Episode 46: Going Nowhere: When You’re Stuck in a Relationship That Doesn't Give You What You Want
If you prefer to listen, here's the podcast version of this post:
Emma this one is written for you. I hope it changes the way you see things so that you can change what it is that has you stuck, presently. xo!
This is for anyone who is currently romantically involved with someone who is not treating you well and you are taking it, and it hurts. You know it’s not right but you can’t seem to leave it for some reason. This situation betrays your foundational values, and in staying in it, you betray yourself and what’s important to you.
What do you want for your future? Because you get to decide what’s important to you. That’s what this episode is about. Are you tolerating and accepting less than what you want from another? Are you giving more and receiving less? Are you operating on less than a trustworthy bond? Are you dating someone who won’t commit to you or maybe they don’t want the same things you want but you’re still hanging around “just because you don’t have anything better at the moment.” Maybe you are in a committed relationship but you want more – you want better – you want this to go to the next stage: moving in, getting married, or just better treatment – but this person is “complicated” and it’s not how they roll. Maybe you break up occasionally but always end up getting back together. Maybe they decide they need a break and then they come back again as soon as you become too visibly independent.
In case you are wondering, yes, this is for every gender and all kinds of relationships because it’s a topic that relates to your relationship with yourself. It doesn’t have to be a guy doing this to a girl – everyone can be squirrely and everyone can want and expect a real relationship from a person they choose to share their life and soul with. It’s all a valid and realistic dream and goal to have. And it’s something you choose for yourself.
It’s a common situation to be in for an adult: You end up in a relationship that’s not aligned with what you want for yourself and you can’t figure out an exit and you just kind of get stuck. What I am going to do is hopefully enlighten you as to why you’re there and what needs to change for you to confront the change that needs to happen for you to get to where you’re meant to be. Where are you meant to be? In a mutually loving and supportive relationship based on the terms and values that you choose for yourself. So, with someone who deserves your love. So let’s go there together, shall we?
Here's what you don't realize. This is not about them changing - it has nothing to do with them. It's all about you and how you feel about yourself. Somewhere, in you, is a grey area: you say you want something, but you’re not acting like it. You are literally not acting as a person who is ready to be loved and be committed to. Why? You're with a person who gives you less and you’re taking it. The person you are meant to be with can't see you and wouldn’t go for you, because you are wearing a large sign that says, “occupied.” Or better, “Occupied by a douche squatter.”
While reading I want you to stay open and practice asking yourself to imagine that what I'm saying relates to you. Try to calm the instinct to say "but—"
Does any of this sound familiar?
-“He doesn’t even refer to us as boyfriend and girlfriend.”
- “Is your man coming?” “I don’t think so.” “But it’s your birthday party..”
- “Hey beb – it’s me again. Are you coming over tonight? Call me back.”
- “Look – I’m just not that type of guy. I told you, I’m not into marriage.”
- “Are you guys a couple?” “I think so.” “What do you mean? You don’t know? It’s been a year hasn’t it?” “Yeah. It’s complicated…”
- “Who were you with last weekend?” “Come on babe. You know I don’t discuss that stuff – it’s my business.”
- “I am never calling him again. Oh wait – it’s him. He’s texting me.” “Hey you – I miss you. Can I please see you?”
- “I thought you said you were never going out with that girl again.” “Man you’re so gorgeous. I am so lucky.”
Don't worry - this is totally fixable and it doesn't have to be blind and terrifying as a process. I am going to hopefully help you get yourself to where you are meant to be. Where are you meant to be? In a mutually loving and supportive relationship based on the terms and values that you choose for yourself. So, with someone who deserves your love. So let’s go there together, shall we?
This is a common dynamic to have in a relationship right BEFORE you meet the one. The ideal form of this relationship will hurt you so bad that you can sever contact immediately and learn your lesson with the benefit of a killed affection. You can better move on that way. If you're just kind of stuck in it and know you have to get out and it's not what you want but you're thinking, "..whatever I don't have anything better right now..." I am going to give you some actions to take, starting now- because time’s a’ wasting and you're moving farther and farther away from the person you need to be to meet the person who is worth your love.
Part 1: What you think you're doing right now in this relationship.
Somewhere you don't think it matters that much. You’re kind of biding your time, staying comfortable but knowing it is what it is and it’s probably going to eventually change.
Maybe You don't think it's that serious. You think you're totally in control, aware and conscious of what you are choosing in this person and it just kind of “works” for where you are right now.
You have great friends and a great career – this part is just easy right now, or convenient – even though you know you shouldn’t tolerate it and your friends say that all the time, you’re kinda whatevs about it – you will deal when you’re ready, and besides – you and this person “get each other” and “have fun together.”
Maybe you also think this is a pretty universal thing for significant others – for people to not want to commit. And for one person to be ready for marriage when the other really doesn’t want to. That people change, it's not that bad- it's very average, this is how relationships go, and one day they will finally change their mind.
What you don't know is you're on a path that sets up your life, there's no "hold" button for personal growth and evolution. This time matters in your life. You’re not idly biding time, you are actually creating a plateau on your trajectory – with your inaction on this particular topic - one that affects everything else in your life as well.
Part 2: What’s really going on.
You are in the relationship of your creation. This is a manifestation of the choices you make everyday. You allow it to happen - this is the dynamic you are actively choosing for yourself in love. And most importantly: it is not aligned with what you want to choose. Your problem is not related to your significant other – your problem is your personal alignment of your actions and what it is you say you want.
Remember this: You can change everything in your life just by changing yourself.
If you want to meet the one who loves and adores you and matches your dreams for yourself, you've got to choose it for yourself. Like any other thing in life- you've got to plan it out, do your homework and make the necessary changes to the behaviors based on that learning. No matter what excuse you have for staying where you are in this relationship, you have put your life “on hold.” You are using an excuse in this other person. Why is the real question. It’s not for the reasons you might constantly rationalize with yourself.
Part 3: The Why (well, two potential why's)
A. Lack of Conscious Awareness
A lot of the time it’s simply that you don’t look at what’s really happening – you choose to ignore looking at the facts. So by biding your time, you are avoiding the awareness of the truth – which begs another why – why don’t you want to look at the truth.
You choose people intentionally who are unavailable and/or far away from being loving toward you and intimate with you. Why?
• Because that’s what you grew up doing – it’s your love-map and you are modeling the behavior your parents exhibited.
• You are seeking love from someone you didn’t get as a child. AKA dad-issues. If you seek the love of older men, this is likely tied to your lack of attention from a parent. For men – if you are constantly looking to sex and authority to affirm your masculinity and value – that’s your version of dad issues.
• OR the more common reason: because it’s “safe” to love someone who is far away and you are afraid of getting hurt because of how bad you got hurt in the past.
Most people who choose unavailable people have been injured greatly in the past – and the only people who attract you (unconsciously) are the ones who are “safe” enough to tip toe toward without the risk of injury. You can sidle up next to them and see that you like them, they are fun to be around – but they never come tooo close to you – ever, so you are capable of falling in love with them. The kicker is that you end up with someone we is incapable of seeing you and loving you – they are always (safely) off in their own world. Totally unconscious – but I want you to reflect now and think if this could be true for you.
B. You think they are Right.
Somewhere deep down, you think – they are right to not completely settle on you as their mate. You can see where they are coming from: their reasoning is valid. That they have a reason to not be proud to be with you – because you’re not that hot, they have higher standards than you. This person you are with romantically, isn’t giving you what you want from them – (total love and commitment) – because you don’t think you are worthy of it. To be THAT worthy, you’d have to be way hotter and more perfect and awesome. You have to even work to keep their attention as it is!
The truth to this why – is you have some bad opinions of yourself and your value that you are living out via someone else! That’s right, it’s got nothing to do with them or their value system at all! You just happened to find someone who confirmed it back to you and so you listened intently to what they said. They have validated your hidden low-feelings and fears by proving to you a particular value system.
For example – let’s say they are a person who is sooo cool and smart and sexy, only dates models. That person – to you, represents an authority on what is hot and sexy. So if they like you, you feel hot and sexy. Because they are sooo hard to please, they are – if anyone –adept and declaring your value in the world, as a mate. So you crave seeing that they inform to you that you are beautiful and worth loving.
The awful part of this dynamic is you become reliant on their definition of you – to feel valid. Which is a giant and important key to hand to someone else. “If they do love you – you feel truly lovable.” “If they don’t value and treasure you – you feel they are correct in their summation, and you suffer incredibly but hang on – in hope that you might offer them more value if you try hard enough.”
The irony of this relationship – is you BOTH are defining your identity to one another. If you’re in a relationship like this you might not even know this – but they are using you giving yourself – unconditionally – to them, and them being able to half-invest in you, as an affirmation of how powerful and wanted they are. So you’re both living out this secret fear of unworthiness with each other – so once you start to drift away, they likely come back to wrangle you back into wanting them. It’s a testament to their raw hot power – “I can do whatever I want. All these women want me so bad!”
I know that’s a lot to emotionally take apart so let’s go know that the most important fact is: All you have to do to change this broken record behavior, is focus on you and your relationship with you. And bettering that opinion. You have to work on your bond with yourself – and start building your investment in yourself. It’s not easy to just say “I am worth loving” – you have to actually invest the value with your ACTIONS to really feel your own value. Start showing up for yourself! Start protecting yourself! Start treating yourself like a person who DESERVES to be treated well – by treating yourself well! I know the love part is complicated so we are going to start on everything else in your life to break you of that.
It starts and ends with you.
Part 4: Aligning with your values, and aligning with them objectivity.
Which means simply, you are not going to interpret the intention behind the actions of others – you are going to start judging everything in your world and everything from others from a completely objective and factual standpoint. It doesn’t matter what they say, it matters what they do. Plain and simple. And the same goes for you – there will be no explaining away or conditionalizing of your behavior. You are going to act in literal terms, as a person who is good at caring for themselves. It almost requires that you leave your brain out of the conversation entirely – and this is how you start to break yourself of some really bad, old, trained in habits. Keep it simple. Keep it honest. Keep it objective. This is going to be great!
Additionally, you are going to align your actions with your highest self. Who do you decide to be? Does that person have better habits? Then start enacting them. Hold yourself accountable and you will literally transform into that person. Picture your ideal match. What do they want in a mate – do you check all of those boxes? If so, awesome! If not - start working on bettering that alignment – if that means better grooming, better exercise habits, better eating habits – so be it.
STEP 1: Love List
So to start, I want you to write (if you haven’t already) your list of your highest values. Don’t worry about what they mean or how they will affect your current situation – just write down what you value most and want for yourself in a romantic relationship. I like to call this your “love list.”
Next, you are going to rank the values that are most important to you – the fundamental and foundational values, things like “commitment” and “intimacy” and “attraction” might be on there. If you don’t have that many, that’s okay – just keep adding to it as you think of new things. Cool. You got a love list now!
STEP 2: Self-Bonding
You tell others how to treat you by how you treat yourself. So next in your self-building, you are going to start a new daily self-love-inducing practice. That means something that benefits and cares for your physical body and soul – done to please you, improve you, soothe you. This must be something positive, so I don’t mean start drinking more alcohol. BUT it could mean making your existing glass of wine at the end of the day into a more ritual time – like making it a “me time” where you journal, take time to light candles, play nice music, and turn off the phone. Yes, little things like lighting candles go a long way in formalizing the intentions behind an act. Other ideas – start a new morning yoga class, or start going to a beautiful nature spot for a walk at sunset – that’s right – by yourself. Or even something like making sure your socks are comfy everyday. Make these intentional self-pleasing moments as often as possible. Whatever they are – they will be consistent and daily. If you are cold, get yourself a damn jacket! If you have to pee- go pee! Don’t make yourself suffer or endure discomfort.
STEP 3: Forced Lilly-Pad Growth
You are going to grow the other facets that make up your definition of self. By force! That means expanding yourself in any direction socially and personally – with activities, social outings, new classes, new hobbies. If you haven’t listened to it already, you are going to listen to the Personal Priorities Pond episode. I’ll put a link to it in the show-notes! I know when you’re in a relationship based on addiction-like reliance it can be hard to break yourself away mentally for even ten minutes. That’s why this is called “Forced Growth” because you are doing this with intention. Your goal is to foster and bloom all that you want to have more of in your life – so it won’t work at first, but your chemicals will slowly and surely follow your eyeballs. Just do this with deliberate fervor.
STEP 4: Enforce the rules of your value system
It will be hard at first – so start with as much as you can handle and in lieu of absolute enforcement, try focusing on what you are doing that is betraying them. Like literally focus on the discomfort of your awareness- and focus on getting MAD about them! Like be mad at yourself when you are not doing what you know you should be doing. Be SICK of this crap. Get really annoyed at each and every time this happens because very soon what will happen in you is a state of fed-upness that you can’t talk yourself out of. Which is great! You’re forcing the boiling point. We all got to start somewhere.
STEP 5: Personal Myths
This one is SO FUN!!! And kinda hilarious in how empowering it is. I want you to write out the bad feelings you have about yourself - all of the reasons you are afraid to break apart from this person. On a large piece of paper.
You’re going to unearth the myths and fears and laugh at them. You are currently being deceived by a strange misperception you have about yourself and your value. You don’t see it that way at all – you just see it as 'who you are.' As, 'reality' - but the truth is, it's all bull created by your brain. So what you are going to do is grab a giant piece of paper and a bunch of thick pens and write down every fear and worry and dark belief you have about yourself and your value as a romantic partner.
If you’re not proud of who you are there’s something in there that needs to be unearthed. A myth about yourself. They might include things like:
I live in an area where everyone’s perfect and super hot and therefore I never get asked out.
I am fat and my skin is blotchy.
I am over 30 so I am older than everyone else dating.
I am not in the demographic that people are attracted to in my particular town.
I don’t have a large friend group so I am never around people who are single.
I just don’t like what most people like so it’s rare for me to meet anyone I have chemistry with. I don’t think that will come along ever.
My mom said statistically no one gets married after college – so I am lucky if I stick with the person I’m with now.
I am fucked up and have issues – so I don’t think most people would get me.
I have a rare past and I don’t like most people – they wouldn’t get me either.
I have a hard time opening up to people.
I have issues that are hard to understand.
My boobs are too small. My dick is too small. My breath is too bad.
I have a saggy ass so people don’t find me attractive.
I have bad skin so people don’t find me attractive.
Etc. You get the idea!
• Okay now it's time to do yours. Done? Cool.
Here’s what goes at the top of that list in big fat black marker. “MY BULLSHIT FEARS.” If you don’t like profanity – you can call it “PERSONAL MYTHS” list. Or “Mis-truths” is good too. Whatever title you choose you want to make it super ornate – like outline your lettering and put some underlines under it. Make sense?
I want you to make this as legible and as big as you can and post this on the wall next to your vision board. Decorate it! You want to notice this thing and kind of mock it on a daily basis. This list is total utter garbage. All of this is what you are being held up by as the reason you are not able or worthy of getting yourself to the state you need to be in to be in a relationship that is worthy of your time. And you must acknowledge that this is the real cause of your situation – your excuse to yourself. It is not the LITERAL reason for your situation. Your situation has no rules. There is no statistic no guideline, no natural law that will ever dictate your life or future to you. And you’ve got to DECIDE right now to get over this and see it for what it is. A bad thought habit that you’ve been telling yourself unconsciously – and giving weight to so that you don’t have to grow.
Any future-scenario fear you put on your list of BS - (like being alone forever) right this moment, you are going to accept them as possibilities and decide regardless - that this process of honoring yourself is totally worth it. Do you think that’s crazy? If so, Why?! It’s not worth YOU disparaging YOU for any reason - least of all, fear that you are not worth enough. This is no light mission - it's to meet the person you’re meant to be with - your soul mate! And YES you have a soul mate, but you've got to be ready to find them!
If your worst fear is being alone forever – fucking so be it, dude. That’s better than settling for a douchebag who cheats on you or who doesn't treat you the way you long to be treated. Regardless, that’s the attitude you’ve got to have about this. I mean it. Look at the worst fears. See that they are powerful enough to rule you which is in itself silly, and yes, there are real anecdotes from other people you know that make you want to trust the fear– but it's still totally imagined and fulfilled by you. Accept that those fears are not reasons to give in to them and commit to going for it regardless. Commit to finding your ONE. Because once you decide to go for it DESPITE the fears – you can make the real progress and change that needs to happen.
Who is the person who deserves to be loved and committed to like the treasure that they are? The person who acts like that and knows that that is their goal – to find THE ONE. That takes care of their self, doesn’t settle, doesn’t waste time, doesn’t give their body to douchebags who don’t deserve it. Who has hobbies, passions, loves – who invests in themselves. Who champions what is great about them – who is full of life and love and cool hobbies. Who is their best self and nothing less. THAT’S when you become a magnet for more loving and passionate friends and individuals. When you start being that, yourself.
Accept that your fears exist and they are not worth cowering from. You can and will go for it because you’re already on the path. You’re taking deliberate steps toward this thing and you will absolutely – by nature – overcome all obstacles as long as you keep looking at what it is you want for yourself. Commit to the person you want to be, want to love, and want to share yourself with – and follow that blindly. And low and behold – one day, they will arrive.
You won’t believe it exists – and you won’t expect it because it will take a long time, but once it arrives on your doorstep you’ll be like “HOLY FUCK! This is weirdly like fate just created this person directly from my love list! WTF!” No joke. Be patient, grow yourself – and love yourself. Keep celebrating all that you are. This is not about facts or statistics. That’s all bullshit as far as I’m concerned. This is love and souls and there are no rules that apply to you and this other person.
This is about you intentionally living as your best self – because when you do that it shows. You feel it and so does everyone else. You are PROUD of who you are. You are keeping yourself “safe” from growth and that’s a simple fix. Confront the change that you need to make to be proud of yourself, and consciously laugh in the face of your fears. Choose to look at that fact that you have insecurities and CHOOSE to move past it. Because all fears are irrational. They are not predicting a future they are GUIDING and DECIDING the future – to you. Which is NEVER the way to make decisions and guide actions. The way to do that is from an EMPOWERED position – coming from stability, confidence, and chemical calm: where you are the most rational and capable and can choose in all confidence, what is best for you.
So this process is about letting those unconscious guides stay CONSCIOUS MYTHS and knowing they are not true. They are not accurate to your life. You do not predict the future and you do not control your fate. You are a participant in your life’s course and you are moving at this very moment – you get to shift the course right now. So stop handing the keys over to some silly “statistic” or some silly “fear” or negative self-image.
Step 5 B: Self-Image Specific Issues- UNHABIT
I know that the self-image stuff is harder to get over, and truthfully – the best medicine is improving your confidence in other areas simultaneously investing in your health and chemical balance. (Aside from therapy). If you are hurting from the affects of this - I want you KEEP FOCUSING ON WHAT YOU WANT: which is to not suffer, to overcome this bullshit list. And additionally, to work on un-training the habits associated with that fear while owning it and calling it out into broad day light.
Because the awesome thing about body image shit and self-image shit is that if you’re suffering from it, your future significant other likely gets that and knows exactly where you’re coming from. You can beat this by owning it as where you are and owning that you are on a path to overcoming it. That’s who you are. You’re the person fighting and overcoming from self-image problems. You’re not the person with a saggy ass.
That simple shift takes you from 'sad victim' to 'empowered individual with some insecurities they are ready to own' aka a cool person with amazing personality.
The other half of my marching orders to you is to consciously DECIDE to start untraining the ritual habits you might have around your particular self-image problem. If you suffer from this you likely have a compulsive habit of checking the focus of your fear – maybe that’s constantly analyzing yourself in the mirror. Maybe that’s constantly checking your face in photos next to friends. Maybe that’s measuring how many people in your friend group are married and what the average ages they were and how they met and comparing that to your particular situation. Whatever the ritual you have – you need to consciously STOP. Why? Because contrary to how it might feel- that it’s helping you be your best. It’s doing the opposite. It’s keeping you blind to yourself and your true beauty. And like most of us – you are half aware of how truly beautiful and amazing you are. You cannot see yourself at all. And one day you will look back at yourself today – maybe in a photo and think, “Man, I looked great – if only I could have enjoyed it.”
If you’re saying to me right now, “But I am seriously over weight – and I have terrible health.” Then by all means do something about it. Work on your health. Take actions to address the issues that are preventing you from living as your best self. BUT you are not allowed to beat yourself up and focus on what is bad and hideous about yourself. All of this needs to be treated with love and care – this person, this body you pilot with your soul is extraordinary and extremely valuable and will not be hated on by you of all people. Champion yourself. Cheer yourself. Focus on what it is you want, not what you don’t want. If it helps inspire you – know that when you get stressed or upset, you are filling your body with toxins and hampering your immune system! That’s what happens so you need to stop the habits that hurt you. Period.
This is my biggest, most powerful tool for any situation– it’s what I talk about in all of my podcasts and blogs in many shapes and forms. Focus on actions. Spend energy toward movement – and stay focused on what it is you want. Do not stop to dwell. Do not dedicate focus to anything that causes you to suffer or wallow. If you fall down, fine – cry it out and then kick yourself in the ass and get back up again. No matter who you are there is a tool that will work for your particular emotional ailments and everything will be different than it is right now. It comes down to your decision making. Do you decide to take action toward the positive? Yes? Awesome! Do so starting right now!
Start being one of those people who goes after what they want. And starts making progress. Just like the hull of a ship that's all it takes to change your entire future. And correct your path to meet the match you’re meant to be with. Accept the pain of loneliness! Love takes a while. It's not that bad- it's just boring once in a while. When your waiting that’s a sign you mean it, and the length of time: just sheer numbers! There’s only one out there. They gotta make their way to you, too. Stay the course!
If you are afraid of being alone and it literally causes you intense anxiety and pain, that’s another issue at play that is veiling itself in this relationship. I suggest you start some therapy and get to the root of it because it’s causing you to stay stuck to this other person. And it’s something fixable.
Love starts with you. You can’t give love to another unless you love yourself. And if you do – you’re giving that person something hollow. Of no real value. It’s very sad that we take the most joy from ourselves in favor of pleasing others – and it’s even sadder that that only takes us to more unhappiness. Because you can’t find it in someone else. It’s only equal if you are invested in yourself and your own value, even if that’s something you’re working on right now. Being in progress is awesome! We all are! And that’s the joy that is growth – and it’s even better when you do it with someone who shares your perspective and desire to grow. That’s when you can take love to the moon and stars and build something worth keeping for the rest of your life.
I hope this wasn’t too intense but I meant it – I believe it – and I think this will apply to you too. So if you like this please share it and by all means send me a letter or a review.
I am going to be making some sweet new changes to the site soon so keep your eyes peeled. I send you my love and if you have time to write an iTunes review or a comment, please do because it’s immensely helpful to me. I heart you all! Smile!!
To check out the Personal Priorities Pond I mention in the episode, head here: