broken window on a house

I’m currently reading the deliciously clever and funny How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran where in one of the chapters she takes what are widely considered the ‘smaller’ issues in female inequality (e.g. the constant size debate) and applies the Broken Windows Theory, which really resonated with me and I wanted to apply it to the issue of boundaries and self-esteem.

This philosophy is that when signs of vandalism and disorder go un-repaired and unmanaged, more crime takes place. Mayor Giuliani adopted a zero tolerance policy in New York for petty crimes such as graffiti and other acts of vandalism plus the likes of fare evasion, and crime rates for the next decade or so dropped dramatically.

Caitlin calls for a “…a Zero Tolerance policy on ‘All The Patriarchal Bullshit’…We don’t need to riot, or go on hunger strike. There’s no need to throw ourselves under a horse, or even a donkey. We just need to look it in the eye, squarely, for a minute, and then start laughing at it.”

I’ve long proclaimed here and in my ebooks that the reason why some very crappy acts of unavailability are so pervasive is due to the lack of consequences. Where you won’t put up with shady carry-on, someone else is only too eager to grab the hot seat and let themselves be a rainy day fallback option.

But the fact still remains: The more of us that have boundaries and hold ourselves to better standards is the less of a social norm it is for certain types of people to think that busting up your boundaries and unavailable, going nowhere relationships is acceptable. It is becoming the norm to not bother to get over your breakup – why bother when you can use someone else to ‘buffer’ the pain and then bail or back off when it gets too much?

Every acceptance of boundary crossing behaviour and every time you sell yourself short is a ‘broken window’. They tell those that seek to create ‘disorder’ and ‘vandalise’ that they can do as they like and even ‘squat’ on your property.

They also throw out crumbs and inflate them into a loaf.

Boundaries teach people how to treat you and what to expect and they represent your value system, your level of self-esteem, the type of interactions you’ll engage in, and your limits that signal when it’s time to opt out regardless of what your libido or what you believe your heart is telling you.

The person that has boundaries and doesn’t act like someone who is disinterested or unavailable for a healthy relationship is irreplaceable, isn’t afraid to walk or call a spade a spade, and knows that they have to hold themselves to a better standard to have a better relationship.

Boundaries (and standards) are fundamental to all relationships because they directly influence our actions which is what people take their cues from. Just like the ‘broken window’ left un-repaired or the very obvious signs that an area isn’t being managed properly by the authorities sends a message that it’s open season for crime, if you allow someone to overstep a boundary without it being addressed and/or opting out, this is their cue to continue.

Unfortunately, there are certain types of behaviour and situations that are basically ‘broken windows’ – not opting out, trying to change them, being in denial, and code amber and red behaviour including signs of disinterest and typical unavailable relationships.

Even if you don’t give verbal agreement and are privately or even openly expressing discontent, by remaining and it going unaddressed via action, you communicate acceptance as well as the wrong message about you.

It’s the classic case of putting up with shady behaviour because you’re trying to show how much you love them and instead communicating how much you don’t love yourself.

Non-acceptance of behaviour and situations that don’t work for you is actually shown through consequences which may include opting out. Complaining, discussing repeatedly, arguing, negotiating, doing Powerpoint presentations, creating a manual of guidelines, crying, screaming, coming up with a Plan Z, or having a stand off are not actual consequences because without resulting action and change, it’s like throwing energy into the abyss and having a serious case of verbal diarrhoea.

What many people who end up in unhealthy relationships don’t realise is that when someone disrespects you or has issues or behaviours that make a mutually fulfilling relationship non-viable, it means game over, no credits, abort mission, take a parachute and jump. Instead they ignore it, think “I can handle it”, resolve to try to change them, think the potential outweighs the concerns, or try to change themselves.

You cannot negotiate with boundaries that directly impact you treating yourself with love, care, trust, and respect.

They are your personal electric fence that lets you know when you’re uncomfortable and rings an alarm. If you deny, rationalise, minimise and basically make exceptions where you shouldn’t be, it’s like your electric fence is turned off and where you let one thing slide, more follows.

One of my favourite lines ever is from ‘Ghost’ when Whoopi Goldberg’s character Oda Mae Brown says “Molly, you in danger girl” and I’ve said this line to a number of readers who are endangering themselves.

Having little or no boundaries is pointless because it opens you up to disrespect and you cannot have a healthy relationship or feel good about yourself. It’s like saying “You’re so special, I’m giving you a special pass!” Meanwhile, you’re feeling pretty unspecial.

I know that many of you are eager to find love, to be in a relationship, to be cherished, to get off the dating treadmill, and to make your investment into the dating pool and some of your not so pleasant previous experiences ‘pay off’. You may believe that you have to let certain things slide to increase your chances but it’s not your boundaries and self-esteem – you won’t like what you’re left with and they won’t respect you either.

You don’t need a list of criteria about their IQ, common interests, what food they eat, penis or breast size, their level of attractiveness, job etc but what you do need is to date and have relationships with your self-esteem in tow, because if you can’t or you won’t, don’t bother – it’s like declaring open season on yourself for pain. It’s like saying “They must change because I’m not going to uphold myself to good standards” – they’ll just continue as is.

Fix your ‘broken window(s)’ – learn to like and love you. Get familiar with having boundaries, inappropriate relationship behaviour and dealing with/opting out of situations that detract from you.

We don’t need to throw ourselves under a donkey or a horse although we could do with not continuing to throw ourselves under relationship buses or into oncoming traffic and expecting a different result! What we do need to do is not accept boundary crossing behaviour – cut it off!

If it became harder for people to get all the fringe benefits of a relationship without stepping up and they felt consequences, they’d be forced to step up or ship out. Your job in life isn’t to raise someone from the ground up; there’s plenty of respectful people out there to be discovered once you sort you out. Until then, you’re in danger of never being available for a healthy, mutual relationship.

Your thoughts?

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

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146 Responses to The Broken Windows Theory Applied to Boundaries & Self-Esteem: Time to fix your window(s)!

  1. The Hopeful Romantic says:

    Wow natalie – loved this! This is so apt! When someone is physically, mentally broken they do open themselves up to all manner of antisocial behaviour and invasion. Something for us all to watch for. Great motivation to fix a small problem before things escalate. Thank you!

    • NML says:

      Haha and I know you’re from here too so you know what I mean when I say you can slap down an ASBO (anti social behavioural order) on them!

  2. anoosh says:

    this is genius. truly. once again, totally had my had spun around!

    *re: Giuliani — the Broken Windows theory is totally accurate in many aspects, no question. But… as a lifelong NYC resident (born & raised), i have an issue with giving him or his policies credit for the falling crime rates. there’s a much better theory given by the guys who wrote Freakonomics, which is also a bit controversial but makes sense across the boards. not trying to get into politics here, but as a New Yawker, i had to mention it! :)

  3. Movedup says:

    Amen! Nothing more to say really. Amen! Life is sooo much better now. Opting out is way easier when you don’t give a damn cause its just a square peg and I got a round hole. Not happening cause I said and that’s a good enough reason. No explanation necessary! NEXT!

  4. annied says:

    Natalie … THAT was freaking BRILLIANT!!!

  5. Diane says:

    I love this. I just ended a difficult and painful relationship once and for all for a boundary violation. I almost wavered and then realized what I was doing and just said no more. I finally got that this pain will go on until I simply walk away. Thanks for this post, it is like confirmation that I have done the right thing!

  6. TeaTime says:

    Every morning I wake up and tell myself, “I will treat myself the way I would like others to treat me.” I’ve been finding that the more I respect and love myself, the more I’m receiving respect from others. I’m also bringing to attention when someone acts disrespectfully towards me, which is a shocker considering how much I would avoid confrontation in the past. As a result, I’m noticing I’ve even started to weed out the fake/poison people in my life, and I’ve never felt happier or healthier. This is such a huge change from where I was just 365 days ago when I spent most of my days crying, depressed, and filled with self hate. No more broken windows!

  7. Kay says:

    One of my most favorite articles yet – and exactly what I am doing right now. The house and windows metaphor makes it real. I wish I’d known this way of thinking from the beginning.

  8. Janis says:

    OMG … as soon as I read this I finally understood this recurring dream I’ve had for years.

    In the dream, I’ve just moved into a new place, but then I notice that something is wrong. The details vary slightly, but it’s always something like a wall that’s missing, or a door that won’t stay closed and/or locked, or a window with no glass. Basically anyone and everyone could just walk right on in.

    I could never figure out why I kept having that dream, and now it’s obvious that it’s because I have no boundaries! Or at least none that I’ve ever enforced.

    Thank you so much! I’ve been reading your blog for several months now, but this is the first time I’ve felt like I just had to post a comment.

    • Fearless says:

      Great post Natalie. Ilove this bit, that broken windows (no boundaries) “tell those that seek to create ‘disorder’ and ‘vandalise’ that they can do as they like and even ‘squat’ on your property.”

      Made me laugh that one cos I often used to feel exactly what you have just put into words – that my EUM was sqatting on my property!!
      It’s soooo true that if you don’t lock your metaphorical doors and fix your metaphorical windows, first they’re pissin in your plant pots, then they’re vandalising your car, then they’re in your house nicking your telly then before you know it they are sleeping at your place whenever it suits *them*, making themselves quite at home as if they own the place – they piss all over your life like a dog marking its territory.. meanwhile their life is out of bounds to you; his windows are boarded, bolted and double shuttered – that’s if you even get to know where he keeps his windows… and one day you’re sitting there thinkin ‘hey… just a minute, who gave you a special pass to trod all over me, my home and my life (and not return the favour)? Errr, Oh, yea, that was me!! Lesson learned! The hard way.

      • Australia says:

        …” meanwhile their life is out of bounds to you; his windows are boarded, bolted and double shuttered – that’s if you even get to know where he keeps his windows “…

        Right on, fearless. Your description is dead on, a nice addition to Natalie’s post.

        This is exactly how I feel. His windows are bolted shut (of course there is an occasional opening, to let some air in) whereas my windows and house have welcome written all over it. Yet I never enforced any rules in my home (well i did, eventually after being introduced to NML’s posts), but he did and does continue to vandalize my home, without letting me into his.

        Loving this analogy, I will keep it in my mind for when I need to be strong and say “Hey your windows are closed, now mine are too. Only fair. You have a problem with it? Find a new home”.

      • runnergirl says:

        Gracious Fearless you have such a wonderful graphic way with words. I am in awe. You described it perfectly and added another dimension to Natalie’s post. They infiltrate our windows, piss in our pots, and knicker our tellys while their’s are boarded up. I don’t even know where the ex MM lives and have never seen his windows. It doesn’t matter anymore where he lives and I’m not inclined to slither through his windows but it is interestesting that after almost three years, I never thought once about how he was so much a part of my life but I wasn’t let into his. I know, I know…he is married and the OW doesn’t get through a MM’s windows. Trust me, I know now. He is married. An OW must have a ton of broken windows to let a MM creep in.

        • Fearless says:

          Yes, runner, this is what is meant by ‘all on his terms’. You have the relationship on his terms – all at his convenience – or you don’t have it at all. Take it or leave it. That’s the deal with these people, married or not. As Grace said, so astutely, in a recent comment, in order for the relationship to survive you have to pretend you do not have any legitimate needs. Start having needs like any other woman, needs the same as his (like having sex in his bed for a change. lol), and you won’t see him for dust.

    • Magnolia says:

      Janis, wow, your dreams are very communicative. I absolutely love how our subconscious is always trying to tell us stuff to help us figure out how to better enjoy being conscious!

    • NML says:

      Your comment made me smile Janis and thanks for sharing your dream – life has a funny way of showing us where we need to go or what we need to be. Enjoy fixing your windows.

  9. Gina says:


    Hear! Hear! You are one bad ass mamma Jamma. Straight up, straight shooting, and no nonsense advice.

    If the heat is too hot ladies, get yo’ asses out of the damn kitchen. Natalie can talk until she’s blue in the face, but if you refuse to take head and listen, y’all and got nobody to blame but yourselves!

  10. runnergirl says:

    As one of your most admiring fans who you have told “Runner you in danger girl”, thank you. Those words have been echoing in my head since May, although I hadn’t really heard them until recently. Perhaps, a great title for your new book? The broken window analogy is fantastic. No wonder I am an open season for crime. Shattered windows, doors off hinges, and crumbling sidewalks everywhere. Someone, namely me, hasn’t stepped up to fix, protect, and maintain me. I keep expecting the criminals I attract to do it. The broken window, open season for crime analogy so resonates with me because my favorite hobby is painting my house, fixing things (albeit not that well), stucco patching, gardening, and watering. Everything looks fine from the outside of my house. The inside is, apparently, an open season for crime. The consequences part of the analogy is invaluable. My daughter’s first grade teacher told me 20 years ago not to drop everything and bring the forgotten homework/luches to school. Let her learn consequences. It took about 18 years before I heard that message. I may just now be able to apply that message to the shody sh*t I have tolerated from the “men” I’ve let into my life.

    Is it as simple as they haven’t respected me because I haven’t respected me?

    • Fearless says:

      Runner, yes, That’s it. It is that simple. It’s a message many of us would have heard in some form or another much of our lives, you know… the ‘if you don’t respect yourself how can you expect him to respect you..’. I’ve heard people saying that and similar to people loads of times, but I never quite got what it really meant,as in practice. I thought I DID respect myself! It has never occured to me that I did not have any self-respect! But I think the thing is that we have to make it ACTION-BASED self-respect. It’s one thing to say – or to think – you do have self-respect… but how does that actually translate into our relationships, particularly with men; how is it played out? For me, I see now, as Nat says, that when I decided I liked a guy and wanted to pursue a relationship, I pretty much would trade in some ‘self-respect’, then a little more if need be, then maybe a little more – all to increase my chances with him!! What a joke that seems now. I get it now, too. Yes, runner, it is that simple. Not respecting yourself is the same as not respecting your property – you wouldn’t go to sleep in your house with half the windows broken, but that’s how we run our relationships – so we get burgled!! Cos the guy thinks our property is free game and that obviously we don’t give much of a rat’s arse about it anyway. So, why should he think he’s putting in an offer for a five star mansion when he can see what we’re selling is a delapidated shack (with no windows)! I liked Grace’s recent comment, which sums up the point: if you want to know what a woman really thinks of herself, look at her partner and the way he treats her.

      That says it all for me.

      • runnergirl says:

        Fearless, I thought I did respect myself too but I’ve learned that I would trade my self-respect for a late night “night night” text message or a “good morning sunshine” text. I agree and see that I would trade anything for a crumb of validation from whatever man I thought I needed to win over. Fearless you have such a wonderful way of capturing Nat’s thesis: “…you wouldn’t go to sleep in your house with half the windows broken, but that’s how we run our relationships – so we get burgled!!” Great, great analogy. I’ve been burgled because I’ve been asleep with more than half my windows broken. Moreover, I blame them for burgling me which gets me off the hook for not fixing my windows so they can’t get in in the first place. Oh, I so hate when things are as simple as they don’t respect me because I don’t respect me. I much prefer complicated over-analysis because then it becomes too complicated to analyze. You are brilliant and fun. Thank you. I remember the day I realized I couldn’t be in a relationship with a married man because he was married. So simple.

    • grace says:

      I think it’s as simple as “they didn’t respect me because they’re not respectful people”
      “I didn’t respect myself so I chose men who didn’t respect me either”. At least it’s something we had in common.
      It’s not the same as thinking that if you had been better/different, then he would have been more respectful. If he’s a user or abuser, he’ll see there’s no way in (no broken windows), and just move onto a house that DOES have broken windows. I guess if the property is REALLY desirable and the windows are in good condition, it may be worthwhile trying to jimmy the locks. But if he gets in he’s still gonna wreck the place. You could have a long chat about it while he stubs cigarettes out on your sofa and pisses in the sink. Or just kick him out.
      Some things are negotiable and others are not. We need to know the difference. Repeated disrespect means he doesn’t care. You could go on and on and one about him not calling, not showing up, ogling other women, not spending Christmas with you, disappearing, blowing hot and cold, etc. But you can’t nag him into respecting you so there’ll always be a next time and the next time. I never did tell any of the men how to treat me. The good guys just treated me well, no need to tell them anything, and the others … I knew it was pointless! The best thing I’ve got from this blog is the Opt Out/NC. Bizzarely, it never occurred to me before.

      • Fearless says:

        Oh Grace – everytime I think I’ve got it – you come on and explain it better! I loved your comment. This bit made me laugh out loud:

        “But if he gets in he’s still gonna wreck the place. You could have a long chat about it while he stubs cigarettes out on your sofa and pisses in the sink. Or just kick him out.” LOL!!

        You are so right. The point is that if we had good level of self-respect we would not have put up with the EU/AC – we would have dumped him – And no, it’s not like we could have changed the course or outcome of the relationship – or could still do that – if we grew some balls, so to speak. If we grew some balls we wouldn’t tolerate his crappy arrangement – so he’d get the boot and he’d move on to someone who would tolerate it. He is what he is with or without you or your self respect. That is totally also as I see it. When I was with the EUM I just didn’t see myself as one of those people! Nor did I see him as one! But he is. I see it now; all his relationships have been exactly the same (far as I can see) and so if I had not “played the game”, or smashed my own windows in so he could enjoy ease of entry – it would not have lasted more than two weeks – as it was, it trundled on and off and on and off for ten years.
        Like you, when I first found BR the first thing that dawned on me was that *I* needed to stop putting all the onus on him for ending the crap and realised, for the first time, that *I had* do that *myself*!! How absurd! What a novel idea – to take control! Honestly; it seems so obvious now.
        Thanks for your contributions Grace – I love them.

      • runnergirl says:

        Grace, I never got the opt out button either. It never occured to me that I could ditch the buglar or that he got in through my broken windows. I’d have the long chats explaining how he should respect me while he was stubbing out smokes on my sofa and pissing in my pots. Frig, I just allowed the ex MM to do that last weekend and I’m still cleaning up both physically and emotionally.
        Hmmm…you have hit on another simple fact: “Repeated disrespect means he doesn’t care.” Bottom line: No amount of explaining will make him respect me unless I respect myself.

        I gotta fix my windows so these creeps can’t get in, jimmy locks, and won’t even try. These guys don’t go where they can’t get in.

        Natalie, this is fertile ground for your next book. I need your next book and would be willing to volunteer to help you as I’m sure many others would.

        • Audrey says:

          Runnergirl, this is a phrase i love “today is the first day of the rest of your life”….and now, you can begin to live your life to the full now that he’s out of your hair. I wish you well on your journey.

          • runnergirl says:

            Thank you Audrey and all the others too. I wish you well on your journey too. Wouldn’t it be nice if life could just be boring? Nice, consistent, and boring!

          • Minky says:

            Ah, but Runner, it isn’t boring! It’s just not stressful anymore.

            Being with a guy where you don’t have to ‘teach’ him or have endless conversations about what he’s done wrong this time isn’t boring. It’s calm and there is joy, but no boredom. :)

      • EllyB says:

        I guess this is because our parents didn’t allow us to build a home. We had to build a station concourse.

        Time for a conversion.

  11. EvaLe says:

    “Where you won’t put up with shady carry-on, someone else is only too eager to grab the hot seat and let themselves be a rainy day fallback option.”


    “It is becoming the norm to not bother to get over your breakup – why bother when you can use someone else to ‘buffer’ the pain and then bail or back off when it gets too much?”

    SO TRUE!!!!! My last EUM had already my replacement lined up while we were still together. When I found out he was pursuing someone else and was basically lying to me, I knew it was my time to leave the relationship and went NC. What really frustrates me is that he never suffers the consequences for his wrong action and he will never learn his lesson!!!!! He moves on to another woman and in meantime he cheats, lies because it suits his agenda.
    I know that it is not my job to fix him or help him; I just want him to realize that what he is doing is really crappy!!!

    • Ariel says:

      Eva, this is the EXACT same scenario I went through, and what helped me stop being angry is something Nat said a long time ago, that you are angry because you expected him to do something other than what he has consistently done his whole life. I was not the first person he cheated on, and I have a feeling that the more experience you have as a cheater, the LESS you feel guilty. I would love to hope that some of these ACs will learn their lesson with more of us enforcing our boundaries, but then there are those that will always think they are right, and we are the crazy ones. Just remember that no matter what they say, YOU know who they really are by their actions. Much love…

      • runnergirl says:

        Ariel, thank you for these words “…and what helped me stop being angry is something Nat said a long time ago, that you are angry because you expected him to do something other than what he has consistently done his whole life.” Nice. Simply simple.

  12. Vanja says:

    I love this post. And your statement: “Your job in life isn’t to raise someone from the ground up;” has resonated deeply in my core. I now see that my job wasn’t to save my EUM from whatever kept him from being an equal partner in a relationship and to help him to become my imagined loving man I had thought he would become. I am a broken window, open to trespassers and criminals. I just didn’t know. But now I can see how I had no boundaries. Your post is helping me glue the pieces of my broken window back together and keep any new garbage from coming in. Thank you!

    • Fearless says:

      Go Vanja!!

      • Vanja says:

        Thank you! Between you and Nat and all the other encouraging women here, I’m making it.
        I heard from a mutual acquaintance last night, that my Ex was asking if anyone has seen me. He told her he even looked for me on a social network we share. I have to admit my heart skipped a beat for a minute. The old auto thoughts of “he wants me, I must respond” ran through my head. But then I came to my senses and realized the old trap. I reread Nat’s posts for strength and resisted the urge to text him. It was hard, but today I feel better about myself. One day at a time!

  13. Kay says:

    I have often commented that we BR readers and you Nat,are light years ahead of the posse out there in terms of the whole boundary issue.I feel a zillion years more enlightened than some of the cave men I date,and as a teacher,I hope some day to see proper relationship training on school curriculae, and from,as early an age as possible.You’re so right that shady behaviour is the norm because of the lack of consequences.

    But street wise and all as I am,it still amazes me how many men try to find some little crack in the window where they can slither in and ransack the house.You just have to keep closing the shutters and it can be exhausting and demoralising.Yes we must barricade the house and keep the alarm on the electric fence but it can be lonely in the ivory tower.The most recent guy I dated was so used to being pursued that he expected me to do all the running.I went on three dates with him and each time it was to the pub, even though I had clearly told him that I’m not into the pub scene.Little or no thought was put into what I might like to do.He got three dates,three chances with me and then I bailed.And I must admit it upset me that there are so many guys who are casual and shoddy probably because so many women are willing to “jump into the hot seat”. Another metaphor we’ve used here on BR comes to mind:do we see ourselves as 5 star or budget?

    Well,folks,I sure as hell am 5 star even if I’m alone forever in my luxury pad at the ivory tower!

    • NML says:

      There’s 3 things you can do here:

      1) Go to the pub if you think that other than his pub loving ways that he’s ok so far

      2) Suggest/organise the next venue for the next date.

      3) Say that you’re not a pub person but you would like to do a,b, or c which is more constructive than just saying you’re not a pub person.

      Now his actions *may* be down to selfishness although who *hasn’t* been on dates to places that they’re not keen on! If he is selfish, it’ll show up elsewhere. Or it may be down to lack of imagination and habit.

      • Kay says:

        Thanks so much for the advice,Natalie.You’ve got a knack of cutting to the core of our comments and reading what we’re feeling in our hearts.

        Yeah I could suggest doing something different but gut instinct is warning me away from this guy,he reeks of yet another Mr.Unavailable.The trouble with a lot of these guys is that they haven’t dealt with their issues so many of them are like a living,breathing example straight from the pages of your book.That’s what I mean when I say we’re light years ahead of the posse.

        Thanks again.x

  14. Lindsey says:

    Thank you.

  15. jennynic says:

    Even worse is when one of these parasitic people sees a broken window and throws rocks to make more holes to make damn sure your house stays accessible. Leaving is hard when you are living in a world of self doubt and they prey on that. When you finally board up the window…..then you’re a crazy, delusional, and impossible bitch. You want to see a bitch? I got plenty in me if thats what saying “no more” makes me. Better than a being a doormat. This post is straight up and gets right to the nitty gritty of it. Very effective. It makes you see the insanity in all of it.

  16. Mel says:

    This is so great Natalie, thank you! I really like analogies (in general) as I find making correlations just helps solidify and clarify concepts for me that might otherwise be a little more murky, and I find some work really well for me and some don’t. I can relate to your concept of thinking of one’s self as a property that needs to be taken care of and defended.

    I take very good care of my property. Now I just need to take this same care when allowing men into my life. Perhaps if they seem to be carelessly flailing about scratching my emotional paint, denting my emotional bumper, then they need to go!

  17. It’s a fine idea to draw a consistent line against abusive behavior but, sorry, the analogy to the famous Wilson-Kelling “Broken Windows” philosophy seems unworthy of this otherwise excellent site. Perhaps, as a UK poster, the author may be unfamiliar with the full brutality of the urban policies that “Broken Windows” theory has been used to defend in the U.S.

    “Broken Windows” theory in the Giuliani sense basically assumes that visibly poor people are defects in a neighborhood — blemishes on its nice shiny skin — and should therefore be chased away to some unspecified elsewhere through selective law enforcement, even if they’re not really doing anything harmful. This is the kind of heartless victim-blaming and scapegoating that is practiced by abusers and seen in abusive family systems. It is not decent, humane, or defensible.

    Re the earlier commenter’s thoughts on Giuliani, agree that he doesn’t deserve credit for the NYC crime rate decrease, which was due to demographic changes and gentrification. However, he does deserve substantial blame for the brutal and sometimes racist removal of poor people from central Manhattan.

    • NML says:

      Thanks Martha. Really it was taken at a top level and not beyond that so no I’m not aware to the level that you are. Obviously neither is Caitlin the original inspiration for the post. I take your point and I think it may be a note to self on a reminder not to reference something like this as it’s being taken in a direction and to a level that is not in line with me or my blog, or even the intentions and message of the actual subject of the post.

      • NML — Thanks for this. I guess I went off on the Wilson/Kelling version of “broken windows” extra strongly because a difficult family situation has led me to fight back indirectly by defending people who are treated as scapegoats in a social/political sense. I’m still sorting that one out.

        Meanwhile it’s such a good point that people who are bullied in one way are conditioned to allow themselves to be bullied in other ways because they don’t know where the normal dimensions of a human being start and stop. Thanks for that.

        In applying the principle to public space, I guess it’s just a question of who’s imposing on whom, and that does change moment by moment. As contributors here are certainly aware, no particular economic class has a monopoly on abusive behavior.

    • Allison says:


      I am not a fan of Rudolph Giuliani but, I do believe that some of his policies did a great deal to clean up the city-BIDs, “Broken Windows,” restrictions on porn shops etc…

      The “Broken Windows” approach was targeting lawbreakers committing lower level crimes-graffiti, vandalism etc… – These activities were harmful to the communities, and people were fed up. I believe it has been proven, that by addressing these issues early on, it could be a preventative measure to higher level crimes. This city is a much different place since these policies have been implemented, and for that I feel much safer.

  18. Magnolia says:

    My early childhood experiences involved a bunch of stupid bullies going looking for houses to burn down and looking at me and saying, hey, look at her: that skin color is indicative of worthless property. Lets torch that place.

    I was too young: I hadn’t learned the ins and outs of property ownership. Who to open the door to. How to maintain a property.

    Then I spent twenty years shouting in my head and to anyone who would listen that my skin colour is NOT a broken window. My skin isn’t this way because I don’t keep myself clean, or don’t know how to take care of myself. It is NOT an invitation to come piss in my corner because you think no one cares about this property.

    At that time I saw the whole world as ready to break in and take what little of mine I had. So the only ones who got close were the ones in fact ready to break in and then complain of what little I had for them to take.

    What I didn’t know was that the first time they broke my windows, there WAS something to fix: not my skin, but my broken heart. I’m a little wary of the house analogy because it suggests that brokenness is something you can see, and it is, but misinterpreting this point also has many people putting on a surface act of being okay and looking great when their insides are for crap.

    All that time I thought it was my race sending the wrong signal that I was broken, when in fact a stupid experience about race did break me, it broke my heart, and that had gone unmended. It’s very natural to turn to your romantic relationships to ‘fix’ a broken heart, but coming to BR has taught me that I need to fix up the broken heart before I can have the romantic relationship I aspire to.

    As long as my heart went unmended, I lived a life of focus on work, solitude and mistrust of people. I guess I was sending the signal to the world and to myself that my heart wasn’t worth caring for. I thought adulthood was about surviving with a broken, busted-up hearth, not about restoring the hearth to a place that could contain the warmth of love and family.

    This post makes me see the connection between heart and hearth, and how health means being like a happy place that can provide warmth and protection. Then boundaries help us choose carefully who gets to come sit next to the fire. In any case we’re responsible for building and tending our own fire.

    • runnergirl says:

      Magnolia, my heart is sad for what you have experienced in your childhood and young adult life. I am sorry for the racism you have experienced. I’ve never responded to your previous posts because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t want to say anything wrong now, other than to reiterate what others have said: You are a remarkable, insightful, and brilliant person. “I thought adulthood was about surviving with a broken, busted-up hearth, not about restoring the hearth to a place that could contain the warmth of love and family.” Every time you post, you are an inspiration to me. Let’s work to restore our windows and our hearth. I’ll be watching closely who I invite to sit next to my fire with me. I love the fire and hearth analogy.

  19. Magnolia says:

    Same topic, different point: it feels very strange to have a ‘no tolerance’ policy after having been lax one’s whole life. It’s kind of like suddenly telling people they can’t put their feet up on the coffee table anymore, when you’ve been letting people do it your whole life. Or like saying people can’t smoke in your house when you grew up with your parents smoking. People who are used to being able to put their feet up, or light up, and like you not having that boundary, will call you *anal.*

    Or, as my aunt said after she hit me, “It’s not that heavy, Magnolia. It’s just *not.*” Already the boundary crossing was fading into a memory such that I could start to wonder, well, she didn’t really hit me hard, it was more of a smack than a slap, etc etc. Maybe I’m being too anal.

    But zero tolerance is zero tolerance, and boundaries on where the zero line falls can change and they are very personal.

    Another case: I have many people saying to me that I can’t decide that a particular poet is a ‘bad’ poet or decide to decline to praise him or her because in his personal letters/life he says racist and sexist stuff. We have to focus on the work, say my colleagues. We can’t expect people to be perfect.

    But I have a zero tolerance policy for racism in my personal life, I said. Why can’t I have it for writers I study? If they put their boundary crossing sentiments in writing, whether it’s a personal letter or a public document, I have text evidence that their personal feelings, and therefore their values, run a certain way, and arent those values are inseparable from their art?

    In that conversation I realized I was speaking to people who do not have a zero tolerance personal boundary for racism – they might have one for their ‘professional’ life, but not for their personal ones. And I suddenly realized how self-fulfilling boundaries are: one racist comment is enough for me to write someone off. No explanations, no excuses. That’s just my boundary. I could never date anyone who expresses crap like that. It never even occurred to me to be flexible on it, or be all like, “They’re human.”

    So what else might I be currently being flexible on that I don’t have to be, that I could be a hard-ass on and potentially improve the quality of people in my life?

    You know what I always allow? People telling me what’s good for me. And I invite their impressions of me, and their interpretations of who I am. Somehow I think there may be a broken window on my house but I don’t know where it is. NML your note to Lavender gave me a lot of pause. I was really surprised you reacted so strongly that she is in an abusive situation. I was like, how is this any worse than most of the other situations we hear about on the site all the time? Is it the telling her what is wrong with her that is really so bad? Or the calling her up to do it? Because I have done, and continue to have a habit, of ASKING people to tell me what is wrong with me, or what they see that I can fix (‘tell me my broken windows’???). So I’m a bit confused there …

    • Kay says:

      Wow Magnolia,what wonderful.insightful comments! I learned a lot just reading them.When you said that it feels really strange to have a zero tolerance policy after having been lax one’s whole life,that really resonated with me.I still find myself lapsing into auto pilot,the non boundaries me, because it is so familiar,and in an odd way,comfortable. But this site has reinforced the need to constantly push against the grain and protect my house. You’re right too when you say that sometimes the picture pretty, neat little house can mask the crap going on inside, but Natalie didn’t mean it that way. I am full of superficial prettiness,my appearance,my home,yet inside, my emotions are often chaotic. Maybe,for that reason,I’d be touchy about anyone pointing out a cracked window.

      However,though I’m doing my best to live within my boundaries,I wouldn’t be zero tolerant.The majority of people are not as enlightened as we are and bad behaviour is often more indicative of their insecurities than ours.I really like the idea of differentiating between code amber and code red behaviours.I generally try to give people a chance,but if it becomes apparent that I’m wasting my time,then it’s house closed.

    • Fearless says:

      Magnolia, I think NML was shocked because it WAS shocking. Some of us are involved with EUM/MM/AC – these men may be manipalative and taking advantage of our broken windows but not many are trying to pimp us out to his friends! If a guy is suggesting that as your next course in “continued personal development” (!), there is something truly sickening going on…that aside, it is not acceptable at all that a guy – any guy – phones you up at 3am to give you his latest list of criticisms and what he thinks you should do about them, so that maybe he might let you go out with him! This guy is not even Lav’s boyfriend (thank God!!)… and he is angry if she doesn’t pick up on second ring? And this is what poor Lavender imagines is her “friend”… if you were not particularly shocked by Lav’s story then… maybe you really need to batten down your windows as well. Maybe read up also on the link Grace provided for Joe Carver’s dangerous “Losers”.

      • runnergirl says:


        I have a zero tolerance for racism no matter how important the academic and how brilliant s/he could be on other matters. I don’t have to even write that down as a boundary. The great thing about teaching is that I can expose racism for what it is. I couldn’t sit for a split moment with anybody who could dismiss racism as being human.

        Your response to Natalie regarding Lavender’s situation gave me great pause. “NML your note to Lavender gave me a lot of pause. I was really surprised you reacted so strongly that she is in an abusive situation. I was like, how is this any worse than most of the other situations we hear about on the site all the time?” It is different. It is electric. It is a boundary beyond all boundaries. I know you are struggling. What Lavender and a few others have posted far exceeds the typical EUM/AC crap. It is mind control. It is scary. They take control of our minds. If you haven’t lived it, it is unbelievable as to how it could happen, particularly if the female has degrees, a job, and is successful professionally. It is like somebody not only invaded your house, broke your windows, but invaded your mind. I don’t know how to describe it but I lived it. It is terrifying.

        • Magnolia says:

          Thanks for the kind responses, Runner. (You never saw where he lived? Holy.)

          I wrote my first question about Lavender’s story to NML before all the responses and follow up appeared online, so the magnitude of her situation is now clear to me. I’m still a little shaken because I couldn’t at first tell, from what she’d said, the difference in scale from what we usually discuss.

          As you know, the exAC gave me pedo vibes and I experienced episodes where I felt ‘insane’ and felt with my whole body that he wanted to kill me. Like the experience with my aunt, where I did not make the connect between her verbal attacks and the early warning of things getting physical, I think I’ve been in situations where things go back to “normal” so quickly that these people can have you questioning yourself. I don’t know whether to forget that such things happened with the AC, or remember it all too well and stay wary.

          In both cases, with the exAC, and my aunt, they told me I was delusional and experiencing flashbacks of some earlier trauma. The exAC would get all weird looking and say, “Your past is affecting our present” saying that I was having old abuse stuff triggered (and therefore his part in that triggering was innocent), and my aunt, in her defense of her behaviour, started telling me I was sensitive and saying that she and I were alike and that “You know we have schizophrenia in our family.”

          So I think I have experienced mind-control.

          I am still shaken by the feeling that everyone else could tell how bad this dude was (I mean worse than other ACs) before I could, and before we’d heard about the pimping stuff (awful). I’m left feeling like even with all the work I’ve done, I’m somehow still susceptible to these mindfuckers. I don’t know how, but feel put back into a scary place just from reading and feeling like I’m missing something obvious. Very vulnerable.

          I’m going to focus on my mental and emotional gains and assume it is the bully inside me fighting its last pangs of survival in my head before it is kicked out for good.

          I’m back in Vancouver, it’s a new day and the rest of my life awaits.

          • Fearless says:

            Magnolia, I feel for you, reading your comment.
            I think we are all susceptible to the controlling behaviours of others, so don’t feel like you are that much different from anyone else. It’s also easy to see where other people’s relationships are bad for them; it’s not so easy when you’re in it yourself.
            I wasn’t systematically abused as a child but I did not have an altogether happy childhood – or teenage life, more to the point. I had (and have) a good mother, but she had a lot of kids and was run off her feet with younger ones – I always went to the back of the queue! My dad was a Jekyll and Hyde binge drinker – living in our house was like walking on egg-shells – when my father was drinking we were terrified of him.

            But I saw other families and how they worked, I saw other fathers who were ‘normal’ and I knew my homelife was not what others were experiencing; I knew it wasn’t supposed to be like that. So, look around you… take your cues from other people, other families and their interactions, those that have NO violence, NO drama, NO constant shouting and arguing and insulting and swearing and lunging from one crisis or calamity to the next. Everyone has their problems and occasional crises, arguments etc., yes, but it should not be violent! Nor should it be a way of life, a way to live – it should not be the norm. If something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, anxious, stressed or fearful – that is your cue, that’s your body telling you to protect yourself, so move away, don’t take part, opt out, don’t engage, don’t confront. Just leave the situation and don’t feel guilty about doing it! Try writing down your experience of the person to see it in black and white. E.g. when Lavender wrote that a guy was phoning her at 3am to give her a latest list of ‘improvements’ that is all that was needed, really. That is not going to be an isolated issue, it is bound to be the tip of a very odious iceberg. Pay attention to the “small” things, as they indicate what lies beneath and what the pattern is going to look like. Sorry, if I have blabbed on… good luck. You are getting there and you’ll be just fine!

  20. Miranda says:

    I’ve been trying to repair my broken windows for nearly five years, since the EUM came into my life. It seems he has a way of knowing every time the cracks are starting to show and the windows are about to shatter. I’ve successfully ‘renovated’ my house several times and kept it ‘secure’ for many months, 18 months at one point, but as another poster has already said, he always finds a little crack to slither back through.
    I’ve been trying to stay NC now for about 2 months, but I need to try harder, it’s been more like low contact!! I keep mistaking his breaking of NC to be a sign that he does want me around after all. But what he really wants is sex, ego stroke, shoulder to cry on blah blah blah…
    I found out 2 months ago that he had had a girlfriend on the go all the time he was seeing me, she’s not around anymore…….I found her on a social networking website and told her about BR……..I just hope she takes my advice and visits, without BR, I don’t know where I’d be. The last thing he text me last week was “I don’t have one (girlfriend). Got a vacant spot for the right woman. Do you want to be her?” How Narcissistic can you get? Flush.

    • NML says:

      Oh dear Miranda. This man is vile. He must think he’s a real catch. Silence is golden. Go and get on with your life and don’t give him any of your oxygen for him to breathe in it.

      • Miranda says:

        Thank-you Natalie. I am determined to stay strong this time….silence is sooo absolutely golden and this manchild hates being ignored. I’ll no doubt get my weekly 3am Sunday morning text again….”You awake?”…. to quote your wonderful wise words, he ain’t that special, I ain’t that desperate!! Amen.

        • Mel says:

          Not to often, but occasionally, I’ll get a middle of the night text or call from some loser I at one point gave my phone number to. (meaning not just one specific guy, but one of any number of guys.) I’ve had the same telephone number for many years and been single so, as I’ve dated, I’ve ended up with a lot of frogs having access to my phone number. (no it’s not a frequent problem that would be enough for me to change my phone number, not only that but people also have my phone number that I want to have it, so I won’t change it because of some laughable frog once in a while).

          I’ve long since developed this policy. The last thing I do at night is TURN OFF MY RINGER!! ALL SOUNDS OFF!! And face down so if it lights up it won’t wake me. It’s just that simple.

          The next morning in the rare even that I wake and find that some jackass had tried to contact me during the hours that normal people know better than to contact people, I just have a little chuckle and go on about my day.

          Funny story, a few weeks ago a friend had for some reason met a guy at the store and given him my phone number!! (she thought he seemed ‘nice’ and made no effort to do any vetting). Anyway that night in the middle of the night (1:30 am) the guy had sent me a couple texts with a picture of himself, shirtless, attached. Then sent a message telling me that my friend had good taste in men. LOL. Then he had the nerve to ask me to send him a pic too!! FAT CHANCE! lol. We all had a good laugh next day.

          Really he’s never ever even met me or even spoke to me on the phone and he thinks the appropriate way for him to introduce himself to a lady is for him to come banging on her virtual door at 1:30 am with nothing on but shorts!! Haha.

          The proper thing would have been to phone me up with his voice, during a proper time of day, and asked me politely if I’d like to meet him for a coffee. And really either he wants to meet me or not, even under ideal circumstances, I’m not submitting a text picture to some strange guy for him to decide if it meets his approval. Then what, I send the pic, he decides I’m not ‘cute enough’ and doesn’t want to meet me anymore? No! Not a proper way to meet a lady by any means.

          You might think this guy is a youngster because of his juvenile behavior but actually judging from his hilarious photo, he is 35-45.

    • colororange says:

      LOL “I don’t have one (girlfriend). Got a vacant spot for the right woman. Do you want to be her?”

      Suddenly I have an image in my head of hitting this guy over the head with a skillet. hahahaha bozo!

      • Mel says:

        “I don’t have one (girlfriend). Got a vacant spot for the right woman. Do you want to be her?”

        Haha what a dweeb! I swear men these days have become so vain and arrogant!!! It’s funny. He may be just some chump, but because women have taken to throwing themselves at men, men are no longer ‘Men’ but some weak, vain, hairy, prissy, I-don’t-know-what…

        I remember when men behaved like men, and they actually appreciated and revered women. They felt lucky if they could get to spend time with us. And they thought women were the ‘fairer sex’. Now men think THEY are the fairer sex.

  21. Katie says:

    Hi Natalie,

    your blog has been the tough love I really needed, it’s helped me a lot. I’ve now been following your blog for a while – and successfully cut the emotionally unavailable man out of my life.
    Altough I have properly and thoroughly understood the message a while ago and not dating anyone (I don’t feel ready yet), I still find myself returing to that blog. I’ve been thinking about why that is?
    The short answer is, I understand what you are saying in theory but I don’t know how to set boundaries – and enforce them – in practice. How do you do things differently? I think what I am missing in your posts and would make them even more helpful then they already are is some more practical guidance.
    For example, what do you do -in practice – if they are lazy communicator? Just stop responding to texts/calls and play dead? In my experience, telling them you don’t like the lazy communication doesn’t change anything. Is there a middle way – something different than (useless) talking but short of just cutting them out instantly? How do you do that?
    More generally, how do you step back, how do you signal they need to up their game without creating drama (just cutting it off is quite dramatic)?

    • NML says:

      I think you’re answering your own question Katie – if you saying to someone that you’re not a texter and want to have contact via phone and face to face primarily is met with no change, you have your answer. You are free to call *them*, to not respond until they have to call you but training is for pets. It’s up to you to know your comfort levels and how much schooling of men *you* want to do. You’re not revolutionising the wheel here. It’s not like you’re asking him to move in with you after three dates. It’s a phonecall instead of a text. No drama there. I don’t mind texts for a quick hello, reminder to get the milk, confirmation that I’m in my way or a check in hello or goodnight – beyond that, if you want to have a conversation or relationship with me, let’s speak on the phone and meet up. Simple.

    • grace says:

      I don’t think cutting them off is dramatic. Dramatic is waiting for a text or phone call and getting excited or disappointed accordingly. Dramatic is expending brainpower on a strategy to get someone to see you. Dramatic is trying to make that strategy work. Dramatic is pretending you don’t feel what you feel (neglected, unloved, used). Many women here have been where you are, including myself. These men are not just lazy. They WILL NOT call you or see you. They are totally stubborn about it, it goes beyond lazy. He is actively managing down your expectations. He’s not a poor clueless child who can’t make a phone call or manage his diary. Nat says it’s simple; I think it SHOULD be simple but dealing with these men is like trying to catch a slippery eel!
      If he’s not seeing you in person, if he’s not spending at least x Saturday evenings a month with you, if he’s not making plans in advance, if he doesn’t call you – it’s because he doesn’t want to.
      You may want to give him one chance, maybe two. But I think you’ve already done that and more. Cut him off. No drama “This text relationship doesn’t work for me. I’m moving on. Bye”. Unfortunately, you probably won’t get the opportunity to say it in person. You’ll have to end it by text. The irony.
      By the way, you may be wondering why he bothers with you at all if he’s not that interested. It’s because he wants an ego stroke, sex, attention without putting in any effort, commitment or shutting down his options. Sending you a text every now and then is a convenient, cheap and easy way for him to keep you on hold, or get a quick attention fix, while he lives his life without you. He’ll see you when he wants, at his convenience when it fits in with his plans thank you very much . It’s not dramatic to want more than that and to ship out when you don’t get it. Nat’s previous post on “needy” is very relevant here. if the survival of your relationship depends on you pretending you have no legitimate human needs, then what you need is to get out.

      • Fearless says:

        Another great comment Grace – you describe my ex EU relationship so accurately here, it’s spooky. This another of your comments I am saving to my desktop! I didn’t even get to ‘end it by text’!! I simply did not respond to his last email (it wasn’t one that needed an answer), and neither one of us has contacted the other since. I think this is def the longest he hasn’t heard from me at all – not even a tiny text – nothing. I always think I am getting it here, reading BR, then I get it even more – then I think I am *really* getting it now… then I get it even more!…

      • PJM says:

        Grace, spot on. That’s what my last ex was like – it was all text, and all on his terms, and I just put up with it. And it takes so LONG to text anything; I used to wonder ‘why am I doing this? we could just ring each other? WTF?’

        Thank you Baggage Reclaim [ting! of enormous smile and satisfied customer]

    • colororange says:


      One mistake I made with a guy was telling him I did not like texting, emailing so much as he relied on it A LOT. But I kept doing it and it did not feel genuine at all. I was having a “relationship” with words on a screen. I was saying one thing but behaving the opposite. And this is part of what we do when getting involved with a man (woman): we tend to throw us out the window and do whatever we think will keep them around. We make lame exceptions that end up leaving us depleted. What I should have done was tell him and if he did not get the picture SEE YA. Instead of holding out and thinking “oh, well he’ll eventually call me if I keep doing what he wants or even see me.” Sca-rew that!

      • Katie says:

        Thank you Natalie, Grace, and Colororange for your replies! I really appreciate your advise. I think I didn’t express myself very well, the pattern I repeatedly find is not that having a texting relationship, more of one where the guy would want to see once/twice a week and hang out for the evening or day if it’s the weekend + night (i.e. not just for sex) but then still not really be much in touch inbetween other than to arrange the next time you meet up. I find this frustrating because it signals to me that they don’t really care too much about me, they enjoy my company but don’t want any commitment – it’s like having a relationship, but only when you are actually physically together.
        Regardless, what all three of you said still applies, it’s about boundaries and not putting up with things that make you feel you’re not good enough for the sort of relationship you really want, or ‘needy’ when you demand the bare basics. I guess I’m struggeling learning to recognise when my boundaries are crossed straight away rather than it creeping up on me a few weeks – or months! – down the line, and learn to say no and opt out. It’s something I can’t do with friends, family or at work either. Many thanks again for your replies x

        • Mel says:

          I wouldn’t want to call a man who refuses my request that he call me. My ex who only texted, he DID text me to make a date, ahead of time, and saw me every Saturday. Like you I wanted to feel he cared about what was going on with me between dates, and that he would utilize that opportunity to ‘get to know me’.

          He didn’t talk much during the dates, and at the end of the date I said a couple times, maybe you could call me during the week? His response was more or less ‘Well, you know my number, you can call me if you want.’ (I didn’t).

          Well I think since I asked him to do me the simple favor of phoning me, a simple, “Sure I’ll do that” followed up by doing it, would’ve been far better than, “No I wont. But you can, if you want.”

          It’s not like I was asking a lot. Just that we only saw each other the once a week (the only day we were both not working), and I thought it would’ve been nice to have an actual conversation or two during the week, between dates. And not a conversation that I had to force upon him, though he didn’t really want it.

          He also had a harem of female friends and poor boundaries with women. So the lack of voice-to-voice communication between dates was not his only problem.

          I look back and realize he had no need to engage me in conversation because he was having all his needs for conversations with the opposite sex fulfilled by all his ‘close female friends’. Meanwhile who was fulfilling my needs for emotional intimacy with my significant other? No one. He was having that need met by other women. I think he just wanted me around for something pretty to show off (almost like I was his ‘beard’ to cover up that he is actually a player), and for something to have sex with. (which he never got!) haha.

          Why would I want to give sex to a man who makes NO effort to engage me on an emotional level, or to meet my needs for closeness, and intimacy, who made me feel like I was 2nd or maybe 30th in line in priority behind all his female friends and not special? No a man like that will not get sexual gratification from me! Sorry!

          • colororange says:


            Luckily out of the ballsacs I’ve dated, there has been one (these days I question whether I should’ve effed things up with him….oh the case of the one that got away?!?! anyway) guy that I KNEW was interested. He called when he said he would and he saw me whenever possible. He did not try to shag me right away and what we had was pretty special. The only problem, a BIG problem that caused others, was I was not in any way physically attracted to him (I’ve dated some ugly dudes before too but this one my body did not like). My point is, if a dude is interested in you, you will know. There is no guessing. There is no only calling you a couple times a week or sparse communication. Now, that is one out of…..oh I don’t know how many that I felt the closest to “secure” with. I have been working with the mentality (though there aren’t any suitors these days lol) that once I’ve pinpointed the dipstick it’s a resounding NEXT!! and prepare for the next one until FINALLY a good one comes along. I knew of a man that dated 70 some odd women before he finally found one to stick with. Some of us it just takes a bunch of funky frogs before we finally get a good guy.

          • PJM says:

            And again, we have a winner. The ex was like this, too – and I think the key point Mel has made is this one:

            ‘So the lack of voice-to-voice communication between dates was not his only problem’.

            And ain’t that the truth? If we were more honest and checked our red flags early, we’d soon find out that the texters have more than one relationship problem going on.

    • Jana says:

      Hi Katie,

      I know you asked NML for advice, but I would like to share my experience with you.

      Men are action, not talk. Talking gets you nowhere.

      Pay attention to what you like, pay no attention to what you don’t like. It’s easy.

      He texts/emails and you don’t like it. Don’t pay any attention.

      He calls you, you like that. Greet him warmly, be sweet and happy.

      He will know that to connect with you, he needs to call. When you respond in a positive manner he will want to call back.

      Ask yourself: What would a hot woman do? Insert the name of a hot mama in this question to yourself. For example, I say to myself “What would Jennifer Lopez do?” Would Jennifer Lopez be on the computer all day chatting on FB or answering emails? No way she is too hot for that. Would she waste her hotness on some lame ass guy texting? No way she would read it and laugh and go about her day. Would she respond to a phone call and an invite for a great date? Yes she would, and she would dress up and be happy on the date and the guy would feel good about that.

      Focus on yourself and your great life. The boyz are icing on the cake. Make them work to get your attention. Do you think he would email Jennifer Lopez? No way.

      • grace says:

        I agree to a point but if man really isn’t bothered, it doesn’t matter how much you ignore him or reward him according to his behaviour. I’ve tried this to the nth degree with a particularly resistant specimen. You CAN get them to step up for a a week or two, but they do keep regressing. And if he’s got a harem, does it really matter if one of them is being “difficult”? He’ll just move along and try you again later. All you can do here is what I did (too late) – read the writing on the wall and dump.
        If you ARE able to get it to work, I guess he was a decent guy all along, who needed a few pointers. Though I’m wondering if anyone is really that thick. “Sorry boss, I didn’t return your call because I was tired/busy/at an interview”.
        I like the Jennifer Lopez analogy. It’s laughable that any bloke should text her for a last minute hook up. Mind you, I don’t doubt for one moment that some idiot has tried it!

        • Jana says:

          Hi Grace

          It’s not for his punishment or reward, it’s for us. We ignore the email/text and there’s no call? Good we were saved some heartburn.

          It’s for weeding out the weak lazy guys who only text/email. I was encouraging Katie to ignore lazy communication and only pay attention to calls/action etc. :)

          • Katie says:

            Thank you Jana and Grace for your thoughts. I tried the approach Jana suggests for a while, but unfortunately the man was immune to that sort of carrot and stick training.
            Speaking up and saying I’d like more communication on the days we don’t see eachother would change things for about a week, then things went back to how they were before.

            After reading Natalies’s blog I realised nothing is ever going to change and that there’s lots more wrong with this relationship, not only the lazy communication on days you don’t see eathother – the man was a clear case of emotionally unavailable. I broke up and managed to keep him out of my life.

            Sadly, this seems to be a pattern – I often end up in casual relationships with emotionally unavailable men. I’d see the guy regularly and it wouldn’t just be sex, in fact it has all of the hallmarks of a real relationship, except they don’t actually want to commit and are emotionally unavailable. It’s not real, it allows them to have the comfort of playing relationship for the day but not the scary bits of the commitment.

            I invariably find myself hoping things will change (rationalising, minimising and all that crap), which of course things never do, and ultimately opt out….just always way too late. It’s happened so often I feel really damaged. I guess that’s why I’m still here – I’m not sure I have managed to break the pattern, and trying to prepare myself so it won’t happen again – not dating at the moment, still too hurt.

  22. Healing One says:

    I have to say, Natalie, I have been reading BR for nearly a year, and the posts that always resonate with me are the posts about BOUNDARIES. This is an especially good one. I have always had boundary issues; let the wrong people in, didn’t have the skills to kick them out…all because of my fear of abandonment. But the wonderful thing about learning to have and to maintain boundaries is that it truly, truly does build self-esteem!! I see boundary violations now immediately and I don’t make excuses and I opt out! I would so much rather be alone with my strong self-esteem than be in a relationship where I have to compromise myself. I listen to myself now–and I take myself seriously.

  23. dawn says:

    To Natalie:
    You have a gift of breaking this core topic down to a level which we all can understand and learn from, BRAVO!!!! The point you made about accepting bad behavior from someone in the hopes that this will show them just how “special” they are and how much you really love them is extremely unhealthy and down right delusional on our part. If we are doing this and not giving consequences to their behavior, and instead being understanding, forgiving only (ie: putting up with crap treatment, and manipulative behaviors such as cheating, flip flopping, stringing along, running hot and cold, treating you like an option, etc.) We are missing the point of what their behavior MEANS; they are showing us that they don’t want and aren’t capable of being in a mutual loving, caring, respectful relationship with you at all, even though that is what you thought you had, or would like to have with them) and hoping that they will show their gratitude by magically wanting to love you properly, is seriously delusional and it’s what keeps a lot of women stuck in relationships that are abusive and will erode your self esteem even further. You must recognize it’s a vicious cycle that you have ALLOWED to continue-because you have some issues within yourself that you need to take a look and ask yourself why you allow this to go on. And then take action that is in the form of treating yourself with love, care and self respect. If you have no boundaries, or have weak boundaries in relationships, your going to get used and abused by those that don’t really care about anything other then what they can get from you, and or people that aren’t capable of being in a healthy relationship in the first place. You can’t love em enough, fix them, change or morph yourself into what they want, you can’t sacrifice yourself for them in order to make it work. You have to ask yourself why are you so desperate for love that you will excuse behavior that hurts you. And as for women that get cheated on wake up to the reality that this guy really doesn’t love you anymore and move on, even if you still love him. You have to stop and ask yourself why do I love someone who doesn’t love me? And more importantly why do I want love from someone who doesn’t love me? These are all things that I have learned from BR and all the women all here. Thanks to everyone. To…

    • Sweetie187 says:

      Your comments are spot on!

      I also want to echo similar sentiments regarding Natalie’s blog. her writings have literally raised my self esteem from the gutter. Thankfully, i have only had dealings with one assclown, but that experience was enough to rip out my soul. It caused me to seek help online, and thankfully, i stumbled upon Natalie’s blog.

      Thanks to this blog, I am now an educated woman when it comes to assclowns and emotional unavailability. I am a changed woman and what happened to me in the past will never be able to repeat itself in my future. I am forever wiser now. AMEN!!

  24. Laura says:

    Natalie, this is EXACTLY what I have been getting to in my thinking. About having the boundaries and standards. I realized that I had become used to being treated second-rate, second best. And that I deserve so much better.

    It is insidious the way the lack of self-respect sneaks up on you. But it is not necessarily terminal!

    I love the analogy with Guiliani. I am a born and bred New Yorker and was attending NYU in the Village duing the Guiliani years. He cleaned things up down there in a major and positive way. The zero tolerance and quality of life focus were big improvements.

  25. Robin says:

    Wow….I totally let my EUM into my own broken emotional house and damaged it further. When I met my EUM 3 yrs ago, I had little to no boundaries. The EUM took advantage of it completely, moved right in, and I didn’t send him the eviction notice. I stayed because there were good qualities in the relationship still and I chose to look at those only.

    I still remember when, in our first yr together, the EUM practically left me behind to talk to an ex we (or he, rather) ran into. Then he kept talking about various girls he was into, and I could not yet recognize how hurt I was. Our second year was more exciting (yay hormones! lol), but as I understood myself more, we began the power struggles over our differences. After college, we both lived at our respective parents’ homes, an hour apart from each other. He never told his family about us, because they didn’t condone premarital sex. So he figured we could have our dates, but I had to visit him (for the sex) any time his family was away on vacation. Any time I said no, he yelled at me for it. We needed to take advantage of all the opportunities for sex, he said!

    Our third year was better. Sort of. He tried to be more understanding about me not wanting to do everything he wanted to do (just reading that sentence alone sounds ridiculous – someone who respected me at all would have put my best interests at heart from the beginning) and yelled less. But he also claimed I wasn’t social enough, I was too quiet, and why didn’t I like staying out late at night like he did? (Uh, because I’m a girl and I hate driving an hour back home at night.) He thought that many of my perspectives were ridiculous and refused to take in my reasoning behind it. And he still refused to tell his parents about us. He wanted to tell them when he moved out of the house next year, which would entail one more year of suffering for me. And even after THAT, I’d have to pretend we had only been going out for a few months! I had HAD ENOUGH!

    Annnnnd it’s time to go rebuild my emotional house.

  26. Tess says:

    Wow, Nat, I too, just this week have been dealing with an unavailable that’s been popping in and out of my life for FIVE years! After kicking him to the curb last January following extreme assclowness, he’s back after we had to actually speak because of a legal issue we are both involved in.
    He is back with signs he’s intent on chasing me again (but always turns it around as if I’M chasing him), and sent me an email asking a very intimate question..I had to check myself from letting it go to my head as I tend to develop a poor memory and forget the past rollercoaster ride. i’ve wanted to bust his chops for even asking it, but alas, surprise surprise, he’s disappeared! So it’s like a child who will run up, poke you, and run away as fast as he can! I am so frustrated, as he just wants to poke me to keep himself in the running, but is SO unavailable, it’s criminal. I do love him and have for years, and doing this he knows he isn’t going to ever be there for me. I know I have to dump him, but I have the hardest time trying…Your email is sooo timely, but it’s frustrating.

  27. Australia says:

    OK ladies (and gents), I am going to need some strength and good words to get me through this …

    I just told my ex that I have had enough of his mistreatment (put-downs, ignoring me, seeing me only when it’s convienient. etc.), and that I expect so much more from a ‘friend’, let alone a ‘lover’. It was done on my terms, and if there is one word I can use to explain how I am feeling it is : relief.
    However, I am also a bit anxious because what if he does contact me again? Call me? Text me? Tell me he’ll change.

    I KNOW he won’t change until he works on himself. Yet I am nervous I will be weak and will give in to his contact and feel guilty if I don’t. Is there any tools I can prepare myself with now that I have stood my ground and said I have had enough? I know you guys will tell me to do no contact and not respond to anything, but knowing me I will feel SO guilty to not respond (mind you, I am assuming he will try and contact me. He may have had enough). I cannot fall back into the life I JUST said goodbye too. I wasn’t happy in it. And I know I deserve so much more. I know I will be OK.

    But how to stay strong now that I have taken the initial step?? Is there a way to ease out of it? How do I make sure my windows stay shut shut shut?

    • grace says:

      You feel guilty because you imagine he feels how you would feel. He doesn’t. If he loved and cared about you, you wouldn’t have dumped him. Now you imagine him weeping in his bedsit, “Australia, sob, I loved her so much (even though I barely saw her or put in any effort), woe, woe and thrice woe”.
      It’s more like “Man, Australia finally wised up. I wondered when that would happen. Never mind, maybe if I wait a week, month, six months, twenty years (yep, I’ve seen that), she’ll have calmed down and I can get a shag out of her, or a bit of attention when the rest of the harem have got fed up with me as well”.
      What you think is not what he thinks.
      And as for guilt – it’s a crap reason to do anything.

      • Fearless says:

        Australia, there’s not much to add to Grace’s comment – no, don’t feel guilty about anything – that’s just dangerous for you, and realise that he and you are two entirely seperate entities – don’t project your feelings for him onto his feelings for you. He has shown you what he thinks of you, now you need to decide that YOU think better of YOU than that.

        When I first went NC that was a big problem for me – I didn’t know what I thought of myself. I could say easily that I knew I deserved better (mainly on the grounds that I knew everyone deserves better!) but I didn’t FEEL it. You have to work on yourself until you feel that your ‘house’ really deserves to be treated with more respect and care. You have to love your house!! When you do, you will not want anyone pissin in your sink or stubbing fags out on your couch (lol).

        2nd problem I had (and am still vulnerable to) is that I wanted what I thought I deserved from HIM – not from anyone else – from HIM!And I although I didn’t admit to myself at the time, I did hope that some “serious” (read: faut) NC would wake him up! That is a wild goose chase.

        First though, is to stick with the NC no matter how you feel and you will come to see what you really need, which is to realise that this particular relationship really does need to end – no ifs or buts – it just needs to end – cos the guy actually does not love you or want you properly and never will. That’s what you come to with NC, eventually. For me, accepting that truth is much, much harder on me than the NC; the NC is a cake walk compared to swallowing the truth about him and the reality of the relationship (months later and I still struggling sometimes to digest it).

      • Australia says:

        I am hoping he sees it in the way that I have finally wised up.

        Its just that he has me so convinced that he does care, that he did try, when in reality he was not showing it! However because these EUM are like they are, I think deep down he does care. But you know what, deep down is not enough.

        • jennynic says:

          Australia, just say he does care. Does that really change anything? He still treats you bad, you still feel bad. It might make the bitter pill less bitter for a nano second, then its just the same bitter pill. Saying he might care and that makes it somewhat justifiable is like saying that THIS particular crumb is special because he cares. Its still a stale crumb. Do we settle for special crumbs from special scums (he’s not that special). NC is about you! Who cares if he sees you wised up, if you are really wising up then make this about you, not about how this will affect him. Hang tough cookie. Things do get better.

        • grace says:

          Ah, deep down. Like a diamond is deep down. You built a shaft, miners risk their lives to chip at the seam. They bring up a bit of grey rock. A highly skilled craftsmen cleaves it, a well trained cutter cuts it according to mathematically defined proportions. What do you have? A precious stone worth thousands.
          However, in your case, you shift though tons of excuses and rejection to get to it, your self-esteem takes a battering. With highly skilled manipulation and the patience of saints you’re able to extract it. And what have you got? A crumb! All that for a crumb! You’ve been swindled! Not only that, he wants it back.

          • runnergirl says:

            Oh dear Grace you are so good. It ends up being a crumb. No matter how deeply we dig for gold, analyze, dissect, and care. Once we get to it, it is a crumb. Frig, it is still a stupid crumb, no matter how I wanted it to be the whole loaf. I’m really good at pretend, but a crumb is a crumb. I’ve been swindled and he wants his crumb back just like you said. So, I’m looking forward to moving beyond this horseshit. To infinity and beyond, as Fearless said. Been there done the sorry shit. They’ll snag others in their sorry drama.

      • Jana says:

        very wise post, very wise.

      • Tammy says:


        Thank you for your insightful posts. My ex is likely to come back at some point. However, I’m truly hoping that he keeps moving on down the road and never ever attempts to contact me again.

        I’m presently in a lot of emotional pain because I feel betrayed, used and disillusioned. Why, oh, why would I let that fool back into my life. I already know how it will end. I’ve already been down that road a couple of times with him.

        He has forced me to change because I’ve had to take a good look at myself. However, I’ve no doubt that he remains unchanged in how he will behave in a “relationship” with me.

    • Vanja says:


      I can’t believe I’m giving advice, but your questions are the same questions I asked myself a few weeks, and at times, even now.

      To get through these hard times and be strong, try to do many different things to fight the impulse. It helped me to read all of Nat’s posts over and over and the replies from everyone. I saw myself in the posts Nat wrote and the stories others told. I saw me and it made me sad, mad, ashamed, even laughing but also determined to help end this pseudo relationship. I reread all the texts and emails my EX sent me and saw how my texts were more frequent, longer, and full of love and concern about him. So many were full of me begging him to see me, asking why he stood me up, etc. His replies were short, very few and mostly about him. And when he did mention me, he was showed little interest or was complaining about me wanting to see him. I’ve spent days and nights thinking about our times together and the long absences in between. When you truly reflect on the nights you’ve cried, begged for attention, your pain and sorrow, you see the truth. And see how you kept believing that one day he would wake up and need you like you needed him, and have NO CONTACT at all, a light comes on. The truth is inescapable.

      Fight your excuses to be with him. Fight your delusions, rationalizations and second guessing to make him what he isn’t. Know this, if your relationship was a healthy and thriving one, you would not be reading Nat’s blog and you would have not written your comments. You know it is time to give it up. It won’t be easy and actually, it will be quite painful, but it does get better. Some days will be harder and you may ever feel you are going backwards and need him more. But you will find that you love him a little less as time goes by and you love you a little more. You will see you lost you in his ego and now have you again. Keep reading Nat’s post and keep fighting. You’re worth it.

      • Magdalena says:

        Hey Australia,

        Everyone has given you some really good adv ice, so I’ll just add this. Every time my ex-EUM calls me, my heart skips a tiny beat, but then I ask myself this: do I want to give him another opportunity to reject me?
        The answer is ALWAYS no.

        You can do it!

    • PJM says:


      Atta girl, fellow countrywoman! Now go and find something else to do – INSTANTLY.

      The more stuff you have to do and to distract yourself, the less time spent daydreaming of when he comes bursting back into your life, utterly transformed – which I am afraid is almost certainly NOT going to happen. Which is sad, but you will be a happier woman without a guy like that, no matter how much he may float your boat.

      Don’t ever dive off a cliff without a parachute – set up friends and activities to carry you through the awful period at first.

  28. Audrey says:

    I have no tolerance anymore for shady behaviour. And I think guys get away with way too much now. I think their attitude is, well, she’s not going to put up with my dodgyiness, i’ll find someone else who will. If every woman raised her standards, there would be a lot less dodgy behaviour going on.

    I’m sure the last guy thinks i’m probably the biggest cow on the planet right now but so be it. I suppose, we have to learn to deal with the consequences of sticking to our standards too.

    • Audrey says:

      To add…and i guess, dealing with the consequences of saying n0 is the emotional backbone you talk about.

      • Robin says:

        Not just that. Sometimes they even stay because they’re determined to somehow undermine you and manipulate you. Then you yourself have to opt out, and FAST, before they do get a chance to erode your self-esteem.

  29. Jana says:

    Ladies you can walk away from all of these assholes.

    You have no idea how much power you really have.

    Just. Walk. Away.

    • Fearless says:

      Vanja, so right. If you are on here trying to go NC or struggling to manage NC – that should tell you everything you need to know about whether or not the guy is any good for you!

      Jana: “Just. walk. away.” Yep. That’s the only answer. Unfortunately it’s the one many of us do not want to hear. For me, once I cut around all the crap, over and over and over again, just. walk. away. is always all that I have looking back at me. That’s what it all boils down to.

      • Jana says:

        That’s right Fearless.

        It’s hard to hear, it really is. But it’s so simple, and so much easier than we think.

        Opt out. Walk away. Enjoy your life!

        • Fearless says:

          Yes, Jana, it’s easier than we think. It’s deciding to do it that which seems to be the sticking point. For me leaving the relationship and going NC was like deciding to ‘give up’. But I had that the wrong way round. It finally dawned on me that ‘giving up’ was staying in it. I had been ‘giving up’ for years!

  30. fitnessfreak says:

    Not sure why you think J Lo would be immune to these assclowns just because she’s ” hot “, I’m sure many of us posting here are pretty hot…its like the intelligence argument…means jack shit ..Jennifer aniston is Hot ..but she seems to be cranking up an impressive list of EUM / AC s

    • Jana says:

      No one is immune to assclowns Fitness. But we can choose how to deal with them.

      I picture myself as a really hot mama that would have NO TIME to email, text, FB etc. because I am SO HOT and SO BUSY spending time with men who actually call/ask for dates, exercising, reading, working, vacationing etc. and not entertaining weak lazy men and their bullshit.

      That’s what I mean. Jennifer Anniston should stop paying attention to bad behavior as well.

    • PJM says:

      Jennifer Aniston SO needs this website. Honestly. If it weren’t free, I’d buy her a subscription.

      And whenever I feel bad about myself and being single, I like to think of Jennifer Aniston, and then I realise that actually it’s not about looks and money, because she has tons of both. It’s all about making choices and repairing those emotional windows.

  31. Eternal Summer says:

    Just finished Natalie’s Values book….so good!

    Bottom line:

    People are the icing, YOU are the cake. No one should be more important to you than YOU! Live accordingly! Love it!!!!!!! xoxo

  32. fitnessfreak says:

    Runnergirl re : ” boring ” ….that translates as ” lack of drama ” .my receptionist said to me last week…man your life is like a soap opera many ups and downs …so much drama ….you make my life seem ” boring ” but you know what i would rather be boring than live like you .

    She is right : for her ” boring ” read….Nice decent husband who loves her, two lovely well adjusted kids, great friends, and stability .

    • runnergirl says:

      Hey there Fittness, that’s precisely how I meant “boring”, nice consistent drama-free relationships I can count on, like one of those healthy one’s Natalie describes. I was explaining to my best girlfriend, who has stuck with me through thick and thin, that I thought these “cheater stings” only happened in bad movies. She replied that my life has been like a bad movie since the affair started. I can always count on her to tell me like it is. I’ve been staring in my own rotten movie that even I don’t want to watch!

      It sounds like you are doing well and making progress. Congratulations. I remember your first post. Good work.

  33. Spinster says:

    This entry pretty much describes behavior modification. It’s really that simple. Good one.

    (Side note: Ghost is my all-time favorite movie.)

  34. Lily says:

    I was married to an EUM for 28 yrs. Shortly after the divorce I jumped into the deep end with both feet and found myself involved with the ultimate EUM, an NPD (narcissist personality disorder) for 2 1/2 yrs. At the time my adult son moved home because he too was having relationship problems. This sent my N into a psychotic episode because he perceived his control to be threatened … which led to a confrontation between the two most important men in my life. My son made such an amazing observation; one day he asked me “Mom, your such an awesome woman of strength, I’ve always looked up to you, so what’s it going to take for you to finally put away your paints and stop painting the red, flags PINK, he’s so not deserving of you”. The NPD never moved into my home, but he totally decimated my emotional house, it still took me 8 months to extract myself through NC. I spent the next two years in therapy and with an amazing NPD survivor support group (Safe & Secure). Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for that group. It’s been 5 years yet he still tests the door about twice a year. I began dating again, however, I kept attracting more EUM… The good news is that each new one has helped me to learn a little more about myself, and to spot the red flags much earlier… At this stage I’ve actually gotten pretty good at flushing out the flags long before there’s any real emotional investment that would take more than a day or two to get over. However, I know I have to continue to do my internal work, it’s as much my own issues, and about me that I continue to attract or be attracted to these EUM. Just this week I had an amazing breakthrough about some of my own childhood story that has contributed to my choices. I’m learning about me, but at the same time I’m also gaining a new appreciation for who I am, and what I am capable of.

    So while I will continue to invite them to come boldly to my front door and ring the bell, I continue to work on removing all stones from my front yard… keep the hedges trimmed and the flowerbeds pristine; repairing any damage to the house as quickly as possible.

    I deserve nothing less than what I bring… Finally figuring out and being able to articulate what I want has made it much easier to keep the pink paint under lock and key, weeding out the EUM… I told this last one, who happened to be a childhood friend so it seemed like it had lots of potential… that the next man I give myself to, has to love me more than I love myself and that I wanted to take it slow and get to know him on a much deeper level beyond just romantic love LOL …He’s done the Big Fade, I’ve heard nothing in a week, it’s not like he has to worry that I’ll show up on his door step we live 3600 miles apart… I unfriended him on facebook yesterday.

  35. fitnessfreak says:

    Hey runner …thanks for getting back ..really touched you remembered my first post ( can you remember what blog I responded too ..I would love to read it again !! ) I have come so far because of women like you !!

    NC was such a scary prospect ..but its comments from women like you and Nats advice that gave me my sanity back !! And helped me see so clearly .I can scarcely believe a web site can do so much !!! I don’t even need a therapist..I’m doing quite ok thanks….got a text today from arsehole ..and didn’t even open it ..just pressed delete !! Surprised even myself …but I was out for lunch with a few glasses of wine !!! ..oops..without BR …I would have texted tomorrow to apologise and find out what he wanted …tonight I don’t care ….

    • Jana says:

      that’s great, Fitness, stay strong!

    • Fearless says:

      Yay!! Go Fitness!

    • runnergirl says:

      Hey Fitness, I believe your first post may have been early in May 2011 sometime. It sounds as though you got busy fixing your broken windows big time. I remember your first post because it sounded so much like mine way back in December 2010 and Fearless replied to me (thanks Fearless). Natalie and the wonderful folks who post on this blog have been my lifeline to sanity too, assuming I’m getting to sanity.

      The arsehole texted you today? For christsake. Natalie told me one time that mine was like a cockroach after a nuclear bomb because he wouldn’t stop. Whatever you do, don’t respond once the wine wears off. You have NOTHING to apologize for. As usual, as write these words, I know I’ll have to heed them soon.

      So Natalie keeping with the “fix your windows” analogy (which I love), is there ever a way to fix our windows and seal them shut once we’ve let these (brilliant, smart, professionally successful) losers slither in and piss in our pots and play with our telly?

      I know once mine has calmed his wife down about our affair and did his showboat thing with her, he’ll be back tapping on my windows. This time, I want my windows boarded shut. I’m about ready to go out and board them shut for real.

  36. Eternal Summer says:

    ugh….had an upsetting convo & then broke NC with EUM! now I feel bad :(

    back on the wagon…

    • Jana says:

      just start over!! Good luck.

      • Eternal Summer says:

        thanks Jana…trying to do nice things for myself the rest of the day…he never replied by the way…talk about putting my hand back in the fire and getting burned! lesson learned!

    • runnergirl says:


      Just get right smack back on the NC wagon. We know deep down inside we are doing the right thing for us. A slip doesn’t mean that we have to go back to the misery. Put some bandaids on your cuts and bruises and carry on with NC. You aren’t alone in falling off. It happens. But most important is to get back on the wagon. I’m still rubbing neosporin and applying bandaids on my cuts and bruises from falling off the wagon as well. I’m also outside trying to figure out how to seal off my windows so the rat bastard can’t slither in again. They are such opportunists. That’s what I don’t get. They see a broken window and see an opportunity? To get laid? F**k them.

      • Allison says:


        It’s because you have not blocked and gone NC. If you don’t want him back. Don’t respond! You have continually shown him you are receptive for more, by responding. Please stop!

        You’re half the problem! This has been going on toooooooooo long!

        • runnergirl says:

          Yup Allison, you are correct I’m the bonehead who keeps responding. I’m the bonehead here. I used to want him to spontaneously combust into the man I thought pursued me in the beginning. It’s difficult realizing I’ve made a very serious mistake and now need to move on, shutter my windows, and forgive myself and him for our grave mistake, and not make the same mistake again. I’m not half the problem. I am the problem. He’s got his problems. I’ve got mine. I’m sorting it out. Thank you for your responses. How are you doing?

      • Fearless says:

        how do you figure out how to seal your windows. I was as hopeless a case as hopeless gets. Thanks to Nat and BR eventually something snaps and you begin see it, even just in waves through the haze, that horrible truth that others (even strangers walking their dogs!) have seen with total clarity all along:

        -You are howling at the moon. it.

        To ensure your windows are slither tight, you need to impose NC *on you* – not until or unless you hear from him but DESPITE hearing from him. No new contact = no new pain.

        Only thing you can be absolutely sure of is that further contact with him will bring you new agonies. Bite the bullet. Accept that this involvement has to be gone from your life for good. Accept it and cry. But accept it. Accept that he is the road to your future unhappiness. I think you said to Lavender, ‘even if you don’t believe it – trust us and do it’. You know the deal is a bad one… so ignore everything else and act with your head – NC. No Contact from now on. That’s how you board up your windows. Now that I am certain that I am in NC I already feel much safer. I know if I let him in I’ll get hurt again; I’ll get angry and exasperated and disappointed and frustrated and be neglected and cheated and pained. I know that none of that can happen to me again unless I let it happen. So he’s not getting in.

        • Fearless says:

          I’m sorry, runner, I want to add one more afterthought, if allowed:

          I have never blocked his number or email etc.. because I know he won’t contact me. He is stubborn, arrogant and single-minded and always needs an invitation to abuse me! I know for a fact that if I asked him to stay away from me he would do it. He knows I am pissed off with the whole thing and he is staying away – maybe partly out of respect for what he knows I feel about it all and that he knows himself he has eff all to offer me and he knows he has taken advantage for waaaayyy too long. So, my worry was not him being in contact, it was me contacting him that I needed to deal with. I am doing that. But for you… I sense you are almost waiting to hear from him…that you know that you will. If I am right, I would suggest that if you are serious, or want to test your seriousness, then start blocking his access. Block his phone number from your phones, block his email. If you can do that you are serious, if not – you’re not, you’re still howling at the moon. I wish you well, I hope you know that.

      • grace says:

        runner (and anyone struggling with NC)
        maybe it’s time to change your numbers. There is huge peace of mind to be had when you finally batten down the last window. It’s exponential. You may feel that you’re 90% there but when you shut down the last opportunity, you’ll realise that the success you feel now (and you HAVE had success) is actually only about 30%.
        I thought it did no harm to have the ex MM on my facebook. It was the last connection we had. He posted something stupid that pissed me off so I blocked him in a fit of pique. It felt bad. And then it felt … really really good. It’s that last bit (the odd text, the occasional FB post) that can really hold you back even though it seems so insignficant.
        You’ll feel better when that final boundary in place: you won’t feel worse. I’m going to stick my neck out and promise you that.

        • runnergirl says:

          Thank you Fearless and Grace. You are both right and thank you for taking the time to respond. It wouldn’t do me any good to make my windows slither proof and then leave the front door unhinged. I’ve blocked him from email (that felt good, again) and I’m going to change my cell number. Thought about that this morning. I de-friended him from FB months ago. I so believe you that biting the bullet now will pay off in the long run and I have experienced the pain continued contact brings. Fearless, thanks for the insight placing the focus on me. I’ve got to focus on me, not whether he’ll turn up in again tapping on my windows. I like that. I have to impose NC on ME. I’m glad you are feeling safer and not howling at the moon. I’ll join you in not howling at the moon. And Grace, I’ll bet you aren’t sticking your neck out. I can’t feel worse. Thank you ladies. You are so wise and helpful.

          • Fearless says:

            Yes, those are wise comments, Grace and I know what you mean; I have thought about how much of a percentage I have really come – not imagined, but really, and I don’t suppose I’ll know until I know, if that makes sense. I do know I have come strides – I never thought I could get this far… I know I am on the right track and I have no impulse to change course, so that’s got to be good. I could never go back to what things were, I know that – I can’t unlearn what I have learned; I can’t un-know what I now know.

            My short fall off the wagon was a real awakening – I could see exactly what he was about, thanks to my time on BR. He called me back on two occasions from his mobile. Once he was in Tesco buying something and, no, for once I did not feel like the Queen of Sheba cos I was getting a phone call (yay!); it was difficult to talk over the Tesco tannoy calling out the latest bargains and while he stopped to fish out his money and pay at the check-out. No, I didn’t feel special – I felt very unspecial! And I was fuming; I cut the conversation short.

            Next time he called me back he was walking up a busy street on his way to somewhere and I couldn’t hear him for the wind howling down the phone. I told him so but he didn;t care about that. Again, I was fuming and I just put the phone down on him. Yay! I just thought, away and take a run and jump – ignorant fkr. I texted him 30 minutes later saying ‘why do you always phone me from the street while running errands?’ He texted back: ‘Okay. I’ll email you when I get back to the office’. I texted back: No thanks. (yes, his office does have a phone!). That is pretty much the last I spoke to him. I finally was reading the crap for the crap that it was and wasn’t prepared to ignore it or pretend I didn’t have legitimate needs.

            What I know now is that I am never going to let myself down like that ever again, no matter what. No more feeding off his arrogant crumbs; I’d rather starve in the gutter.

          • Oldenoughtoknowbetter says:

            Runnergirl, I just want you to know you are not alone. Remember me? I am following your story….I keep going back to the nightmare MM relationship too, after repeated attempts at NC and some success, some failure. My story doesn’t even need to be told, it would just be repeating everyone else’s story…different package, same guy, same woman with broken windows. But I am reading BR every day, and I am watching/learning from all of you, and I know the end will come soon. It is on the horizon. When I am down, or tempted, I come to this site and read (Bless you Nat!). The feeling passes and my confidence goes up..for a while anyway, but stronger each time. Someday we will all have good happy relationships and this will just be the journey we had to go through to get there. I threw myself a 50th birthday party and over 40 great people showed up. At the end of the night I went to bed alone, but I still felt very blessed with my friends and family. I felt loved. Even without my MM in my bed. I am getting there! :-) And eventually my MM will be a distant (unpleasant) memory…..yours will be too!

          • runnergirl says:

            Oddly Fearless, my weekend fall off the wagon went in the opposite direction but ended up with the same result. He was the thoughtful, considerate, albeit married guy I met 3 years ago. Available the entire weekend (wife out of town which I didn’t know) and didn’t sandwich me in between political events. Lunch, brunch, hiking, and frisbee, and even wanted to know what he could bring for dinner. I choked. On Sunday morning, he texted regarding what type of OJ to buy for mimosas, pineapple, strawberry or guava and did I need anything else. I choked again. Too little too late and too much BR enlightenment for me to buy his crap. Even if his wife had not busted us, I wasn’t going back to being the OW under any circumstances, even for pineapple OJ mimosas. That’s a nice crumb but still a crumb. What gripes me is how these guys can play the right cards when they want something, like getting laid? I’m glad you saw the light and I did too. Different lights, same dim bulb.

          • runnergirl says:

            I absolutely remember you and it is great to have you back commenting. Happy, happy 50th! Your party sounds wonderful even if you went to bed without the MM. Don’t we always? It sounds as though you are withdrawing, disengaging, and tiring of being the OW? Although we think we can handle it in the beginning, it becomes impossible. At first, I liked the freedom because he couldn’t be available all of the time. That “freedom” gets old fast because it is unavailability on his part and on mine. I’ve done the cyberspace blocking thingy as Allison, Grace, and Fearless and so many others have suggested, and now it feels like real freedom.

            It takes time to unwind the tangled web we weave when first we practice to decieve. If you’ve been following Bewildered posts, imagine how their wives feel if they find out their husbands have been living a secret life. I simply cringe when I realize I’ve been the dirty little secret and now his wife knows about his secret life. We are so much better than that and have so much more to offer.

            The exMM gets more distant a memory everytime I stay NC. There is more hope for healthy relationship without him. Even if my windows are not perfectly mended and shuttered, I’m not feeling threatened that he’ll slither back in because I’m moving on. It is funny though, I have spent the summer applying stucco patch to my garden walls and my house. Hang in there. We’ll get beyond their crap, pineapple mimosas nothwithstanding.

  37. Elle says:

    Great post Natalie, and really insightful, generous comments from everyone. I am probably only commenting to see my own voice – tee hee. I too had my house all but floored by an AC-tornado. There must have been some foundation stone and wooden frames remaining – I didn’t completely lose my mind and I always had a sense that this person was a bullshitter (ie the things he said about me and about his own virtues were not entirely truthful, and that I wanted and deserved someone genuine and loving in my life.). But geez it was a painful and gruelling experience. For a long time, there was a big part of me that wanted him to come back and join in on the rebuild. Thankfully, encouraged by this site, I really did hold onto the belief that I had to do the brickwork myself. To those people struggling with opting out or sticking with NC, you just have to ignore those voices and impulses that effectively open you up to losing another frame or wall of bricks. These people do not help build a house. Engaging with people who harm you (for whatever reason and with whatever intentionality) – especially when you’re already exposed to the winds- is essentially choosing to use foam bricks and a poo-cement-mixer. Keep your head down and work hard (focus on work, family, friends, hobbies, writing, and exercise). I have a new man who is wonderful, but we’ve both said – in different, but simple ways – that we’re glad we met now when we’re better at being and managing ourselves and more content with our lives (outside a relationship). While someone else cannot make your house, one thing that’s so nice is that, when you’re with someone who is worthy (and that is the first main thing), you find yourself not having to worry about the windows getting smashed and the beams sinking (because they are not in that business), you can actually get on with tending to the fire and the flower beds, the lovely things in life, together. As part of this, you don’t have to be 100% perfect to find or be with someone, the essential elements of the house simply need to be sturdy.

    • Minky says:

      Indeed! Being in a healthy relationship is like living in one of those lovely villages where you can leave your door unlocked without having to worry about being burgled.

      I used to live in a horrible area where i used to have to have bars on the windows and someone STILL managed to throw a brick through (and draw a swastika on the other window). Taking yourself out of a harmful situation and away from toxic people is, i guess, like moving to a nicer neighbourhood.

      • cavewoman says:

        I do love that image, Minky! of the door open yet no danger of intruders. I actually used to live in a town like that once. You breathe easily. You’re more cheerful. You’re more spontaneous. You’re happier to get home and you’re more comfortable at home. ALL that will have to apply to how I feel about the next man I give any time to.

        • Minky says:

          Expanding on that analogy, i guess my boundaries are like a guard dog, who starts jumping up and down, barking when somone undesirable comes skulking up to my house. This lets me know if i need to lock my door for the night. :)

  38. riotgirl says:

    Hi Natalie,

    I just wanted to say thank you for all the wonderful words and advice that you have given to me and everyone else here. Until I had stumbled upon, I honestly did not even know how to start loving myself or what a healthy relationship looked like. But I am very happy and proud to say that from reading your articles, I have learnt so much: how to love and respect myself by taking a dating hiatus to focus on me, set healthy boundaries where I did not compromise on my primary core values and also how to be smart and aware of red flags.

    My narcissistic EUM just up-ed and left me about 9 months ago without any reason and for so long, I couldn’t get any closure until I read this (! I’ve recently started dating someone new and I can’t believe how happy I am. He is wonderful, respects me, does the things he says and we are taking things slow because we agreed on having a long-term, meaningful relationship. There is no drama! So thank you once again for helping me love and trust myself for the first time in my life. Keep up the great work and I hope you know how much you’ve changed so many livesfor the better! All the best always! :)

  39. Aura says:

    To Fitnessfreak,
    I’m impressed that you deleted his email without reading it…attagirl!

    To Vanja,
    Well said, you’ve come a long way in a short time. Good for you!

    • Vanja says:


      Thanks! Anger is a great teacher and 2 years of going nowhere. I do worry however, that I might give in a lot. But the “one day at a time ” prayer gets me through that day of anguish. :)

  40. fitnessfreak says:

    Aura. thanks it was relatively easy when sat with friends having had a few glasses of wine. This morning I find myself wondering what he wanted.

    however I do prefer the peace I have with NC , rather than the turmoil and churning I had come to think of as normal, when I was with him .

  41. miskwa says:

    Right on! I live in a fairly remote mountain town where there are serious issues with stalking, domestic violence, and disrespect of women in general. Why do these things happen? They are allowed to, often by women who are desperate for companionship or have been raised to think that’s how relationships are supposed to be. Better to choose to be alone rather than tolerate disrespect or worse. I do wish that women would talk to one another, tell of their crap experiences with these guys, so that no one would date them and they would truly experience the consequences of their actions.

  42. Barbara Doduk says:

    This also applies to setting boundaries with ALL your relationships. I know now I have always allowed people to use me as a doormat and disrespect my boundaries, and I have been making sure to set clear boundaries now with all my friends and family, and you are right, the most important part is the consequences. My father has a bad habit of disrespecting me, and now that I have a daughter, he thinks he can just show up at our house any time he feels like visiting. I loathe that, it is an invasion of my time and privacy and no matter how many times in the past I explained to him it was wrong to do, he always does it. I have made an agreement with him that he can come see my daughter on Wednesdays, and when he showed up 3 days in a row over the weekend uninvited, I cancelled his Wednesday on him. He called many times asking if he had done something wrong and I explained it was the consequence of him over stepping those boundaries. WILL HE GET IT? That is the biggest issue… but I am no longer afraid to dish out consequences to those who overstep my boundaries, so even if he does it again, I know now I have the confidence to stand up for myself.

    And really isn’t that what all of this is about, finding our own strengths to over come those weaknesses that other exploit in us.

    • lilylee says:


      Not sure of the details of your relationship with your father, but it seems maybe a little rigid to give him a schedule to visit. I guess I am thinking about how older people often feel a bit lonely and displaced and he may just really want to be around you and your daughter, now that he is older.

      I guess it is a balance between having clear and healthy boundaries and also being understanding to the different stages of life that people are at. I know with my parents, I see how they are aging and how they just want to be around all their children/grandchildren now. They are so happy when we drop by, and my mom starts cooking extra food and making special things. My dad just loves to play with my nieces and nephews. I can see that they feel a sense of loss in a way, their role of parent has changed now that everyone is grown and has their own family. …that is so natural.

      He may just be missing you and does not know how to say it…just a thought.

      • Barbara Doduk says:


        I wish it were merely that case with my father. I respect others have normal relationships with their parents would think my comment odd. However my parents divorced at the age of six and my father was pretty much absent from my life, aside from a weekend or two, and maybe a week of camping in the summer, I had no relationship with my father. As a teen he couldn’t stand to be in my company so we didn’t see each other at all. As a young adult I attempted to fix our relationship, but it was impossible as he took over my life and controlled it instead. Then we didn’t speak or see one another for about 7 years. Until I became pregnant, and suddenly he wanted to be in my life… I know it is only to be around my daughter. However I also saw how he treated my niece who is now 12, and much how he treated me – he has no interest in my niece anymore, since she is her own little person know with a mind of her own. My father is a controlling selfish man. I have had a life time of therapy to get to the point where I can be around him without wanting to thrash him for his negative hurtful ways, but i am also trying to protect my daughter from what he put me through and put my 12 year old niece through. My brother is at the point where he doesn’t want to ever have anything to do with my father again too. So yah, I wish it was a simple case of merely getting old and lonely, but it is so not.

        • NML says:

          Hi Lilylee (and Barbara), I have to say that generally speaking, when someone feels that they need to put a pretty firm boundary in place for a parent, they have a good reason and it’s actually projecting all sorts of reasons on to it that can actually get us in trouble. I wholeheartedly respect Barbara’s decision. Yeah maybe he is lonely and yada yada yada but it’s Barbara’s right to do what is in the interest of her and her child. Her father hasn’t changed and the actions she is taking now limit the damage further down the line and don’t allow him to think he can press the reset button.

          My daughters adore my Mr Unavailable father but he is *still* flaky much as when he’s *here* he’s great. I’m not running around bearing grudges however what I won’t do is in seeing that he is *still* repeating his old ways, allow him to become a source of disappointment for my girls. That’s boundaries. Not everyone likes that and will claim the lonely and infirm card and yada yada, but he’s just fine.

          • lilylee says:

            I hear you Nat…and I absolutely agree.. Barbara is doing the hardest and most courageous thing in breaking that pattern, so that it stops with her.

            It’s good to learn and understand other people’s stories…it’s an education.

        • grace says:

          Barbara, NML
          It’s so hard to deal with. My mother is in a nursing home, she IS old and probably lonely. I turn over in my mind how I can make things better, for instance I could visit more. I can only bear to see her every month or so when my brother drives down. I feel guilty about it then I remember I’ve ALWAYS felt guilty about it. Since I was a little kid I’d be thinking “How can I make my mother happy?” I could throw everything I am at her and she’d still be angry. My sister is adamant that she doesn’t want her daughters around my mother and they haven’t seen her in literally years.
          I do have a firm boundary with my mother and it breaks my heart. But what else can I do? I hesitate to say it because it’s so judgemental but … we reap what we sow.
          Lilylee, what you say is absolutely spot on for most parents and it’s wonderful that your family are able to enjoy each other. Sadly, for some of us our relationship with our parents is pretty much based on damage limitation.

          • EllyB says:

            Grace: I agree wholeheartedly agree. I think this “old people are so lonely, how cruel are you by not talking to them?” thing helps support and cover up even the worst kinds of abuse. Yes, they might be lonely, but at least they had a lifetime to treat other people better so that they wouldn’t end up like that.

            Who is lonelier than a little child who is constantly being abused by a family full of narcissists? How could I have gotten out of this when I was little?

            I mentioned my own parents often enough. Then there was my mother’s mother who claimed my own abusive mother “spoiled” me and that I deserved much worse than that. When visiting them, I always had to stay quiet unless they talked to me… and that was only to scold me. From me, it was expected to say sorry and thank you all the time, and to not talk about anything else!

            My dad’s mother… She always whined that I didn’t allow her to touch my body. She claimed as a grandmother, she was entitled to that. She also wanted a career in music for me. I was forced to play several instruments for many years. I hated it and had little success. When I finally gave up, she whined and whined and whined. On the other hand, she was my only relative, including my own wealthy parents (!!!!), who occasionally gave me a somewhat lovely present. But she was clearly a horrible narc anyway.

            My grandfathers… They were both much older than their wives. They both died when I was a teen. It’s weird, but I can barely remember them, although I must have seen them frequently. I just vaguely remember something very scary and creepy, in both cases. When I try to remember their faces, I only see photos of them I saw later in life. I wonder why.

            Bottom line, I never want to meet any of them again. Frankly, I give a damn whether they are lonely. Until half a year ago, I felt very, very guilty for being such an “awful daughter”, but this feeling is slowly fading.

            In the unlikely case that I have children before it’s too late, I would NOT want them to meet any of those monsters. Ever.

          • lilylee says:


            I agree and understand. I feel fortunate that my parents were relatively good parents….a bit of “poor me”from my mom, but nothing that got too out of I realize for other people they have to have really firm boundaries or they will be mowed over.

            It’s enlightening to learning about other people’s situations and a develop a deeper compassion for the struggles that they are going through…

            This is learning for me and I commend all of you who have faced down some difficult parental situations and put the boundaries in place.

            More power to you.

        • lilylee says:


          I hear you and respect your decision. I can see clearly why you need to put boundaries in place with your father and I think it is wise and courageous of you to do so.

          Good luck with everything.

  43. Kim in Minn says:

    Does your fear of abandonment stem from your childhood? I have same due to a very very difficult mother. She was never nurturing or affectionate. Often locked us out of the house. Abusive in that she whipped us with belts. At the same time very needy – almost a hypochondriac wanting to be waited on and have things done for her. She is now 71 yo and still needy, wanting to be waited on, wanting to be obeyed. She is still a terror and makes our lives difficult. We have not cut her out of our lives but she has been the shit pile we grew in resulting in me and my siblings have no boundaries, no expectation of receiving love or respect from anyone. Even now when we realize these things it is difficult to NOT react as we did when children. So 1st thing I need to deal with is having grown up with an abusive mother that is still present in my life.

    • Barbara Doduk says:


      I do think the role models (our parents and family) that we were raised around, and the experiences we had with them, CERTAINLY do make us who we are in future relationships.

      As an adult though you have the option to re-learn who you are and become a better adult.

      I know as a role model to my own daughter, I MUST learn to be a better human being than my parents were/are.

    • grace says:

      Try an exercise in boundary setting which will help you in all your relationships. With your mother, set a time limit for your visits. Try to have something to do in that time, maybe cook her a meal, or go to the supermarket or a walk. Anything to distract her from the crazy. If she starts misbehaving, ignore her. My brother literally stares around the room. It makes him look like he has some kind of problem, but whatever works. My sister gets out her gameboy. I leave the room, or clam up. When it gets too much, one of will stand up and we all leave. She can only behave for so long before she starts shrieking and complaining. If my father is there, she can only last about fifteen minutes before calling him the devil etc. Ultimately, she has no power to hurt me anymore. That’s what I keep telling myself.
      Short visits are better than long visits.
      If you just do what she wants without any boundaries, she’ll just make you feel crap. We can’t just go there without a plan and no endgame. It’s like a prison visit, there must be rules. When you can put boundaries in place without feeling like a villain, you’ll be more ready to date.
      And talk about it with your siblings. It’s good to know you’re not the only one who feels the pain.

  44. Maria says:

    Natalie I really wish this website had been around between 1998-2004. Wow you would have saved me alot of time and heartache. I wasted so much time on a guy who was totally shady and unreliable. He disappeared on me more times than I can count and I took him back each time without questioning where he had been because I was afraid of the answer. My self esteem took a nose dive and it has taken a long time for me to respect myself again.

    Thank you so much for all the work you have put into this site, because of you I am a strong woman who does not put up with any bull**** from anyone.

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

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

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

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