Recently I joked on Facebook about how a Mr Unavailable kept saying “It is what it is” in a conversation where he’d asked me to explain why his ex wouldn’t speak to him anymore. Incidentally, I told him that I imagined that it was the secret long-distance girlfriend amongst other things… As he kept saying it, I thought, What the frick is this guy talking about? In the end, I laughed and said “Er, isn’t it that it is what it isn’t?” after all, this guy had kept reminding her that their own relationship wasn’t a relationship and he had no real explanation for his actions.
After years spent trying to decode ambiguous statements (and non-statements), staring at text messages and emails trying to work out strategically placed dots, emoticons and ‘soon’s’, and searching for ‘hidden’ meanings when I was dating, I’ve come to realise that when people say and write this stuff, you’re being fobbed off while excusing themselves from looking too deeply at their own actions.
“So you’re basically saying that you don’t want a relationship?” you say after they start bleating about being “afraid of hurting you” (consider this advance warning) or how they just want to “see how things go” and not “label things” or even “I don’t think I’m ready for a relationship”.
Then they come back with “I don’t want to stop spending time with you” (code for “I want to keep you as an option”, “I like you a lot” (code for “Be flattered by my liking you instead of focusing on what I said preceding this”), and “I just need time to figure things out” (buying time on your time). You go your own way but they continue hovering around, being up in your business and basically showing apparent interest even though you’ve said that you’re not interested in casual. You cave, you go out again, maybe sleep together and then when you ask them what’s going on, it’s “I’m not in a position right now to start a relationship” or “You know my situation”.
Granted some of these things may be nice to hear in the moment but if you’re asking what’s going on and they’re coming back with “Stop pressuring me” (What? By asking a question?) or “Why ruin things?” (Having a discussion ruins things?) and other such guff, you can actually learn a lot about where that person is (even if they won’t admit it) and where you stand with them.
“We’re both grown-ups/adults”. It’s funny how you’re both grown-ups when they want to sleep with you but when you want emotions and commitment they’re no longer big enough for it and even start claiming ’emotional hardship’.
“You know my situation”. A standard line from someone who’s likely still in a relationship with someone else or has a list of excuses as long as their arm for why they’re effectively expecting you to manage down your expectations. When you know their situation looks like this – a ‘situation’ they keep using to excuse themselves from stepping up and being honest – you flush.
“I’m at where I’m at” / “We are where we are”. That would either be nowhere or knee-deep in a shady relationship because nobody who you’re in a mutual relationship with would dismiss and dodge. What they’re not doing is being specific about where that “at” or “are” is. This is a real player-playa line and you’re also likely to hear it from someone who can be quite intimidating. It’s a back off statement and you’re likely to be afraid to pursue your line of inquiry.
“Let’s just go with the flow”. When you look at where you’re flowing to, it’s nowhere. They also mean “Let’s just go with my flow” which is code for “This has to be on my terms” which is code for a driver in an unavailable relationship. The best way for you to flow your way out of this situation and into a better relationship (with someone else) is to FLUSH.
“I don’t know where that leaves us….” Think of this as code for “I know that technically this means that you/we should end it or that you should even tell me to take a run and jump, but I’m hoping that if I say something ambiguous like this, that you’ll fill the space with excuses, some betting on potential and some sex and ego stroking in a casual relationship, where whatever I said preceding this, I’ll use as a defence and responsibility when you call me on it.” It can also be, “Please do my dirty work for me and end it so that I don’t look like the bad guy here”.
An ambiguous relationship has ambiguous conversations and information in it.
There’s half-speak, non-speak, information you ‘kinda’ know (you do know but don’t want to trust your gut) but you’re waiting for them to fill in the gap, mismatched actions and words and no doubt your own head is about to pop off with smoke coming from it while you spend a lot of your mental time and energy trying to work out what the hell things mean or what’s going on.
What I do find fascinating is that when you’re dealing with someone who uses the non-speak of ambiguous and sometimes ridiculous statements to halt discussion and essentially dodge what could be an on-the-level emotionally mature conversation irrespective of the outcome, is that they’re often selective so they have no problem articulating themselves when they want something from you or can articulate themselves in other areas of their life, but when they’re in a situation, often of their own making, they’ll keep throwing crumbs of communication.
It’s difficult for a relationship to go anywhere when the person is saying vague stuff that doesn’t really mean anything and it prevents them from having to be committed to a meaning and outcome. Whatever you interpret it as, when they need a line of defence they’ll say that it’s you that got the wrong end of the stick and “misunderstood” things.
The best thing that you can do in these situations is to be very clear in your own communication both verbally and in your actions (including boundaries) because really, someone who will speak to you in this manner is actually helping to talk you out of the relationship. “What does that mean?” will also flush out what they’re alluding to or at least flush out that they’re talking out of their bottom. Really, when you hear these BS statements masquerading as weak excuses for forthcoming inconsiderate and shady behaviour, your BS alarm should start ringing. Loudly.
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