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12/20 2013

Collect Yourself: What to Do When You’re Being Strung Along


As we humans have evolved, we seem to want more stuff.

So we collect. We collect things like shoes, smartphones, academic degrees, handbags, fun experiences, cars, makeup, careers…

Some people collect relationships.

And just like when we were little kids and didn’t want to get rid of one toy to make room for another – we wanted them all! – so it goes with some “relationships” today.

We want them all. At least some of us do.

So, how do you know when you are on the giving end of someone collecting relationships?

As in everything, awareness is the first step; Brutal honesty a close second. This would be the relationship 12-step equivalent of “My name is Mary Sunshine, and I’m a romanceaholic.” You gotta know you got a problem before you can address it.

Next… many, while being strung along, or “tethered” by another, worry more about the time they’ve already invested in the relationship, instead of the potential time suckage and losses they will incur in the future.

Many, many more truly believe that if they were only smarter, prettier, richer, thinner, funnier (basically, BETTER!), then the relationship hoarder with whom they are dealing will have some kind of epiphany and fall into monogamous, committed love with them. In my psychology practice, this self-disrespecting, self-bullying, needing-to-be-better dynamic is the one I see most commonly in those who are being tethered. I am very often struck by all these intelligent, successful, beautiful, interesting people sitting in front of me believing that they have to be better in order to “get” someone to want to be in a committed relationship with them.

If you think about it… it’s the ultimate lack of dignity.

So what to do when someone is collecting you as they would a luxury item?

Here are the first steps:

1. Awareness. Is this happening to you? Are you uncomfortable with the state of the union?

2. Brutal honesty. Admit that you are being tethered and commit to taking action. Trust your intuition. You won’t always have hard evidence that you are being tethered. You don’t need it. If you are unsure of whether or not you are, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You are being tethered.

3. Action. There’s absolutely nothing you can do about time and emotions already spent. They are gone, never to be recovered. Let them go. Prioritize your present and future energy expenditure and stop giving yourself to those who don’t accurately see who you are.

4. Collect YOURSELF. Get yourself together! Value you enough to not allow yourself to be part of someone else’s collection of relationships. Do some soul-searching – and therapy – to help you in breaking patterns of thought and action that do not serve you.




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