Every time a friend has spoken to me about her frustrations with her boyfriend over the past year, she keeps mentioning him smoking “a bit of weed” and his drinking habits and then quickly playing them down. Someone else I know is shrinking and rationalising the fact that her boyfriend keeps rubbernecking other women when they’re out and denying it when she says calls him on it. When I was in New York a few months ago, one reader described her ex as being “a bit of an alcoholic” and other readers have said stuff like “he’s a bit unavailable”, “she has a little bit of a problem being honest”, “he dabbles in drugs”, “he gets a bit angry” and stalwart favourites “He/she has his good points” and “We have had some good times”.

There are three things that can get you in hot water in relationships and will create honesty issues with yourself: denying, minimising, and rationalising.

They are in fact different aspects of denial except for:

Denying is refusing to admit the existence of something.

Minimising is playing down the truth of something or its significance.

Rationalising is trying to explain, justify and even excuse something with what you feel are plausible explanations which of course can end up crossing into denial.

There is a very simple reason why these actions are dangerous in your relationships and affect your authenticity and how honest you are about who and what you’re involved in:

If you deny the existence of something it means that you deny your feelings and perceptions, as well as the true impact of it and what it means to you and your relationship.

If you minimise something, by playing down the significance of it which could be about the danger it could pose, what it means to the possibility of a mutually fulfilling healthy relationship, or even what it means about your own actions, you’re basically playing down your true feelings and perception of it, as well as the impact.

If you rationalise something and you’re doing it without healthy beliefs and relationship habits as a basis of your rationale, you’ll end up rationalising your true feelings and perception plus if you’re excusing, and justifying, you’re denying. Instead of taking the simple but what may be the more painful meaning of that something, you rationalise it to make it more palatable.

We only have to deny, minimise and rationalise when we don’t like what the true meaning is – this is an issue with acceptance. That and you need to go on The Bullshit Diet.

In my post about I Believe In Being Honest…As Long As It’s What I Want To Hear, I explained the importance of feedback. When we are honest with ourselves and also have boundaries, an awareness of our values and code red and amber behaviour we process feedback from these that let’s us know when we need to take action or adjust any assumptions we had prior to the feedback.

When you engage in denying, minimising, and rationalising plus you have little or no boundaries, low self-esteem, and don’t recognise code amber and red behaviour, you are not receiving, processing, or reacting to feedback. Instead, it hits your emotional computer and you say ‘Computer says NO’ or ‘Computer says make it less important’ or ‘Computer says that it happened because of Y not X’.

You know when something happens? That ‘something’ creates an impact and that impact is another form of feedback.

When you are honest with yourself, you will feel and acknowledge the impact and what it means in relation to you and your relationship. You’ll experience your feelings, acknowledge any discomfort or what new information you have learned as a result of the impact, and take a view on it, and ultimately do something whether that means proactively addressing any code amber concerns, or inflating your opt out parachute and jumping from a code red concern.

Denying, minimising, and rationalising pretends that the impact didn’t happen or that if it did, it was less than it was and shuts down the feedback. It’s like plugging your fingers in your ears and saying ‘La la la la la la. Eff it, I don’t wanna hear it’.

Some of you have had ‘impacts’ that are like having an enormous crater on your relationship landscape and you’re trying to act like you’re either skipping through a field of roses, like the crater is actually the size of the plug hole in your bath, or telling yourself that there is a plausible explanation for the crater in your relationship and that if you love enough, or do a bit of changing, or get them to change, that the crater will shrink, after all, love conquers all and no relationship is perfect, right?

Like I said to the reader who told me her ex is a “bit of an alcoholic”, there’s no such thing, and how much you will deny, minimise and rationalise directly correlates to how deep you will get into and how long you will stay in a poor or even dangerous relationship. If she had stopped denying that he was an alcoholic with an allergy to the truth, she would have seen the direct impact that had and why the relationship had unravelled, and more importantly, how she’d come to find herself still there. Same goes for the friend who is realising that her boyfriend has ‘issues’ with weed and alcohol that are directly impacting their relationship.

You can not even begin to have happy, healthier mutually fulfilling relationships if you are not even truthful about what you’re involved in and you certainly cannot even begin to address issues or protect yourself if you won’t be honest about the issues and the impact of them, or why you’re still there in spite of them.

A crater is still a crater no matter how much you deny, shrink, or over intellectualise it.

Get real even if it means learning something painful about them and/or yourself because the impact of that lesson has far reaching, positive consequences for you and ultimately if being happy and having a mutually fulfilling healthy relationship is what you have your eye on it, the feedback is worth it.

Your thoughts?

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

Image source Aviation Humour

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175 Responses to The BS Diet – Why you need to stop denying, minimising, and rationalising

  1. The Hopeful Romantic says:

    Great post as always Natalie!

  2. debra says:

    “You can not even begin to have happy, healthier mutually fulfilling relationships if you are not even truthful about what you’re involved in and you certainly cannot even begin to address issues or protect yourself if you won’t be honest about the issues and the impact of them, or why you’re still there in spite of them.”

    So true. Honesty is the key. I had always promised myself I would never stay in an abusive relationship – if he ever hit me once, I’d be gone. When the AC did hit me, I made excuses – a push wasn’t really a hit, choking me was his idea of a joke. As long as I didn’t call it what is was – abuse – I didn’t have to deal with it. I did the same thing when he insulted me – he was just being a clueless guy, I was too sensitive and heard it wrong. Of course, what was more telling was, when I told him he had hurt and insulted me, he refused to apologize and actually took the opportunity to insult me again, only worse. And still, I made excuses.

    Why? I thought I wanted and needed the relationship more than I cared about myself or my worth. I thought I could change him. I believed if he loved me, he would stop hurting me. If that isn’t the textbook definition of delusion, I don’t know what is. Looking back on it now, I cannot believe I did that. At the time, I truly had no idea I was doing anything except trying to get him to care about me.

    It feels good to finally see things clearly.

    • grace says:

      he sounds like an absolute ass and I am glad you are shot of him. For what it’s worth, I don’t think any woman sets out in life saying “I’m going to put up with abuse”. You were probably conditioned to it by bad parenting. The coping strategies we put in place as children (denial, minimising and rationalising) are actually quite helpful responses to an impossible situation. What else can a kid do? If a little kid was fully aware of what was going on, I think they would crack up. Some of them do. Those strategies are hard to ditch when you’re older, you don’t even know you do it – it’s the only thing you know.
      Yes, it is good to see things clearly now!

      • Elle says:

        This is so true, Grace. It was a shock to me that the man who was the most belittling and yelled at me a few times til I was trembling was the man I felt, on some level, the most comfortable with. My brain (or some part of me) would be saying, ‘this is not sustainable, this is not what I want, this is wrong’, but then another part of me was so good at rationalising, in order to make the picture an unblemished one, and because I was so hooked to his other qualities (looks, intelligence, humour).

        I completely agree that we learn these coping strategies in our childhood, and perhaps they’re just human traits (we tend to order our thoughts in a way that involves the least amount of complexity and uncertainty). I am very used to making sense of aggression and spitefulness in other people. It sometimes even triggers a ridiculous level of warmth from me. Scary. But, luckily, moving on from this (has involved distancing myself from some old friends) and, as I mentioned in a recent comment, have just started seeing a guy – with inner strength and healthy boundaries, and also with a depth of kindness and calmness that is just lovely. It might not work out (I say to protect myself!), but it makes me so grateful to the world that I was saved a world of trouble (and possibly worse). Have a lot of crap to sort through – eg still get panic responses from things that come from the AC experience (and beyond) and not this new guy – but it’s manageable and I am feeling confident.

        Thanks Natalie – this and your last few posts have been super!

      • leisha says:

        Yeah, we don’t wake up and decide “Hey, I want to be used, abused, treated like shite”. We put trust in the wrong people sometimes. Truly, there is no justification or rationalising that is okay for acceptance of unacceptable behavior. Damn. We have to say I am most precious. I have work to do here in this life and I am not going to allow these unholy situations to determine my destiny. These jackclowns are NOT going to destroy me. I will protect myself. I will not put up with the shite.

        Ladies, To all of you who suffered abuse… bless you. May you never go there again; and if you do may you have the ability to leave safely. If you must love your abusers…do it from a distance. I wish you peace.

      • leisha says:

        You are so right about kids not having the power to remove themselves from situations of abuse. We so need parenting and relationship courses in our schools. I learned some pretty crappy behavior to adapt to my early environment. My sister and I broke the cycle of child abuse but we didn’t know how to avoid men like our father: unpredictable,self-righteous, unfaithful, physically and verbally abusive, yet oh so capable of being charming . When our mother exited the situation the harm had already been done because we had already observed the interactions. The great thing is that we can educate ourselves as adults and break the patterns.

        • leisha says:

          And yeah, I made excuses for his behavior just as I did for many males I became involved with. (As did my sister). She, unfortunately married a male like our dad and the pattern began again for her children…she exited but the kids learned from them. This is how many of our males learn their crappy behaviors and how the females learn what is “acceptable”. I hate it. I didn’t have children. I wouldn’t risk it. Down where I live the state is just now beginning to implement programs on educating our children to recognise abusive relationship behavior. Just as with sex education there are people who do not want their children exposed to knowledge they really need. RANT!

          • leisha says:

            There was also a point in my life where I didn’t understand how any woman would stay in an abusive situation…I had to learn the hard way. A big part of the dynamic for me was shame, pride, and how insidious it built up. Wonderful crazy-making stuff. But, I did get out of it. Yay!

            Natalie, Thanks for being here.

          • grace says:

            My sister has three daughters and is a wonderful mother. My sister’s never so much as spanked them and told her husband he mustn’t either. They’re the best-behaved, happiest kids I know. When you won’t hit them, you have to find better ways to discipline them. I love the way my sister nurtures them emotionally and teaches them to express thesmselves. She’s bad at cooking though, good job their father takes care of that!
            A bad childhood doesn’t condemn you to repeat the pattern. Having children isn’t for everyone but I’d just like to put it out there that survivors of childhood abuse can still be great parents. I’m sure you know that, but it’s worth pointing out.

      • EllyB says:

        Grace, so true. We should never underestimate the effects of our childhood. My parents have shortchanged, deprived, abused and gaslighted me for so many years that I ultimately learned to make myself believe I actually wanted and deserved to be treated that way. It was the only way how I could continue believing in their “love” and “trustworthiness”.

        Unfortunately, this still affects all aspects of my life. I deprive myself, allow others to shortchange me, seek abusive relationships, blame myself for abuse and look for signs of insanity in myself. I have to stop this and face the truth.

    • MH says:


      I came up with the same realization of my ex boyfriend from nine years ago. I thought I could handle everything when I was in it. I thought as long as I wasn’t alone that was enough. WRONG!

      A relationship at my own expense.

      • leisha says:

        Grace, My sister is a great mom, she just chose and stayed with the wrong man. She met him at 13 years of age. She didn’t have children until her 20’s. He waited until she was truly dependent on him to expose his true colours. It happens.

  3. Lizzy says:

    So true…
    When my ex-AC went to stay with ‘his parents’ for days on end but was strangely incommunicado, it was because he was so busy writing he couldn’t be disturbed.
    He didn’t want to have sex for months because he was ‘not a robot’ and why was I so desperate for it anyway?
    When he stayed out all night, he’d been networking (yeah right). It was all for the greater good because one day he was going to be rich/famous/very successful
    When he didn’t have the money for food/train fares/bills it was because he was too sensitive and creative to be tied down to a job
    When he flirted with my friends, it was their fault for coming on to him
    When he returned home slurring his words/grinding his teeth, he’d actually only had a couple of shandies
    And he couldn’t go into a supermarket, pay bills/tax or drive because he was fighting the system

    Just some examples of the truly ridiculous crap I swallowed, which would be hilarious if I hadn’t wasted so many years convincing myself it was true. A BS diet was long overdue………….

    • leisha says:

      Problem is: so many things are potentially true that you think to yourself: maybe it’s so. You give them the benefit of the doubt because they have the right to their own decisions as an adult. If you are seeing them as someone like yourself then you may believe they are sincere and mean well. Why would they lie? Ah, but you eventually see clearly and opt out. Just another round in schoolhouse Earth.

      • leisha says:

        Too bad he didn’t use his creativity in a positive way. He was lucky to have had you in his corner. It’s his loss. You learned. You moved on. Please don’t see it as wasted time. Consider it an investment…you paid for a lesson that will stay with you and help you avoid such in the present and future.

  4. Movedup says:

    “Denying, minimising, and rationalising pretends that the impact didn’t happen or that if it did, it was less than it was and shuts down the feedback. It’s like plugging your fingers in your ears and saying ‘La la la la la la. Eff it, I don’t wanna hear it’.” Absolutely.

    Consequently, I was looking on my computer for a paper I wrote along time ago I was giving to a friend and ran across the “unsent letter” I wrote years ago. I read it – it is as true today as it was then. Concise and to the point. If any of you have not read Getting Out of Stuck and writing the Unsent Letter – get on it now. Its a gem and years later I look back and see what I refused to see until it was shoved in my face – no denial, minimizing or rationalizing. Get unstuck – its soooo much better on the other side and yes he’s still an ass (I assume) but not my problem for ever more (thats for sure!)

  5. Natasha says:

    One of your best Natalie! I think sometimes when we have low self-esteem, we dont’ want to look too closely because we assume if someone does something crappy, it’s because of something lacking in us. When we’re in a good place self-esteem wise, it’s easier to see that there is nothing to be afraid of by being in reality, because someone acting like a jackass isn’t about us, it’s about them.

  6. grace says:

    I would deny that they had hurt me. I think my pride or something stopped me from admitting it to myself, though my pride would have been better served either a) pointing it out to the good guys and b) running from the bad ones. For me, it was a sign of weakness to have been hurt.
    We need to listen to the guard dog (bitch) we have in all of us, the one that bristles and barks when someone has overstepped the mark. She can smell BS, pay attention!

  7. Sarah says:

    For me, I denied, minimised, and rationalized everything away so I wouldn’t have to deal with the fact that we are incompatible. If he didn’t/couldn’t be with me then there must be something “wrong” with me. Now that I’m not denying, minimising, or rationalizing with him anymore I’ve noticed that the cloak is being raised on other areas of my life that I didn’t want to deal with. This has been my struggle as of late. Now that I’m not so busy trying not to feel, I am actually letting myself feel my feelings which sometimes scares the crap out of me. Recently, I’ve been thinking about going to therapy for a little support. We’ll see. The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that it can only get better from here.

  8. MH says:


    Have you seen any correlations between valuing looks and not seeing worth in other attributes that allow someone to attract and stay with guys that rubber neck other girls or are sex addicts?

    I know you wrote posts on valuing sex appeal, looks etc and second best syndrome, which are all issues I struggle with and from reading those and my experiences I am wondering what the connection is or if there isn’t one?

    It seems weird when one person always attracts alcoholics, drug addicts or sex addicts. I have taken this to mean the lesson is in why we are attracting this type of calibur verses the others. One of my friends will always be codependent to alcoholics, another to drug addicts and myself to sex addicts. I know low self esteem is one main factor but is something else beneath the surface?

    This is the issue I am trying to get real about so I don’t keep having to live out new lessons with these addicts.

    • NML says:

      Hi MH. You value superficial stuff —>guys that rubberneck value superficial stuff —>guys that are sex addicts value superficial stuff.

      If you value insubstantial stuff you value insubstantial people and end up in insubstantial relationships.

      It makes sense that superficial people like your rubber neckers and sex addicts of this world also have to have a reasonable level of charm and confidence, even if it masks hidden self-esteem. The world is not full of sex addicts and rubberneckers – the men you’re attracted to are sex addicts and rubberneckers.

      WHat you should be concerning yourself with is why you’re OK with continuing to be superficial and what is it that you believe being with an attractive man with sex appeal means about you?

      • Maeve says:

        There are plenty of unattractive men who are sex addicts. I was married to one for a long time.

        I understand what you’re saying and agree, but think it’s important to point out too that trying to value substantial stuff is no guarantee of safety. My ex-husband wasn’t attractive or wealthy, but cheated on me for almost the entire length of our marriage with anyone who walked by in a skirt. I married him because I thought he was a nice guy (he’s a very talented liar and put on a convincing act of being the person he thought I wanted). I was wrong.

        Looking back, there were signs–signs I minimised, rationalised and ignored, and for so many of the reasons that other people have discussed–but what really stings is that I wasn’t falling for something flashy and superficial. He comes across as a solid, decent guy.

        • NML says:

          Hi Maeve, I think it’s important to point out a couple of things – my response was to specifically address MH’s comment not to do a general comment about sex addicts as it wasn’t a general question, nor does it actually say that all sex addicts are attractive. I also didn’t say that valuing substantial stuff was a guarantee of safety – having boundaries, processing code red and amber behaviour, doing due diligence particularly in the early stages of dating, no lies and denial etc keep the chances of being involved with the likes of these people minimal. Hard as it may be to hear, people do have relationships without having to deny, rationalise, and minimise information about the other person and while you may believe he put on a convincing act, it couldn’t have been *that* good because by your own admission you minimised, rationalised and ignored. Being attractive isn’t about being flashy and superficial otherwise everyone in a healthy relationship would be ugly.

          • grace says:

            Maeve, NML
            I guess this guy must have had some charm, though, to attract women to cheat with. Maybe it’s his decent guy persona. I expect he knows how to push the right buttons, maybe he plays the sensitive card, or bangs on about charity work or religion or morality. Or fakes an interest in the woman’s life, takes on her pastimes, or pretends to be a good listener.
            What really matters is honour, consistency, truthfulness, reliability, integrity, authenticity, kindness. Is there a “wholeness” to how this person behaves? I don’t think that can be faked for any length of time. These people don’t know enough about it to fake that. I’ve yet to come across a single example in my own life or on this blog where there weren’t red or at least amber flags. That we ignored. Once you ignore the first one, it’s quite easy to ignore the rest.

          • Maeve says:

            Oh, absolutely–just throwing $0.02 in from my own experience. At that point in my life (14 years ago) I essentially had no boundaries, so it’s not hard to see how I got into it.

            It’s hard to explain without getting into specifics that I’ve gotten bored of myself, but it was convincing–not only was I convinced, but so were all my friends, and they’ve usually got good filters. The act didn’t start to fall apart seriously until after the wedding, and the signs from before were in part so easy to overlook because he “seemed like such a nice guy.” It wasn’t like 99% jerk/1% nice. More like 99% nice/1% sociopathic break with reality.

            I can see him doing this now to the next girl, and it’s heartbreaking.

  9. Christina says:

    Excellent post! It seems there have been so many of these situations with people I know, lately. I’m beginning to think that it’s largely, poor self-esteem that leads to the endless excuses and justifications for allowing yourself to be treated poorly.

    I did this in the past as well, and while it seems a lot of it could be chalked up to pride, and the inability to admit I was wrong about anything, it does come back to self-esteem. I’ve had to become a much stronger person in order to be able to admit that I, and everything around me, isn’t perfect.

    In addition, poor self-esteem also seems to play into that fear of being alone that seems to make it difficult for so many to leave terrible relationships.

  10. CC says:

    I made excuses for every last one of them because I knew they were all damaged in some way. The damage/fear was my excuse for letting things drag out for months as surely they would come around! I wanted to be the one that they would change for. Problem is you don’t know what you don’t know.. I had no idea about emotional unavailability, what the signs were. I had no idea that I had low self esteem. All I knew is that I was in pain and spent far more time crying than I did laughing or making love.

    Knowledge is power but without it I was just a yoyo on a string and misperceived behaviors as love, connection, and caring. I mean what normal guy would put so much stinking effort into keeping me on the line if he didn’t “really” care? Isn’t the “normal” thing to do is leave someone when you are not into them? Thus the mindf*ck and the oh so lovely bullshit excuses. When I finally realized that I was the one who was damaged as well (thank you Nat) and took my castor oil I stopped making excuses. Another great post Nat.

  11. Kelly davies says:

    Great post and close to the bone sometimes the truth hurts and people need to face raelity sometimes

  12. Trinity says:

    I found myself saying after yet another relationship where I felt betrayed, lied to and used “how could this person just ditch me after all I have done and put into this relationship”
    Really I felt so betrayed because in hindsight I new I had made allowances on bad behaviour and tried to help them. That’s my issue actually. Each time in my past relationships there has been a point right at the beginning where I have nearly bailed due to bad behaviour then ignored my gut instinct and given the benefit of the doubt. Each time ive regretted not once has it paid off. So I actually let myself down. I thought id learnt my lesson until something new happen in my last relationship. Driving home after a day at the beach my x broached a subject id already clearly said no to on numerous occasions. So this time I said “ive already discussed this with you and it’s not me, I wont do it etc” No yelling or rudeness, just stern and this is the last time I wish to answer it. His response was to start kind of squealing in this crazed high pitched voice like a child, yelling, angry and swerving the car all over the place. It was like something took him over and he couldn’t not control it. I was shocked. When we got home I clearly told him that I was disappointed and it was something I was not willing to put up with. At the same time in my mind I was thinking this is all to familiar and I feel I might leave this situation until he said ” I think I need to go to counselling” I got sucked in and stayed, again my own doing. He did go to counselling for a good year but he got worse not better. I think thats because he didnt really want to go, not for himself anyway, it was for me or to keep me in the relationship. Thats all the wrong reasons. It was then a down hill slide dealing with his moodiness, hot/cold, controlling, unpredicatble, inconsistant i could go on and on behaviour only to be dumped for nothing then harrassed for year at work. On a brighter note I have enough history to tell me NO matter what if my gut instinct is saying bolt, then bolt.
    As usual Nat u are spot on :)

    • leisha says:

      Trinity, The day that male dumped you was the greatest gift! He put you in danger. You could have been killed with that all over the road driving. I am so glad you exited that situation even if it wasn’t your call. Your gut has proven right over time. Please listen to it and screw the excuses and second guessing. You are picking up vibes that may save your life.

    • LostEnergy says:

      Trinity (love your name btw, reminds me of matrix a fave film)
      “how could this person just ditch me after all I have done and put into this relationship”
      “Each time in my past relationships there has been a point right at the beginning where I have nearly bailed due to bad behaviour then ignored my gut instinct and given the benefit of the doubt. Each time ive regretted not once has it paid off”
      Well that’s me exactly too. Totally had many times when I should have acted congruently with my thoughts/internalalrm bells.. but instead went into ‘override’ thoughts; ‘well, no0nes’s perfect’, he’s just tired/stressed etc etc. This type of denial only works more to thier favour as they then go onto use tiredness, stress, work, family etc as excuses -cos you’ve already started excusing his behaviour with similar made-up excues.
      It’s comforting to know its not been just me who made mistakes:)

  13. Tulipa says:

    It is funny what kind of behaviour you can raitionalize even though you tell yourself otherwise. For example I told myself I would under no circumstances stay if I was cheated on, well when it inevitably happened I did leave for 6 months, unfortunately I used that 6 months to justify his decesion to rationalise it and to definately minimize it so when it came to him pushing the reset button I was ready to go also using surely he wouldn’t do it again as a justification to go back.
    I justified, rationalised, minimized his behaviour in so many situations I never got angry at him, I never left a situation that any normal person would have. Looking back I must have also been justifying my own behaviour minimizing or completely ignoring myself been in denial is obviously a place I know well and are comfortable there.

    • leisha says:

      I think sometimes we are tested on the things we say we believe just to see if we really walk the talk. Interesting how often when we face them we discover otherwise. Well, we live and learn. I think this is why we need to be strict with our boundaries and values so that we absolutely know there are lines that once crossed mean “game over” and walk (or run) to get the hell away from unacceptable situations. Knowing our dealbreakers is essential; backing them up with action is essential. Arming ourselves with this site is part of the arsenal we need to protect ourselves. It is a shame that it is necessary to do…but that is the world we live in.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hi Natalie — Very insightful article, especially your point: “If you deny the existence of something it means that you deny your feelings and perceptions, as well as the true impact of it and what it means to you and your relationship.”

    Denial distorts reality on so many levels. No wonder many people feel like they are crazy and going in circles. What’s been helpful to me in personal and professional situations dealing with narcissists has been to stick to facts about a situation. Facts — you did this; I did that — take the emotional edge off of many things. Facts help us get a clearer picture of how we really feel and what we really think about a person, situation or relationship.

  15. Minnie says:

    Great post pOst! Something I need to do but know that I won’t. I’ll always keep it in mind though

  16. Karen says:

    Natalie…another spot on post . Sober myself for four years and thinking after 51 yrs roaming this planet and dating many EUM/AC/ loser guys , marrying one EUM workaholic, and most recently single for three years that finally I had woken up and was now living in the real world, comfortable in my skin and DEFinitely used to being alone. Wow. I had it together:-) So what a shock when an old BF came back into my life. OK. I can do this. It took a loooong time; few years actually for us to actually reconnect and it was all so very romantic, omigosh, fairy tale, he trakced me down on the internet , la de da and and long distance to boot so you have all that longing in there too , and BS’ed me until I had my smack myself upside the head moment. And I BS’ed myself too… no doubt about it. Still can’t get over how he stroked MY ego. I thought I was so over all that. Hah ha. The first time I saw him again and smelled dope on him I commented on it. “Oh, I only smoke on “special occasions; ya know, birthdays, holidays, weddings,” Yeah. I know. Im an alcoholic and I didn’t need a reason to drink either, any occasion was just fine…. so I filed this away and thinking very big of myself that I could handle it,. Im sober. Haven’t smoked dope in 15 years, and excusing it because well for one thing we were 2000 miles apart and hey that’s him and he is who he is and I can’t change him and blah, blah, blah; justify, rationalize, minimize. Think that gets all three in there:-) Mind you ; back in the day we were both potheads, booze, u name it. Fast forward. He comes east to stay with me, did some fabulous massive repairs on my home, I go west to stay and visit and holiday with him and long story short ala the “drip feed maneuver” (thank you Natalie …you are brilliant) I learned that in fact he is quite a pot head and hmmm……maybe that’s why he can’t keep /doesn’t see the need to keep a job, acts like a child whenever there is a conflict, never been married, no kids, (although loves kids and is good with them but guess if you have your own then you can’tbe one so much) and just generally had not changed much from what I could see from 25 years ago. All I can say is I am grateful to be…

    • leisha says:

      I had a blast from the past return…thank the good I’d found this site and my eyes and ears were wide open…disaster averted…I’m 49 years old…seems we just keep on learning and having a few curve balls come our way…good thing we’re learning as we go. I hope the younger ones will see that the games haven’t really changed and the only way to counter them is to educate yourself and to apply the knowledge…and this site is one wonderful educational site. Now if the women of the world will stop fighting each other over men from hell …

  17. runnergirl says:

    Great post Natalie, AGAIN! And the comments have been so helpful. As the former “other woman”, I had to wrap myself in the fur coat of denial that he didn’t really love his wife, despite the fact that he went home to her after spending the night with me. I denied the clear fact that he was married. I minimized my feelings at the time which were tremendously painful and I am now experiencing the full force of those feelings including anger, betrayal, guilt, and some more anger. I rationalized everything. He loved me because he was with me, although he always left me to be with his wife. I rationalized that little detail because he told me his relationship with his wife was like a “business relationship”. He always went home to that “business relationship”, however.

    There always was a giant crater which I filled with denial, minimizing, and rationalizing. Now, I’m facing the crater. I would still like to claw his eyes out. I won’t though.

    • leisha says:

      Runnergirl, Many marry for unloving things. Their choice. YOU want a loving relationship. You are going through the phases of grieving…they come and go; not a direct circuit, and is normal. Mourning deals with all of it; and you will come out the other side. Journaling helps. The end of a situation where you loved someone who is not what you need in your life is similar to a death. The stages of grief are actually phases of the emotions and replays that we experienced and experience for quite some time. But it does get better, and eventually you will find more joy in the morning. Hard to believe sometimes but it is true. It’s another roller coaster; but a healing one. Stay on the path. Hugs.

      • leisha says:

        I want to add that the mm was getting his needs met. He may have even loved you…but wasn’t willing to do what it takes to have a loving relationship with you that you deserve. Even if he did leave his wife…could you trust him to not step out on you? It is best that things worked out as they did so that you can have the opportunity to heal, evaluate, reflect, and move on knowing what you will and will not put up with in the future and how to avoid similar situations.

    • grace says:

      Something my counsellor said really struck me. Some of his clients had been raped, or sexually abused. As you can imagine, they are terribly hurt and angry. Yet in their journey, they come to the conclusion themselves that they don’t need a showdown with their abuser, they don’t need their day in court anymore. And I thought, well, if they can put it behind them so can I.
      It’s not to minimse the hurt but at some point you realise that person has got nothing to do with you anymore. They become … irrelevant.

    • Allison says:


      My favorite is when he told you she was gay. Talk about creativity :(

      • runnergirl says:

        Thank you all for your encouraging words. I’ve never taken the time to grieve my past relationships, so this process is new to me and a bit exhausting! Just when I think I may be making progress toward acceptance, a wave of anger washes over me direct at him and at me for tolerating such crap and I start the ranting, raving, and shouting at pigeons (what a funny vision). This post brought back all the denial, rationalizing, and mimimizing I engaged in to stay involved in an unhealthy relationship with no future. Liesha, you are so right: “He may have even loved you…but wasn’t willing to do what it takes to have a loving relationship with you that you deserve.” That realization was the final straw. Now there is hope that I can be in the loving relationship I deserve as long as I keep my feet and head firmly planted in reality instead of my pretend world of denial. Thanks Grace, I can put it behind me too. But geez, this journey is tough as you all are well aware. My lesbian friends sensed that the wife was gay…we’ll find out when and if the kids leaves for college. But he’ll be irrelevant to me by that point.

        • Magnolia says:

          Hi runner – as always, glad to see you still here. Who knew it would take so long to flush all the crap in the memory system? I reread Natalie’s posts about ‘getting over it takes as long as you help yourself get over it’ and also her recommendation to take 3-6 months of no dating. I’m at 7 months and the relationship was only a year, only nine months of it ‘serious’, so wtf?

          I was in the US and felt all kinds of pangs, and now am home visiting my parents and feel all kinds of pangs. I feel all the urges to escape my home life – to escape my life, period – and find myself having, for the first time with such intensity, deep pangs of wanting the AC back. I’ve been considering calling – I mean not really, but emotionally …

          Something about being home has sucked the feelings of hope out of me. Memories of feeling accepted with the AC are seeming colorful, vivid, ‘real,’ like where I ‘should’ be.

          I saw my Dad do something the AC used to do that drove me nuts, and I almost didn’t notice it. Just letting his eyes follow a girl. Now I wonder if I overreacted to AC doing that or if I have numbed out all these years to my father’s bad behaviour. Is my dad’s behaviour creepy? Or normal? Or am I minimizing it? Or is it nothing? …


        • Magnolia says:

          Just to clarify: this is indeed something my Dad has always done but I’m trying to figure out now how I have interpreted it as a daughter in his home and how I interpret it now. Don’t have a clue whether I’m blowing something out of proportion or minimizing. I do know it makes me feel bleccch.

          • EllyB says:

            Magnolia, maybe it’s time to face some more truths in your life. For example, do you really need to stay with your parents now? To me, this sounds as if this place isn’t particularly healthy for you. Of course, only you can judge this, but if you have those bad feelings about your father, maybe you should stop dismissing them.

            I’ve recently had a few “light bulb moments” myself. For example, I always wondered why I considered sex a “duty”, why I believed I had to do it even if it felt awful and humiliating, just in order to “overcome my fear”.

            Suddenly, all became clear… From early childhood, my father constantly touched me against my will, telling me I had a disorder called “fear of tactile contact” when I protested. Otherwise, my father hardly ever interacted with me. He was easily annoyed and threw very scary temper tantrums. This made me believe I could have made him love me if only I had been able to overcome my “fear of tactile contact”. Now I consider his behavior (including some of his other actions with obvious sexual connotations) sexual abuse, even if legally, it might not be. But then, my memories are very blurred, and my feeling of shame seems overwhelming. I’m not sure what else happened…

            For all my life, I desperately tried to fight my “fear of tactile contact” instead of facing the (completely justified) bad feelings I had back then. Time for a change.

          • runnergirl says:

            Wtf indeed! I hear you and feel those pangs too, particularly as the weekend approaches. I followed Natalie’s recommendation of 3 to 6 mos of no dating and trying to focus on me but it is so darn frustrating to have to fight the emotional urge to call. Rationally, we both know we can’t go back no matter how good the good memories seem right now. The good memories with your AC seem colorful, vivid, and real but what about the bad memories? Based on some of your previous posts, there were some really colorful and vivid bad memories too, right? I believe we are probably minimizing the bad memories, justifying their shody behavior, and rationalizing that maybe it would be different now. It won’t. Your ex AC will still be an AC and my ex mm will still be married. They haven’t changed.

            Regarding your father: I do NOT think you are blowing your father’s or the ex AC’s behavior out of porportion. If it makes you feel like “bleccch”, bleccch and do it loudly. Don’t minimize your feelings. It is disrespectful, creepy, maddening, shitty, not normal behavior, in my opinion too. The ex mm did the same thing 3 times while we were at work related social functions. I left each time. On the fourth ocassion, I was trapped and couldn’t leave. During a dispassionate moment, I told him how disrespected I felt, I shouldn’t have to leave my work related events because he was acting out, and if it happened again, I was done. It was a deal breaker for me, nevermind the irony that having a wife wasn’t a deal breaker! You aren’t blowing that crap out of porportion. He never did it again.

          • runnergirl says:


            Why are you at home if being there is sucking the hope out of you? Can you leave? It sounds as though your father is going to drive you nutty or maybe I’m projecting because of my father. He cheated on my mother throughout their entire 25 year marriage. My mother, a church mouse who would never cheat, contracted HPV which eventually killed her 7 years ago at the age of 60. I haven’t spoken to or seen my father since. Finally, I got to the point where I could no longer minimize, rationalize or justify my father’s creepy behavior. Of course, this is coming from an ex-mistress who minimized, rationalized, and justified creeping around with a mm for two years! Dear lord. I think the emotional urge to call him has just subsided. Hopefully, yours has to?

          • Magnolia says:

            Ladies, thank you for being there and being responsive. I didn’t know I would feel quite like this by coming here.

            Maybe I thought that getting over the stage of accusing my father (or parents collectively) for the poor atmosphere of childhood, and accepting them for who they are, meant peace. I thought it would mean getting to a place where my love and acceptance would mean we could be together. Now I don’t know: everything is ‘normal’ to them, but I am surprised by how sad ‘normal’ makes me feel. I guess when I was young I tried to fight my way out of the sadness. Tried to argue, tell them all their crimes/flaws, etc to get them to be different people. They love me, but … sigh.

            Just a little example: I just got off the phone with my father, having just gone in to the university here to take an information meeting, that I set up at my own initiative, at a department I’d like to work at. That’s some stress and some ballsiness and emotional risk, right? I mean not huge, but the kind of thing for which I am teaching myself to pat myself on the back for, and say, hey good going, I love you, way to put the focus on you, etc etc.

            He didn’t, and won’t, ever ask about it. Ie. How did it go? He just can’t. It’s not in him. He’s like this with my mom, too – doesn’t know how to be interested. So I thought that acceptance means I’d be okay with that; but I guess acceptance is realizing how darn sad I am about it.

            I am just SO used to being a pretty decent person and it playing as invisible to this man. And my mother is used to the same. I guess that’s an EUM.

            I can’t imagine cutting him out of my life, though. I’m going to go back and read Natalie’s posts about her family.

          • Magnolia says:

            Runner, I have been thinking about your post all day. Is it as simple as that? Do we just end up trying to be the kind of girl our douche dads seem to indicate is who they really have attention for? I have been trying to be skinny and famous and yet suitably self-deprecating my whole life!

            I have been also realizing all day that I grew up in a bad-behaviour-minimizing environment. The stakes of not minimizing it would have been to break up the family.

          • runnergirl says:


            Congratulations on your interview. I hope it went well and you get the position.

            But, I’m sorry you aren’t finding the peace you thought you may find by going home and that you are sad. I know it must be hard to experience what they consider “normal” when you know it isn’t. Like EllyB said below, we can’t judge what is healthy for you from the outside but I tend to think that if you have to minimize what you are experiencing, it may not be the best place for you to be right now.

            I don’t know if we end up being the kind of girls our douche dads will pay attention to but they have influenced us. I couldn’t help but see the similarities in what you wrote about the interaction with your parents and how it may be replayed in our adult relationships. I know I learned to minimize inappropriate behavior from my parents.

            Maybe the question is when do we stop revisiting our childhood trauma within our adult relationships?

            It may be that we have to learn to validate ourselves and not seek validation from our parents and/or a significant other.

            Hugs to you.

          • EllyB says:

            Magnolia, could it be you tried to re-enact your troubled relationship with your father (and/or your mother) with your Ex-AC? Maybe you tried to prove to yourself your childhood problems where all your fault and not your parents’ and that you “could do better” if you only “tried harder”? At first, this strategy seems far less painful than blaming your parents, but in the long run, it is not.

            This might explain why staying with your parents makes you want to call your Ex-AC. You parents are probably making you feel more insecure again, and you (wrongly) believe your perceived “source of validation” (=Ex-AC) could help you.

            Seems to me as if there is a pattern. If I’m right, it’s probably about time for you to break it.

          • Magnolia says:

            Thanks again. I thought I HAD broken the pattern by choosing a man who was active rather than passive, successful rather than rationalizing failure, a ‘winner’ rather than a ‘loser’ at life. But I know now I picked someone just as uninterested in what I care about, and someone who, if you call them on it, would swear up and down that they totally care.

            So now that I cannot minimize how trapped I feel in this environment, nodding and smiling at these attitudes, I have to say I am frightened.

            All I can think of these days is how do I find or become the powerful person that transcends all of this? I keep daydreaming of money and power and the grass being greener in another profession. Someone give me a shake!! I don’t know which direction to take out of this particular stage of insight, but I’m sure either the emotional dust will settle when I get home or I’ll just make a move, take a new step in life, and deal with the consequence.

            You’ll hear about it – unless BR is going somewhere over the next couple years, whether a man is in my life or not, the self-love project will continue :)

          • Magnolia says:

            Just btw runner – to clarify – I don’t think we *become* women that our fathers would give ‘real’ attention to: it sounds like our fathers aren’t capable of giving genuine fidelity and energy to any woman. Simply I wondered if as girls, we see that whatever mom’s doing isn’t *enough* and the objects of dad’s distraction seem like they must be *enough* or he wouldn’t be putting his attention there. That’s why I say I have been trying to be glamourous and fit and visible, unconsciously believing that’s what I have to be, but a) it’s not necessarily my core nor ‘who I am’ to be those things, b) I nonetheless succeeded in being the kind of girl who distracts a distractable man, not who wins a good one’s commitment.

            I can see that to outsiders my pattern with my dad is pretty obvious; I don’t know if you’d mentioned your Dad was an MM to some OW, or whether you are particularly interested in the potential interrelatedness.

          • runnergirl says:


            I think we are saying the same thing but in different ways. “That’s why I say I have been trying to be glamourous and fit and visible, unconsciously believing that’s what I have to be, but a) it’s not necessarily my core nor ‘who I am’ to be those things…” I’ve been doing that too. I think we learned to minimize oursleves.

            “b) I nonetheless succeeded in being the kind of girl who distracts a distractable man, not who wins a good one’s commitment.” I feel like that some days too. When we feel like that are we minimizing and creating a self full- filling prophecy?

            My dad was an MM with lots of OW’s.

            • NML says:

              Hi Runnergirl. Often, when we get involved with attached men or cheat ourselves, 9 times out of 10, there is a parent who has been doing it. What’s amazing though is that every time I have spotted it, many of the people didn’t ‘twig’ the connection. Some had suppressed the knowledge of their parents infidelities for so long and in some instances glamourised them. A number of readers felt sympathetic to their fathers in particular because they believed that if he was cheating, it was due to a failing on their mother’s side, that he obviously wasn’t satisfied, or that he was so charasmatic and good looking that it was difficult for him to knock back others. In some instances they think that having wandering eye and a roving penis is down to not being able to control what the heart wants. A number lost respect for their mothers while many felt sympathetic but fundamentally learned some unhealthy lessons about relationships. Being the OW may have been comfortable because it catered to familiar patterns and long held beliefs – trying to ‘win’ your MM would have been like winning over your father. See

              • Cam says:

                “roving penis” – oh my LOL.

              • runnergirl says:

                Hi Natalie,

                Thank you so much for the response and for sharing your stories regarding your father. I checked almost every box you listed in the post you provided regarding my father. I was still “daddy hunting”. As a kid, I did everything you said in your response. Glamourized my father’s infidelities because he was so charasmatic and blamed my mother for his cheating. Most certainly winning the mm would have been like wining my father. It’s frustrating because I had been in counseling, did all the reading, and knew from the outset I was repeating past childhood trauma. I proceeded any way by rationalizing, justifying, and denying I was repeating the pattern, again. This mm and my father were spitting images of one another, right down to their college degrees. My former husbands had only a few father-like similarities but this one was the whole daddy package, including an eldest daughter that was just like me when I was her age. I guess it is really true that the universe will keep coughing up the same messy lessons, different packages, until you learn the lessons. I’ve learned so much from your writing, your observations, and the comments on your blog. Thank you. I see very clearly how similarily affairs start through the seemingly “innocent” flirting. Not to justify, but by the time the affair started, I was already hooked like so many others. I’ll never flirt with an attached or mm again. Attached/mm is code red! I’m learning self-esteem, self-love, self-respect, and valuing myself makes all the difference in the world. Even my friends have noticed a difference…they think it is my hair cut. Another great piece of advice is not to get involved immediately after a break-up. That was part of my former pattern as well. I never took the time between relationships to focus on me or what happened in the prior relationship. I am learning the lesson THIS time so if you talk to the Universe could you please let them know. I’m learning this time. But it does hurt in a way I’ve not experienced before.

                You are so funny and have such a great way of stating things. “Daddy hunting” will stick with me forever as will “wandering eyes and a roving penis”. Perfect. Thank…

                Are you considering TV? You are way better than Oprah or Dr. Phil.

  18. Minky says:

    I didn’t rationalise the ex EUMs behaviour. I ranted and raved about it, drove myself and my flatmates mental, shouted at him, shouted at the world, at the sky, at pigeons, anything except actually DO something with the information!

    I don’t know what i expected to happen really, besides him suddenly waking up one day and deciding to behave like a decent human being with integrity because of how wound up i was. Walking away, for some reason, didn’t seem like an option. Possibly conditioning from childhood and the fact that my miserable-together parents never split up, teaching me that no matter what happens, you stay put.

    Thankfully i broke that cycle and am now on the way to a healthier attitude, which is: if you don’t like it, vote with your feet!

    • Natasha says:

      Minky, I love “at pigeons”! My dog even started looking at me like, “Girl. Come ON.”

      • Allison says:


        Smart dog :)

        • Natasha says:

          He sure is haha! He’s a great judge of character, as he’s an english bulldog and therefor fundamentally lazy. Trust me, that tail is not wagging for anyone he does not deem worth the effort. Plus, even though he’s still a puppy his default expression is “I don’t have time for this. I have three more naps to fit in before noon.” I recommend them to all women with an AC/EUM habit :)

    • Allison says:


      I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. What a terrible way to go.

      What a horrific situation! Did he ever acknowledge responsibility?

      • runnergirl says:

        Nope, he didn’t. Not one drop of responsibility for the death of my mother and other things as well. Worse, nobody in my family (5 adult siblings) even acknowledges that it happened. They mourn her death but not a word as to what caused it. Talk about minimizing bad behavior!

        • leisha says:

          Sorry for your losses. Hugs.

        • Allison says:

          Are they still in contact with him? What did you say to him?

        • Magnolia says:

          That’s @ss. I’m very sorry to hear that happened to your mom and to you and to your whole family, even if your siblings are denying. An example of denying and minimizing, indeed.

          You must have needed comfort and I hope you had someone to validate your experience of your mother’s death and its causes and your truth. Validating that on your own is doable but tough. Hugs.

          • runnergirl says:

            Thanks all. My siblings are still in contact with him. There was some creepy other stuff that came to light too, so I opted out of their dysfunction and their drama without saying much. I was in counseling at the time (although you couldn’t tell it based on the last two years) and I stopped just stopped attending family events with him. I still see my siblings at our houses. Of course, I then proceeded to jump in the frying pan and create my own dysfuntion and drama filled with denial, rationalizing, and minimizing. I’m quite tired of repeating the pattern…I think I’m finally learning not to play in traffic.

  19. Rz says:

    Why is that we criticize and over analyse ourselves when we intend to act or fake happiness, prove and remind ourselves every moment that we are indeed sad; but do not even for a brief moment condemn ourselves for faking unhappiness? If we truly acknowledge it, is not most of our unhappy moments a product of our creative imagination? It’s never too late to realize that we chose our intention to be happy or unhappy. And gradually that intention becomes the natural state of mind.

    • grace says:

      I think we condemn ourselves too much. If I’m unhappy, self-condemnation is the last thing I need. Better to eat well, exercise, see people. If still unhappy figure out why, maybe with counselling, and address it. And for the clinically depressed – see the doc.
      Cheering ourselves up has got nothing to do with giving ourselves a hard time. That’s my opinion anyway, having had depression on and off for years and finally beaten it (I hope).

    • leisha says:

      Faking unhappiness? What do you mean? Sure, we are responsible for our happiness. Self-love equating not letting people hurt our core appreciaton for ourselves. But I don’t understand how acknowledging your pain and journey’s lessons and experiences and sharing them can be equated with not being real or responsible; much less faking. Hopefully I’ve misunderstood you.

      • Rz says:

        Umm,, guess I’ve chosen wrong words. Totally accept the fact that the unhappiness is very real indeed. Actually my emphasis was more on intention (not faking!!!) to be HAPPY. If I intend i.e. work upon myself to be happy, why does it sometimes seem unnatural to me even though I can see visible positive changes in life.Part of it, I understand stems from the lack of self worth I’ve had and maybe my inherent pessimism (which I mistook for being realistic). Is the general state of mind tilted towards being unhappy rather than being optimistic and happy?Do we have to always work upon to be happy? All these questions arise in my mind now when I am under a healing phase after the end of a very long relationship.After going through various posts,it didn’t take me much time to come out of the cycle of accepting and rejecting the EUM in my life, finally dealt with it and accepted the situation. Its like a cloud has cleared that was blocking my view of things in life and I feel a lot lighter mentally.

        • leisha says:

          RZ, Thanks for the clarity. For me, happiness is a feeling of joy…when it occurs can be totally unexpected and inspired by sunrise, a butterfly, just feeling great for no “reason” at all! It can be fleeting or last for hours. Happiness is frequently blocked; for me at least, by focusing on negatives instead of the things I’m grateful for in my life. I wouldn’t say that I work on being happy. It sorta sounds that the feeling of peace has been a stranger to you and the feeling of happiness may have been missing for awhile as well. I think you will discover more of it as your healing continues. Best wishes.

    • NML says:

      Hi Rz. I actually think after reading your comment about ten times that I understand what you are getting at.

      What you must understand about unavailable relationships is that it’s not ‘fake unhappiness’ *however* these relationships tick the boxes of our beliefs and cater to the self-fulfilling prophecy. Deep down we expect these things to happen and are participating in limited relationships trying to extract commitment from limited sources. That doesn’t mean that the unhappiness is fake – the unhappiness is real but some of us are very comfortable with that unhappiness because we’re not prepared to stretch ourselves, address our habits and beliefs, and ultimately get out being the helpless passenger role. We find it easier to think and talk the crappola out of his/her problems than to look at ourselves and basically think that our problems and happiness must be solved via another person. There *are* some people who are ‘stay and complainers’ and they are unhappy but not prepared to do anything about it, so maybe not truly unhappy.

      • Jo says:

        “That doesn’t mean that the unhappiness is fake – the unhappiness is real but some of us are very comfortable with that unhappiness because we’re not prepared to stretch ourselves, address our habits and beliefs, and ultimately get out being the helpless passenger role.”

        Natalie, I agree with you, I think it’s painful to really look at our habits. I know for me, the unhappiness was an ever-present shadow – it was there in ALL my relationships, obviously because I was picking the same kind of man. I didn’t realize until I went to therapy that I was the one choosing this, and reading your posts reaffirms that. I really and truly had NO idea what a healthy relationship could be like. There was a time when trying to imagine a pain-free relationship doesn’t was like a child in sub Saharan Africa trying to imagine snow. I had no concept of it whatsoever. For me, it was a perfect correlation: relationships=pain. Comfortable? Yes! I would go as far as to say it felt like home.

    • Jo says:

      We shouldn’t condemn ourselves for anything, it isn’t productive. Should we admit that we made less than ideal choices? Sure. Even if we made the same bad choices multiple times, it’s best to really figure out why we are inclined to make those choices.

      I don’t think people fake unhappiness? Do you mean that people choose to be unhappy? Aside from clinical depression, which for some people is sometimes due to chemical imbalances in the brain, I depression/unhappiness is due to constantly meditating on negative thoughts/distorted thinking patterns. I’ve heard people say things like “you can ‘choose’ to be happy or unhappy”. I am not sure it’s that simple. People’s thought patterns develop over time and negative/distorted thinking could be a result of many things, upbringing, bad parenting, etc. What we could do is address how we think – maybe through counseling – because our thoughts drive our beliefs. If you think something enough, you believe it. And, like Natalie always points out, what you believe about yourself is what you draw into your life.

      So…we should start with the way we think, it’s not easy and it takes time, but eventually our beliefs will follow, and then our behavior. In that respect, we do have control over it, we are not helpless. But it’s more complicated than making the ‘choice’ to be unhappy?

  20. AS says:

    Fantastic post! It’s such an easy trap to fall into when you desperately want your relationship to work out. I’ve certainly been there myself and witnessed it in friends relationships. But when you are at that point the alternative of being single and having to start your search again is so daunting that it’s easier to deny, minimalise and rationalise than wake up and smell the coffee. Unfortunately, you end up sad and miserable as a result and sooner or later you do have to face up to it…

  21. Meg says:

    Great post Nat! I’ve been so guilty of all of these behaviours in the past. I’ve just started dating again after the AC and I’m really trying to put into practice everything that I have learned from your site.

    I have a question though! Is it possible to go too far the other way on the BS diet? For example, I went on a couple of dates recently with a man, nothing heavy just coffee and playing pool, yet he kept texting me things of a sexual nature, inviting me to his place etc so when he asked to see me again I told him that I found his behaviour to be a little overfamiliar and it made me uncomfortable and I declined the date. But this has happened a few times now and as it is the early stages of dating I see it as red flag behaviour that they are pushing a sexual agenda at the expense of getting to know each other properly so I just move on.

    Is it possible that instincts can be incorrect? As this has happened a few times I am beginning to wonder if the problem is me and that I am still EU but just at the opposite end of the spectrum – from being a fallback girl and taking any old crap to now being unforgiving and harsh! It is possible to take the BS diet too far and use it to cut off potential partners too early I.e. to use it as a protective wall to avoid opening up and getting close to someone as deep down I am still EU?

    I am wondering if it is possible to find a happy medium as we all make mistakes and I hate the thought of being judged so harshly on mine.

    • Allison says:


      The guy is being disrespectful. He is only interested in sex if this type of talk has started up. If you want more, I would move on

      You’re making excuses for this guy and trying to justify the sexual talk, this is a continuation of the old behavior.

      Follow your gut, you know that this is inappropriate.

    • Jo says:

      Meg, this has happened to me so many times. I always brushed it off and thought I am a prude or uptight. But after reading Nat’s blog for weeks now, I have learned differently. If this is really coming from your your gut then I would listen to it, as it is never wrong. The question you should be asking yourself is: what are my values regarding this? Am I okay with discussing/engaging in sex so soon? From your post I gathered you want to get to know someone properly before you do. Your gut, or your boundaries are based on this, and the fact that these men are encroaching on your boundaries is what is driving that feeling telling you to opt out.

    • PJ says:

      I think I get where you’re coming from here. Our culture is very sexualized, and not everyone is a BR fan or reader. I feel that if you’ve voiced your concerns with the gentleman, about being sexual too soon, and he either 1) continues anyway, or 2) stops contacting you, then you’ve sussed out: you’re not on the same page. If he stops the sexual texts for a while and then tries to bring them in gradually, you need to address it again at that time (maybe you feel more comfortable after more time has passed, maybe not). If he was simply unaware and modifies his behavior, indicating that he is interested in more, or a relationship, or simply being respectful of you, than maybe you’ve got a future. Maybe. I hope that helps a little. But voice your concerns nonetheless. You don’t have to be haughty, snotty, or agressive about it. But, they’re valid concerns, respect them. Respect yourself. You don’t have to gage your own standards on what you think everyone else might be doing. If he can’t meet YOU on your level, he’s not going to be someone worth investing your time in.

    • jennynic says:

      I find myself wondering the same thing. I find it hard to find balance between enforcing my boundaries and being too harsh on people. I have met resistance for sure when I address things I see as disrespectful or over the line. I get “you’re very sensitive” or that it was only miscommunication.. I am sensitive, but it gets pointed out as a fault. This is confusing sometimes and I start to doubt myself, and see myself accepting stuff I don’t like or second guessing myself. It’s hard to find this balance and learn to trust yourself. I suspect I am a little harsh, but the alternative is to be uncomfortable with something. I don’t know how to find that balance other than practice what feels right to me. But, I’ve been wrong before! I almost need step by step instructions these days.

    • NML says:

      Meg, I’ll be honest, this is a prime example of how women not only make a rod for their own back but get themselves in trouble too.

      These men are chancing their arm. It’s not like you have a sign on your forehead saying ‘I love sex texts and overfamiliarity’ and they have no idea how you will react, but whatever you choose to do, they draw a conclusion about you.

      You’re having boundaries, operating judgement and then second guessing it. Maybe you’re getting nostalgic and because it’s happened a few times you reason that maybe you were too hard on them, that one of these guys was your future husband and that you’ve been too hasty and uppity and you should be a down with it modern woman. What the what now?

      It is the norm for certain types of guys to send sex texts when they hardly know you and invite you back for a shag but it is not the norm for *all* men.

      It is up to you to set your own standard. If you’re OK with it or are willing to overlook it, that’s your prerogative but you own the choice and the results because you are experiencing something and then opting to minimise and rationalise it which is not a great starting point for a relationship.

      What you need to ask yourself is: what’s so frickin special about this or any guy who shows his ass very quickly that you can’t say Next and move on?

      • Elle says:

        Agree with the tone of the comments, Meg, and I totally endorse trying to say it in a frank, but relaxed way (expressing a preference, rather than a big judgement, giving them a chance unless it’s a serious deal-breaker).

        I’ve noticed that this is a pattern (from me and other BR readers): the AC-experience, then a stack of fairly decent (even rather lovely) guys who, in effect, test whether we’ve learned our lessons from the AC. We appear to attract these kinds of guys. My loose theory is that because we’re still raw and in transition emotionally, we draw men who are also at that level, but for different reasons. In other words, we entice men who profess to want a relationship, but are probably not to sure whether they really want this or just a kick-about.

        I too felt I was being too vigilant. But it’s actually not the worst thing to be vigilant. (Only minutes ago, a friend emailed about a guy who put her through the classic charm-sex-discard cycle). It’s true that men who are willing to wait a while (guessing, around 2-3 months?) for sex are probably in it for more noble or at least long-term reasons! From my experience, settling for less with these guys, for want of a better expression, (telling myself that I wasn’t ready for anything serious anyway) made me even more paranoid about ACs and EUMs beause I saw how easy it is to be a sh*t to another person. Best to hold back, stick to your values, and wait. There’s no rush.

  22. EmLAW says:

    I need to be slapped upside the head for all I put up with from my MM. Its just a vicious cycle of cat and mouse, hot and cold. I am disengaging and have been for a while now so when the time comes I will be able to leave and never go back. How do get ourselves in the position of putting up with this BS? The worst thing is that our intuition and our core being tells us they are no good for us….I even ignore the complaints his wife has about him – she has lived with him for 20 years! I know its sooo wrong to deny, minimise and rationalize. How did we ever let our self esteems get so low and let ourselves get so addicted to being treated like crap that we can’t walk away? Its just one disappapointment after the next and the more we down play them the more they take advantage of us.

    Words to live by: He may have even loved you…but wasn’t willing to do what it takes to have a loving relationship with you that you deserve.

  23. EmLAW says:

    All mine wants from me is sex and to boost his ego. He is skilled at managing down my expectations and making excuse after darn excuse….(never in my life have I known anyone’s phone to die as often as his) until it dawned on me how stupid I was being afterall a phone has charge as soon as you attach the charger. Its funny how when you want to find two seconds to text you can and when you don’t you can’t. Funny how he gets suddenly attentive when a rendevous is in the near future! And, how he has time for the mid afternoon call when he wants phone sex. It wasn’t until I started journaling all of his realing me back in emails and texts – talk about the cold hard truth!! Not only should I get away I should run as fast as I can but I never do….would someone please be brutally honest and humiliate me?

    • grace says:

      We won’t humiliate you, he’s humiliating you. Try to see it from his point of view. When he feels a bit horny, who’s he gonna call … ghostbusters? Or someone he KNOWS is up for it cos you were up for it before. Even if you put up resistance, that makes it even more fun cos he gets to “win” you over and prove to himself how irresistible he is – how he’s so hot/sexy whatever he can charm you into bed.
      Now, doesn’t that make you gag?
      Cut him off without any explanation. Save yourself the trouble of the final, last poignant text. Trust me, it’s wasted on him.
      And if he’s married, I know you’ve heard it before – but he can’t POSSIBLY be your boyfriend. Of course, there are times when he can’t/won’t call or will avoid you. He’s with the woman he married. I get that marriages end, and men sometimes DO leave their wives but the run-up to that doesn’t have him using you for sex and then ignoring you.

    • Oldenoughtoknowbetter says:

      EmLAW, I was in the exact same situation with a MM. We had the most intense, fantastic sex. And at first, this clouded the fact that our “meetings”, texts, phone calls, etc. were ALWAYS on his schedule. Over time though I became frustrated that the cycle was always the same….intense up until the rendevous with texts and phone calls. Then the main event, then nothing for several days, then the cycle started all over. Soon we were only meeting during the day, which meant I had to take time away from my job to accomodate him. I would text him and get nothing back, unless of course he felt like it. If I called, he never answered. But over time: it matter less what he was doing and I became more disgusted with who I was becoming. I was practically begging him to meet me, when he didn’t respond back to me I felt anxious and sick, and eventually I started to feel self-loathing because in my heart I knew he was treating me like shit and but so much worse, I was letting him! No one, and no sex, in the world is worth feeling like that. We broke up several times, he would come back at me hard and though it took longer each time, I always went back. Then finally he invited me to Vegas for a business trip of his, and then univited me when it got too complicated for him. It was the final humiliation for me. I went NC and knew it was for good. It has been almost 4 months. The first month was very hard but it got easier. He has tried to contact me several times and the first time my heart pounded as I hit the delete button. Guess what, got a text from him last night, a stupid smiley face, DELETE! And I had a smiley face when I did it. DUMP THIS GUY NOW. Go through the withdrawl, and stick to NC. You will get through it. No more humiliation and self loathing! Somehow that fantastic sex doesn’t seem so fantastic to me anymore, even slightly repulsing. I am going to guess, you don’t really need someone to humiliate you, because you are already doing that to yourself. Good luck!

      • Elle says:

        Love this: “Guess what, got a text from him last night, a stupid smiley face, DELETE! And I had a smiley face when I did it.”

        • Jo says:

          Elle: you go girl! Doesn’t it feel GOOD…?

          Today I am celebrating exactly 4 weeks of NC! Woo hoo! I have not read BR for very long and this is my first NC. Thank you Natalie for all your great posts and emails! I especially liked the one where you point out who is doing the rejecting. Not him, ME! He would have kept using me for sex for God only knows how long. I didn’t lose someone great. HE did!

          You, your insight and your readers have made NC possible! Thank you, thank you!

      • Cam says:

        OE to know better: That was my exact same situation. You summed it up perfectly with what I dealt with. Your words remind me of the crap I went through and how “repulsed” I am now. And I am. Boy, am I.

        This was a great post. It’s just hard to come to that moment of honest realization. It was almost like no one else could even tell me until I was ready to know it and live it myself.

    • leisha says:

      honest? sure…as much of the truth as I know it…humiliate? Nope. That’s for the people we don’t want around us…sorry. Glad to help in any way…but not to create further wounds…you already know how to treat the infection.

      • leisha says:

        Like most beneficial but bitter tasting things; the medicine for your condition will not be the most pleasant thing…but has been proven to work with others with limited side effects that are short-term. You are on the healing site. Pay attn to Doc Natalie. hugs.

      • EmLAW says:

        Just got a text from MM…it just may be the straw that will finally break the camels back – can’t humuliate me more than that! If I am not the stupidest person in the entire world I don’t know who is (quite possibly him for writing it to me)!! Completely puts everything into clear perspective for me! Honestly I really needed that!

        Happy Day after Easter. Hope you had a nice day. Yesterday was sons b-day we had 34 people at our house.

        • leisha says:

          EmLaw: You aren’t and haven’t been stupid; just stuck. We all leave when we leave…if we leave at all. All we can do is show each other the maps, the exit signs…and wish each other well. You will stop whatever it is that harms you only when you are ready.

    • runnergirl says:

      Em, I agree with the others. I found being the other woman increasingly humiliating as I had to keep digging deeper and deeper to deny, justify, and rationalize the situation. Finally, I got to the point where I realized that I wanted and deserved a healthy, loving committeed relationship and that was NOT going to happen if I continued being involved with a mm. Sorry, it just isn’t going to happen. So, what do you want? When I was in the initial pain of NC I wrote about my personal goals and the actions I would take to achieve those goals. (I’d never, ever done that before. I just sailed through life with any fish that jumped in my boat and then I let them steer. I didn’t realize I could throw the bottom feeders back.) One goal was to achieve a healthy, committed, relationship with an available man. Being involved with a married man was simply not an action that was congruent with that goal. Trust me, I tried trick in the book. When it’s written, there just is no way staying involved with a mm is going to lead to the goal of a healthy relationship. It was really difficult to recognize that I was NOT going to be the exception to the rule. I know that it is easier to say it than to do it. I’m still struggling into the 5th month of NC.

      If you keep reading the experiences of “the other woman”, you’ll see that there are striking similarities, particularly as Oldenough relates in her post. The withdrawls suck. Being the other woman sucks even harder.

      • Elle says:

        And, yes, EmLaw, this sucks, but we’ve all been through it. I had the extra shame of my AC packaging his ass-dumping of me as him being honourable because he had been, he said, essentially only with me for sex, so this was the responsible thing. That was a shame-vortex! But, I assure you, Natalie and her readers know what they’re talking about when they say to start NC. I signed up to NML’s NC emails, and they really helped. Read Natalie’s posts on trying to get back money on a dud investment, by investing even more. It’s an endless poker round. I talk about the AC experience in those terms: that I put all my chips in on a dubious round, and got cleaned-up. Actually, I got my chips eaten and thrown at my head. And then the period post-AC I called ‘chip-building’. It’s only now – almost a year later – that I have chips to – this time carefully and at a sensible pace – give to another person. You kind of just have to trust that Natalie and the BR-readers know best, until the rest of you catches up. It’s a leap, and then suddenly, it all just seems so natural and even bloody super! If you want a life with a healthy sense of self, happy relationships, and enough energy for all your other goals in life, you don’t have any other choice than to run away from this vacuum-cleaner of a man.

        • AnabellaC says:

          EmLAW, read the BR April 1, 2011 post Relationships in a Nutshell: Co-pilots, drivers, passengers … In response to Bri (your situation is probably similar to hers), NML responds: “. . . I know it feels like your situation is the most unique ever, but this story has been told a million times with different people. This isn’t a relationship – you’re a lady in waiting being controlled by a man who throws you crumbs periodically. . . It’s bad enough to be involved with a Cheat that you do see regularly but to sideline yourself for this joker, is like putting yourself in prison. Trust me, if he wanted to leave his marriage, he would, and he would certainly treat you a lot better in the mean time. Do not ever wait for someone to make up their mind about you or to be with you. Ever. You are devaluing yourself.” This says it all. It’s so true that your “story” has been played out “a million times” (read the many other BR comments about this – these situations are like duplicates) and that if he truly valued you, he would leave his marriage, and meanwhile, not treat you like crap, stringing you along, keeping you on ice until it’s convenient to use you. It’s not that he loves you, but doesn’t know how to express himself because he’s confused, conflicted, wounded, yada yada yada – he’s USING you, plain and simple, because it’s easy, because you allow it. He doesn’t have the minimum of respect for you. Would you ever treat a mere acquaintance the way he treats you?! Don’t go the route of allowing this to drag on endlessly, using his humiliating you as a means to get out (i.e. you are eventually so humiliated that you *must* leave). And I suggest that you don’t use “disengaging” yourself as a means of leaving; it’s just an excuse to hang on longer, hoping he will change, while deluding yourself that in the meantime, you’re protecting yourself, strengthening yourself for the grand departure. Leave this toxic, dead-end situation with this cheating Loser who is just using you NOW. He will never respect you, he will not change, and it’s not your job to *help* him change. You have too much work to do on yourself to waste time focusing on him; concentrate on healing yourself and understanding why you…

        • Natasha says:

          Elle, I think “shame-vortex” is the best description of the whole experience I’ve heard yet! I like your chip-building analogy too :) Very apt!

          EmLaw, Elle is telling you the truth when she says we’ve all been there and NC will put you on the path to feeling like you are getting your self respect back. It can suck royally at first, but trust us when we tell you, it is worth it. Good luck!!

  24. Magnolia says:

    Great post. I think we need all the reminders that we can get to trust our gut, and not to minimize its signals. If “when he does x it makes my stomach churn and my chest tighten up” – minimizing it is saying, oh, my stomach churning and feeling like I can’t breathe isn’t so bad. I can take that every now and then. No. You can’t. Not if the point is to have a relationship that’s good for you.

    Where I got stuck and where they get us, I venture, is that we have been told we are too sensitive: i.e. our gut signals send us five-bell alarms over behaviour that should be one, and therefore we should minimize: oh, I’m too sensitive to take his one-bell behaviour as five-bell.

    Maybe we do magnify transgressions into huge dramas, but only because we don’t walk calmly away at one bell, and hope that making it five will scare him into line, and keep thinking that only ten bells should be grounds for walking away.

    I’d also venture that a habit of minimizing bad behaviour on one side might also come from overvaluing certain behaviour (hooks) on the other side. Once we realize that almost everything that hooks us, because we think he has it and we don’t, is something we can give ourselves, then no one has anything worth minimizing bad behaviour.

    When it comes to things that they do have that we don’t: maybe more money, more power, more status, a penis, whatever … I think it’s tough love to realize that unless we come with something to balance out the power in the partnership, we are going to be dancing to the other person’s tune. Anything that we value more than our dignity, anything that we value enough to minimize or deny that we are putting up with BS, is coming at a very high price indeed.

  25. mentalspace says:

    It is very difficult in some circumstances but I think you have to stand up for yourself. When you are put in a position that makes you feel so uncomfortable and you are afraid that being on your own side will somehow be a losing battle! It’s more than frustrating, and exhausting. Where do you draw the line? How willing are you to compromise for the other person and when do you say enough is enough?!

  26. EmLAW says:

    Thanks everyone! This attaction we have had spans many years I have just always been able to control it until the past year and 1/2. The killer is he wants to build a solid foundation with me so when he does get kicked out of his house (he is staying for his kids – yeah right and being a complete slave for/to his wife in the meantime) we will have something solid. At first, I was hoping and trusting in what he was saying until I realized he is perfectly content to have it be in our minds. If someone was actually interested in building a foundation with you it wouldn’t be so much of a chore. Thankfully the “who are you going to call?… Ghostbusters” song is now embeded in my mind. You are all the best….I am slowly coming around to my senses.

    • AnabellaC says:

      EmLAW, From what you’ve said, you come in handy for ego gratification and a back up plan/Fallback Girl (search for this last term on BR and read posts), and it’s guaranteed there are no good future prospects with him if he ever does leave his wife. Mine too was content with a situation “in our minds” or rather, in cyber space – it was all email/text when he was randy for a hookup or wanted reassurance that I was still on ice for him and then after the very rare rendevous or my electronic response, nada, completely unresponsive for quite some time until the xth round . For your mental/physical well-being, don’t let this continue. Mine went on for an embarrassing number of years that I’m too ashamed to state (on again/off again interspersed with my many failed attempts at breaking it off until I found BR and now it’s NC FOR GOOD and believe me, I’m struggling). As for the wife, MM men are full of BS stories about their marital unhappiness (often, the wife isn’t interested in sex) and reasons for staying (generally the children – oh, how virtuous); he’s a cheat (i.e. a liar) and the credibility of any accounts to you about his wife, or anything for that matter, is highly dubious. I like what Elle said: “You kind of just have to trust that Natalie and the BR-readers know best, until the rest of you catches up.” It takes time for the rest to catch up, but until then, do what you know is best for YOU and little by little you will see and feel the situation for what it really is.

      • AnabellaC says:

        I should have noted, what kept me in this toxic mess for so long? Denying, Minimizing, and Rationalizing. Denying the reality of the situation although it was patently apparent from the beginning (red/amber flags and he told me who he is; I didn’t want to hear it); minimizing destructive behavior from both sides and its crater-like impact on me; and rationalizing disrespectful, intolerable behavior.

    • Oldenoughtoknowbetter says:

      EmLAW, I cannot stress enough how your story is NOT unique! They ALL told us they were staying for the kids, when the kids are older they will leave, they LOVE us, they never got over us, they compared all women to us and found them wanting, just wait two more years til my youngest is out of H.S, best sex ever…blah, blah, blah. I really bought into the fairy tale, he was my boyfriend 26 yrs ago. We ALL think it is the love of the century, or else why would we stay in it, for a so-so love affair? I was astonished how many woman here on BR were having my affair with the love of my life, didn’t know he had so much time, ha ha! You will hear we all, Runnergirl, the others, sound eerily similar….And almost ALL of them treated us like shit in between the highs. Which kind of shows are stupid they are….I have to admit, if mine had treated me the way he did the first two months, I would have hung in there for weekly visits for years. I am so, so glad my MM was an assclown as well as a cheater, or I would still be there. So I am grateful to him that he was your average Assclown….cause he kicked me out of the nest with his own bad behavior and got me out after only 8 months instead of 8 years.

      Do not come to your senses slowly, take the action, suffer the pain, and the heart will thank you later. You are going to hurt, might as well hurt today and get it over with, cause the sooner you start the sooner you will feel better. After the first month it does get much easier, so why not start the clock ticking this very minute? BTW, I got a divorce when my kids were 10 and 18….guess I wasn’t as good of a parent as he is, since I didn’t “stay for the kids”. Oh yeah, I also didn’t cheat to keep myself occupied while I was waiting for those beloved kids to grow up. Men who really love their kids do not cheat on the mothers of those children, nor do they use them as an excuse to continue cheating. This is just the most convenient of all lies, and should be right up there with “the dog ate my homework” as the most universal stupid lie. Do you know a single teacher who would buy that one? So why do we OW keep buying it?

      Go for it, read BR several times a day if you have to, and we will all help you through it cause we are all still here healing ourselves. We survived NC, you can too. GET. OUT.

      • AnabellaC says:

        “Do not come to your senses slowly, take the action, suffer the pain, and the heart will thank you later. You are going to hurt, might as well hurt today and get it over with, cause the sooner you start the sooner you will feel better.” Words of wisdom, Oldenoughtoknowbetter! I think it’s akin to any addiction – you stop because you know it’s inherently self-destructive, harmful, even if every fiber in your being is crying out for more. And I think it’s difficult to see the denying/minimizing/rationalizing in a fully clear light without distance, while still enmeshed in a harmful situation.

      • runnergirl says:

        Oldenough you are spot on: “I was astonished how many woman here on BR were having my affair with the love of my life, didn’t know he had so much time, ha ha!” So, that’s where he was…he was with you!

        Hope you can hear us EmLaw and anybody else. Don’t keep denying, rationalizing, and justifying their behavior. Cheating and lying is cheating and lying. Everyday you deny, rationalize, and minimize your feelings, the crater and the impact will get larger. You won’t probably believe this, my ex mm was staying for the last kid to leave for college this summer. How unique! I bought it for two years until December when the goal post shifted and he couldn’t leave his wife due to the passing of their son. A goal post shift is a goal post shift. I probably would have hung in there for another two years because I felt so sorry for him as I have a daughter his son’s age. I simply couldn’t rationalize and justify my role in cheating on his wife and kids any longer.

        It gets even more eerily familar. He figured his wife would leave him because her mother and sister left their husbands after the last kid left home. Thus, he wouldn’t have to do anything and remain the good guy. Read: total coward. His kids knew he was having an affair just like I knew when my father was having an affair. I’m so sorry I hurt his kids. I wish I could apologize to them for all the times he wasn’t with them because he was cheating on them with me. I’m sorry, although I know it doesn’t cut it.

        Once I found BR, Natalie, and you all, I think the lack of uniqueness regarding my situation was what finally struck home. Sorry EmLaw, your situation is not unique. Thank you all for your comments. In solidarity! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

        BTW Oldenough, the current excuse from our students isn’t “dog ate my homework”; it has been replaced with “my computer crashed and I lost everything”.

        EmLaw, not that I’m any expert and could break down any second, the only way out is through. Good luck to us.

        Oh yeah, the sex was great.

        • runnergirl says:

          One more thing, he is probably future faking in wanting to build that firm foundation with you when his wife kicks him to the curb. Sorry, not unique. Not surpisingly, my ex mm and I have a great fake future together too and a solid foundation. I’d share it but it is so standard, it would be repeative. So very sorry. Hugs.

          • EmLAW says:

            Maybe we are all with the same guy….way too many similarities! I haven’t gone no contact (its just sooo hard) but his traditional weekend lack of contact has really helped me see the light! Typical Sunday night /Monday morning of him trying to real me back in again….It has been a very long and very busy weekend. Please know and believe that u have been on my mind and in my heart the whole time. I miss u terribly. Actual words there….its all such complete crap because if there is a will there is a way and if I was that important enough to him he would make time for me. I need some serious kahhonas to be done with him once and for all!! It is so imbarassing.

          • EmLAW says:

            Embarassing! Apparently it was the busiest, longest most unrelaxing weekend possible. Am I supposed to feel bad for him? He is going to feel worse when he realizes I no longer give hoot!

      • I'mFree says:

        EmLaw – even if he does leave (which it doesn’t sound like he will if nothing has really changed over time) – that isn’t when all the problems are over, thats just when a whole load of other different problems start! Trust on this one – been there, got the t-shirt etc!!x

      • leisha says:

        Well, a mm I saw years ago did leave his wife. Did get a divorce. Horrors when I realised what that meant for me. NOT what I wanted at all…I went into a mode of behavior where I acted needy and crazy to literally freak him out and get him out of my life. That way he could blame it on me and there’d be no fear of him returning.

        • leisha says:

          I developed the tool of appearing “crazy” after being stalked several years before. Not healthy, but effective. The trick is you must really get into the role for it to be believed. Hopefully I’ll not have to repeat that again…but I have the means if necessary. Lots of tools in my box.

          • leisha says:

            I just realized that it might also be that I’ve had too many of the wrong “tools” in my “box” too…word play…I just love it. May you all have a great week!

  27. PJ says:

    This is just a great article. Makes sense on so many levels and speaks directly to the heart of the matter. Thanks Natalie.

  28. debra says:

    While the ideas in this post are simple but profound, I think they are also a little counterintuitive, at least for those of us prone to unhealthy relationships. It took me a while to see how I could possibly be emotionally unavailable, given how much I was hurting and how hard I was trying. It’s hard to see what I was doing as denial when it feels like every single second of every day, you are obsessively thinking about this messed up relationship. It’s hard to understand how I could not actually want a real relationship, given how hard I was trying to have any relationship.

    Standing back from it, stripping away the fur coat of denial, as you say, and all that, I can see it now. I just couldn’t even begin to see it then. It makes me wonder what else in my life I am missing, even if I am staring it right in the face.

    It is hard to believe that I could live an accomplished life, work, buy a home….do all the normal stuff and yet be so completely, utterly asleep at the wheel and oblivious to so much. Like what I was feeling and thinking. It is actually shocking. The ability to function but not live. Replacing emotion with simple motion.

  29. LostEnergy says:

    Brilliant post Natalie, thank you:-)
    It kinda scares me to think about how much minimising and denial I have done in my last reationship let alone previous ones. Very much linked to fear of abandonment for me, putting up with cr*p meant staying in, facing reality meant getting out and *another* failed relationship -which incidently is another reason for staying in.
    The thing is that before getting to denial or even minimising, there is a stage in the dialogue when we can respond… I mean actually say something that would enable us to stay in reality -rather than minimise, rationlise or deny.
    I need some skills/tips for when things start to look, sound or smell a bit shitty -what to say in response, so the guy knows I’ve seen, heard, smelt it and I dont want it again… [Think I might have partly answered my own question!] But when parenting and consequent youth friendships are Not helpful, then knowing what, or how to say things in response to a boundary crossing is not something I feel skilled in at all. Coz not putting up with stuff or dealing with something at the very point it starts to look fishy ~ is where I struggle, to speak Up & standUp for myself.
    Granted -that if there is too much cr*py behaviour etc then exit is the only way forward, but i want to know more about how to deal with it when it arises. Self-esteem has got loads to do with this – I know -but having worked with kids for quite a few years, providing them with practical examples of what would be a good thing to do, say etc -in pretty literal terms has always helped the hard to help … and lets face it -due to parenting, background, previous relationshps, issues etc – I dont feel like the easiest person to help… But you are doing a fab job Natalie :-) Thanks again.

  30. LostEnergy says:

    Whilst sometimes this healing/coming to terms with reality etc lark can be pretty painful at times, I do feel like we here on BR & of course NML are pioneers for the new survivors of women… and men. In the past survivors have been *allegedly* the strong, aggressive, selfish types* that have survived the human life on earth so far. But were all seeking (I think) a guy/gal who can have a mutually fulfilling, empathetic, caring relationship. We’re going to discard A/Cs & EUMs by the wayside and whilst our opinions of what a more happy fulfilling relationship could be, may not be the majority yet… it’s definitely the future. When you look at how people deal with emergency situations etc these days, we want to know he’d definitely try to save us from any disaster. Only real love and care can be the stronger motivator to save another… not the pure ability to fight, fend off, etc.
    I thought I wanted to be with a *strong* guy who could stand up to my Dad! But now I want someone who loves me for me, coz in reality that love will be the only thing consistenly motivated to stand up for anything, not just whether you like a good scrap/fight or not. Hope this makes some kind of sense.
    It’s just that I’ve been attracted to *strong* good looking survivor types for various reaons (some of which im researching on BR), that cand do *everything* fix the car, build, cook, knows the world, undestands international situations, conflict, potential problems, engineering, I.T. etc… things I dont always feel to clever at myself. But if they dont truly care about me/us -what proof do we have that he’s gonna use all his knowledge, strength and energy to get the falling building/monster/ baddy transformer/robot/ political terrorist off me in a disaster anyhow?
    Sorry if it’s a bit off topic, but i think it’s a type of denial I’m pretty suseptable to.

  31. colororange says:

    I was not going to say anything but reread the post and something sparked in me. In reference to rubbernecking I had an incident when an ex undoubtedly was checking this woman out right in front of me. There she was walking by in a little black dress with huge boobs and I looked straight at him to see what he would do. He did this number like he was looking one way and slowly turned his head in her direction as she walked by. I actually never confronted him but just watched him. I’d brought issues like this up before and he would say “i’m looking at people.” Of course he would never admit he was looking at other women because he did not want me to have a cow about it. Even still LYING about it did not make it any better. Emotionally I felt like I wanted to push him off into the river. Is that how an ADULT woman responds?? I think my little 5-year-old was peaking out there. Does a mature adult woman see her man gawking at an attractive woman and feel okay about it? That’s what I would like to know: the correct, healthy response to things. I’m so tired (well there is part of me that still gets a good rise out of my old familiar childish behavior) of feeling the way I do about things and people. Good lord.

    I am flooded with so much anger when a man does this around me. Then lies or flips out about it if I bring it up. Either this is healthy, normal male behavior and I need to get over my anger/jealousy/insecurity or there ARE men that don’t do this in front of their girlfriends/wives. I oscillate between wanting a new boyfriend and wanting to remain single until I get myself healthier. I think about all I’ve been through and where I am now without any man in the picture. I think I’ll dive off a cliff if I get mixed up with another jackass, selfish, perverted, addicted to something man again. So yeah I think it’s staying single for a while longer for me.

    • GTash says:

      For what it’s worth I think looking at women is a natural thing for a normal male to do as is looking at attractive men for women. However outright oggling and gawping when in the company of a significant other is just disrespectful. Even worse is when they comment on the obvious attributes of that woman in a sleazy way. I actually believe it is a sign of low self esteem on their part and when in the company of such a man I simply do not comment or react in any way unless it is to agree with them or add a flattering comment myself. That really throws them off and believe me they are usually lost for words after that. Needless to say that is also the last time I spend in that man’s company.

      I actually have a filter I use for determining if a man is worth spending any time with – if they comment to me about how cool/sexy/fun etc etc my very sexy/cool/flirty friend is I immediately take them off my potential date list. The man who is worth my time and attention is the one who doesn’t even notice she exists.

    • Oldenoughtoknowbetter says:

      Colororange, maybe this will be helpful. My best friend hates when a bf looks at other women, on the other hand, it does not bother me at all. She and I had a friendly argument about whether this was bad behavior or not, as it bothered her but did not bother me. So one time she went to a counselor with the man she was engaged to so she could specifically ask this very question. I thought the counselor’s answer was brilliant! He said “it is not that looking or not looking at other women is inherently wrong. Some women this will be offensive to, and others it will not. So the behavior itself is not the issue. The issue is that he continues to do it anyway when someone he cares deeply about has said it hurts her and he doesn’t stop just because he loves her” If it bothers you, you have every right to tell your man this. Whether he stops or doesn’t says nothing about if you are over-reacting, and everything about how he feels about you by trying to accomodate you. And if his answer is “it doesn’t bother other women” all you need to say is “I am not other women, I am me and it does upset me”. My suggestion: if he works hard to accomodate you but slips up every once in a while, maybe let it slide. If he continues to do it with no regard to you, you are getting some very valuable information and don’t deny or minimize what this means!

      P.S. My best friend and that man were only married a year…his continuing to look at other women was only the tip of the iceberg in what he was NOT willing to do for her in the name of love.

      • grace says:

        This may sound hopelessly idealistic but if a man loves you he shouldn’t even want to look at other woman. Okay, if a Gisele lookalike in a miniskirt comes down the street, he’s gonna glance. I would too. But you see a girl like that maybe once a year (and I work in London). But that’s way different to some of the ogling I’m reading about here.
        If it’s every time we go out, I’m gonna be ditching him pronto. Why the hell is he so interested in other women when he’s got me?!

      • leisha says:

        yeah, looking is one thing, ogling is another. We all appreciate beauty. It doesn’t mean everything we see we want to possess. I would definately consider the context. It doesn’t detract from your beauty…it’s the way it’s done.

        • Diana says:

          How about when a guy looks at least a few times each time you go out, and sometimes even goes into a “trance” for several seconds (picture this: eyes half closed while looking at the woman, and for a while after she leaves the “direct path” of line-of-sight) right after he gets a good look/glance at another woman?

          What the hell does this mean?

          • runnergirl says:

            Although I agree with Oldenough and her therapist and Leisha, it’s a deal breaker for me. It may be one of the only boundaries I’ve been able to set and stick too. Based on my personal experience with this phenomenon, I think it is usually the tip of the iceberg and there is more shinola to follow, at least that has been my experience. If he is looking and trancing on/at another woman while you are talking, he clearly isn’t present, available or hearing what you are saying. I now up and leave and see how long it takes him to notice I’ve left. It may be an individual thing but I’ve not felt respected or valued when it happens. Just my two cents. That is simply one behavior I will NOT minimize, rationalize or tolerate. It has a crater-like impact that I cannot deny.

      • GTash says:

        Brilliant insight from that counsellor. I agree wholeheartedly and this can apply to any behaviour from picking up dirty laundry to not gawping at other women (or worse). If your man is not putting 100 % into making you happy by ceasing behaviour he knows you don’t like then IMO it says a lot about exactly what his feelings are and how you can expect to be treated.

  32. raven says:

    This is a brilliant article – I think this really gets to the heart of what gets us into and keeps us stuck in unhealthy relationships and is also the key to reversing that pattern. I can count on my hands the amount of time I had sex with my ex-husband when he *wasn’t* under the influence of either dope or alcohol. I wouldn’t say he was either a dopehead or an alcoholic per se (simply that by the time we went to bed at night he’d had one or the other or both even if it wasn’t in huge quantities) but that is irrelevant – the point is that for the kind intimacy and openness which I wanted in a relationship, this behaviour meant that he was never 100% available to me. I was with him for 12 years and when I left I felt like I’d been in an emotional wasteland – no wonder. The thing is he’s not a bad person – he’s hardworking, he’s a good father, he’s intelligent, witty and keeps himself fit, has a nice circle of friends etc. And since we split up he’s had a really nice girlfriend for the last 8 years who also likes a couple of glasses of wine of an evening.

    The point is that *for ME* it was a problem that he wasn’t straight most of the time. It didn’t work for ME for the kind of relationship that *I* need! So all the time I was compromising on a very important part of my relationship values. Now that I can take responsibility for my own boundaries (thanks to you NML) I don’t feel angry with him any more – I can see that it was an incompatibility. I now feel that I deserve the kind of relationship that works for me and I am happy to wait till the right one comes along because I now date and discard quite quickly without the agonising because I am clear about why someone doesn’t meet my requirements. I am not looking for someone perfect and like my ex’s girlfriend, I am sure that I would tolerate behaviour that maybe other women would not because it didn’t fit *their* relationship values. For example, I don’t need lots of romantic gestures.

  33. shattered says:

    I denied, minimised and rationalised for almost 2 years before I decided to finally put an end to the madness. I’ve done NC so many times I’ve lost count. But I was doing OK with NC when I met the AC at a business function. He’d missed me, wanted to get back together… so we spent a day together, went out the next evening and it was great. He stayed the night and I thought everything was lovely. he talked about moving in together. Then I didn’t hear from him, not even a text. After 5 days I sent him a text saying I realised he’d used me and why couldn’t he have been honest. No reply of course . I’d been had – in every sense of the word. I am so upset, more at myself for falling for his BS again. But I didn’t understand why he’d do that. Then I remembered something Natalie wrote a while back- ‘It’s not over ’til he decides its over’ . I can’t fathom how anyone could treat someone like that, its just so callous. He’s had the last laugh, now I can be ignored. I’m feeling pretty worthless at the moment, but sticking to NC doesn’t give me any satisfaction as I know that he dumped me in the end, without a thought for my feelings. I need to get my self esteem back, but think it will take a while to get over the humiliation.

    • leisha says:

      You sucked it to see. Okay? Get back on the horse of NC. You are no less a fine person for giving it a shot. Give yourself some kindness.

      • leisha says:

        If you can, order Natalie’s e-book “The No Contact Rule”…it may help you understand what you are experiencing and what happened…and how to move forward.

        • leisha says:

          I have to add that a relationship is not a competition. He didn’t “win” and you didn’t “lose”. You learned something and found that the situation didn’t suit you. Your “loss” would be if you didn’t get out of the emotional crater you appear to be digging for yourself.

    • Magnolia says:

      I’d like to echo Grace, as she put into words what I was thinking as I read your post for the first time. There is really no “doing OK” at NC, that’s like doing OK at being pregnant. You either are on the wagon or you aren’t, and if you break off being NC (or being pregnant) you have to start all over again from day one and build up toward the gift (the child/the self-esteem) that comes from the time put in. No saying it’s easy, though it’s easier than you might imagine.

      I found it interesting that the most important decisions in your story got covered by “…”.

      In the “…” you listened, minimized what you knew, made the decision to hang out, made the decision to sleep with him, etc.

      Yes, you sucked it and saw. I’m sorry you are feeling used; we’ve been there; please know that it is over when YOU say it is, even if for the rest of his life he thinks he can call you up whenever he feels like it, it’s over when YOU know you don’t answer such calls.

      Much warmth and support!!

    • Natasha says:

      Shattered, this is just about exactly what happened with my ex-AC, only it took two months instead of a few weeks. I know exactly how you feel when you talk about feeling worthless and humiliated. Please, please do not worry about winning and who got the last word. Try to see the bigger picture in all of this – he will most likely continue to go through life as a callous jackass and you have the power to take what you’ve learned from this to find a path to a whole new way to look at relationships and better self-esteem. Like I said, I’ve been exactly where you are now and learning to look at it that way was really helpful. The bottom line is that a man who acts like this is INCREDIBLY screwed up and it’s important that you don’t let the actions of someone who is clearly a total jerk impact how you see yourself. His actions were his actions, they don’t say anything about you or your worth as a person. I’m sending you a big hug!!

  34. grace says:

    NC works but you weren’t really NC. If you keep “trying NC”, it’s not NC. It’s not about just avoiding the person. It certainly isn’t about having sex with them when you next bump into each other. And, more subtly, it’s not about getting the “satisfaction” of having “won”.
    It’s about you. Who are you? what makes you happy? what are you going to do with your life. On a smaller scale, what will you do today to make your life better?
    He didn’t miss you, he SAID he missed you. He didn’t want to get back together, he said he wanted to get back together or you assumed those things. These are classic mistakes we all make. Learn from it, don’t beat yourself up about it or use it as a way to think about him even more.
    It’s not over until YOU say it’s over, otherwise these users keep coming back for another go on the slot machine.
    Of course he didn’t respond to your text, of course he’s callous. That’s who he is. You don’t need any more confirmation of that. Cut him off. Not to spite him but because YOU DESERVE BETTER.

  35. pam says:

    Having to acknowledge how much BS I fed myself for years, is both gut wrenching and liberating at the same time. I think and ask myself .how I ever allowed myself to become someone who in the end was believing their own BS.
    Perhaps it was just too painful to face the truth and admit that the signs were there and flashing , about the way I was allowing another to treat me , yet I made excuse after excuse for him. I then made excuse after excuse for me, for refusing to accept what the reality of the relationship was. For the reality of knowing what a doormat looks like , yet still letting him treat me as one. For the reality of knowing but refusing to
    acknowledge that he was never ever going to be able , or capable of being in any kind of decent and healthy relationship with woman. The liberating part was when I did finally to myself , admit the truth , the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It wasn’t easy because it meant letting go of the illusion I’d worked so hard to create , and spent years maintaining.Bottom line…lay with dogs and you’ll pick up their habits and flees..the real Truth is..Hurt people hurt others..Damaged people damage others. He was a truly hurt and damaged man , by the time he crossed my path…My BS mentality at the time just didn’t want to admit
    that , it was just easier to live in denial.
    came close to the

  36. TeaTime says:

    I denied, minimized and rationalized until all my friends’ jaws just dropped open to the ground. He knew exactly what I didn’t know about his life, and constructed his excuses so well I completely believed him. I was so blind – and so eager to be blind! – that I didn’t want to face the truth that what I imagined to be a good, progressing relationship was not close to being one at all. It wasn’t even a relationship! It was a throw-away ego-stroke he could pick up or drop anytime he pleased because I let him.

    Now that it’s been about 4 1/2 months NC (had to stop and count there…good sign?) I can definitely look back and see what I didn’t at the time. The things he did that set off alarm bells in my head should have never been denied, minimized or excused away. I had lower self esteem and the last person I could trust was myself. Why would I listen to my alarm bells?

    I am not fully cured though. The one thing that continues to leave me second guessing is my thoughts about whether or not he is still with that new girl. My mind plays tricks on me – if he is still with her after all this time, surely he is doing something different? He’s treating her differently than he treated me? And it’s on that train of thought I start looking back and minimizing or excusing what he did, as much as I know what he did was wrong. I read the article here about “why her?” and I tell myself he hasn’t changed, it’s just she puts up with his behaviour, but for some reason I can’t fully accept that.

    This is the last area of insecurity I’m facing as I get past this. I’m hoping as I continue to work on my self esteem this will go away.

    • pam says:

      The way a man treats one woman is the way he treats all women.
      Especially when he has one or more women on the go and most of these jerks do , simultaneously he’s sleeping with both at the same time, cheating on both at the same time, lying to both at the same time etc etc. What is so hurtful about these creeps is that they don’t go looking to get involved with someone like themselves eg: Hate to admit it but some women act the same as these losers do.NO they go out of their way to find women who aren’t like them ,so as they can be in control the situation. Let’s face it , to manipulate and lie and keep things on the go ,it takes a lot of work,paractice and experience. You wouldn’t be the first he has treated like this,and sadly unless he has long term therapy some where along the way ,you won’t be the last.I like to remind myself what I learned from Nat, it’s the feeling of rejection that hurts in reality…not the fact that he is not with me.I don’t even want a creep who would want to hurt me or someone else , but until I realised it was the pain of rejection I was feeling , it clouded my judgement of the situation.

    • Allison says:


      It doesn’t matter how he treats her, it’s irrelevant. All that matters is how he disrespected you!

      • TeaTime says:

        Pam & Allison, thank you both for your replies!

        I think what is key for me is to stop denying and really drive home the point to myself that he is going to act that way to all the girls that follow unless he takes time off and makes an effort to change. It’s funny how the mind can play tricks and create stories out of thin air to make me believe whoever he is with now is having a better time. My xAC seemed so contempt with how he was that I don’t think that long term therapy session is going to take place anytime soon.

        I think the second-guessing is a reflection of how I still need to work on my self esteem. What should it matter what he is doing now? As you both say, I should focus on how he treated me. I need to keep the focus on myself.

  37. Cam says:

    TeaTime: I really struggle with this too as I have to see him every day @ work and he’s getting married to the woman that he was cheating on me with. It’s getting easier and easier after 14 months. I say be gentle with yourself, but switch your thinking to yourself and not him. I repeat little phrases to myself to switch into a different mode of thinking – one of NML’s was “he is someone else’s problem now” and I add this to the end “it has nothing to do with you, so what are you focusing on for YOU today?”

    Each day and each baby step forward brings me more clarity and greater self awareness. Good luck.

  38. paintedlady says:

    @ Tea Time

    Yes, isnt it funny (well not funny but you know what i mean) that we worry, or care even, if he is with that other girl?

    My romance ended because i found out he was cheating with a work colleague i never knew about, nor did she know about me, so i could never forgive him and then when i looked back over the years i could see just where i was stupid enough to believe everything he told me, or didn’t tell me! I trusted him implicitly as he had often said he had no reason to cheat, he had everything he needed in me, hah! Obviously he must have been lying to himself as well as me perhaps. Or maybe its something he did before he met me.

    But back to my thoughts on the ‘other woman’. He said she had gone when she discovered about me, but as i would have to go outside to check if he said it was raining, i was not so sure. I feel its only natural to wonder if she has gone, or hasnt, if she was better at this or that than myself, etc etc, but the way to get over this i personally think is to ask yourself what has she got at the end of the day if she is still with him, someone who isn’t worthy to be with you, a compulsive liar, a cheat, a womaniser ( as in the case of my man he may have had more than woman for all i knew), therefore he doesnt deserve the time of day!

    I have had dark days, cried myself to sleep about what might have been, asked myself if onlys, if i could have , should have done this or that, but whats the use. Its now 9 months of NC and yes, i still have my longings for him occasionally, but i read a good book, take myself out somewhere nice, confide in a friend until i feel ‘sensible’ again. I know i will get over him, i know i shall eventually find someone i can believe in, so onward i go – i am still me and me deserves better!

  39. TeaTime says:

    Cam & PaintedLady: Thank you for your comments. You are both absolutely correct. It’s all about a shift in who I place focus on. Thinking about him and who he is with now shifts the focus off me, and all of a sudden it makes him seem flawless and leads me to thinking I was too harsh with my judgment. That’s where what is left of my denial, minimizing and rationalizing come in. How backwards! I see how messed up it is and yet it happens. I guess I have to be patient. As both of you say, I need to shift the focus onto myself when I start thinking this way.

    When I focus on me, I know I deserve better. Oh so much better. He just behaved so badly, so poorly. I know he saw it as something casual, but even with that he just did things that were really plain stupid. Anyone who can treat someone that way – no matter under what circumstance – is definitely not worth my time. What is that saying? See how the guy treats the waiter when you’re out on a date? Speaks volumes about his character. When I remind myself of this, I don’t care who he is with or what he is doing. All I care is that he is out of my life!

    – “he is someone else’s problem now” and I add this to the end “it has nothing to do with you, so what are you focusing on for YOU today?” –

    – “what has she got at the end of the day if she is still with him, someone who isn’t worthy to be with you, a compulsive liar, a cheat, a womaniser ( as in the case of my man he may have had more than woman for all i knew), therefore he doesnt deserve the time of day!” –

    I will keep these quotes in mind whenever my thoughts stray in that direction :)

  40. Gingerbell says:

    This post is spot on and I, myself, am guilty of excusing poor behavior in a partner. Here’s why: I never trusted my instincts and conclusions to the point where I became easily manipulated by opposing opinions. It’s really hard to to get tough with oneself when you are clearly unsure of yourself . When I know something feels wrong or I am excusing bad behavior I turn to a couple of really close friends who I trust implicitly and will give me their critical thoughts. I know I need to rely on myself for this but it helps in transitioning me.
    Some personalities, especially strong personalities are convincing in justifying their behavior. I think the trick is to know they will probably dig their heels in to excuse themselves and in the end it doesn’t matter what they do, it matters what we do. We are captains of our own hearts but love can often make us feel “out of control”.
    I dated a guy briefly who seemed the polar opposite of my last bad relationship. He seemed considerate, attentive, generous.. a true gentleman.. But quickly in to things, he also showed a side of him that was jealous and irrational. I realized I was quickly adjusting myself to suit him and it sucked. It wasn’t fun at all. I wondered why I was excusing the bad stuff which really was no reflection of who I am. Sure people have flaws but when it is disruptive , none of the “good”qualities can make up for the bad ones. I found myself walking on eggshells again in a different way and I had to stop and have a little talk with myself. Egg shells are eggshells.. and walking on them no matter what the reason doesn’t feel good. So I called it off and stated my boundaries. It wasn’t well received and a side of him unveiled and he proved to be very unstable. I was made to feel guilty and spoken poorly to because I wasn’t prepared to jump into a new big relationship after all I had gone through the passed 6 months. If I hadn’t stood up for myself, I’d be giving into another bad relationship. He showed me his true colors already but I got confirmation of who he really is once he reacted to my needs and boundaries.
    Sometimes we challenge people by being ourselves, but in the end it will work out to our advantage because the right ones…

    • AnonyMiss says:


      I completely commiserate with being wooed by the Nice Guy Syndrome–it’s like BS-Be-Gone, it plays tricks with the meter.

      A personal observation and experience: In professional school, met Mr. popular, handsome, intelligent, witty, friendly and interested in *me*. After a few months of being careful, I thought we had something special, so we slept together, no big deal because we were friends, and I was sure there was a future in it. An hour after I’d gone home from our rendezvous, he called me, asking if we could “just be friends” and explaining that he’d told his ‘girlfriend’ and she was mad.

      I was fuming…she was mad. What about MY feelings?! Eventually, he decided to get back together with her; although she’d previously left him for someone else….now conveniently, wanted him back.

      Well, lesson learned. No matter how nice he was, I had to cut him off and have been NC since last April. I think he was surprised at my self-preservation…as if I’d let things return to how they were. Of course, it still leaves a twinge of pain when he says we should get coffee, and never follows up; or creates public facebook events and leaves me off the list. Whenever I run into him, I muster civility…but become upset with myself for acting like nothing really happened. I don’t even want anything from him, but it hurts just a little bit when you feel like that was your best prospect.

      But also, I have to embrace an element of personal responsibility. My BS meter should have been off the charts red when he vehemently denied that we were dating when a mutual friend asked…or when my call went to voicemail (and unreturned) when I took the time to phone him from a vacation in Africa, or the fact that he couldn’t seem to get his gf out of the picture…it was because he didn’t want to.

      My point and advice: I occasionally get so upset (with myself), but am even more grateful for the clarity, confidence and self-respect and reliance this experience has afforded me. I have to remind myself that actions speak louder than words: and the fact that I’ve disappeared for a year, has to mean more than a cool ‘Hello.’ I deserve more than a halfhearted attempt at a relationship…

      • grace says:

        “popular, handsome, intelligent, witty, friendly and interested in *me*” is NOT necessarily a decent person. These qualities have nothing to do with decency. A person can be unpopular, not very good looking, not too intelligent, not funny, a bit of a loner, unable to fake interest in you and STILL have a really good heart. If that seems impossible to you then you need to retune your radar.
        I’m not saying that you should get together with a sullen ugly bloke with no friends but don’t overvalue superficial stuff and imagine that it equals a trustworthy person.
        90% of these EUMs are charmers but charmers only do that cos they want something from you. I used to work in sales and could be extremely charming, especially if the customer was going to help me reach my target. I wanted somethng from them. (But I did also back it up with good customer service and I was never going to sell a customer something that they didn’t need or I didn’t believe in, unlike your EUM).
        Anyway, I’m glad you’ve been able to move on. I’m putting this out there in general, not aimed particularly at you, your post just prompted me to make the point.

        • Allison says:

          True, true, true!!!!!!

          My ex was nothing to look at, but was certainly strong in the charm department. When these men are deficient in other areas, they make up for it in charisma.

          They know exactly what they’re doing!

  41. Sandra81 says:

    Here I am again! :-) Speaking of minimising and speaking of “how deep you will get into and how long you will stay in a poor or even dangerous relationship”, I was wondering about people who are genuinely happy with dubious relationships. I’m talking about really believing that nasty or strange things in relationships are normal for everyone. For example, once I had a friend who knew her boyfriend had been cheating with various girls throughout their 2 year’ relationship, but she was convinced that he loved her. Why? Because he always came back to her and was never leaving for good. She believed all men do that, but they all have “the one from home”, to whom they always return to. And I’ve seen those two together many times: not only he was very cold towards her compared to other people in the group, but he was also putting her down, and treating her like a kid (he was about 8 years older than her). Like: “shut up!”, “sit still!”, etc. No one ever spoke to me like that (maybe my parents when I was 3 😛 ), I couldn’t have accepted it ever from my boyfriend! But she was happy, she thought it was natural.
    Now, I’m asking: do you think her happiness was genuine, or that this type of people just put on a happy face, “minimising” intentionally?

  42. PJM says:

    I have a little brag to share …

    Yesterday I was at a conference. At the drinks afterwards, there was a guy I found interesting-looking. I made eye contact; he looked, and then looked away and started talking to someone else. I didn’t pursue it.

    Later on, he had a couple more looks at me, but didn’t do anything about it.

    And do you know what?

    I DIDN’T decide to make a case out of it by going up and starting a conversation with him.
    I DIDN’T crumple emotionally inside and decide to compensate by drinking too much or really obviously flirting with other people.
    I DIDN’T collapse in tears and self-pity on the way home at how unattractive I am to the world in general.
    I DIDN’T indulge in a booty-call-cum-recrimination-session with my ex.

    You know what I did? I just acknowledged quite simply that HE WASN’T INTERESTED, for whatever reason. And I went home and had a nice relaxing evening in front of the TV, and didn’t think about it again.

    At last I am getting to the stage of saying ‘Well, what the hey – nobody DIED, did they?’ and letting it go. This has been a long, long, painful journey for me, through domestic violence, pain-equals-love, assclowns, EUMs, and more crying than I care to think about.

    And I couldn’t have gotten here without the help and advice of this site. So thanks, Natalie, for everything.

    • Sandra81 says:

      Well done, PJM! It wasn’t a big deal, indeed! It was just a guy who you thought looked nice, with whom you didn’t even speak. You didn’t even know his name, I presume. You didn’t have time and grounds to invest emotionally. Therefore, it would have been worrying if you HAD made a big deal out of it, or if you HAD suffered. But in this situation, you reaction was perfect! 😉

  43. Magnolia says:

    “they think it’s my haircut”: LOL!

  44. shattered says:

    thank you all for your comments. I was ‘doing OK’ with NC because although I was missing the chump and remembering the good times, I wasn’t going to contact him. I’d had enough of his blowing hot and cold and disappearing for days. So when I met him at a dinner and he seemed so pleased to see me and talked about moving in and starting again I fell for it. Now I feel used and stupid. What sort of a person can lie and pretend like that. What was the point? He’s clearly moved on to someone else and I know he’s not worth my (or anyone’s) time. I just wish he’d replied to my text.Even just ‘sorry’ would have done. Being totally ignored as if I never mattered is hard. I won’t fall for his BS again, but if I’m honest, I would like to hear from him- so that I can ignore him. Everyone thinks he’s a wonderful ‘would do anything for anyone’person. I know otherwise

    • grace says:

      you are in a hell of your own making. if he did text you sorry you would be complaining, rightly, that all he did was send you a stupid text. now you won’t move on until he contacts you so you can ignore him. you’ve given all your power to someone you admit is a liar and a user.
      if an ex you haven’t seen for a while (in my case ten years) talks about moving in, marriage, sex etc he should be treated with the UTMOST SUSPICION. why would he do it? because he gets something out of it – attention, sex, a distraction, a laugh, whatever.
      You may have thought that the sex was significant and that you were getting back together, he clearly thought different. Be careful of assuming that they are thinking what you’re thinking. Yes, it’s tough that he lied to you, but that should make you want to run in the other direction, not sit around in limbo waiting on him.
      Who the hell is this guy?!

    • Natasha says:

      Shattered, I would like to second, third, and fourth Grace’s advice. Like I said, I was in a very similar situation and I know how godawful it feels, but there is nothing that this guy can text, email, conference call, facebook or send via carrier pigeon that is going to change the reality of how he has acted or what kind of person he is. I went through the phase of wanting good old validation from someone who was a liar and a user as well and it finally occurred to me that he’d come back begging and full of apologies several times before and….the result was always the same. Even when they beg, plead and whine it’s not about you, me or any other woman they’ve done this to. Likewise, when they lie, cheat, steal or whatever their particular Assclown MO is, it’s not about the woman on the other end of the equation. I was stuck in anger for a solid month – angry at him, myself, and Alexander Graham Bell for inventing the telephone that these guys text/call/facebook us on. Who was keeping me angry? I was. It’s obviously natural to feel that way, but at some point you just have to say, “Well, I’ll never fall for that mallarky again. I’m going to go enjoy my life.” Don’t be afraid to let go of how awful you feel because it feels like letting them off the hook! Your life is for you to live and love, not for someone else to swan into and mess with. Give yourself back the power and you’ll be just fine :) xoxo

      • grace says:

        You did well to keep it down to a month. It lasted three years for me. I had to take antidepressants. We have to let it go, we only hurt ourselves.

        • Natasha says:

          Grace, I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I really admire the way that you’ve taken those negative experiences and turned them into some of the best advice I’ve ever read. I can’t tell you how much some of your comments have helped me and I hope you know how much it is appreciated. It’s so very, very true – holding onto the anger only hurts the one who’s hanging onto it!

  45. ana says:

    Hey Nat and ladies!

    I’m guilty of all of the above; denying, minimasing and rationalising… I got a lot better at sticking to the BS diet though;) It was about damn time! But as i was told by my lovely therapist, I’m a typical child of a narcissistic father, i second guess myself all the time, really, it’s so annoying;) As a kid I was a lot better at coping with this, i think it started to come out with my first relationships… so now at 26 I’m mostly ok, but i still get these moments…

    On saturday night I was at a picnic birthday party and my ex EUM was there with his new 11 years younger girlfriend, she’s like 21 or something, i get into these situations cause i’m stuborn and I don’t wanna lose my social life cause of him… i know, stupid, but i was ok, having fun.

    But then I started to wonder, ok I’m a Fallback Girl, a recovering one, but still… he’s an EUM, and probably an assclown too (my brothers, who are most probably EUMs too, hate his guts, actually, they hate all the guys I dated, it’s like they smell each other and know they’re no good for the girls:). Ok, I looked at the girl and i got to thinking about what Nat said in one of her posts: maybe she’s the next woman who may get him (my ex-EUM) to give her more than I did as a Fallback Girl. As Nat said, often with the next woman, she won’t put up with the same crap so he tries much harder. So maybe she’ll get couple of good years out of him ( couple of years of good relationship) before he starts to mess things up again… And then I think, ok, so these emotionally unavaliable guys are not such a bad option for “emotionally healthy” girls, cause they get the good stuff too… he was messing with me and my feelings for 3 years, and now he’s like a puppy in love… i don’t know, what do you think…
    I guess I’m guilty of over-thinking and minimazing again :) But I would still love to know what you think about this…

    And btw i don’t know why the hell he’s so attractive to all the women, he always finds the next one… i don’t get it, why would an “emotionally healthy” girl be attracted to him??

    thanks for helping me out:)))

    this site is amazing, i’m so happy you guys are here, and Nat, she’s a…

    • EllyB says:

      Ana, frankly I doubt whether you were any better at “coping” as a child than now. As an adult child of a narcissist (or rather two narcissists, read two self-absorbed abusive asshole parents who created some kind of “mini-cult” around themselves for me), I’m now starting to realizing how hard my childhood fights were. Yes, I managed to “cope”, but the price I paid was deep denial and the whole list of symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. I’m not sure, but maybe you will come to the same conclusion soon. In any case, be glad you left your childhood behind! Even if things might look as if they’re getting worse (I had the same impression about my own life sometimes), I’m sure you will get much, much better in the end if you keep working.

      Regarding your ex, obsessing over him isn’t healthy (I guess you’ve realized that already). I think in his relationships there are very unhealthy dynamics in play. Maybe you should read the book “The Betrayal Bond” by Patrick J. Carnes (unless you did it already). I’ve just finished it and gathered great insights. You might even start pitying his new girlfriend, because she is still part of a very destructive system, while you managed to escape. Maybe you will wonder why you ever needed AC/EUM to feel good. Life is so much easier without them!

      I’m not yet there myself, but this prospect looks like the light at the end of a very long tunnel for me.

      • ana says:

        You are so right!:) I wasn’t better at coping with it, but I was in my own little bubble, didn’t really bond with people, so i couldn’t really get that hurt, ok, I was a weird kid i guess, but not like unsocial, ah you probably get it better than most of the people.:) I truely feel for you, I only had my dad to deal with, my mum is a typical Fallback Girl, but my older half-brother has 2 narc parents and he’s a mess, he nearly died of Chrons disease couple of times…. You must be a very strong woman:)!

        I was obssesing over my ex, maybe I still am, but it’s a lot better. But I’m the kind of person who need to really understand things to get the point. Over-analyser, Nat would say:). I didn’t really talk about him, but about EUMs in general, they seem to behave better around “emotionally healthy” girls, at least for a certain amount od time, and since not all relationships are meant to last (the healthy ones too), maybe it’s not a bad idea for healthy girls to be in relationship with EUMs, they get more out of him, and they leave them when he starts being himself. I was wondering, if EUMs are only toxic for us, the Fallback Girls, and not for other women?
        English is not my first language and I’m not so good at it so I can’t really articulate what I want to say:) I’m slovenian, by the way:)
        Narcs come from all over i guess:D

        I will read the book you suggested to me, thanks a lot:)

        For me, this site was a relevation, really. I thank the universe for Nat and my therapist. They are the best! But my therapist said to me, that it was really difficult for her to understand her girlfriends at first, talking and crying over these guys , cause she’s not a Fallback Girl, it takes one to know one:)

        NellyB, I think we’re both on a good path to recovery:) If we can survive having a narc parent without becoming a total psyho like them, we’re winers already, (not Charlie Sheen style, he’s mad:))

        thanks a lot! **

    • grace says:

      ? what makes you think he’s changed? wasn’t he all lovey-dovey with you as well in the beginning? seeing someone at a picnic isn’t an indication of their relationship. I doubt he has changed, at least not permanently. Either something major would have to happen – his father dies, he gets made redundant etc or – over a period of (many) years – he realises that a new girlfriend every 18 months isn’t very fulfilling. Copping off with a 21 year old girl doesn’t count as major.
      BUT it doesn’t matter how he treats her. He treated YOU badly, and that’s all you need to know to make the decision that you’re better off without him. Do what you need to do to be happy, and one day – if you think of him at all – you’ll hope that he HAS changed and is happy too, even with someone else.

      • ana says:

        hey grace!

        Yes, he was all lovey-dovey for a short period of time, then he started to act weird and distant, cause he thought that i would get the message, that he want’s to break up. After that i went to live abroad for some time and when i got home, we was calling me, bla bla bla, wanting to get back together, but not in an official way, anyhow, I was silly in love, after I cut contact and started to date another guy, my ex-EUM was so “in love” with me again and wanted another go, I said no… I’m sure you get the point, it’s a typical story:)

        Anyway, my question wasn’t so much about him, but a hypothetical one, kind of:)
        Like I said to NellyB, I was talking about EUMs in general, they seem to behave better around “emotionally healthy” girls, at least for a certain amount od time, and since not all relationships are meant to last (the healthy ones too), maybe it’s not a bad idea for healthy girls to be in relationship with EUMs, they get more out of him, and they leave them when he starts being himself. I was wondering, if EUMs are only toxic for us, the Fallback Girls, and not for other women?

        In my mind, I know it doesn’t matter how he treats her, cause I know how he treated ME, but then it gets me thinking, what’s wrong with me, that he’s so much nicer to her??… I’m a third generation Fallback Girls and it’s gonna take a while for me to change… but I’m working on it.

        thanks for you help Grace!!:) Your answers always make me see the reality;)


        • ana says:

          oh and Grace, once when we were talking to my ex-EUM I asked him, why is he so different to others, and he said, sorry, but I never loved you… this conversation was about 2 years ago, we are NC now…

        • NML says:

          Ana, maybe it’s about time you started concerning yourself with your own actions instead of asking hypothetical stuff that basically amounts to *avoidance*. If you’re that concerned with getting a better man, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to *be* emotionally healthy instead of wondering if a Mr Unavailable treats an emotionally healthy girl better? Healthy women don’t have ‘relationships’ with Mr Unavailable’s because when crunch time arrives and they recognise that he doesn’t have the capacity to be in a healthy, committed relationship, they hit the flush handle and say next. You’re taking too much responsibility for another person’s actions and not enough for your own – he behaves as he does because it is who he is. It’s not an emotionally healthy woman that changes him or anyone for that matter. Change comes from the individual. It’s not about there being something ‘wrong’ with you – you are not emotionally available and you put up with things from him that you shouldn’t. You let him tell you that he never loved you and then lap it up when he gets in touch. Respect comes from you. If you want to be treated well, treat yourself well.

      • EllyB says:

        Ana, not sure whether this should matter for you at all (as Grace has mentioned, what matters is how he treated YOU), but don’t assume the other girl is emotionally healthy. She might or might not be. Many people put on a show in public. Maybe she has suffered as badly as we did, but hides it behind a “perfect” facade. In this case, she is to pity, because on top of it all, she has now to deal with this guy and is probably in for further trouble. And even if she is emotionally healthy, he might be manipulating her right now with his charming and attentive behavior and might hurt her later.

        Celebrate, because you’ve left all this behind :-)! Of course, this is very tough in the beginning. I can relate to that!

        I seriously doubt anybody gets anything “good” out of such a relationship. To me, emotional health means not needing this kind of validation or excitement, but choosing partners who don’t force you to take flight by starting “to be themselves”. I think you’re on your way of achieving that, just keep trying!

        I’m not a native speaker either, but I’m currently living in an English-speaking country. Therefore, I know how much courage and effort it takes to seek information about your problems in a foreign language and even talk about your life in a place like this. I think English is particularly helpful too, because most information on narcissism, trauma bonding and the like seems to be in English. You can be proud of yourself!

        • Sandra81 says:

          To complete the non-native speakers corner…:-D Ana, let me tell you, emotionally healthy girls wouldn’t benefit from a relationship with an EUM, unless they want a no-strings attached fling. I’ve just been involved with an EUM recently, and, many people on BR know my story, I’m forced by circumstances to stay in contact and see him regularly. I recognized the signs quite soon and opted out, the “relationship” didn’t have time to progress too much, but I never stopped amazing myself at all the cheesy tricks he pulls when I seem to take a distance from him. As far as “how he treats other girls” is concerned…I think he treats them just the same as he treats me. It reminded me of a line I heard in an Italian movie, when a girl was telling a guy: “How could I marry you? A feelings-free asshole like you? A guy who has thousands of women around him and doesn’t even possess one of them?” Yup, that’s my ex! 😛 There are many different girls “gravitating” around him, but the fact that he’s not in a proper relationship with any of them says something. Therefore, I know who I’m dealing with! On some level, I think NOW that we’re not together anymore, he treats me with respect, but most probably if we got back together, he would go back to his old ways sooner or later. Now, I will have a month free of him ahead: Easter holiday – going home, family matters to solve, old friends, some business issues to take care of. And, of course, he does his separate stuff. It’s gonna be a busy time, and I won’t have too much time to think about him! 😉

  46. Dee says:

    Hope this isn’t too risky to print….
    but if you like phrase “roving penis” how about,
    Don’t treat me like a cock-garage! I think it’s a good one, and not wanting to offend anyone here. :)

  47. jupiter says:

    Right now, in my mind, I feel like I am minimizing certain actions of my exEUM.

    I am graduating in a month, I’m job hunting, I have interviews coming up. And whenever I am stressed, it makes me want to reach out to him. I know it’s irrational and destructive and that I am just feeling insecure in the world.

    But the feeling is intense, and I need it to pass.

  48. Snowboard says:

    As an only-recently reformed Fallback Girl, I have been reading this blog for a year, and have been working very hard to change my destructive habits. I am now four months into a solid relationship with a solid guy who treats me wonderfully.

    My only problem now is my older sister. She is 31, has a kid, but she is obsessed with a guy who sleeps with her occasionally when he comes into town (from another country) but does not love her or want a relationship and has been very clear about that. I feel like my sister has been doing all of the minimizing and denying described here, and it is exceptionally tiring for me, after listening to her literally between 1 and 5 hours a day for the last ten months on the phone obsessing about this. I have gotten to the point where I am completely apathetic and don’t even try to persuade her to leave him alone anymore, because it never helps, and even worse, it just leads her to continue treating me bad. (She likes to say that I just have a very conservative view, I don’t understand that she DOES legitimately want an open relationship type situation with him, etc. etc.) Our relationship has basically deteriorated over this situation. It’s seriously not very different from trying to talk to my younger brother who is struggling with severe alcoholism, in the sense that I can’t convince either of them to stop their destructive decisions and they both just end up disliking me.

    Does anyone have any advice?? I have tried directing her to BR; she isn’t interested.

  49. Dawn says:

    I want women who have been cheated on to understand something first and formost the most important thing they should consider when dealing with the question of staying with or taking back a cheater, abusive behavior comes in many forms, physical, emotional, psychological. When someone cheats on their partner that is abuse. Lots of women I don’t think realize this fact. And I think that’s why alot of women miminmize, rationalize or intellectualize this behavior. They don’t recognize that cheating is no different if their partner was to physically strike them. Women tend to get bogged down in trying to figure out why the guy cheated, if it was because of something they had done to cause it (just like women who are physically abused think about if they did something to cause their partner to lash out at them). And in turn try to figure out what they can do to change their partners behavior. That’s were they are go wrong in their thinking -it’s not their fault the partner hits them just like it isn’t their fault their partner cheats on them. It’s the partners fault, they choose to act like they do. And the one being abused can do nothing to change that behavior. That’s the other persons issue and their responsiblity to deal with. As the one being abused they have a responsibility to themselves to protect themselves from the abuser. Cheating is abuse; why the heck do women take men back that do this???? It’s because they don’t view that behavior as abuse towards them. I know I didn’t see it that way when I was cheated on in a prior relationship and I spent years rationalizing it, trying to fix him, trying to minimize it, trying to be the exception to his rule of behavior and seeking validation of my worth that if i could stop him from doing this by loving him enough, being understanding and basically being his florence nightingale he would award me with his fidelity and love. Yep I, was on the fairy tale boat for sure, deep in denial, avoiding the truth. I finally got real about it and saw it for what it was, straight up abuse, and that he didn’t care about me at all which made it all too clear to me that I had to get out of it once and for all and protect myself from this destructive…

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.