mazeI had one of those humbling moments this morning where I felt grateful to be hanging with my two bonkers daughters and ‘the boyf’ but at the same time recalling the stark contrast of my life before I learned to love myself. There are times when for a few seconds I wonder if it’s all a dream, whether I secretly am just the same ‘ole Natalie, and whether in the blink of an eye I’ll go back to feeling how I used to, feeling hopeless with a proverbial cloud over my head. Of course I told myself to get a grip and immediately got caught up in having to placate madame Nia now 18 months, but a thought lingered:

What changed for me?

Readers regularly ask me the same question particularly about when I was getting over The Guy With the Girlfriend and the Mr Unavailable who through his own flip flapping gave me my major epiphany, plus my immune system disease, low self-esteem and family tensions, but to name a few!

I’ve written before about how I learned to love myself and have shared my thoughts on self-esteem many times but when I asked myself this morning what single thing I had done to change my life, I realised it was this:

I made a positive choice to choose me.

I say it this way because in the past, I made negative choices that let me keep on feeding negative beliefs, negative habits and essentially let me keep bullshitting myself by pandering to my own whims. I made choices that would let me stay in my comfort zone so that I didn’t have to get uncomfortable, even though that comfort zone was very painful. As I talked about in my posts on dating reflections of my parents, all of my previous choices were ‘familiar’ so it just seemed easy to go along with it in a ‘I know this pain and it is safe even if it is painful’ mentality.

Prior to getting wise about myself, I’ve pandered and catered near thoughtlessly to every thought, idea, whim, fear, desire, and the whole kit and kaboodle assuming that it’s what I wanted or that it was just the way things had to be.

I missed The Guy With a Girlfriend and couldn’t imagine my life without him and that it would ever stop hurting so I figured that I had to go back and that I had to keep trying.

It was a half hearted effort on my part with the Mr Unavailable who flip flapped around for five months and yet I made the choice to hang out for the duration because it seemed vitally important to get confirmation that he wanted a relationship with me plus being with him gave me an opportunity to hide out from making real changes.

There was no conscious moment where I said ‘I love myself from this moment’ but by making a few key decisions and following through with a bullshit diet and minimal second guessing, the wheels started turning in a different direction and totally different paths opened up in front of me. Loving myself became a very natural thing.

I told my ex’s to beat it and stood up for myself and when the consultant doctor told me I had to go on steroids for the rest of my days or face keeling over at 40, without even knowing exactly what I was going to do, I basically said ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ and said that I would explore all other avenues before I would make that commitment. He strongly advised me against my decision but over five years on, and I’m still standing firm.

And that’s what I started doing with my life: exploring all other options.

How can you say that this is as good as it gets and you won’t love again, and feel destined to be with a certain type of person? You haven’t even come close to exploring all other options. That’s not exploring all options – that’s just doing what you always do and hoping it will ‘pan out’.

How can you say you’ll never get over someone? You can’t possibly know that yet and until you’ve given it a genuine effort, you won’t know. As I said a few weeks ago, it’s a prophecy of doom to decide one person is your sole source of love and happiness. I’ve known people to lose loved ones through death and live to love again.

How can you say that you’ve really tried to put yourself out there if who you put yourself out there with is same person different package with the same baggage, beliefs, and attitudes?

By making a positive choice to choose me, I was basically saying that I was done with putting the drama, other unworthy people’s feelings, and any other negativity first. I was saying that I wouldn’t be impulsive and just slot in with my pattern, that I’d treat myself with love, care, trust, and respect, and that I would seek to consistently take action.

Did I make mistakes? Sure I did. That’s life. But I had far more successes than mistakes and I was happier.

I liked, loved, respected, cared for, and trusted the me who was being genuinely proactive in her life than the one who wasn’t.

I spent a lot of time obsessing about various things. There was this crush and that crush, this date and that date, various relationships and breakups, agonising over the who, what, where’s and why’s of my mistakes, the anger, the disappointment and more. It was just too much of a burden for me to carry.

Ultimately, in making the decision to make a choice, I asked myself:

Does it really matter about why he doesn’t want a relationship, when the fact that he doesn’t want one is more than enough?

Does it really matter that he wants to (in spite of anything he has said) stay with his girlfriend, when the core fact is that he’s staying with her, which is a decision in itself?

Does it really matter why my mum has seemed pissed off with me for (at that point) twenty odd years or isn’t it safe to say that it’s time to stop trying to ‘fix’ that and focus on meeting your own needs? After all, it’s fair to say that if someone can be pissed off for that long, they’re in no danger of changing anytime soon.

Does it matter why my illness happened to me and why they offered me no options, when I can focus on opening up my own options and exploring other options?

These things used to matter to me and I made myself central to all these problems.

It couldn’t be that someone didn’t want a relationship because they didn’t want a relationship anyway. It had to be that there was something unloveable about me. What if it’s just that they don’t want what I want? Even if it was me, why the hell do I want to be with someone that doesn’t want me?

I found a pile of faults with myself when it came to the guy with the girlfriend, but aside from the problem of me wanting to be with him in the first place, the real problem was that the entire relationship was fatally flawed and based on dishonesty.

My mum has always been unhappy about a variety of things. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there, but why was I making myself the centre of the universe and her problems? – it was bigger than me, just like the Mr Unavailables and assclowns issues were bigger than me too.

I hadn’t done something to deserve my illness. It happened just like illnesses happen to people all the time.

I had to get over myself. I had to make a choice to live and to live good and stop hiding myself in poor choices and selling myself short.

Remember, if you cater to a self-fulfilling prophecy, you make limited choices, that generate limited results and even if you think you’re putting in a ton of effort, you’re actually putting in limited energy because you’re not really putting yourself out there. This is how you can end up choosing a limited person and ending up with a limited relationship and then trying to make it more than what it is.

That’s really hard work. It’s lot tougher to make a silk purse out of a pigs ear than it is to make a silk purse out of..silk. It’s a lot tougher to put a square peg into a round hole than it is to just choose the correct round shaped piece and put that one in.

Instead of making a negative choice and doing familiar but uncomfortable awkward actions, get uncomfortable by stepping into the unfamiliar. That’s separating yourself from your old patterns, choices, thinking, everything and imagining yourself without the usual burdens and asking yourself what you can do. I imagined other people in my scenario that didn’t have the same ‘burdens’ might check alternative therapies, tell the guy to beat it, stay on their own for a while, learn to say NO, have some more self-respect.

If other people can do it, why can’t you? Whatever those hurdles are, assess how real they are or whether they are obstacles you have created to stay in your comfort zone due to hiding in your fears.

Get uncomfortable. Make the positive choice to choose you.

Your thoughts? What can you do to break your pattern and get out of your comfort zone? What’s changing for you? Or what are you finding is the biggest obstacle to change?

Check out my ebook on the the No Contact Rule which stresses the important of cutting contact with your ex, plus my ebook on emotionally unavailable men and the women that love them, Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girland more in my bookshop.

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28 Responses to What Changed? Making The Positive Choice To Choose You

  1. Movedup says:

    What can you do to break your pattern and get out of your comfort zone? What’s changing for you? Or what are you finding is the biggest obstacle to change?

    Right on Nat! Get uncomfortable! There is a difference between that gut feeling that says this is wrong and the uncomfortable feeling of I’m just scared. That is what I look too in judging situations. Lots of things are changing for me for the good because I choose not to be afraid. Fear is my biggest obstacle and it all comes from old tapes. The ones that told me I was not enough, the ones that told me don’t do it you’ll look stupid or the who do you think you are tapes. I can now agree to disagree. These are old tapes and they are not true. Performing in public has been a long time fear. I was on the stage performing from the age of 8 until 18 – lots of shows signing and dancing – then I stopped all because of what my Mother said at my last show – she completely destroyed me in front of the cast. That tape played in my head for years and kept me from performing. 10 years ago I found out that she thought I had lipsinked a song and that is why she was so mad and said those terrible things. I hadn’t – it was that good she couldn’t tell the difference between me and the original performer who sang the song. Even after the truth came out – the old tapes still stopped me – those words that float in the air. I am proud to say that yes I am performing again and will perform this November in front of over 200 people more than once I will take the stage and this time without the fear and the old tapes. I get to sign and dance again with the joy I once had. Its still kind of scary but exciting at the same time. I can thank my good lovin man who stands by my side – self proclaimed #1 fan – for pushing me, encouraging and supporting me. He will be there in the wings cheering me on. How much better can it get! I have alot to be grateful for and choosing me is one of them. Had I not – I still would be in relationship insanity and hiding behind the curtain. Peace out!

  2. Mel says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. This describes the journey I’m on perfectly – the uncomfortable healthy is much scarier than the comfortable dysfunctional, but it is much more rewarding in the end. I also tend to be a very black and white, concrete thinker (a legacy of a very bad childhood – it gives me a sense of control) but as you say, the ability to stretch yourself, explore different options, to get out of your comfort zone, is where genuine growth and positive change lies. Thanks again for the encouraging words.

    Mel

  3. KaFo says:

    Wow! This is such a terrific entry. I only just found your blog about two weeks ago – around the same time I stopped contact with my EUM. Truly Natalie, you are an inspiration and I’m so grateful I found your site when I did. I’m in a strange place right now. I know NC is absolutely necessary for my health (mental and physical), but my heart is fighting my head on this. After 3-1/2 years of agony with this guy, and 17 years of marriage to another EUM before that, I am SO ready to be HAPPY! So I’m here in this weird place, trying to be present with the pain of the relationship ending, feeling an empty vacuum where the relationship used to be, trying to peel back the layers of denial and face reality. I don’t know what steps to take next. I only know that there’s no way I can turn back. I’m scared out of my wits. But where I was two weeks ago is scarier. What I am noticing now that two weeks of NC have gone by is that I no longer cry every day. I no longer feel that pit in my stomach. And my appetite is back.

    I am taking it one day at a time and trying to reflect quietly on who I am and how to take care of me. I have two daughters and now I finally have the time and energy to pay attention to how amazing they are and be grateful they’re in my life. They love me. My family loves me. My friends love me. It’s time I start loving me too!

    KaFo

  4. Jenna says:

    Natalie- I just happened on to your site a couple of weeks ago during a “unavailable” key-word search. I had not only one Mr. Unavailable/Assclownness, but an ex-husband that knew no boundaries (I had not done a good job of having them) & a few that had sadly been drawn out over the course of several years. I say “had” because reading your posts day, night, and any other spare second gave me the courage to draw some boundaries with my ex-
    husband & I’ve been in “No Contact” mode for 12 days now. You definitely have a gift with words & I’m so inspired to continue healing & recording the process in in order to help others. Cheers & Best to you!

  5. junuka says:

    hi! i wish i had found your blog years ago when i was about to begin the chronicles of being with, rather being for (!) people who were simply not available. you are doing a great job of writing about ur experience.
    about this post, i can only give you a virtual high- fi for having gone through the same and having discovered what exactly you have discovered, to be loving to oneself !
    i am at a phase where i feel weird doing so, thinking its a dream(!) but a belief has come from somewhere, to hold on to it! i slip in and out of it, getting back to the old habit, past and unending down-spiral but i surface back. thanks also to my friend and companion who, too keeps the faith with me. i follow your blog and i just wrote something about my experience of images that we form to live life here http://funnylyfecafe.blogspot.com/
    thanks so much:) lots of love!!!

  6. Trinity says:

    Great article Nat, this inspired me to write down and remember all I’ve learnt in this last year. What ive accomplished and how I changed, still changing and how I’m still growing. As I wrote I realised just how much I have changed and I felt proud and very great about myself. I’m still going, there is so much more I want and will get and ill be the one doing and achieving it. Gone are the days of wanting/ needing to do it with a partner. It’s time to live my life. If I happen to meet a great guy along the way then great but my main focus is me and what I want.
    Hugs xxxx

  7. junuka says:

    sorry, forgot to answer the questions at the end!
    1.one can stop victimizing oneself and can choose positive friendships which are away from ambiguity, sacrifice and pain!
    2.the obstacle can be that you wont be able to relate to new avenues and people very easily but hold on and breath deep. slowly the heart makes space for unfamiliar but positive experiences. we may return to old pattern, but if we try to notice the pattern, it becomes easier. everytime this happens, value your effort. notice when you blame yourself and stop.
    3.i feel that i am becoming less anxious, more accepting and unblocking myself towards small joys that i had blocked in the effort of becoming tough and bearing with emotional pain. i realised that was not really being tough.
    4. while you go through this, people around you may find you lost in and out of the present, but make sure they know your effort. in my case it is my partner( we married last year) who was actually a friend who stood by, by simply being there, asking me to face my pain and say ‘sorry’ to myself ! ( i had never done it in my 28 years of life)

  8. MaryC says:

    I just realized today that its been a year of NC. It didn’t even cross my mind until I read this post and I’m not sure why it popped into my head. What’s changed for me….No longer working at NC, its automatic. I’m happy once again and when I do think of him its just a thought, no tears, no conversations in my head, nothing.

    Those of you struggling with NC all I can say is hang in there, weather the storm because it really does get better. For a long time on this site I said its a journey, it was and I’m so glad I took it.

    To all of you who’ve offered support this past year Thank You and to you Nat there are no words of gratitude but please know I’m so grateful for you and your encouragement. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Charlotte says:

      Mary, that’s fabulous and very very encouraging to hear. I’m still having to work very hard (only 33 days) but it helps to know that it’s possible to feel the way you do now. Thank you x

  9. namaste says:

    “Whatever those hurdles are,assess how real they are or whether they are obstacles you have created to stay in your comfort zone due to hiding in your fears.” Thanks to Natalie’s insights into the dynamics of unhealthy relationships I was able to find the courage to bring the focus back to me, face my fears and to change the only person I can change, myself. Reading the stories of all the women who read BR has been so encouraging. Your strength is inspiring. :) Go team!!

  10. Grace says:

    Amen to that. It’s natural and maybe necessary to spend some time analysing our ex’s and their psychology. But, ultimately, unless we shift the focus back to ourselves, we’re still stuck in the relationship even if he has long since buggered off. For me, what finally worked was cutting contact (realising that he was only hurting me), making new friends (I had got very lonely after a relocation), going out more, running again, joining a football team and seeing a counsellor. None of this is rocket science but it shifted my motivation from THINKING about him to CARING about myself.
    Now I no longer have to force myself to stop thinking about him, I find I naturally have other things to think about.
    I will add that if you are clinically depressed, it’s time to see the doctor. In my experience, you can’t self-help your way out of that.

  11. sule says:

    “…even if you think you’re putting in a ton of effort, you’re actually putting in limited energy because you’re not really putting yourself out there. This is how you can end up choosing a limited person and ending up with a limited relationship and then trying to make it more than what it is.”

    Wow, Natalie, you managed to say it in just the right way to help me hear it. One of the last pieces of the puzzle I had been struggling with was trying to understand how I was emotionally unavailable when I thought I had wanted the relationship so badly, had tried so hard. I thought that my need and my effort meant I was available and he wasn’t. But if I had really wanted a healthy, intimate relationship, why was I trying to force it out of someone who literally couldn’t feel? And, if I am being honest, was one in a line of men who couldn’t really feel, didn’t want to be in the relationship with me. True epiphanies come when we are ready and I guess I am finally ready (at 45) for this one. I wish it had come sooner but I am now seeing the layers of denial, delusion, picturing and fantasy I have created for myself over the years to help me slog along in these dead end relationships. The true blessing of the assclown was that it was so easy to see it in him – I just had to be willing to turn around and see it in myself.

    I have finally come to terms with the extent to which I have been hiding from myself, ashamed of who I am, not loving and valuing myself and ending up with people who don’t value me either. I was so desperate for a relationship that even a ghost of one feels like something. There is freedom in knowing that, as painful as it is to face. I have made others the source of my feelings, wants and happiness for way too long, and have chosen the wrong people to try and extract what I needed. I have been disappointed and rejected so much, I literally don’t know what I want or need anymore, other than I am certain it is not to feel like this.

    A few months ago, after a very painful and humiliating end to a non-relationship, I began my journey. It started (as I bet it has for many on this site) wth trying to figure him out, trying to find the right label for his problem so that we could fix it and be happy. That has never worked in the past and, surprise, surprise, it didn’t work here either. Now, I am finally ready to face what is going on with me, my bad beliefs, thoughts and patterns that have kept me trapped in hopeless, painful relationships for too long.

    Thank you, Natalie and all your readers, for being part of that journey and in helping to guide me to a healthier, happier life for me.

  12. Fearless says:

    This is a great blog; it is exactly right for me just now. I have struggled to make something seriously flawed into something good, and finally it is a relief to decide to just give up on it… and choose myself for a change and to explore other options (recognising there ARE other options and that no-one is the sole source of your happiness has helped me a great deal).

    The bit you say, NML, about thinking you HAVE to make it work – you HAVE to go back – You HAVE to keep trying – like your whole existence hangs on the choices he makes or doesn’t make…

    I used to make myself half crazy with fury when he did not follow through on what he said he would do. He has been telling me for nine years that he will “get out of his situation” (leave the other g/friend). Even our last conversation (when I’d decided I had to go NC with him), when I told him I could not and would not tolerate this on/off – in/out – any longer, he told me it would be best if we didn’t contact eachother (I agreed!!! That was the whole blinking point) until “he sorted his situation out” – he is STILL saying it!!! Even at what for me is the end… he is still churning out the same bullshit…! still the same old “until…”, “when”… I have seen the day when that conversation would have had be literally beside myself with fury and frustration… but I simply “agreed” with him… I said, “I think so too. Goodbye” (and he said, “bye for now”. I mean, I ask you, what is still with his “for now”???!!

    Difference now is that I KNOW it is total b*shit and the problem is HIM -not a “situation”. The “situation” is HIM!! And the situation is the one he has me in!! Which is effectively a maze of smoke and mirrors.

    And I have had no contact with him since (three weeks ago!! And I still feel quite firm about that – a little scared at times; but firm. And it is just as you say NML, it is exploring the other options! About realising that maybe there are other options and trying not to see taking another oprion – i.e OUT OF HERE – as “failure” and deciding to choose a different albeit less familiar path).

    The other thing you say about realising that ‘the burden is just too great to carry’. This speaks to me too. I know this and it’s good to hear it said back to me… so it confirms my own thoughts and realisations. It simply is a burden to great to carry.

    The burden of ‘taking it all on’ (whatever that is), of making it ALL your problem, of making other people’s entrenched issues and dramas as something for you to worry and fret about and try to fix is too tall an order for anyone… (I too have had to put down my crusade to manage ‘family’/parental problems and issues… realising there is nothing I can actually do to fix everything for everyone else!!).

    The key for me is to uncommit myself to the EUM. To stop investing. To give myself permission to give it up! And to focus on what is good for me, with or without him. I realised that I had invested and committed mysef to a “non- relationship”. I had bet everything I had on his potential, a potential he was NEVER going to deliver. I had all but taken the vows – for better, for worse… etc….I couldn’t even contemplate ‘uncommiting’. My whole future was at sake!! Everything I had invested was at stake. How would I cope without having him around? How would I cope financially in the future if he didn’t “commit” to me.. I would be destined to a lonely single life… everything I saw my life as “becoming” I would have to accept was not going to happen…

    Of course I was DOING all these things anyway! He WASN’T THERE!

    So I think I knew that even if I had to accept that my life was not going to turn out as I had hoped since I was a wee girl – I was not going to get married, I would be single all my life, I would need to always cope with life on my own, I would need to continue to struggle financially till I died… all of this I finally thought of as ” well, okay… if that’s how it has to be, that’s how it has to be… because I CANNOT give anything more of myself to this void of the EUM relationship – so be it. I choose my self respect, I choose to try to live as best I can another way).

    So here is now what I commit to: Me – for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.. forsaking all others (i.e. EUMs/ACs – all emotional vampires); I will be true and faithful to me.

    There comes a point, when enough is just enough!!

  13. Minky says:

    This is exactly what i needed! I have been giving myself such a hard time and fretting about all the things that could potentially go wrong in the future, because i fear this new way of being, of taking responsibility for my life. I realise that i have no idea what may happen in the future – i’ve never predicted any of the amazing things that have happened in my life so far. If you told me a year ago (when i left my healthy 6 yr relationship) about all the amazing things i was to experience in the past year, i wouldn’t have believed a word of it. All i was hoping back then is that i had made the right choice (and of course i was convinced i would never meet anyone ever again – haha!). I did make the right choice and my ex and i are best friends and he has a wonderful girlfriend now who i think is lovely :).

    i have realised that there is no point worrying about what may come and thinking the worst, or convincing myself that independent, free spirited men are all ACs and EUMs – they’re not! There are some that can also make promises and keep them too (i had a blast last night with a good male friend of mine who is just like that!). All i can do is try to make good choices, keep away from limited people and situations and put my own needs first. The rest will happen as it happens. And i can’t wait to see what happens next :).

    It’s nearly 2 months NC and this is the first weekend where i haven’t even missed the idiot!

  14. Elle says:

    Wow. This is a really poignant post, Natalie. Thank you.

    I know, deep down, that what you say is the way through, and the way I haven’t tried before. All the times I have picked me, it’s been in a kind of petulant, reactive way, as if I have to be huffy (even leaving my home country) because I am not confident about (or practised in) choosing ‘me’ in a way that is natural, mature and routine. I build up resentment about real and imagined obstacles, so when I choose me, it comes off as selfish and childish, instead of steady and truthful.

    This stems from one of my biggest obstacles in my life: not being able to accept simple love and acceptance from another. I always think that’s it must be a joke or that they missed something about me, and that I have to hide away and have almost full control to be my authentic self.

    The first foray into AC turf kicked me so badly because he was someone who directly and explicitly said to me (and I am unfortunately not exaggerating) that they did not like my personality and that I needed to be all sorts of things that I am not. Some of the things he said I can recognise as ridiculous projecting and caricaturising and simply dysfunctional (ie he wanted to ‘own’ me). But some of it, really struck at deep fears I have about my character. It doesn’t matter that my friends and family adore me and that I now have very little conflict in my life, I grew up in a very different family environment, and have had to really work super hard since leaving home to create real friendships with my siblings, and, now, with my parents. It means though, that even now and then, I have this flip-out where I think it’s just impossible to have that safety in a relationship, as I’ve centred it a lot of it on outside harmony and approval, rather than in myself.

    Another challenging thing is not to create trouble and chaos. I have been lucky to have had a few patient, steady men in my past, who I believe genuinely loved me, with whom, encouraged by their lead, I was able to practise a more gentle, nurturing and respectful side of love that I hadn’t really before (though, of course, it wasn’t black and white growing up – witnessed and experienced healthy forms of love, but it was alongside and, unfortunately, overshadowed by persistent bullying, control, and limited availability and physical affection). Then when I tried this more healthy approach with the AC, it just didn’t work. He saw my steady kindness as me being weak, and wanted to fight with me, never wanted to listen or resolve, made impossible rules for me to guess, literally seethed when I kept calm and practical in any form of dispute (down to simple choices of where to park the car – he saw my contribution to things like this as obnoxious). I don’t say this because it’s about him – who gives two sh*ts about him now – I say this because it made me think, suddenly, that I was inherently just as scrappy as him, and that that gentle, nurturing side was just something I was trying on, and that he’d finally spoken the truth about me. I can see now that this is not rational, and I did assert as much to him in the final weeks (ie that he was making it very hard for the relationship to grow because he made it impossible to find a mutual way forward in an argument), which almost certainly instigated him ditching me.

    The other big obstacle of mine is essentially: giving myself a break! It seems that I have a few hours or days or even a chunk of time when I am happy and positive with myself and others, and then I just decide that I have to bring myself down a few pegs. I feel very comfortable with shaming myself and telling myself that I am inherently faulty in some way, especially after a spell of confidence. It’s a bit twisted! I make up these enemies or obstacles in my mind. And it was why a whole lotta crazy went off in my head when the AC told me his instinct was to crush me (and these were primarily because of confident, positive characteristics, and only secondarily the small or insecure ones) because suddenly it felt like I was right about being essentially threatened.

    I have been around enough to saunter on (and I know that the above depiction is not the whole story – I do function well in life!), but I would like to actually pick up a nice pace, and be more ready to respond to life. I think, Natalie, you’re right about it being found in those small, daily decisions to keep us on the path of the positive, in the messages we tell ourselves, and in testing out other options, in not being quite so black and white (emergency thinking) about things. I need to get on that bullshit diet! I sometimes say and do things, where part of me is saying, ‘why are you doing/saying this? You don’t even need to tell yourself this or get attention in this way. It’s not entirely truthful or necessary.’ I really need to grow up!

    In the meantime, I am kind of seeing the AC (as a sum of his real qualities and my own fears) as a force to move against. Not as an enemy, but as a mental springboard towards the healthy and good.

    Thanks again, Natalie. Whatever this comment suggests, I do feel like this is one of the best times in my life. I am far calmer and self-possessed than I have been in a long time, possibly ever.

    • Used says:

      Elle–
      This is the summary of my life, too. ALL of what you write. My “epiphany AC” wasn’t as directly mean, but, physically, he has thrown a few snickers in my direction, for me to see, to shame me, make me feel badly about myself. Funny, he benefitted from me, too, via advice I gave him, especially about work goals and how to handle people at work.

      I wasn’t always the way you describe, though. I knew how to, and did, accept love (from my parents and “Irish twin” brother) as a young girl. But when there was some family tragedy (my mom’s miscarriage) and another child born wayyy younger than me as result of the family tragedy, I was left to fend for my own in a lot of ways. And my parents not only did not pay much attention to me or my needs (b/c of their putting others, and work, first, all the time), they did not defend me when girls I was forced to grow up with (who my sister calls the “evil stepsisters”–they were not sisters, but their mom was very close friends with our mom) were constantly mean to me; my parents thought that, overall, despite the hurts, b/c they were not “loose,” they were a “good influence”! They were so afraid of the unknown, b/c they thought it was worse than the girls!

      I was much stronger until I was about 23 than I am now, b/c I have gotten burned out! If you are surrounded by people who put others first and who don’t listen to you, it takes a looong time for them to finally learn to listen to and heed what you say! Unfortunately, my parents’ listening came at my own expense: first when they saw what I went through with the AC I dated several years ago; and, years later, when I had to take care of elderly in-laws after having spent all of my life–my youth, the best years of my life–sacrificing for the future and taking my life and goals very seriously. My parents finally saw that their and my putting others and their opinions first is not the way to go. Especially when one of my in-laws basically did NOT want to be around to take care of the spouse AT ALL in his time of great need. So my being the “good girl” was used against me. I became caregiver, at a time when I should have been moving full-forward with my life.

      Anyways, the point is that not only your character but also the TIMING of events in your life as the events relate to your character is pivotal in your life and your attitude. My parents’ distraction from me and my needs as a reult of my sister’s late birth was pivotal in determining my attitude: “yes, they love me; they don’t show it, physically or otherwise; but they don’t have time for me; they don’t listen; well, I have to defend myself. That’s fine.” Little did I realize that that is SO HARD to do alone. especially when you get older and you are alone (and, yes, I do mean without a significant other), and when you can’t trust the “friends” around you.

      I got used to having jerks–who hated themselves (as your AC hates himself, BTW)–around me. I am now in the process of getting used to being around healthy people. It’s hard!

  15. Gaman says:

    NML I want to thank you SO much for your wonderful site/posts/books/everything. I believe that people come in and out of your life at certain times for a reason. I know my EUM did! I found your site/books at just the right time and I honestly believe I wouldn`t have been able to get through the last few months without them. I also believe in a “higher power” looking after me and gently nudging me (sometimes shoving when necessary!) in the right direction, and it led me here.

    I broke NC with my EUM because I believe everyone deserves one opportunity to screw up. Exactly as you said, the second chance I gave him did nothing more than confirm for me that I was right the first time. I am now NC again, and instead of obsessing about him, I am obsessing about me. It has been enlightening, and I finally feel like I am taking a positive step to choose ME. With every step I take, I feel stronger and the momentum is increasing. I still go up and down, but every up is a little bit higher.

    I had another epiphany moment earlier tonight. Something he said the last time we met that made me realise who and what he really is. I can`t believe I didn`t see it before, but you know, I was in a different place then, and I forgive myself. THAT is very empowering. I also forgive him. He did not set out to deliberately hurt me. In fact, I didn`t figure in it at all! It really was all about him.

    He will never change. But I am. All the time. And the person I was that was happy to take this crap, is no longer the person I am now. She is gone. And I LIKE the new girl!

    Good luck to everyone going through this process. I still have a long way to go but I finally feel like I am on the right path, and it is absolutely true, the rewards ARE there.

  16. Elle says:

    As a (slightly shy) follow-up, Erykah Badu’s Appletree just came on my tracklist…and the lyrics especially resonate with this post (and the ethos of the blog). Check it out and enjoy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HStSKy2Ck9k

  17. debra says:

    Natalie – a beautiful and moving article. I have never chosen me. I have chosen “him” (or more accurately, waiting to be chosen by him) but have never consciously put myself and my needs first. Its humbling to say that, in my mid-40s, this is a revolutionary idea but one whose time has come. Its hard to imagine what my life would have been like if I had ever just acted in my own self-interest. It isn’t selfish, it’s self-respect. Over the past months, I have noticed changes in myself, all for the better. I am less angry and no longer snap at inanimate objects. I don’t feel frustrated or that I am doing battle with my life. My highs may not seem as high but the lows are no where near as low, either. I have recognized my intention to create drama where none need be BEFORE I do it and have stopped myself, gaining self respect in the process. Minor victories perhaps but again, revolutionary for me.

    I used to think it was weak to need other people or ask for help. Now I know its the only way to survive. The secret is to not keep looking for help from men who don’t intend to give it. I had ignored a number of very good people at work, in my quest to have a relationship with the assclown. I have now come to realize that those were the good people, the supportive, caring, loving people I really needed to let into my life. Simple changes make all the difference. It doesn’t happen over night, but if you truly work towards it, positive change does come. The AC and I, after being sent to forced mediation, even exchanged 4 simple but polite emails about work on Friday. I was relieved, not because I harbour any interest in letting him back into my life but because it was the first non-hostile exchange in weeks. I let go, stopped expecting anything from him and surrendered to the process and life has treated me with kindness in return. From here on out, I chose me, I chose peace, I chose to work towards healthy ways of interacting. Thank you, Natalie, for helping me see the way.

  18. Annie says:

    You’re brilliant, Nat. This was perfect timing. Thank you for giving me a boost today.

  19. Ann says:

    Amazing post, thank you NML. As a proud graduate of Nathalie’s recent ‘No Contact’ daily support emails, I have been in NC for a little over 3 months and I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the ‘pain’ tunnel :) For those of you dealing with NC please hang in there, it is worth it. It wasn’t easy to go through, but now I don’t feel broken anymore which is huge. My overall level of self-awareness has drastically increased. I’m not ready to start dating yet, though I trust myself to know when the time will feel right to me. That’s what putting yourself first is all about. I’ve also taken the opportunity to ‘clean up’ other areas of my life. I’m actually starting to feel ‘baggage-free’ :)

  20. Kathy says:

    OMG, Natalie — This is such a fabulous post and I sooo needed to hear it today. It really is all about US — giving ourselves the love we want, accepting responsibility for our lives and choices, changing our beliefs, and then changing our actions to go along with those new beliefs. You are the greatest!

  21. Cindy says:

    Again, a very timely post for me. I have been through hell the past few months, it seems. But thanks to your work, I was able to successfully start seeing this man for what he was and I realized his words do not match up with his actions. The best part was that I was able to recognize it when it happened and not allow the meaningless “fluffy words” take me up to cloud 9.

    After many failed attempts at No Contact, I stuck my hand in the fire, sucked it to see and got burned. I have never been in this situation before but I am learning. This article was a very good timely one (right after we had a huge fight) that let me know exactly why I have been failing at No Contact.

    But I won’t give up. I don’t think anyone changes overnight but, damn it, Natalie, you were always right. These guys don’t change and they try to bullshit us which is what mine has been doing to me.

    I feel like I’m going through hell but I know that a braver, wiser person is coming out the other side!

  22. CE says:

    I can’t help but notice a troubling trend on this site. For postive posts, like this one, that address us and our growth, needs and feelings directly, there are a number of warm, reflective comments. For posts that talk about “him”, bad relationships, assclowns and commitment averse men, there are 5 times the number of comments, and a tendency for readers to offer advice, council and mini-therapy sessions. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, other than it seems sad that these positive, self-affirming messages don’t seem to get the same attention and feedback that talking about a jerk of an ex seems to evoke. If I recount my own growth and healing, that’s fine, but if I were to go off on how my ex treated me badly or this or that, I would no doubt receive several passionate, supportive comments back, all containing the details of what the writer’s ex did that was similar, worse, equally appalling. I guess it’s inherent in women that we can commiserate with each other over our failed relationships and how we feel about getting screwed over by some guy, but we seem less interested in how we ourselves are healing, progressing, recovering. I’m not sure why this strikes me as so sad but it does. I would like to think we value ourselves more than the losers and cheaters that broke our hearts. Please keep writing these kinds of posts, NML. They are what we really need.

    • Elle says:

      It’s true, CE, self-pity and affirmation are, in several respects, addictive.

      But I think there’s a legitimate phase for it – working out what the hell happened and why, and getting comfort and support.

      Then, yes, definitely need to move on and use frameworks, like these, for healthier thinking, and, ideally, get as much support in that too.

      I think the site’s a bit skewed because humans do tend to share woes more than wins. And wins, in this case, are more subtle, whereas the crisis of an AC is easy to measure.

  23. junuka says:

    @CE you are so right, i felt the same.
    It is also important that we talk about good experience (with or without men), that’s also a way to healing.

    But I guess, responses also represent what many women are going through and have little space for empathy, advice, assurance and warmth which this site provides. if so many are going through this i wonder if we need to address men’s issues at an early age so that they don’t do this to women and we don’t have to dwell in so much negativity.

    I believe Natalie is doing a great job by first letting us stand firm before we reach out to love! ( in the light of this article).

  24. Charlotte says:

    It’s funny how even a little bit of time passing can help you strengthen – at the moment, though I am feeling that I am still only just learning to trust my own judgement which I have ignored for SO LONG, I have started to feel slightly better over the last couple of days (I am now on day 33 of NC after being a Fallback Girl for 3 years). I posted a week or so ago about my anger and have been on a rollercoaster of self-pity, grief, anger, fear and just plain sadness. In the short time since I first read this post, I have just this moment realised I have gone from not being able and not wanting to grasp what it was saying, to feeling a little bit better and a little bit different and just more open to it. I’m nowhere near there yet but I want to choose me now and though I already know in my head it’s the right thing to do, my heart is starting to want to as well.
    PS Since I last posted, the AC I was furious with(to put it mildly), and for whom I was considering breaking NC to shout at him, texted me a week ago. (Just “Hey. You ok?”) He’s still waiting for an answer. Or maybe not. I don’t know and am starting not to care :)

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

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

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

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