The more you think that person is 'just like you' or 'perfect', is the more you need to learn who they truly are.While sometimes our inability to understand each others’ positions on something can be attributed to incompatible values, sometimes it’s down to being at cross purposes – talking about different subjects without realising it and as a result, not understanding each other. Or thinking that you’re both communicating ‘correctly’ or the same… and not understanding each other.  It’s easy to assume that because we feel a certain way about somebody or because we share similar interests or values, that communicating with that person or being understood, will be that much easier. We think that they’re the same or similar and feel safe.

This is our human disposition – to look for the familiar so that we don’t have to familiarise ourselves with new things or so that we can slip into default habits. Habits automate a significant part of our lives. We’d be exhausted if we had to think out every last move and make many thousands of decisions, hence if we can find someone who we regard as being on the same page as us, we can relax a bit and make some assumptions about what to expect. Of course as many of us can attest to, we feel confused, anxious, or even slighted when people don’t behave in the way we expect. Just ask anyone who’s been through the, But we have so much in common experience of sharing similar hobbies, interests, and even outlooks on certain issues, and yet not sharing the same direction or their characters clashing.

But they’re so intelligent, attractive, work in the same profession as me, and they like 18th century poetry by blah blah blah, recycling, War and Peace is their favourite book, and yada yada yada – I don’t understand how they don’t understand me. I don’t understand why they have a different personality to me and/or they don’t want the same things. Because you’re not clones no matter how much you have in common.

When two people are trying to communicate their positions and end up being at cross purposes, what becomes apparent is that each party believes that they’re speaking the same ‘language’ and that they’re coming at it with the same thought process, when in reality, each has their own individual communication style and way of looking at things, which is only discovered through that discovery phase of getting to know someone and continuing on from there in reality.

The problems kick in with communication when we’ve already made a decision about how things should be, that’s likely based on assumptions.

If for instance, we meet somebody and in the typical fashion that tends to lead to issues further down the line, we take our initial perception of that person or our feelings, and then we over-correlate this information and make assumptions about who they are and what they’ll be and do, we’re likely to assume that they think, feel, and act in a certain way. The fact that they don’t – we’re all individual entities with our own thoughts, feelings, fears, motivations, beliefs, experiences etc – may not become apparent until the honeymoon phase passes or they do something that doesn’t fit with what we’ve predicted.

We will have superficial understanding of that person.

By skipping over the discovery phase, we miss out on due diligence and then at some point, we wake up in a relationship wondering why we feel ‘hungry’. We wonder why reality does not reflect our hopes, expectations, and yes, our imaginations, and it’s at this point that we may attempt to retrospectively do the due diligence (bit like closing the door after the horse has bolted) or we’ll query the disparity and attempt to communicate our concerns. It’s one thing if whatever it is we’re trying to address is something that the other party is on board with, but when it’s not because it may require a change in that person’s personality and values, or it’s not, because they quite simply don’t get where we’re coming from, we very quickly end up feeling frustrated and disillusioned. We feel misunderstood and even rejected.

One of the necessities and challenges of life is empathy, the ability to put ourselves in another’s shoes and understand their position. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with or become the person in question, but when we do begin to understand how somebody ticks, what their motivations are, and even what presses their buttons, and they’re willing to get to know us to this extent too, there’s a mutual regard and treatment of each other as individuals instead of as mirrors to generate what each wants.

Sometimes, when we’re talking at cross purposes, we’re so busy trying to get our point across that we don’t listen, whether it’s to the other party or the feedback we get through our interactions that communicate who they are. We don’t realise that we may be coming from a place of querying, Why aren’t you just/more like me? The more that a person believes that there’s something ‘wrong’ or unacceptable, is the more they shut down or the hostility, even if it’s passive aggression, increases. We also, instead of focusing on growing our understanding of each other, focus on what can become attacking the fact that one or both is not understood, or each defending our understanding of our respective positions instead of trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Each relationship we have, has its own language. It’s the mutual language created from each party getting to know and understand each other, or not know and misunderstand each other….

Truly getting to know and understand someone on an intimate level takes time, experience, patience, some conflict, some criticism, and a willingness to suspend ego enough to communicate on a level with each other, which isn’t always easy. It takes mutual care, trust, and respect, and eventually love. Oh yeah – and reality. That language is ever evolving and what we know represents our understanding at this time. We have to be open to learning more.

It’s important that we’re not complacent. When we tend to take an assumptive stance within our relationships, we take it for granted that we’ll be understood and that each person will ‘get us’, or that there’s a certain point where we can just go into unconscious mode. We don’t think that we have to do certain things and act as if issues that can potentially bring the relationship to its knees, are just minor inconveniences that can be whitewashed or even erased with our imaginations and/or our feelings. We mistake honesty via our communications for being an automatic precursor for compliance.

If the same issue keeps rearing its ugly head, we’ll only generate a similar result and eventually end up fatigued by talking or even fighting about it in the same manner. All the pleading, high pitched squeaking, PowerPoint presentations, shouting and explaining extra slowly, won’t change the content. In turn, one or both will lose confidence that the issue can be resolved or just stop taking each other seriously.

In a relationship that we want to be healthy (and it has healthy components), we have to learn how to work with each other. When we assume the way that we communicate is ‘right’, it marks the other person as ‘wrong’.

Remembering that we don’t see or process things in the same way and that we have a different set of experiences and our own interpretation to draw on, means we’re always learning and continuously adding to the language of our relationships, which is the sum of both parties, not one dominant party trying to force the other to learn their lingo.

Many people have this idea that if it’s the ‘right’ relationship or that they’re ‘loved’, that you shouldn’t have to explain what you want or how you feel; a person should just ‘know’. That’s bullshit. Aside from assuming that we’re going out with crystal ball gazers, we’re also assuming that our feelings tell us what we know and understand about a person.

There’s no language that you ‘just know’; you’ve got to learn it.

Your thoughts?

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28 Responses to The more assumptions you make, the more misunderstandings you have to deal with (Mo’ Assumptions, Mo’ Problems)

  1. Karen says:

    If having things in common with another person, especially obscure things like hating when people make quotation marks with their fingers, is supposed to predict relationship harmony, I say bullshit! :)
    I can testify that commonalities are indicative of nothing that lead to a happy relationship.
    Compatibility, IMO, comes from both people wanting to be around the other and making compromises or adjusting to one another’s quirks, life situations and other concerns as long as they don’t require us to abandon self love or self respect.

  2. rachael says:

    Natalie,

    I believe assuming that others are the same as ourselves is something we have to work against constantly. Assumptions (of similarity of others with ourselves) lead to ‘expectations’ (meaning in this case, I think, WHAT IS SAFE TO BET IS TRUE) about others.

    “Of course as many of us can attest to, we feel confused, anxious, YES or even slighted…” (if our ‘expectations/assumptions prove incorrect.)

    People ARE different, so assuming they are the same is going to bring surprises when they demonstrate variance, probably anxiety too as potential for conflict may be thought of. For me though, if you have moved into feeling SLIGHTED, it shows maybe you have slipped into having ‘you owe me’ type thinking.

    “The problems kick in with communication when we’ve already made a decision about how things SHOULD (my emphasis) be, that’s likely based on assumptions.” ‘This is not who I thought you were. I don’t like this about you’ – type thinking arises.

    Differences in language can create miscommunication and misunderstanding – this is why I think it is important to be absolutely impeccable with your words (as best you can) and to always clarify, so that communication is most effective. I don’t want people to be like me, I want to communicate and understand… this way, false assumptions are cleared up and we can live with each other respectfully. Conflict happens a lot. People cling to their own ideas because it is threatening to think there may be another way of looking at things. Burying your head in the sand and ignoring and shying from the effort communication takes is not going to get differences resolved. People get frustrated because the other is either not understanding them (or us, them) – hence the need for adequate communication, or they get frustrated because the other person’s values conflict with ours (or ours, with theirs). That is because we struggle with the emotions that arise when other’s views clash with our values.

    “When we assume the way that we communicate is ‘right’, it marks the other person as ‘wrong’.”

    That is why the English language has rules, so that we can agree on terms/meanings. Alternatively, we can create our own agreed terms/meanings… either way, we need a common way to communicate to ensure understanding is achieved and misunderstandings are minimised. Life is hard enough without pointless misunderstandings over word usage. We are not mind readers, “There’s no language that you ‘just know’; you’ve got to learn it.”

    “… not one dominant party trying to force the other to learn their lingo.” – dominant party, forcing – no… party trying hard to speak on common ground – yes.

  3. Brenda says:

    Right.. why communication is so important, But just lemme find one that can actually do that, LOL! and then actually be honest when they DO come to think of it.

    Ugh you know I need a straight shooter anymore really, just tell me please – Like another problem is try telling guys things like “race cars and race boats” don’t need to be on my high to do list once, but honesty and communication is.

    Don’t want someone with too much in common either that would actually suck for me, then we would not leave the house often enough.

    Some differences would actually be a plus depending on what those were.

  4. Noquay says:

    I have learned the hard way that the relationship between my actions and feelings are very different from others feelings connected to the same action. If I hug , touch someone often, want to sir by them, spend time with them, it means I am showing I am interested, available, have feelings of attraction. Not so with others. It still floors me that men have wanted to hug, touch, spend time, talk to me for hours yet nearly despise me, are unavailable, etc. I found this last winter that although I readily help out folks I consider solely a friend with chores, carpool with them to the store, share a meal or cup of coffee, some folks take such behavior as indicative of being in a relationship. Got stalked as a result of that assumption. Just because some administrator says they love my programs does not mean they won’t cut them off. People are illogical, some people lie. Unfortunately, my not really knowing if another’s actions and words are in line is making me an exceedingly cautious and untrusting person.

    • Brenda says:

      Just gotta see through the BS sooner is all Noquay, Usually those one’s want all of that too soon I think and we went for it too soon.

      These types are natural “predators” the one’s that really don’t even like women a whole lot, My guess is they like to hurry and make sure they CANNOT grow to respect one either and I have said that to my mother before, I think it is more than OK to get cautious and take a needed break and look back, There were probably signs right on their facial expressions, or something they would say all along that was not matching their actions, in the same way for you.

  5. AngelFace says:

    I’m still surprised when someone’s mask flys off. After me being a member of the Baggage Reclaim gals for several years now, I’m not set back when it happens because I know better. It takes people time to show their true colors. I unmasked my latest date & potential love interest within a month, and he was not up to my level or lifestyle. Buh- Bye, don’t let the screen door hit ya!

    I will continue working on myself, so that I won’t have a huge mask fall off when meeting someone! I’m taking a scenic walk this morning, and going to the pool to get some rays ^_^. Tomorrow will wax n detail my car with my wonderful nieces and take them to dinner!
    Have a good summer all my friends here! Remember that patience is a virtue, and to trust your instincts and what you know!

  6. AngelFace says:

    Part 2 of my comment above.
    Sometimes I wonder if I had stayed in my hometown of St. Louis would I have had a better chance at meeting someone I was actually compatible with? Same schools, same religious background, same interests, etc. The discovery phase of dating is very important, as is getting to know the person. Staying happy and healthy while building solid friendships while on the road to finding the one to fall in love with is where I’m at right now. I’m over the surprise that people are different from me and I cut out new- comers when I reliable the fit is not right.

  7. AngelFace says:

    Realize, not reliable. Darn auto spell.
    Ha. When I realize they aren’t reliable I delete them from my life.

  8. lawrence says:

    I call it “Dueling Facades (or illusions)” when people decide that it’s in their interests to pretend things about themselves and their partner. This practice strikes me as the root of all dysfunctional relationships. I thought you did an excellent job of describing the nature and symptoms of this.

    “Each relationship we have, has its own language. It’s the mutual language created from each party getting to know and understand each other, or not know and misunderstand each other….

    “Truly getting to know and understand someone on an intimate level takes time, experience, patience, some conflict, some criticism, and a willingness to suspend ego enough to communicate on a level with each other, which isn’t always easy. It takes mutual care, trust, and respect, and eventually love. Oh yeah – and reality. That language is ever evolving and what we know represents our understanding at this time. We have to be open to learning more.”

    I loved this passage.

    Best,

    Lawrence

  9. kookie says:

    exactly nat!

    i have been seeing a 44 yr old man for almost two months one night a week so we still do not know each other too well but pretty much every disagreement we have had so far is based on him assuming i am feeling/not feeling something. i am not much of a texter,texts are day long ping pong matches i find endless and annoying and there is no room for tone.all the random texts could easily be summarized in a ten minute call after the work day is done. he said he understood my preference for calls and tried a few times but he still mostly texts until i just start replying in one word msgs and he calls. i am pretty sure he is into me so i don’t mind him texting but i guess i don’t know how to sound enthusiatic over text or maybe cos I don’t use emoticons but everytime if he asks me out over text and i’m like “sure” if i don’t gush and text him all day the day of the date close to an hour before the date i will get a “you don’t seem that enthusiatic about tonight so don’t worry if you’re not feeling up to it” date giving me some kind of out for the date. this is despite the fact that i have not said anything about not feeling like going on the date, usually i haven’t said anything at all. he usually asks me out but then does not give a concrete plan so we end up doing the “what do you feel like?” back and forth all by text and so by the end maybe i am not typing as much but i still wanna go on the date and if i haven’t said i don’t wanna go i find it so exasperating when he sends me passive aggressive “outs” for me to back out. the first couple of times he did this i let it slide but the third time i brought it up on the date that if i didn’t want to come for a date i know word “no” and he doesn’t have to always assume that because i aint sending millions of emoticons i’m not excited to see him. also, i know he wants to make sure we go somewhere i like but it’s so tiring to decide where to go back and forth by text. i have never once shown up for a date and acted disinterested and the source of the problem is him choosing to text me and then overanalysing everything i text or do not text, even things i don’t say are assumed and held against me. he said that the way i communicate he is not sure if i actually want to go on the date and he has been told he is overbearing by some people so if he thinks i am saying yes “under duress” ( p.s. there was no duress by any stretch of the imagination for me ), he likes to give people a way out and he is not used to people like me who prefer directness. this is a really nice guy, and so very obviously into me but i feel like this is going to be a lot of work. this man is 14 years my senior so i don’t think i’m gonna change him i don’t know if i am being unreasonable to call the whole thing off with a man who otherwise i have been having a great time getting to know. but i hate people assuming my thoughts and feelings and not giving me any say in it.

    • Pauline says:

      kookie

      He’s 44 going on 14 by the sound of all this texting going on all day. If he can’t find 10 minutes to have an actual conversation, its a definite red flag if he’s so dependant on texting and lazy communications. The ex AC used text to say all sorts of nasty things to me but when it came to saying the same to my face he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t let his phone alone and was compulsively checking for messages and calls every couple of minutes. I’ve noticed a lot of men are the same the way they use their mobile phones.
      I don’t text much these days accept for confirming a meeting time and place when I’m going out with friends. I don’t do text conversations with anyone these days, if they can’t pick up the phone and actually speak to me I don’t get too interested and generally don’t reply unless its to say I’m busy right now and to call me after a certain time.
      Nat has a couple of very good posts about lazy communication, well worth reading.

    • rachael says:

      Kookie,

      “… we still do not know each other too well…” – TRUE

      “… him assuming i am feeling/not feeling something.” Talk to him about this. He sounds ungrounded to me.

      “ i am not much of a texter,texts are day long ping pong matches i find endless and annoying…” don’t do it – you can let him know you are not into texting this way.

      “…i just start replying in one word msgs …” This could be passive aggressive of YOU… I realise you may have tried to discuss, but clearly it warrants further discussion.

      Hang on…. “…i don’t mind him texting…” … ahh mixed messages you may be giving him?

      “…i will get a “you don’t seem that enthusiatic about tonight so don’t worry if you’re not feeling up to it” date giving me some kind of out for the date. this is despite the fact that i have not said anything about not feeling like going on the date…” He sounds quite needy to me. Anxious attachment style.

      “…. i brought it up on the date that if i didn’t want to come for a date i know word “no” and he doesn’t have to always assume that because i aint sending millions of emoticons i’m not excited to see him. “ Well done. Communication!
      “he said that the way i communicate he is not sure if i actually want to go on the date…” – again a sign of his anxious attachment style

      “…people like me who prefer directness.” – me too! ?

      “… this is a really nice guy, and so very obviously into me but i feel like this is going to be a lot of work. “ yes, but if it is only his attachment issues and not something more sinister which leads to controlling behaviour, I say keep trying… but COMMUNICATE!

      Good luck

      • rachael says:

        “…people like me who prefer directness.” – me too! (no question mark intended)

      • Catherine says:

        “…i will get a “you don’t seem that enthusiatic about tonight so don’t worry if you’re not feeling up to it” date giving me some kind of out for the date. this is despite the fact that i have not said anything about not feeling like going on the date…” He sounds quite needy to me. Anxious attachment style.

        SCREAM!! My last husband was like this…what the hell is stuff like that all about?! It sounds like they want you to say no! OR, is that just an assumption?

        Rachael~what is anxious attachment? This sounds like apathy to me, or game playing…stuff like that always f*ked with my head.

        • rachael says:

          Catherine,

          Basically anxious attachment styles are ‘needy’ types. They have become this way due to problems in establishing a safe and secure attachment to their carer when young. They seek reassurance from those they are dating so their anxiety about not being loved/wanted etc is reduced. Does not really make them bad people. They are just acting on what their environment has produced in them

    • Allison says:

      Kookie,

      I think it is disrespectful for him to continue to text – unless to confirm a date, or alert you to him being late – when you have asked him not to. But, by continuing to respond to his texts, you have also shown him that he can continue, and you’re not instilling boundaries. If you do decide to continue, I would have another chat, if he is not compliant, I would end it.

      Kookie, you’re making this too difficult for yourself!

      • SoulFull says:

        agree…. Kookie, you have to reaffirm your stance by talking to him when youre together (and not via text :D) that you really dont like texting.

        However, when I read that he gives you an “out” in the way he delivers his questions, yeah it screams insecure, but dont fawn just yet….;)….my last ex also used this way of communicating when it came to disagreements, and used it to assume the worst of me, and to put negative insinuations about me and our disagreements, such as “yeah well you probably are out with someone else and will be pleased to know that i havent got job” ….this is sooooo frustrating but it is also game playing, trying to get you to plead your innocence and your love. It is also tends to be rather a corker projection from them…so if/when you encounter this, be wise to it, dont fall for pleading yourself, and watch for what they try and accuse you of…because its how they are wired.

        If he cannot pick up the phone and sort a date out without making it an all day textathon, ask yourself – have you really got the energy for someone elses lazy crumbs, issues and mind effery? x

    • Camillah says:

      Kookie,

      ” … but pretty much every disagreement we have had so far is based on him assuming i am feeling/not feeling something.”

      … but i hate people assuming my thoughts and feelings and not giving me any say in it.”

      I don’t like it when other people assume my thoughts and feelings either, and for me it’s a boundary busting red flag on so many levels.

      For me, the conversation would go like this: “Don’t assume you know what I’m thinking and feeling; ask me what I think and how I feel.” End. of. no. discussion, and if the next time he did it; I would repeat it. If he corrects himself, and says, something like “Ok, sorry, how do you feel or think?” etc, then I might stick around, but if he keeps doing it, and I see that it is not a “one off” then I would stop dating him.

      It’s up to YOU to enforce your boundaries, and you can’t send mixed messages–you have to be clear. For example, it seems like what you wanted to say was more like “I don’t do text; or “Call me.” instead of “I would prefer if you call me.” Maybe you were trying to be polite, but…. And, of course, don’t turn around and reply to a text, once you’ve said, “I don’t do text.” Your actions have to match your words. But if you find your actions aren’t matching your words, don’t beat yourself up, just talk to yourself about it, and get clear on what you want–being self-congruent is important. Watch out for “creepy-a$$-triplet” syndrome (Revolution).

      Whenever I discover my SELF saying one thing, doing another, and possibly believing something else. I talk to ME about it.

      ~~~
      I say “start as you mean to go” (NML).

      Honestly, he sounds like a pain in the butt to me. But that’s because I don’t do text, and you made the date planning sound so wishee-washee-he’s so insecure–needie-needeeee-dude…but I digress.

      He might be a great guy who is just a little nervous. I get nervous too sometimes, and say dumb, silly things–hehehehe.

      “i don’t think i’m gonna change him….”

      Don’t even go there: you know you can’t change this guy, and why would you want to even try. And, I don’t think it is ‘right’ to try and change someone else. He has a right to be who he is, and make his own choices, just like you…and of course you’d be boundary busting, etc.

      If your gut is telling you he’s “too much work,” then maybe you want to pass on having a relationship with him. Passing on him, doesn’t mean he isn’t a ‘great’ guy. It just means, he isn’t the great guy for you.

      If you want to give it more time, give it more time, but enforce you boundaries, and continue being YOU.

      Take care.

      • lizzp says:

        Kookie,

        What Camillah says! Enforce your boundaries and if he still can’t pick up a telephone, put the effing thing against his earhole and use it in the old school manner, then I would be thinking – emotionally unavailable and fantasy reliant. Text messages would become ext messages.

    • Catherine says:

      Hey Kookie! Been there, done that with the TEXTING!!! Good grief I hate that! I don’t understand the fascination with texting these days between two people who are trying to get to know each other and date. You talk about ASSUMING things. You have to assume a ton of things via text. Emotion, tone, whether or not they are paying attention to you, it goes on and on. If it wasn’t so harsh, I would love to make that a “deal breaker” for me. You either call me and we TALK, or forget it!

      As to the main point of Nat’s article, it is amazing how much assuming can go in to a relationship. I’ve done it so much and it always led to problems. This is especially a trap for those of us prone to fantasy relationships, imho.

      • Lilia says:

        I agree with Catherine. The guy could be out on a date with someone else while he´s texting you! Jeez, he could even be taking a poo or sitting in a jacuzzi with some bimbos while he´s at it. Or it could be his horny teenage nephew who is sending you sexts!

    • Clare says:

      kookie,

      I don’t like text conversations either, so I say that right upfront when I start dating a guy. I say I prefer phone calls. I say it once, and after that, if he texts, I just don’t reply. Guys get the message very quickly that way.

      As for the “what do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” conversations, cutting these conversations out is very easy by saying warmly and sweetly “I’m sure you’ll think of something great. I love surprises.” You can tell him your preferences, but if it feels better to leave the ball in his court, do that, and don’t take it back.

      As far as his “you don’t seem that enthusiastic about the date” texts, I would ignore these. It seems like a bid for a bit of attention and I would just go on and enjoy the date like he hasn’t said it. I have a pretty strong guess they will stop if you ignore them.

  10. Lilia says:

    Kookie
    I don´t reply to texts myself, unless they´re from someone I´m going to meet in person in a while, or who I see face to face on a daily basis. Texting leaves too much room for misunderstandings.

    The thing I´ve noticed is that if you don´t text back, they WILL call you because then they assume you didn´t receive it or don´t know how to use your cell phone or whatever.

    However, if you give a whole lot of explanations about why you prefer not to text, it always ends in some complex discussion and a complete waste of time. Don´t do. Just show them with your actions what you will and will not do.

    • Catherine says:

      Lilia~
      I am so grateful for this post!! I have always wondered how to deal with this. Telling them I don’t like to text hasn’t worked. Wow…I just had the realization that I was so DESPERATE I was afraid to not text back because I’d “lose” them or they would go away. An “A HAH” moment just now, and I’m feeling a little pathetic. :o(

      Thanks Rachael for the explanation!

  11. CindyW says:

    A friend just texted me a great quote along these lines:

    “The amount of fantasy you have going into a relationship will determine the amount of pain you feel coming out of it.”

  12. Peanut says:

    CindyW,

    Such true words!

  13. Peanut says:

    In order to keep assumptions in check, we consistently must gauge what we believe.

    I swear to you all I was sure I would just DIE (that is exactly how I felt) without a certain ex. The thought of him makes my stomach turn now.

    Never assume these lies (they were all lies; feelings can lead to internal lies). I assumed I loved him because I was in so much pain without him. That’s like a crackhead saying they’re in love with crack.

    He created fear and anxiety in me while arousing drama. He was using me for his ego, I him as a distraction.

    It hurt and I called it love.

    I also assumed I knew what love is. Nope. Love is not an ambiguous term to describe wanting someone.

    Love is care, honesty, and affection. If any three are missing — it ain’t love.

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My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

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

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

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