sometimes you so many possibilities in someone else, you neglect to see possibilities in yourself

Having a browse over a cup of tea, I found myself on the TED site and finally got around to watching a talk. I was drawn (and I have no idea why) to The Art of Creating Awe by Rob Legato who is behind the special effects for films including Titanic and Apollo 13. Right at the start he says that making the latter film taught him “…how our brains work is that, when we’re sort of enthused with enthusiasm or awe or fondness… it changes and alters our perception of things. It changes what we see. It changes what we remember.” Ahh…. hasn’t this got a lot to do with our dating and relationship experiences?

When special effects are really good, you think that they are real (possibly even better than the real thing) and they evoke emotions in you. Rob explained how we can have emotion built into certain events/experiences and have memories attached to it but that what they basically do with special effects is try to work out which elements that they need to recreate for a scene that combined will give the impression of realness. So for instance, clearly he didn’t go and build an entire Apollo 13 – in a parking lot, while using a tin can, fire extinguishers, fire and wax over the camera lens to look like ice, he hooked the audience into the scene.

“If you believed any of the stuff that I just showed you, what you were reacting to… what you’re emoting to is something that’s a total falsehood.”

Special effects in films can be awe inspiring, but judging by the stories shared with me, it’s mind-blowing to experience this in a relationship…but not in a good way. When it comes to an end or reality bites, it can be incredibly painful and difficult to decipher between what was real and what was fake. It hurts because what we felt during those times were our emotions and they’re real even if someone is blowing smoke out of their bum or the situation and the possibilities aren’t as real as we think.

There are certainly people out there who are very good at creating ‘special effects’ in dating and relationships (they rely on charming their way around people who are not as ‘reality vigilant’ and are possibly vulnerable), and to be fair, there are also plenty of people who are very good at creating their own special effects with their imaginations (they rely on the hot air and lack of action).

People definitely enter into dating and relationships carrying a certain amount of built-in emotions and memories – some about themselves (and they might not all be good) and some about previous experiences. For instance with unavailable relationships, there’s a lot of trying to ‘recreate the feeling’ whether it’s with an ex or just chasing that feeling of being loved, adored, desired etc. Equally we may be carrying around hurt and bad memories and that in itself can create a great deal of anxiety and even cause us to see danger when there isn’t or have us trying to right the wrongs of the past. These experiences in turn can end up bringing out a lot of our worst fears.

Ultimately, whatever we bring into it influences how receptive we’ll be to the ‘special effects’ whether they’re our own or someone else’s.

When you consider people who ‘Fast Forward’ by using intensity to speed you through the early stages of a relationship, you can see ‘special effects’ at work. They are quite practiced at it and their cycle may be a few hours (collecting attention on a dating site), one night (a date or one night stand), a few days or weeks (a fling) or for a few months (I know more than a few people who have been with Mr/Miss 60/90 Days or Mr/Miss 6 Months).

The intensity may be a mixture of words, actions, and it being out of context with how long you’ve actually known them, and this is their tin can, fire extinguishers, and wax in a car park. It’s the same for Future Faking – when someone gives you the impression of a future so that they can get what they want in the present – the ice on the lens may be sex and a fine line in promises.

Of course our own enthusiasm can trigger our overactive imagination and possibly our libido. Sometimes we’re so eager to be in the throes of a romance, to be getting attention, to have possibilities with someone, that we end up getting high on our own supply.

I remember practically punching the air with a gleeful YES on more than a few occasions after being asked out. It was like “YEAHHHH! I’ve been asked out again! Life is good! This person is interested in me! This could be it!” I got all of that out of being asked out?

Of course it’s not that we shouldn’t be enthusiastic about dating (Eau de Cynicism and Skepticism aren’t attractive) but it’s where the enthusiasm comes from – the possibility of abandoning ourselves and our own lives for the promise of someone we don’t really know yet. When we’re high on the possibilities, we like ourselves more than usual, we have an extra spring in our step, and everything that happens in the relationship gets correlated into more possibilities, even if they’re unrealistic.

Sometimes we’re so enthusiastic that we don’t remember a date or our interactions with a person as accurately – we focus on the things that make it easy to maintain an illusion and our ‘high’.

We remember things ‘differently’. It’s the very simple reason why when we wake up in a less than attractive relationship and wonder how the hell we got there and play the relationship back in our mind, we suddenly spot the code red and amber alerts. Sometimes we’re so carried away that our hopes and expectations for a relationship and a person don’t really have any basis in what’s happening in reality.

When we get enthusiastic about someone because they look like someone who we’re attracted to or they have certain characteristics, qualities and values, we can fall into the trap of over-correlating that information which is where our minds end up filling in the gaps and ‘mocking up’ a person who possesses other qualities, characteristics and values. They go from being a tin can to a rocket launching into the skies.

If we’re not as aware and mindful as we could be, we can also be caught out by the hallmarks of a relationship (sleeping together over a period of time, time itself passing, plans being made, meeting friends, our feelings and expectations increasing) because we don’t realise that the landmarks (commitment, shared values, progression, balance, consistency and intimacy) are absent.

‘Hallmarks’ without ‘landmarks’ is like the shots of the real Titanic 3 miles down in the ocean being mixed in with the model version in the studio.

And let us not forget the ‘awe’ and ‘fondness’ – awe makes us operate those special effects where we stick a pump up someone’s bum and inflate them while putting them on a pedestal to look back down on us. Along with fondness, we like to use them to see people in the ‘best light’ which is really us just projecting our imaginations and sometimes what we want people to think about us.

We forget that the best light is reality and that we only need to do special effects for people who only seem to ‘work’ in our imaginations.

It’s not that we need to ‘kill’ our imaginations but it’s the fact that our ‘accounting system’ doesn’t kick in and start reconciling reality with our imaginations – by the time we start to consider this or something bad happens, we’re very heavily invested in what may be a partial or total falsehood, which either way is a falsehood. It is our job in taking our responsibility for ourselves seriously, to do the due diligence and to put as much effort into keeping our feet in reality as possible. Yeah it might not be as ‘exciting’ but it certainly paves the way to a happier, more fulfilling, authentic experience and no amount of special effects can recreate that.

Your thoughts?

FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites
First Name * Email *

61 Responses to What Learning About The Special Effects in Apollo 13 & Titanic Taught Me About Future Faking, Fantasy Relationships & Why We Get Carried Away

  1. Paula says:

    Thank you Nat, another awesome reminder….

  2. Heartache Amy says:

    Yep, this is me: from trying to recreate the feeing, to still feeling hurt from my ex-husband and a last-year future faker church jerk, to remembering things differently (or forgetting what I’ve spent almost a year trying to learn) to waking up to red flags and amber alerts. (Why? I met another unavailable man who has been pursuing me). How can I have spent time on this site, read and digested Mr. Unavailable, seeing a therapist and making some of the same mistakes a year later? I feel like such a fool. Granted, I haven’t completely forgotten all I’ve learned, but I don’t know where my head has gone. I know I have to keep working on myself. I’m disappointed, though, in this man (who I actually like very much), in my pitiful situation and mostly, in myself.

    • runnergirl says:

      Hey Amy, I think I posted your precise comment a while back. How could I have…fill in the blank. In my case the universe kept sending me these arses until I learned the lesson, that’s all. You aren’t a fool. There’s just a lesson you may need to learn. Don’t let this new man awe you with his special effects. Don’t fill in his gaps with your own special effects. Your head is still grounded in reality cos you are coming back to BR. Swear to god, these guys are really not that special and they use special effects to cover it up. I’ll give you an immediate example below.

    • Arlena says:

      Amy, I so understand this feeling of disappointment with yourself. But please don’t be so hard on yourself. It takes its time and what seems like a relapse is just “Shit happens”. Try not to take it that personally. Tin pots are around en masse, we are bound to trot on some.

      “Church jerk”! Hilarious! I have one clutching my heel despite telling him “NO” again and again. Well, he beliefs in miracles…

    • nancy says:

      Another great read! I just recently went through the Hallmarks and well, no Landmarks because it’s only been 5 weeks! I even tried to talk to him to slooooow down. Be real and honest. He seemed like he got it but he didn’t. Its the same shit all over again and It’s only been 4 days since the talk. (hot and heavy turned to luke warm and numerous MIA’s) This is my first encounter with someone like that. The I Love you’s after one week?? Now alloofness. Crazy. I’m ready to move on. And I need to tell myself that none of that is real!!

  3. Bea says:

    Beautiful. Its the idealization. Thats why I cant let him go. Its not even him, its how I idealized him and how I wanted the possibilities of us to work out, failing to realize reality for what it is and failing to realize the possibilities in me. =)

    • Learner says:

      I feel you. I have had trouble letting go of the idealized version of the ex, too. Not the real guy, our idea of the guy. Bring on reality!

  4. Revolution says:

    Okay, so I’ve been a “lurker” on this site, but I have felt the need to “bust onto the scene” after reading many of your spot-on articles, Natalie, as well as the spot-on (albeit heartwrenching) comments. (Side note: Through my rougher moments, I’ve been reading the site at work as a source of encouragement, and have busted out laughing out loud on many an occasion! Ah, thank God we can laugh about these nutjobs, eh?) I’ve been NC with an AC for about 4 months. I laugh at the “looking back at code amber/red alerts” as if coming out of a fog! I’m totally over my AC, and just recently had been going through the anger phase, which honestly was mostly hilarious when I think about it. One day I found myself driving home from work, repeating over and over to myself, “Arrogant, BORING, NO job, BRRRROKE ASS car….” Well. You get the picture. The funny thing was I was LAUGHING the entire time at the ridiculousness of this clown and at my own “Steven Spielberg-esque” special effects for keeping the AC alive and breathing in my life. Uccch. Onward and upward, girls (and guys)!

  5. miskwa says:

    I still deal with this “fantasy” stuff and it’s probably the reason I have such a hard time with the at work AC though I have been diligent about maintaining NC. Also mourn my ex partner whom I broke up with because I had to move across the country. I just have that feeling that these were my last chances at the sort of relationship I want. Subsequent men I have met online and IRL may have (but not necessarily) treated me with more respect but just don’t measure up in terms of most other values such as personal and financial responsibility, lifestyle issues and all have fallen very short in the looks, intellectual, and health areas (many outright lied about these characteristics). Logically speaking, I understand that fanstasizing about what should’ve been and/or mourning what no longer is, is stupid and try to think of something else, work hard, run hard, etc. I just feel my choices now are to force myself to accept someone I have little in common with or attraction to or to somehow force myself to stop having feelings, stop wanting a relationship ever again.

  6. Ms Realist says:

    I must stay on this site! Because I’m obviously case study for every darn article here! I’m so ashamed of my desperation for a real connection & real love. I’m lonely & totally destitute in the area of relationship. For a month & a half I engaged in online flirtation with a man who wouldn’t even call me on the phone. We flirted on Skype & everything. I’ve just recently moved to another state & I’m still healing from having sex with an UM for almost a year! I let an ex almost woo me back after a decade when he found out he had a soon with an unfit girl & got custody. He turned out to be a future faker too! But in my desperation for attention, I allowed myself to continue phone calls with both these jerks. Even after both made it clear what they werechasing me down for – sex & stepmom duties. So when I met a man online who blatantly asked me to marry him as an ice breaker – I took the bate! Now I see none of them have any good intentions when it comes to me. I left them all alone. No contact is no problem because I’m so ashamed of myself, I’m sick to My stomach! I’ve logged off those sites & I’m now in hiding until I can trust myself not to fall for the bs anymore. I’m too afraid to open up to any possibilities now until my desperationdisappear or is worked on until I know how to have a real interaction with a man!

    • Lochy says:

      Ms Realist – your comments sound so familiar to me that I had to respond. I just wanted to say that having a hunger (what you have named desparation) for a real human connection is the most natural thing in the world and nothing to be ashamed of. I have worked very hard (with the help of a therapist) to accept my vulnerable side. I would never be so hard on someone else who felt low and unloved so I find it staggering that I have been so mean to myself – just as you are being too. I totally understand the need to protect yourself and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Time out can be such a healing thing. Just don’t close your loving heart because there are assclowns out there…Natalie’s ‘boundaries’ blogs will provide a nice balance for you so you can finally have all the love you deserve…starting with loving yourself :) Good luck, you can do it!

  7. Blackbird says:

    Lovely reminder and a great analogy. One of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve had is realising how much I project onto the people I’m interested in. Too much – I see too much potential and not enough actual. I know now this is shonky groundwork for a relationship.

    I have been reading your book every day for several months – reinforcing what I know already on an intellectual level and hoping for the heart to catch up eventually.

    I wasn’t sure till the other day but things have changed for me. The urge to reach out to this person has gone. I still think about him but there’s no pain there. I no longer yearn. It’s working – it really is.

    Thanks Natalie – couldn’t have done it without this site and your accumulated wisdom.

  8. runnergirl says:

    Absolutely truly brilliant Natalie. I think the analogy of the special effects of a fantasy-dreamer situation was another aspect of the synergistic dance I did as a FBG with the ex Mr. U. Like you say, he created the “special effects” of a relationship even though he was married. However, I created my own “special effects” of a relationship in order to maintain my high despite the fact a relationship cannot exist with a MM. Between his special effects and my imagination and my own special effects,it was a match made in hell. Truly hallmarks rather than landmarks. I’ve always loved that distinction. I think what has been really important for me is realizing and owning as to how I danced that amazing synergistic (and fatal) dance that FBG’s dance with their EU/AC’s. I’m always so impressed with how you get me to recognize my role in buying/creating the special effects without placing blame or shame. I totally loved this. Movies, Iphones, Ipads, FB, text/emails etc create this special feeling of being connected. When push boils down to shove, it’s about the real thing…reality: “If you believed any of the stuff that I just showed you, what you were reacting to… what you’re emoting to is something that’s a total falsehood.” I’m truly grateful for your brilliance in assisting me to seeing my role without blame or shame. Most importantly, thank you for helping me to get grounded in reality.

  9. selkie says:

    “If we’re not as aware and mindful as we could be, we can also be caught out by the hallmarks of a relationship (sleeping together over a period of time, time itself passing, plans being made, meeting friends, our feelings and expectations increasing) because we don’t realise that the landmarks (commitment, shared values, progression, balance, consistency and intimacy) are absent.”
    Yes yes yes. This is description of my last relationship. Many of the hallmarks were there, and I DID think I’d hit the jackpot and found myself a great man. But….he just felt distant….not much progression over 6 months and the intimacy was confined to the bedroom, I never really felt welcome in his life or his space, even when I was invited. He felt stiff and not very open, yet he cooked dinner for me, did nice things and always called when he said he would. He was there but not available. I’ve had a hard time really seeing the truth in that simple statement. I saw the shape of a rocket in a tin can.

  10. runnergirl says:

    Yes, yes, yes, Natalie. Reality is so much different than the special effects of my imagination. I had just read this post after checking my online inbox. Sure enough there was Mr. Motocross who thinks I’m a doll and his “perfect type”. I did Motocross 20-some years ago. Since I don’t do email, I suggested we chat on the phone. He called precisely at 6:30. Things went downhill from there. He had all the special effects. He races motocross, is a pilot (my online profile specifies I am looking for a co-pilot), and has a boat and snorkels. His pics back it up. Here’s where reality reared it’s ugly head. He wanted to meet tonight. Nope, I don’t do moments notice meet ups and I have class work to do. So then he volunteers to come to my house and will help me with my class work. Huh? Nope. So I suggest meeting at a local restaurant tomorrow evening. Phump, he goes vague, let’s play it by ear. So he can be at my house on a moments notice but he doesn’t know if he can meet for a drink tomorrow? Clear as a bell. My accounting system is on full alert thanks to you all. I don’t know whether it is because I read this post but this guy seemed to specialize in special effects and then went cold when he had to own up to the plate. He, he, he…totally love you Natalie. I’m internalizing taking responsibility for myself. I could be rolling in the hay with a perfect stranger right now. SO NOT WHAT I WANT and not what I’m doing. Thank you for your insight and amazing wisdom. These guys are artists in special effects.

    • Fearless says:

      “So then he volunteers to come to my house and will help me with my class work.” Oh really.

      Ha! Lol! That’s a cracker. Well handled. Sounds like my ex EUM – same crapola. I can hear the sound of your flush handle from way over here!

      • runnergirl says:

        Hey Fearless,
        To top it off he claimed he was “shocked” by my response because he was a pilot and therefore honorable. That was his special effect! Talk about assumptions…he’s honorable because he’s a pilot? Huh?

    • dancingqueen says:

      You called it Runnergirl, totally dodgy guy: What kind of weirdo offers to come to your house to help you with your lesson plans when you have not even met him and are not dating him?

      I feel like, honestly, I have moved past the fantasy stage to the cynical stage…I am trying to hide it but I am seriously getting creeped out by the huge amount of weirdos you can meet out there in online dating and randomly. The other day I was just laughing about it to my friends. I honestly am a bit concerned because I feel like I flush so easily now that I am the total opposite of who I was when I first got here and in fact I am starting to wonder if that is a problem…I feel like I have no patience anymore but I am 46: I suppose I should be alarmed that I am not dating anyone seriously…but I can’t say that I am. Judging from some of the men I meet and the ones that some of my friends are unwisely choosing I just feel like I would rather be alone than with most of the men that are available in my very backwards part of the Texas South that I live in. I am liberal and not religious and it is really hard to meet cool men here in their 40′s.
      I am trying hard to just keep myself out in the real world and up the chances for meeting someone normal but online dating is great for maximizing contact where I am.
      Oh well; case in point this totally cool seeming guy emailed me some very nice, respectful emails, asked to call me, I gave him some days, he immediately emailed to tell me when…I was able to talk during that window of time and…he never called. But then called the next day with an excuse. It was a shame because he seemed pretty great and we have a lot in common but I am not going to call him back; I think that anyone who flakes off the bat is not worth dealing with…am I wrong here? Sincerely, the anti-fantasy, pro-flush woman lol.

      • runnergirl says:

        Hey DQ,
        Sounds like the respectful emailing guy was a tin can. Nothing lost except a few emails. It sounds like you are being “reality vigilant” which may result in a lot of flushing. Remember, there’s no fire and you are NOT that desperate even if you are 46…cos if there’s a fire for you, it would be a bonfire for me as I’m 53! Hang in there. The good thing about online dating is you really can’t get that excited and punch the air every time you meet a stranger. Good luck to you.

  11. Learner says:

    “If you believed any of the stuff that I just showed you, what you were reacting to… what you’re emoting to is something that’s a total falsehood.”
    Ah yes – I totally fell for the look in his eyes as he said he loved me in a tone of voice that suggested his very life depended on my existence. I came out and *told* him my fears, while he reassured me about each one and then turned *them* all into reality (that we didn’t feel the same way about each other, that he would get involved with someone else, that someone would get hurt by our involvement with each other). He used techniques of denial, minimizing, and straight-up lying to achieve the “special effects” that what we had together was genuine, wholesome, exclusive, special. Not only was he a tin can, he was a tin MAN with his admitted uncertainty about what love was exactly, and his unawareness of his feelings.
    And I helped him along with the fantasy, bestowing upon him all manner of wonderful characteristics – loving, caring, warm, tender, vulnerable, sincere.
    I mistook his molten wax and spurting fire extinguishers for passionate love – his skills in the bedroom seeming to be an expression of the depth of his love for me (esp since he told me that he could express himself best physically).
    But it was all a load of rubbish, a bunch of bologna, a pile of bullshit all with the purpose of pumping up his own ego.
    Funny thing is, he loves to read fantasy novels, and watch fantasy movies. Perhaps he brought some of that smoke and those mirrors into our non-relationship.
    Oh Natalie and BR posters – thank you for helping me to see him for what he really is, and for seeing my illusions for what they really were. I do miss the “him” I imagined and embellished. It’s not as exciting here in reality, but it’s certainly more secure and stable. I want landmarks, not a deceptive parking lot. Thanks Natalie for helping me to see even more clearly how I ended up with that “WTH” feeling as the relationshit dissolved. It’s giving me even more strength to forgive myself and head into month 3 of NC.

  12. Patricia says:

    Gosh! Natalie…you sure know how to hit the head on the nail!…I have read many of your articles and share them with my web base support group of Emotional Abuse…and your wit is awesome and healing… is food to my soul…I left my abuser 1 year and 2 months ago and went NO CONTACT….I have had basic text messages when he returned my belongings, etc….and never have seen him again…I know I am vulnerable…so I use my weakness as my strength and refuse to give into the temptation of contacting him…I attend support groups and counseling…and finally I am FEELING I have begun to DETACH!…and however unfamiliar feeling I am being cautiously optimistic….and HAPPY!!!…..thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts in writing…they are making a real difference in my life and in the lives of whom I share your knowledge…..Hug, Patricia :)

  13. Sunnyb says:

    I actually have to congratulate myself tonight, because, after dating a man boy for an idyllic 8 weeks, he started pulling away a few days ago. I’ve been through this so many times I (sadly) saw it coming when he started pulling away last Friday. Tonight, when he cancelled our date due to a bad mood, I called him on it (politely and maturely) and it turns out that shock horror….”he just doesn’t know what he wants”. I told him that I wasn’t prepared to wait around for the axe to fall (I just hate those drawn out endings) so I was done. He was polite and kind, but he didn’t exactly beat the door down begging for a second chance which speaks volumes. Anyway, really trying hard not to blame myself and take 100% of the responsibility this time.

    • Lois Lane says:

      I spent an idyllic 8 months. And then he started to pull away.I stepped back and looked at everything. This article is absolutely perfect! He’s a decent person, treated me very well, and the breakup was pretty mutual and amicable. But I feel so stupid. He was a fast forwarder. I should have paid more attention and listened to my gut. I slowed things down in the beginning because he was a bit OTT but it never really subsided so I let myself fall in love and believe in us. And then things just got awkward suddenly. I came to the realization that if I was on point, it wouldn’t work. So I brought it up and he says, you’re right. Let’s end it now while we might have a chance to be friends. All without a lot of explaining or listing of reasons. And Sunnyb, I feel you on the “not beating down the door for a second chance”. That hurts and is VERY indicative. I do believe it was the right thing to do but I wouldn’t have become so invested if I would’ve kept my feet in reality and slowed down. Now I wonder how much of it was real and how much was him “getting high off his own supply”. And I joined him. I don’t think he has a clue what he really wants. He was using me as a rebound to his lonely and depressing life. Once I helped him return to the land of the living, he no longer wanted a family or the inherent responsibilities. And, of course, I loved his special effects. Another lesson learned…… Thank goodness for everyone at BR!

  14. Arlena says:

    Oh, Natalie, another Super Deluxe Food-for-thought-Whopper and I feel so well-stuffed by your last posts! This one was dessert and made me giggle launching my imagination. I got the picture of a car with a “Just married” sign pulling behind a bunch of rattling tin cans. Finally I got the meaning of that custom and couldn’t stop laughing. I then saw myself piling up my personal tin pots to form a pyramid and started throwing balls at them. What.A.Fun.Everybody is invited. I ended up going down Assclown Road whistling and kicking tin pots while heading towards Reality Lane. Thanks, Natalie, you made my day!

  15. grace says:

    I think one of the special effects women are urged to project is “I’m fun! I’m breezy! I’m light! I’m no trouble whatsoever! I’m sexy! I have no needs!”
    I didn’t feel any of those things when my father was in A&E.a few weeks ago and really appreciated the pep talks from the man.
    While I agree that the first date especially, and the first month or so, should be about enjoying ourselves, at some point we have to be real. That’s going to be easier for us and for him if we weren’t pretending to be something we’re not.
    And sex has every potential to make us think we have a connection wiith someone that we really don’t. There’s a plus side to waiting, it’s not just Watch Out, He Might Be An AC. it’s nice to have that time to get to know someone without the fireworks shooting off everywhere. It forces you (in a good way) to be patient, to talk, to build the emotional connection instead.
    I find this a bit scary:
    “(I know more than a few people who have been with Mr/Miss 60/90 Days or Mr/Miss 6 Months).” I was “Ms A Few Years”, and even a marriage didn’t stop me from being that. How do I know I’ve changed? And, for all I know, the man could be Mr 90 Days or Mr Six Months. When do we know that it’s lasting? Or do we never know? Do we just show up for it every day, put in the effort, and accept that the future is unknowable?

    • Magnolia says:

      Hi Grace,

      My guess is a big part of it is: would you LIKE it to be forever with this person? Do you hope to stay with the person until you die?

      In all my previous relationships, I couldn’t say yes to that. In the relationships of friends that I admire, they seem to “hope” it lasts more in the sense that they hope no accident or illness befalls their loved one, not that they worry that one or the other of them will become bored.

      My guess is it’s about the vision. With the exAC, I could never picture being happily married to him, not really. With the long-term relationship in which I felt trapped, I could indeed picture being with him forever and knew he wouldn’t end it and the thought became ever more stifling.

      • grace says:

        It’s too early to say after six weeks, but “forever” is a nice idea rather than a not nice one. And without playing games I would only want that if he wanted it too (though it’s too early for him to say either). I wouldnt want someone who didnt want me. I don’t feel that I’m waiting for him to change, or become better, or to take the lead or set the pace. Nor am I throwing myself at it. it feels more mutual than that, which is different to how I’ve been before. we are BOTH still getting to know each other but without having anything to prove.
        i don’t worry about boredom, it didnt even cross my mind, so I guess thats a plus. Yay, I don’t require any special effects.
        Thanks, you’ve helped!

    • Fearless says:


      I’m no expert on long lasting relationships (other than the epic EU kid-on type) but I’m guessing that all you’ve said about taking the time to get to know each other (minus the special effects, projection and EU-ness), should result in two people who are at least able to be honest with each other and with themselves about what they want for the future, about what their intentions are.
      I think ultimately the uncertainty about the future is largely resolved when two (realistic and self-knowing) people make the commitment, decide to do it, to be there, to show up (as you said) every day. And if you know and trust each other well and it comes to the ‘future bit’, the ‘forever bit’ then you’ll know that neither of you will make the promise, take the vow, and not mean it – seriously mean it. Some people call it ‘marriage’. I do too. Some people take it very seriously; I do too, even though I’ve never done it! (and I know you would if you found yourself there again).

      If both (stress on “both”!) believe they are making a profound and lasting commitment (a sacrament even) – till death us do part, then both will know/believe wholeheartedly that it’s not negotiable – they commit. Not sure I’m making sense here – I mean to say simply that ‘I do’ and ‘I will’ are very powerful words when we take them seriously and know what we are saying, when we are as good as our word, when we greatly value that commitment and are able to trust that the other person shares those same values. Yep. We need to get to know the person and ourselves really well first. And I agree about the sex as having real potential to create false reality and false sense of connection.

    • Natasha says:

      Grace, I totally know what you mean about taking our time – I had to laugh, because I thought I was madly in love with My Final Assclown and, at some point, it occurred to me that I didn’t even know his middle name. (It’s probably something like “Douchebag II”, but that’s beside the point) Personally, I look forward to less firecrackers the next time I date someone! I also totally agree on the “special effects” we’re encouraged to put out there. In reality, everyone has needs/has a bad day/has a few “charming quirks”/gets fed up when stuck in traffic/decides to go on a fad diet and winds up cranky and gassy/etc. This is life! So glad to hear that you’re enjoying getting to know this new gentleman caller :)

    • Lilia says:

      Just take it one day at a time, Gracie.

      A relationship isn´t an investment (at least, I assume you´re not into him for his money).
      If it works for you both at the moment, then fine. If it ends at some point it will be because you´ve grown apart, and that will be fine too.

    • runnergirl says:

      Hi Grace,
      Interesting questions. I’m hoping Natalie will respond with the answers! In some way being in a situation with a EU/AC/MM, I did know the outcome, despite the special effects syndrome. I can see how being in a relationship that is based on reality would be scary. I can see how it would be scarier than being in a situation with an EU/AC/MM. I think you may have answered your own questions: “Do we just show up for it every day, put in the effort, and accept that the future is unknowable?” I’m thinking that all you can do is keep your eyes on landmarks, not the special effect hallmarks which it sounds like you are doing. And if the guy ends up being Mr. 60/90 days or even Mr. 6 months, you bail. Show up, put in the effort, and keep your head and feet grounded in reality. Okay so if I met someone I’d like to see for 90 days, will you remind me? It’s due diligence.

    • dancingqueen says:

      Grace: you are so right and I hate that
      “I think one of the special effects women are urged to project is “I’m fun! I’m breezy! I’m light! I’m no trouble whatsoever! I’m sexy! I have no needs”
      My litmus test of sorts is if I can get in an argument with a man, express anger ( calmly) and still have them there, the next day, willing to fight to work it out. Now had that in a while. I am so sick of breezy and light expectations; I am not a fabric softener sheet.

    • cc says:

      yes to what everyone else said.

      we can never know anything for sure as nothing is permanent and all things pass. HOWEVER, i think its more deciding who you want to hang out with, and play with, and fight for, and fight with when necessary, while you’re seeing how things in the more general sense play out. to determine that, you look at shared values and goals and at naturally arising kinship, which is exactly what you’re doing.

      breathe, honey. all the arrows are pointing, so far, in the right direction with this guy. and you’re doing a great job of staying in your own space and sharing that space with him on a frequent yet occasional basis.

      you’re doing fine. no, you can’t know all the answers, but you can know a lot of them. and for 6 weeks in, or whatever number of weeks you’re at right now, you’re ok. you’re doing great. just be easy and keep going.

  16. lo j says:

    Awesome, Natalie. Both how they have set up the scene and our willingness to sit and enjoy the show!! With my last experience, the movie “The Six Sense” comes to mind repeatedly. In the end when Bruce Willis realizes he’s dead, (when the AC blew up at my child), he had “red” flagbacks (me too )… I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. I saw the AC for who he was … not for who he had made himself out to be or who I had wanted him to be. It truly was a spiraling moment. I had to face the truth about me as well. Why I chose the theater instead of real world. (Many times I have laughed to myself, “I see emotionally unavailable people … they don’t know they’re emotionally unavailable. “)

  17. lo j says:

    Flagbacks was an error but somehow it works! Lol!

  18. swissmiss says:

    Has anyone given thought to how these ACSs seem to thrice on intensity? Making a woman crazy builds their sense of power and self-esteem. I used to hear his wife screeching orders down the phone: if I had stuck with him, I would be that woman. Once, just before I ended it, he (chillingly) referred to his wife as ‘the frigid bitch.’ I get it now. I’d be holding back my innermost core, too, if I had to spend my life with him. His behavior cultivated these extreme reactions. Crying women, unhappy women, angry women. He tried to make me one, too. Nat, some day, would enjoy a post that reminds us of the impact these ACs have had on the wives we hear about and how lucky we are to be away.

    • recoveringloveaddict says:

      swissmiss, that’s interesting. The AC, before I became involved with him, once told me he used to sometimes ignore women he knew had a thing for him, for no other reason than to just be mean. I guess it made him feel powerful to have that kind of control over how the women reacted to it. I guess I thought I was special or he had changed because knowing that about him didn’t keep me from getting involved with him! Yep, ignored THAT redflag!!!

  19. FinallyDidIt says:

    Swissmiss: I get it now too! Can remember him telling me his ex-wife #1 (he’s had at least 2 I know of) was not affectionate to him and he had a major problem with that. So what did I do? I pumped up the affection and learned first hand, in my face why this poor woman held back. Don’t have to explain it, we all know. Wonder how much of herself she lost trying to make it work.

    • swissmiss says:

      FinallyDidIt: Oh boy, do I know about slathering on the affection. Just holding his hand made him swoon with gratitude. He said he had never been loved like that before (see Nat’s post on “translations” for the meaning of those empty words!) I plan to NEVER EVER ‘love’ like that again. Just loving the affirmation. No wonder these wives don’t touch them: they’d be sucked dry. He stayed away from her for three months, then just went back. He says she is now ‘more respectful’ but he is still unhappy. Manipulating wanker! Flush!

  20. Kathie says:

    WOW. Another fantastic post & spot on. Looking back I can see that I did exactly what Nat talks about..
    We remember things ‘differently’. It’s the very simple reason why when we wake up in a less than attractive relationship and wonder how the hell we got there and play the relationship back in our mind, we suddenly spot the code red and amber alerts. Sometimes we’re so carried away that our hopes and expectations for a relationship and a person don’t really have any basis in what’s happening in reality.
    That was it exactly…. Live & Learn from our mistakes.

  21. derick says:

    Hey NML
    Great great article. I can’t begin to explain how much your insights have helped me and your observations are pinpoint accurate 90 percent of the time. Thanks to you I go on a lot less dates now because I know what I want and I recognize when my core values fail to match with the other person, hence the dates I do chose to pursue, while fewer in number….tend to be more meaningful. Haven’t found the right one yet but I know she’s out there!! Thanks again

  22. lawrence says:

    Special effects in relationships? Only you, Natalie, only you could come up with something like that. :) Brilliant.

    Mr. Science-Logic-Reality-Oriented Lawrence Jeffrey Ambrose scoffed at the very idea of injecting fantasy into a relationships. I love science fiction and fantasy, but surely never would I indulge that love in a romantic relationship!

    Four years later I saw clearly that not only are there “life scripts” – there are “relationship scripts.” And mine was a Romantic Tragiocomedy (with some fantasy, horror, and science fiction thrown in ;).

  23. Magnolia says:

    I was in an all-day strategic planning meeting yesterday where the whole faculty was in one big room. I confess, at one point, when I should have been thinking about strategic plans, I was looking around the room at the men. :o

    None of them inspired “special effects” feelings. Every one of them seemed pretty ordinary, and even the ones I might have been drawn to before (the handsome, fit, ambitious, confidently-spoken type) seemed just a brand of what I already know (in the case of the handsome well-dressed ones, the possibility of them being ACs jumped to mind than the potential of them being some prince that will change my life forever).

    But, you know, seeing that no one inspires “awe” was actually kind of reassuring. I thought, I can’t experience disappointment in the kind of men I might meet at work (not that I want to date at work, but I’d like to know good guys) if I’m not expecting romantic butterfly princess feelings. I realized my own expectation of “awe” was coloring how “disappointing” or “inspiring” I found the men. It probably has coloured how I find people in general.

    The special effects metaphor is wonderful. I think about how when a reader/viewer comes to fantasy movies and books, they have to practice what they call “suspension of disbelief”. That is, you turn off the part of you that is like, yeah right, that could never happen.

    When we want a relationship to transport us to the moon, I guess we turn off our “yeah, right” impulse and believe the guys who promise that they have the white unicorn that will take us there!

    • cc says:


      mags! you, i believe, have fully absorbed the “he’s just not that special” concept.

      someday, a guy will prove himself to you to be special for you. until then, exactly, not every guy has unicorn potential. until then, we must indeed not suspend our disbelief.

      brava, and thank you!

  24. Jessie says:

    That was one of theist axing articles, although I love them all. You hit the tack on the head (that was me to a T in a “relationship” with Mr. Un. The relationship is over but I still think about the mechanics that were in play, your article explained them perfectly and I’d actually helping me now. Thank you! I sent the piece to my therapist as he told me many of these things but I refused to understand that side at the time. Now I get it.

  25. Jessie says:

    Typos in last comment, sorry, meant to say best articles ever and that you are helping me now as I read and re-read it. I need to keep this in front of me on a daily basis for awhile. Thanks!

  26. I_will_be_ok says:

    I`m fairly new on this site..I found it while trying to figure out why the EUM/AC would disappear for weeks..this post hit home (along with so many others!) I promptly broke it off with him after almost 2 years and one child later..I kept rationalizing, minimizing and denying..alot of it was, I think, so I could keep the fantasy going. I got carried away by a future faker and unfortunately for us, I didn`t see reality until I found out I was pregnant. He bolted. When he came back around again when my baby was 6 months old, I gave him another chance. In my mind, everything was going to be fine. I was going to have a husband and she, her dad. Needless to say, it was all in my head =( He quickly went back to his hide-n-seek games and that`s when I came to this site. I have slowly learned that I won`t be the one to “fix” him or the exception to the rule..and most importantly, that I pumped him up to be something he wasn`t…but it`s a great feeling because with knowledge comes power and now I can take the neccesary precautions so my baby girl doesn`t put herself in my shoes with him or any other AC! I am so grateful for these posts and hearing from other people. Keep up the great work!!

    • carol says:

      aw bless you. it is hard and you said you are new to this site. i found Natalie by accident a couple of years ago now or more, and this woman puts things in such a way that it makes us think about what actually we want out of life, and not being overyly concerned about keeping someone else happy when they treat us like dirt. i read and re- read topics that i need to stay focused on. my faves are, will he leaver her for me? the other oman, and letting go of something that doesnt exist. i had to print it out and read it over and over till i could honestly say, and do something about it, and when i did the relief was tremendous. you sound lovely, dont do it to yourself, and i wish you and your baby all the happiness in the world. no matter what colour we are, age, religion, sex or anything else, all of us who read these blogs have had to start somewhere and really look at things as they really are. Natalie has been blessed with a gift and she shares it to all of us.the gift oftelling it like it REALLy is.bless her i think i would have been dead by now if i hadnt have found this site,was suicidal at times over the whole situation. keep strong sister. were all in the same boat on here, and its not the titanic anymore. x

  27. Gina says:

    Nat you are brilliant!!

    You just described my attitude and behavior upon being asked out, and dating a guy! Your last five blog topics have helped me to specifically address behaviors that I have engaged in with my previous relationships that cause me to attract the same type of man over and over again. I am currently choosing to remain happily unattached, romantically, in order to work on myself.

  28. ACaddict says:

    One of my biggest problems is being stuck in denial, and almost re-incriminating myself with thoughts about them which are full of validation seeking. It’s like I have to assist a knife wound to let go of the intensity of delusions I have imprisoned myself with. I think Hollywood does a big disservice to people trying to learn lessons about the real world.

  29. Jennifer says:

    I have not been realistically assessing the people in my life. I idolize them so I don’t have to deal with how crappy they are to be around or how poorly they treat me. I’m terrified of really standing up for myself. I’m afraid everyone will leave me. But in not seeing people in reality, aren’t I alone anyway?

  30. Elle says:

    Spot on, Natalie! I like this. It also helps you with moving on: forgiving yourself that you got fooled by some special effects, the brain has its biases, it happens all the time. I laugh now when I think of the joint venture in film craft my AC relationship was. Him first. Me second. I had a day of this sort of thing with a work colleague this past week, when I just started to think of him as perhaps this hero figure, partly because things are becoming more settled, and at the same time, more disparate with the new man. It was like I was high on this story for about 12 hours, until I came to. It’s dangerous stuff, the emotions of a coherent and awesome story.

  31. carol says:

    God Natalie you are so awesomely right. I got rid of an EUM a month ago after years of being messed about ( have written on here before) and it was really hard. i had NC and really felt that was it, and it still is. Then…… I got asked out, tonight actually and i am doing everything you said, pucnching the air, imagining a future with this person ( lol) you have just brought me out of appollo 13 and back down to earth. Thank you. This blog is me all over, yes I CAN make something out of nothing. am off to build a rocket in the garden now and set fire to the bloody thing!!!!! Thank you Natalie. x

  32. Slow_learner says:

    I understand everything everyone is saying, but it’s still not fully sinking in for me. I have been so bold as to tell this guy I’ve known for years but only started dating “I don’t like being ignored, have a nice life.” But then he reels me back in with “sorry, I’ve been ignoring everyone, something big and ugly is going on in my life.” So then I get concerned and worried and text him back with “I’m worried about you, please share” and then he goes MIA again for days.

    He gives me just enough to “keep me hanging on” even though I know he’s a broken ass clown. I think part of my problem is that I don’t want to abandon a friend if they are truly in need.

    • grace says:

      If you were THAT concerned you would have phoned him or gone to his house or called his mother. I think you’re just giving yourself an excuse to stick around.No reasonable person tries to help someone in true need via text! You know he’s not in true need.
      PS Let me know if I’m wrong. I’ll apologise.

    • recoveringloveaddict says:

      No, slowlearner, just like an alcoholic is given an excuse to drink, the AC gave you an excuse to “legitimitly” contact him. He baited you knowing you are a nice person who would be concerned and you took the bait. You weren’t really concerned about him, you just wanted to “drink”.

  33. Mymble says:

    This post is brilliant. The smoke and mirrors, and voilà! I was hooked! For a long time I could not understand what it was about the guy that got me so obsessed. My therapist was encouraging mento think about it but I couldn’t work it out at all. It was the way in which he paid attention so closely to me and everything I said. It tuned into a need I had, going back to my childhood, that I was listened to by an impressive and intelligent man and that I mattered. But of course the actions didn’t match. I did not in fact matter to him, as became painfully apparent. Whether it was a deliberate trick, or whether a habitual manner, or whether he was paying attention in order to get what he wanted from the situation, I don’t know. But it certainly didn’t mean what I thought it did. On one occasion he said he wasn’t confident with women and even at that time it seemed like a sinister comment. I very strongly suspect that he was using me as target practice for big game hunting.He was honing his skills of deception and manipulation. But the good thing is, I honestly don’t think I would make this mistake again. I’ve seen behind the smoke and mirrors, I’ve seen the wizard of oz and he’s just – a guy.

    • Mymble says:

      And I would add I was also doing my own special effects, pretending to be light breezy, sophisticated (!!!) carefree. Not complaining when he went dark. Hiding my feelings. I don’t know if he was fooled – I think at some level he knew we were not on a level playing field – but it enabled him to feel like he was a good guy and that he wasn’t causing any harm to anyone. That was very important to him. He was at pains to emphasise how caring, loving, tenderhearted and gentle he was. He actually described himself as such, and also said that he had “no anger”, other than on behalf of abused children. (Wow! Writing this down i am really feeling how much horse manure it all jaw is dropping at my own gullibility..) Somehow I got characterised as the big bad hardass. Another special effect/self-serving lie.

  34. LoveyDovey says:


    Leave this guy alone. You already let him know you are concerned and leave it at that. The ball is in his court to reach contact and actually fill you in about what “big and ugly” thing is. Sounds serious….but is it really?

    Do NOT chase him down. Meaning no more phone calls or texting “Hello? Are you okay? I’m really worried about you cuz I haven’t heard from you in days. Can you please tell me WTF is going on?”

    He knows what’s going on but he doesn’t have the need to explain it all to you. Cut him off….

  35. Awakened says:


    Bait;Bait;Bait…. Is he sorry cause he really does have something big and ugly going on in his life and suddenly needs an Ego stroke; shag or his current shag has figured him out and he’s gearing in to do a Rinse; Lather and Repeat. Typical assclown.

  36. Robin says:

    Ah, smoke and mirrors! Tell me about it! I still have to learn this well, but in addition to carefully observing someone’s actions, you have to see what their true intentions are. Someone can be super nice to you, but they actually want to use you for something.

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!