Mama is back! A great thing happened recently. A break up! Yup, no kidding, it took a little while for it to sink it but oh my God, am I relieved it happened. I never ever imagined finding such peace and clarity through being dumped, but the good Lord works in mysterious ways 🙂 I will share my experience and what I believe I’ve learnt and if someone else picks up something, well and good.
When I first moved to Prague, one of my very good friends, started to date a boy we went to school with, almost on a dare. I honestly did not believe it would last long, she was far too smart, outgoing, to put it bluntly, she was way above his league. Well, I watched in disbelief for next TEN years as this boy played “hot and cold”, (Now I love you, now I don’t love you) with her, and by the end, my friend’s esteem was almost non existent and he went on to get married not too long after. She went from being this loud force of a hurricane when she walked into a room, to the girl sitting quietly and avoiding any form of attention, she didn’t believe she was beautiful any more (and she is!) or that any one would want to be with her. It hurt me deeply to see that happen and I always wondered why she just wouldn’t let go, why people stayed in these kinds of relationships that are taking so much of their self worth. Until I got to experience what it was like to get caught up in one.
The beginning of a love story
Story time! 🙂 About 6 years ago, a young smart, handsome-ish and slightly awkward, boy joined a group of new hires I was training at work. He made an impression on me. It was not love at first sight but within a very short time we were in (what I considered to be) a full on relationship and not long after we were living together.
We went out for three years, and for the most part, we were one of those cute, giggly, kissy couples you see around, got on like a house on fire, we went on adventures, had lots and lots of interests in common, it was great. When he took me home to meet his family, I think I loved him even more, I thought that meant, finally, actual commitment. He didn’t seem put off by his mother’s jokes about babies, even though at the time I didn’t feel ready for kids, it pleased my little heart that that was where his mind was at. And when I heard him talk rings with a friend that had just gotten married, my heart did a little dance. And then suddenly, BAM! “Sorry babe, the grass looks greener on the other side,” and just like, that he was off to travel the world. I had put in too much work, I had loved, taught, mentored, forgiven, even handed him his career on a plate. So I refused to deal with it, within a week I had started another relationship with someone else, which obviously wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but that is how I dealt with it, and of course it didn’t play out too well.
After a few months it got easier to talk again, I didn’t see any harm in staying friends, after all I was friends with all my other exes and I generally don’t hold a grudge for too long, especially not over love. We are all just trying to figure this out, aren’t we? For the next two and a half years or so we kept in touch. I felt that the years apart had made him kinder and given him more perspective. I felt good about things because I genuinely was happy to give dating advice, advice about work, I could talk to him about what was going on with me and I was glad we could genuinely say we were friends.
The end of a love story
A couple of months ago I went on a trip with friends to take a break from things and we saw each other again. With one kiss, Pandora’s box was opened again. I broke my rule of not dating an ex, and dived right in. With all the challenging/unpleasant things that were going on in my life, this felt like a dream. I figured it was someone I already knew and to me, he had grown up. He had learned to actually articulate his feelings and to hear him speak about a future together, how many children we would have and even where we will live seemed too good to be true but I felt I deserved it and I dived right in. This time it lasted a little over three months or so. This time the break up was uglier and far more humiliating. That’s the short version.
So in case you wondering how grown up, seemingly well adjusted, independent women get themselves in situations that are consistently hurtful and just down right disrespectful, sit back 😉 I’ve done the home work for you and it is quite the revelation! This is the good part 🙂
Understanding your relationship: Casual relationship vs Committed relationship
So how do we get caught up in these relationships? Most people will measure the success of a relationship based on how well you get along with the other person, similar interests, sex is good and regular, you are being introduced to friends and family and there is talk of the future and such. Natalie from Baggage Reclaim (great resource by the way!!!) describes these as the “hallmarks” of a relationship, and as we are swept off our feet by these things, we are side tracked from looking out for the actual “landmarks” of a relationship, the actual substance, and that would include consistency, commitment, balance, respect, trust etc. Basically knowing that someone has your back completely. I have come to understand that without the substance, the relationship doesn’t stand a chance. In fact the hardest thing for me to accept was that what I considered a committed relationship for years, was in fact just a casual relationship.
Understanding the “hot and cold”/emotionally unavailable guy
This basically means someone that is unavailable for a mutually fulfilling and healthy relationship. I learned that when people go hot and cold, change their minds all the time, can not seem to make a commitment, even while enjoying and happily participating in the “hallmark” parts of the relationship for years even, they are letting you know that there is a limit to what they can provide in the relationship. They genuinely may not have the capacity to make a full commitment to you. They may even like you a whole lot but are unable to decide whether you are “The one”, and rather than make that call, it is far easier to string you along until they know for sure, or something better comes along. And for those of us who break up and make up, during that break up period, he is definitely sniffing around for something better and when he doesn’t find it and gets lonely, he then will come “home”. It is sooooo not about you gurrrrrlll! 😀
The technique: Future faking and fast forwarding through the early stages of a relationship
I’ve also learned that when people know there is a limit to how much they can commit to someone, they tend to compensate by overstating their interest and capacity for a relationship by future faking and and fast forwarding you through the early stages of the relationship. All these promises and hints of a future and intensity of the “romance” will distract you from paying attention to the red flags. When the relationship eventually goes “cold”, you are left wondering what you did to change them when in fact they haven’t changed at all. Natalie says if you blame it on you instead of seeing their shady behaviour for what it is, you’ll start campaigning for ‘reinstatement’ and for the ‘win’. That I find to be absolutely true.
How does someone fast forward you through a relationship, you ask? Natalie has an even more comprehensive list but I picked these because they rang true for me. People who are fast forwarding you through a relationship will for instance;
- Push for emotional commitment and often sexual intimacy very quickly
- Make you feel like the centre of their universe
- Can be emotionally demanding
- Refer to the types of plans that people who have been in relationships far longer would discuss – marriage, babies, etc
- Some will introduce you to friends, family (including their kids) very quickly
- Can be petulant and sulky when they don’t get their own way so you quickly learn to minimise conflict
- Even though they appear to respect an asserted boundary, often quickly try to recross it
- Are very persistent when you’re not interested in them
- Will privately and sometimes openly think you’re The One pretty much immediately
- Will be eager to ‘title the relationship’ and demand commitment even when you hardly know each other
- Overestimate their level of interest
So then you wonder, why someone would, without being asked, talks about a non existent future, makes plans with you while having no intention of seeing things through? Natalie offers these two explanations and I’m with her;
- There are ones who intentionally say and do the right things so that they get what they want. Maybe they benefit financially, get their ego stroked, a shag, a shoulder to lean on, less hassle about them delivering on promises, whatever.
- Then there are the ones who meant it as much as they could mean it at the time. They want to believe that they’ll do these things but due to their overall nature of having actions that don’t match words, so the moment that the dust settles a little and the realisation dawns that they have to commit to what they have said and follow through, they panic and extricate themselves out of things.
Rather than see these alarm bells for what they are, we instead blame ourselves, minimize the extent of the problem, assume we know better, or decide that us and our love make us the exception to the rule.
So what should have been my Exit signs?
In trying to understand what my part was in his unhealthy relationship, I spent a lot of time reading different people’s experiences, videos, articles and I must say there are as many opinions as there are people, but the insights I found on Baggage Reclaim by Natalie were so logical and so well put together, (I encourage you to check it out sometime )this is what I took away from that.
Inconsistency – At the beginning of our relationship, I was told by my ex that even though I was amaze-balls and all that, he had plans to travel in the future and it didn’t look like I was in that future. But then right after when I would pull back a bit, he would then want to give it a “fair” chance and that would soon result in more plans for the future. For every year that we were together, he considered breaking up, and when I would accept the break up and say my goodbyes, he would change his mind back, with reasons like, “I did not think it through”, “Of course you are my family too”, which then ended in the final break up, this time the line literally being, “The grass looks greener on the other side.”
- If you don’t register the inconsistency and you hang around, the blowing hot and cold will disrupt and confuse you, and actually, you’ll become desensitised to getting crumbs and may actually think you’re getting a loaf when you’re actually on a crumb diet. Your relationship will not be able to have balance, it can’t progress because they keep undermining it, they’re inconsistent (and if you stay around too long they become consistent at being inconsistent and train you to expect less from them), and as a result of all of these things, you cannot expect intimacy or commitment.
Emotionally Unavailable – Unavailable for a mutually fulfilling, healthy relationship. Unavailable people give limited relationships because they have limits on what they are able to give. Take their word for it, they are not ready for a fully committed relationship.
Nasty and spiteful – They will attack your self esteem by latching on to what they think are flaws in you. You may not even be doing anything to justify these attacks, for some people it is enough that one time you did that thing and that now makes you a target.
Controlling – Steer clear of anyone that wants to control you.They start out with small stuff and then bit by bit increase their level of input.Jealousy and possessiveness is control, not love and especially when experienced early on or it increases bit by bit where you feel like you have to justify, explain yourself, and let them keep track of you.
ego – A big ego is actually a symptom of spiritual disharmony. They lack self-love and self-worth, so by building themselves externally (through bodily training, materials, wealth, reputation, etc), they are supplementing their deep sense of lacking. They are trying to create superficial personal value, and by boasting this to the world in the form of a big ego, they are really just masking unhealed wounds.
So rather than wonder how I could have been better, or made things work, I would much rather learn to accept that this kind of relationship is not healthy, it is not mutual as it all on their terms, and it is indeed very demeaning.
- The moment that you allow someone to be inconsistent, you are allowing your expectations to be managed down..
Thank you Natalie for navigating me through this very confusing world that I was not even aware that I am a part of. #stillbeliveinlove