The People Pleasing Abyss

It’s painful when the realisation hits you, that when it comes to a certain someone or even certain people in your life, nothing, and I do literally mean nothing is ever enough. You could literally walk over hot coals, limbo under a bar held 5cm off the ground with spikes on it, have fireworks shooting out of your bum, agree with everything that they say and do everything they’ve requested to the letter of their criteria, and they’ll do the equivalent of, “You missed a spot…”

Nothing is ever enough with The Unpleasables and if you try to do ‘everything’ you will only bust the hell out of your boundaries – they’re just not that special!

The first Unpleasable in your life tends to be that exacting and critical parent or caregiver and if your perspective on their behaviour and how you respond to it hasn’t changed in adulthood, you’re likely to have felt tormented by a similar boss, ‘friend’ or romantic partner.

It will feel like the most natural thing in the world to be a people pleaser because it’s all you know and you equate happiness and worthiness with pleasing somebody all of the time and associate other people’s displeasure with this sense of you being inadequate and ‘provoking’ their behaviour with it. It’s easy to put what happened in childhood together with what is happening now and form the conclusion that it ‘must’ be you.

You can’t please everyone all of the time but also these shenanigans aren’t about you, your worth and your ‘inadequacies’.

It’s also easy to trick yourself into believing that ‘other people’ are able to satisfy an Unpleasable but not only is this bullshit used to personalise their behaviour to you but you’re actually signing on to their sense of entitlement that you and these people are just here to serve their ego.

While some of The Unpleasables are aware of their perennial dissatisfaction and inappropriate expectations (and yet they continue anyway while not exactly being hot on meeting other people’s expectations including yours), there are plenty that just don’t realise that the way in which they interact with others and express gratitude (that’s if they even manage to) or their discontent gives the firm impression that they’re hellbent on never being happy.

Being perennially dissatisfied is a decision.

You might be able to please this person for a short period of time but the sinking sensation kicks in again as you realise that it’s time to jump through the next hoop.

  • It’s being a kid and trying really hard with something and your parent criticising your efforts. “You got 93%? It’s a shame you didn’t get full marks. What did you do wrong?” “You got 100% – it mustn’t have been a very hard test then!” “You got a C, you should have got a B…. You got a B after getting a C the last time… why didn’t you get an A?…You got an A? Did you cheat?”
  • It’s being compared to children in other families and your parent(s) lamenting their displeasure at you not being like these ‘Wonder Kids’. Of course they neglect to mention that they’re not exactly Parent of the Year themselves so you could be just like those children but they’d still be who they are.
  • It’s giving a gift and their “Is that it?” attitude or openly mocking or critiquing it. Then you buy increasingly expensive gifts and they say that you’re a “show off” and “wasting money” or you buy what they ask for and they go, “It’s a shame I don’t have people around me who don’t have to ask what I want…”
  • It’s working your arse off for a boss who takes the credit when you do well, blames you when they do badly, doesn’t encourage you, doesn’t give any feedback, expects you to mind read them and then says “You would go further in this place if you communicated better with me” so you try to talk to them about a project or ask questions and you’re told off for taking up their time and not being more “autonomous”.
  • It’s that partner who you’ve become afraid of putting a foot wrong with who then has a go at you for not being more relaxed after they’ve chopped away at your sense of self. Nothing is ever right.

The Unpleasables have an overblown sense of entitlement that ‘everyone’ (or whoever they’ve designated) is responsible for their satisfaction. Little do you realise is that they’re collecting a debt from their past by putting it on you and that they’re deeply unhappy people unable to draw on their own resources. This is sad but you don’t deserve to be treated this way to ‘make up’ for their past or their problems.

Trying to please The Unpleasables is essentially like throwing your energy into the abyss and while you break your back trying to gain their validation, attention and love, you completely deplete you of everything. There’s no tipping point.

You end up dependent on them for your worth, happiness, security, identity – everything. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t go down or continue on this road once their unreasonable behaviour became apparent. And it is unreasonable even if it’s ‘familiar’ or they claim that it’s ‘normal’ to behave in this way.

They’re dependent on you too though – they draw their energy from you (it’s why you feel drained) because even though they seem unpleasable, they get do get off on people jumping through hoops in much the same way that a narcissist knowing that you’re utterly miserable is enough to sustain them without having to engage directly with you.

What The Unpleasables fail to recognise is that they need to look inward and examine their own behaviour and the way in which they conduct their lives instead of blaming everyone else and trying to enforce their ‘entitlements’. The harder you try is the more you reinforce this idea that their actions are acceptable because what can at times be their ridiculousness and crazy-making are being rewarded.

It’s a sign of immense insecurity when a person is an Unpleasable. Instead of putting them on a pedestal, recognise their criticisms and inability to ever be pleased as a weakness not a strength.

People pleasing will cause you to do things for the wrong reasons and ultimately you’re not living your life. You have to make a very conscious choice to stop and then keep making the same decision every day – it diminishes their power over you while increasing your own power over you.

The person who cannot be pleased is the same person who has little gratitude for what they do have because they always focus on what they don’t have and what they don’t have is distorted anyway because they never acknowledged and appreciated what they do have and the efforts of others in the first place.

Stop trying to be perfect in the hope that they’ll cut you some slack – cut yourself some slack!
It’s a sign of our maturity as adults when we don’t treat people like servants to cater to our every whim and when we take responsibility for asserting and meeting our own needs, wishes, and expectations. I know that it was part of my ascent into being me when I stopped wanting or needing the approval of my mother because I prioritised my own approval which was no longer based on her approval. This immediately changed the nature of our relationship – adult to adult.
This is your life and it’s time to get on with the business of learning how to please you and meet your own needs – your role in life isn’t scapegoat or to be kicked to make someone else feel better about their own turmoil. Whether you devote your life to an Unpleasable or choose to step into your own life, they’re still not going to be pleased but only one of these options represents you being able to find your own happiness independently of their chaos. Choose wisely, choose you.

Your thoughts?

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138 Responses to The People Pleasing Diet – Why you’ve got to give up trying to please The Unpleasables

  1. Ell says:


    I know that it was part of my ascent into being me when I stopped wanting or needing the approval of my mother because I prioritised my own approval which was no longer based on her approval. This immediately changed the nature of our relationship – adult to adult.

    is exactly what I need to do.

    Where do I find the “how” blog post on that topic so I can quit wanting or needing the approval of others?

    It’s especially important today, because the ex-husband I haven’t seen in 15 years wants me to call or stop by to see him on his birthday, and I don’t want to–he has some lingering false hope about us getting back together, which is NOT happening–

    And yet…I am feeling twinges of guilt because I am not going to contact him. Guilt! I can’t believe I feel that way…ACK!

    • Paula says:

      The “how to” is in the self-esteem course at the top of the page (right-hand side). I think it would be beneficial for you to register for the next class. Best wishes.

      • runnergirl says:

        Ell, I’ve done the self-esteem course and it changed everything in my life. How I relate to my daughter, my colleagues, my family, my friends as well as strangers and most importantly how I relate to myself. It is the “how to” guide you are seeking. I strongly recommend it.
        I was just contacted by an ex (MM) after 5 or 6 years and I couldn’t delete his call fast enough. I never want to see him or talk to him again about anything. My girlfriend informed me that he is moving back into town, wife still in tow. I told her that I never, ever want to know anything about him and I don’t want to have anything whatsoever to do with him and this would be the last time we ever talk about him.

        Her response: Okay. You’ve changed. My response: Yes, I have.

        • grace says:

          I idenitify. I really don’t care because what I think about myself isn’t wrapped up in what other people think about me, especially not people who can’t act decent. Of course it’s nice to like people and to like them and enjoy their qualities but I’m not jumping through any hoops. Funny, more of the right people like me and I have more friends now. I guess I’m more relaxed.

  2. Tired says:

    This was me in my marraige , but ive changed . Hes tried my ex to try that dissaproving tone of voice and ive not shouted like i used to but just walked away , i no longer have to explain or jump through hoops for him . Im making it on my own !! I feel alot better and tonight after councelling ex mm ac friend well he drummer in the band group mess us on the iphone , to me , ex arsehole and bassist . Now one it would annoy him that drummer and bassist are still friends of mine and still text a hi or whatever . He answered straight away , hed have seen my number . Now the old me would have text straight away so hed might see it and speak to me or jog his memorey . The new tired ignored it , then deleted it and text the drummer privatley. Im no longer worried i no longer worry that if i didnt hed think im no longer his friend etc etc etc . My thinking is you should be worried that im not yours . It felt great not to worry or frett any more , i think im finally free of it . It is such a good feeling knowing ive made it almost to other side , you do have to go thro shit but it feels great to start climbing out of it .

  3. Cori says:

    Yes!!! I can so relate to this article…if the “unpleasables” recognize you go for their game and try to get their full approval, they will make you work for it the rest of your life! I have been there and done that. It is so important to be able to recognize these patterns and avoid people like that, so thank you for writing!

  4. Tabitha says:

    This stopped me in my tracks “Little do you realise is that they’re collecting a debt from their past by putting it on you and that they’re deeply unhappy people unable to draw on their own resources.”
    This is, I am sure, what happened with the ex narc. He as much as admitted it really. His self awareness of his own issues has not and will not stop him embarking on yet another quest for Ms PerfectionGonnaFixMyLifeUpRealNice though. And half destroying her in the process.
    It was interesting what you said about your mother Natalie. I have never had a seconds validation from my mother about anything but I must have been so deep in denial about it, or so confused into thinking this was somehow normal or all my fault. Her constant criticism and undermining became my norm. I think I tried to please her as a small child but stopped many years ago. As an adult I have internalised most of it which led to my pitiful self esteem issues.
    The common denominator is that NOBODY can please these people. The ex narc had problems with everyone in his life. My mother does not have one good word to say about anyone, unless, as Nat describes, it is in order to humiliate you by making an unfavourable comparison. So if they are soooo unpleasable why do we even bother? Let them fester in their unhappy swamps of bitterness and hate.
    We have good and honest lives to lead. Not deliberately hurting anyone else but certainly pleasing ourselves.

  5. Spoon says:

    Really good article ! Nailed it ! I often wonder about unpleasable , perenially disatisfied parent, who is ailing , I mean I always picture my parent dead at some point in the future and I would feel guilty then for not busting my boundaries and doing my best to make sure she gets what she needs , how do i go about that ? :)

  6. AngelFace says:

    Little Gratitude. UnGrateful. Chaos. UnPleasables.

    I recently had a text exchange with a narcissist. I texted: “What did your parents do to you to make you so ungrateful?” And the roller-coaster of this unpleasable narcissist is a ride of guaranteed CHAOS created by him. Because I have become so much wiser during my time (about 2 years) studying here on Baggage Reclaim, I can identify the behaviors of these EUMs…AssClowns, UnPleasables, and not take thier damaged selves as my own problem.

    The sting of an occurance with one of them has way less effect on me. In the past, I might have stayed in bed feeling depressed and crying. But not now. I might feel a little sad, but now I have the tools to reason, identify, and clearly understand what is going on! Nice. All this without paying for counselling or medicating, or wasting my time, or being unhappy!…. Thanks again Natalie! I Truely LOVE YOU!

    PS: Regular exercise, 30 minutes on treadmill in the morning, making new friends, and new personal goals has done wonders for me! I highly recommend treadmill in the morning for anyone suffering. It totally relieves a troubled mind. Peace all, and Summer is on the way :)

    • dancingqueen says:

      Yes I agree treadmill in the morning is so great; why then, do I never get my ass to those morning workouts? Because I am a lazy bum lol:)

  7. paolo says:

    A very good kick ass post.

  8. NCC says:

    I was told by the AC that I’m never happy and that “life isn’t that hard” and that “nothing is ever good enough for me.” Like when I had boundaries and got upset that he took money from me without asking and when I was upset that he wasn’t meeting my basic needs. I know this was him projecting on me.
    The gift giving analogy in the post brought up some painful stuff. With my father it was more subtle. He seemed so grateful and overjoyed at gifts we would give him, like he was just so moved that we took the time to think of him. Then it was a few months later, in one particular scenario, my mom coming to be with the shirts I had given him that he, behind my back, complained to her about that, “he had too many of already and had no room to put them anyway” and her asking me if I’d like to give them to my then boyfriend. This is me at 17. Being stunned at this, I offer them to my boyfriend (my first EUM-the returning HS sweetheart) and having him rebuff because he never wanted anything from me, it almost embarrassed him. It’s sad my Mom even felt she could come to me with that request. SHE was trying to please my father by appeasing his messed up expectations of her all the while not realizing his request cut me to the core. I wish she could have been in a place to tell him to F-Off, your daughter gave those to you with her thought and her money. It was this scenario coupled with the rest of the years worth of x-mas and bday gifts that went un-opened, remained on shelves, books never read or touched, blah blah blah. Sad.

    • NCC says:

      And he seems to still wonder now why I don’t trust him, his words, his actions, nothing.

  9. Kriss says:

    When you grow up with someone like that (if you got a B you should have got an A… both my parents were teachers so this is very familiar) you get so in the habit of never being good enough that it takes years to become aware of what you’re doing and how you perpetuate those messages you were given in childhood. Strong stuff.

    • Fifi says:

      yes, perfection becomes a way of heading off the criticism – perfection in someone else’s eyes, and without any internal agency.
      Great post Nat.

    • Teddie says:

      Kriss, I relate, both my parents were teachers, same thing, less than the maximum mark called for justifications and explanations on my part, top marks were taken as a matter of course.

      • Lau_ra says:

        What is this with those teacher-parents, huh?:D My mum is a teacher as well and its been the same regarding the marks, the chores and everything else – if you do fine-its as it should be and not worthy of attention, if you “fail” – e.g. clean up all the house yet leave one dirty cup in a sink-you get criticised immediately.
        I’ve actually thought of this as I’ve started reading BR and noticed how this type of person has always been in my life in some form: at first it was my mum, then-some toxic friend, yet when I finally became resistant to my mothers criticism and flushed all toxic friends (years ago), I started getting with men who acted just like that (I was never good enough at some point according to them).Oh well, just one area to work with – not that bad:D

  10. Christy says:

    Wow, this article is very eye-opening about how a people-pleasing cycle starts. It reminds me of growing up with my stepmother. I can think of so many examples where whatever I did was not good enough, and of course “I was the problem”. Even recently my father was like “you know she loved you right?” and i said “I genuinely have no idea”. In 2001 she passed away of stage 4 internal melanoma (skin cancer but on her internal organs instead)– interesting how she looked so perfect on the outside while her insides were basically eating away at her. seems a lot like how our family presented itself to the world. I am very sorry that she had to suffer through that, but do not miss how she treated me and i am still picking up the people-pleasing pieces. The checking oneself is a really good idea, sometimes I don’t even notice it’s happening so I will begin to alert myself.

  11. DiscardedFriend says:

    This site has been a tremendous help to me since I discovered it a few weeks ago! Thanks for all your insights and humor.

    I am a bit concerned when I get to posts like these, though, because they make me question whether I am requiring too much of my ex-best friend. Maybe he is not emotionally unavailable so much as I am too demanding of him? I don’t know.

    So, the story:

    I have been best friends with a coworker for four years. We were so close everyone assumed we were in a relationship, or tried to push us to be in a relationship. We texted tens of times a day, hung out several times a week, and all at his insistence. Truthfully, a few times I was wondering why he would accompany me to things that I knew were not his cup of tea. He would say he was up for an adventure and had nothing better to do, and tag along.

    Last summer, I was diagnosed with cancer. Stage 1, thankfully, but the treatment involved removing my ovaries and rendering me infertile. I have no children and was devastated. He was the first I called with the news, and he came over and held me while I cried. Then the school year began again (we are teachers), and my surgery approached. He was there, though he appeared to be withdrawing a bit at times. I set it down to his mentoring a new teacher as I was doing, and tried to make sure that I wasn’t being too “cancer-girl” about everything.

    He knows I put high value on gathering people to celebrate or support, and he didn’t do anything before I left. I organized my own going away dinner. He yelled at me that I was being selfish, why wasn’t he enough, why did I need everyone, and if I keep acting like people will abandon me I will find myself correct. I was astonished. I tried to explain to him that this is too big for one person to reasonably support me through. I would need a team, and that didn’t indicate a lack of trust, but a knowledge of human limits.

    So, the Sunday before surgery, he was supposed to take me to church. He called at 7 am, saying he had driven five hours away to attend a function with his engaged mentee and was too exhausted for church. The day before the surgery, I texted him and received no response until I sent a panicked one, begging him to call when he got a chance. He was at our favorite bar with mentee because she was having fiancee troubles. The day of my surgery, he drove her to a party two hours away and didn’t visit me. The day after my surgery, he came to the hospital and was texting her the whole fifteen minutes he was there, until I asked what was wrong “boyfriend troubles” for her, and he was sooo tired. So, I thanked him for visiting and sent him home to rest. He left, and I received a text meant for her. “I’m on my way out. Where are you now?”

    They started their sexual affair that night, and she left her fiance for him. They are now in a “casual relationship” but he has been plain cruel to me since they got together.

    I asked him to visit me as he promised he would and he called me a drama queen. I am emphatically not a drama queen, but because I knew my hormones were all over the place, I took the conversation and went over it line-by-line with my therapist to make sure I wasn’t being medical menopause-induced crazy. Therapist said that my stuff made sense, but his responses did not. I asked the therapist multiple times, because if I am crazy I would not be able to tell and I would want to know so I could fix it. I asked him what was going on and he lied. I asked him why he was being so awful, and was told “You didn’t even have cancer anymore. They already cut it out. Why did I have to be there?”

    Every attempt I have made to explain or find out why he was being so shitty was met with verbal abuse, accusations of impossibility, and just generally unacceptable non-answers. “Life happens” “Maybe we never really had the friendship you thought we had (this never said in front of witnesses, because people still thought we were close)” “It is what it is” “I am terrified that by labeling our friendship we admit that it is broken.” (Dude, the fact that we are having this convo means it’s broken)

    All the while this was going on, and I was socially and professionally isolated, he was acting the big hero at work. Giving reports as to my progress, and being the great guy who really helps his friend. He was also telling his new lover and her friend (both also coworkers) that I am a narcissist who was trying to pressure him based on our long friendship. I will admit I was self-centered in the few months between diagnosis and surgery.

    So, new girlfriend is the jealous type and super insecure. She asks me to dish on him and I refuse. I offer her a girl’s night and my friendship, since she is new here, with the caveat being that I would not be the person she can complain about him to, because she kept trying to do that and wouldn’t take “this is inappropriate” for an answer. She told him I attacked her. He believed her, despite knowing me for four years and knowing that I never attack, and he started treating me even worse. On the few occasions he visited, she texted him the whole time and put really offensive stuff up on Facebook, but with just enough leeway that someone who wants to believe it was not a direct attack could believe it. He believes that I am reading into her “I know a bitch better not lay a hand on my territory” during a coffee visit, and “any bitch that comes after me is a downgrade” during a dinner visit and making them about me. I think it’s funny that she only finds these things amusing enough to post on the rare occasion that he visits me briefly, and usually after a fight.

    Friendship, or whatever it is, is obviously on the downward spiral. But, our friendship when it did exist was crazy-close. Obviously, it would need to separate quite a bit to allow him to fit a romance in. And, when I read posts like this I wonder if he isn’t on some level right, that I have to just let our friendship go and be satisfied with what he calls a friendship and I call acquaintanceship. His last best friend, also a woman, accepts that deal. Or maybe I should let it go entirely, because I really can’t forgive him. He asks what he can do, and always offers to buy me flowers. I can’t get him to understand that lying to get out of visiting me for a decent amount of time because he had important fucking to do that wouldn’t keep for half an hour, desertion during a crisis, and four months of emotional abuse cannot be covered by a handful of posies. But I also can’t actually tell him what he can do, because now I don’t trust the things he says or does anymore.

    • yoghurt says:

      discarded friend:

      You are SO MUCH BETTER OFF OUT OF IT!!! SO much better off. Get rid! Run away! Leave them to it!

      I think that this fella has got away with far too much already under the guise of ‘friendship’. He is not your friend, and whatever gratification he got out of being close to you, it wasn’t about friendship. It would take too long to mention all of the things that he’s done that Haven’t Been Friendly, but take a sec and think about whether you’d accept this behaviour from a female friend and her psycho boyfriend.

      In any case, I think that calling it a ‘friendship’ is muddying the issue – imo you’ve been Girlfriend Lite – lots of texts, company when he feels like it, admiration, ego-boosts, willing ear, no pressure or commitment.

      He sounds horrible. His girlfriend sounds horrible and insecure – a bad combination. Their relationship sounds downright creepy, given that she’s a trainee in an unfamiliar school and was engaged (advantage-taking, much?) And speaking as a teacher, I would be anxious about the potential impact that this situation could have on your professionalism if it continues.

      Ime, the best way out is to kindly and fairly explain that the ‘friendship’ (it’s not one, btw) isn’t doing either of you much good and, although you wish him well, you think it’s better to leave it now. And then be smiley and vague and disinterested when he tries to speak to you. The sooner he’s out of your life, the sooner that icky anxious gnawing-at-your-stomach feeling that I bet you are experiencing will also fade.

      • yoghurt says:

        PS. They sound very well-matched, I’m sure it will be a deelightful relationship…

        • runnergirl says:

          So sorry “DiscardedFriend”. I hope you are well and taking good care of yourself rather than expending any energy trying to please an unpleasable. You have your answer: “I can’t get him to understand that lying to get out of visiting me for a decent amount of time because he had important fucking to do that wouldn’t keep for half an hour, desertion during a crisis, and four months of emotional abuse cannot be covered by a handful of posies.” Perfect statement of how a pleaser tries to get an unpleasable to “understand” and how an unpleasable thinks a handful of posies ought to do the trick. I’ve always tried to get them to understand how deplorable, shady, and outright outrageous their behavior was. There just comes a time when you have to fold, stop talking, and walk or run. He doesn’t sound like a friend. As you say, you can’t trust him. Is that the basis for a friendship? I’d stop responding as Yoghurt suggests and quietly disengage. No need for a dramatic blow-up. Just move on and take care of you. Sounds like he’s pretty busy and only sends out the standard AC line when he needs a stroke. Good to hear that you are in remission. Focus on you and your good health. Let him be.
          PS. I’m a teacher too and I’ve been involved with a teacher colleague in the past who was an emotionally abusive narc. Now we pass in the hall without any recognition. I spent upwards of a year trying to please him and get him to understand that his behavior was abusive and deplorable. It didn’t work.

      • runnergirl says:

        Hey there Yoghurt. How are you and the little one? I loved your “Girlfriend Lite” comment. Out here we do everything Lite. Our beer is lite, our lattes are lite, even our burgers are lite. We are on a lite diet when it comes to everything, including lite relationships. Here’s how it goes: I’ll take a girl, call her a friend, let her know how she can please me, text her 100 times a day, make her think we are best friends forever but no whip…thats So Cal talk for no commitment.

        • Revolution says:

          Yep, that’s how we do in Cali, Runner. Well, not us, but fuckheads like that. I’d rather have a full-fat relationship with a decent man than a bunch of lite air. Shit gives you cancer anyways.

    • Wiser says:

      Having had some wonderful platonic male friends over the years (my best friend is a guy I’ve known for 35 years), I can tell you that this guy is NOT YOUR FRIEND! Not even in the ballpark. Not even on the same planet! I don’t even know where to begin to list all the reasons why you should run in the other direction. No friend, be it male or female, mostly platonic, semi-platonic, etc. treats someone that way.

    • dancingqueen says:

      discarded friend:

      Imho your “friendship” sounds more like one of you, or both, was being a bit co-dependent to fill the gap in not having a boyfriend/girlfriend. His new gal sounds crass, insecure and really immature; that said, he is with her, she might view you as the “harem”; who knows what he says about you, to her? He might be using you, to keep her on her toes and make her jealous.

      Regardless, and I say this gently, with the horrible illness, do you really have the time in your life, to “process” this very superficial dolt who is NOT a friend at all, but a total leech.

      I agree with the others; dump him in a manner that won’t affect how things are at work, and find something healthier to do with the time you spend analyzing their weirdness.

      Good luck!

    • noquay says:

      This sounding a lot like shades of my at work AC. Nope, do not trust him, nor tell him anything.

    • booshie101 says:

      This sounds so much like my situation. I worked with a guy I thought of as a friend for five years. We exchanged hundreds of texts, he opened up to me with his problems, and when he had a breakdown and was off work for six months he said that it was my support that got him through.

      Then my daughter became very ill and it was my turn to be off sick with stress. He told me he’d met someone else. I did all the right things, told him he was a great guy and I wished him well with it. But then he suddenly started telling me how we had something special and he loved me and only me.

      I was a bit stunned but very happy, especially as my life was so sad and I really needed support at that time. Then I heard that he was going out with this girl. He hadn’t bothered telling me. I was away from work for nearly three months and I never heard from him. Now I’m back at work and I have to see him all day every day. He said he still wants us to be friends.

      It hurts like hell to be around him. I’ve tried ignoring him, but then I feel unhappy and lonely. When I talk to him we share jokes the way we used to and I have a happier day. But then I go home, knowing that he’s going home to her and I hate myself. I really wish I could just never have to have any contact with him again, this is so hard to bear.

      • Allison says:


        Was he there for you when your daughter was ill? If not, this man is not your friend, and has shown you who he is.

        He does not sound stable in many areas, see this as a blessing that you are not involved with guy. This would be a boatload of drama and crazy making.

        This man does not sound like he is capable of being a friend or partner.

        • Allison says:

          Read your post.

          This guy is a user and not your friend! Friends are there for you!

          Please don’t settle, as he will continue to disappoint, and you will disappoint yourself, by allowing this ‘friend’ back into your life.

          • booshie101 says:

            Allison, I know you’re right. His relationship does seem to be going well, and I would have wished him well with it if he hadn’t said all the things he did. He’s acting like he never did anything wrong to me, and I have wondered if I’m just overreacting, but I know he treated me badly.

            I would love to walk away and never see him again. He did lose his hold on me when I was off work for so long. But when I see him my stomach does that annoying flip. We find the same things funny, we share the same views on politics and other things, and there is no-one else in my life who gets me like he does. When he points out something funny or makes a reference that I get, and I know that no-one else in the room (or in my life) would understand, then it feels so hard to give that up.

            When I first came back to work I tried to tell him how hard things were with my daughter. He made glib comments about how it wasn’t that bad. (It is). I mentioned to my daughter once that people say things like that. She said, ‘Tell them that things could be worse for them if they couldn’t walk or didn’t have their health or lived in the third world or a million other things. So tell them to go try it for a few months then see if they still want to mouth off and be a wanker.’

            I told him that as I said she expressed it better than I could – out of the mouths of babes! He went quiet, but after that his enquiries about her have been a lot more compassionate, which I welcome.

            I wish I could stop thinking about him, and I wish there were other people in my life who shared my sense of humour and my interests.

            I fantasise about the day his relationship falters and he contacts me for support. I know that would be a horrible thing for him to do, but I also know it would make me feel special and needed. I’m not proud of that.

            • Allison says:


              He wasn’t there for you! And to be making glib comments about your daughter’s health. Unacceptable! Girl, you do not recognize your value or what comes with a true friend. If you have few friends, why not get out and make some new ones- people who give a damn, and are not attached. You’re really showing this guy that you don’t respect yourself and will accept the unacceptable.

              He may have the same interests and humor, but if he doesn’t have your back, it means nothing.

              I would reevaluate why such a one-sided relationship is OK. I don’t understand why in the world you would to be there for him again? Please look into co-dependency.

              • booshie101 says:

                Allison, I know you’re right. It’s not easy for me to go out and make new friends. My daughter is in a wheelchair and needs round the clock care. Her sister provides this during the day and then I look after her at weekends.

                I was married to a violent and unbelievingly controlling man for many years and I don’t know if I will ever be able to relate normally to people again. I do have a couple of lovely friends who seem to value me very highly but I have trouble understanding why.

                Thank you for what you’ve said, it is helpful in putting things into perspective.

                • Allison says:


                  I’m so sorry that your daughter is in such a bad situation. I can’t even imagine how difficult this must be.

                  You are handling so much, please don’t settle for people who are not as bad as your ex, to simply have someone in your life- they can be just as draining and hurtful.

                  I wish you and your daughter the best.

    • DiscardedFriend says:

      Thank you all for your supportive responses. You’re right, the friendship was often more like a relationship in which we had simply forgotten to have sex, and I do fear there was co-dependency there. I know that my response of spending months trying to figure out why he keeps being so awful to me definitely qualifies as codependent behavior. Ugh.

      I wish I could say that I read your advice, took all your wisdom to heart, and got a different hobby to fill the time that used to be spent having fun with ex-friend before the surgery and then being miserable and wondering why he deserted me after the surgery. Unfortunately, I have not yet done so.

      We had two more of our discussions last week, because he has been asking how I am and attempting to be a friend, but I have noticed a pattern in that. When new girlfriend is unavailable or annoying for whatever reason he wants to be my friend again. Rather than accepting that there is a suspicious pattern, and having “plans,” I took the opportunity to discuss with him, because I do not learn. (Someday, I want to be able to say I have plans when all I mean is “Today I plan to treat myself with respect.”)

      So, last night, I was talking with my therapist about how done I am with all of this. Not actually done with it, though. I’m just sort of done with not being done with it, if that makes sense. There are a thousand other things that need my attention, but this one is somehow more tempting to deal with. Maybe because there’s a “bad guy” here, and that makes it easy. Maybe because I keep trying to be honest with him as if that honesty we once were known for were still a function of our friendship. Bah!

      Reading all of your responses has got me to the point where I am less likely to worry that I have become the Unpleasable (latest thing I do wrong) in my unwillingness to forgive and forget. I’m even less irritated with him. He’s already told me in a hundred ways that he doesn’t much care. It’s now my job to accept that someone I thought I was important to does not value me highly, and I am impatient to get to a point where I catch some dignity and self-respect. I mean, I clearly remember having dignity. I think I liked it.

      Booshie, I think we’re in the same place. There’s part of me that really wants everything to just go back to the way it was because I miss what our relationship felt like, and I’m afraid I won’t soon get another that makes me laugh as often or as hard. It hurts to know he’s just off having a wonderful life since he dropped out of mine. But I also know that you and I were both were good friends and deserved friendly loyalty and support in our time of need, but didn’t get it. Maybe because our fair-weather friends simply can’t handle the storms.

  12. lola says:

    “It’s being a kid and trying really hard with something and your parent criticising your efforts.”

    That’s my dad in a nutshell! “Dad! Dad! I got 96% on my maths test!”. “What happened to the other 4%?”.

    The unsupportive manager has cropped up a few times in my working life. My first long term relationship was with a guy who never praised or complimented, but was always quick to point out where I’d fallen short. And you’re right, Nat, I eventually realised how insecure he was. Not before I took a massive blow to the self esteem, though.

    There’s a pattern forming here, and I can see it happening in my current job, too. I rush about trying to please the managers, building relationships with clients so that my colleagues can get what they need, listening to people’s stories about how stressful their job is, working unpaid overtime. Everyone else got a pay rise and/or bonus last month, and yet I worked like a dog all year and got nothing (even after asking). Apparently, supporting the people who bring in the money, doing their day-to-day tasks so they can get ahead in their careers, that isn’t worth any extra money.

    Thanks Nat, this was the kick up the arse I needed. I’m going to stop trying to please The Unpleasables, and start doing something that pleases me instead :)

  13. Sandra says:

    “has not and will not stop him embarking on yet another quest for Ms PerfectionGonnaFixMyLifeUpRealNice though. And half destroying her in the process.”
    Broke up 3 months ago and he’s apparently already on to the next one, while I am still struggling with all the crap he put me through and won’t acknowledge,no matter what I did nothing was right, there was always some complaint.

    • Tabitha says:

      Yeah well lucky her then eh? Because you just know he will be pulling the same shit on her before long. She will be the one wondering what on earth she did wrong? What happened to the guy from the beginning? Why does she feel like she is auditioning for the role of girlfriend every time she sees him?
      You have made a lucky escape.

      • Sandra says:

        Yep well said Tabitha, exactly how I always felt, that I was auditioning each time, always felt if I did that better or did this better it would make a difference but I knew deep down it wasn’t, and although each day is still a struggle I just think of all the positives of not having to run around after him anymore.

    • Wilted_petal says:

      Oh Sandra,

      I SO hear what you are saying. My ex was EXACTLY the same and reading this article and all the comments has only just made me start to realise that the problem was HIS and not mine.
      For eg: The first christmas we spent together (we had been together about 3 months at that stage), I noticed that he didn’t wear a watch day to day, but wore one to training. So when I was out shopping one day I spent over $300 on a beautiful new watch that would have looked amazing on him.
      Cut to christmas morning when I gave him the present and his response BEFORE he had even unwrapped it : “Oh no, please don’t tell me it’s a watch. There is a reason why I don’t wear a watch you know”. Then he opens the present (which up until that point I was excited to give to him) and says … (in a really disappointed tone) “O, it IS a watch. Well… what is going to happen now. I won’t wear it. Maybe your Dad or brother will want it.”
      I was crushed, CRUSHED. I’d spent a lot of money on this and he just threw it back in my place.
      This is just one example – there are millions of others. I ignored this red flag at the time and have only just realised now that it was the start of a 3 year journey trying desperately to please someone who just could never be pleased.

      In short – I’m exhausted!

  14. Deno says:

    Perfect timing again! So glad I subscribed to your blogs. Today I learned that the unpleasables are “Distractors”. They want to take you off your game, so that they can get to the hoop first. Just like a netball player, we have to strategize, focus, ignore the opposition, and get to the net first! The unpleasables have their game face on, so we should too. I am learning that nice is for nice, not for persons with low self-esteem and no manners!

  15. […] The first Unpleasable in your life tends to be that exacting and critical parent or caregiver and if your perspective on their behaviour and how you respond to it hasn’t changed in adulthood, you’re likely to have felt tormented by a similar boss, ‘friend’ or romantic partner. [link] […]

  16. runnergirl says:

    Great companion piece to the former “Chopper” post. I did the pleaser dance with the ex abusive chopper bf and it was precisely as you describe. Do pleasers and choppers have a way of finding each other like Mr. U’s and FBG’s?

    I am so grateful for all you do Natalie. Since discovering BR and the wonderful community of brilliant folks, I have been on a strict no BS diet. If I ever jump through a hoop to please some d**khead dude, I hope the hoop catches fire and burns my bum.

    PS. Poppy, I hope you are out there, safe, and warm? I thought of you when I read this post. Be safe. Sending hugs to you.

    • EllyB says:

      I think of choppers, narcissists, cheaters, ACs and other kinds of creeps as the real life equivalent to email spammers. It’s those offers you are getting anywhere, anytime: Investment opportunities, business opportunities, w@tches, movies, prescription meds, real estate…

      Anyway, it is all shady without
      exception. Finding the decent stuff takes a lot more research: Looking for internet shops with a good track record, asking for recommendations or – often the best option – talking to the seller and inspecting the product before buying.

      In business, at least there are laws that protect us from receiving the worst types of offers. There is no equivalent to “consumer protection” for dating though. This is why we need to be even MORE careful there.

      This is why I don’t believe in some kind of magic that makes choppers and pleasers find each other. I think choppers target anyone, but it’s only the pleasers that end up accepting the offer.

      • AngelFace says:

        I’m so laughing! These horrible people as ’email spammers’. So funny and true. I’m going to keep this one in mind! Cheers

      • runnergirl says:

        Absolutely EllyB. I agree and forget that choppers, AC’s, cheating MM’s are just out there. I’m adjusting to the fact that I don’t attract them. Perfect analogy regarding email spam. I don’t attract email spam either. They are all just out there spamming looking for a taker/pleaser. Great response. I don’t respond to email and snail mail spam and guess what, I’ve never had a problem. Since discovering BR, I’ve stopped responding to AC/MM spam and guess what, no problems! Imagine suing an AC for being a d**k. There ought to be a law.

        Ah but there is “consumer protection” for dating. It’s called Natalie, Baggage Reclaim, boundaries, and self-esteem. I’d still like to sue them though. If only there was a statute and cause of action. Dang.

        Thanks EllyB.

        • NCC says:

          Elly and Runnergirl;
          Awesome responses.
          Another protection? BLOCKING! I blocked the AC and the returning hs sweetheart EUM so they couldn’t trick me into thinking what they had to offer was real, legit, non-shady. JUST as I block spam email so con artists can’t trick me into thinking what they have to offer is anything but complete garbage that will destroy my security, finances, belief in myself, pride, etc!! Then…after taking the first step to block, I started to educate myself so that it wasn’t just a matter of blocking AC’s/email spammers out, I know I will no longer be tricked by them even if they were to somehow get through to me! I’ll say it too Elly, perfect analogy.

          • runnergirl says:

            He, he, he, I got the perfect opportunity to apply the email spammer analogy. Got the “Happy Birthday” dumb assed crumb text from the exMM. C’mon, it’s been 2 and half years! I guess I’m making progress though, I laughed instead of getting my panties in a wad. Thanks Nat and BR ladies.

  17. Bermiegirl says:

    Thank you so much! You have no idea how much this piece validated me. I could swear that we had the exact same mother. Word for word what I had openly drummed into me as a child and passive aggressively so as an adult even. The basic message of ‘you’re not good enough’ and even ‘you’re never going to be good enough’.
    I carried that all through my life and manifested it in all of my romantic relationships, my work relationships and, the saddest admission of all, my relationship with my self. It has taken me so long to understand, to get to grips with the fact that I do not need to hold onto nor perpetuate that particular ‘not good enough’ legacy.
    Thank you so much again. I really mean it. My God, it is so liberating to realise that we can choose to be with people who love us, appreciate us and would do anything for us and that we no longer have to tolerate those who would have us be their abused servants.
    Thank God for the insight you share and for the love of wonderful friends who are there to help heal the damage done by a royally messed up childhood. The part I particularly enjoyed was your insight that they would hardly be up for parent of the year award. God I wish someone had told me that as a child. It would have changed my whole world so much sooner!

  18. 2fearce says:

    I’ve noticed with a particular acquaintance that I am the person they turn to when they need to calm them down, or feel btr about themselves. I don’t have a problem with that per se but when it comes to me needing support or assurance they’re quick to say things like “I think u were fishing a compliment so that’s why I didn’t tell u that u looked nice” or “we already talked about this. I’m not gng to discuss it again” but yet they bring up their stuff repeatedly n its okay.

    Ive bn trying to figure out why I even entertain them at all…but when I don’t talk to them it feels lk Smthns off. Any advice??

    • Allison says:


      It sounds very one-sided.

      I would ditch the friendship! Also, isn’t it just an acquaintance?

    • noquay says:

      It is probably because we are caring, giving folks that others seek us out for solace when times are hard. However, that does not mean that they will be there for us; Many folks are incapable of being there for others.

    • Suki says:

      Dont expect things from such people. I have a friend like this – a long time ago, when I first met her, a small incident happened that made me feel like she just didnt want to extend herself even a little bit for me, that she wasnt dependable. We are at work together and we are social – and we have some fun times too – but I have never expected anything from her. She has not been entirely honest with me at work, doing some sneaky insecure type things. She calls on me for emotional support. I have known her for a long time, I am fond of her just through this long association so if she calls me I always respond – however, I do not depend on her, and I expect nothing in return. When I need someone, I call on my real friends, the ones that have proved they are real friends. This person you are writing about is just mean, cut them out, dont overthink it. Have boundaries, cut out meanies from your social life.

      • EllyB says:

        I’m not sure whether “insecurity” is a good explanation for crappy behavior (ever). Oddly enough, it’s those purportedly “insecure” people that render US insecure in the long run… if we keep putting up with them, we morph into scared, anxious doormats and people pleasers. How come THEY always win if it is them who have issues (unless we stop exposing ourselves to their BS)?

        Yes, I’ve often felt insecure myself. But this didn’t make me put down others, manipulate them, take advantage of them or the like. Quite the opposite.

        • EllyB says:

          There was a time when I got beaten up by a group of school bullies daily… and adults kept telling me: “Don’t be angry, they are just insecure”. As if those poor little thingies who attacked me in groups deserved all the pity and not I…

          And it was ME who ended up being horribly insecure. I was scared of going to school, scared of other people in general, scared of asserting myself… and I still am (also due to being abused by my parents at home of course). Still dealing with PTSD several decades later, and that’s the norm, not an exception for abused children.

          That is the true meaning of “insecurity”. Feeling the urge to torture others is not insecurity.

  19. Acceptance says:

    Wow, this! I didn’t even KNOW that there WAS such a thing as the perpetually unsatisfied.

    I had no idea what a toll my UnPleasable took on me until a month after the breakup when people, even distant ones, started to ask me what I had done because I was “positively GLOWING” and looked “TEN years younger”.

    What I had done was lose the albatross – the unemployed, unempathetic, constantly critical AC who took-took-took and actually DEMANDED applause for every crumb. He hated my friends, my clothes, my family, my housekeeping, my weight (and I was thin!) (ah, but not VS thin).

    My unemployed moocher even had the nerve to call me a slacker when I was working full time/getting a university degree part time/working out… and instead of throwing lit matches at him I TRIED HARDER.

    … And hilariously, HE LEFT ME.

    After the breakup (which he initiated, I think it may have never actually occured to me to leave him since I was now too insecure + too busy jumping through pleaser-hoops at my own personal fancy dog show) my beloved energy vampire became a depressed, lethargic mess. Every time I broke NC I would watch him come to life while my energy faded.

    Thank you Nathalie for taking the time to remind us over and over that we KNOW what a good relationship looks and tastes like… and we can’t have that if we keep picking lemons. NO MORE LEMONS.

    • Revolution says:

      Oh man, Acceptance. I just laughed my ass off at your comment. So, so true.

      Love “the albatross” metaphor. I too had a big, dead, rotting fish tied to my fishing boat. Thanks be to GOD I cut that sucker loose to fall to the bottom of the ocean for the bottomfeeders to feed off of.

      I can also relate to people noticing my “glowing” after ridding myself of the clown. Friends of friends were actually asking what beauty products I was using, thinking that this was “Oil of Olay” induced. I had to tell them that I had been on an assclown cleanse, which is why my pores were so tight and my butt was so firm. 😉

      Good on us both for wising up and looking hotter for it. Onwards and upwards.

    • Soozie says:

      Acceptance – you just described my life.

      Isn’t it incredible how similar these men are and how they treat us. I spent 27 years trying to make a miserable man happy. I had a good job and was working on my masters degree. He was exactly as you described, unemployed, hypercritical, and constantly demanding my applause and attention.

      When he left me I THOUGHT I was devastated but I was wrong, instead I was liberated. After he left, my friends kept telling me how relaxed I looked and for the first time in many many years my blood pressure normalized. I didn’t realize how he was affecting my health. As one of my dear friends said, he didn’t dump me, he set me free!!! Now I am learning my BR lessons, finding serenity and living my life the way it should be lived. Thanks Nat.

  20. Miss Jess says:

    Another great article. I relate to the Unpleasables idea in more ways than one. I grew up with a mother who had very high expectations, which were always hard to live up to. My good marks were always average in her eyes, or my participation in virtually every after-school sport/activity was not enough. It was always more, more, more! Don’t get me wrong, I love this woman dearly, but it’s definitely followed me into my adult relationships. I see a lot of these ‘Unpleaseable’ tendencies in myself now too, which break my heart. Especially this bit…
    “The person who cannot be pleased is the same person who has little gratitude for what they do have because they always focus on what they don’t have and what they don’t have is distorted anyway because they never acknowledged and appreciated what they do have and the efforts of others in the first place.” I think that the Unpleasable likely come from Unpleasables or used to try and please everyone. This is where I find myself currently. I have for many years been in unhealthy relationships with romantic partners and friends alike where nothing was ever good enough for them. I have decided over the last couple years that I deserve BETTER, but I fear I might now be finding myself being sceptical of peoples intentions and therefore always reading everything under a negative light. Thus, Unpleasable tendancies emerge.
    Could we talk about that?

  21. 2fearce says:

    I’ve only known her for a cpl months now…
    But when I cut off contact for a while thinkn that was best… I felt “unbalanced” (like smthn was missing) without her in my life.

    It’s clear to me she has low self esteem, but she thinks she’s got high self esteem. Now I’m wondering if I’m tryn to be her “nightingale” …

  22. Wendy says:

    Again, another amazing post that makes me feel like I’m not going crazy! It’s been day #9 of NC and today has been really tough…

  23. Confused123 says:

    “The first Unpleasable in your life tends to be that exacting and critical parent or caregiver…”

    This is so true and my people pleasing started with my mother. Even to this day she is so very critical of majority of my decision and the way I live my life… As an adult my reaction (post BR) is so be it. That’s your perspective, not mine. Mostly I just shrug and walk away…

    As a child my mother did everything in the first three bullet point Nat outlines. The grades very never good enough, I was always too fat (even now I’m not comfortable with my body. Anorexia and Bulimia were my friend during the teen years). Constant comparison to my cousins & my prefect younger sister who could do no wrong. I remember picking some wild daffodils for her one day on my walk back from school and as I was about to give it to her on our door step she yelled at me for being late, grabbed the flowers and tossed them in the bin. I must have been about 8-9 years old. I have never given her flowers since. Mother’s day does not mean much to me. I acknowledge it but internally it’s just not there.
    It made me laugh when she received flowers on V-day from my brother-in-law (she’s a widow) and she could not stop talking about how it was the first time in her life that she had ever received flowers… EHH…NOT.
    All this lead to last two bullets…Boss pleasing and AC’s.

    Coupled the above with spanking and verbal abuse, is it any wonder that I’m screwed up with the world of men.

    The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to watch out for these types of folks in my son’s life. I’d rather chop of my arm than let him go through 0.00001% of what I went through in my childhood. It’s all about self-esteem and strength when it comes to him.

  24. Miss L says:

    This immediately made me think of Christmas every year with my family. I have family members for whom I buy gifts every year — or actually we do “gift exchange” It is a total beat down to go out and find 11 gifts for family members, and I find myself trying harder and harder to find gifts that will make everyone happy. Inevitably someone has a comment. Like last year I did artisan foods from local places and one of my cousins was like “what is this for?” “what do you do with this?” Every year it’s the same thing. What I would like to do is stop this charade of gifts every year — it is a pain in the neck for everyone. It costs me hundreds of dollars to travel thousands of miles to see them as it is. I would like to draw a boundary and tell everyone “please don’t buy me anything, I am not shopping this year’ in a very nice way. Any suggestions as to how to do this and STOP my people pleasing behavior? Thanks!!!

    • AngelFace says:

      Miss L,
      You really do not have to buy gifts for anyone at Christmas, especially when repeatedly going through gift exchanges like you describe.

      You can actually spend Christmas Vacation on a beach somewhere, and you can travel alone! (it is lovely.) You can write your family and tell them that this year you will donate to a charity the YOU pick out- in lieu of giving gifts, and you can tuck away some of that $$ into your own savings account.

      You can send your Christmas cards to a select group of family and friends that you choose!

      Best wishes. PS: Happy Spring& Summer.

    • Little Star says:

      Miss L, can you find an excuse not to meet them next Christmas, so you will not spend any money? OR you can explain to them that it is too expensive and you cannot afford it anymore! They are your relatives and they will understand you!
      I used to buy so many presents to my relatives (Aunties, Cousins, nieces etc), but they never really bothered to buy me anything, maybe something cheap and useless and they never felt embarrassed! I still buy presents for them (when I visit my country), but try to spend not more than 3 pounds for each person:) AND funny enough they used to it now and very actually grateful…But my MUM and sister and her kids are exception, I am very generous to them!

    • Tabitha says:

      Last year I decided enough was enough at Christmas. This coincided with the start of my BR education of course. I told a huge whopping lie and said I could not spend the holidays with my totally dysfunctional family, and in particular my raging narc mother. I said I had agreed to spend the day with a friend who had “nobody else” Heh Heh Heh! I had a brilliant day curled up on the sofa eating crap and watching what I wanted on TV ( It was kids dads turn to have them that Xmas day) As for the presents. How about lottery tickets? Time to start putting yourself first.

      • NCC says:

        This past Christmas, at both of my family get togethers, interestingly enough the older “matriarchs” of the families behaved so terribly and embarrassingly, I told my immediate family that I may choose not to participate any more. All in front of guests of people. I told myself first, well, I’m used to this so I need to say something to protect the new people. Then I thought NO! I”M sick of this and I need to protect myself! I had a therapist once tell me that when he had his own family, he stopped going to these functions because he did not want to expose his children to the behavior he had to grow up with. I feel the same way should I ever had kids. It’s almost ALWAYS alcohol induced, that and the fact that the generations of victims and unpleaseables reign supreme. I was just so fed up. No family is perfect and we all have these skeletons, and some level of dysfunction I guess, but I’m so tired of it. I end up feeling drained and depressed, what is the good in that?

        • NCC says:

          Meant to add, it was sad yet eye opening to see the trickle down effect….grandmother to father to…Me? I want to be the one to end this pattern of behavior.

          • EllyB says:

            Yeah, becoming a “pattern breaker” is definitely worth striving for! Much more worthy than being a “victim”, a “target”, a “people pleaser”, a “doormat” or even a “survivor”. Breaking the pattern is what really matters!

  25. dancingqueen says:

    Wow we all have the same “unpleaseable” parents, what a surprise that we end up here after twisting in pretzel for critical men lol.

    I think the worst for me is the residue that never getting praise left in my life; an inability to feel like what I do is ever enough and an additional desire to sabotage myself when I am people-pleasing to the point that sometimes I offer something for the wrong reasons and then resent offering. That lingering guilt.

    I know it is the end of the school year but I also sometimes see that perfectionist in myself with my students; I try to create challenging, but interesting activities and they are, but inevitably there is always one kid who is like “this sucks!”. The other day we went outside and wrote haikus in chalk in front of the building to add some art to our school and I was so happy about the impromptu idea and one of my kids was like “This is so dumb” and I was really irritated at her for saying it…seriously she is 11. Like why does that bother me lol? Like I need the approval of every 11 year old no matter how unreasonable? It is sad my need to people please.

    • A little bit stuck says:

      Dancing Queen – I can absolutely relate to your words. I too have become a perfectionist of sorts – though nothing I do every seems up to scratch and I always feel like I’ve fallen short of my goals. Thats probably why you were a little hurt by what that child said. You weren’t really confident of your (great) idea to get the kids outside and do something creative. Deep down, perhaps you are never confident of your own ideas? Therefore, it just takes that one little critisim, that one doubting comment and you feel like you’ve failed – just as you expected to?

      Perhaps Im just talking about myself here but when you’re so used to everything you do being ‘less than’, you start to just assume you ARE ‘less than’! Im never really confident that anything I do is good enough, it never was throughout childhood, even when I was sure I’d done a good job. So, it really takes very little to knock me off my perch as it were. Deep down, Im always expecting to be knocked down anyway.

      I guess, as usual, its all about building your self-esteem. The rest will come.


      • dancingqueen says:

        thanks for the comment Alittlebitstuck; I think that you are right; it just takes one comment to make me think something sucks. Yet at the same time, when I get praise from someone I admire, I suddenly feel confident. But then how shallow is that?

        I think that we both need to remind ourselves that people are not perfect, and that even if we do things imperfectly, that we have good intentions. Furthermore, that perfectionism is usually a hard work ethic…

        On that note, I just got a card from my adviser from my thesis who I really respect.My graduation for my Masters is tomorrow! I had written him a thank you note for his help and sent him some yummy baked goods because he was just so incredibly patient with my frustrations and writer’s block; he hung in there for 2 years while I struggled with that damn paper! He wrote me this lovely one back, saying that he admired how hard I worked and how I had actually taught him something about my research topic that he would have never thought of on his own. But what he said stuck with me “You need to realize that it is admirable to work hard at something that frustrates you: The most important things in life are never easy, right? I admire your commitment to seeing something through. You would be surprised that, even in graduate school, some people can’t do that.”

        That paper took FOREVER and it involved so much self-doubt, constant editing, so much re-creating questions and re-adjusting. But he is right: I stuck with it and others who hit the roadblocks that I did would have probably given up or taken a much lower grade for less work.But I was aiming for that deeper work.

        So let us perfectionists re-think ourselves: We are hard workers and if we make a mistake, who cares, what matters is the work ethic:)

        That said…now I fully understand the (abd)all- but- dissertation concept. I can’t imagine doing a PhD at this point!

        • a little bit stuvk says:

          dancing queen – I just saw this comment. Well done you! It’s always nice to receive recognition for hard work and it sounds like you really did put your all into that. Make sure YOU recognise how hard you worked at that paper as well :)

          I have a similar tendency to never give up on something, however many obstacles and frustrations stand in my way. Unfortunately, when it comes to men, I need to learn that some guys aren’t worth hanging on to. I can make an imperfect relationship perfect, especially if Im doing all the work / compromise.

          If you did the dissertation, you can do the PHd – remember what we were saying earlier about not ever quite believing in ourselves? If you want to do it, go for it hunny! x

          PS. How thoughtful of your dissertation adviser to write such a kind note – there are some good guys out there :)

  26. A little bit stuck says:

    Fascinating to see the seemingly smooth transition from critical parent to chopper ‘boyfriend’! My mum was exactly as NML descibes – ‘You got an A? Who else got an A? Didn;tX, Y, Z get one?’ or ‘your friends all have boyfriends, what shame you dont’ – thanks mum! She even used to ask me to do chores as a child and then re-do them, IN FRONT of me as my efforts were never good enough! I just thought it was normal but it’s actually been very damaging.

    Funny that my most recent ex was extremely critical and rather than run a mile, I stayed – bending backwards trying to shape my character to fit his idea of a perfect woman. He was lovely for the first 5 months, everything I did was right, I was ‘amazing’. Early on he spoke about a ‘checklist’ he has and how I ‘ticked every box’. that check list cropped up in the final few months of our ‘relationship’ and it seems I couldnt even meet his ‘basic’ standards. Suddenly, everything I did was wrong. The faces I pulled, the way I spoke… He said I didn’t make enough effort at the start of the relationship and didn’t suggest venues for dates, I explained I had had some bad experiences with guys in the past and wasn’t very confident at the start. I took what he said onboard and started suggesting lots of things for us to do. Guess what? That wasn’t good enough either. Apparently, it was ‘too late’ to suggest things now and he ‘didn’t accepet’ my excuse for being cautious in the beggining. This happened with so many things. He’d critisise me, I’d change and he’d still reject/dismiss me!

    I realise now that he was a desperately unhappy man. He was negative, hurting and insecure. He wanted me to feel as bad as he does, so he ‘chopped’ me down until I felt just as confused and hurt and insecure as he does. He still didn’t feel any better though – funny that!

    I can see the correlation now. I’m just so used to being told that Im not good enough, being compared to others and always coming up short. I was comfortable trying to extract love from this guy just as I have done all my life with my mother. Very interesting.

    So many of you seem so positive in the posts above. I still feel like I have such a long way to go. I cried about this guy for the first time in a few weeks last night. Im so angry with myself for still feeling something for him after all that he did. I still feel some emmotional connection to him for some reason.

    Anyway, great to see all of you progressing so well and it certainly gives me hope that I’ll come out the other side soon enough! x

    • dancingqueen says:

      oops I just saw this ALBS
      “I cried about this guy for the first time in a few weeks last night. Im so angry with myself for still feeling something for him after all that he did. I still feel some emmotional connection to him for some reason”

      Don’t worry; that is normal. It is a sign that you are healing. We have all done that here; cried over the worthless jerk that did not merit tears; just because someone is not worth tears does not mean they just exit our lives without hurting us. Remember; thousands of love songs have been written about this problem:)

      You are not alone. Eventually you will be able to laugh at what a turd he is. The ex who brought me here is just a source of amusement and wisdom for me now. It will be for you as well.

      • Tabitha says:

        Yeah, the love God that brought me here is looking more and more like Alan Harper.

      • A little bit stuck says:

        Thanks Dancing Queen. Thats funny that you mention the love songs, I always think that to myself as well. Its a unuversal problem – heartbreak :)

  27. Marie83 says:

    Hi alittlebitstuck, I think your ex sounds like mine ha! It is very difficult to get past the ’emotional connection’ for a long time I thought I still loved him but I only loved the idealised notion I had in my head – I engage now very rarely but when I do it is the insecure part of me – the part that has always felt unworthy of being made more than an option who was always looking over my shoulder for the better woman to come along and insnare him. By engaging I am still giving him power, by wanting him to tell me that I didn;t deserve to be treated the way he treated me but that is never going to happen – he is an insecure limited man and I expect way too much in the way of emotional insight

    • NCC says:

      Stuck and Marie,
      I am right there with you. Stuck, what you say about your mom re-doing your chores…this kind of thing happened to me with my mother too, and still does, and I’m finally recognizing that. I have been asserting boundaries with her that that makes me uncomfortable, I am an adult and am capable of accomplishing a task and will do it as I see fit. She pushes back still, does a lot of martyrdom behavior, but she does try as well to give me respect. I also pretty much think you wrote about me in your experience with the AC and your feelings of never being worthy. Marie you also describe me to a T with “always looking over your shoulder…” I have started this awful habit since the cheating, overly critical AC…I look at attractive women and think, “he would have slept with her, or wanted to, and thought she was prettier than me.” Make me nauseous. I know that kind of thought(s) has been with me since I was a kid though, in some context or another. I very much still have that emotional connection to an AC who was a total nightmare. I ask myself why and if I will ever be where a lot of the posters out here are now. I too hope so for myself. If it helps at all, just this morning I started to think the icky thoughts, thoughts of him and things he said about me and said behind my back, then the “good” times…I literally had to mentally tell myself to STOP, DISENGAGE, THINK OF SOMETING THAT MAKES YOU SMILE. I felt the mental difficulty through it all, but then I also feel good that I know I am honestly TRYING to get through this, and come out on the other side.
      You are lovely women, I can tell. Take care and wish you all the best.

      • A little bit stuck says:

        NCC, thank you for your message. It’s hard growing up with parents like that. I know it’s done lasting damage. Sounds like your mum is at least trying to respect you as an adult now.

        I have never been drawn to critical men before and my ex AC was absolutely lovely in the beggining…for a long time actually. Unfortunately, by the time his true colours and his dysfunctional behaviour came out, I deemed it ‘too late’ as i was so love with him. I thought it must have been something i did. I still do to some extent. He was so lovely, then suddenly, everything I did was wrong. maybe I was too needy or maybe I was too sensitive, I dont know. I’m sure the effects of my upbringing will have had some negative effects on my current behaviour, especially in relationships.

    • NCC says:

      Hi Marie83,

      Wanted to comment to hope to relate and possibly put your mind at ease if I can, regarding having him tell you you didn’t deserve to be treated the way he treated you. The AC told me things like that all the time. How I was such a nice “girl” and how he knew he f’ed up and what a great girlfriend I had been and how I would have made such a great step-mother to his kids. In complete honesty with you Marie, it didn’t help me feel better. It MIGHT have for a SPLIT SECOND, but that split second was in lala fantasy land, just as you say in your comment, it was that idealized notion I had of him that eased the pain for a sec. He didn’t do ONE DAMN THING DIFFERENT than his AC behavior even after saying those things. They were such f-ing empty words. He was trying to let himself off the hook mentally. He putting on an act of how he thinks decent people act to be able to tell himself, “hey, I told her she was great. Ya I was a dick to her but at least I admitted it.” But he keeps ACTING like a dick. THAT will not change, no matter what sludge disguised as kindness comes out of his mouth. I hope you know that regardless of if he said or ever says to you he knows you deserved better, for me anyway, that helped NONE whatsoever because he couldn’t UNDO the damage the had caused with his ACTIONS. Please go easy on yourself, you don’t need him to tell you anything about what you deserve. You know you deserve better and all of us here know that too, and good people don’t have to tell you come back to you and say, “you deserved better than what I did to you” because good people won’t have treated you so poorly in the first place. Best wishes in letting go of what are trust me empty meaningless words from a nobody.

  28. P says:

    Thank you Natalie for another great post, to say the least.
    For the first time since my break up of a 4 year relationship I’m more interested on “getting to know myself better” than to him or continue to put pieces together to analyze the crap of what happened of “could have”.Thank you so much again :)

  29. 2fearce says:


    Hold firm. There’ll come a time when your life isn’t split by before n after them…
    I promise.

  30. A little bit stuck says:

    Hi Marie83, thanks for your response. Although its obviously horrible that you too have experienced this type of behaviour, its comforting to know that it’s not just me and other people have been through similar situations and overcome them.

    I’ve been strong with NC lately but the past few weeks, I’ve felt so sad and lonely, I’ve thought about him increasingly. Today I saw him for the first time in weeks (we work in the same building) and I was rude and walked straight past him. After ignoring so many texts and calls, I have just text and apologised to him for being rude. Imagine! Im apologising to him, after all he put me through. He hasn’t responded, which is for the best, though a little heartrenching,(he’s obviously over it now). Im very dissappointed in myself!

    Marie, I will hold on to what you said though as that was the insecure part of me that lead me to text him. I too have always felt ‘unworthy of being anything more than an option’. What a frightening realisation. I guess we’ll just have to work on that.

    Can I ask what you have been doing to move forward from your ex? I’m struggling recently and it all boils down to me focussing on the fact that I wasn’t enough, I couldn’t please him at all, however hard I tried!

    Now I’ve gone and text him and given him all the power back. Now, I bet THAT will please him :( x

  31. Marie83 says:

    Hi A little bit stuck,
    I have been trying to just remove myself from his life – it has been very difficult and like you I still break NC sometimes. I feel that when I contact him I am just putting my hand in the fire to check it still hurts – it always does – I always have a little voice in my head afterwards saying ‘are you done yet?! The steps I have taken well I have deactivated my facebook account and as I still live very close to him at the moment I am looking to move to a different area of the city and I have a few viewings coming up – I actively avoid places where I know he will be and although it still hurts it makes things easier. My ex is with someone else and they are having a baby (although he refuses to admit any of this to me) so I know that staying close by and engaging is completely masochistic. It is difficult for you as you work at the same place, would a change of job be an option?

    • Allison says:


      Does the GF know that you’re calling him?

      I would ask how you would feel if the ex were periodically calling, and you were pregnant with your boyfriend’s baby. This is not cool, on many levels!

      Time to move on and understand what brought you to this point! It over, delete the contact info!

  32. Ap says:

    Wonderful post and very timely. I heard your webcast yesterday, Natalie, and loved it! I hope we get to see more you in the U.S. Any plans in the future?

  33. A little bit stuck says:

    Marie83 – it sounds like you are making some great efforts to move forward. I’m so sorry to hear that this guy is with someone else and having a baby with her. That must hurt but it sounds like you have accepted he was not the guy for you? I hope so, because he really wasn’t! I think its a fabulous idea for you to move a little further out in order to remove yourself from that. Distance (physical and emotional) is key in these situations. Well done for facing it head on and taking steps to improve things for you!

    You’re so right, we are just putting our hand in the fire. I realised weeks ago that no good comes from maintaining contact with him. I have no idea why I broke it. I’m just going to keep getting burned. I actually HATE myself for texting him today. He did reply to my breezy appology text saying ‘I used to think you were a lovely, amazing girl, now I hate you so much!!!’ he said he’s angry because I ignored him and should have replied to all those messages out of courtesy! I had explained three or four times in the first few weeks of our break-up that I needed space and that we shouldn;t speak. He continued to call and text (only occasionally), so I didn;t reply. Now I feel sick to my stomahc that he hates me. I know I shouldn’t care but I do! I wont go into the whole story but this guy emmotionally abused me for months. It was like a rollercoaster between ‘I love yous’ and ‘I hate yous’. My self esteem plummeted and when he finally dumped me (by not answering the phone for a week after 9months together) I was devestaed. I should really dislike this guy but the words he just wrote to me really hurt. I replied explaining AGAIN why I couldn;t speak to him and why I ignored his messages and implored him not to hate me as I didn;t hate him. he hasn;t replied. I just feel very anxious now and like I want to call him for some kind of vallidation! What a mess!

    Wendy – if you are reading this. Please keep up with your NC, this is what can happen when you break it. I felt a hell of a lot better when I was NC than I do now. Even though I admit it was very hard at points.

    marie83 – I dont want to move jobs, especially b/c of HIM – I feel like, why should i, just because of this asshole! The building is huge and I rarely see him. Before this episode today, I didn’t mind seeing him, I felt strong and calm. Now I feel powerless and hated. What a mess.


    • Allison says:

      A Little,

      This is all you have to remember: “My self esteem plummeted and when he finally dumped me (by not answering the phone for a week after 9months together) I was devastated.” This is cowardly and cruel!

      Why are you apologizing and in contact with this guy, you need to cut contact immediately!

      He emotionally abused and disrespected you, but you are concerned that he hates you? This guy is heartless and deflecting blame on you.

      Time to delete the contact info!

      • Allison says:

        A Little,

        Please remember these things:

        Emotional abuse

        He dumped you with no explanation

        He repeatedly contacted you after you asked him not to- disrespect and not giving a damn about your feelings

        Hon, why do you care what he thinks about you? He treated you poorly, and had no concern for you when he was screwing you about. Time to show yourself some love, and move forward from this guy!

  34. Jasmine says:

    Spot on Nat! I haven’t posted in a while but continue to read everything you post. You may remember me, but I came here a few years ago after a painful break-up. Basically I was dumped out of the blue after (although now I see the red flags were there) after a two year relationsship one night, even as we had been talking about me moving in the day before (his idea not mine). He let me know I had let him down, that I hadnt measured up because I hadn’t gone to X parties with him, I don’t cycle, didn’t enough friends to introduce him to, too low energy…blah blah blah. Knowing I couldn’t tolerate being so unappreciated anymore (I had exhausted myself trying to keep him happy!), I packed all my things, kissed him good-bye and went NC. I got therapy, came here and cried, leaned on my friends, but never maligned him or spoke badly about him to our mutual friends. Eventually, I went on a 6 months backpacking trip and came back to find out he was engaged less than a year after we had broken up. I came here, freaked out, you talked some sense into me again, and I was fine. Fast forward another two years and I am happy with a wonderful man who is the epitome of intergity and appreciates me. I respect him so much. Anyhow, because the ex and I work in the same industry I have occasionally wondered if I would be ok if I ran into him again. Could I be kind? Civil? Would I run the other way?
    Last weekend I an into him at a networking event. I was uneasy, but figured I could be civil, nod my head or something (he was right by the exit and I was leaving, so I should acknowledge him somehow- I thought). But the look on his face stopped me from doing so. He looked completely alarmed and sort of disgusted to see me. So I just kept going without saying anything.
    Afterwards I thought, wow, after everything this person put me through (yes because I let him) even giving him the most drama free break-up ever, I have somehow become the wicked ex in his mind- and I never did anything to warrant that. One of my gf’s said he probably had to do that so he could overlook how horribly he had hurt me. That I had always treated him well and with respect while we were together and even during the break up- but somehow he still had to make me the bad guy. Either way it’s not my problem. He’s still an unpleasable- and I guess marriage hasn’t changed that.
    ah well
    Thank you for keeping it real!

    • Ms Determined says:


      My AC, narcissist general all-around- fuckwit father screwed around behind my mother’s back for TEN YEARS with his married and younger secretary. Everyone in his field knew, including the other 6 men he shared a practice with. Their secretaries knew. Their wives, friends of my mother knew. When my mother inevitably found out, she was understandably totally humiliated. She told him she wanted a divorce, and she wasn’t going to be moved on the subject (I think this was her epiphany moment, because he pulled a whole lot emotional abuse on her up until this point. My father was such an awesome guy, a perfect base template for all the ACs who I invited into my life, but I digress.) Somehow, in his eyes, she was the one at fault for not taking him back with open arms when he said he would end the affair if she would just give him another chance. As if ten years of his infidelity was an accident, and all the lies it took to maintain the deception were immaterial.

      They were married for 30 years, now divorced for 20. He passed her on a local walking track a little while back. She said hello. He spat at her feet and kept walking. 20 YEARS LATER. He won’t talk to us kids either, because we dared to take a dim view of how he treated our mother. He married the secretary. I believe she makes his life miserable because she doesn’t trust him because he cheated on his wife. I think the fact that she cheated on her husband escapes her. Obviously they are both dumb as fuck.

      I think your friend is right. When confronted with their own shitty behaviour and it just can’t possibly be pinned on someone else, some (I would suggest the more narcissistic amongst them) just remake history to suit.

      • Jasmine says:

        Ms. Determined,
        Thats just awful, I’m so sorry your mother went through that, and that you had to endure such a father. I hope she and the rest of your family has found some peace these last 20 years?
        Thank you for sharing

  35. 2fearce says:

    Marie83/ Alilbitstuck n whoever else needs to hear this…

    You absolutely DO need to do what you can to protect yourself… but I’m wondering if moving/changing jobs is doing too much. Seriously, theyre not that special!

    I say this as someone that lived next door to my ex who is a certified chopper (Yup shared living room wall n everything)… and survived it. How? I made my life about me! I went to parks and saw more of my city and when it was too much I stayed one night overnight with friends. Yup, just one.

    Please put this all in perspective. A slip is simply that a slip… Doesn’t mean the plan isn’t working, or that they’ve won. Who gives a f* what they’re thinking? IT IS NOT ABOUT THEM!!! These fools are but a blip in your life story (if that much)… you however are there for the duration!

    Ever pass roadkill on a trip? Do you still think about it 50,100, 5000 miles down the road on your journey?? Nope. Nasty sight. Unpleasant smell but the further you get down the road the less space it occupies. Now if u stop the car n sit there its definitely gonna stick with you smell n all. But the choice to sit there is yours to make
    (and maintain)… you’ll miss the rest of the trip the longer you sit there and get more of that stench stuck in your clothes (and spirit)! But moving on/forward doesn’t necessarily mean literally moving/leaving… Do you love your house? Love your job? Don’t change that bc of them. (If you don’t its all fair game)

    Just make sure that whatever changes you make are changes that are actually good for YOU. You are stronger than you can imagine. I promise. I used to hate talking to ppl with the same name (I swear its true). Now, ha! I’m grateful for the lessons and what I proved to myself– that I am here for a purpose n that purpose has nothing to do with them! (Side note– they moved before I did. I later moved when my time in that space served its purpose)

    Seriously I peeled myself up off the road, nursed myself back to health n kept going… (Yup I think I’ve effectively stomped that metaphor into the ground lol) Oh I remember the incident… and there’s a scar from it but its fading more everyday (ok, I couldn’t resist!)…

    • Revolution says:

      Damn, fearce. That was beautiful.

      ….I think I’m having a moment. :)

    • Espoir says:

      Wow – brilliant !!! I had a moment too :) you ARE Fearless MyLady. Way to go : thanks for waking up the Lioness in me :)- hear me ROARRRRR

      • EllyB says:

        It’s true that we shouldn’t give those people more power over our lives than necessary, but just a word of warning: Sometimes we believe that we’re happy despite still having them in our lives… but aren’t.

        Happened to me with that toxic manager at my workplace. For a while I was so proud of being able to “cope” with her, of not allowing her to destroy my career, of being able to stick around despite her ongoing abuse, of not letting her drive me out of the firm… until it occured to me how utterly miserable I had become in the process.

        Yeah, maybe I was determined to not let her destroy my life, but STILL my each and every thought revolved around her. I was so focused on my struggle against her that I lost all interest in hobbies, in socializing and literally anything outside work. And my fight was futile right from the start because my coworkers were (as is usually the case) unwilling to see how bad she was and unwilling to side with me.

        Yeah I was so proud of “withstanding” her… but in the process I was missing out on life!

  36. noquay says:

    My entire childhood was a lesson in “I am not good enough”. Too dark, too ugly. too sad, too stupid, and the list goes on. Mentally, I distanced myself from family statrting at age 10 or thereabouts, left as soon as it was legally possible. Though I long distance care for a dying parent, I will never be smart enough, submissive enough, anything enough for him. Fine. Again this site is a refreshing change from sooo many others that tell us that we ARE to blame for not pleasing everyone, that we need to something other than ourselves, for us womyn, often that is a cross between June Cleaver and a porn star. Not. Gonna. Happen. Two toxic friends I offloaded were unpleasables, one was mentally ill; not my job to fix her. The other fully expected me to clean his house, cook, be on time for meals though I taught nights. run 5 minute miles although I am severely anemic, have my house 100% immaculate when he’d show up randomly though I am gone all day and have pets (his house was a mess). Keep in mind I am a full time faculty member and a farmer, he was retired. Really? Maybe I am the worlds biggest b!@#h but I think this generous, caring, strong,alledgedly beautiful, independent, kick a$$ babe is not all that bad.

  37. marie83 says:

    Allison, its not a cut and dry situation, they both claim they are not an item and whether she is actually pregnant is massively questionable, some weeks she is, others she is not. I do need to move on but being kept in the dark about someones existence then your ex cutting you out without an explanation, then finding out all this from other people doesn’t make it easy to do

    • Allison says:


      Shouldn’t it be enough that he cut you off with no explanation? This is “cut and dry.”

      He treated you with a great deal of disrespect. When is enough, enough?

      You have all the info, and if a quarter of it is true, it should be enough to flush this idiot!

      What do your friends think of you contacting this guy?

  38. Confused liz says:

    I need help-! i can not believ how stupid i have been some of you may remember my origional post a couple of months ago about my ex ac, was with him for 2 years , left me twice for a few weeks , never met his mom etc etc then he left me again in january this year just 8 weeks after i lost my mum, the relationship was great apart from the let downs which i understand now he has commitment issues and is obv eu so i initiated nc after he tried to use me for booty. was so hard but got easier and i managed 6 whole weeks, even went on the holiday i was supposed to be going on with him (where we had been before) attended a wedding full of couples and enjoyed it even though he was supposed to be coming (i was bridesmaid) heard the news that i may need a lung transplant in the near future but still carried on with nc. Had his friend hit on me on a social networking site and still remained nc with the ex (although was dyung to tell him as i was disgusted)NOW here is where i went wrong … on tuesday i received a text message from the ac asking how me and my little boy were and if i still had his things he left at mine, so me like the idiot i am replied to him saying yes still have his things to which he said he would pop round for them on friday as he is off work so of course i said that was ok thinking i was over it (probably secretly hoping he was going to arrive on a freaking white horse) so a few texts were exchanged, says he will stay for a cup of tea. today comes (friday) i finish my driving lesson and text him to see what time hes popping in to get the reply ‘ at the moment im sorting this excersize machine out for my friend iv lost the instructions’ typical ! so i replied ok let me know as i am not sitting around all day waitin , he then said ‘ get yourself out then as were having a few beers and im sure you dont want me turning up drunk lol’ i was absolutely furious not just with him but with myself, i had done 6 weeks nc and stupidly broke it for what? so i sent an arsey text back telling him not to take the piss next time and that its typical him, also told him to tell his friend to stop hitting on me now i feel like a total arse as his friend has blocked me , im also annoyed and i dont know what to do next, i feel like i was doing so well :~(

    • Lizzy says:

      What a piss taker. Just get straight back on the NC wagon Liz. It sounds extremely annoying but it was a pretty minor slip in the scheme of things. See it as conformation that he’s still an a-hole and that you made the right decision six weeks ago. You have done brilliantly so don’t feel you’ve thrown that away. It’s him and his sleazy mate who are idiots, not you! Best of luck xx

    • Tabitha says:

      Don’t worry, it could have been worse, you could have slept with him :)
      Do NOT allow him to your house for his stuff. What on earth are you thinking? If he ever texts you about it again just tell him you donated it all to charity/binned it. Or if you don’t have the stomach for that just send it to him in the mail. I don’t care how much it costs. Think about the emotional cost to you of staying in contact with this idiot excuse for a man. It is good his friend has blocked you. You are not really NC if you are in contact with any of his friends. Block him on your phone if you can. I suspect you were NC but secretly hoping for contact? NC means you DO NOT respond to any contact from them. You need to get out of stuck.

    • Allison says:


      Take this as a blessing!

      Now, you have no more illusions and can move on from this guy.

      Why don’t you dump him stuff with a mutual friend, but do not agree to meet him face-to-face.

      • confused liz says:

        thanks ladies this is just what i needed to hear :) i know what was i thinking ?? my sister and her partner have offered to drop off his things to him tomorrow , so i told him this and i have also told him i dont want to hear from him anymore as it is not helping me move on. i was feeling sooo much better and now i just want to cry all the time again and i dont know why :( hes still the same person obviously. i wish he was mean to me in other ways aswel maybe it would make this a little easier :( anyway i know what i have to do and thats stick to the NC and not to secretly want him to get in touch , thanks you for reading and for your much needed advice everyone :) xx

  39. Sandy C. says:

    Wow right on. I have had it with my Mr. Unpleasant Unpleasable

  40. teachable says:


    People unfold. Sometimes slowly. Over years. Like this guy. Top line data = he’s subjected you to months of emotional abuse & been dishonest with you. In short, an asswipe. Lose him. Fast. For good. With friends like that ypu don’t need enemies! (& then go into damage control as best you can to keep things cool at work.)

    You don’t need all that drama. You’re recovering from a battle with cancer for fucks sake. This guy needs to be told where to get off in no uncertain terms (& his rediculously juvenile acting girlfriend too!)

    T 😉

  41. marie83 says:

    Hey Allison, my friends think i should block him, he contacts me too. My friends liked him at first but after the first year he started treating me badly, blowing hot and cold etc so they all think that he is toxic for me and that i have an unhealthy attatchment, which i do. I know contacting him is wrong and that even before all this stuff i should have bailed as he always treated me as an option – my own behaviour baffles me

    • Allison says:


      I think you need to understand what you get from the drama and pain. Is it familiar? It sounds like this guy has always treated you like crap, so it is a bit baffling why you choose to hold on. If you start to address your own EU and low self-esteem, it will be a path to a healthy future. By sticking by this dude, you are able to blame someone else for your own misery.

      This is your life and you’re the only one that can make positive change!

  42. teachable says:

    I’ll tell you what is truely unpleasable (in addition to ya’lls versions) & that is a ghost! Oh yes siree, the ghost of my ex, now deceased AC, is hauting me a lot lately, in fact almost daily. I can’t actually SEE him, or HEAR him, (so, no, I’m psychotic) but he is lingering & totally getting under my skin.

    I’m very aware that due to illness I’m yet to have proper closure on this by perhaps meeting with his sister to talk througjh what happened. We textedt each other on the 1st anniversary back in Jan though & spoke a couple of times before that on the phone also. I’m struggling to keep myself afloat without ‘going there’ whilst my health, $ sitch, & outlook re housing is so unstable. I’m saving tying up that loose end for until I am feeling better able to cope.

    Maybe that’s all him haunting me is? Just my conscience reminding me of unfinished business on the back burner?

    I am deeply sad & depressed & sometimes when I feel this way even though he was awful to me this time around (but not when were first a couple 20 yrs prior) I miss him. I find this quite baffling. I would say I feel frustrated except in order to do so one has to at least care. I’m not sure if I do anymore. Life has become quite meaningless…

    • EllyB says:

      Teachable: I think Natalie’s advice on closure applies to you as much as to anyone else:

      Please, please accept that it is time TO GIVE YOURSELF CLOSURE. I think this would be WAY more important than talking to his sister (which might only lead to you getting hurt again).

      Whatever you are missing isn’t something this jerk could have given you. I think it is something you could give to YOURSELF, though.

      • EllyB says:

        Btw: I’m often blown away by your insights and your compassion regarding other people’s stories. Why don’t you give the same gifts to yourself more frequently?

  43. Lavender says:

    This is a great post Nat. I really identify this as my parents, particularly my father have never been happy with anything I do. I end up trying to please people even when they push my boundaries. Several months ago I went to lunch with an acquaintance and after the lunch he wanted to show me his house that he just renovated. I thought this sounded suspicious so I said no. I then didn’t hear from him for two months. He got into contact again recently, we went for lunch again and he was very rude to me, rolling his eyes and yawning. Yet I am sitting here wondering what I did wrong and why he would treat me that way.

  44. 2fearce says:

    Rev. / Espoir,

    Lol… Thankfully, time n distance change many a thing; I wasn’t very fierce when it happened but on a good day… Watch out! (u must not know bout me)

    Wish I could get a bumper sticker that says–
    “Life is too short… Don’t spend it in the company of selfish a**holes!”

  45. teachable says:

    I already have all of the answers in terms of closure on my relationship with my ex EllyB. That’s not what (perhaps, I’m as yet undecided as no decision needed yet) coffee with his sis would be about (ps I do actually know her & she is not a stranger to me). That would rather be about processing my/ (our?) grief re my ex’s DEATH. He emailed me the night before & the morning of his death. I was in NC mode & had truely let go so did not reply. Of course there is now unfinished business for me. I didn’t expect him to die (not then at least). I had also warned his sis & brother that if someone didn’t intervene his death was likely to be imminent before I went NC (& this played out uncannily, just as I predicted). I’m having counselling atm for my own seperate issues & have spent some time on this but still feel unresolved about it in the sense of not missing the relationship, but deep sadness he lost his life & that I was unable to prevent this (silly I know ie I am not ‘the Creator’ if there is one!) I’m suspect it’s the unprocessed grief (re his death, not the end of the r,ship as the latter was a good thing & absolutely neccessary). I have to admit I do miss him (but not his behaviour or the r/shit). On the other hand I despise the way he treated me (no matter how much compassion or understanding I have for why he behaved in such a way.) The level of emotional abuse I allowed myself to be subjected to was humiliating. I still have very mixed feeling toward it all. It’s quite complex. On the other hand, also very simple. Sigh.

  46. marie83 says:

    Hi Allison, i don’t think it is familiar as such, i do think i have always had the feeling that no one would think me good enough to commit to but i haven’t been out with a guy who was emotionally abusive before and was able to move on from previous relationships. I was bullied at school by guys so i think this may have possibly contributed to this and my dad was quite emotionally absent and my ex has severe emotional issues, he is able to play the victim in every situation

    • A little bit stuck says:

      Marie83 – I can’t believe how familiar our situations are. I too have an emotionally absent father and was teased by boys in my early teenage years. My ex believes he is the victim in EVERY single situation. It’s incredibly frustrating. When you’re in a relationship with them, you almost start to believe they are the victim too. My ex was very manipulative and as he honestly believes everything is my fault and takes no responsibility for his own behaviour and actions, it was difficult for me to keep some perspective, I blamed myself for everything.

      I don’t know about you but I see it all so much more clearly now I’ve had some space. These guys will ALWAYS see themselves as a victim. Everything they do will ALWAYS be someone else’s fault. Mine treated me like absolute cr*p and yet I’m the bad guy for not responding to one text message.

      I know we’re both struggling to cut the emotional ties but we’ll get there. We have to focus on the horrible things they have down and said, the disrespectful actions and the frankly awful behaviour. Thinking about the good times is natural but can you honestly say you’d have had a happy life with that man? That’s what I am keeping in mind. If we focus on the truth of these damaged men, rather than the illusion and the fact they have the capability to be a nice person (yet can’t maintain a basic levels of decency) we’ll eventually cut lose on every level.

      How are you feeling about your situation now by the way? It’s so hard, oscillating between strength and despair but those moments of clarity are there and eventually the weak moments will lessen!

      Years of not feeling good enough have kept us in these relationships. I imagine that, like me, you have this relationship your all. We were giving everything to the wrong man. Nothing was ever going to be enough because they simply don’t know what they want. Not to mention the fact that they can’t give us what we want. I guess we’ve learned a lot about ourselves in the process. With this knowledge we can make sure we NEVER get involved with someone like this again.

      I think your friends are right – cutting contact is the only way! I know nothing good has come from any of the contact I’ve had with my ac ex of late. It’s just prolonging the agony. In my periods of NC I felt free and hopeful. Whenever I have broken NC emotions have bubbled up again and it’s just revisiting my pain. Enough already! We have to take control of the situation and do what it takes to move on. It’s so easy to speak to them in an attempt to briefly block out the pain but its a quick ‘fix’ and it leaves us feeling even worse afterwards. So what do you say – NC starts for us both today??? X

      • NCC says:

        A little bit stuck:
        I copied your post to print so I can read and re-read your post. I feel I am in a very similar place as you and have had similar, painful experiences. This part really hit me “It’s so hard, oscillating between strength and despair but those moments of clarity are there and eventually the weak moments will lessen!” I can relate, can’t even TELL you how much I can relate! I feel like for me, and I can tell from your writings and that you are here on BR and out there in life trying everyday to get better, we do care about and love ourselves, and that’s a beautiful thing! The ex AC is the one who will never be able to truly be alone, or look at himself in the mirror figuratively in terms of dealing with his issues and insecurity. He masks it by being an ASSHOLE who puts people down, flaunts a completely FALSE lifestyle, lies to women to get them into bed and into their pocketbooks. He will just keep going downhill and thinking that someone DID this to him, that all women are replaceable and the next one will fix something else he’s managed to screw up (one divorce because he was unfaithful, one foreclosure because he stopped paying his mortgage and one eviction from a rental because he stopped paying his rent,stopped going to work to a job that paid his bills, would have kept him on even though he went through numerous disciplinary issues involving his misconduct….ew sorry I could write a book about his f-face.)
        Anyway thank you Stuck!

  47. a little bit stuvk says:

    Marie83 /Alison / 2fearce – thanks for your motivational words.

    I think I’ve finally got it. I’ve tried every approach with this guy. I’ve tried explaining why I need to go NC, why I don’t want to be friends / why I don’t want to talk about how much he ‘loves me’. He still continues to contact me. I didn’t respond to one text and he’s childishly telling me he hates me. Its ridiculous. He’s a toxic, unhappy, selfish, spiteful, negative person. Im none of those things and Im proud of that. Enough is enough.

    Alison / Marie – you’re right. What does it matter if someone like that hates me or loves me. I don’t need him in my life in any capacity. Any contact with him ends in tears, its time to face facts and move on.

    I’ve continued to try and make sense of his behaviour, try and understand why he goes hot and cold, why he hates me, why he dumped me. Im expecting him to act with the same human decency as I have. He’s just not capable of that. He’s limited, he’s damaged and he’s NEVER going to get it. Im trying to make sense of someone who can’t make sense of himself. It’s time to turn my focus from him and back onto me. There’s no pleasing this guy, there’s no reasoning with him!

    2fearce – you should be so proud of your attitude and your progress. I hope I too can one day say that I ‘peeled myself off the road’. Its very inspiring to see that you’ve overcome something so significant. Thanks for sharing your experience. I feel like Im finally on the right track. Its time to think about myself. I had a life before him and Im going to make damn well sure I have a happy life after him. He was a huge part of my life and it’s hard to stop thinking about the good times and it’s VERY hard to cut those emotional ties but I have to do it for myself. The guy can’t bring me anything but misery. I’m going to leave him to work out what makes him happy, Im done trying to keep him sweet.

    • Allison says:

      A Little,

      Great post!

      You’re right! It is time to stop analyzing this guy and start working on you. You can’t change him, but you can change you. It is very liberating to do the work and understand why you are EU, and why you continue to gravitate toward men who offer no future. I know, it was for me.

      Good luck!

  48. 2fearce says:


    I am. I do still have to remind myself sometimes though. Yup, even after coming this far. I’m certainly not where I want to be but not where I was…. my whole life was wrapped around hers. I had no life of my own n I was suicidal. True story. If I had kept stewing in my saucer, concerned about the fact that she wasn’t concerned about me… and trying to figure out why she wasn’t…. there’s sooooo much I would have missed!

    I’m working on the details for my own business and becoming more aware of how truly limitless my potential is IF I throw off the shackles I’ve installed n maintained all these years.

    My days aren’t perfect (far from it) but they’re a hell of a lot better than they were when I had no self esteem n no concept of how many good things I had in my life that were being overshadowed by that one insecure person.

    ADJUST YOUR FOCUS! And keep adjusting it for as long as you have to– you’re worth it!

    Ps– What is he your parent?? child?? You don’t have to explain anything to him! (Except to give detailed directions to your a** so he can kiss it!)

    • Chrysalis says:

      “Concerned about the fact that she wasn’t concerned about me”…. 2fearce, that one really struck me a blow to the chest because that is EXACTLY the hurdle I found (and on days still find) sooo difficult to get over. Intellectually I know its an ego thing. Emotionally I still struggle to understand why.

    • A little bit stuck says:

      Thanks 2fearce. Its a journey isn’t it. It sounds like you really are focussed and determined to improve things and you’re definitely a good few steps ahead of myself. You’re right, I need to adjust my focus.

      I laughed out loud reading your final comment :)

      Wishing you lots of luck with the business project and your continuing progess. I must say, your story and perspective has really inspired me! x

  49. Emily says:

    Thanks for this. The emotional vampire in my life is a family member who has alienated the whole family one by one. It was apparently down to me to deal with her as I supposedly “have insight”. Unfortunately, it only lead to me feeling frazzled. Cut loose!

  50. marie83 says:

    Hi a little bit stuck, so much feels familiar in what you say, my ex too used to be aggressive if i didn’t respond to his text messages but thought it was fine to ignore me as often as he wanted. I often let him manipulate me into thinking i was too ‘needy’ if i challenged anything – the silent treatment was pretty much the way he opted to control the relationship and even now i know the reason he hasn’t been open with me regarding the new woman (i recently found out he was still sleeping with me even though he knew she was pregnant) is because he still sees me as his fallback girl. I am feeling better in that i don’t want him back but the obsessive thinking and the ‘why her not me’ frame of mind is what i need to work on, some days it feels like this pain will never go away and it is on those days that i am more inclined to break nc. I think we both need to view these men as toxic for us and to understand that they cannot receive love nevermind give it – i don’t long for the good times anymore but the hurtful memories hit me hard, stuff long forgotten hits me straight between the eyes and brings me to tears x

    • A little bit stuck says:

      Hi Marie, its startling how familiar our stories are!

      I was thinking the other day about your situ. Perhaps in some way, you are his ‘fallback girl’ but what is this other woman? This guy can’t commit to you, he can;t commit to not being with you, he can’t fully commit to this new woman who is ostensibly carrying his forst child! This guy…THIS GUY! I must confess, if I were in your situation, Im sure I would be very much focussed on ‘why her not me’. But think about it, he’s not chosing her either. He’s still in contact with his ex (you) whilst she is pregnant with his child. Thats less than ideal. He doesn;t know what he wants, he just knows he doesn’t want to put in the work to make any relationship successful. I know it must seem like this other woman has a somewhat better deal now but if you think about it, would you really want to be her? When Im carrying my first child. I hope to be in a loving, supportive relationship and I damn well hope the father of that child will be thinking about me and not contacting or thinking about an ex in any capacity.I feeel sorry for your ex’s new woman, as NML always says, people just dont change overnight. My therapist says that my ex would likely need years in therapy to change his behaviour. The spiteful, harsh, agressive side of him will come out in this relationship, just as it did in yours which is very sad.

      I think we do both accept that these men are toxic and we KNOW we can;t have healthy relationships with them. However, like you, Im really struggling to move on for some reason. I see him for what he is, I know he’s bad news, yet I still think about the relationship a lot. The good times hit me hardest. Thats when I wonder what on earth happend to that guy that was so good to me. It’s hard to accept that thats not the person he is, or at least, thats not who he is consitently. When I think about the horrible thing he did and said, I just fel ashamed for staying and ashamed for still feeling warmly towards him. We’ll get there. I think it’s just a long road. I can;t wait for the day when I wake up and Im thinking about something else or a day when I go 24hours without thinking about it all. It’s exhausting.

      Im sticking to my NC – though I know deep down, he’ll never contact me again now anyway – since he hates me so much! Still, it’s the fist step to moving on i think. I really hope you’re managing to stick to NC too as I do feel like its your best option. Read the posts on NC, they’re great and they really make you realise how compulsive it is to cut these ppl out of your life for good! x

      • marie83 says:

        Stuck I don’t really believe the new woman means a great deal, I think he enjoys the kind of relationship he has with her, she provides a lot of drama and he can take her up as one of his causes, she doesn’t love him either so maybe there is little to be jealous of but I think as my self esteem has took such a battering it is difficult not to view this as a sign that I am unloveable

    • Waltzing Matilda says:

      Marie83 the hurtful memories are rough. We can think of them as lessons, examples that are teaching us some basic truths. I am thankful for the knowledge, my true insight came from Natalie and that is the balance of understanding I have (till now) never had.
      The answer to ‘why her not me’ is always: ‘because I’m the lucky one’.

      • Marie83 says:

        Waltzing Matilda, yes you are right – I think that the ex was a lesson I needed to learn – I have never stayed in a relationship like I did with this one but the previous relationships had been ‘cleaner breaks’. However I have always ignored red flags and been the one getting dumped/lied to etc and I have never been with anyone who valued me. I have always put in more effort and I think that maybe I thought that I couldn’t be appreciated on my own merits that I have to ‘prove’ myself. I always give people the benefit of the doubt far too much – I am learning that desiring an Emotionally unavailable man isn’t the problem (hopefully in time I won’t) the problem is ignoring red flags and not being honest with yourself

  51. Sammie says:

    Another Great Post!

    Its funny I to was stuck on the why her and not me? and after reading Natalies Posts and reminding myself of all the awful thing my AC did, I end up thinking Thank god it’s her and not me! wtf was I thinking?? These guys are vampires period, they will NEVER change and do not deserve our mental anguish! I vow to not let another drop of emotion go out to my two ex AC, all that emotion is only going one way, towards me! x

  52. 2fearce says:

    Stuck. Glad I could provide sm support. Be proud you are in a place to accept that much.

    Today I find myself hesitant to accept the concept of my being even one step ahead… its a particularly rough one. I do think this has more to do with my monthly hormone party (I swear it sets me back or down I’d something) than my place in my journey but having trouble talking myself out of my funk.

  53. Gabrielle Greene Fennessee says:

    You provide great wisdom in yoir articles! I enjoy your work.

  54. Luis G. says:

    Sometimes I miss references to woman unpleasables etc… seems us men are always the bad guys.
    I’ve been in an on/off relationship for 13 years, and being a “pleasing” guy. I’ve spent those years trying to please HER (help,gifts,trips,being there at the minute, answering ALL her calls and getting heartache, pain, and sickness in return. Yeah, she’s unpleasable. Our comebacks we can count using two hands… And I’m probably guilty of causing all of them by fighting back EXCEPT one of them, when I moved on and started to NOT please her. She came back running saying I was the man of her dreams…That was in 2009. In the past 4 years we´ve had 3 comebacks and now it’s back to nothing. Her last words to me: “You need to see a Psychologist to help your needing me.”
    So ok, at this point: A: I fight back knowing the pain or B: NC and I move on, knowing that when she needs me she´ll call and my weakness will drag me back.
    Curious that the one time I moved on (new girlfriend etc…) she knew about this girlfriend and that was when she professed her love for me..

    Any ideas on how I can recover my self esteem and my sanity? And yeah, I know all the theory and that I’m a bit of a jerk, but one doesn´t really believe one can behave like this until its happens to you. God knows why I need her…


  55. BS says:

    But HOW, moment by moment do you re-claim yourself? “step into your own life” “choose you” – although that sounds awesome, what does that mean in real life; situation by situation? After all, if one plans to stop pleasing an unpleasable, there’s going to be hell to pay – (please take that into consideration when answering), the nuclear fallout would be overwhelming!

    • Luis G. says:

      Not sure what you mean by “there’s going to be hell to pay”
      I suppose in the bottom of it all this is the one woman I’ve been in love with (at least compared to other women in my love for which I never did the “pleasing part”. It’s been years since I’ve chosen “me” as far as my pont of view, but then maybe I’ve been selfish and in the end “pleasing” is satisfying “me” and not thinking of her.
      I really don´t feel very good inside.
      Thoughts please…

  56. Mandie says:

    Wow. This is what I needed to hear. Thank you for this article.

  57. annied says:

    Natalie – your timing is perfect! thanks so very much for posting this one. Much needed words for a serial people pleaser to those who are clueless.

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.