reteach people what to expect from you because you want to expect something different to what has typically brought about pain

If like me you’ve ever had that uncomfortable realisation that someone has come to expect that you’ll be or do something that doesn’t work for you even though it works for them, it’s one of those sobering realisations that we teach people what to expect from us.

Us humans are remarkably predictable, even when we genuinely think that we’re not. You may know some people’s relationships better than they do because you’re more aware of their ‘cycle’ – you know that friend that swears “It feels different this time, I swear. It’s definitely over”. Again. We’re predictable.

It’s why I’ve often remarked to people who’ve struggled with their involvement in an unavailable relationship, that when you deal with someone who blows hot and cold, they become consistent at being inconsistent. If you pay attention to the overall pattern instead of only focusing on the hot bursts, which incidentally are probably only warm bursts because it’s coming off the back of a cold burst so feels warmer than it is, you’ll learn that when you feel the ‘hot’, you should expect ‘cold’ to follow and take this all as a sign to FLUSH. Even serial killers who try their damnedest to be random can’t help creating a pattern of some sort.

We’re all made up of habits. We deviate from time to time and of course go through periods of change when we become too uncomfortable with unhealthy habits of thinking and behaviour or we move in a different direction, but even then we change and evolve into new habits, hopefully ones that serve us better.

We teach people what to expect from us and sadly if we don’t have good boundaries, we can end up teaching them what they can get away with.

We ‘teach’ through the communication of our actions and words, including what we don’t do and what we leave unsaid. This is why people pleasing can be so destructive – it teaches people that we have no needs, wishes, and expectations and shows an inadvertent willingness to deviate from our values for their approval.

If you look at the relationships you struggle with like a series of habits, you’ll see a clear dynamic and a pattern of how each of you respond to certain cues (something that you perceive as a signal to think or do a certain thing) and triggers (an event or thing prompting that prompts you to respond in a typical manner).

When I sense or perceive conflict, I feel uncomfortable and my first response is to think of some sort of unpleasant outcome and go into avoidance mode, however, after years of getting out of my comfort zone, I now recognise that first typical response as my next cue to stop, look, listen, and deal. 99% of the time what I imagine isn’t the reality and it’s not worth the drama and silencing me for the 1% of time that it’s as expected or worse.

Over the years my relationships with certain family members have improved in the sense that they don’t have their old power over me. Why have they changed? Because I simply won’t participate – I no longer respond in the way that I used to. You want to dangle the threat of disapproval or even expulsion, or to criticise me, play games, draw me into drama or just expect me to play doormat, I’m not playing ball. My consistently different responses over an extended period of time means that I know and they know that the old cues and triggers don’t work.

It’s amazing how not seeking approval can clean up so many of your boundaries! If you also take your head out of the clouds and stop expecting people to change on each ‘chance’ you give, you’ll know what to expect from them instead of deluding you.

There’s been no announcement. I haven’t said anything using the word “boundaries” and I haven’t laid down the law about what people should and shouldn’t do – they can figure that out from what I do or don’t do, just in the same way that I’ve had to figure out others.

It’s the same with breaking up, especially if you have to cut contact – taking time out, taking care of you including addressing your boundaries and respecting them, communicates that this person can no longer expect the same responses from you to cues and triggers that have typically worked for them. You’re not doing it to manipulate him/her into giving you the relationship you want or to change; you’re taking care of you and being broken up. When you break, you break.

A reader told me how she’s still helping her ex with his resume, being a shoulder to lean on, networking on his behalf and other sorts of guff, all because she doesn’t want to be “mean”. Er, hold up a frickin’ second here! How can you expect to move on when you’re basically still being the lackey you were in the relationship? It’s not like he’s going to go “Thanks for all of that. Let’s get back together”!

If you continue to think and act in the same manner that contributed to you being in this dynamic in the first place, you’ll come up against the same issues. You can’t use the same habits that got you into problems to get out of those same problems.

Of course when you stop responding in the same way, this is where some folk equate feeling out of control with ‘desire’ or a signal to rise to a challenge and try new tricks in an attempt to get old responses, but if you remember why you’ve made the changes instead of thinking “Maybe they’ve changed and I can go back to being ‘old me’…”, you won’t get suckered in.

Change is for you first and foremost, not for ‘making’ others do what you want in a convoluted attempt to control the uncontrollable. Reteach people what to expect from you because you want to expect something different to what has typically brought about pain for you. When you teach you to expect that you’ll have your own back and that you’re not going to sell you down the river when given the first chance, you’ll teach others to expect that you’re to be treated with respect.

Your thoughts?

Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more. Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter – @baggagereclaim .

Natalie (NML) – who has written posts on Baggage Reclaim by Natalie Lue.


FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

238 Responses to Sometimes You’ve Got To Reteach People What To Expect From You

  1. Chroniclyaccute says:

    I have decide against telling her, although I have resolved that should she ever come to me again (as she has done in the past, and ironically, I referred her back to him because I thought it was his place to tell her the truth, not mine), I would level with her. Instead, I told him I was through and told him why, without mincing any words. I suspect his own bruised ego will keep him from ever contacting me again. I have deleted him from my contacts, my phone, my life. This time, there will be no turning back. And yes, take-away lessen, no married men, no separated men, no buying into the bullshit once uncovered. Perhaps a no duh issue for some of you, but some of us do have learn the hard way and it is never as clear, when you are in the middle of it, as it is at the end. We all have lessons to learn, and reserving judgment is always the better part of valor…

    • Lilly says:

      Chroniclyacute,

      It truly has been a hard and painful lesson to learn and I will NEVER again put myself in such harm’s way. Top of my list, no MM. I’ve also “properly” deleted him from my life; phone, skype, email and no more working together. I’ve had to sacrifice some work, but it had to be done. The only thing I cannot do is change my address, but I would if I could. As you say this time there will be no turning back. Good luck to you and here’s to no more bullshit.

      • Sadder but Wiser says:

        Lilly, I am so thrilled (as I know everyone else is) to hear that you are no longer working with him!! That’s a huge hurdle and whatever you’ve had to sacrifice in terms of work will absolutely be worth it. I always say prayers for all the people on this site, but I’ve said a special prayer for you lately. We are all walking on the path with you, a step or two behind so if you are tempted to turn back, you’ll find us a formidable barrier to get past! :)

        • Lilly says:

          Sadder but Wiser, I have been working non-stop, but I’ve just finished tying up all the loose ends and I’ve made sure there are no loop holes. I’m done, but I wish it didn’t hurt so much. Tomorrow I start at my new university. It will mean that I will have to get up in the mornings and not go back to bed, talk to new people and start building a life for myself again. I looked in the mirror today and it was awful, I’m thin and haggard and my eyes look dead. If I went back it would be suicide so I’m staying right on that path. I keep telling myself I can do this so tomorrow I will make myself look as nice as I can and start again. Thank you so much for your special prayer it made me cry in a good way.

      • Peanut says:

        Lilly,

        Congratulations on taking all these steps to taking care of yourself. You are so strong. You are an inspiration to me. Onwards.

    • jewells says:

      Chronic, congrats, you’ve made a good decision. I think the only redeeming quality in my situation is that I forced him to be the one to own up. I did state it to him in that way – “if you want any hope of saving your marriage, it better be YOU that tells her”. I didn’t think about what I was saying at the moment it all burst forth, but ultimately it was for the best all round. He had to finally begin behaving with integrity, she had the playing field levelled and empowered her to make informed choices in their relationship, they wound up in counselling to potentially make their relationship work and I became free to work out what I needed to do to make my life happier without being tied into an unhealthy dynamic. It’s amazing to look back at it, I didn’t think about what I was saying, I just blurted what needed to be said at the moment. It didn’t heal me, and I’m under no illusion that it healed either of them or their marriage, but it did set everyone in the right direction to find healing if they choose to step up to it. I am stepping into mine. I choose me.

      • Chroniclyaccute says:

        You did the right thing. I had those moments but did not seize them. Wish I had. A bit late now, and nobody’s fault but my own. But never too late to choose myself..

  2. Lavender says:

    I have the issue of enforcing boundaries and then people saying that they were just kidding or joking with their behaviour. For example I have a male friend who is always insulting me. Yesterday he said my ex dated me because he was “into plain jane girls” like me, then today he made a comment about me having wrinkles on a photo I posted online. He thinks he is being funny when he does this, but it hurts me. When I say something he says I can’t take a joke. This guy is really objectively speaking not a piece of art work but he is continually insulting good looking women we see in the street. Why does he do this? What should I say when he insults me? BTW I definitely do not like this guy romantically at all.

    • Victorious says:

      Lavender, never mind romantically, but why do you like this guy at all? You describe him as a friend. I beg to differ. I would not dream of making such nasty comments to someone I cared about, especially if I knew it upset them. Would you? If not, then why tolerate it from this idiot? NC/Flush/isn’t just for the ACs we have entangled ourselves with emotionally.

    • Sadder but Wiser says:

      This is not funny, this is cruel and insulting. Friends do not act like this. I have male friends who I’ve known for 30 years who have never insulted me. Sometimes genuine friends can have a bad moment and say something unfortunate, but then they apologize later. They don’t turn it back on you and make you doubt your own reactions.

      The question is why do you want a clod like this in your life?

      • Lavender says:

        Thanks Victorious and Sadder and Wiser. The guy is a very old friend who I have known since childhood, so I feel bad blocking him out and he is also friends with my best friends. He makes these comments all the time those are just two examples. I feel like he has a real snideness about him and I don’t know why cause he tells me he thinks of me as a really close good friend.

        • Mymble says:

          Lavender
          It does feel very strange standing up for yourself and saying “No More” when you have got into the habit of putting up with it. You may surprise yourself, once it’s done, how quickly the discomfort subsides. He is malicious, no doubt about it, he isn’t a friend. Focus on making new friends – as in “friend” friends, who are friendly.

        • jewells says:

          IMHO he is playing you the ‘my bestest friend’ card as a means to keep you in his life because you take his crap. You may call him on it on occasion by telling him that it hurts you, but if he turns around and tells you that you’re too sensitive (or whatever) and you don’t throw THAT one in his face or walk away, then you’ve still taught him that it’s ok to treat you this way. Next time this ditch pig makes a nasty comment tell him he is in no uncertain terms, and if he tries to turn it on you again…walk away and go NC!!!

    • Allison says:

      Lavender,

      They’re bullies!

      This guy is not your friend and gets satisfaction by making you feel insecure.

      Time to end the “friendship.”

      • Lavender says:

        Allison, you’re right. I think I just figured that in his mind he thought he was joking and that I should take it on the chin.

        • jewells says:

          Lav, you’re not wrong, in his head he IS just joking and you should take it on the chin – but his head is full of it. It’s the actions, which is his heart that’s mean spirited and closed and therefore not a friend. He’s delusional, and he’s evil. Leave him to his pile o shite playing by himself… NC (or Switzerland) his no good ass! (I believe I’m being Teach influenced…tee hee)

    • Peanut says:

      Lavender,

      This guy is NOT your friend. When we engage with people and they say ‘jokes’ that hurt us, we tell them and they continue to say these things, it is straight up emotional abuse. Nothing less.

      I had a ‘friend’ who was like that with me he’d say things like “The sun on your hair and face makes you look really….ugly.” I know he was being sarcastic but it is still inappropriate. Friends don’t use humor to cut each other, only mean people do. It screams “I can’t emotionally relate, all I can do is berate, so that’s what I do!”

      It’s not pretty, as I have no doubt you are. These ‘friends’ often times will relegate their meanest behavior to the most ridiculous of sources. Case in point: mean friend gives pretty girl a hard time.

      It’s not fair, right, or on any level okay. I tell my friends they are beautiful because I mean it and am not afraid to say it. We all deserve that.

      Also, my ex would do *Exactly* the behavior you described of your friend to me. And be careful. It will effect your self esteem. I mean to hear that consistently over a period of time, would anyone’s. It’s not okay.

      I broke up with the ex and initiated no contact. I cut all contact with the ‘friend’ defriending him from facebook and all. He deserved it.

      Also, you have a RIGHT to tell your ‘friend’ you don’t like his behavior. I personally think it sounds as if he detracts from your life and doesn’t deserve your friendship, as he is unable to relate on a friend level without behaving like a mean spirited adolescent.

      • Lavender says:

        Thank you so much Peanut, what a great response. I really appreciate it.

      • FX says:

        Peanut, I wish there was a “Like” button for this! Yes, “behaving like a mean spirited adolescent” is nothing we need from anyone in our lives. Often, calling someone out on this BS is followed by a “You’re too sensitive. I’m just kidding” Never, ever let anyone get away with invalidating your feelings as a “defense” of their poor behavior either!

  3. miskwa says:

    Sad but true. Some men can hide their true relationship status for years. AC had a secret involvement in the city down the hill. As he ostensibly had rental property there, it made perfect sense that he’d be there on weekends when schools not in session. He’d also been pulling this shite long before my time, when he was married. When the truth became known, I called him on his behavior and have been as NC with a colleague as one can get. I am not sure if it was due to my situation, or previous victims, but others in our circle warn all new female colleagues about him. Over the past year, he has become persona non grata and has to seek fresh victims elsewhere.
    To chronic; great job! Yep, if the wife wants info, fine but otherwise don’t volunteer anything. MM may come sniffing around once his lil ego heals, so stay strong, eh?

    • Victorious says:

      Yep, my old boss was a Bigamist. Seriously. Smooth, great looking, charming, wonderful job. BIGAMIST! Men get away with all kinds of shit because we want to trust them. Very few female bigamists. Just sayin’.

      • Peanut says:

        Victorious,

        I agree men get away with way too much. Even my therapist says things now and I’m like, “Hold up? What?” Like about men not being able to attach like women or be as emotional or how they can so easily cheat because they compartmentalize. These generalizations about ALL men make it far too easy for Unavailables to get on with what they do, sit in therapy to appease the ladies and carry on in their merry way. I love Natalie’s approach so much. She holds both sexes accountable and equally and doesn’t group healthy, available men in with unhealthy unavailable ones, thus creating the myths that are out there about how all men are emotionally incapable/distant blah blah blah. Whew. What a rant. Just had a light bulb go off when I read, “Men get away with all kinds of shit because we want to trust them.” Yep. I agree. They get away with shit because we want to trust them and they get away with shit because we are made to believe we are foolish for fully trusting them or placing even just half decent expectations on them!

  4. Chroniclyaccute says:

    “sit in therapy to appease the ladies and carry on in their merry way” lightbulb moment indeed.

    MM was in daily email contact with me the entire time he was undergoing marital counseling. You know, to “dot the i’s and cross the t’s,” make the wife feel he had given her a chance before finally leaving her for good. Do the right thing. What a guy, giving her a chance! Whilst staying in touch with OW on a daily basis, and somehow that is ok since we are not actually seeing each other! Keeping us both on the hook so he has the luxury of keeping his options open whilst he focusses on his career and his hobbies. Talk about compartmentalisation. I know, I should have just refused to engage, but I allowed it, indeed I invited it. But the view can be quite murky from the compartment, as that compartment is all you see. It takes a while to take in the big picture, let go of denial, and set yourself free. That is what stopped me from telling her, she must reach this point herself and until she gets there nothing will disuade her that her compartment in not the whole picture. None of which is my business, and I am over the hubris of deciding what is best for anyone but myself. So many points where I could have and should have made a different decision, but the first step to breaking a destructive pattern is recognizing that it exists. And stop fully trusting someone who has demonstrated over and over and over again, with his conduct toward both me and his wife, that he simply cannot be trusted.

    • Peanut says:

      Chroniclyaccute,

      I know, if I had a dime for every dollar these men waste on ‘therapy’ I wouldn’t be a poor college student! Kudos to you for seeing through the bs!

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!