It can be pretty difficult to wrap your head around the idea that the person who you’re in love with and may have spent a great deal of time around, doesn’t want the relationship that you want. It puts you in a quagmire – you love them, you want to be with them, but in the process of doing so, you’re basically compromising yourself because whatever it is that they are offering (if anything), it might be leaving you dissatisfied or even ‘malnourished’. What can be incredibly perplexing and even painful though, is when they stick around (and you let them) but they still won’t cough up the relationship goods, or they go but they keep boomeranging in and out of your life, raising your hopes each time.

This situation will be all too familiar to you if you’ve thought stuff like, What the hell do they want with me? Why, if they know that they can’t give me what I want, are they still hanging around like a blue arsed fly letting me think that it’s a possibility?

One of two things are going to happen: You’re going to end up managing down your expectations until one day it suddenly occurs to you that your needs, wants, and expectations aren’t being met while they’re having a grand ‘ole time on their terms. Or, you end up in one of those awkward, standoff power struggles where you each keep trying to get your own way instead of just walking away.

When you find that you’re at odds with one another on the direction or even existence of the relationship this is really a code red alert that something is very wrong. It’s also a reality check – you need to fully evaluate the situation and rein your feelings in. It doesn’t mean that they’re shady (although they might be) but it does mean that you’re incompatible on what you both want out of the relationship which likely signals a clash of values.

You’ve either got to have an honest conversation and find a healthy compromise (if possible) or for the sake of your own self-preservation, make an exit even though it’s going to hurt.

If they turn around and say that they want to keep it casual when you’re actually looking to move forward into a serious relationship, I wouldn’t go into it because I can guarantee that it will end in big dollopy tears that belong to you. If you’re saying “Let’s move in” and they’re saying that they do want to move in (with you) but not just yet, then you can potentially find a compromise.

Unfortunately what tends to happen is you’ll either 1) dismiss the red flag, 2) blame you for the fact that they don’t want the same things and convince yourself that you’ve done something to jeopardise the relationship, or 3) take up a vocation in trying to change them. You may have a Return On Investment mentality of “I’ve put in X months/years so I cannot exit now because it would be a waste” neglecting to realise that if you ignore what the difference is telling you, you might be like a reader I recently spoke with who clocked up 12 years with someone whose position never changed and she’d known it from a few years in.

The problem is of course that the type of person who would hang around knowing that you want something different (or at least that you profess to) or who would keep a foothold in your life and be pretty damn disruptive while still coming back with the same paltry offering that you didn’t want or even less, is actually the type of person that you need to ensure that you do right by you because… they are really only thinking about things from their perspective and what makes them comfortable without really giving a great deal of thought to your comfort levels. In fact they may have an “I’m comfortable so they must be comfortable” attitude.

Keep in mind as well that they may outwardly claim that they’ve changed and are on board but the will passive aggressively do things that contradict this and undermine your relationship.

You may feel like you’re being ‘toyed’ with, especially if you’ve broken up a number of times and tried your best to move on, only for them to swoop in with big promises and short-term changes in their behaviour that soon roll back to their old ways. They can have a dog in a manger attitude – they don’t want you but they’re hogging up the proverbial manger and blocking access to you just in case they happen to change their mind.

I also know from personal experience how easy it is to be blinded by our feelings / libido / ego, but, you are giving off mixed messages. You’re thinking “Why the hell are they still here when they know I want ________” and they’re thinking, even if it’s on a subconscious level “Well they can’t really want it that much if they keep being with me and they know I’m not interested in that.”

You’re thinking that you’re showing your love and commitment to them and they think you’ve signed on to their terms and conditions.

You may also be thinking that their continued presence or their inability to leave you alone is a sign of their deep feelings and them gradually coming over to your way of thinking – unfortunately I’ve heard enough tales to know that actually, it’s not that they don’t care or love you but their commitment issues and differing values mean that they hold onto you because they’re afraid of losing you and so do their best to stall you until you run out of patience and chances.

Once someone says that they can’t give you what you want, take ’em at their word.

Some people don’t know they’re born, they don’t know what they want, and they’re greedy. They want you without the responsibilities and commitment that come with. They value you when you tell ’em to get lost and dry up the charm when you’re expecting them to deliver. Cut ’em loose!

Once you see that they’re all talk and little or no action, take the big hint and do for the both of you what they’re not able to do – end it because you mean what you say and say what you mean and have the follow through in action to go with it.

Don’t allow someone to keep pulling the same con on you numerous times because there’s ‘hopeful’ and then there’s relationship crack.

It’s also important not to just focus on the fact that they keep coming back – they keep bullshitting their way in and leaving too. Or don’t just focus on the fact that they’re ‘there’ – it’s the quality of the ‘there’ that matters. You don’t need someone doing the equivalent of squatting on your property but being unwilling to actually contribute and move forward.

Unless they’re Future Faking and Fast Forwarding, you also have to stop creating possibilities out of sheer presence – possibilities come from consistent action over time and experiences. If you’re on a permanent date with someone because they do things that affect the consistency, balance, progression, intimacy and commitment of the relationship, you’re seeing possibilities where you shouldn’t and being blinded by the good times and potential.

Whether they’re coasting in a relationship on their terms or they keep popping back in your life, both of these things tell you that you need to decide what you need and want and act upon them instead of waiting for them to ‘do the right thing’ when from their perspective, they’re happy because things are on their terms. They’re just not that special that you should manage your expectations into crumbs for the ‘benefit’ of having them in your life. Remember that they can’t stay or keep returning if you’re no longer there.

Your thoughts?

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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