When I talk to people about their biggest struggles with relationships, an all too common complaint is struggling to deal with someone who is not willing to go the distance with intimacy and commitment. Each time they feel as if they’re making progress, this person gradually or even very sharply rolls things back to what I call their ‘status quo’ in my book Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl.
Imagine relationships on a scale of 0-10. The type of person who struggles with progression, balance, intimacy, commitment, and consistency – the landmarks of healthy relationships – wants to keep the relationship at 5. It’s like Goldilocks and The Three Bears: not too cold, not too hot, just right. “Just right” being right for their comfort zone not necessarily for their growth or that of the relationship.
As a result, someone who is afraid of intimacy and commitment will always manage the relationship back to their comfort zone.
Temperature ‘too high’ and not fitting with the perception of their self-worth? Cue lowering the temperature through sabotage and passive-aggressive behaviour. Things get ‘too good’ and ‘intimate’, they’ll undermine things in such a way that it gets back on their terms. Like when you meet their friends or go on an amazing holiday, and they pick or fight or disappear afterwards…
Told them to jog on? Cue them suddenly blowing hot and you feeling as if you’re approaching 8 or beyond. You think the fantasy is finally going to come true. And then gradually the relationship slides back down to 5. Like when you end it with someone who refused to commit or who mistreated you. Next thing, you’re experiencing an onslaught of effort and big declarations about the future. And then poof, you’re back to square one again.
The frustration in these situations unreal but also is the clue to our own liberation.
One of the single most significant changes that we can make to our relationship experiences as well as our self-esteem is to be more emotionally honest and to maintain our integrity.
When we’re in an unavailable relationship, we gradually lose our integrity. If we were truly being honest with ourselves (and them), we wouldn’t stick around in the relationship for as long as we have. Being someone whose actions and words match would matter too much to give it up. We wouldn’t say, “I need this and this and this” and then stick around when it’s clearly not there on the basis that we can see so much ‘potential’. We wouldn’t say that we’re “done” if certain things don’t happen and then stay anyway because we’re too afraid to honour ourselves.
How can we expect someone to be honest with us when they’re not even honest with themselves?