Elizabeth asks: I was in a fantasy and codependent relationship where I kept trying to extract empathy and commitment from a Mr Unavailable. It’s been five months since we split, and three since No Contact. Recently he contacted me but lazily and passive. I responded and he said he wanted to connect but was then avoidant about making plans. We saw each other in public and maybe he felt guilty, because afterwards he he texted me regarding making plans. For the first time ever, I said no. This prompted him to apologise, saying that he wants things to be OK between us, that he knows it will take time, and that maybe it’s too soon. I haven’t responded.
I think he wants me to relieve him of his guilt and be the one to tell him his behaviour isn’t so bad. That said, it is hard for me to let go. When I said no, I did get different behaviour from him. Could he actually be less of a Mr Unavailable, it’s just that we are just misunderstanding each other? I am afraid he is starting to show interest in other women. If so, how can the reasons he gave about why he didn’t want to be in a relationship, be true?
Sometimes we don’t see the wood for the trees. We can find ourselves in the most dysfunctional of relationships and when it finally ends, we latch on to anything but the truth, pondering stuff like, “Is it because I didn’t answer the phone on three rings or reply to their text in a nanosecond?” or “It’s because I wasn’t sexy/attractive/smart/rich enough” or “If only I’d let them have sex with whoever they like or agreed to threesomes, we’d be living happily ever after.”
We also take a trip to Planet Nonsense & Effery where we actually start to believe that we can Jedi mind trick people into becoming the person that we want or into coughing up the relationship we want—“If I act like I have boundaries, maybe they’ll spontaneously combust into Prince/Princess Charming”.
The problem with your ex, Elizabeth, isn’t that he might be showing interest in other women [now that you’ve said no one time] or that there was some sort of ‘misunderstanding’; the problem is that you were involved in a fantasy, codependent relationship with a Mr Unavailable who lacked empathy and dodged commitment. You were in a relationship that could not go anywhere and had to go No Contact. It wasn’t just a dream; it was real. Now, because you said no one time, it’s like you’ve forgotten what the deal was.
If you have to force someone into being empathetic, it doesn’t bode well for your respective futures. If anything, trying to force somebody to be empathetic screams a lack of empathy for you.
The more you try to convince someone of something or into being/doing something, is actually the less convinced about yourself that you become.