It’s been hard to find love, but you believe you’ve finally found it. He’s charming, fun, and intelligent. He’s really pursuing you, telling you that you are the only one who “gets” him. Just as you are feeling confident about the relationship and settling in … he suddenly starts becoming Mr. Unavailable. Whether it is his work, “friends in need,” children, or even his wife that you’ve learned about (but he says “It’s over”), you find yourself fighting for his attention.
It’s likely that you didn’t know his unavailable status at first. Most women who date Mr. Unavailable are duped in the beginning and led to think that he is Mr. Ready. Or maybe you did know about his unavailable status, but didn’t think the relationship would escalate to intimate feelings of “true love.” Nonetheless, it has escalated, and though this is something you never thought would happen to you, there is a real dilemma … if it is true love, then perhaps it is right to be supportive and hang in until he is ready?
Most likely, if it’s “work,” he has to get past a “hurdle.” If it’s his “friend in need,” his friend’s rough time should pass. Children should eventually be introduced to you and be integrated. If he is “only co-parenting” with his wife and says he is leaving her, it’s supposedly just a “matter of time.”
Faced with an emotional pot-of-gold at the end of this journey, you want him to feel confident that you are “the one.” So you find yourself being extra patient, flexible, and generous, not necessarily toward yourself, but with him. Consequently, the energy required of you starts taking a toll. Though this thinking shows your commitment, it can leave you needing to be committed!
Your life is on hold until the time is right for him to leave. You may be holding back from growing your career, avoiding moving, or signing a longer-term lease because you wait for what he will do next. All this waiting triggers depression and you feel “stuck” and anxious about how this is going to work out. Then, suddenly, you get a sweet text message from him and, with a little powder and lipstick, you’re ready to meet him again! If you choose to take the gamble that he will become truly available to you there are vital steps you can take to avoid putting your life on hold regardless of whether he becomes Mr. Ready or stays Mr. Unavailable.
Avoid the Ponzi Scheme
The Ponzi scheme is what you engage in once you put him first and yourself last in the hopes that he’ll eventually choose you and become “available.” But as (former) friends of Bernie Madoff will tell you, if you go all in, there is no real pot of gold to come. Sure, he may eventually reorganize his life and prioritize you. However, the Ponzi scheme has you over-spending emotionally until there is nothing left but hope. Once you believe you have nothing more to lose, you’ve lost control and given him the wheel, the keys, and the pink slip!
Play your cards right
This situation has a chance of succeeding if you remain the confident, secure woman he fell in love with initially. There are two tracks that need to be maintained in order to be your best self during this process. One track is for HIM and the other is for YOU.
Track One: HIM
Develop a specific timeline for things to progress
We all have limits and you’re allowed to set your own! If you don’t, they’ll likely be set for you. Take control and plot out your time limit for things like: when you would like him to settle at his job, let his friend help himself, integrate you with his children, leave his wife, etc. Take control of this time before it takes control of you, leading you to believe you must stay with him because of all the time you’ve already invested. When considering what your limits should be, imagine what you would recommend for a friend in your situation, then vow to stick to it!
Manage your relationship anxiety
Your relationship anxiety can sabotage the good that is there if you always try to be a “good girl” and keep your needs to yourself. You will end up stuffing your feelings and needs until you become resentful. Or, you might become the “over-communicator” and ultimately push him away because all you are doing is talking about the status of the relationship and its problems. You must strengthen your assertiveness and communication skills in order to talk to him about what you need with confidence. Also, be sure to set specific times to talk, so you can enjoy the rest of your time together.
Track Two: YOU
Take steps toward your goals outside of the relationship
Have you been neglecting your goals? Things in life that you’ve always wanted to accomplish, but have put on the back-burner since you started this relationship? Regardless of whether or not you are progressing in your relationship with him, start progressing on your goals. Do you want to build your career? Go back to school? Live a healthier lifestyle? Being goal-focused, no matter what the relationship outcome, will positively impact your life. Plot out things you have been avoiding and spend at least 15 minutes a day on them, even if you don’t feel up to it!
Reclaim friends, family, and interests
Your mood and confidence should be at their best during this stressful time. Reconnecting with your good friends, close family members, and in enjoyable activities (without him) is a sure boost. When you’ve got free time, rather than counting on him to make plans, make your own plans and don’t change them! Remember to do the things you love (and even the things he doesn’t). If you haven’t felt up to any activities lately, write a list of all the things you used to enjoy doing. Get into the habit of engaging in at least one pleasurable activity per day, even if it’s something small such as enjoying a cup of tea, or having a quick chat with an old friend. Enjoyable activities must not break the bank. Opportunities to reconnect with your interests and support network are all around you.
Remember, you might be in the midst of the most loving, rewarding, and yet challenging relationship you’ve ever experienced. No matter what this situation throws at you, you are in it for valid reasons, which perhaps others have not been able to understand. Though he has choices to make, you can still sit in your own driver’s seat, take control of your mood, goals, and timeline, while giving love your best shot. This two-track model will make sure this is a growing experience for you regardless of how things turn out. You will be stronger and even more ready to have the relationship you deserve. My book, The Other Woman’s Affair (#1 New Release on Amazon can help you navigate a relationships where your partner is unavailable.
Paul DePompo, Psy.D., ABPP author of The Other Woman’s Affair: gambling your heart and reclaiming your life when your partner is married is the founder of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Institute of Southern California in Newport Beach, California. For more information, please visit www.drPaulDePompo.com or http://cbtiofsocal.com.