You have become spellbound by a certain person who is making no real move to take things to the next level. Their behaviour – as opposed to their words – indicates that they aren’t as committed to the idea of developing a relationship as you are. Are you, a) recognising the obvious and responding accordingly, or, b) refusing to acknowledge what you don’t want to accept?
Your ex has long gone, or is hovering unsatisfyingly on the periphery of your life – and you know for sure that the issues that led you to become exes haven’t actually been resolved. Are you, a) viewing the situation realistically, accepting that it’s over or, b) editing the facts in favour of a story you’d prefer to believe?
You have become infatuated with a love interest who has admitted that they aren’t open to developing a committed relationship right now. Are you, a) listening and accepting, or, b) imagining that you can change their mind?
If you have answered b) to any of these, I have one more question for you: why? It’s got to be hurting you, chipping away at your sense of self-worth… and wasting your precious time and energy.
Take Ted, for example. He dated Anna a couple of times, but she didn’t want to take it any further. She explained why and they agreed to go their separate ways. However, Ted couldn’t quite let go, and they briefly dated again – and once more she stepped back, stating that she couldn’t offer him what he wanted; life was just too demanding and complicated for her to be able to commit to a serious relationship. Ted still didn’t want to accept it – even more so after she contacted him again, wanting to talk about her problems. It gave him hope, but he wasn’t paying attention to the whole story – only the bits that he liked the sound of.
Ted’s desire to have Anna in his life was overriding his need to recognise the reality of the situation. Anna’s behaviour was childlike and selfish, but her message was clear: “I care about you, but not in the way that you want me to. I am struggling to figure myself out, and I have a lot on my plate right now. However, you are a person I can safely talk to, and so, even though I have told you to move on and find someone who will commit to you, I don’t quite want to let you go – because I know for sure that you will be there for me whenever I need you. However, nothing has changed! I still can’t give you what you want and I will back off again if I suspect that you want more from me.”
The problem was, Ted believed that if she came to need him enough, she’d realise that he was ‘the one’ for her and commit to him. He thought about her constantly, discussing the situation with anyone who would listen. I have seen this scenario played out again and again, and I have never seen it lead to happy-ever-after. He was not seeing the true Anna, and he couldn’t comprehend what was motivating her behaviour; all he really wanted was for her to feel the same way that he did. He wanted to change her (not a loving act). Ultimately, Ted was left with three choices: 1) continue to handle things in exactly the same way and accept the eventual consequences; 2) cut her out, for good; 3) choose to genuinely accept the situation without an agenda or underlying expectation – and remain friends with her, or wish her well and move on.
Love me… damn you!
Ellie’s 10 month relationship with James had ended 18 months earlier, though they agreed to stay in touch – as friends. At least, that’s what James wanted. Unfortunately, Ellie wanted more, and she struggled with her feelings to such a degree that he eventually cut off all contact with her. She was devastated – but still convinced that they could have a future together… if only she could persuade him to talk to her. She believed that she could persuade him to see things her way. However, the harder she pushed, the more he avoided her… and the more desperate she became. She swore that it was love that was motivating her to exert such a pressure upon James that he eventually blocked all contact with her. Of course it wasn’t love: love doesn’t operate in that way. What does, however, is the pain of rejection, combined with low-self worth, and a tendency toward codependency. It was a pity, because although Ellie was smart and attractive, she was preventing herself from meeting a man who would actually want to commit to her. She was getting in her own way. The fact is, we can’t hold onto the past with both hands and have access to the future, at one and the same time. Life just doesn’t work that way.
I don’t want to hear it!
What tends to happen when we are hanging onto the idea of a romance with our hands, feet, teeth, and eyelashes is that we become hypersensitive and defensive, reacting crossly toward anyone who tries to talk common sense to us. We also often experience emotional highs and lows that lead us to feel bad about ourselves, for two reasons: 1) we are suffering the effects of rejection because our love interest is clearly not as invested as we are, 2) we are aware that we are behaving in a personally disempowering way, and that we aren’t doing enough to rescue our dignity and sense of self-worth by properly putting an end to it.
Oh, the shame…
Desperation is a sad word that no-one wants to be associated with. In fact, suggest to the lovelorn that their behaviour might just be teetering on the edge of the crazy-cliff and they will tear you a new one. It is one of those things that sometimes needs to be addressed without actually speaking about it, or even hinting at it. A bit like when my daughters were younger and I needed to buy items of underwear for them – without mentioning those items, looking at them on the rails, touching them… or carrying them through the store to the counter. Oh, the shame and embarrassment.
We all know when we are beginning to lose the plot – oh yes, we do… deep down inside, where reality lives. For some reason, though, we sometimes choose to erect a thick dividing wall between what we actually recognise as the truth and what we would ideally prefer to be the truth. Like, when that guy gets in touch only when he feels like it, takes days to respond to our text messages, and is clearly bulls******g us – and yet we pretend not to be able to understand it. After all, didn’t he used call us 10 times a day, just to tell us how great we are? Surely that means something? If we can just hang on then things will return to the way they were… won’t they? He’s got a lot going on at the moment, that’s all…
Time is ticking away
There are only so many hours in an incarnation, even if we live to be a hundred. Why would we sacrifice our own time, and demean ourselves, by hanging onto to someone who doesn’t want us, or who only wants us on their terms? Why would we give that person permission to continue to steal away our mental and emotional energy? Well, probably because we hope that the high we experienced when we felt wanted and desired will return – that this dip is only temporary. We don’t understand what happened: one moment we were involved in something warm and exciting – the next, we were out in the cold again. We thought that they really liked us… why the sudden change? Experience has taught me that there are four possible answers to that question: 1) they simply lost interest in us and moved on to the next conquest; 2) they were only ever passing time and having fun; 3) they realised that they aren’t ready to get into a relationship after all; 4) we ourselves read far more into the situation than actually existed. Although none of these are easy to accept, and the whole experience hurts like hell, it won’t kill us. It might sting for a while, but we can get over it. We certainly don’t need to add insult to injury by hanging on and making ourselves appear needy and desperate – which, let’s face it, is never a good look. Going through this once is perfectly acceptable; in fact it’s probably going to happen to most of us at some point. Going through it twice is understandable; we are, after all, only human. However, if it occurs a third time, we might need to acknowledge that we are the common denominator, and ask ourselves if a pattern is forming. Of course, we could play the blame game, and ask, “why does it always happen to me?”… but, wouldn’t that be counter-intuitive, if what we are really seeking is a solution to the problem? Unfortunately, it is a fact that modern dating is sometimes uncomfortably similar to the experience of being lost in a hall of mirrors. And, if modern dating was a race, you’d be wise to expect a few false starts – and yes, more so for some than others. It might not seem fair, but that’s just the way it is. We can, however, help ourselves by not being in too much of a hurry, by allowing sufficient time to pass before becoming too emotionally invested, and by recognising that action genuinely does speak louder than words. Until your love interest is consistently putting their money where their mouth is… they shouldn’t be taken too seriously!