One of the most popular posts I have written on Freedomreeves.com was “PING: The Dating Queue.” It seems that people were intrigued with the idea that there is a process by which people are given energy and attention in someone’s life, even though we all do it ourselves on some level. Currently we have so many ways of communicating and staying in touch with people that true breaks in connections are more difficult to make, and often have to be made by explicitly cutting someone off. Without this, someone we delete from our phone is still a facebook friend, Twitter follower or has our email address. Because of this, it has become easier to maintain half-hearted connections with people, and somewhat more difficult to tell whether someone who is reaching out to us truly values us. For this, there is no technology that can replace your gut. If someone isn’t kosher, don’t ignore that voice that tells you so.
As I become older I am delighted that the cliche’ appears to be true: I am also becoming wiser. I dated someone for a couple of weeks towards the end of last year. Without going into much detail, it became clear after a couple of days that something was off. At the time I wasn’t sure if it was the individual or if it was exclusive to our dynamic, but something didn’t feel right. I felt unsettled. Leary. The “stomach flip” that some women talk about (which is just a physical manifestation of not being sure where you stand with someone, in my opinion), didn’t excite me, it annoyed me. So when he told me that he wanted to re-connect with an ex-girlfriend, I stopped waiting for additional evidence and took the out. I sincerely thanked him for his honest and suggested that we both keep it moving. My delight about my decisiveness was matched only by my amusement at his genuine surprise that I wanted to stop seeing him. (Sidenote: Women, are you really letting dudes queue you up like this? If a man says that he wants to see an ex-girlfriend, is there any other appropriate response but to exit stage left?).
A couple of weeks later, the random calls and text messages started. He wanted to “hang out” with me, “get to know” me better, “make sure” I wasn’t angry with him. I thought it was a classic “don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” situation, but upon closer examination, and a quick ego check, I realized that I was dealing with another queue. Not a dating queue, but a post-dating queue. For reasons even he couldn’t articulate, he wanted to keep me around as an option. Being mad at him would mean that I wasn’t an option. Not maintaining contact with him meant that I wasn’t an option. I wasn’t just dealing with someone who at best was mildly self-centered and at worse, was severely narcissistic, I was dealing with a hoarder. Relationship hoarders are difficult to spot because their intentions seem good-natured enough. They want to “remain friends,” “catch up,” or some other method of making sure that they retain some of your attention. Relationship hoarders are different from relationship collectors. Collectors are conscientious about not only having an abundance and variety of relationships, but having quality relationships as well. Hoarders, on the other hand, keep things that clearly have no purpose and no value out of fear that one day, they will need something. If you’ve see shows like A&E’s “Hoarders,” you know the problem with this logic. Even if hoarders do keep something useful, when they needs it, they won’t be able to find it in the mess and clutter they have made. The same is true for relationship hoarders.
So other than trusting your gut, how can you tell when someone is trying to hoard your attention for a rainy day?
- Be honest about the relationship you had. Was there a real connection, a real friendship? If there wasn’t one during the relationship, there won’t be one after it is over.
- Was the person a good friend? So say you did feel a connection with the person. Did the person treat you well? Did you treat them well? Again, if the answer to either question is no, it’s not going to change now.
- Is there disparity in the attention they gave you before and the attention they give you now? Have you ever had a situation where someone who was pretty indifferent about you is suddenly foaming at the month to make a connection with you? This is a red flag.
- Is there something tangible that someone would have to gain out of having a relationship with you? Don’t sell yourself short here. If think you don’t have anything that someone would use you for, think again. Do you have other good, peaceful friendships? A good relationship with your family? Professional connections? Do you have a skill that is uncommon in the hoarder’s life? They may be keeping you around for that purpose.
I must end by saying that I don’t advocate living a guarded life. Living out of fear of being used is not living. Loving freely is the only way to truly protect oneself from harmful relationships. That is why it’s so important to make your gut stronger by trusting it, and by focusing on the relationships that you do want. For me, this post is the last time I’m going to think about this particular situation. I have real friends that are much more deserving of my time.