Over the past few days since I wrote about whether you’re ready to date again, there’s been a flurry of discussion in the comments about people who rely on making last-minute plans under the guise of being ‘spontaneous’ and who, when you try to make plans or call them on their lack of commitment, get all shirty with you.

Here is what spontaneous looks like: You’re dating or in a relationship for a while. You see each other regularly and make plans in advance. Then, one day, they phone up and say, “I just found out that X is doing a gig tonight – do you fancy it?”. Or they say, “Surprise! We’re off to Paris/having a weekend away/eating out tonight”, or give you a gift just because.

Here is not what spontaneous looks like: You’re dating or in a relationship for a while. You only find out what you’re doing on a Friday evening or the day it’s happening. Plans are rarely, if ever, made in advance. And when you try to plan, they’re difficult to pin down. So, in the end, the decision for them to agree to your suggestion is so last minute that they’ve pulled their usual stroke on you again – passive aggression.

Spontaneous also doesn’t look like: You haven’t heard from them for several days, a week, a few weeks, or even months. Then they text, “Hey… hope you’re well. Fancy going out tonight?”. And then, after you spend time together, you don’t hear from them again for several more days, weeks, or months until the next textvite comes through. That’s mind f*ckery. You can be damn sure that spontaneous also doesn’t sound like a call after dark asking whether they can ‘come over’ – that’s a booty call.

Spontaneous: “performed or occurring as a result of a sudden impulse or inclination and without premeditation or external stimulus.” (Oxford Dictionary)

I’m all for seizing the moment. If, however, the only time I hear from you is when you’ve seized the itch in your pants, or your ego needs some pumping, or when you’ve finally decided to get around to thinking of me and considering me in your plans at the last moment, I’d rather take a raincheck.

Sometimes, it’s nice to fly by the seat of your pants. However, the type of person who relies on keeping you on ‘standby’ as an option to avail of and actually expects that, should they choose to spring their plans on you five minutes before, you’ll drop everything is someone who is like the seat of someone’s pants… after a bad day – shady.

It’s like you’re on standby for a flight or a backup generator!

Do you want to be someone’s ‘sudden impulse’, or do you want to be considered?

Would you be happy with someone not thinking ahead, planning, and committing to something as basic as short-term plans?

Like the whole ‘busy’ issue, it’s a question of valuing other people’s time. You can be sure that the person who doesn’t make plans with you assumes you’re on their ‘waiting list’ without something better to do. Often, it’s not a question of what you’ll be doing together; it’s whether you’ll be seeing each other at all.

Much like people who keep emphasising how ‘honest’ or ‘nice’ they are suffer with Those Who Doth Protest Too Much, when someone goes to the trouble of telling you they’re spontaneous, you’re dealing with a Future Avoider with basic commitment issues. If you can’t get them to commit to making short-term plans, may the force be with you for anything bigger.

These people expect you to go with their flow. This control will gnaw at your insides, having you anxious about whether you’ll be ‘picked’ each week. Feck that!

One of my exes wasn’t keen on ‘making plans’, often using the phrase “flying by the seat of my pants.” Most weekends, he’d ‘summon’ me after he’d decided what he wanted to do. Or I’d be subjected to having to listen to him whining about finding an activity that ticked his ‘spontaneous’ boxes. Invariably, 99.9% of the time, it was boring. So I did the smart thing – I went ahead and made my own plans. If I was around and I wanted to go, I’d meet him. But if not, hey ho – you snooze, you lose.

Sadly, I didn’t heed that lesson as he wasn’t my last Mr Unavailable. After being summoned here, there, and everywhere by text, phone, and email, I recognised how devaluing this is.

Being on standby as someone’s last-minute option is like floating around on the coattails of other people’s lives. You have a life of your own!

You are a worthwhile and valuable person deserving of love, care, trust, and respect. Yes, and that means you’re worth thinking ahead about and making plans with.

You will know you’re dealing with someone who isn’t all that spontaneous and who, in fact, has commitment issues when the things they’re spontaneous about aren’t really all that exciting.

It’s also important to consider the bigger picture: If someone rarely plans ahead, leaving things till the last minute isn’t spontaneous; it’s routine. It’s like the person who is so inconsistent that they become consistent at being inconsistent.

Everything is contextual. If you have a healthy, mutual partnering and your partner surprises you periodically, or you both decide to do things on the spur of the moment, that’s spontaneity. It is passive aggression when they’re doing things on their terms and shoehorning you into things one way or the other.

Your whole relationship can’t be one big ‘ole impulse. Part of being available and committed is being able to commit to doing basic things that if you’re not too busy trying to micromanage your intimacy and responsibility levels, you’d take for granted as being part of your relationship and enjoy it.

You are not a ‘standby ticket’. Don’t allow yourself to be a pop-up entertainment centre.

You are better than sitting around waiting to be called up for duty. Believe me when I say you’re also better than being a standby option after they’ve ensured they haven’t got better plans.

You’re someone to be made plans with. You’re also someone that can be surprised and seize the moment but within the context of already having the freedom of a relationship where you can talk about making plans without being shut down.

And that’s the test: Spontaneity cuts both ways. You can be sure you’re with someone who has commitment issues when it’s all on their terms and you can’t be spontaneous and get together on impulse.

Don’t be a passenger in your relationships.

If you’re not comfortable with being dial-a-date, then don’t be. Instead of giving a big explanation or even a small one, say you’ve made other plans. You need to make your own plans anyway! Leaving yourself as an option makes you a passenger, giving people the option of choosing you while you’ve already chosen them. They’ll either meet you in the middle and make plans or beat it. Or they’ll pretend to meet you in the middle and gradually eek it back to the last minute, at which point you bounce them and walk.

Start as you mean to go on. You don’t have time to teach a grown-up to value and prioritise you. Remember, when you don’t allow yourself to be on standby, somebody can’t treat you like an option.

Your thoughts?

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Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.

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