Unpacking Fridays

Unpacking unreliability

Merry Christmas to you all. I drafted this post but realized the posting date coincided with the end of year festivities and was hesitant to find the right time to post it but I again we need to leave some of our unhealthy behaviors and bagages in 2020 so here I am killing the mood.

Today I am going to talk about romantic relationships. If you are a regular reader you will realise this is my forte. But we all have a story to unpack and a lesson learnt even if not from our own experiences, we learn from our circles.

As of late, one of my friends went through a rough patch, once again 2020 doing its thing. And the only thing that seemed not to be crumbling was her relationship with her boyfriend. Well, it is not always the happiest moments but they keep going strong as she always tells me “Love takes it all”.

The other day,we went out for drinks but she seemed down. At first, I was hesitant to ask but what kid of friend would I be if I acted blind to her mood, so I asked. She then started complaining about how her partner never remembers anything about their relationship. The guy misses dates, never follows through agreements and all she does is make excuses for him.

She was sharing all this as she always speaks and thinks of a future together but I realised that doubts are settling within her. The guy is getting more and more unreliable that even us,her friends, are starting to worry about the emotional implications this might have if things go south. But since she came to me I had to start thinking of how to deal with an unreliable partner especially considering current times when all of us are really and strongly struggling with fear, loss, uncertainty and how to cope with the new realities.

First, I wouldn’t say since someone is unreliable you are better off without them but also I would say yes, you are better off without them. Confused already? Okay, let me try and say why and why not to stick. We all can come up with our own conclusions depending on our situations.

Often, small stuff accumulates to shape how we feel about someone. Instances add up to become our perception of how trustworthy people are or how secure we feel around them, and how much we can rely on them when it comes to the big stuff. Trust isn’t just about how much you believe your partner when he or she says something, or feel certain that your partner wouldn’t cheat on you. It is the general feeling of putting your trust in them: a belief that your partnership is strong and enduring.

When unreliability becomes emotionally unpredictable, trust can be affected in even more extreme or painful ways. You might worry that today is going to be the day that there’s going to be another ‘incident’, or find yourself feeling worried or cold when you think about your partner, instead of secure and happy.

If this sounds familiar, it’s important to recognize that this can constitute emotional abuse. Although there are different ideas on what defines abusive behaviour, if you feel that your sense of self-esteem is being consistently undermined, there’s a significant risk that this is the case.

This lack of reliability can be triggered by various things. Sometimes, it’s just a part of our character. Some of us are simply less organised than others and find it hard to stick to plans or keep arrangements. We may not feel these things are particularly important and may not even realise that it’s annoying when we’re unreliable. This might be temporary due to our current headspace but it is very possible to be who we are every day.

Unreliability can stem from uncertainty or a lack of commitment. When we’re feeling unsure of something, or the extent to which we feel invested in a relationship, we sometimes express this in a passive-aggressive way by giving less than we could or doing so in inconsistent ways. Such behaviour can be adopted consciously or unconsciously.

Unreliability can also stem from a desire to have more control. When we make someone wait for us by turning up late, we’re attempting to gain control over their actions. We make them appear to be the person who ‘cares’ more and so gain the upper hand(“Childish” in my opinion). Similarly, when we freeze someone out or refuse to give the emotional support they need, we make them more dependent on the times we are kind, and so exercise control over how they feel. And creating an unhealthy sense of gratefulness in the relationship for doing the bare minimum.

All this can be either conscious or unconscious, temporary or their personality, it may be part of a pattern of planned behaviour designed to undermine the self-esteem of the other partner, or it may be something the perpetrator is unaware of.

Addressing this issue is no rocket science. Just as with many other issues in relationships, the best starting point is to engage in an open and honest conversation(I mean it , yes, talk it out).

Lack of communication is the biggest cause of resentment in long-term relationships. So, even when it’s awkward or difficult or you think it is stupid or you are blowing it out proportion, it is the better option for resolving issues. You may find that your frustration comes out in other ways anyway so better to head off difficulties before they get worse(I know a thing or two about this personally).

However, if your partner’s behaviour is at the more serious end of the spectrum, it can be a good idea to proceed with caution. If you feel your partner is unlikely to respond well to a broad discussion about behaviour, focus on individual instances. That way, you can begin to talk about what you are finding difficult with a smaller risk of your partner shutting the conversation down.

Of course, in some cases, your partner may be unwilling to talk no matter how carefully you try to express yourself or just intentionally mean(yes, they exist too). At this point, it’s worth thinking hard about how much more of this you can take and for how long.

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