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passenger airbag

A guy was telling me a story recently about how he’d met a great woman who he could have had a great relationship with but it didn’t work out because basically she wasn’t over her ex. This is a common occurrence and it is very much wrong time, wrong place, no opening. It’s like being told that you’ve got a job and then arriving to start only to discover that even though the other person has left, your boss is keeping their spot open but somehow expects you to stick around and feel valued.

Does not being over your ex make you a ‘bad’ person? In fact, does a relationship not working out and you not always behaving in the most conducive ways for a relationship make you a ‘bad’ person? NO of course not, but then it’s not about good versus bad.

A circumstance is a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action. These same facts or conditions in turn cause something to happen and it tends not to be a good thing. [source Oxford Dictionary]

The facts of the situation was that this woman wasn’t over her ex – it came to light that she’d been drunk dialling and arguing with him about what he’d put on Facebook and attempting to ‘win’ him back…by making him jealous. What you would then have to wonder is did these circumstances cause her to do what she did?

This guy is insistent that it’s circumstance that caused her to be dismissive, disrespectful and lacking conscientiousness.

You know, I can buy that argument and in fact most people can, because finding plausible reasons and yes excuses for why someone isn’t able to even be courteous, is very much standard fare in dating and relationships. We love to give the benefit of the doubt and ‘see the best’, even if that benefit has to be given a thousand times over. We say that they’re shy, tired, overworked, forgetful, preoccupied, needed by so many people because they’re so popular/helpful/fantastic, in a bad place, needing some more patience, needing some more time, have childhood issues, have adult issues, and the list goes on.

It is true that circumstances can affect how someone behaves in dating and relationships but, and it is a big but, actions, certainly consistent actions over time or the sum of various actions put together, or even flat out unacceptable code red behaviour such as being abusive, is highly indicative of the fact that whether it’s character or circumstance, you need to address your presence in the situation.

Really, getting into Columbo mode and trying to assess whether it’s character or circumstance is splitting hairs and aside from the point – whichever one it is, you’re being compromised.

Sometimes people are truly not in a very good place and can barely see their way to taking care of themselves never mind somebody else. We all handle things differently and some of us are severely impacted by rejection, heartbreak, or stress. This is real, but, and yes it is a big but again, it’s not an acceptable reason for you to put yourself in the front line of fire. You can empathise with their position, but in empathising and recognising their situation, you may have to do what they can’t do for themselves and put an end to this situation for both yours and their sake.

You don’t need to ‘judge’ them – just judge the situation even if it means judging you out of it for your own self-preservation.

It can be tempting to stick around because you want to be ‘sympathetic’ or you think it’s what empathy looks like, but you’re just acting like a shield that prevents them from feeling their feelings, seeing things as they are, and handling their situation. You end up being an emotional airbag. It can also be tempting to stick around because you hope that circumstances will change and that the situation will pass – one day you wake up and realise that you’ve been involved in one big circumstantially affected relationship.

And the truth is, life has it’s ups and downs. It’s not like we’re all aiming to have relationships that never have bumps and tough times in them, but if these are not being navigated together and you in fact end up being left on the outside of a relationship while playing doormat, or feeling that you’re not being treated with love, care, trust, and respect, or that you’re not ‘together’ in spite of your understanding and support, that’s a ‘circumstance’ that cannot continue.

I hear too many stories of people supporting people who they feel have a ‘circumstance’ and then when their own circumstance rolls around, like being in ill health, being made redundant, a bereavement, the very people who they expected reciprocal support from are nowhere to be found or making vague excuses. That’s why I warned of the perils of over-giving – we are very understanding of circumstance because we hope that further down the line they’ll do the same or give you the love back that you want.

We all have circumstances – this should never mean that you sell yourself short while you place a higher value on someone. More importantly, when you keep talking about ‘circumstances’, it’s at the very best a code amber alert to stop, look, and listen or if there are a lot of ‘circumstances’, it’s a code red alert that you’re being too understanding, making too many excuses, and that you’re ignoring yourself, and that’s never a good circumstance to be in, but at least you can put an end to it, which is better than relying on controlling the uncontrollable and hoping for the wind to change.

Your thoughts?

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