought/said it and now they’re trying to cover it up as a joke to ask me to help with something. I was, in fact, doing my own work. I wanted to focus on it before I ran off to help anyone else. So I WAS doing something. I wondered what the heck I did to cause them to say that?? I guess I appeared like I was not busy?? I felt like it was a cowards way of saying what they probably thought. I felt, not attacked, but antagonized. I can’t stand the sarcasm! I am annoyed with people that talk to me that way and forgive me if I do it unknowingly! My knee jerk reaction is to smart off but surely there is a better way to deal with the things people say. And to not lapse into defending myself like I end up doing and feeling like “great I screwed up AGAIN. DIDN’T PLEASE SOMEONE AGAIN”. It seems like I am behaving someway to invoke this type of behavior. Why else would it happen? I see others who are treated with respect and wonder what is so different about them.

    • grace says:

      colororange
      ignore them. the only comments at work you need to be concerned with is what your boss says to you. and how busy are THESE women that they should be so concerned with what everyone else is doing? make sure your work is bulletproof. not for their benefit but your own. treat yourself with respect, everyone else can push off!
      the only thing you may be doing wrong is giving off the air of wanting to be liked/people pleasing. when they realise you don’t care what they think, there’s no satisfaction from making digs.
      it doesn’t matter what they think of you. it really really doesn’t.

  9. anoosh says:

    something must be sinking in from reading here, b/c today it has been a week since I got one of those “unfamiliar #’s phone calls” after 6 mos of NC, and I feel amazingly free of much of the heartache of the past year. the only times I caught myself getting emotional tears, I was able to snap myself out of it and think clearly — “you do NOT want to back there! enough already”, and also chalk it up to a bit of the Hormonal Highway. instead of rationalizing the fact that he lied within the first 30 seconds, to get my hopes up a little by finding some reason why that might be acceptable in a normal universe b/c of the stress of his divorce — oh, excuse me, “still very separated” — I’ve had a voice saying that it’s not even remotely an option that this person’s behavior is OK. he’s not that guy from college, or 2 years ago when he relentlessly pursued me. THIS is who he is. if I’d relocated to be with him, married him, etc., inevitably he would have pulled the rug out at some point. anyway, checking myself on self-esteem, hasn’t been so much a time of one *big* epiphany, more like a gradual process of having my eyes opened, making a lot of connections that have been elusive for decades. better late than never. ((gotta say, recently watching that UK tv series “Peep Show”, it’s not only sidesplitting, the entire thing has the *inner thoughts* of the 2 main characters who behave like the Kings of Emotionally Unavailable AC’s — it’s very enlightening!!))

    • Natasha says:

      Anoosh, since we were involved with such similar assclowns, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite No Contact Anthems :) Personally, I like to sing this in the car and really lean into the “Dont’ waste my tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!” Hope you enjoy!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbE1qz8wktQ&ob=av2e

      • anoosh says:

        ha! thx Natasha :) I need some more of these. I wish I had that kind of ‘tude when I was young, probably would’ve been much happier in life. yeah, I’ve been having a hard time listening to music, mostly into jazz and haven’t been able to listen to my fave Billie Holiday very much — still makes me too too sad. triggers memories I need to avoid, that’s one of the things me & that A/C were so into together. I hope I can go back to serious music listening soon, that’s one of my favorite and most necessary things in life. I just about lost it when Amy Winehouse passed away, listening to her stuff especially “Love Is A Losing Game”. http://youtu.be/4L9-AvjsB6g
        *oh dear, see I just watched it again, tears me to pieces :( when oh when will I ever be able to listen to Aretha Franklin’s “Drown In My Own Tears” again? or Nina Simone? I guess for now I gotta find some more of the Kicking-A**clown-to-the-curb-NC anthems! suggestions welcome.

  10. Jane says:

    I had such low self esteem in my relationship because of the way of ex AC treated me that when I look back on it now i question whether I loved him or I just didn’t love myself enough.

    I did want him to love, respect and care for me in ways I didn’t think to do for myself. My self esteem was questionable to begin with but I didn’t realise it because I thought listening to destiny’s child “independent woman” a few time a week was enough to show I was confident and secure in myself.

    I let my ex wanting to be with me validate me, so that when he broke up with me the first time, I felt like I was going to die, It destroyed me, I actually thought at one point that the reason why he broke up with me was because “I am someone that can only amuse people for a little while then they get bored.”

    When he decided he wanted to date me, i felt like it meant that I was loveable. I also foolishly thought that it meant I could have more equality and better treatment in the relationship. However, too much damage had already been done to my self esteem. I spent most of the time scared I would give him a reason to break up with me, or that he would get bored of me again. This was partly because each time my ex broke up with me he just said “I dunno, I just don’t feel the same.” then proceeded to have sex with me and call me his best friend and get angry every time i accused him of just using me for sex.

    I didn’t want to see that I was in this situation because of my own low self esteem, so every time he apologised i would be hopeful and think if he just keeps his word and does A B and C, we would be happy. He didn’t keep his word, I wasn’t happy, he didn’t care that I wasn’t happy as long as he was satisfied. he treated my feelings like a burden.

    By the time I cam across this blog, I had taken him back a third time. You see how much a person loves you or not when you finally try to love yourself and enforce boundaries. My ex fought me all the way using such gems as “I don’t see anything wrong with ignoring you” “If you act like a bitch I will call you a bitch.” “it doesn’t bothered me so its not a big deal”. I finally realised that no one in my relationship, including myself loved me. I broke up with him. I cried, got scared, went into self blame mode, anger but eventually I picked myself up and started trying to value me.

  11. Good Monday evening to you Nat. Nice new picture in the left sidebar:)

    It took me years to understand the difference between the two. I think it comes from needing to retrain the way you feel, the choices you make and how you think and respond to things.

    Choosing healthy boundaries and self-love every time, gradually you build up self-confidence in yourself.

    You are no longer attracted to hot-and-cold and making excuses for poor behavior . You know what being treated well looks like and and are not interested in staying when that isn’t evident.

    There’s no excitemnt anymore attached to bad boys, no sizzling chemistry part and parcel of the uncertainty of it all – rather, it is a turn off when someone is unavailable or not as interested as you are.

    My self-love grows in moments of consistency, and self-esteem in now something I live by to a greater degree than ever before.

    It feels really good to love myself the way I always wanted to be loved by a man – with reliable, constant, dependability

  12. SM says:

    Love this post. “You can tell a lot about how you feel about yourself by who you’re attracted to” you are right about this one Natalie. Yuck, I dont even want to think about who I’ve dated/ been attracted to. It’s time for a change, one of my coworkers wanted to set me up on a date with someone but I was busy the next two weekends. She qualified him, meaning she said he was decent looking, in nice shape and has a good career, now I know that doesnt mean anything as far as character but its a start. Anyway, I’m free now but she hasnt said another word about it so I just assumed she changed her mind and possibly didnt think ‘I’ was a good match. I’m going in tomorrow and asking her about it, I’m sure she was waiting on me to become available.

  13. Gina says:

    I really love this post. Lately… my self esteem has been put to the test and its really great to see how much ive grown…thanks to your empowerment and my will to be happy ive learned the skills it takes to love yourself… so you can be treated well…bc you wont tolerate anything less.

  14. Eternal Summer says:

    Ay yi yi! So I opted out of the inappropriate situation & am holding boundaries because I DO really want to eventually have a mutually respectful, mutually fulfilling relationship, but I have to say even though it took everything I had to be honest & tell him I was opting out…the dead silence/no response really bothers me :( I’m trying to “be with it” and not stir the pot/ go back….but it kills me (and I am HATING to admit this) that he hasn’t tried to reel me back in, chased me down, begged me back-he really has never. I’m the one who usually goes back….I’m trying to stick with “I’M not broken, this relationship is”, but after 3 years….silence? ugh….

    • grace says:

      Eternal Summer
      Yes, silence. That’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s normal.
      It’s crazy to go back, break up, go back, talk, go back, have sex, go back, be friends, go back, break up, go back and on and on and on. When you’ve broken up with someone it’s pointless to go back and break up with them again. I’ve seen dozens of comments here where the woman won’t let go because they found the breakup unsatisfactory.
      It would be like me handing in my notice, leaving, and then going back to my former boss to complain about how he treated me. Or to make some incisive point I just thought of. Or to find out what my replacement looks like. Or to see if he’ll take me back so I get the satisfaction of saying no. Call security and get her out of here!

      • Eternal Summer says:

        oh grace-haha! you are right. I want the closure “I” want, the validation, etc…yep, it’s been a rollercoaster as you described. This is core self-esteem: being peaceful that I made the right decision for me, trusting my judgement, having faith that opting out of shady relationships & holding boundaries will eventually result in have a relationship that is mutual. These concepts are so new to me! As Natalie says “I hold onto crummy relationships in desperation like they are the last chance saloon”!!!!! I gotta trust & have faith in me…:)

  15. Eva Le says:

    WOW!!! This article is so good that I am going to print it and read it EVERYDAY !!! In a nutshell, you basically described me and my fears. You hit the jackpot with being “Comfortable in uncomfortable zone”. That’s my favorite spot these days.

    I have been NC for about 5 weeks and I am also looking for a job. These two matters happening simultaneously are taking toll on my self-esteem. My exEUM and I have ended our “relationship” on a sour note. Basically, I told him off and called him a liar in front of his new gf. I finally felt like a hero for standing up for myself and for telling him how much he hurt me….. Yet that incident gives me reason to obsess, ruminate; re-evaluate my behavior while staying very comfortable in uncomfortable zone.

    I know that ACTION (like getting a job) is needed. I am just scared that I am going to sell myself short and hate myself even more ? . Every interview that I mess up is like a confirmation of me not being good enough. I also create all kinds of excuses why not to take ACTION in this matter – just graduated, not enough experience, accent, bad economy.

    I am lost and my situation is driving me crazy!!!!

    • Daisy says:

      Don’t feel lost Eva Le. I was in the same position as you a few months back, trying to get out of a desperately toxic relationship and find a job, each time I failed another interview it made me run back to the EUM, then when he let me down, any energy or confidence I had just drained away and it felt like a vicious circle.

      I found this website really good, just knowing i was not the only one in this situation, and tried with quite a few false attempts to put all the words of wisdom here into practice! I also got out and joined a few groups to help me in my job search and building back my self-esteem and found having new positive people around me to give me support has worked wonders. I now have a great new job that I love and after yo-yoing back and forth for the past nine months finally managed to end it for good with the EUM two weeks ago, this time feeling serene and relieved to move on, rather than a half-crazed loon still desperate to have him back at any cost!

      So don’t give up, you will get there. Keep believing in yourself and try to surround yourself with people who will encourage you and avoid those who will make you feel more down (esp. the EUM!) Good luck :-)

  16. Erin says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and would just like to thank you. My boyfriend and I broke up about a month ago and I did a lot of “soul-searching” and thought a lot about everything before I came back and read your posts. And to be honest… you said everything I needed to hear and realize about myself and how I respond to situations, how I view myself, how I let people treat me. I’ve been making some very good changes over the past few weeks and I owe it to your insight. Whereas before I’d still be upset over breaking up, I’m now doing things for myself — back to the gym, back to eating right, pursing my art/writing career, hanging out with friends, whatever. I am re-building me, but not because I was broken. Just because I never finished laying the foundation.

    Funny; all the topics of your recent posts seem to reflect whatever I’m thinking of when I go to read them. I was just thinking about how good/confident I feel lately and then I saw this post. :) Thank you so much, lady. You are wonderful!

  17. Ashley says:

    I’ve spent years in therapy and have been single for 6 months after my breakup, and I am still struggling with self-esteem. I sabatoged my last relationship because I had poor self esteem, and after my ex finally moved on and found someone who wasn’t afraid to commit and wasn’t always down in the dumps, I felt that I had been kicked down harder in the race to the self-love/i’m-worth it finish line.

    I’ve finally started rejecting things/situations/people that are unhealthy…but how do you start to love yourself? How? Where do we start? And how do we allow healthy people in without always wondering if they made a bad choice in us and eventually pushing them away?

    I struggle with this. I struggle with this a lot.

  18. Jennifer says:

    This is all so true! As someone who struggles with low self-esteem, I was having a pretty anxious few days this past week where I was freaking out over some guy I went out with a couple times not calling me back, but for the last few days I have felt totally fine, realizing that it doesn’t even matter because if I think my life is boring without this guy I need to figure out what I can do ALONE to make it better. Last year, before I found this site, I had a bout of dating anxiety that had me upset for months, pathetic as that is, so I am pretty pleased with the progress down to a few days thanks to the great info I’ve gotten from this site.

    For me, when I spend time with good female friends who value me, that is a good immediate self-esteem boost. I hope to get to the point where I will feel comfortable being on my own all the time and don’t need this kind of validation, but I have found that this is a good first step in helping me realize I don’t need a man to keep great company. I would suggest it to anyone in a rut of low self-esteem.

    Also, I think “faking it till you make it” might be key. Like even if I feel one day like I can’t live without an EUM or something, to force myself to take a leap of faith and not talk to him or call him back even if I kind of want to because of what I KNOW, which is that he sucks. Then hopefully the DESIRE not to engage with these guys will come if I keep doing what I know is in my best interest.

  19. chelsea says:

    whoa this weekend I experianced things that knocked my self-esteem down, this posts is like perfect timing. I really have a tough time getting past the idea that just because a person doesn’t like me or my relationship did not work is not because of me but because it just wasn’t working out.

    ive had a bad habit of putting people up on pedestals and thinking how people get it their way because they have better qualities, but I keep forgetting that by doing that I have been rejecting myself too …. because i have not been seeing my own self worth. I’m slowly working on that though! and also trying to push myself out of the comfort zone.

    btw … is there any chance you will open the forum , it would be great !

  20. Magnolia says:

    I had a thought today that I’d like to share. I think it fits with the topic of how we treat ourselves when we have self-esteem. It occured to me that until recently I have existed in only two modes: angry at myself and beating myself up; or not angry at myself and feeling okay.

    I still often behave in some ways that aren’t the most productive; some even self-destructive (innocent late night snack? social cigarette? day-wasting sleep-in?) But since I decided on my no-shaming policy, I’ve been at a loss as far as what to do to rein myself in. I do the bad thing; and then I don’t tell myself off??!! How is that supposed to help?

    Today I thought: wait. You can be angry at people you love and respect. You just express that anger with love and respect. I can be angry at myself. But still love and respect myself. Then figure out how to live with that.

    The boundary where we ‘split’ ourselves into the parent/kid, superego/ego, whatever, is so fascinating! As a parent, dealing with my own bad behaviour, and trying not emulate my real parents’ strategy of ignoring problems, I have either shamed myself or looked the other way and indulged myself. The child in me, meanwhile, is terrified of justified anger. But now, if I can separate justified anger from the shaming habit, I can learn how it feels (unpleasant!) when I in fact do displease myself.

    I can be both angry at my own behaviour, and still ‘okay.’ It’s a new thing to be able to sit in a negative emotion but still feel a sense of self-esteem. Because self-respect won’t let the negative emotion spiral into self-shaming, rather than pushing me into the fetal position, the bad feeling pushes me to be more interested in discovering what works to end the self-sabotage. *Sigh!* There may be an end to this internal cycle of trying to harshly control myself and then rebelling against the control!

    Oh, and the above goes for the most recent date with less-than-great-contact-habits-guy. I felt the familiar tug of questioning his behaviour, analyzing, etc, then realized I was avoiding the disappointing feeling that his behaviour caused. He disappoints. I don’t even think it’s malicious, but he doesn’t show the level of interest I want. Can it finally be that I get that this is no reason for shame?

    Yes! It’s all just … a turn-off. A buzzkill.

    Hallelujah!

  21. “Self-esteem is your responsibility – that’s why it has the word ‘self’ in it”

    LOVE IT!

  22. debra says:

    Natalie – Another stunning post. Self-esteem has been my Achilles Heel all my life. I have been afraid to demand too much in relationships, for fear of being told no, which is what I have heard anyway. I have used the rejection from people unable to love to reconfirm my beliefs that I am unlovable. I have consistently undervalued myself in life, work and relationships. I have let people walk all over me, believing that is how you get them to like you. And, like all good doormats, I have occasionally stood up for myself in a dramatic and overblown way, making demands and trying to get others to respect me when they have clearly shown they will not. There is nothing like someone who has eaten garbage all their life when they suddenly decide they don’t want to eat any more.

    I grew up with parents who provided material goods but no emotional support and I see now I have spent my life chasing emotionally unavailable people, desperately trying to get them to love and validate me. I wish just realizing that were enough but I have been struggling for almost a year to get to a place of really liking and accepting myself. Its getting better but is still a daily struggle, one I sometimes lose. I just can’t afford to ever give up the fight. Many thanks

  23. Therese says:

    Im glad I read this. I’ve been out of a bad relationship for a while now but I haven’t been able to let it go. He lied, cheated, showed no respect towards me and basically overstepped every boundary I ever had and the worst thing is that I let him. And took him back twice!!!! I have stopped all contact with him now (he even had the cheek to send me flowers last week for my birthday but I didn’t contact him) but Im just finding it hard letting go and moving on. I still think about him every day. Maybe its just loneliness ?? He is an asshole so Im trying to figure out why and intelligent sensible and level headed woman is acting so stupidly over someone who treated my like crap. Reading this has made me realise that yes I have low self-esteem. I find Im questioning whether ANY relationships lasts these days. Im now very cynical about marriage and being with someone long term and that saddens me. I tried an internet dating site but found that anyone that asked me out on a date I said NO to, because I was terrified they might not like me in the flesh. Im in a rut at the moment. Guess a good kick in the pants is in order. Im not sure how you start to love yourself or build up your confidence. I know thats a big issue and is holding me back but where do I start ? Do I look in the mirror every day and say I like myself ? Like you said its a ME issue and its ME that has to sort it but Im just not sure how or where to start and its kinda getting me down because its frustrating :-(

  24. grace says:

    Much needed post. So many of us have a warped idea of what self-esteem is. For me, the main difference between having poor self-esteem and healthy self-esteem isn’t so much what I think of myself – like you say, I KNOW I’m attractive, smart, whatever (yawn!) but I wasn’t able to drive my own life.
    I see a lot of waiting here – waiting for him to leave the wife, waiting for him to call, waiting for him, to break up with us because we can’t break up with him, waiting for the relationship upgrade, waiting for him to do the right thing, waiting before we can cut him off, waiting for an apology before we will move on, waiting to find out what he thinks/wants, waiting for him to change, waiting, waiting, waiting.
    I know I did it myself for years, but now it boggles my mind that I let myself be so helpless!

    • Magnolia says:

      Interesting way of putting it, Grace. I never made the connection between what I think of myself and my ability to ‘drive’ my own life. I’ve been attracted to drivers because I didn’t give myself any joy points for all the driving I HAVE been doing; I just knew I was running my own life joylessly.

      There is a woman in my life, very close to me, who doesn’t make running her own life a significant measure of her own self-worth. She is currently in prep to get married; all I have heard from her over the past couple years is about him – waiting for him to come back from his jobs away, or how amazing time with him is. Nothing about her goals outside her wedding planning. She is thrilled right now. And she may stay that way, as long as she insists (as she sometimes does) that she has no need to be a driver and is happy to be led by his needs/career/etc.

      My security comes from being able to take care of myself. Not just financially: emotionally. And that only security can attract the kind of relationship I want: otherwise I might feel like I won the lottery if I find a guy who seems to fill the void …

      … I sometimes wish she would see the danger I see for her; but … I guess she feels making this marriage happen IS her achieving her goals …

      … this issue makes me think of that blogger, Pioneer Woman. Any of you ever read her? Particularly her story Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, about her courtship by her now husband? I dunno. To me the whole thing is the exact story we as women need to confront: she gives up everything for a va-jay-jay feeling and then stresses for a few months about letting him see her without makeup and then becomes his ranch wife. But apparently she’s happy as a pig in sh*t.

      There is *still* a lot of pressure out there that tells us that the right man is the one who will make us see the error of our self-focused, careerist ways (we were so helplessly wrongheaded, sweetie!) and with one kiss have us blush and bloom a hormonal bouquet of repressed birthing and cooking and nesting instincts …

      We need to be strong, and know what we value about our own choices, so that (if we still can/want to) we can choose the more feminized/wifely caretaking roles without unquestioningly abandoning everything else to do so. We should be proud of, and joyful in, driving our own lives.

      • grace says:

        Mag
        It’s not my choice but I think a woman can have good self-esteem and still be mostly focused on hubby and home. However, she needs to pick the right man, not choose someone who doesn’t want those things and then try to make him into a breadwinner/husband of the year. It may not be my plan, but it’s a plan that works for lots of woman.
        Looking at my actions, it may seem that I was desperate for a long term relationship but in reality my motivator was a) simply to avoid rejection and b) avoid making decisions . I wasn’t that bothered about the actual relationship!
        “I can’t make a decision because I don’t know what I want/ I won’t be happy anyway/ I don’t know how to say what I think/ I can’t stick to it/ I’m scared it will be wrong/ I can’t get over a break up /I’m not used to making decisions/ I don’t know how I feel/ I doubt myself/ I don’t think decisions have anything to do with relationships – things just happen/ I can’t change the course of my life/ I can’t handle conflict/ I’m sleepwalking” etc.

        • Magnolia says:

          Hmm … I guess I judge. Figuring that women focused on home/hubby have it easier finding a man because their ambition is to be at home. (And after I posted the above, I found a very compelling iced coffee recipe at Pioneer Woman … :/ )

          ““I can’t make a decision because I don’t know what I want/ I won’t be happy anyway/ I don’t know how to say what I think/ I can’t stick to it/ I’m scared it will be wrong/ I can’t get over a break up /I’m not used to making decisions/ I don’t know how I feel/ I doubt myself/ I don’t think decisions have anything to do with relationships – things just happen/ I can’t change the course of my life/ I can’t handle conflict/ I’m sleepwalking” etc.”

          So familiar!! How did you get out of that doubt? I remember your last post – I got a job, I bought a flat, etc …

          Was it taking action in spite of doubt, for you, or did you work on yourself in any other way to feel more certain? As I write this I can guess what you’ll say …. but wd love to hear …

          • grace says:

            Mag
            Cover the basics – eat well, exercise and see friends. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re not taking care of your physical and social needs.
            Cut off all users and abusers. They only bring you down. If you can’t cut them off, set strong boundaries.
            Care less about what other people think. This comes with age, which is why studies show that older people are happier (in my opinion).
            For me, I had to get counselling to finally see the light regarding self-esteem. I had a terrific counsellor and because there were no dodgy men about (just one but I wasn’t actually seeing him, he was very peripheral) I was able to concentrate on myself for once instead of just going HIM HIM HIM. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until I’m blue in the face. The men aren’t the problem. It’s us – we don’t value ourselves enough. Unless we address that we just pick another EUM. And are prone to anxiety – what if, and what if I make a mistake, and what should I do/say/think?
            When I was complaining to my counsellor about a work situation (very similar to colororange’s) he looked at me with incredulity and said “I can’t believe you allow these people to have power over you.” If someone has power over me, what does that make me? Powerless.
            One more thing. When I was much younger I saw a psychiatrist for my depression. I was complaining about how I got bored, spent too much time thinking, etc. She said “You need to fill your life up with more things” (as in activities rather than stuff). SIMPLE!

          • Magnolia says:

            Thanks Grace. It’s so true that the basics are basics for a reason! I still have difficulty providing the basics for myself: healthy diet, routine that I can trust, enough exercise. Just last night I recorded myself telling myself (kindly!) to get the eff up and get going – five minutes of get up, get up Magnolia, this is your self-love program talking – just to work on the basic of getting up at a decent hour.

            Did the decision-making ease, then, just come naturally out of the work, as in you gradually found it easier, or did you have a period of “OMG” around taking risks?

    • AdrienneBytheSea says:

      Grace, thank you for articulating this. Waiting for the Other (the Driver–whether my mother or MM) has been a pattern in my life. The way you tied this waiting into the idea of not “driving” one’s life clicked another cog into place for me. The low self-esteem I have when it comes to interpersonal relationships has kept me from handling my own steering wheel. Of course! And the irony is that I am not helpless in other aspects of my life (I own a home, have a solid career, etc.). It’s my self-questioning/doubts: do I have a “right” to feel good/have boundaries that is making me hesitant to take the wheel in relationships. This analogy makes me see: yes, I have a license to drive my own emotional life. I CAN get behind that wheel. I MUST get behind that wheel. Again, it comes down to taking action. I am now officially in “emotional driver’s ed.” :)

  25. lizzy says:

    Thank you so much Natalie. Your self-esteem posts are such a treat, because (for me anyway) this is the very crux of the matter. After all, the reason why most of us have even given 1mm of brain space, let alone years of our lives, over to ACs and EUMs is because we haven’t felt we deserve better. I’m finally seeing the light after reading your posts and all the wise and witty comments every single day for the past year. Increasingly, the string of unworthy men I chose seem like bit-players in my own story, or a symptom of my lack of direction and lack of self-love rather than a cause (although of course most of them further damaged my self-esteem after I handed them myself and my future on a plate to do whatever they liked with).
    Long story short, the past 20something years have been a huge mess, seeing me boomerang from one unhealthy situation to the next. But since discovering BR last August, all these changes have slowly but surely started to seem not only possible but essential: I have stopped drinking and smoking, ‘knuckled down’ at work, started saving up money and generally looking after me and my future for the first time ever and actually caring what happens to me. Although I live with my boyfriend (not an AC but not right for me either, not sure how much longer it can last), I am providing my own stability, clarity, plans for the future and starting to feel an inner happiness, something along the lines of: I have someone on my side (me!) at last and it feels lovely. At the age of 42, my journey into the land of liking myself has only just begun. Thanks to you I’m not still wandering round and round the maze with no idea how to find my way out. Eternally grateful

    • Fearless says:

      “But since discovering BR last August, all these changes have slowly but surely started to seem not only possible but essential”

      Yes, absolutely lizzy! Ditto. I think people have seen a change in me already – colleagues at work casting me that second glance as if wondering what’s different about me. Yes, I have my down days, but they don’t last nearly so long; I know I need to shrug it off and get back to positivity as I am no longer willing to be a slave to my emotions – negative thoughts about myself do ME no good. I find I am now tuned in more to how I feel about me and what I can do to ensure those feelings are good. Overall I just feel better sbout myself – and most importantly, like you, lizzy, I want to find and be be my best self. I finally realise that how I feel about me can make the difference between having a good day or a shit one; it’s all down to me, and that other people do not let me know what I’m worth; I do. (and def. not some EUM who doesn’t know his arse from his elbow!).

      • Lisa says:

        Fearless you chose the right name for yourself on this blog. It is inspiring to read about what you have accomplished. I like what you said about not being a slave to your emotions and thoughts and not letting others determine your worth. I drove past a quote today that was posted in an office window; it is one I had heard before but I liked reading it today and I thought of it when I read what you wrote…”no one can make you feel inferior without your permission”.

        • Fearless says:

          Yes, Lisa -I think that one is from Eleanor Roosevelt (sp?). And it is so true. This is what we must realise. My sister said to me the other night about her partner:

          ‘but you don’t get it, if I don’t clean the house before he gets in [at midnight from the pub btw!] he’ll put me on a guilt trip’

          I said to her.’no he can try to, but the only person here who can put you on a guilt trip is you’. She keeps saying – he makes me feel like x….he makes me feel like y or z or whatever. It’s all about how HE MAKES her feel. I keep trying to get through to her that he does not MAKE you feel anything that you do not allow him to. Stop handing him your power. Just like your great quote – good reminder. I’ll use that on her!

          BTW – “Fearless” is aspirational! When I signed on BR and needed a name – I instantly thought of all the typical self- denegrating ones. First thing I thought of was “hopeless”!! I decided to switch my instinct to my aspiration – it gives me something to live up to and keeps me more focused on what I know I can be – what I’m worth fighting for! Even if I don’t feel it at any given time. It’s a self-esteem strategy!

      • Carrie says:

        I think that’s the trick Fearless.. choosing to think differently when you catch yourself doing the negative self talk. I was absolutely positive I NEVER did such a thing when I was reading up on anxiety and then last week when I started leading a quieter life (leaving the radio off, being okay with nothing to do, staying off the internet hours at a time) I started catching myself saying things in my head like “Oh that was stupid of you Carrie” or “Of course you messed that up” and I was shocked! I never realized I did that and now I’m starting to stop and instantly turn it around to something positive. There’s no secret to self esteem, it’s a work in progress, but we have to be aware that we do and say these things to ourselves and CHANGE our thinking. Fake it til you make it is definitely the way to go because eventually I won’t be faking anymore.

  26. NK says:

    So last night I bumped itno my ex EUM. Hes been sending me messages online for a few weeks and I’ve been ignoring them. Last night I choose to speak to him. He says he wants to try agian, as our first attempt wasnt the real thing.
    As I’ve mentioned before I tend to bump into him sometimes. He said that the reason he put me down and was so ‘harsh’ on me when we were seeing each other was because he knew I was going down the path of self destruction and he wanted to hault it. He said that he knew that when I started a new job I would leave him and improve my life and SELF ESTEEM. And now he is waiting for me to come back him so we can try again and he’ll show me a mutually fulfilling relationship that I craved when I was seeing him, Because we are right for each other and all of this was something we had to go through. I explained to him that he was part of my self destruction, by seeing him I was focusing on the drama between me and him and I was at my lowest and not concentrating on myself. I was going through a hard time. He says he gave me lots of advice that I needed and that he felt he HAD TO keep me around, he had to keep on seeing me, he kept on sleeping with me because he was weak….pah!
    He admits that some of his methods were wrong but says his intentions were right, now I have a ‘perception’ of him that I cant shake off, because if we got back together he wouldnt need to do any of those things again…..
    I told him that he treated me disrespectfully and that if he really did ‘care’ for my well being he would of left me and not kept the unhealthy relationship. He disagrees. He says now I am ready to be with him as I stronger and he’ll be able to get along with me.
    How messed in the head can someone be?
    I had a year and a half NC. So I am aware that It was probably a bad idea to get into this conversation with him. I am completely aware that a part of me is feeding this. But trust me when I say, I am like 10 times better than I was 2 years ago. I would of hoovered up so much crap from him then. Part of me wants to say to him ‘go on then show what you’ve got’. Just so I can see hi mfail and eat his words and I’ll wlak away again, knowing that hes a loser. But its been so long now, why am I still discussing this stuff with him? I’ve been through so much and developed so much….but I cant seem to shake him off

    • grace says:

      NK
      What do you mean by “bump into”?
      Block him off FB. Block your email. Get a new phone if you have to. You can’t shake him off because you’re still in contact with him. Yes, it really is that simple. I’ve been round this block a few times and it’s the only solution.
      He sounds like an arrogant tosser by the way.

      • NK says:

        As in ‘bump into him’ outside, he doesnt have my number or my FB anyore. I have the unfortunate experience of being in the same social circle.
        I go for MONTHS. Without even thinking about him. Then suddenly I bump into him and let down the guard, ‘forget’ about his narcistic ways and engage. It will never ever lead anywhere, I wont ever go back there, but giving him attention is bad enough.
        Its like I have to feed off this dynamic. The conversation is enough. Its wierd….its more than just trying to get over him. Because I dont have those immediate feelings for him anymore. Its just the attention, the discussion, the going round in circles……like a drug

        • grace says:

          NK
          Awkward. I would say hello and keep moving. “Sorry, can’t talk now!” or have a brief chat and if it goes too far, “There’s no point going into all that – we’re both over it. Gotta go”.
          You don’t need this “drug”. It doesn’t even do anything!

        • Magnolia says:

          NK,

          You can have a boundary around what you talk about. My exAC from 2008 (not the last bf) lived TWO DOORS away from me at our graduate college, and I would be in the same room as him almost every morning and night (communal meals).

          The last thing I said to him of any consequence was “I just want to say it, so you can never think to yourself no one has ever told you that you are abusive. You are psychologically abusive.”

          I was shaking as I said it, and closed the door in his face. It was what he got after trying to walk beside me as if we were friends after me staying well away for weeks.

          The sight of him caused all kinds of anxiety for a long time but you can be NC in any situation where you don’t share sleeping quarters. I effectively ‘lived’ with the guy and could still stop talking to him.

          He is still active in my work community and I ‘bump into’ him ALL the time. Last time was two weeks ago. He always wants to say hi; often in front of people so I can’t just say nothing without causing drama.

          Since that day, if I’m caught in verbal interaction with him, it’s: How am I? Fine. How are things? Great. What’s up? Oh, you know, life.

          I have a verbal boundary that keeps everything about me contained. Not a cell in me wants him to have even one bit of personal information that might give him the satisfaction of feeling he is my friend / knows me / things are cool between us.

          With growing self-esteem, this has become super easy to act on. The drug loses its power the moment you see the guy for what he is (I hadn’t yet felt inert about AC#1 when I met AC#2. Now I do). I don’t even care that he feigns having no idea how awful he is; he is a psycho that would only take my explaining it to him as evidence that I care, therefore still like him, therefore that he “has” me. Please.

          (Btw, this guy and exAC both have harems of low-self esteem women who tell them all about their boyfriend/man/weight/self-esteem problems. Stop the insanity, I say! We have to grab some self-esteem so that these parasites can’t feed off us anymore!!)

          • NK says:

            Thanks Magnolia,
            Im going on holiday next week and hes going to be there, as its a festival. LONG

          • Jennifer says:

            OMG the harems of low self-esteem women! I never even thought about why some men are constantly surrounded by women or realized what that was really about until I found this site. Now it’s something I notice ALL THE TIME. Scary.

          • Fearless says:

            So true Mag. My ex UEM had many boundaries about what he’d talk about. If I wanted to talk about “us” he’d close me right down. Questions he found awkward were blatantly and downright ignored. These guys know ALL about boundaries. They have one for everything! *I* was one of his boundaries: this far and no further.

        • Cinn says:

          @ NK
          “Im going on holiday next week and hes going to be there, as its a festival.” LONG

          Ugh tell me about it, it sux. My ex-EUM-narc is likely to be at a festival I may attend next week, and he cannot even be civil if we bump into each other. Our mutual ‘friends’ keep asking what’s wrong ? He totally disrespected my boundaries and tried to chip away at my self-esteem.

          The last time we were at the same festival he broke my expensive “equipment” and tried to humiliate me.

          Why should I give up the hobby I had in my life (before he joined) just cos he makes the atmosphere “stormy” ?

          Now I know what he is I won’t give him the time of day. He has plenty of others he can leech off in his harem of men and women. Staying NC is essential with these dangerous types.

  27. bovva says:

    Ouch! That one hurt! But as always, a very truthful post that absolutely speaks straight to me.. (you really DO have a knack with that Nat!)

    I really never thought I suffered from low self esteem.. and when the exEUM/AC said I did in a post breakup, rub it in letter, I was so shocked and figured he really didn’t know me even after 12 years of a relationship! That was 4 years ago, and it’s only been in the last 6 months from the most recent EUM experience that really have grasped that yes, omg, I really musn’t think much of myself, huh!! Why haven’t I trusted my instincts with dodgy a/hole behaviour in relationships when I don’t (and never have) put up with crap from my girlfriends? family?

    After being a NC graduate (v. empowering stuff) I still find myself with that slither of wanting the last EUM to ‘validate’ me and stamp me with “It really isn’t you, it’s me. I AM unavailable and that’s why we didn’t go far”. The hardest pill to swallow is the realisation that I too am EUW to be still thinking this way. AND that my self esteem is still down the toilet, even if not as much as before.. but not as healthy as it should be.

    Like others have said on here already.. just HOW do I get right out of the s-bend completely? I am a successful, attractive (wince), funny girl that has great platonic male friendships, but loses it in the translation when I am interested in someone.. all the doubts set in. I sabotage the good ones but in the past have often chosen the tossers that were wrong to begin with. At least in this last encounter, I opted out quickly after early code red and amber alerts.. of that I AM proud! But… BUT, I still wanted to be that exception, for him to be remarkable. He just wasn’t going to be because he wasn’t a good choice in the first place, right?

    All this, and the mega ex (the 12 year LTR) is acting like my best mate calling, texting, coming over.. I just feel nothing for him. Not anger, not hate, not love, not like… nothing. I want to feel this way about them all, not go through years of rubbish in order to get there. Aaargh!

  28. Machia says:

    I’ve been reading this site with great interest and would like some feedback from other members.

    I’ve been in a relationship with a guy for 1.5 years. When we were dating for 6 months, an old friend of his popped up again, and it made him doubt whether or not he wanted to be in a relationship with me, as he was unsure about his feelings for her. He had previously liked this woman, but the time frame for them to become an item was bad. When he was available, she was not, and vice versa. Anyway, he decided to cut her out of his life in order for us to work.

    We are now exactly a year later, and she has returned. Only this time around, I’m being informed that he will be her friend, and will be going to do things with her, as he ‘made his choice’ last year and is now ONLY going to be her friend.

    I have been feeling unwell about this for a few days now. I have communicated this to him, but he claims ‘my issues are in my head’ and I should simply accept the fact that they will be friends, as he will ‘not give her up again’ because ‘he still cares’.

    I’m wondering what others feel about such a situation ? Is it selfish of me to prevent this friendship ? Or am I in my right when I tell him ‘no’, and that I will not accept it. I am at a cross roads obviously, either I let him do this and stop being angry, or I cut my losses and walk away.

    A few details : on Sunday he has slipped an opportunity to spend time with me so he could be with her. Furthermore, she’s disrespectful about me to him, and he’s not stopping her from being so. Example : when she contacted him, she asked him ‘if he got rid of me’ and his reply was ‘no, because she doesn’t stress me out’. This made me unhappy, as I feel he should’ve said ‘no, because i love her, why would I.’ He is very unopen about the actual nature of our relationship to her, and I feel like he is hiding the depth of it so he doesn’t ruin his options with her. Furthermore, he went to her. It wasn’t the other way around.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I am not sure if this is ‘just in my head’ or an actual problem. But I need to make a decision, as I have been destressed for days and cannot remain in the ‘inbetween’ for much longer.

    • grace says:

      Machia
      It’s a problem.

    • aboutme says:

      Machia, please trust what your instincts are telling you, you feel uncomfortable for a reason. It is not all in your head. Please cut your losses and move on.
      I dated someone who insisted on being friends with this woman right in my face. they would work-out together in the gym, while I watched. Meanwhile this AC kept telling me that they are just friends. My gut would churn with anxiety. Now, i have come to realize that “gut churning” feeling is my body telling me that something just is not right. We women have been taught primarily by men that what we KNOW is not right, its all in our head. Anyway, that AC and woman ended up dating after we broke up.

      When a man truly loves you, he enjoys the quality time that the two of you spend together, he really respects how you feel, he does not want to see you hurt and he enjoys making love to you, etc, he simply is not going to put it all on the line for just a woman friend that he does not ever want to shag with?? Pleeese Men are not that complicated.

      Trust what you are feeling; No long discussion with him, he is only going deny everything, just walk.

    • Ai-Ling says:

      Hi Machia

      I have never posted here before but I have been following BR for almost 6 months following the breakup with my ex. While your dilemma is not similar to mine, however, having read your post, my heart goes out to you.

      Someone who wants to be in a relationship with you should provide and engender an environment that is accomodating to you. This means showing you love, care, respect and trust. This entails being able to communicate with you in a constructive manner and also to take your concern into account instead of putting you down or worst, turn the table on you by blaming and twisting the issue as though it is your problem -’ it’s all in your head’. This speaks volume of someone who is dishonest and lacks the balls to take responsibility.

      And I agree with you, someone who love and care for you would stand up for you. Besides, someone who call themselves a good friend should not be interfering in the relationship – for example by being inappropriate in asking whether he has left you. If he cares for you, he would have set firmer boundaries with this girl by pointing out to her how inappropriate her behaviour is. He should also be open and honest with you about the nature of their friendship. In not doing so, it shows that he is not completely committed to making it work with you. This for me is a breach of trust. And right there, it is a red flag. It also sounds as though that this guy has kept her in the loop as his narcissistic harem – read Natalie’s post on this:

      http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/advice-help-is-it-wrong-to-have-expected-my-ex-to-set-some-boundaries-with-his-narcissistic-harem/

      If you already have an honest and constructive discussion with him about this – well at least once and he continues to behave in a dubious manner, you have to ask yourself, what’s in it for you? It is important that you set firm boundaries. If after having addressed your concerns with him and he remains disrespectful to you, then you should walk away. As Natalie said, action speaks louder than words.

      I wish you well and remember, you are a person of value and you deserve better treatment than this. Do right by you and start living the life you deserve.

    • Jennifer says:

      Machia,
      What everyone else has said. This situation is only going to hurt you and your bf has shown you that he does not respect your completely reasonable feelings and wishes. I know it can be hard to do but take a leap of faith and walk away from this guy.

    • Natasha says:

      Machia, he sounds like an ass. She sounds like not only an ass, but an ass that isn’t down with the Sisterhood. This is a double negative situation! You deserve WAY better.

    • Magnolia says:

      Machia: ditto everyone above.
      1 – already a history of having wanted to date her
      2 – he ‘made his choice’ and she is only a friend – the way you’ve put it sounds like he wants to rub it in her face that she is not his gf (he feels rejected by her from before).
      3 – won’t ‘give her up’? that’s not platonic friend language
      4 – he lied to you to be with her and other lies? huge problem all on its own
      5 – “no, bc she doesn’t stress me out” – suggests he’s trying to control HER, ie. she stresses him/wants something but he will use you as an example of woman who ‘gets’ to be gf because you are accommodating
      6 – “it’s all in your head”: no one who is your friend says that.

      My exAC had a few ‘friends’ and I often felt he toyed with them: he’d call them up to let them know where he and I were headed for the weekend, ask for hotel/restaurant recommendations, etc. These same ‘friends’ called him after 11pm on weeknights to say hi. I think he loved watching them jump; and he got VERY annoyed when I felt uncomfortable about his way with them. Sorry, Machia, but what you’ve described is bad news.

      • Allison says:

        All of the above!

        What did he say about “feelings?” I do not have feelings for platonic friends.

        I would move on from this one!

    • kate says:

      Hi Machia
      Reread your post. Your answer is already there .
      What is his behaviour telling you ?
      Anyone who wants to maintain a relationship /friendship that was once described as “more than” is a HUGE warning sign . My ex allowed his old girlfriend from 25 yrs ago to come in and out of his life- in between his relationships and whenever she broke up with a man and needed her ego stroked , all in the name of “friendship” . He hoped for more but it wasnt until SHE decided she wanted more, got tired of the dating game, getting older, rejected. She came back “regretted giving him up” . He was in turmoil ,thought he should marry me ? They got married three months after we broke up .

      Often these men will keep another women as friends or tell you about their ex’s they have never got over just to remind you that you are not that important to them . Or make you work harder for their affection . Jealousy can often create more of an interest or desire.

      When you begin to love yourself you will see he is not lovable. Put your energies into you. Talk to a counsellor, read books , BR and do whatever it takes to put all of your effort into you. Talk about your feelings and fears. It may seem like a huge undertaking , but it is the only solution.

      You are not alone and life after ” messed up” love does get better

      take care

  29. Bewildered says:

    I have been really struggling with my self-esteem levels after finding out about my husbands secret friend. I have to keep reminding myself that in actuality he is the one who had the super low self-esteem to need two women in his life to make him feel needed. It would be so easy for me to beat myself up thinking I was no good that is why he strayed but in actuality, its him not me. I want to make this work for our family but I am really struggling with how he treated me for the past 20 years keeping this friend a secret from me. I don’t deserve that treatment and its not like he is falling to his knees with regret…I had to make him stop talking with her. Counseling is helping some but his narcissist personality is really hindering progress. I can see us spending a small fortune on marriage counseling if and when it can be all ironed out. I can clearly see how self-esteem and self confidence is key in relationships because if you don’t see your worth and convey outwardly nobody else will either.

    I am really struggling because I am afraid of conveying too much self-esteem and just pushing through the healing process and having it appear as if his secret friend didn’t bother me because I really want him to see how much pain his selfish actions have caused me and our family. I think all of the rules are broken when you are dealing with a narcissist however.

    So needed this post today – thank you Natalie, not sure how you do it but you are soooo good!!!

    • grace says:

      Bewildered
      Sometimes self-esteem allows you to recgonise a line has been crossed and there’s no going back. Not saying this is the case for you – your marriage, your decision. But if a person can’t get over an affair it doesn’t mean they have low self-esteem.

    • Jennifer says:

      Bewildered,
      I guess I’m wondering what makes you so keen to try to work things out with your husband if you suspect they can’t be worked out. As Grace said, it’s your decision, but you may want to think long and hard about staying with someone who has hurt you, who you think will hurt you again, and who creates an environment where you apparently feel afraid to show too much self esteem or feel distressed about the healing process. That sounds really unhealthy to me.

    • Allison says:

      What about the threesome from Craigslist and God knows what else. I also remember how he responded when you found out. Complete disrespect and arrogance!!! And, didn’t he continue to speak to the girlfriend for some time?

      Bewildered, is he still denying everything and making you feel as if you’re crazy? If he is not being honest about all of his indiscretions, how in the world can you work things out?

      Did you have the history on the computer checked out?

      You are really setting yourself up for more pain!

    • Magnolia says:

      Bewildered,

      You wrote: “I am afraid of conveying too much self-esteem and just pushing through the healing process and having it appear as if his secret friend didn’t bother me.”

      When you say conveying, do you mean “pretending,” as in you don’t want to seem okay with things? I agree with Grace; self-esteem is something you have for yourself, and if your actions spring from that, then yes, you will convey to others that you have self-esteem.

      In my experience, it is when we *lack* self-esteem that we do not say how we actually feel. Self-esteem definitely means speaking up when someone’s behaviour crosses your boundaries, and then taking action if talking about it doesn’t change things double-quick.

      I thought he was supposed to move out.

      • Bewildered says:

        My 21 year old begged me to dig deep and to not to make him leave – for our family’s sake. I do love him, he is on probation and we are going to marriage counseling weekly. If I do not get what I need from him during this probabtion period – I will ask him to leave for good and I will not have any regrets. Many of you won’t agree with what I am doing but it is the choice I made with my family in mind.

        I don’t mind reiterating at every counseling session that I continue to be angry because he still has yet to show me any remorse, (some web sites are calling it “coming out of the affair fog”) and he continues to be happy to put all of what happened behind a closet door and lock it. We can not fully move forward and begin to heal as a couple until we open the locked closet door and completely examine the nature of his lengthy relationship with Sarah and until we have examined the Craigslist issue with a fine tooth comb.

        I am saying what I feel, being authentic in what I want and owning my actions. I understand that his recovery will not be overnight, that is why the counselor has to proceed slowly otherwise his narcissism will cause him to freak. Hardest situation I have ever had to deal with to date.

        @ Grace maybe I will not be able to get over his emotional affair and he will have to leave but at least I will be able to say to my kids I tried.

        • ICanDoBetter says:

          Bewildered,
          I get it. I really do. Your situation sounds so similar to my second marriage, it’s uncanny. We went to counseling, and I hung in there for years trying to trust him again, because I just couldn’t walk away unless I felt like I truly tried to make it work.
          We have been divorced 5 years now.
          I also relate to the “walking on eggshells” feeling of not wanting to upset him with your own feelings of hurt. If I would bring it up, the conversation would become all about him, because I made him feel bad.
          If your counselor is also tiptoeing around your husband in order not to freak him out, that also sends a message to you, and doesn’t create a safe healing place for you. The counselor may be great at working with narcissists, but I would hope you can find your own support, so that your decisions aren’t all clouded with scaring off the beast. My ex and I went to couples counseling, but I also had my own individual counselor, and that is when I was finally able to fully open up and get some clarity.
          One thing I do know. You cannot be his moral compass. You say you had to tell him to stop seeing her. He should have done that on his own. He also wants to put the issue away and not acknowledge. Again, you are there prompting him to address it.
          My counselor said this to me, “Trust is very hard to rebuild, but every time you have to ask him about his actions, or prompt him to work on the issue, then that trust is shattered all over again. He needs to be the one doing whatever it takes to make himself trustworthy again.”
          Lastly, let me just say this. If he is dripfeeding you information reluctantly, it may never feel like you have the full story, because you will always wonder what he is not telling you, maybe you didn’t ask the right question (again, you have to prompt him to be truthful). You cannot spend the rest of your marriage playing detective to make sure he is remaining faithful. You will find that the question of “is he behaving” will become irrelevant, and the real question in the end is solely about you. “Am I willing to risk trusting him again?’

        • Allison says:

          Bewildered,

          It sounds like you are doing all the work. Curious, how does one move on with a narcissist, and why would they want to? Remember, narcissism does not go away, it is who they are.

          What do your kids know? As this goes way beyond that one woman.

          • Fearless says:

            I was thinking same thing Allison.
            Bewildered, I feel for you. The issue is not that you don’t trust him but that he cannot be trusted and is not interested in being trusted. He’s interested in gaining your compliance, not your trust. I don’t know how you work with that. It’d be like working from the ground up – no, actually from about fifty feet under, then up. Someone would have to teach this man-child what betrayal means, why his wife is entitled not to be betrayed, what trust means, why it’s important in a marriage and then make him care enough about you and the marriage to bother his arse! And… then someone would need to convince him to ditch the other bird. But there’s more to that than meets the eye – the problem is not her, it’s him. Narcissism isn’t a disease – it’s a prsonality type, and a particularly destructive one -there must have been signs before this? That the counsellor is nervous of freaking him out does not bode well, but then, none of it does. I agree with candobetter, that you may do well to seek independent support and advicethat focusses on you cos, on the subject of this post it may be your own low-self esteem needs some work, for example it’surprising that you didn’t get him out of the house – that would be an action that would drive the consequences of his behaviour home to him – and then seek joint counselling to see if there was any hope of recovery; he might have then needed to sit up and take notice. As it is, I suspect he sees the counselling as a minor inconvenience that at least allows him to remain at home. He appears not to be getting ‘it’. But then he doesn’t really need to.

        • ICanDoBetter says:

          Bewildered,
          A couple of things I wanted to add. Please be careful of the labels that can be applied to these behaviors or personalities, because we as women tend to act differently when we believe someone can’t help it. My ex-husband was labelled a sex addict…his behavior was a symptom of his “disease”…and I think that held me back from my own healing for a long time.
          Also, you mention your son is 21. I don’t know if you have younger kids as well, but either way, if you are looking to make the right decision for the “sake of the family”, I would hope you include your own welfare in that decision, too. Exactly how healthy is the state of your family right now, with your husband not taking responsibility, and you taking too much? Regardless of the age of your kids, you send a message based on how much you value yourself as well.

          • Bewildered says:

            I appreciate each and every one of your responses to my post. I have gained a tremendous amount of insight, strength and advice from you all – I can not tell anyone about this fiasco except you….my online family. Every single day is a struggle…I do have my own therapist who also helps me tremendously and thinks I am making great progress. My 21 year old knows there is another HUGE issue but I told him I was not sharing it because he would never look at his father the same way again. My 14 year-old daughter only knows it is computer related. I noticed his personality tendencies a long time ago but thought they were a direct result of his occupation – a police officer.

  30. Minky says:

    I had a bit of a self-esteem lightbulb moment on the bus the other day, when i realised how far i’d come. I used to be SO concerned with what people thought of me that it became full on paranoia, when i was 19 to 20 yrs old. The lowest point was when i’d see people laughing and joking with each other and i thought they were laughing *at me* (CRINGE!). I got through it and over the years have got better and better at not making other people’s stuff about me.

    On a packed bus the other day, these two young guys were standing right next to me, shooting glances at me, while speaking in a foreign language and laughing their arses off. For a moment i thought ‘are they talking about me?’, then in the next nanosecond i thought ‘so what if they are?!’. I nearly laughed out loud myself. :)

    Wow, that was a hard story to tell.

  31. Kimberly says:

    Natalie…

    Every post is awesome…but I was distracted by your beautiful picture! I think that is better than any written word to what happens when you follow the principles in your book and blog….You become a radiant, confident…joyful woman who brings much light, hope and love to the world…many blessings on you and yours…you touch thousands…what a gift!

  32. KimMe says:

    Natalie,
    YOU ROCK!

  33. messrollercoaster says:

    This is the first post I even did on online. This website keeps me sane after the breaking up. Thank Nat so much!
    I have been reading on this website non-stop for past 4 weeks (5 weeks NC/LC) and I still have my up and downs but I am getting sober. I felt lucky this time that I found this website on the first week of breaking up. Well, unlucky for me to NO found this website one year ago.
    Long story short. I have been invovled with a EMU for 18 months. We broke up last June b/c he wants to re-investigate on his marriage again AFTER he made sure that I fall in love with him after 7 months’s non-stop chasing! It broke my heart. But once I fall in love, it is hard to me to fall out of love, so while he is “working” on his marriage after last June, we remained “friend” (means email exchange only, not seeing each other at all) then Last November he seperated from his wife, well, the same night he moved out he send me a email and let me know right away, … of course I took him back right away. I don’t know why I was doing that. I thought he thought through and we will have future together. So after that, there are many red flags/amber signals, but I totally ignored them. Then out of blue, 8 months after his seperation, he told me He misses the cat, the house, and he felt sooo guilty to walk away from his marriage. But he didn’t say exactly he wants to give his marriage another try. the words he uses is: “I am just not a good person to be around and I want to see a T and find out what is wrong in my marrige. till I figured that out, I can’t be with anyone”. I do know that he is stringing me by saying that. But deep deep down when the pain is too much too take, I do have faint hope that he MAYBE not lying to me this time. Even though I do know if you want figure out what’s wrong in your marriage, you need both party to sit in front of your T and do the open heart conversation.
    Of course this last conversation broke my heart into pieces… At first, I think I am just not good enough for him. I dig out all the things I may not doing good enough and blame myself for that. Then graduatly after so much reading, I came to realization that it is NOT my fault that he is EMU, it is something wrong with him.
    But, it still hurts me so much. I think about him everyday. Well, not wanting to come back to him, but the thought that he is no longer in my life…

    • Magnolia says:

      rollercoaster,

      I’m glad to hear you went NC. Five weeks is an accomplishment! It does hurt, and will likely hurt for a bit longer, but you deserve better than the unavailable, flip-flapping situation you describe. You’ve done the hardest thing by breaking up; now we are here to offer support as you focus on you!

      I’ve been coming to BR for about ten months. I still have pangs about my ex but without BR I would be just trying to stuff those feelings, ashamed of them, instead of working them out here. Things do get better, and there is even the exciting possibility that this break up is the catalyst to pushing you to new heights of self esteem and awareness.

    • anoosh says:

      I sympathize with the intense heartbreak of this situation, and yes it is very lucky that you found this site. I too was pursued by an MM, old friend from school. for almost a year, he too made sure I was madly in love before ejecting out of the relationship. Up until now, I thought I’d taken the high road, b/c when it all first started as innocent rekindling of friendship, he was married and I made clear I wouldn’t consider getting involved with an MM — and so he got separated. he confided in me over a period of time about his troubled marriage, that his wife had an affair for years, which effectively ended things, that he was there only “for the kids & the house”. based on our *special* friendship, I somehow believed that we were kindred spirits, and b/c he had been betrayed so terribly, and we waited until he separated to get together, that it *wasn’t* an affair, that I wasn’t an “OW”. on paper, I suppose it looks OK. but the reality is — we got into the situation while he was married. he was NOT truly available. and that set the tone for the entire relationship. he was just using me and/or our “True Love” as an emotional airbag, a fantasy escape from the devastation of breaking up his family. but he never had any *serious* intentions about making the space in his world for a new life with me. it was all Future Faking. it’s taking more than a year for me to put the pieces of my heart together, but I didn’t have NC until 6 months ago, or Baggage Reclaim. I have tremendous guilt that his wife does not know the actual circumstances of the separation. and I see now, he was keeping his foothold with her (& the home) the entire time. it never would have worked, it took me all this time to see that. I thought we were going to be the “exception to the rule”. very naive of me, I know.

  34. Bri says:

    Is it possible for someone to boost your self-esteem and destroy it at the same time?

    I’ve had low self-confidence my whole life, so it’s nothing new to me and I’ve always been aware of it. My exMM was aware of it too, and always told me he wanted me to see the things that he saw in me – beauty, intelligence, wit, humor, insightfulness – and it made me feel amazing to know someone thought those things about me even if I didn’t agree. Despite how messed up the relationship was, I do believe that he found me to be attractive, both inside and out, and he believed in me and my dreams.

    However, by him not being able to give me anything beyond “crumbs” and ultimately never commit to me, I felt worthless and rejected and not good enough. When he’d break plans because he was “feeling guilty” or “needed space” or “wanted time to think”, I was crushed and all of those good things went out the window.

    This last rejection, which seems to be the final one, has obliterated me and I feel like I couldn’t be the exception I tried so hard to become. Even when he was dumping me, he told me how great I was and how much he admired me as a person and would always love me…but he was still dumping me.

    Now, almost 2 weeks since the breakup, all I can think about is that it’s my fault – he wasn’t a bad a guy, he said such nice things to me and believed in me so how can I blame him? He boosted me up when I was down on myself and always thought I was more than he deserved. I want to hate him and say he was abusive and an AC, but I don’t view him that way.

    He’s approached me once since the breakup but the fact that he’s maintaining NC since then makes me feel even worse about myself – did I make it so easy for him just walk away from this? Am I so unspecial that he’s not dying to talk to me the way I am to him? Was I not as amazing and irresistible as he said I was that he can “force himself to try to love his wife” and forget the love he has for me?

    • grace says:

      Bri
      A lot of what you’re worrying about has nothing to do with you or is outside your control. You being attractive, smart, etc does not make him any less married. Of course your MM knew you had low self esteem. He knew that the minute you accepted his advances instead of laughing in his face and saying “You must be joking, I don’t date married men!”
      Him not talking to you is in fact a good thing. It means he’s finally respecting the fact that you deserve more than a Carpark Lurker (who is married). You should respect that too.
      And I’m afraid two weeks still isn’t nearly long enough to get over a breakup.

      • Magdalena says:

        Bri,

        I felt compelled to comment, as you said, “Is it possible for someone to boost your self-esteem and destroy it at the same time?”

        Your *SELF*-esteem should not placed in the hands of other people, most especially not the MM sort.

        Hang in there.
        Cheers.

      • runnergirl says:

        Oh dear Bri, you sound so much like me. I think, maybe, the key to your question “Is it possible for someone to boost your self-esteem and destroy it at the same time?” may be ” Self-esteem is your responsibility – that’s why it has the word ‘self’ in it. As a result you and only you can build it and nurture it. Stop looking for other people and external sources to do what ultimately starts and ends with you.” My ex MM said the same things about me. I defined myself through what he thought about me rather than defining myself. I also felt rejected when he couldn’t give me more than crumbs. It looks like only I can build and nurture my self-esteem. But, on the bright side, building and nurturing my self-esteem has got to be easier than convincing a MM to chose me, right?

        Grace, I love your responses to former OW’s including myself. You always have a way of driving home that they are MARRIED and therein lies the problem. It’s so easy to avoid dealing with that pesky detail until they get caught, choose their wives, and throw the OW under the bus. Thump.

        So sorry Bri. Grace is right. More time.

        • Fearless says:

          Yes runner!! So funny. So true. I used to wish I could be a fly on the wall of the MM’s house to see if all the wee things he told me were true. After the horrifying truths that came out in the end, it’s just as well that wasn’t possible. I would have had to be scraped off the ceiling, my self-esteem would have fallen all the way to Australia – someone would have picked it up and threw it in the nearest bin as a piece of worthless old rubbish – and the men in green coats would have come to take me away. Be careful what you wish for! It pays to keep your head in reality.

          • runnergirl says:

            Fearless, you crack me up and give me hope. Yeah if I could have been the fly on the wall, I probably wouldn’t have stayed an OW. Of course, they weren’t having sex. What a dope I was to believe that line! A guy not having sex with somebody he is sleeping with? HELLO not one shred of self-esteem here.

            On your other post about walking…good for you. Keep us posted. I want to know when you start jogging/running. It sure has a way of clearing and focusing the mind. I have always said that I run for my mental health (not that I actually have any but I’d probably be in worse shape mentally if I didn’t run) and the health benefits are secondary.

            Good for you!

          • Fearless says:

            Thanks runner – will keep you posted! ;)

    • ICanDoBetter says:

      Bri,
      This process takes time to heal. I think we have all asked ourselves those same questions that you have, wondering how could they just go about their lives when we feel so crushed. I am glad to see you are still processing those feelings on here and reaching out, cuz we’ve been there, too. I know it doesn’t take away the pain, but I do hope it’s some comfort.
      On your question, “Is it possible for someone to boost your self-esteem and destroy it at the same time?” I just wanted to say that self-esteem comes from yourSELF, not from others. I know right now it feels like it was all him building you up then tearing you down. That is why we all come her to BR, to get some clarity and make better choices in the future. When we are dependent on someone else to feel good about ourselves, that isn’t self-esteem at all.
      One thing that stood out to me in this post was that I finally got that I am capable of building my own self-esteem, regardless of what I feel. My actions of self-care can convey a strong message to me. After all, if someone else’s actions can make me feel up or down, then my own actions can have that same power.
      Right now, it will have to be enough to just know that contact with him is damaging to you. You don’t have to feel it. And I hope the act of protecting yourself and taking care of you will eventually sink in and affirm your own worth.

      • Fearless says:

        Candobetter:

        “My actions of self-care can convey a strong message to me. After all, if someone else’s actions can make me feel up or down, then my own actions can have that same power.”

        Wonderful! Yes! I agree! – so much so that as someone who doesn’t do jogging or gym – or bugger all really!… I have now done two weeks where I have every day gone for a very, very brisk walk for at least 30 mins. Every day. Yep, every day! Doesn’t sound like much to the fitness freaks out there… but for me, the couch potato, it’s a big change. I am so pleased with myself. I am trying to build it up to a jog (otherwise I’d collapse in heap gasping and die! Lol) , and then a run. I magine. me! I could be out running in a monthe or two! What a turn-up for the books that would be! Yes, our actions have a big effect on the way we feel about ourselves. Hoooray! It can be done!

        • Magnolia says:

          Fearless – walking is great! As is my fave, the walk/jog. I was going to say you’ll soon have to change your name to Fitness – but we already have a fitnessfreak! Congrats.

      • Michelle L says:

        Bri,
        Love grace’s “Carpark Lurker”. Guess I have a Carpark Avoider. My MM said wonderful things too. The last time we saw each other (except for when he was hiding behind some trees by the parking lot) he said to me “I have never been happier in my life than when I was with you” and “no one will ever touch me like you do”. It’s been about a month for me and now I just think those words seem cruel. Like he was messing with my mind and not being respectful.

        This comment from the post hit home for me:
        “When people overstep your boundaries, you’ll think ‘What is wrong with me that they don’t think I’m worthy enough to respect my boundaries?’”

        After we had been intimate and then he told me, “well, actually I’m still in the marriage” I looked at him astonished and asked him if he thought that no other man would want to be with me, else why would he do such a thing? I actually couldn’t believe that he thought so little of me, and it was a glimmer of hope that my self esteem is building. Not that I don’t still wonder if he is thinking of me, but now I realize I am just seeking his validation. It’s not going to come from him. It’s only going to come from me.

        Hang in there.

        • grace says:

          Michelle
          Brilliant. You think you’re having the Romance of the Century and it ends with a bloke hiding behind some foliage.

        • Fearless says:

          Michelle,
          I think that you now see that your sense of self worth can only come from you, things can only get better. I think we place so much importance on the great things they SAY about us (like those you mentioned), as if once HE – the great oracle and font of all truth – has said it, it is then carved into granite for all eternity!! We are then thrown to the four winds when he tells us how we are the source of all his love and happpiness and then, almost instantaneously – nothing. Zilch. Nada. And we torment oursleves with how much he meant it and if it was all lies. Try this: he meant it when he said it.

          But he hardly knows what he’s saying and how long his felings will last. He is full of his own bullshit just as we are full of ours! They live in and for the moment. They are fickle and transient and their feelings and words are laregly fleeting. This is why we must focus on what he does and not what he says. It’s up to us to see through this and not put all our eggs in his one wobbly basket with a hole in it. Our eggs get smashed and then we torment oursleves about whether or not he lied about the basket. His basket is just no use. That’s the touble.

          • Minky says:

            Absolutely, Fearless! Even if you do end up with a decent bloke who says what he means, but you don’t have good self esteem, when they do tell you how wonderful you are and act like you mean the world to them, the voice of doubt still creeps in and says ‘ah, but does he STILL mean it today!?’. Especially if you’ve been involved with an AC – it makes you paranoid. The self fulfilling prophecy gets ingraved even more deeply into your soul. You wait for the other shoe to drop. You still play Columbo and obsess! This is with a perfectly decent guy! This is why Nat says we have to love ourselves before anyone else can.

            SELF-esteem! Self, self, self! I need this tattooed on my forehead today – not having a good day due to too many stresses in life. Rather than focusing on the matter at hand, i’m inventing nonsense scenarios in my head. Doi!!!

    • Magnolia says:

      “Is it possible for someone to boost your self-esteem and destroy it at the same time?”

      Yes, yes, yes. Actually, thank you for putting it this way because that is what happens and you’ve helped me see it very clearly. Why else do you think pimps look for girls who are desperate for a shred of love? The guys build the girls up, make the girls dependent on them for the boost, then eventually pull it away so she only gets his “boost” when she does other things he wants: give him money, sell herself, etc.

      MM gives you the boost and hooks you and yet has you participate in a situation that is all extras for him and devaluing to you.

      My exAC “always told me he wanted me to see the things that he saw in me – beauty, intelligence, wit, humor, insightfulness” — it’s part of the mindfuck. It’s a lie on his part: not a lie that you are those things, of course you are. It’s a lie that he wishes you’d see that in yourself. If you did, it wouldn’t send you over the moon to hear it from him, you’d be sent to the moon by other qualities in a man, and you’d be able to gauge a little more clearly what kind of person is telling you things you already know.

      Did you ever read Natalie’s article about the self-worth rollercoaster? I might be getting the title wrong, but it was a look at how up and down we feel when we place the power to make us feel beautiful, valued, worthy, etc. in a source outside ourselves – ie. in the hands of another person.

      Falling in love should not be based on being totally amazed that someone found us worth falling in love with.

      My ex “boosted” me, too. It was funny, when he would tell me how great I was, what I really felt was him paternalistically telling me I didn’t know my own mind. I always thought to myself, if you think I’m so great, why do sometimes treat me like you really don’t?

      I always thought people don’t really like me. So I picked one that really didn’t. (Despite what he tells himself, and told me.) Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.

    • Fearless says:

      Bri,
      If we turned the clock back twenty years your MM comment could just as easily have been written by me. Cringe.
      Here’s what I learned:
      1. He does NOT NOT love his wife. He has simply been all taken with you. Temporarily! You said his wife had found out. Well, if you’re fearful of losing him, imagine how she feels?
      2. He has been having sex with her too.
      3. He has been telling you a lot of lies. Not necesarily about how he feels about you. But his homelife. He has told you want you want to hear about that.
      4. If his wife knows about the affair then it’s over, for obvious reasons. He has had to bite the bullet and that’s what he’s doing. He is married and wants to stay that way. Accept it. Respect it. This is NOT all about you, your needs, your feelings, your low self-esteem and hunger for validation. That’s what I meant when I said that the OW takes a very self-centred view of the whole thing.
      5. If his wife does not know about the affair yet then he is finally trying to do the right thing. Let him. Try to entertain the idea that perhaps you should do the right thing too – even if it hurts. The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are often one and the same. And hep him to do it.

      Re this: “Is it possible for someone to boost your self-esteem and destroy it at the same time?” Yes. If you let them. But it’s very unfair to dump responibility for how you feel about yourself on to ssomeone else That’s your job. You need to attend to it or you are well stuck – you’ll spend your life at the mercy of this man and the next and the next… the sad truth is that you told him what your value was when you entertained the affair, now your complaining about what you told him. That’s the way it goes.

      • Fearless says:

        Bri,
        I read my comment back. It sounds harsh. Sorry. I don’t mean to be. I was where you are many years ago. For all the world we could have been seeing the same MM. Mine went on for two years as well. But you’ve got to hear it, Bri – and straight up, no frills. Keep reading BR. You’ll get there in your own good time.

        • Bewildered says:

          Bri – Feel free to ask me any questions about what MM say to their wives when their affair is discovered….trust me you are getting good advice from the others on BR.

          • Bri says:

            Bewildered,

            I know this sounds hypocritical right now but I’m so sorry for your pain. While I’m in the exact opposite position as you, we’re both still human and we still feel pain and loss and rejection. I was thinking about what you said regarding telling me things husbands say to their wives about their OWs and I honestly couldn’t handle knowing right now – the thought of him reducing me to a “coworker” or a “friend” undermines everything I and we went through…and it’s just more lies to save his own ass, maybe to keep his wife from feeling more pain. What sucks is that no matter what, these guys win – for a while, they had the love of two women, and at the very least come out with one option or the other while the women in the situation are hurt no matter what. I know I brought a lot of this on myself as I knew the risks, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

            I hate that you’re hurting and I’m sure we could both swap some pretty heart-wrenching stories from either side of the fence. I do still love him and it’s hard to know he has a chance at happiness with someone else while I drown in my tears, BUT I will never get into a relationship with an MM again – not only can I not go through this again, I can’t put anyone else through it either.

          • Bewildered says:

            No one is more self-centered and lacks more human decency than MM who think they are entitled to a wife and an OW. I so get that OW are lured in by them, given false stories and false hopes and I do completely sympathize with you and Sarah (her world is probably in complete dissaray now because of him). I am sure some marriages are truly toxic but ours wasn’t….he just needed to be needed by two people. I am told it was only emotional….but we would spend all night cuddled up together in bed, I would get up to go to the gym (I keep myself in good shape), kiss him and wish him a good day, make coffee so its ready when he got up, make his lunch and an hour later he would be on the phone with Sarah. Still sorting it all out but you can believe me our mornings are not the same anymore and he still just doesn’t get why! Nothing good can come of this for you – you need to muster every ounce of strength and want more for yourself than being an OW. We made a committment to these men, a sacred vow to love them not matter what, had children with them, we have history, extended family with them, we combined assets with them and will be connected to them like it or not for the rest of our lives. There is no winner and no looser (except the MM of course who may loose both of us) just broken hearts because of one mans complete and utterly selfish desires and actions.

  35. runnergirl says:

    Thank you Natalie, another brilliant post. I confused common interests with core values. Now I can see I also confused externalities like being
    “attractive, intelligent, good at our jobs, liked by our friends, able to ‘pull’ etc (these by the way, are qualities that people often describe themselves as to me)” with the fundamental concept of self-esteem. As a super Type A (daddy issues), I’ve driven myself to be what folks expected me to be and never gave a thought as me, let alone self-esteem. I’ve let others define me my entire life. Crumbs. I know it’s not too late to develop self-love, respect, and self-esteem but it feels frustrating to realize this at 52.

    You mentioned in this post the “synergy” between EUM and AC’s and FBG’s. That’s what I found so striking in your book Mr. U and the FBG. There was a synergy with every EUM, AC, and most recent ex MM that I have been involved with. Everyone of them reflected something negative I believed about myself. Mistakenly, I figured if I could turn them around, I would turn me around.

    I’m feeling at a bit of a loss after reading this post. I know I can turn things around for me. It seems so daunting though.

    “On some level you recognise some ‘synergy’ and relate to them due to your own emotional circumstances, so by placing your confidence in them, it’s like a round the houses way of placing confidence in you.”

    • Bri says:

      Runnergirl,

      Wow, you are so right. Even if my exMM didn’t directly tear down my confidence (other than by “rejecting” me), there were traits he had that I hated about myself. He was also depressed and anxious, like me, and lacked self-esteem and perhaps that’s why I was attracted to him. Not only was I drawn to a reflection of myself and I felt like it was something we had in common, but I also wanted to save him instead of saving myself. I wanted to make him better to make myself feel better.

      When we broke up, my MM told me that he’s never given anyone what they needed – not his wife, not his kids, and certainly not me. He said that he’s been so wrapped up in his own head that he’s hurt others and “left destruction in his wake.” Well, he certainly destroyed me. It was odd though – throughout our relationship, sometimes he’d mention things he liked about himself and then other times he’d tell me how lame he thought he was, that he was nothing special and he always worried I’d find someone “better” than him…and I worried the same thing.

      I think now is where the “her vs. me” mentality comes in where I compare myself to the wife. He says he’s not in love with her, but has to try to be for the kids, and I start wondering if that’s possible. I think, “What does she have that I don’t? What’s so special about her that after all he told me, he’s still there? Is this really just about the kids like he says?”

      I’m also CONSTANTLY paranoid that he’s going to take up with someone else on the side and it won’t be me. I think that would really do me in – it’d make me question everything about myself and my ability to be loved. I know it could just be a fear, but it consumes me.

      • grace says:

        Bri
        What does she have that you don’t?
        She’s married to him for a start. And is the mother of his kids. He can’t break up with her. He would have to divorce her (cue: division of property, lawyer, courts, custody battles, visitation, child support). To break up with you, all he has to do is whine a bit and accost you in carparks.
        You persist in your denial of the fact that he is married and making this all this about you.
        I get it, I used to forget that my MM was married. Doh!
        He’s married. That’s not a small thing, Bri. It’s bigger than you. Yes it is!
        Please don’t tell me that at your age, where you live, and with your talents that someone else’s husband is your best bet!

      • Jupiter23 says:

        Hi Bri,

        I’ve posted on this blog sporadically for a good four years (just so you know I’m not popping out of nowhere giving advice).

        I just want you to know that right now you’re consumed with questions and replaying and wondering. (I used to wonder–a few years ago–if my exEUM would fall in love with and change for the married woman he had a brief affair with while we weren’t together (He didn’t). What was so special about a married woman that he would sleep with her instead of someone, anyone, who was single? Thoughts of this consumed me for months.)

        You’ve gotten great advice so far and it’s early on for your breakup. But I want you to know that the replaying, the questions, the thoughts about this MM will eventually slow down over time; they will fade. Be kind to yourself in the interim.

        Know that by not seeing him, your life will be better. I don’t know you but I KNOW–even if you don’t at this moment–I KNOW that your life has more potential right now, at this moment, then it has ever had while you were involved with this MM. You will get past this, and one day you’ll look back and wonder why you ever even liked this guy. It will happen and believe in that day. Be strong.

        Jupiter

      • Fearless says:

        Bri:
        “What’s so special about her that after all he told me, he’s still there? ”
        For the answer to that maybe you should question what he told you not why he’s still there?
        “Is this really just about the kids like he says?” No. Of course it isn’t. It’s about his life. And you should really focus more on yours, not on his life and how it coulda woulda shoulda affect you.

        You seem to be an awful wallower, Bri, who does a lot of navel gazing and a lot of talking and writing about your feelings (I looked at your website) but not to much avail in actually helping yourself improve your position in driving your own feelings about yourself and getting in control of your life and your emotions. For what it’s worth coming from me, try to get away from this seeming drive for victim status and try to take action instead of being the ‘woman who talks and thinks too much’ (Nat’s phraseology), try to act. It’s good to talk out your feelings with people and to keep a journal – but for the purpose of enlightenment and change not for wallowing and staying stuck. I have a distinct feeling that change and improvement will only come for you when you look up and out from yourself and your navel and take *action*, action to shift yourself over to the driver’s seat of your own life and emotions and take over the wheel. Good luck, Bri.

        • Bri says:

          Fearless,

          I know you’re right, wallowing in my pain won’t make it go away; instead, it actually consumes me and is all I can think about. I’m obsessing, and letting it define me.

          I guess my question is, how do I get out from under it? What can I do to shift my focus from the affair and the breakup and HIM and onto myself and getting over him and moving on with my life? I feel so stuck, especially because I still have hope he’ll come back, and NC is harder than I ever thought (I know you’re gonna yell at me for that one). My emotions take the driver’s seat instead of my logic.

          How did you do it? You seem so strong and empowered, I fear I just don’t have that in me.

          • Fearless says:

            Bri,
            I ‘m not going to yell at anyone! See this part:

            “How did you do it? You seem so strong and empowered, I fear I just don’t have that in me.”

            Bri, I have taken a year to get where I am now – and I ain’t done yet! I finally looked for help to deal with an entrenched flip-flapping go nowhere totally rejectionable barely there relationship with a what I call an EUM. I was stuck in that situation for ten years. Yes, ten – on and off and on and off and on again and off again till I wa going half crazy! I turned 50 years old this year. I have never married or lived with a man. I have a daughter now 22yrs from a man who rejected me then and have suffered rejections ever since – though I never dated many men, the ones I did want to date I fell for, held on like a dog with a bone and suffered for my bad choices and failure to do what I am offering you advice about now.

            How did I get here now? I wanted to.

            Then I found Nat’s site. I read and I listened and I moaned and groaned and gave Nat a headache. But I wanted to help myself. Badly.

            Bri, here is what I think is the problem: I am a big talker. And a pain in the arse! But I can also listen. I think you are a talker (also in your own head – I’m guessing there’s a lot of endless circular internal conversation… lots of white noise? Shut it down. Get in control of what your talking to yourself about)

            You are here on BR asking what to do? Step 1: read BR.

            Get Nat’s books and *listen* to Natalie – read her blogs… and *listen* to what she is saying.

            Others have said it’s early days for you. And this is true. So do not expect too much too fast. Just start to get the message – a little bit at a time. But start. Getting to the top of a mountain starts with one step. Up the way. Good luck!

          • Allison says:

            Bri,

            If you have the attitude and belief you are weak, you will be weak.

            Get out of the house and keep busy. Try volunteering, take classes , join a Meetup group, yoga, dancing etc…. Do something! It’s time to take some control of your life and stop using this sorry excuse of a man, as a reason to stay stuck. You’re choosing to stay in this miserable situation.

            Make an active change!

          • Michelle L says:

            Bri,
            One possibility is to take up something new that would give you a challenge and therefore build self confidence/self esteem, as well as distract you from the feelings.

            Today I signed up to learn Chinese and just the act of signing up for the class made me feel much better!

          • grace says:

            Bri
            I’ve had to take antidepressants and see a counsellor to get over breakups. I’m not saying that’s for you, but don’t imagine that I found it easy. It was as hard for me as it is for you.
            I was reading a diary entry from exactly a year ago. Exactly a year ago I was crying myself to sleep over a MM, and immediately thinking about him as soon as I woke up in the morning. I had anxiety at work, and had to run to the bathroom to cry. I had heart palpitations. I kept telling myself repeatedly how much I loved him.
            Now 12 months later I am so completely over it I come on here and give you a hard time because I’ve forgotten how much it hurts.
            That’s the wonder of BR and NC!
            By the way, I’m not on commission but the ebook “Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl” was very helpful. It’s good to be able to sit down with it and concentrate for an hour or so rather than skipping around the internet with half a dozen windows open (or maybe that’s just me).

      • runnergirl says:

        Thank you all for your comments to Bri. If you don’t mind, I’m hoovering up all of your comments because they are spot on for me as well. I’m not sure if these guys are a reflection of ourself rather they could be a reflection of some of the negative things we believe about ourselves at the time. And oh dear Bri, your last paragraph struck a chord and exemplifies everything Natalie and the others have said about cheating MM’s: You can’t trust them because they are liars. You said: “I’m also CONSTANTLY paranoid that he’s going to take up with someone else on the side and it won’t be me.” That’s a trust issue probably not good for your self-esteem. When the exMM got a new job and was out of town 4 days a week, immediately the distrust started. If he could creep around with me behind his wife’s back, he could creep around with someone else behind my back and since he was out of town it would be easy. Your comment made me remember that yucky feeling.

        We do have it in us because actually we don’t have a choice now. They were caught and are probably on lockdown. If you read about how marriages survive infidelity, the first thing is that the MM has to cut it off totally with the OW. That’s us. Then in order to attempt to rebuild the breach of trust within the marriage, the wife must have access to all cyberspace accts, telephone records, and the cheating MM must be accountable for all of his time, including runs to the grocery store. He must also show remorse and regret for his breach of trust and deception which is what Bewildered is refering too. Our exMM’s must be consumed with their issues right now. Thus, we now need to be consumed with our issues. I’m starting with my SELF-ESTEEM. Magdelena’s self-love wheel is a fabulous visualization. I didn’t realize how many words their were for self. It’s still early for you but like Fearless mentioned, I have a tendency to wallow and ruminate. It doesn’t help that I’ve got a shitload of time on my hands for the first time ever in my life. I don’t have even work to distract me from myself. My head rationally understands but my heart keeps breaking as I realize this is F.O.R.E.V.E.R. He’s MARRIED. And when given the ultimatium, he chose her. I have no choice but to choose me. I’m just going to have to drag my sad, sorry, broken heart along.

        • Fearless says:

          Runner:
          “My head rationally understands but my heart keeps breaking as I realize this is F.O.R.E.V.E.R. He’s MARRIED. And when given the ultimatium, he chose her.”

          The thing to get your head around is that he didn’t choose her. He just didn’t change his mind about her – or the life he has built up and invested in WITH her. What he chose was not to change his mind about her and make himself available to *possibly* choose to be with you. If the MM decided to end his marriage – that’s when you become *an option* for him – a possibility. But only a possibility- nothing more than that! If he did end the marriage, he and the OW are then faced with a wholly different scenario, i.e. he desn’t need to have an affair anymore – he can do what he likes, see who he likes, when he likes; and this is whole other set of circumstances – ALL his options are then open and the options he takes may not be what the OW imagines, i.e. a happy-ever-after for her! There are more layers here than the OW can grasp at the time – it’s all a gamble and all the odds are stacked against you whether he stays married or not. It’s like throwing yourself down Niagra Falls in a barrell and hoping for the best!

          The OW sees everything from her own blinkered perspective, which is that she is on a level playing field with the wife waiting to be chosen. OW is not even on the park yet! Not even on the substitute bench! This is what the comments here mean when they keep re-iterating that he is MARRIED – i.e NOT available to be doing any “choosing”, or any rejection for that matter. Nataile is spot on with her belief that it is us who do the choosing here – we choose to chuck oursleves down Niagra Falls in a barrel, and in doing so we *reject oursleves*, we fail to choose us (and then we wonder why he doesn’t choose us, when he is not even in a position to do that! We are – and we don’t do it.) I want to make a comment on the “FOREVER” thing – but have banged on long enough here for now.

          • grace says:

            fearless
            exactly. the MM of many moons ago left his wife “for me”. Then dumped me three months later over another woman. HA!

          • Fearless says:

            Blogger hogger here again – Re runner’s comment:

            “My head rationally understands but my heart keeps breaking as I realize this is F.O.R.E.V.E.R.”

            I’ve had serious peroblems with the forever thing. That’s one reason I kept returning to the crap with the EUM. I could stay away for so long but I couldn’t handle the notion of “forever”. Nat warned me that I hadn’t drawn an emphatic line under it all and so was still clinging any shred of hope. An emphatic line = forever.

            I am handling “forever” much better now. I think because I don’t think about it in “forever” terms anymore – not for more than a moment, and only if I unconsciously find myelf experiencing the “forever dread” – but it’s now a feeling more than a conscious thought and I quash it as fast as I can. Here’s the things that seems to be working for me:
            1. I know I need the ‘emphatic line’. So I draw it. I don’t connect it with the word “forever” though – not in my conscious thought. I draw it every day. So long as I draw the line today and every day this week – the line is drawn. The next week will take care of itself. If I feel a bit squiggly about the line; I recognise that and I draw the line again – emphatically. Today. What I become more and more confident about is that I *can* draw that line. Not just today, but every day. And as every day goes by the line stays in position more and more easily without my help.
            2. “Forever” is just a word. It’s not something that actually happens, or happens to you. Forever does not hit you with a thud out of the sky. It helps me not to worry about forever – forever is merely a concept not a problem; so long as I can take care of ME in the present “forever” can take care of itself. Worrying about forever just keeps you stuck in the past and rejecting your present.
            3. And… we live in a series of “todays”, a series of “presents”. We always occupy the “present”, never the future. The more you choose YOU; choose not to reject YOU; choose to belief you deserve better than some crap arrangement from a man the more your present looks like ‘yours’ to live – for you – the more your future will be yours and “forever” ain’t so scary if you see your future as another word for “right now” and always, every day, make “right now” all about you – not him. So “forever” is sorted then.

          • runnergirl says:

            Fearless, Magdelena, and Bewildered,

            Thank you Fearless for the reminder to live in the present rather than the future (forever) or the past. Forever is just a concept. I forgot. My therapist had to remind me too. I constantly worried about the future as though today didn’t matter. It’s like pulling your foot at the plate to continue the earlier softball analogy. I did it as a kid and after 15 years of not playing softball, when I started playing again as an adult, first thing I did was pull my foot. The ex MM spotted it right away. Old habits die hard.

            Bewildered, I was totally moved by the compassion in your response to Bri. I want to give you some cyber support. The hurt caused by his betrayal must be tremendous, let alone the blow to your self esteem. Hopefully, you are able to take some time for self care and self love. Natalie was so right when she said that there may be nothing wrong at home to cause a MM to cheat. Every time you describe what you were doing at home while he was on the phone with Sarah, I cringe thinking the same thing was probably happening with his wife while he was with me. His wife’s life must be turned upside down. Sure wish I could apologize to her but I know that it wouldn’t do any good and it would only be an attempt to alleviate my guilt. Take very good care of yourself and your son and daughter.

            Magdelena, if there is any way possible to see the self esteem wheel, I’d love it. I’ve thought a lot about it and your suggestions regarding actions that correlate with self esteem, self love, and self care. The concepts seem so vague and unfamiliar to me. Your concrete examples of behaviors and actions that can be implemented on a daily basis are really helpful. May I copy it into a word doc? Thank you for sharing. I’m going back to re-read your post and implement one right now.

            Don’t know where I’d be without BR and all of you wonderful people. Damn these EUM/AC/MM’s.

        • AdrienneBytheSea says:

          Runnergirl, I kept thinking of that Stevie Nicks’ song: “My Secret Love (Secretly Died)” while reading your post. I also kept thinking about how self-esteem is linked with self-trust. If we don’t feel good about ourselves, we don’t trust ourselves to take care of US. We don’t trust ourselves to get out of dodgy situations, to just turn away and walk (or run like hell). I didn’t trust, deep down, my MM either, not fully, if I admit it to myself. Because he was a liar (I even caught him in a few lies, but never said anything). But everything OUT THERE about HIM was really a reflection of what was going on with me internally (and is still going on with me, as I am definitely a work in progress). Due to shaky self-esteem, I didn’t trust myself to do right by me and that lack of self-trust was projected onto HIM. Bottom line: what was the truth? But does “the truth about him” really matter? I have asked myself this in the last 3 weeks of NC. And my answer is no. The only truth that matters is about mySELF — my SELF esteem, my SELF trust. I understand what you are saying about distraction. My time as the OW was exactly that–one big distraction away from deep issues in my life. And, oddly enough, the MM brought out ALL of my stuff I finally need to own and work on, so in the end, I cannot be distracted anymore. The lesson HURTS but it has cleared the fog of distraction and self-delusion. I’ve been a bit on the shaming and self-recriminating bandwagon this last week, about how much time I wasted distracting myself from my own life. Got to let that go, too. It’s been painful realizing that our relationship is finally over. Forever. But the “forever” relationship with myself, I am now realizing, is the most important one of all.

          • Fearless says:

            Adrienne – great comment. Yes. I agree and love the way you have expressed that. I handle the “forever dread” by livig for myself in the present and so I am getting more and more confident that I CAN trust myself to take better care of myself (stay away from barrels and waterfalls!) and that:
            “the “forever” relationship with myself, I am now realizing, is the most important one of all.”

            Yay!

            I think part of the problem with the OW commentators here is that they don’t see their MM as an EUM or an A/C and so they have trouble connecting all the comments here with “their man”. It’s like their romance is somehow “real” and healthy and has potential for a wonderful future etc., it’s just that ithe romance has had to be played out in unfortunate circumstamces, so I think they perceive that many of the comments or blogs etc here do not apply to them. The MM is an EUM and the fact that he’s also a cheater who’s exploiting and even manipulating the lives and emotions of two women, one could argue makes him something of an A/C as well. The OW is not having problems that are coming from a “good place” or having trouble cos her well intentioned man is such a caring and principled father, a man with values and integrity who is honourably attending to his responsibilities. Self-evidently he possesses none of these qualities. I hope that point is worth making.

          • runnergirl says:

            Fearless, Andrienne, and Grace,

            Thanks so much for your insights. Fearless, of course, he wasn’t in a position to “choose” me and he didn’t change his mind about his wife and family. You are right about having a blinkered perspective and the B-ball analogy finally got through (I play softball). I guess in that blinkered OW way, I imagined I was riding the pine, playing a couple innings, and would one day get chosen to play in the big game. Christ as the OW, I can see now I wasn’t even at the park. I can’t believe I chose to flush my self-esteem instead of him. It’s been a hellva bumpy ride down Nigra Falls in that barrel. I’m going to have to go to Australia and fish my self-esteem from the rubbish bin. What a sap. But thank you. Ouch.

            Adrienne, funny you mention Stevie Nicks. As I was writing my post I was thinking of the song “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”. I just listened to “Secret Love”…yup, although I cringe at the word “secret” these days. You are right about the connection between self-trust and self-esteem and everything out there about him was/is a reflection about me. Your comment made me think about the dark OW times. That was really my stuff trying to come up but I would stuff my self esteem, self trust, and self love back down and carry on with the distraction of him. It was like trying to hold a beachball underwater. During those dark times, I thought I was drowning and I probably was as I was holding myself underwater. I really like the vision of the forever relationship is with myself.

            I was on the shaming, self recrimination bandwagon for a while too. I’ve tried to turn the shame into accountability for my role in decieving myself, friends, family, and his wife and family.

            There are more layers here than an onion. I never considered that if he left his wife he would be free to pursue other options, other than me. What a knucklehead! Sorry Grace. Thank you ladies.

          • Magnolia says:

            Comment from the bleachers, as I haven’t been an OW, though have been solicited to be:

            There is a lot of discussion here about how they, MMs, are liars. My exAC was a liar, for sure, and it made me feel exactly as you describe; I never knew if he crossed the line with any of his harem – when I think now of the few times I started seeing the condoms he was carrying with him, when we had just decided not to have intercourse for a while, b/c of trust issues! – man.

            Lately I think about the idea of ‘like attracts like’ and Nat’s post on the traits of our exes that show us something about ourselves.

            If I’m honest, I was SO full of shit. I didn’t like him. I never really liked him. What I was, was *thrilled* someone “like him” would date someone “like me.” That was thrilling. If I hadn’t felt so special, so (externally) boosted in my self-esteem by his attention, I would have been much freer to tell the truth: he is a self-absorbed bullshitter with a Napoleon complex with no talent for appreciating good character. I was a big liar in that relationship, too! Talk about blowing sunshine!

            I just wonder, when I hear everyone’s talk about how ‘in love’ they were, I’m like – really? If you take away the part where you felt *grateful* or *lucky* that this man, who represented something other to you than just some dude, was into you, did you even like him?

            I still have pangs but now when I do, I say; oh, I SO wanted his status and lifestyle. I SO wanted his status and lifestyle – so much fun, power, fascination. And I mourn the dream of having had that. But I’m done mourning HIM.

          • runnergirl says:

            Hey there Fearless and Magnolia,

            Fearless, based on Natalie’s post about being the exception to the rule, I agree and great point, worth making. By definition, a MM is EUM because they are married. I made that comment on that post and Natalie confirmed. OHHHH, do I connect all the comments here with my experience with the exMM/EUM and I’m so grateful. Based on Bewildered’s profound post, I’d say my my ex MM/EUM was most certainly an AC of the highest order. Taxonomically, when I use MM, I’m assuming EUM and AC are subsumed within MM, at least in my case.

            Bringing this back to me rather than how to classify him, I had to unavailable with zero self esteem to become involved with a MM in the first place. Like Magnolia, if I dig deep, I was attracted to the apparent status, power, and lifestyle. An external ego boost because I was unavailable to provide it internally for myself. Although we had a ton of fun, to be honest, we also had a lot of disagreements, mostly around the core values of honesty, authenticity, and respect…didn’t recognize it at the time though.

            I think getting involved with a MM has finally provided me with the opportunity for self reflection and I’m starting to be grateful. When I think back to WTF what was I thinking, I can see I wasn’t thinking and certainly wasn’t thinking about me! So it finally is now about ME and my SELF esteem.

  36. Magdalena says:

    I did an experiment a few days ago to see if I could represent visually the progress and growth I’ve made since my breakup with the ex-EUM in December. I decided to make a map of my self-esteem.

    I put the words SELF LOVE in giant letters in a big circle. I added some spokes to the circle and made a wheel of concepts that I thought made up my sense of self-love:

    Self-care
    Self-respect
    Self-compassion
    Self-esteem (I think self-esteem is part of a larger concept of self-love, but I’m probably just splitting hairs.)
    Self-acceptance
    Self-worth
    Self-understanding
    and
    Self-forgiveness

    I starting making smaller spokes of ideas around each of these eight areas to represent the ways that I practice each of these things in my daily life or the ways that I wanted to work on each area. Ideas just kept flowing! I was absolutely shocked to find that I actually could SEE the very real changes that I’ve made in my life! It is still a work in progress in many ways, but I am at least on the way.

    There’s no way I could have done this last year. My map would have only had two circles: a giant one with the ex-EUM’s name and an even bigger one with the label, “Persistent feelings of worthlessness.”

    I am hanging my new map on my wall next to the Nat posts I’ve printed.

    Cheers.

    • AdrienneBytheSea says:

      Magdalena, Yay for you! And thank you for sharing this idea. I am a very visual person, so making this type of map is something I am going to do for myself. Lately I’ve been so focused on working through the sh*t that I have forgotten to acknowledge the positive steps I have taken. Thanks so much for this!!! :)

    • Bri says:

      Mag, I hope I can say I’m where you are in a year. Congratulations; it’s very inspiring to see people who come out on the other side of these relationships stronger than ever – it gives me hope, and your enthusiasm for your newfound self-love made me smile.

      Now I just have to figure out what I can do to get there! Thank you.

      • Allison says:

        Make it six-months!

        Have you thought about why you got involved with this guy? When we can understand what brought us to this place, we can move on faster.

        • Fearless says:

          Allison:
          “When we can understand what brought us to this place, we can move on faster.”
          Absolutely! Bri – that’s what you cannot afford not to do.

      • Magdalena says:

        Hey Bri,

        As far as figuring out how to “get there,” here’s what I know:

        1. All great journeys start with a single, small step.
        2. The little things that YOU DO EVERY DAY matter more than anything.

        So, here’s the question: what are YOU going to do tomorrow to show yourself that you care about YOU?

        Something. Anything. One little thing.

        Here’s a short list of suggestions, based on things that I did for myself:

        *Write in your beautiful new journal about how you’re now totally committed to you, no matter what.

        *Congratulate yourself like crazy each and every night for maintaining one more day of NC! Revel in your new strength and self-respect.

        *Make some positive affirmations and say them to yourself like its your job for at least a month. (If you can’t say you love you, say you like you. If you can’t say you like you, say that you’re going to learn.)

        *Give thanks and gratitude for at least three things in your life, even though you’re in a lot of pain. (The fact that you’re no longer in a dysfunctional relationship and have a new opportunity to become a new person come to mind…)

        *Buy yourself something nice just because you’re you. Flowers, perhaps?

        *Schedule any medical appointments you’ve been putting off (dentists, etc.) It shows you that you care about you.

        *If you exercise, keep doing it. If you don’t, start. Care about your physical health. Take vitamins for the same reason.

        *Eat lots of vegetables because you care about yourself.

        *Get yourself a shiny new book about self-esteem and read the first chapter. Think of how to apply it to your own life.

        *Make a break up playlist (Hint: use music you can dance to that makes you feel good! Then dance a lot.). Put it on some sort of portable device and listen to it whenever the thoughts about the ex start.

        *Learn to meditate. Meditate on things like self-compassion, kindness, your feelings, self-acceptance, and forgiveness. (If you can’t get yourself to feel these things yet, imagine what they might feel like.)

        *Consider devising a daily spiritual practice in which you give thanks and gratitude for each new day and think about your new attitude towards you.

        *Take walks. Use them to think about your feelings, rather than the ex.

        Just one thing, Bri! Just one! One! Do it! Tomorrow!

        • Magnolia says:

          Bri,

          Just to give you a sense of timing: I broke up with a guy who messed with my head about 3 years ago. I thought I was doing ok because I broke it off with him, but I didn’t understand the effects of his lying, gaslighting etc and I very unexpectedly ended up on suicide watch for a week. Started going to counselling to see why/how I’d gotten into that situation.

          A year later I feel I’m doing much better. Enter next bf. Another year later I break it off again, realizing a lot of the same issues exist.

          I decide this break-up is going to be the thing that kicks my ass into getting my head on straight. I find BR. Now, another year after that last breakup, and coming to BR almost every day, and trying to push through bad habits (not just think about things) and repeating “I’ll be over it when I make me over it,” I feel like I have a glimpse of my own potential.

          I am finally beginning to believe I may like myself and be okay, no matter what happens, from now on. Genuinely liking myself is very unfamiliar territory.

          So: three years from a bad breakup that sort of sent me into counselling, etc, where I was still quite dependent on that support, or one year from the ‘epiphany’ relationship where I realized I better do something.

          Those are the kind of timelines we’re looking at. Think of it as deciding to learn to speak a new language: Selfesteemese. You don’t get good in two weeks. But keep at it and in two years you’ll be fluent.

    • Mango says:

      This is a wonderful concept! I love this! Care to share some of your ideas around each ‘spoke’?

      • Magdalena says:

        Hi Mango!
        Thanks! Its been quite an enlightening project! :)

        Part of my intention was to make real, concrete practical steps that would demonstrate self-love, so I could practice it in my daily life with ACTIONS. The self-care spoke is the most developed right now, as I think its the basis for all else to follow. Some spokes have more parts than others. For example, my self-respect spoke only has one little “sub-spoke,” which is to maintain NC, but its a pretty powerful way to show self-respect and perhaps most importantly, its an ACTION that I’m taking. I’ll surely be thinking of more ways to demonstrate self-respect as I go along. I just haven’t thought about that particular concept quite enough yet.

        Anyways, as an example, under the “self-care” spoke, I have four smaller spokes: emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. I wanted to make practical steps for caring for myself in each of these four areas. Fr’ instance, going to my emotional spoke, I have just never really known how to deal well with anger. (At one point in my life, I was so out of touch with my emotions that I mistook suppressed rage at the ex-EUM for chronic anxiety after yet another one of his disappearing acts!) So, I made some sub-spokes for anger, which include being aware of and acknowledging the feeling, carefully considering what to do with it, taking some action (either through sitting with it in meditation, taking a short walk, deep breathing, or smashing potatoes on my kitchen floor), and telling myself I did a good job with it when I don’t repress it and have expressed it in a safe way.

        So now, I’ve got practical steps to deal with my anger–>caring for emotions–>self-care–> self-love. Any time I deal with my emotions now rather than repressing them, I know that I’m practicing self-love. It might sound overly simplistic, but I swear that it works!

        I’ll see if I can figure out some way to share the map online. In this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words!

        I’d be delighted to hear if making this type of map is helpful for anyone else.

        Cheers!

        • Mango says:

          Hi Magdalena,

          Thanks so much for your detailed and generous response! I also appreciate the suggestions you left for Bri.

          You have inspired me. I’m going to do this! I needed something tangible to work on to get started. I’ve known for a long while I needed to make some changes in my lifestyle to increase my self-esteem, and focus on self-care. But I just felt lost as to how to make it a priority. “I” kept getting left behind. My self-esteem really took a hit with my last round with the EUM in my life., and it’s become abundantly clear, I have some work to do.

          If there is a way to post I’d love to see your map!. Sounds as though you’re making huge strides in a most positive direction. Well done! And thank you!

  37. Messyrollercoaster says:

    Magnolia,
    Thanks for your kind word. 10 months on nc, how do you feel?
    I just can’t imagine how I will become in another 3 months! I can’t really focus On anything right now. Yes, 5 weeks nc/lc since we work at same company. Most time I was ok till I saw him passing by. It just gave me a heart-trenching! I don’t understand that part. I am a relatively successful professional woman and since I knew he is definitely a EUM and there is no way I will take him back again but why he still has such power on me!

    I am not intentionally looking for info about him, but occasionally people just out of blue to tell me about him: business trip about him, the good things about him…. Even though my heart is bleeding when I forced to be in this painful conversation, I have to put a straight face to not let my emotion out. I felt so exhausted everyone when I go to work, not b/c the working load, it is b/c the pretending normal or even happy part. He seems just back to his life perfectly normal and unscratched while I have to secretly lick my wound and have to deal with his from-time-to-time sounds innocent-pure-professional emails! I just don’t know how long I can stand this situation w/o snapped. Hopefully it will get easier as time goes by.

    Deep sigh!
    I hate rollercoaster rides!

    • Bri says:

      Messyrollercoaster,

      I wish I could give you some good advice but I’m actually in the same place you are – in fact, I’m even farther behind! Only one week NC, and struggling every second of it – I too work with my exMM and have to see him every day.

      What I can do is tell you you’re not alone, and there are a lot of women here who have been where we are and come out better, stronger and happier…reading their stories gives me hope. Good luck; you deserve to be free from this anxiety, I know how physically and mentally exhausting it is.

    • Magnolia says:

      mroll,

      See my note above to bri about how it feels to be ten months in. As I begin to realize the gains I’ve made since I unloaded that energy-drain of a man, I see that I couldn’t have done it if I had been dumping more energy into a relationship with him! It may not feel like it day-to-day, but if even ten percent of the energy you gave to a go-nowhere relationship comes back to you and you use it to do something good for you, after a while you’ll see the reward.

  38. anoosh says:

    I spent a couple hours this evening going through the matches that were sent by an online dating site. a bit discouraging, I must say, and I don’t like these sites to begin with. I can see my trust level is completely gone, that’s not a good place to start. I could also feel that the elusive proper “Self Love” is not where it should be yet. but I did thoroughly enjoy clicking “Not Interested”, and having them removed from my queue! I won’t be making a habit of this little online rejection game :), but it did give me a little cyber-thrill of saying “No WAY!! Later, Buh-Bye!!”.

    I was looking for signs of EU in the profiles, for the most part it’s too hard to get a real sense about that. but — I’m 46, and 90% of the guys they sent were older, and wanted women who ranged from 10, 15, 25 (!) years younger to no more than 2-3 years younger. so, in other words, women near their exact age or within 5 years senior are *too old* for them — omfg, are ya kiddin’ me? who do they think they are, George Clooney? as IF!! big big heavy sigh… OK OK, will try not to let this feed into my “old” beliefs about “last chance saloon”. “I’ll never find someone to love again”, “I’m too old, it’s too late”, etc etc. will just keep focusing on *moi*, merci beaucoup.

  39. Aura says:

    @ Nat, great article, confidence is key.

    @ Grace, loved what you wrote about stopping waiting an. Becoming the driver of your life.

    @ NK, your ex, reminds me of my first boyfriend. He was so toxic. Whenever I felt good about myself, he wouldn’t leave me alone. But, if ever I was down, or things weren’t running smoothly, he’d vanish. The final time, he left me and then a few days later, everything else in my life was a success. He rang, heard how happy I was and said, ‘Maybe we should get back together’. I said, ‘I don’t think so’ and he kept calling or I’d bump into him, but he had no affect on me anymore, because if someone isn’t going to be there for me in the tough times, then they don’t deserve me in the good times.

    @ Bri, I understand the give confidence and take away your confidence. Generally, this happens with a lot of womaniser type males. They can make you feel so good, with over the top compliments that you’re on top of the world…momentarily. But then, when they don’t call enough, or don’t see you enough you feel like you’re not a top priority, and your confidence will plummet.
    That’s why it’s so important to do things in life that you are proud of and is in sync with your core values.
    I think also sometimes in life, you have to ACCEPT, that you can’t always get what you want. ( Which isn’t easy!)
    Sometimes what you want isn’t good for you. It is not always easy to accept, but better sooner than later. Better to accept, the situation, and try to move on, rather keep repeating the same
    toxic cycle.

    • Fearless says:

      Aura, I agree. I also think all the “big” words from the likes of the MM (and others) mean we have a long way to fall when he can’t live up to them. And he can’t live up to them. How could he – because these big claims about what we mean to him and all the future fakery are over-inflated, unrealistic, fantastical clap-trap. In the midst of the affair the MM is also caught up in the fantasy but unfortunately for the OW it is usually the MM who comes down to earth first – before the OW. But she is still caught up in the fantasy so she feels rejected and destroyed by his failure to live up to it and her fall to back to earth comes with a very hard and very painful thud.

  40. Courtney says:

    What an incredible read.. Thank you!

  41. AdrienneBytheSea says:

    All of this post rang so true for me. This is definitely another one to bookmark and print out and read again and again. I posted earlier that I am in “emotional driver’s ed” — to learn to drive you have to get behind the wheel. Action! This line resonated with me: “you’ll hear a lot more ‘can’t’ from someone that has self-esteem issues.” I have been going to the gym for years, just doing the treadmill, not pushing myself. For years, I’d walk by the gym room where I’d see everyone doing an exercise class of lifting weights to awesome music and I’d think: I can’t do that, I’m too weak. I’d walk by another day and see an exercise class of kick boxers and I’d think: I can’t do that: I’m too uncoordinated. I’d walk by and LONG to try it — it looked fun and all the attendees were in great shape. Finally, one day last fall I gritted my teeth and I said, get over yourself, no one will be looking at you–just go and try it. I had to silence the 8 year old in me, who was never good at gym, and let my adult self lead the way into Action! Now I am a regular attendee of both classes, and it has boosted my self-esteem as someone who can take care of herself in a healthy way, at least physically. And that 8 year old in me, she loves those classes! :). However, I am still working on the emotional part. But the idea of taking action, not waiting around for someone else to “drive” is so key. I like reading everyone’s comments on these awesome postings–all the wheels start turning. It is really so true how self-esteem is at the core of everything. I am hopeful that one day my determination in the gym will translate into a stronger emotional backbone. I will not give up!

  42. miskwa says:

    Oance again, great post and timely too!
    The ‘ol self esteem has been under major assault this summer. I had to cut loose two friends that were not treating me with respect. It hurt because here in this mountain town, when someone leaves your life, they are not replaced anytime soon. Attempts at on-line dating has confirmed my suspicion that my core values (environmentalism, social justice, self sufficiency) are very different from the ski resort wannabes that come here from Denver and thereabouts. Now to cap off the summer, I must once again face a co-worker (yeah, I know, co workers = off limits but re read the part about being in an isolated mountain town and no one anywhere near sharing your values and no, I cannot move for 9 more years when I will retire) I caught cheating wants to” discuss” the issue. He had asked why I was so upset with him and I sent him a letter that stated things, I thought, rather clearly. Apparently, he just got ’round to reading it yesterday! Sheesh!
    I figured that was it and have been as NC as one can be under the circumstances, taking care of me, working very hard, living my truths even though it means total aloneness. Why does this guy feel the need to rub emotional salt in a wound? His self esteem or lack thereof?

    • Magnolia says:

      Miskwa,
      Do you want to discuss the issue? You’re NC-at-work, right?

      • miskwa says:

        Magnolia
        I think what I may do is be open to discussing the issue next week. This weekend I am giving myself the gift of running a marathon and staying in Aspen rather than trying to commute there race morning. This will be followed by a day of working on my gardens, woodpile, and house on Sunday. I do not want whatever he has to say (which I suspect will be a lot of self-justification) to screw up my weekend. I do not see any reason to discuss it myself; he is cheating in one way or another on me and also with the woman I caught him sharing his hotel room with. Plain and simple.

        • grace says:

          miskwa
          It will go like this:
          “You’re overreacting Miskie; she desn’t mean anything to me. It was a mistake. I’m sorry, but I never said we were in a committed relationship. I’m not ready for that. But you are awesome/beautiful/the best thing that ever happened to me. You deserve the moon and stars”.
          *A bit of groping*
          “I want to be a part of your life. Forever. I can’t stand the thought of losing you Miskie”.
          *Bit more groping*
          “I’m glad we could talk. Let’s be friends. You’re a great girl.”
          Forget the discussion. We all know what he’s gonna say and it’s not worth your time.
          Enjoy your weekend.

          • Natasha says:

            Grace, if I had a quarter for every time one of these assclowns used the phrase “great girl”, I’d currently be running a contest entitled, “Best Comment On BR Gets A Bentley!” all day, every day. Oy.

          • Fearless says:

            Grace – :) Yep. That’s the script.

            Miskway: “I do not see any reason to discuss it myself”. You do see some reason since you are going to ‘discuss it’. Maybe try to truthfully identify for yourself exactly what that reason is. You might change your mind.

        • Magnolia says:

          I’m with Grace. If whatever he has to say will screw up your weekend, then it will screw up your weekday just as well. Why bother? He doesn’t deserve the airtime, and it’s not going to do you a lick of good.

          • runnergirl says:

            Of course, ditto the above comments. And he’ll grope like Grace said. When it’s put into words, it sounds so demeaning. As though a few meaningless words and a grope will make it all better. Keep your head high above the toilet water and flush him. Resist the urge to tell him he’s a giant t**d. Although, I’d love to tell him for you and I can hardly resist. Wonder if he’d grope me?

  43. Crystal says:

    Hi Natalie and all the other lovelies.

    I just wanted to share something other than my appreciation for this site, your posts and for being an absolute rock for me for the past, ooh since December 2010.

    I teach and walk this part I’m about to share (with a limp to start with).

    It’s a lyric in one of my songs and very true too, yet you can not have a can’t without a can.

    also if you are ever unsure of this blatant FACT.

    When you can write the word CANT without having CAN in it then use it by all means, until then there is only a choice between what you will choose you can do or choose not to do with an excuse of can’t.

    When i teach and people even children realise that there is only I CAN even when everything in them is saying I CAN’T, then something amazing happens.

    You find that the real core issue comes flying up to the surface.

    eg. I can practice breathing through my diaphragm its just that ooh, I feel to tired right now and actually I want to do something else.

    or I know i can get that job its just that i don’t feel that I will because, I think that nothing goes right for me as the last time I wanted something this thing went wrong and I think that something is definitely going to go wrong if I do, Its just my luck.

    This is great because now you can deal with the actual issues that underly the excuses we make to ourselves first and others second.

    Even a choice to do nothing is still a choice, so there is no criticism in being true to your self, knowing your current feeling place about something and then finding things which support your growth and add value to your wishes and wants.

    Your cans will become your wills and your will becomes done.

    Your self esteem grows because you water your seeds and not ignore them, you don’t excuse the pain or the bits you know you don’t like, you accept them like a bug growing on a plant that is preventing your growth and deal with creating the solution, finding fellow gardeners that can share experiences and help you cultivate more exciting plants and tend to all the needs your garden has.

    There seriously is only a limit that is created by your own will.

    You are the only one who can, and who will or will not for yourself.

    There is much love and power for you exactly where you are, regardless of circumstances, or any external perspective, belief, idea or anything…

  44. Sarah says:

    I initiated the NC rule yesterday…..am doubting myself now? I feel SO sad today….how do you guys cope with the gut wrenching feeling after you have made such a decision??? Does it get easier???? Please help. :o(

    • Natasha says:

      Sarah, I went through the same thing. When you get right down to it, the fact that the relationship was dysfunctional enough that you even went NC in the first place is proof positive that you are doing the right thing. It DOES get easier – I promise! Yes, there are tough times when they pop up, you feel lonely, you blame yourself, etc. but stick with it! If I hadn’t gone NC, I’d STILL be going back and forth with a boomerang assclown that waltzed in and out of my life for 5 years (now almost 6 years, he’s still trying to get in touch). NC is about making the choice to have a vastly more positive life where you can value you. That is never the wrong decision!

    • Allison says:

      Sarah,

      NC is empowering and gives you clarity. By staying in contact you only prolong the inevitable.

      • Fearless says:

        Yes, remember, NC is not the recovery it’s the medicine – you have to keep taking it until you are completely well, like a course of penicillin! Trust the process. Doesn’t taste good (at first) but it’ll cure you.

    • Carrie says:

      I’ve been NC for almost 6 weeks now and when I ran into him pulling out of a parking lot, it was the one thing that kept me from doing the “polite” thing and stopping to talk to him. I thought to myself – “You went NC for a reason.. it’s to protect yourself. So just keep doing it because it’s working!” and it is. I know that if I allowed contact between us, it would be far too easy for me to fall back into old patterns. By keeping NC you’re making a promise to yourself that you’re worth taking care of yourself. If you know the relationship was no good, the only person who’s going to end up hurt again if you drop NC is you!

  45. Sam says:

    I have a very low self esteem. Everything said or done to me I take personally and think what did I do or say that caused this person to treat me this way. I’m recently broken up (5 months) and have yet to have a day that I haven’t cryed and I still feel so broken. I know I have to have a higher opinion of my self, love myself, but I can’t seem to do it. How exactly do you acheive self love and higher self esteem?

    • MaryC says:

      Sam its a process of looking deep inside for who you really are and not letting anyone tell you differently or believing what they say. That said counselling helps. There are lots of reasons for low self esteem, many needing the professionals to help unlock the secrets but there are many good books too.

      Take a trip to your local library or book store and pick up one and just see what it has to say. Talk to a relative or friend that you trust to give you support right now while you’re trying to heal from your breakup. Sounds like you’re really hurting, I’m sorry.

      Nat has loads of posts here dealing with self-esteem. Take a weekend just for yourself and read what she has to say if you can. I think you’ll find her words of wisdom make alot of sense and you can incorporate them into your life. As many on this site will attest including myself, sometimes the light bulb just turns on.

      I’ll keep good thoughts for you.

  46. Eva Le says:

    Just read this quote today:

    “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, simply surrounded by assholes.”

    AMEN!!!

    • Fearless says:

      Interesting! But I think if we surround ourselves with assholes or do not take action to get out of their way… then what does that tell us?

      • Fearless says:

        I think, on first reading, I missed the irony of that quote. Oh well! I think I get it now!

    • Ria says:

      amen! how very true!

      • runnergirl says:

        Totally, totally funny quote Eva Le. Laughing so hard my dog can’t figure out what is going on.

    • grace says:

      EvaLe
      Hee hee, that’s brilliant! Love it.

    • Natasha says:

      @Eva Le – Ohmygod, that is hilarious!! Aaaaaaamen!

      @Fearless – Agreed!! I often roll my eyes at myself that, early on in NC, I was all twisted because a man I freely called an asshole didn’t want me. How does it now happen that, for so many people, asshole doesn’t automatically translate to “UNDESIRABLE BY DEFINITION. Steer clear!”?

      @Runner – My dog does that too! He, however, will immediately jump on me while being all, “What is so funny?! I want to be in on the joke, damnit.” He’s currently annoyed with me because his legs are too stubby to swim properly, so he has to wear a life jacket. I just put him in it so we can go for a dip and, I can’t help it, his chunky self wearing a bright yellow life vest makes me giggle uncontrollably. In these situations, I have to make him a steak to redeem myself.

  47. fitnessfreak says:

    I agree that building self esteem comes from ourselves …but as an external source BR has been invaluable to me …in finding who I am !
    And wow isn’t dating a different experience with BR specs on ..instead of rose tinted specs !!
    Been dating a nice guy…ok looking , funny, successful, intelligent , interesting …all good
    But instead of building sand castles in the sky based on the outside stuff …I have been so much more grounded ( instead of imagining what our children might look like !! )
    So ..some fun dates ..but Nat …you were so right !!! They tell you who they are if you have you eyes and ears open !!
    1. He sends 50 texts a day but doesn’t do phone …RED frickin flag .
    2. He doesn’t trust any woman ( what ) …but I’m so different he’s sure he will trust me …hello Mr Red flag .
    3.was married for 11 months ( so he’s a stayer then )
    4.earns a fortune ..but lives in weird household arrangement with a family …amber .
    5 . Very strange relationship with mummy . Amber .
    6. Has blown off last two dates at last minute …work …I know its genuine as very high powered job …but still !!…amber / red .
    Anyway …..FLUSH !!!
    Thanks Nat …thanks BR ….things look so different from this side .
    NOW ….I just have to figure out why I seem to be wearing a t- shirt reading ” all EUs ..hey I’m here ”
    Gonna buy the t- shirt that says ” been there , seen it , done it …..flush “

    • Magnolia says:

      Hi fitness,

      Just because we’re off EUMs doesn’t mean they aren’t still attracted to interesting, fun and good-looking women like ourselves! You’re not wearing a come-EUMs-hither T-shirt, I’d bet.

      You’re simply an attractive woman, who now has to do some due diligence, dating-is-a-discovery-phase work when a guy asks her out!

      I just went on three dates with someone who exhibited the flag potential on date number one, again on date number two to establish what seemed like a pattern, and then – after one last ‘check’ to make sure I really did trust my own judgment, remained the same (nice, but disappointing) on date 3.

      The last times I had such interactions, I got irritated and “said something” after date two, to my suitor. Something like, you know, if you’d like to be with me, you might be more courteous, less critical, more on-time, whatever. That way of handling things led to relationships with eventual ACs.

      This time, after I felt certain – within me – of my own read of the situation, I felt my interest in this man sag considerably, all on its own, almost like letting the air out of a balloon. Yay BR-training!

      Before this I have never had the patience and self-esteem to take an interest that feels like “what if?” “maybe he” “oooh, maybe we” etc into “Yes, he’s awesome. Yes, he’s great.” I have confused that “maybe he will” feeling with “love”. Unfortunately, if uncertainty is all you know of love, it just goes from “maybe he will call” to “maybe he will eventually stop turning his phone off when out with other women until late” and “maybe he will stop lying/cheating/beating.”

      The guy you describe does not sound like a keeper! You’re right, it feels good to see things from the BR side: where your guy looks like a walking headache, rather than a “maybe he’ll turn into a prince.”

  48. Magnolia says:

    I feel fortunate that so many BR posts connect the man issues so well to the core issue – self-esteem. I am able to experience the dynamics we talk about here elsewhere.

    My main other arena of validation is at work. I was really able to notice these self-esteem “outside myself” dynamics. I think I already mentioned the big review assignment I got: I felt highly validated, acknowledged, special etc for a while and then went into a trough of self-doubt, self-undercutting.

    Yesterday I got a couple awards from my department. (Yes, things are going well.) The cycle shortened. I felt like Sally Field (“you like me?! you really like me!?), then within hours was online comparing departmental awards to see if I’d actually gotten the big one or one of the “throwaway” ones, and became worried I’d been simply thrown a bone, and had managed to make a nice thing into a gesture that only confirmed that I am a whipping girl.

    I share this only to suggest how deep these beliefs run. It is as though every time I succeed I am “invalidating” my own long-held perception of myself. No one likes to feel invalidated. So I will fight tooth and nail to hang on to my familiar perception.

    While I am trying to starve that particular tenacious weed of self-hate, by giving it less attention, I am trying to grow my inner flower of confidence.

    The other night I put out a quick call to fellow artists to respond to the death of our opposition party leader – it was a concept I came up with in the moment, and I sat with my finger poised over the “send” key as all the familiar feelings of being humiliated and laughed at for trying to connect with peers came flooding in. I pressed send anyway. People responded. We now have a collaborative piece based on my proposal.

    This is huge for me. It’s an entirely different way of feeling confident in work. Initiating, rather than pinning my sense of achievement on random awards or assignments coming from someone else.

    The project may yet fail in front of them, but I know now that it will be okay if that happens. I can survive the “class” seeing me not getting what I want. Strangely, I feel more confident about speaking in terms of future success, when I know that it is entirely possible that I will fail and even have people smugly talk sh*t about my effort.

    Hmm: low self-confidence = low trust = low commitment.

    • Fearless says:

      Magnolia. How fab! You are so smart. Really, you are. Am so pleased for you and the progress you are obviously making. You sound stronger and more self-assured…. it’s great!

    • Natasha says:

      Magnolia, that is awesome!!!!! Good for you girl :)

  49. fitnessfreak says:

    Hi magnolia x
    Thanks x x x …he’s not a keeper …so right ….:) ..thanks for all your encouragement to me on here …it all helps …and you lovely….my other big validation is work too !!…wish you lived next door …would meet up for big glass of BR wine x

    • runnergirl says:

      Fitness and Magnolia, thank you for sharing your dating as a discovery phase experiences post BR awareness. I can see from your descriptions how easy it could be to over-look the red flags and be fearful of speaking up or flushing unless you have developed a bit of self-esteem. Good for you ladies. “Has blown off last two dates at last minute …work …I know its genuine as very high powered job …but still !!…amber / red .” This one is an automatic flush for me. I remember a former comment from a BR reader who pointed out that Obama has a pretty high powered job but seems to have time for his wife. I also have and had a pretty high powered job but always found the time to be with him.

      Magnolia, congratulations on your road to self-esteem and on your academic achievements. You know to be very careful in academia, right? It’s a balance between internal and external validation. Keep your BR lenses clean and shiny. Great work!

      • Magnolia says:

        Um, what means “very careful”?

        If you mean that academia is all about getting the right recommendation letters and awards and people saying good things (as opposed to the hard-to-argue with success of earning a company money), believe me, I feel you.

        I was the hostile version of “don’t care what people think of me” for most of my life, including the two years leading up to a nervous breakdown at the beginning of year 3, post-comps (and post AC#1). NOT the best way to get good recommendation letters!

        I thank my stars for BR because a solid network of peers and a reputation for reliability with superiors/peers is essential if I want to move forward. My emotional life has been so out of whack I had neither. Even though I have a zillion ‘contacts’ from having built profile, I haven’t been grounded in a professional community. Really all this BR work has fostered so much growth that for the first time I genuinely feel liked and respected by the writers that are both my community and my competition.

        And this last job search made me see that I have luckily managed to get my shit together (and get off the man-longing) enough to earn good recommendation letters. (Thank effing-god I got away from last AC. I wouldn’t have been able to earn those letters this year otherwise. I would have been too wrapped up to really emotionally connect with the people whose support I would soon need.)

        Don’t know if that was what you meant, but responding helped me see just how far I’ve come! And you ladies there all along – through family visits, weird ladies on research trips, weird dudes on research trips, dating disappointments, timely flushes, all of it!

        Mind you, don’t know what my roomie thinks of all this self-love business because it has meant a significant increase in me singing eighties pop-tunes quite loudly around the house.

        • runnergirl says:

          Hey Magnolia,

          I didn’t mean anything too deep about “very careful”. I was integrating post BR awareness in dating to post BR awareness in academia. You are doing so great in both areas and such an inspiration. You did have some weird experiences this summer, like the universe was throwing you some test cases. I remember poet host and his bottle of wine at midnight. I used to think I attracted the wackos. Now I’m starting to think there are just wackos out there, including brilliant academic types, and my role is to steer clear. Glad you did. Congratulations and keep singing.

    • Magnolia says:

      fearless, natasha, fitness, runner: I posted “xoxxoxoo” to you last night for this thread — don’t know what happened to it — so again:

      xoxoxoxoxooooooxxx!

  50. Carrie says:

    I’ve recently begun bringing the quiet back into my life as I’ve realized I’m forever drowning out my thoughts and overstimulating my brain. One of the things I lost long ago was the desire to write poems. I used to write them all the time in high school and then I just.. stopped. Allowing the silence back in has brought back the desire to write. So now I’ll share one I wrote today since it fits -

    On the search for the key
    To being happy just being me

    Deep down I know I have it
    Just reach down so I can grab it!

    It’s all about good self esteem
    And recognizing my right to dream

    If I could grab this key of light
    The path of my life would finally be right

  51. Elle says:

    Another brilliant post – worthy of a few reads, I’d say, especially the idea of truth-shifts.

    One thing that I’ve noticed in my recent dealings with the new man is that I am – I hate to admit it – not very good at feeling that things are going well without a bit of drama. Not a scrappy fight or anything like that – that would be emotionally far too draining. But, say we’ve had a conversation where it’s been the simple exchange of what we’ve been doing and maybe some chat about a mutual friend or a film or book or whatever, I’ll get off the phone or leave the interaction and some part of me will think, ‘Are we even connected?’ ‘Who is this person?’, as if I need somehow to have, as Nat would say, some smoke up my bum or some kind of ritualised sense that I am super important to him and that we’re in a relationship.

    I have quite a strange conception about self-love first because sometimes it means me being emotionally self-contained and focusing on my personal goals or other sources of happiness (family, exercise, creative endeavours etc). However, in this movement, I find it hard to connect with others. And then when I see new man I get all enthusiastic and affectionate (probably because I’ve felt rather remote and self-reliant – and so switch). But then he doesn’t really respond in the same way (and, in some senses, why should he?), and that makes me feel rebuffed and weird, as unsure as being self-reliant can make me feel. Then, on other occasions, if he is being uncertain and a bit self-absorbed, I will wonder how to love him – I swing between being super-nurturing and being a little arrogant or unfair (a kind of ‘If I have self-love, I don’t need someone else’s weaknesses around me’). I am exaggerating some of these points to communicated them, but, essentially, I don’t think I’ve yet found the natural rhythm of self-love AND a relationship. Is it possible? What does it mean? I am almost certain that true self-love leads to a flowering of feeling for the other, but I am all swing-y these days. Any ideas here would be most appreciated…
    This

    • grace says:

      Elle
      I understand how you feel and I don’t think it’s unusual. I’m introverted, quite self-contained, self-reliant, get exhausted around people, and am happier single than in a relationship. I think a lot of women are, even though we’ve the reputation for being desperate clingons.
      It may be that our boundaries are a bit “fuzzy”. We’re not 100% sure of where we begin and the other person starts so we feel like they are taking over us? We overthink their effect on us and our effect on them.
      Anyway, as my brother put it when my other brother was going through some marital difficulty, “I think you two should spend more time outdoors”. It sounds trite but I can vouch for it – spending time outdoors take the focus off HIM and off YOU to THE WORLD. It’s an experience you can share without a lot of analysis and thinking.

    • Magnolia says:

      So interesting, Elle. I can’t really help you in that department, having not experienced a fulfilling day-to-day love.

      But I can say I experience something similar in my reflections on my relationship with my roommate, the woman who I see most often and really, with whom I am closest in this world in many ways, because we live together.

      Most of the time things are congenial between us, sometimes they’re just polite and rushed, sometimes they are intense (usually around discussing something we’re charged/passionate about). But I think: should we be closer? Should we feel closer? We live together. Is there a way to build closeness? Should I talk to her about it? Do I want her any closer than this, really? How different is this platonic friendship from a romantic relationship? Is healthy romantic relationship, once the glow wears off, just this kind of friendship + sex? And boy, sometimes she drives me! But then, I must drive her, too. So we manage.

      When you are affectionate, does it spring from your need for affection or out of a feeling of appreciating him? I find I get all huggy and pettingy when in fact I want attention; and I once had a bf who gave me all kinds of massage and footrubs and affection, but I remember distinctly the feeling of cling and want that often came with.

      I would guess it’s all in the knowing yourself, because it’s certainly okay to approach a partner seeking affection. I think what we all react to is when someone gets touchy-feely, as though they are giving, with a different agenda than giving.

      I think I’ve only responded to one aspect of your question – re the ebb and flow of affection – and really, am happy to hear differently from others. I’m speculating a lot here. And I don’t think I managed to make the answer about self-esteem!!

      • Fearless says:

        Elle,
        I don’t know either! :)
        But for what it’s worth, I might say try to avoid super-sensitivity. It’s good to be in touch with your feelings… but perhaps not good to be too in touch with them all of the time; like constantly taking your temperature to check that you’re not sick yet! Know what the big stuff is and act on that and don’t sweat the small stuff. I like Grace’s brother’s advice. Get outdoors – do stuff together. Do the relationship – don’t think it. Maybe what I’ve said does not apply or is irrelevant – it’s just possible ideas for you.

    • Minky says:

      Hey Elle – I may be getting this all wrong, but sounds like you’re saying new man isn’t as expressive and affectionate as you’d like? How long has it been for you two? Sometimes it isn’t a matter of self-esteem and validation seeking, sometimes the other person does make things abiguous with their words and actions. It depends on what you’re expecting – if you want the whirlwind and smoke up the bum then it is probably good that you’re not getting it. If you simply want your enthusiasm to be met equally – not all the time because it can’t, but most of the time – then this is not unreasonable. Some people are happy to be the more extrovert one of the couple and some people are not. It all depends on values.

      It gets confusing for me because my bloke is very expressive and affectionate, but without the future faking and talking out of his arse. I am an important part of his life, an equal partner, all of that. I am left in no doubt of his feelings or our connection, apart from when i freak out and start being irrational and, even then, it’s not me doubting how he does act, but how he might potentially become in the future. I invent scenarios about him changing his mind, becoming distant etc. This is nothing to do with how he acts NOW, it’s all me. It has been 9 months since we got together, but the bond and connection was there from the beginning because we were friends first.

      Only you can decide if your man is or is not giving you what you need (which does not make you in any way high maintainance, hard to deal with, or anyof the things you fear about yourself), or if you are being unreasonable and are used to unhealthy interactions. If it all feels a bit ‘blah’ then it may be a lack of drama, or it may be that things actually are a bit ‘blah’ with this guy, even though he’s decent and you are happy with him. When we have sought drama in the past, there is a danger of doubting our expectations because we are unsure where they stem from. The reasonable or the unreasonable.

      I hate making lists, but i would suggest making one and being totally honest about what you expect and want – you can then identify those that are healthy and those that tie in with low self-esteem and old habits. Hope this helps! :)

  52. Michelle L says:

    HELP! ExMM (Carpark Avoider) emailed me to say that he is sorry about how things turned out and for any pain he caused and said he would like to be friends but would understand if I didn’t want to because he respects me. It seems like I should feel good that he wants to be friends but instead I feel lousy. I know I shouldn’t have but I responded to say I will be professional because we work together, but no more.

    A part of me feels rejected all over again. Plus it feels condescending that he’s talking about pain he caused me, as if he has that much control over my feelings but I have no influence on his. Darn. I was doing so well.

    • grace says:

      Michelle
      Your response was fine. Out of curiosity I googled a few websites on “saving a marriage after an affair”; they all say that the MM must cut off all contact with the “lover ” (yeah, that’s you) to the extent that he should change jobs if necessary. That’s his decision, not yours. But it’s for you to decide whether you can be friends with someone who’s lied to you, hurt you, and must keep you a secret.
      I know what you mean about the condescension. But if you’d said “No worries, I’m over it” you’d be regretting that as well. Just keep it professional and distant. Like one of those colleagues you don’t like very much.

    • Magnolia says:

      Michelle, your feelings of rejection and being condescended to are perfectly valid. It’s too bad you are in any contact with MM. Do you have to have him on email? (You work at the same place, but do you work together?)

      Reclaim your power and ignore him. There is no way the conversation he wants to draw you into will work well for you.

      I’d reread this. http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/after-the-breakup-hold-tight-to-your-self-respect-and-stop-trying-to-be-friends-with-the-ex-that-mistreated-you/

    • Fearless says:

      Good for you Michelle in putting him right.

      “he is sorry about how things turned out and for any pain he caused and said he would like to be friends but would understand if I didn’t want to because he respects me.”

      I’m sorry, but these guys don’t half talk a pile of shit.

    • ICanDoBetter says:

      Michelle,
      It feels condescending because it is. He is sorry for “the way things TURNED OUT”, as if the relationship was some sort of cake in the oven and just fell flat for some reason beyond his comprehension.
      And he’s sorry for “any” pain he’s caused you…this is a blanket apology, which is insincere and meant to conveniently cover all sins, without him even having to acknowledge any behavior specifically.
      Married or not, he would make a lousy friend.

    • RollerCoaster says:

      Michelle,
      Be strong and don’t be sucked in again!

      It is almost exactly words-by-words my ex-EUM said to me aftr first time he dumped me! He wants to re-investigate into his marriage but he is afraid if things not worked out that he may lose you as well.
      The biggest fool as I was, I remained “friend” to him in the email world. Though we never met after work anyway, never talk “love” issues anymore.
      Still, his way of maintaining a “friendship” with me stopped me successfully to move forward into my own life. So I basically hold my life for 4 more months b/c we remained “friends”.

      Then, 4 months later, he seperated and moved out. So I took him back in and thining “oh, I am not OW, b/c he is seperated”. Well, teh reason for him to finally seperated is b/c my existence whether I liked to admit or not. 8 months later after his seperation, since his wife fought very hard financially (they don’t have kids, so she basically made him have nothing left) then he suddenly reliazed that it is not worthy to lost everything just because so called “love”. so he moved back in. Weird thing is I am actually really like his wife even though we never met. She is done a great job! Smart girl! In this way, he is never dare to leave her ever again.

      We all know what happend to me… in the end.
      So don’t play the “friends’ game,… you can’t afford it. Maybe after few months, when you really get over him, he is over you, (I think he is in pain for leaving you as well, maybe I shouldn’t say that, but it is most likely truth and that’s why he still wants to be friend with you), then you can really be friends.

      Anyway, this is just my two cents. What do I know anyway.. I am the one who dosen’t even feel life is worthy livng now….(momentary anyway, b/c I knew I have way too many other good things in my life to lose if I gave up my life now. =)

      • Minky says:

        Even when you are ‘over’ them, it is still not a good idea to be friends with an EU/AC person. Even if you don’t want them anymore, these people are selfish users. My ex EUM tried to be friends, was really nice when we’d bump into each other, he was even chivalrous and walked me to my bus stop late at night. He was very nice and polite to my boyfriend, when they met, they seemed to get on really well. Then within the hour he told me my boyfriend was far better for me etc etc, and then tried it on with me. My boyfriend was standing 5ft away at the bar.

        These guys have no decency and no shame. You can’t trust them and they are not worthy of your time. Do not be friends, do not have a conversation. It is all just wasted effort and time.

        Just as an aside, if i guy cheated on me – not only would i not speak to him again, but he would seriously have to fear for his ‘meat and two veg’ if he ever came within striking distance of me!

    • Allison says:

      Michele,

      You gave the right response.

      I don’t know how he could believe you could be friends????? I think he is either trying to alleviate his conscience, or protect himself from being discovered.

      He was never your friend! Leave it professional!

  53. Shaun says:

    Excellent post, NML.

    I have a thought to add: when you have self-esteem, i.e. when you treat yourself with love, care, trust and respect, you are being true to yourself. And when you are being true to yourself, you have the benefit of knowing that your relationships – romantic, professional or otherwise – are based on truth and reality, not fantasy.

    For example, what happened when I told my ex that I wanted a more serious and committed relationship? I found out the truth that he only wanted me for casual sex and and an ego stroke. What happened when I told my boss that it wasn’t OK for me to continue being paid less than my coworkers for doing the same work as them? I found out the truth that not only did she not value my work as much as she said she did; she proceeded to withdraw her job offer for continued employment.

    These situations were certainly not pleasant for me to go through, but how do I feel about them now? I’ve noticed that I feel a greater sense of respect for myself than I have before, because I was honest about what I wanted and needed in both of these situations. I also don’t feel any sense of shame or regret, though the ex and the boss certainly tried to make me feel that way at the time!

    So thanks again, NML. Posts like this have been a great help on my own journey toward greater self love, care, trust and respect. Keep up the good work. :-)

    • Magnolia says:

      Great comment, Shaun, thanks.

      • Msophy says:

        Shaun I experienced the same thing with a boss and boyfriend. The sense of empowerment i felt by standing up for myself ans doing what i felt in my heart was the best thing for me..it was priceless. I struggle with self esteem issues and i remind myself to out my self first and never settle for anything less.

  54. JJ says:

    It is 5 months since he dumped me and I am still obsessing about it. I have realised that it is easier to wallow in self pity than to actually take action and build up the courage to move forward. Reading this post on self esteem was like a splash of cold water – I woke up. I think about all the times he broke up with me during our relationship and I grovelled and begged him to take me back. What I should have done was picked my self respect up off the floor and left this AC. The relationship didn’t build me up, I allowed him to break me down piece by piece, breakup after breakup because I didn’t value myself enough. Enough. I am better than this.

  55. So true…always such good advice here, Cheers from NYC. ~ edward

  56. Carrie says:

    Last night I got *the* text from my narcissist ex… the “I’m so sorry I hurt you and threw away our friendship”. Sent me into a spin for a moment when I felt like I had to answer. But then I reminded myself that he’s a narcissist and this is just par for the course.. he’s needing a good ol’ ego stroke. And it pissed me off he said “friendship”. He’s very meticulous with his words so that was the one he chose quite purposely. He just wants me as support without being in a relationship.. just like he’s doing with new girl. Gawd couldn’t he just leave me alone? Just pay your bill you owe me and don’t try to pull me back into your web. I didn’t respond.. I’m sticking to NC.. but it’s so not easy. I want to say to him there never was a friendship and what exactly he expects me to be… someone to make him feel better while he goes after other girls? No way in hell. I won’t get any satisfactory answers from him anyway.. he’s just turning on the crocodile tears again. He’s being textbook with his behavior from all the other girls’ stories I’ve read here, which is helping me not answer. Thank you sooo much BR!

    • RadioGirl says:

      Carrie,

      If you’ve got lots of things you wish you could say to him to get them off your chest, but you know it’s best for you to stay NC, why not try doing the “Unsent Letter”? You can download it from Natalie’s Library by clicking on the “Library” tab at the top – her download link for the guide is a little way down that page.

      My ex-EUM (though am beginning to think he is actually a bona-fide AC/borderline narcissist) sent me a text late last night containing all the predictable tripe I knew it would do from reading Natalie’s blogs and the other ladies’ comments on BR. It was mostly about himself, trying to play the sympathy/victim card yet again by saying he’d overdone things and made himself ill, but also trying to pry into what I’m up to these days and telling me to text him if I fancied a chat (!). He’s obviously feeling sorry for himself and in need of an ego-stroke/shoulder to cry on, which is what I used to provide for him a lot when we were together. It is the first direct communication since I wrote to him briefly nearly 3 months ago to say I was cutting off all contact with him and would appreciate it if he’d respect my wishes by not sending me any more messages, texts, e-mails etc. I can honestly say that after almost 3 months of NC, I mostly just feel cheesed off that he can’t even respect my request not to get in touch. However, the work I’ve done so far on my self-esteem etc through reading BR archives and current blogs/comments every day, seeing a therapist, taking good care of my health and well-being, starting to rebuild a bit of a social life, and generally beginning to take some action to get myself on track has really started paying off noticeably. I haven’t done the Unsent Letter myself yet, but after getting that text last night I can feel a bit of writing coming on…..

      • Carrie says:

        Good idea RG :) I’ve done plenty of journaling about it, but haven’t actually written to him. What’s funny is when I thought he truly wanted to work on himself, I advised him to do that very thing and write unsent letters to me or his dad or anyone else he wanted to. He said he would, but I doubt he did. It’s not nearly satisfying enough to a Narcissist to say something to someone and not have their reaction to base their feelings off of. He has new girl to listen to all his ranting and raving, why would he write to noone? He paid his monthly bill today so I did email him and say thanks for keeping up on it and to let him know that his car insurance coverage is paid up and ends 10/23 and to send me a copy of his proof of new insurance so I can remove him completely from my policy. They require it in Cali. Didn’t put anything personal and didn’t say anything about his text. Now it’s back to NC until next month’s invoice is sent. Trying to at least keep things neutral so he continues paying the $350 he has left on the TV.

  57. Spinster says:

    I sat on this entry for a while because I was afraid of what feelings it’d invoke in me. This is still something that I struggle with – more on a personal level and has the potential to spill over into any potential romantic relationships – on a regular basis. I’m gonna re-read this. Thanks.

  58. Bri says:

    Fearless,
     
    You just summed up exactly what I’m feeling. I have my rose-colored glasses on, as you all say, and can’t see my MM as anything but the love of my life who chose the needs of his children over his own desire to be with me. He still maintains that it has nothing to do with wanting to be with his wife, as it is “not natural to be romantic with her” and he’s “giving up The One to be there for his kids”. When I read other women’s comments about how poorly they were treated by their EUMs, I just think to myself, “My MM didn’t treat me badly, it was just the situation. He was in a bad position and if we could be together for real, he wouldn’t act that way. He wouldn’t break dates or put his needs before mine or give me crumbs if we were REAL.” I blame it all on the circumstances surrounding the affair, and just like you mentioned, assume that if he got divorced everything would be happily ever after.
     
    How do I break the spell? I can’t tell you how badly I want to be angry at him and see all of his flaws for what they are and see his “rejection” of me throughout the relationship (all the times he left me crying in the bathroom at work to go home to his family, the times I didn’t trust him or when he cancelled plans at the last minute) as part of his CHARACTER and not just part of the SITUATION. In my eyes, he boosted my confidence and said such sweet things and made me feel so loved when we were together (which, obviously, wasn’t often) that I can’t stop telling myself it would be that way all time if he left his wife. I still don’t believe he lied to me about his marriage or his intentions of being with me; I still believe him when he says he stayed to give his children stability because they deserve more than a “weekend dad”. I can’t seem to find fault in him, only in the universe. I don’t want to live in a fantasy but I can’t see it any other way right now.

    • ICanDoBetter says:

      You say your ex didn’t treat you badly. He broke dates, put his needs before yours, and only gave you crumbs. What kind of treatment do you call that?
      A man with CHARACTER would not use his SITUATION to excuse such behavior. A man with character would not cheat on his wife. Even if he never lied to you (which is doubtful), he did lie to his wife. Does that show character? His realationship with his wife is not REAL either, and you want to be his wife?
      It is impossible to face reality if you compartmentalize his behavior, if you put your “relationship” in a bubble and completely disregard all the hurt he is causing his family. A man of character is consistent in his treatment of everyone.
      You even contradict yourself in your post, saying that everything was all sweet talk and confidence-boosting, right after you state how he left you crying in the bathroom, or that you couldn’t trust him. Of course you can’t trust him. He is a cheater.
      Sorry if this is harsh, but I so hope for you to see what you yourself have witnessed in him, but are now choosing to split into compartments, as if his behaviors are all independent of each other.

    • grace says:

      Bri
      even if the only thing holding him back is his children, that’s no small thing. you can’t magic them away. You could wait until the youngest one is 25, 30 to be on the safe side since they have special needs. If you’re absolutely committed to there being no alternative, then you could put this proposal to him. I do know a woman who divorced her husband as soon as her youngest child was 18. So it’s an option.
      However, if you don’t want to put your life on hold for nearly twenty years (sorry, I can’t go out with you, I’m waiting for X’s children to grow up so he can get divorced), the answer doesn’t lie with him. It doesn’t matter how good, bad or indifferent he is. It doesn’t matter what his motivation is. What matters is he dumped you (although technically he couldn’t even do that cos you weren’t boyfriend/girlfriend) and what to do with the rest of your life?
      I can recommend a book “it’s called a breakup because it’s broken”. It’s funny and an easy read with helpful hints. it’s written by a man and sometimes it’s nice to get a man’s perspective. Because decent men don’t forgive assclowns the way we do.

    • Magnolia says:

      Oh Bri. All I hear is you saying, but he wouldn’t have been that way “if it were real”. He wouldn’t have been that way “if we were for real.”

      But it was real.

      It was a real affair. Real cheating. Real betrayal. Real lying. Real selfish behaviour.

      Isn’t that you refuse/can’t/won’t believe that people are *really* like that? That a man you trusted is capable of that? That you are really capable of that?

      I can relate. We all can.

      But the sooner you get that you did some *real* mistakery and some *real* selfish stuff the sooner you can start to live, and seek out, and attract, REAL solid people with REAL good character.

    • Fearless says:

      Yes Bri. About twenty years ago I used to say and think and feel the same thing about the MM who was “the love of my life” and who stayed with a wife he didn’t love, sacrificing me and our perfect love and happiness for his children. What a guy! He even dared – weeping and deperate at the end – to suggest that I wait ten years for him until his kids were more grown and then he’d come to me – re Grace! Ha! That’s how rooted in reality he was! I haven’t seen or spoken to him since we “split”. I thought I was going to die of a broken heart. I didn’t. He is still with his wife as far as I know. Just as well I didn’t wait? You have a way to go Bri, before you get the whole picture. You want him to “choose” you and not reject you when you are as yet unable to choose yourself. You want him not to reject you when you have rejected you. The reasons are irrelevant. He can’t be with you. The result is the same regardless. Be good to yourself and don’t wait for him or anyone else to do that for you. Stick with NC and you’ll get over it.

    • Minky says:

      @Bri – I really feel for you, but i can tell you that, if your relationship was *real* he would have bailed on you emotionally, like he bailed on his wife, emotionally. This is a guy who cannot deal with responsibility and *real* relationships and has to have a little fantasy world (i.e. his affair with you) to run away to when life gets hard. Like @Icandobetter said, if he was a man of character, he would have put his kids at the centre of his universe from DAY ONE and would never have got involved with you. He would have saved all his time and attention for them. Who was looking after these kids when he was with you? His wife? By herself? What a wonderful man! His kids are just an excuse – if he was as devoted to them as he makes out, he would never have got into an affair with you in the first place.

      You say “He wouldn’t break dates or put his needs before mine or give me crumbs if we were REAL.” But his wife and kids are REAL and he STILL puts his needs before them and gives them crumbs, so why would he be different for you? That doesn’t mean that his kids are not ‘good enough’ to have kept him away from another woman, or that his wife is not ‘good enough’ to have kept him away from another woman, it means he is an ARSEHOLE and always has been!

      If you guys were REAL, he would have found another fantasy (affair) to hide in. He would eventually have cheated on you like he cheated on his family. It’s who he is. The sooner you see that, the better. Words are easy, saying you love someone is easy, it’s even easy to put on a suit, stand up in front of all your family and friends and swear to be faithful to someone for the rest of your life – it takes character and decency to actually DO that though, to fulfill your promises. He hasn’t fulfilled a damn thing. The only one getting fulfilled is himself, the only person he’s ever made a priority is himself.

      You will be fine. I promise you will be. The situation seems hopeless now, but one day you will look back and think ‘what the hell was i thinking!?’ I know that because i have been where you’ve been (not as an OW, but thinking i would ever get through the pain) and now i am happier than ever.

    • Melinda says:

      If you’re going to talk about CHARACTER, I would have to question yours as much as his. You, after all, have been having an affair with a married man with children. I’m single, never been married, so I’m not saying this out of the bitterness of a wife who was cheated on. I’m just saying that you would do well to seriously consider your own duplicity in this situation. This man’s priority is to his kids, not you. It’s understandable that you’d want attention and affection. Next time, don’t knowingly get involved with a married man.

    • brokenheartedbabble says:

      I’m right with you, Bri. Despite everything, he is the most amazing man I’ve ever known. If I end it, as I know I must, I don’t know if there is anything left for me in this world. I hope you’re okay.

      • Sunshine says:

        brokenheartedbabble,
        You are putting a cheating liar with a weak character on a pedestal.
        If an MM who is cheating on his wife is the most amazing man you have ever known, then it’s probably high time to get to know more men. There are nearly SEVEN BILLION people on this planet, he is NOT that special!

  59. Bri says:

    Grace,
     
    I too am in therapy and on antidepressants; I’ve been doing that on and off my whole life since I was 15 but go figure, I’ve been “on” ever since meeting the MM – haven’t missed a session.
     
    Your words sound so much like what I’m going through now – the anxiety, the heart palpitations, the crying. It’s more than I feel like I can take and I just want it to let up. How have I let someone who isn’t even in my life anymore control everything about me? It’s like nothing brings me joy anymore.
     
    However, I will say that you have no idea how much hope your words give me. The fact that you were here, in my same position and feeling the same things I am, and now you’re over it and over him and able to console women like me makes me feel like I might have a shot. In fact, I’m crying at my desk at work as I write this! This situation has turned me into a miserable, blubbering mess.

    As vindictive as it sounds, I hope he’s as unhappy as I am.

    • Allison says:

      Bri,

      Sorry to say it but, he is carrying on with his life with his family.

      What kind of advice does your counselor give?

      • Fearless says:

        I wonder that too Allison.
        I’ve never had counselling nor been on medication for anything (‘cept usual antibiotics for common infections and similar)…but I now wonder if I should have sought some counselling years ago and maybe I could have gained some of the understanding I have now much sooner – didn’t know there was anything wrong with me! (except that I wasn’t always very good at pickin men – but was anyone? I used to think). It strikes me though that if I’d been in counselling for a long time – years – I would expect to make some decent progress… is it that we cannot “get better” until we want to, no matter how much counselling we get? (I appreciate some problems may be more entrenched and difficult to treat, but surely we would expect to make some marked improvement after years of this kind of help. I’m not being judgemental, Bri, about you – perhaps you have made great progress – depends where you started from I suppose).

        • Magnolia says:

          Fearless,

          I have been in tons of counselling and have made some progress there, but I think the structure is flawed: counsellors do not admit their bias and do not share their whole history with their clients, and they generally don’t express their opinions. Weird power stuff often goes on.

          So many clients are in those offices because they don’t want to make their own judgment calls. People spend years saying “my counsellor said x about me”; “my counsellor said y.”

          I have had some good counsellors, but I have had a share of bad ones: young ones who had no life experience; old lazy ones who unabashedly told me I was in desperate need of their help and should come back to them every week from now on; male ones who sort of came on to me. These folks are in a position of authority and we come to them already so vulnerable. After all the progress I have made here with BR, I’d judge only 20% of the counsellors I’ve worked with to be truly able to help clients without creating and encouraging dependence.

          It’s not always lack of decision power on the client’s part, I think a lot of it has to do with believe that going to therapy is DOING all the work. It’s only a part of doing the work.

          I feel about the sanctified space of therapy as I do about church and “ethical” business: see my post to Julia.

          God, when I think now about the ACs I’ve known, telling them I was or was ever in therapy was giving them WAY too personal info: these guys smell the uncertainty that takes people to therapy like weakness, like blood in the water.

          • Fearless says:

            That’s interesting Mag. I had a feeling it must all be a bit of a lottery with therapists and I’d be loath to part with my cash and get a dobber!
            There’s also still a little reticence (and suspicion even) about “therapists” here in Scotland – using them is not yet common or everyday practice – and often not without feeling a little embarrassed that we needed it – and not unless we think we’re very, very sick – and we don’t easily think that we are (often mistakenly!!)

    • PJM says:

      And this is where NC comes into its own. You hang on to it, through the ‘I hate him’ end of the pendulum and then you hang on to it through the ‘I love him’ end, and eventually – sooner than you think – the pendulum will stop swinging.

      IT. WILL. HAPPEN. But you have got to stop sticking a thermometer in it, to see if it’s done yet.

      Fill your life up with activities and this helps take the edge off it. Stay away from the booze because it can make you weaken in your resolve. The stricter you are, the faster you heal.

      Promise!

  60. AdrienneBytheSea says:

    Runner, Fearless, and Magnolia — My MM was EUM, absolutely. Three months ago he admitted to me he was still hung up on his college girlfriend (hello, the man is now in his mid-fifties) and she happened to die three years ago. Apparently (he told me), his wife and I said the same thing: We are not going to compete with a dead woman for his “love.” Imagine! He has been EUM w/both his mistress and his wife b/c he is pining over his past. I never had a chance. But did I really want one? The teenage nerd girl in me was flattered that this former jock type would find me so desirable. But when I got real with myself (on rare occasions), I realized how unsatisfying the relationship was, despite the sexual connection. And it was unsatisfying because he was unavailable literally (as in being married) and emotionally (as in being hung up on his former love). As NML says in her book (which I haven’t gotten all the way thru b/c I need new glasses and the type is a little small!) and as you commented, the EUM and FBG are a classic synergistic pair. I submerged (loved the beach ball metaphor, Runner, painful though that feeling is) my desires and more importantly my values because I was flattered Mr. Jock “chose” me (and of course because I didn’t want to face my deep issues/childhood baggage). But as the affair dragged on (six years) and I tried breaking up time and again, it became harder and harder to distract myself from myself. And it became especially impossible to do so after finding this site. Jock was EUM to his wife and me. I was EUM to myself. And as you said, Runner, in an odd way we can feel almost grateful for having gone thru the experience since it has brought us closer to ourselves. But oh, as you said, the dark days! I am just so glad for this site and for my local gym. Both keep me grounded and sane. My secret love did secretly die. But not the love for myself! That is newly blossoming!!!

    • NML says:

      Hi Adrienne – that sounds a bit odd as it’s 11pt font. Use ‘view’ on your reader to ensure that it’s at full size or you can even enlarge in Adobe Reader or viewer on the Mac.

    • Fearless says:

      Adriennebythe sea (I wish I lived by the sea!!) You talk a whole lot of sense. This guy was obviously emotionally unavailabe to both you and his wife. But I would suggest that any MM who’s having an affair is, by definition, an EUM. Because he *is* married perhaps with children etc. it’s impossible for him to juggle two women, two lives, and be truly emotionally available for either of them (yours was EU with ALL the women: you, his wife – AND the dead woman, though she didn’t know it!). The whole situation renders him emotionally unavailable, full stop. I also think the OW is essentially his fallback girl – so currently suffering OWs should read Nat’s FBG book, for sure. I think to find herself, choose herself and recover her self-esteem, it’s important that the OW doesn’t see her situation as “different”. You obviously don’t. I have done both the MM and the long -term EUM and it’s all the same – six and half a dozen: not available = not available = not available
      Good luck Adrienneby the sea!

      • AdrienneBytheSea says:

        Thanks, Fearless. All of what you say is true. Sigh. Once upon a time I did think *maybe* my situation was different. But now I so get that it is not. What I am struck by is how this MM/OW/EUM situation radiates out its dysfunction, how it all plays together. The synergy of it — how you can’t have one without the other. And I am struck by the fact if I change and make better choices, and work on myself, and take action, I effectively remove a link in the chain of dysfunction (sorry mixing metaphors here). I can only be responsible for myself. I am under no illusion that *he’ll* change. But maybe now he has something to think about, when/if he ever does come to terms with himself. That’s not my problem, though. The whole thing is just sad on many levels, all due to the fact that the EUM and the FBG don’t get real. If they did, the chain would break. When I got real (thanks, NML, for your part in this process and all the women who share here–I’ve been reading/lurking for nine months), the disintegration began, but I began the painful process of integrating myself with myself, if that makes any sense. Time to own up. Time to woman up and “not be that woman anymore.” Thanks for your words of encouragement, Fearless. It means a lot.

        • Bri says:

          Adrienne,

          As a former OW, how did you maintain NC? I did something very stupid today and broke NC, and go figure, I feel worse than I did before. Of course I heard that he still loves me, he’s not happier after making his decision, but does that change anything? No; we’re still over and he’s still going home to his wife.

          I foolishly told him that I hoped he’d come back one day if he was ever ready…he said “I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve learned to never rule anything out when it comes to us.” Now it’s like I have hope to cling onto, even though it’s false hope. That hope is deadly.

          Never talking to him again seems like such a daunting thing to face, but you all are right, it just ripped the wound right open again. I told him I’d still be here if he came back. I’m not moving on because I’m clearly not ready to, but why would I keep myself in this kind of pain? I guess I’m just putting my hand on the stove over and over again and expecting it not to burn me like it did before. I wanted a different outcome, even though I knew what the odds were.

          • Fearless says:

            Bri to Adriennebythelovelysea:
            “As a former OW, how did you maintain NC?”

            Bri, I should probably butt out of your ‘thread’ as I think everything that is said to you falls on deaf ears. But I too feel foolishly compelled to try again. We are sympathetic, believe me, many of us have been where you are and know what you are up against – it’s a battle (but not with him – with you). You have to get that and arm yourself, but are you even reading Natalie’s blogs and literature – her e-books and NC email support? You keep asking the commentators here how to do x or y thing and it must surely be plain that we have all made the progress we have with Natalie’s help here on BR. E.g. I used those NC email supportive reminders. I read the FBG book. I read all the blogs, even those I thought may not apply to me, only to discover that they did! And I read them all more than once and tried as hard as I could to follow the advice. Yes, I didn’t always do well and I slipped one time from NC but no-one here has a magic wand, Bri – there is no instant cure or antidote. The help, however, is right here on this site – IF you want to use it for your own benefit. You have not yet recognised what you are up against. The only thing preventing you from starting to deal with the reality of your position is you. You are avoiding and denying. HE is not the answer to your problems – you are. You seem to think that the answer to all of this lies with him – or that it is ‘out there’ somewhere… the more you look to him and search ‘out there’ the further you wander away from what your really looking for – the answer is not ‘out there’, it’s much closer to home. It’s you.

          • runnergirl says:

            Hi Bri,

            So very, very sorry. I did it too (broke NC) either by texting him or responding to his phone calls/texts/emails. I have the scorched hands and scorched earth to show for it. Some of us need to keep playing in traffic until we get run over for good. I finally got run over for good last month when we spent the weekend together, his wife put a tail on us, and I was thrown under the bus in a 50 minute phone call. It does feel worse than ever when you break NC and suck it and see. It ends up being insanity: Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. While I was firmly 200% committed to never being that woman, the OW, I struggled with NC because I kept foolishly hoping that he really couldn’t live without me like he said and that he’d see the light. Nope. He can live without me. What I saw last month is he’d be more than fine with hitting the reset button, throwing a few crumbs my way, and continue being married to his wife. Only problem, he got caught being a cheater.

            Now, you’ve got to lick your wounds and climb right back on the NC wagon. So sorry. He is telling you, you don’t have a choice not now not ever. Of course, he’s stringing you along with the crappola about not knowing what the future holds. Mine did too. When I was unhinged about spending the first x-mas alone while he sat under his tree with his wife, I vowed not to spend another x-mas like that. His response: “I don’t know where I’ll be next x-mas.” Ahh hope, I thought! NOT. Fast forward to this past x-mas, he spent it with his wife but we broke it off 10 days before x-mas.

            Natalie and the other wonderful ladies told me that I had to get 100% committed to NC. I was 200% committed to never being the OW and I finally got 200% committed to NC. It still hurts but sometimes there’s simply no going home. Now would be a good time to download Natalie’s books. The No Contact Rule and Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl. They are simply the best. Have you read the Articles “Suck it and See” and “I Miss You, I Miss You”? You are living everything Natalie has written about. The reason I know? I lived it too. Lots of us have.

            It’s a good sign though that you are now acknowledging that he is going home to his wife. He has a wife.

            I’ll meet you in Australia with Fearless to dig our self esteem out of the rubbish bin.

          • AdrienneBytheSea says:

            Bri, it is a daily commitment to maintain it. These last few days I have had to sit on my hands. We are having a hurricane here and I have so wanted to check in on him. But after what he did and how our last conversation went (with me screaming at him, raging), how weird would that be? And if I did contact him, even using the excuse of worrying about him in this hurricane, what message would that send about myself? That he can betray me even worse next time? That I want him back? That I can’t live without him? Bri, I did this OW thing for SIX YEARS–and thru that time had periods of off/on/faux NC and I kicked myself every time I accepted him back because I saw how “weak” I was but I never quite got the reasons why until recently (the last several weeks when I started seeing a counsellor). But even before then, reading this site and writing in my journal, I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. I think everyone reaches a certain saturation point where, if you have even one shred of self-respect and dignity (which I do think we all have, deep down), then you grab ahold of that little rope shred and you hang on and pull yourself out of the depths of crying and despair. Hopefully that saturation point will be sooner rather than later for you. But notice, Bri, that it does involve action–and in my opinion, that action is foremost SELF-Control, which goes along with Self-respect which goes along with Self-esteem. Control the impulse. Work out the anxiety in your body by going to the gym–hit a punching bag or run your a** off. And the cliche of “one day at a time” is really true. Or even go one hour NC at a time. Or one minute. But own it. As Fearless said in an earlier post, draw an emphatic line under it, just for today. As others have said to you here, Bri, you have to take action for yourself. At a certain point, you’ve got to get out of your head and into your feet — walk away!!!!!! Sit on your hands. Go to a movie. Bake a cake. Seriously. Anything that will get you away from the fire. Good luck, Bri! I am reading your posts every day and wishing the best for you.

          • Sunshine says:

            Bri,

            “why would I keep myself in this kind of pain?” is a great question to ask yourself. Keep asking, and keep listening for the answer. What is the benefit, what are you getting out of it?

            For me…I learned about myself that I didn’t know any other way to be. It seemed to me that I had been in pain from the moment of conception…given away at birth, to abusive parents, feeling abused and beaten at every turn.

            Even after a year since I first went NC and took a break from dating and pretty much abandoned every unsatisfying and empty “friendship” I had, I am still learning new things about my relationship to pain. While meditating a few days ago, I burst into tears realizing the pain I’ve always known has been a constant companion, a friend, and habitual (like your stove analogy). I was grieving the possibility of it’s loss, the familiarity of it. I did not want to let it go! It was something I could *feel*, like a life raft, that gave me an illusion of safety.

            Get a journal, write down the answers to your questions no matter how silly or irrelevant they may be. In getting to know YOU, you will find what you’ve been seeking in relationship that nobody else can ever ever ever give you.

  61. Tulipa says:

    I have had two dreams of late that have showed me that Im not quite there yet, in terms of having enough self esteem to not let him back in should he come calling again. I don’t take much notice of my dreams but these ones seemed worthwhile thinking about to make sure he can’t smash through the door again. Here’s hoping he doesn’t try while I continue to work on my self esteem.

    • Fearless says:

      Tulipa – never rely on the EUM/AC to do the right thing by you, so long as you can do the right thing by you it won’t matter what he does; he’ll just bounce off you. Keep with the NC – it will work.

      • Tulipa says:

        Thank you, Fearless, you are right I am in control of me not him.
        Even if he does try to smash his way in I can keep my boundaries in tact, finally Im choosing me.

    • Sunshine says:

      Tulipa,
      I do quite a bit of dream work and lead a dream share group.
      One of the things we do, is rewrite dreams. Imagine it differently…dreams reflect our unconscious behavior, and rewriting it can bring those patterns to consciousness and repattern it. I am SO surprised sometimes at what comes out….I find things flowing out of my pen that I never would have imagined previously. I also write some things that are super cheesy, and goofy…it doesn’t matter if it seems like a better or worse outcome, the point is to create a DIFFERENT outcome, which breaks the brain’s habit of a particular pattern of behavior. And you can rewrite it as many ways as you like!

  62. jennynic says:

    I just took a dating quiz on line and with the end result assessment of me stating: “you are a dating dud”. Wow. Thats a bolster for my self esteem, LOL! Seriously, the quiz was a little hokey but it did assert that I may approach dating the wrong way. I work on my self esteem daily, some days are more productive that others but it has become something I make an effort to do. When do you know your self esteem is healthy enough to date? I met a nice guy and we have been on a few dates. So far, so good but I feel the fear creeping in that I might mess up, be too critical, be too guarded, act desperate, etc… . I also fear that he will lose interest in me. That is my low self esteem tapping me on the shoulder. I am making an effort not to wait for him or rely on him to set the pace of things because I have tended to become the passenger in the past. I call him and ask him to do stuff, something I almost never do. He calls me too, so it isn’t one sided, but this was a big step for in in taking some control over the outcome. I have also told myself to not let ‘dating’ become the focus in my life and fall into the familiar dating waiting game. I am trying really hard to stay level in this and feel good aside from the ‘creeping in’ of fears. My self esteem still needs work on many levels but I am trying to be proactive.

  63. Michelle says:

    I just want to say that this is one of the best websites I have ever had the pleasure of stumbling upon. I recently cut off contact from someone who I was seeing for roughly 4-5 months who I now know is an EUM and this website has opened my eyes drastically! It has single-handedly helped me provide myself with the closure that I so desperately felt I needed from him in order to move on as well as provided me with answers to questions that I could not get my brain to stop formulating. My thinking regarding relationships has changed dramatically since reading through many of your posts and I am BEYOND grateful. I am 22 years old yet I now feel that I have acquired a lifelong amount of knowledge regarding relationships, knowledge that I possibly never would have uncovered on my own and most definitely not at this stage in my life. Your website has also taught me a lot about myself and the improvements that need to be made within before anything else can fall into place. I can now say with confidence that my future dating will be very different as I am armed with the knowledge to be and do better.

  64. Julia T says:

    This blog is changing me! I always thought I was a confident, sorted person. How wrong I was! I have learnt so many things since I (thankfully) stumbled upon Natalie’s wonderful blog in search of answers (like so many of us).

    My very successful, 16 years older, very smart director of an ethically driven business is in fact a terribly EU MM verging on being an AC and I have very poor self-esteem.

    The red flags were there from the start – I chose to ignore them because I thought he would be a ‘good’ guy. Now I know that successful + smart + ethical does not = a person who will treat you decently. I was also seriously Betting On Potential and ignoring my own concerns.

    An exponent of the Outrageous Principle, trying to get me into bed the first time he took me out to dinner, (which wasn’t even a date – it was a business dinner!!!) even though he knew I was with someone at the time. Though it did make me feel a bit uncomfortable I was also incredibly flattered – thinking such a successful man must find me irrestible! Obvious boundary issues which I only now see.

    He drip fed information – despite asking if he was married the most I ever found out (and then after a few weeks) was that he had a ‘partner’. A week after I went No Contact I found out he is in fact married to his business partner, and has been for many, many years. Why did I put up with such evasive behaviour? (My esteem – I know now…)

    He Future Faked for England. After that first business dinner he wanted to take me away somewhere exotic – when I didn’t take him up on the offer (deep down I thought the suggestion was too crazy and unlikely to happen) he shifted the offers to European cities I had spoken about wanting to visit, or concerts and events in this country that he thought I’d like. Of course when I accepted these incredibly exciting invitations things went very, very q u i e t…

    I wracked my brains as to why things had changed. It was a heady start with long, urgent, passionate emails detailing how much (and how – Outrageous again!) he wanted me and what we would do and where we would go, and tender, flirty calls and sexy texts the communication started to wain and became rather Crumby – IMs / one line emails. Promises to call never came to fruition. Now though he had me hooked and wanting more from him. I had the unnerving feeling that it was me chasing him,…

    • Fearless says:

      Julia T that’s eactly how my ex EUM started and it continued that way for years. Evasive was his middle name (should have been his first – and last!) Sounds like same guy! Be glad he’s effed off; I assume he has – or you have. It doesn’t get any better. You are worth more than that. That’s the key thing to remember and to never forget. Good luck!

    • Magnolia says:

      Julia,

      My heart lurched when I read your description of this guy because I feel like you could be describing my ex. I’ve been NC with him for almost a year and it’s entirely possible he has gone through the cycle with another, younger woman in the social/ethical business scene!

      Mind you, my ex wasn’t married, but his very high profile ethical investor buddy was, and I always suspected him of being a cheatin’ kind, too, in part because he always seemed to want to bust my ex’s balls for showing any kind of commitment (ie. being pussy-whipped) to me. Maybe HE got you.

      The deepest scarring from my relationship with that AC was losing my faith in the ethical business / green investment community. I am still struggling: just met a woman last night who I hoped could mentor me, but she’s tied into the big scene.

      I’ve come to look at the ethical/social venture scene like it’s a kind of church. A lot of people are taking the same kinds of hopes, dreams, passion and values – that in other circumstances would be brought to their faith – to the idea of “green.” And just like church, “green” can bring a lot of good people together, get a lot of good done, and it can happen in the name of higher values.

      But also just like church, you can get your asshole, squeaky-clean-looking leaders who prey on the believers, especially the women. Also like church, people who want to believe are just forking over money. A lot of greed is going where ‘green’ is these days.

      In that way my experience with the AC has grown me up, by disillusioning me, and in some ways I’m glad because I can begin to develop my instinct for people’s character, rather than placing blind faith in the “ethical” label.

      By the way, the offering of exorbitant trips right at the beginning – been there, been hosed by that. Went to the Caribbean. Had the distinct feeling I was not the first woman this guy had whisked off to a beach.

      • Fearless says:

        Tsk! I never got whisked off to the Caribbean. Humph. Is it cos I’m not worth it?!!

        (I was whisked off to Rothesay! And not even doon the watter on the Waverley – in an old Ford Fiesta! Is that all I was worth! Tsk. probably no-one here will get that joke.)

        • Magnolia says:

          @fearless: I don’t get it, but it still sounds funny. Though I suspect a trip to Rothesay would be a big deal if one started in Vancouver – even in a Ford Fiesta!

          My sister got taken to Paris by a guy who soon was revealed to be a super-Grade-A-asshole after they had been dating for six days.

          Beware the too-good-t0-be-true. Beware also the possible and true, but too easy. If they can afford the time and money to take a woman they just met to another continent, it’s wrong to take it as a grand gesture. Better to notice how easily, and with how little investment, they can seem to make a grand gesture.

          If you’re into rings, what would you rather have: a huge glittery diamond from a guy whose accountant is the only one who will register the impact of the purchase on his account, and who lays it on you like he’s finally giving you what you want; or a simple band from a guy who saved up to get it and stressed about whether or not you’d say yes?

          Of course I wanted the glittery diamond from a guy who was genuinely nervous about winning my heart, but life doesn’t seem to work that way.

  65. Bri says:

    Fearless,
    I can tell you that I have clinical depression and anxiety and it runs all throughout my family, so medication is crucial for me to control my panic attacks and other things. As for therapy, I think you’re right in that it won’t help unless you want to help yourself.

    I was previously in a physically and mentally abusive relationship (mirroring my parents) and have been surrounded by dysfunction for a long time. I also struggled with an eating disorder in college. I first had to learn WHY I felt the things I did and WHY my self-esteem was so low. I also had to work through a lot of childhood trauma and sometimes it takes a while to grasp all of that. I’ve been seeing a therapist throughout the affair but since I wasn’t ready to let it go, there was only so much progress I could make; we focused on more specific things regarding my feelings during the affair, like how to lower my anxiety and not obsess about him – basically getting through a single day. It got me through some very dark times but I still held on and couldn’t totally heal.

    I’m an advocate for therapy and it has enlightened me greatly, but like Nat says, no one has the power to change you but you. I think today after my heartbreaking episode of breaking NC, I’m finally ready to start letting go and learn how to live in a healthier place. No amount of love for him can justify the pain I’m in now, and I have to give it up. I definitely champion you though for being able to get to that place, with or without a professional…I hope I get there too.

    • Fearless says:

      I hear you Bri. Keep fighting for you. Try to figure out and identify clearly what you want. Not WHO!! – but WHAT. And then how to get there.

    • grace says:

      Bri
      You’re starting to sound better already and it’s only been a couple of weeks. Keep it up. Don’t get derailed by the bad days, you’re in this for the long haul.
      One day, and not that far off, you’ll see this “dumping” as a good thing. It’s a wake up call. You learn there’s so much more to life then being in a crap relationship or getting over a crap relationship.
      It’s a wonderful feeling.

  66. Bri says:

    Fearless,

    Fearless,

    I appreciate you trying with me, it’s not on deaf ears. I save everything all of you girls tell me and reread it every day. I know I seem like a lost cause now but I really do want to get to where you are and I look to this blog for support more than anything. Don’t give up on me yet, and I won’t give up either!

    • Fearless says:

      Bri
      no giving upon you! :)

      It helped me to clarify for myself what I really wanted for me and for my life – I then started to see that it wasn’t “him” I needed. So NC got easier.

      So this helped me:
      Open a journal today. Write in it:
      1. What you really want the next year (or two) of your life to look like? Describe it (no more than four sentences or four things)
      2. What do YOU really want to feel like – to feel about yourself and your life? Describe it. (Again, in no more than four sentences or four things. (4 will keep you from meandering – 5 okay – but keep it tight and simple as you can)

      Rules: you’re not allowed to mention “him” (or any man!) at all – and no unrealistic over the top fantasy stuff.

      Try it Bri. Look at what you’ve written. This is Bri. This is who Bri is and what Bri wants and deserves. This is what Bri is allowed to expect for herself and for her life. When you feel utterly compelled to contact him, take a look at it. Look at it often. If you break NC, go look at it again. Anyone – including you! – who tries to rob you of what you’ve written down is robbing Bri of what she deserves and needs. Make it into a poster, (laminate it!) and pin it up where you can’t avoid seeing it every day.

      I hope it’ll help. It helped me enormously.

      • AdrienneBytheSea says:

        Hi Fearless, (now returning the favor and butting into your response to Bri :) ) and hi Bri, No giving up on you, Bri! Great idea that Fearless has for journaling. I know I have definitely looked at my life through the “other” lens–that is, I thought too much about what others would want, and I made my choices accordingly. The “Rules” that Fearless attached to this exercise are excellent. I would also suggest to make a list of some practical, small steps you could DO to start making your vision a reality. When you start checking even little things off your list, you will have a visible, tangible reinforcement of making progress on yourself and that will give you a boost. I like Fearless’s ideas because she reminds us to see ourselves and our lives through the SELF lens, not the OTHER lens. For us who are used to not owning our wants/needs, it may seem “selfish” to begin to take care of ourselves first, but it’s not. It’s what we must do to heal. Also, as Runner and Fearless have said, get NML’s books and also the NC emails. When I went “faux” NC back in December, I got the emails and I saved them in my email folder so now I can go back and re-read; that has helped me, too, along with re-reading some key postings on here (especially the one about not needing validation after the breakup)-
        http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/seeking-validation-understanding-in-your-poor-relationships-part-two/ Good luck, Bri. I am rooting for you!

  67. amy says:

    Oh Bri your posts break my heart. They remind me of my own painfully raw feelings that started a little over a year ago. I was an OW and my relationship ended on July 2nd 2010. I hear others telling you to realize this and that but it really will not be heard from you until you can process this . You are in the infant stages of grief. You are still in denial, later will come anger then long months of bargaining. I am into taking my time with my grief, my loss was like a death and my heart was destroyed. I felt my sadness each say and would let my feelings to be felt in full force. Only time with nc am I able to see things more clearly. The answers and relief is coming more every day. I remember in the beginning how grateful I was to have minutes free from my thoughts of him now I have hours. I have days now that I understand that this relationship was doomed and seems so unrealistic of ever having a chance. I see him more clearly now as not my sweet misunderstood soul to the deceiver that he is. You will get there too Bri. My heart was ripped in two but I am here to tell you that you will be okay. Take your time and grieve , baby steps, be so very gentle with yourself. You are so fragile right now. Tell your hurt inner child that you’ll take care of her, nurture her and love her. After all, she is you..

  68. Magdalena says:

    Mango, Runnergirl, and Adriennebythesea,

    I’ve done it! I’m posting a link to my self-esteem map! (Hopefully it works!) You’ll probably see that parts of it aren’t as complete as others, which I think reflects the nature of the project and where I am with self-love right now. Some of the ideas are probably written in Magadelena-ese, so sorry if its a bit incoherent in spots. I’m hoping to work more on it and make it as practical as possible with actual actions that ultimately lead back to the larger concept of self-love.

    Hope it helps! I wish all of you the absolutely best! :)

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/345288/SelfLove.jpeg

    Cheers!

    • runnergirl says:

      Hi Magdelena,

      Very excellent chart. I love it and thanks so much for posting. It really helps tie together all of the different aspects of self-esteem. Very nicely done.

    • AdrienneBytheSea says:

      Magdalena, Yippee! The link works. What a gorgeous chart. I love it! thank you for sharing – very inspiring. Will use it as a model for my own version. I so appreciate this example of a very concrete thing we can do to help our healing. It’s such an affirming process, to celebrate ourselves. I know I need a dose of that right now. Thanks again!!! :))))

    • Magnolia says:

      Wow – really shows how many ways we can be good to ourselves! And therefore how much energy we could be putting into our own self-love! Thanks!

  69. snh says:

    “When someone isn’t interested, you’ll think ‘There’s something wrong with me’.” Wow. This one statement hit dead home for me.

    Yesterday, I went out to lunch. I was happy and outgoing. I felt very at ease, like in a natural state – totally present I guess. And the waiter started being flirty with me. I didn’t read anything into it – or so I thought!!! Well, the moment he got busy, and “seemed” like he was being less flirty, less interested I immediately stopped being outgoing, friendly confident me. And I just sort of withdrew my personality because I felt there was something wrong with me. And so I stopped.being.me. I didn’t stop drinking my water. Or stop reading. Or change cutlery. It’s like I wasn’t worth being myself if someone else didn’t agree. But who can provide that kind of constant affirmation, right? It’s hard to describe but it’s like a peice of a puzzle just clicked – it just hit me.
    When I was eight my mum died. (My dad had already died when I was six). I went to live in England with my aunt (my mum’s closest sister confidant) and my uncle. From 8-18 years old she rejected me in every way it’s possible to be rejected while at the same time expecting me to be a loving, obedient, cooperative outwardly perfect child inspite of how I was treated at home. The behavior made me scared and confused when I was little. And it was clear unless I was how I was supposed to be I wasn’t worth their love, their support, their home, their food, anything. Right now I see I’ve been on a 30 year quest to prove that I’m worth the space I take up.

    I wish I had the words to describe how I feel right now – except that is a very confronting thing to see I’ve been living with, and loving from, this belief for 30 years. Intellectually it’s so untrue and yet it feels so real, so necessary. All I can say is thank you Natalie for writing and publishing that sentence. I now know what I’m dealing with now…. Thank you! xo

  70. Mango says:

    Hi Magdalena,

    Thanks so much for posting this. It’s wonderful! I love the idea of having something tangible to work on, as well as a visual collection. Well done you! I am inspired to create my Mango-map-wheel to help navigate a path back to me ;-)

    • Fearless says:

      Ditto! Love the self-love map!

      • Magdalena says:

        Aw, shucks…thanks, ladies! (I’m blushing!) Hope you find the map useful in your own journeys towards more, better, and deeper senses of self love and joy!

        Best thoughts and wishes to all! :D

        Cheers!

  71. EllyB says:

    I’ve just acknowledged the fact that I had a crush on an EUM for more than a decade. He always seemed to be super-nice, super-smart,fairly handsome, but for whatever reason, never had a real relationship (or at least none I knew of). Perfect candidate for all my fantasies! If only I could make him mine, that would mean I would be valuable…

    Crap. He’s actually playing with my feelings, and he has been doing that for many years. He’s just nice enough to keep me interested, but never more than that. There are many sneaky put-downs too. I guess he enjoys being pursued by me and rejecting me over and over again. What an A…

    Time to go NC. I can’t completely avoid him, but minimize the occasions we meet. I just have to stick to this decision.

    I often used my crush on him as an “excuse” for myself to break up with other AC/EUM. I guess this was the main reason I clung to him. It was better to cling to a relationship that didn’t exist than to actually being abused by a real BF. Because of my horrible childhood, I believed there were no non-abusive relationships. There was just “real abuse” in a “real relationship” or questionable fantasy relationships.

    I’m glad I chose the fantasy relationship over the real abuse every time. But now I know there is a third choice: No abuse at all!

  72. RereRara says:

    Really liked the post – but there is one thing I don’t undestand.

    You say you have to have unconditional love and acceptance for yourself – but what if there are things about you that you HAVE to change because they are not good for your body (e.g. obesity), your relationships (e.g. abusive personality) or your career (e.g. laziness)?

    If you love and accept yourself the way you are you might never have the drive to change the things which are bad and should be changed to improve your life and that of the other people around you?

    • Magnolia says:

      Hi Ree: This is a good question and one that keeps recurring on this blog. It’s good to be reminded.

      Loving yourself doesn’t mean not expecting good behaviour from yourself. Sometimes loving yourself involves a fair amount of toughness, just like a good parent loving their child would not let the child be cruel to others, or eat a pound of sugar candy, or watch too much TV. Loving yourself means lovingly attending to your own growth and health and happiness.

      Accepting is also not the same as condoning. If you were obese, for example, not accepting would be to say “I’m not obese.” Accepting your obesity means being able to start dealing with it. Not accepting would also be to look the other way or not think about the obesity, as if it weren’t there, pretending that reality doesn’t exist. You can even “accept” that you have been abusive in the past. (How else could one begin to address the abusiveness?)

      Most of us operate on a strict regime of “no self love until we are perfect” or “if I love myself I’m saying I am flawless the way I am”. You can be flawed, working on flaws and loving yourself at the same time.

      Starting that process of learning what self-love means is what this blog is about and it takes time. It’s a skill. For what it’s worth, I have begun accepting myself and yes, my joyless exercise regime has lessened and I’ve gained weight. But I’m a nicer, kinder, less reactive person these days and that is far more attractive (to healthy men) than a skinny, snappish, starve-herself-for-affection-and-food bitch.

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

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

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

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