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Reclaim your emotional baggage
December 4, 2010 6:41 PM   Subscribe

"I write the advice that I wish I’d had when I had low self-esteem and a penchant for dating the same guy in a different package. The blog is predominantly aimed at women but I do have a lot of male readers too and my advice is relevant to everyone who has found themselves in a cycle of pain and a bad relationship pattern." Natalie Lue, blogger and author, on why she started her site, BaggageReclaim.

I've found that I've been recommending this site on nearly every relationship AskMe I've answered lately. It's smart, compassionate, and to the point. Lue addresses an audience of people who find themselves working for the approval of emotionally unavailable partners without blaming the victim for being too needy and without resorting to the cliches of pop psychology self-help literature. A must-read for anyone in a relationship with someone who is not meeting their needs.
posted by xenophile (53 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been in relationships like the ones that she describes. Personally, I'd like to read a blog from the man's perspective: that is, what exactly makes men like that tick?

What is it that makes a man "out to lunch" in a relationship? Is there a rational explanation or is there just some genetic time bomb that causes all men to loose total interest in maintaining a relationship after a present number of weeks/months/years?
posted by Avenger at 7:10 PM on December 4, 2010


pre-set* number of weeks/months/years?
posted by Avenger at 7:10 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ad exec finds niche and writes blog to sell books. Another internet success story. Go girl!
posted by Ardiril at 7:12 PM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


What is it that makes a man "out to lunch" in a relationship? Is there a rational explanation or is there just some genetic time bomb that causes all men to loose total interest in maintaining a relationship after a present number of weeks/months/years?

What a horrible misrepresentation of an entire sex. We may not be quite 50% of the population, but we are varied and diverse and I, at least, would appreciate not being covered by your blanket statements.
posted by dazed_one at 7:24 PM on December 4, 2010 [29 favorites]


What is it that makes a man "out to lunch" in a relationship? Is there a rational explanation or is there just some genetic time bomb that causes all men to loose total interest in maintaining a relationship after a present number of weeks/months/years?

Women do this too. Everyone does this.
posted by wayland at 7:25 PM on December 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also there's a button, behind some fake hair just above our left ear. Never touch it.
posted by ServSci at 7:29 PM on December 4, 2010 [12 favorites]


Is there a rational explanation or is there just some genetic time bomb that causes all men to loose total interest in maintaining a relationship after a present number of weeks/months/years?

Nearly all men suffer from a lifelong, fatal condition known colloquially as "being human."
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:40 PM on December 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


Is it remotely possible, though, that she is in fact too needy?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:47 PM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Feels...clock...ticking....
posted by fixedgear at 7:50 PM on December 4, 2010


I can't believe you mentioned the button. You know you're not supposed to talk about that. Now we're all going to have to go in for re-wiring. Thanks a bunch.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:53 PM on December 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


What a horrible misrepresentation of an entire sex. We may not be quite 50% of the population, but we are varied and diverse and I, at least, would appreciate not being covered by your blanket statements.

I apologize for not being specific enough. The English language is built in such a way that it doesn't do qualifiers very well. By "all men" I only meant "all men whom I've dated and who seem to interact with a large number of female and gay male acquaintances from whom I hear similar experiences, of which there are many, or so it is said."

I'm a man myself, but unlike others I've never felt the urge to emotionally distance myself from a lover, to find a new one or keep a few on the side. It's just never occurred to me to be or even understand the guy that I'm always hearing about, so I'm asking the question honestly: what makes those guys tick?
posted by Avenger at 7:57 PM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


What a horrible misrepresentation of an entire sex.

You might want to read Avenger's comment a little more closely and try again.
posted by fshgrl at 8:01 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is it that makes a man "out to lunch" in a relationship?

SCIENCE!
posted by ND¢ at 8:04 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't understand half of what she's saying because of her weird use of pronouns in the stories. There's too many "he"s and "she"s thrown about and I get all confused.

I assume from the comments though, that Men Suck?
posted by justina at 8:14 PM on December 4, 2010


I heard that in men the bridge between the left and right hemispheres of our brain are significantly smaller. It is this adaptation that allows us to play call of duty.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:23 PM on December 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


This sit is almost Like the 'Catch Him and Keep Him' site of a few years ago.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:27 PM on December 4, 2010


what exactly makes men like that tick?

Pastabagel already explained this.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:34 PM on December 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Let's argue, just for argument's sake, that all men are like this. Isn't that just then the nature of the beast, and hoping for different (or better or whatever) is just a terrible way to go through life?

It would be like renting a dingy apartment and hoping that one day you'd wake up and discover it's Hearst Castle. And, worse, no matter how much you work on it, it will never be Hearst Castle.

I don't particularly believe this, but it seems like many people believe that. I do, however, believe that some men are (to continue with the analogy) dingy apartments and if that's not where you want to live, you need to move.
posted by maxwelton at 8:35 PM on December 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hate myself for having a Castlevania quote in my head right now.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:36 PM on December 4, 2010


The summary of what I get from this site: "Buck up and have some goddamn self esteem and self respect, yo."

Think less of me if you'd like, but hey, sometimes that's exactly what I need to hear.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:46 PM on December 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


Thank you so much for linking that pastabagel comment.

Not true of course.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:49 PM on December 4, 2010


Note to self: Do not date Natalie Lue. For if you do--the whole goddamned time you're dating--when you think you're just having perfectly transparent fun, getting wasted and banging a chick in a beret, she will disingenuously be taking paranoid, conspiratorial notes for later--and after about a year or so, when things have run their natural course and you're bored-to-fucking-tears with her whining about her already-waaaay-fucked-up-dating-history-long-before-you-even-got-there, and you're finally ready to move on--she'll be gearing up to release another slim tome of over-analyzed whining about what an "emotionally unavailable" prick you are. It'll be available for purchase by total strangers worldwide in one of several print-on-demand self-help books she shills on the Internet -- and even though you will have provided all the juicy source material, you won't receive dime-one, bucko.
posted by slumberfiend at 9:15 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


At risk of derailing the regular male-vs-female derails...

Thank you, xenophile. I'm still having issues about my last stupid relationship when I should have seen the disaster coming, and this blog - even upon cursory reading - has slammed a few things home to me.

Woah. Upon preview: slumberfiend, do I know you? Have I DATED you?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 9:19 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I get kind of tired of people making it seem like there's some big secret formula to making relationships work. People treat you the way you let them treat you. This goes for friends, families, and significant others. If people can't respect your boundaries, move the fuck on. There are too many awesome people in this world to waste a second on any of the assholes.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:31 PM on December 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


what exactly makes men like that tick?

Pastabagel already explained this.


that's the first time i've seen a comment with 583 favorites.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 PM on December 4, 2010


that's the first time i've seen a comment with 583 favorites.

It's already received more than that.
posted by Forktine at 10:21 PM on December 4, 2010


However you react you may have decided that he’s an assclown, but in general, a man breaking up with you or not being interested does not an assclown make.
Sold!
posted by mistersquid at 10:34 PM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree with Dellemorte. It's not that complicated; if someone's not good to you you should leave. The overanalysing is a symptom of not leaving.

Can it be that these women admire these men for not being that into them?
As in Grouch Marx' "I don't want to belong to a club that would accept me as a member".
posted by joost de vries at 10:36 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The English language is built in such a way that it doesn't do qualifiers very well. By "all men" I only meant "all men whom I've dated and who seem to interact with a large number of female and gay male acquaintances from whom I hear similar experiences, of which there are many, or so it is said."

I don't know how Nixon won. Nobody I know voted for him.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:41 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


The English language is built in such a way that it doesn't do qualifiers very well. By "all men" I only meant "all men whom I've dated and who seem to interact with a large number of female and gay male acquaintances from whom I hear similar experiences, of which there are many, or so it is said."

"People I've known"

English. Not that hard.
posted by Cyrano at 12:10 AM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hmmm. What if some people are scumbags, other people are sometimes in a relationship where it takes a while to realize it is not a good match and sometimes people who were once compatible grow apart over time? I know, it's just a crazy theory.

Also, I've dated women who didn't fart in bed until months into the relationship. I'm not saying all women are fart-hiders, but believe me, it happens.
posted by snofoam at 12:22 AM on December 5, 2010


Snofoam, since I stopped eating anything containing gluten, I don't fart. My kids know I've cheated on my diet if I fart. My now-despised ex couldn't believe that. I once made a concerted effort to fart to prove that I was capable of doing in it front of him and he laughed, it was so puny. Once. In 19 months.

He, on the other hand, hid all his bad habits (for example, beer for breakfast every day, "it's a heart-starter"). He farted like a trooper, and the toilet was uninhabitable for quite some time after he'd been in there.

Some of us are honest to a fault, male and female both, I believe.

I just really like this chick's take on relationships. A lot of what she says resonates with me.

This is why I've given up on the idea of love.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:38 AM on December 5, 2010


There is a sort of messed up, disorganized, randomly edited Wikipedia in my head. You're talking to me, and I'm listening intently. You will say something that I find particularly interesting and off I go to the wiki. Before you've finished your monologue, there are three windows open with twenty tabs each and my brain is playing minecraft.
posted by vanar sena at 1:15 AM on December 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


Lue addresses an audience of people who find themselves working for the approval of emotionally unavailable partners without blaming the victim for being too needy

That's not really the sense I got from this post:
Emotionally available people love themselves and don’t spend copious amounts of energy talking negatively to themselves, wallowing in blame and shame, and lacking compassion and understanding. They act with love, care, trust, and respect to themselves hence making it easier to recognise when others don’t.
The whole thing reads like a checklist of dos and don'ts, like standardized testing applied to relationships. Maybe this is OK because she's being nice about it? I can see how someone who enjoys the impossible challenge of dating an emotionally unavailable man would find this an appealing substitute - living up to these standards is a different impossible task.

I think my interpretation is much better, there's simply nothing deeply dysfunctional about this behavior, it's part of our nature to desire what we can't have. Now I'm going to be lazy and quote myself from this AskMe question:
Lacan says that anxiety is generated when you come too close to the object of desire. This is because the aim of desire is to sustain itself as desire - if you ever really reached what you desire, desire would end because you would be satisfied. In order to continue desiring, you have to sabotage yourself when you get too close to success to postpone the moment of satisfaction as long as possible. So what you want is the possibility or hope of satisfying your desires, but no more than that. When you actually get what you desire, it's horrible, you have to construct some obstacle to keep it at a distance.
The strange paradox is that the emotionally-unavailable man's ambivalence to the woman is not because he's not sure he really desires her. He runs hot and cold precisely because he wants to continue desiring her, and this means oscillating between keeping her at a distance and coming close. What we really want is the thrill, which is the momentary experience of overcoming the obstacle. This is a universal experience, so forgive the heteronormative, maybe could-be-read-as-sexist example: as a man, you want to get the girl naked. But after you do, you want her to put her clothes back on so later you can get her naked again. This pattern is the same kind of oscillation, and the clothes represent the obstacle; this is why nudity is not erotic in cultures that walk around naked all the time. What is truly erotic must always be veiled, just beyond our grasp or gaze, but must also promise to reveal itself very soon. This creates an almost agonizing tension, a combination of extreme pleasure and pain that Lacan calls jouissance, and it seems that in many cases, this is what's behind dating emotionally unavailable men. It's not just men that like the chase, women are also often unconsciously invested in maintaining their man's emotional ambivalence to them. Isn't it true that most relationships are structured around two interlocking fantasies of each partner towards the other, plus an obstacle that keeps the fantasy alive?

It's a huge mistake to ignore this aspect of desire, and I think what people under the influence of psychotherapy call "healthy" is nothing more than inappropriately modeling desire on bodily needs like air or water. This is the disturbing effect of diagnosing virtually everyone as unhealthy and dysfunctional, and you end up with oppressive superego checklists that bombard you with impossible demands and make you feel guilty, but the benefit is that psychological health becomes the impossible object of desire that's always just out of reach - another oscillation around an obstacle: moments of bliss when I feel like I have it together and moments of despair when I don't. These ups-and-downs are an exact parallel to the hot-and-cold of being in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable person, no wonder it functions as a substitute and allows more "healthy" relationship behavior to emerge. If you understand the problem as being about relationships, then this is a kind of a cure, but what if the problem has just been moved? If the real problem is their jouissance is so excessive that it leads them to be self-destructive in relationships, the cure can't be to become self-destructive in some other area of their life instead.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:20 AM on December 5, 2010 [35 favorites]


Can it be that these women admire these men for not being that into them?
As in Grouch Marx' "I don't want to belong to a club that would accept me as a member".

I’ve wondered this, too. I think part of a good match is an essential agreement on your self-image versus their image of you. It can work (and this is the hilarious outcome of most of the scheming and game-playing that men and women both pull, assuming it actually results in a somewhat stable relationship) if both partners think they’re getting the better deal and are the luckier one, IE their perception of their partners worth is greater than the partners perception of their own worth. But that also sort of implies that both partners think their partner is wrong about themselves and have been tricked. It’s condescending and dishonest in a way, and staight out of an Oscar Wilde play. The other option is that you get a genuine match, IE, they see you as you see yourself and vice versa, which strikes me as nigh impossible in a mathematical way, and sort of existentially depressing.
posted by Nixy at 2:24 AM on December 5, 2010


maxwelton, I like the apartment analogy, I might use that. Years ago my mom told me that "men are like cars", and pointed to her friends who all had some gripe or another about their loving husbands. "She complains that he never gives her flowers. Well, she married a Volvo, he is safe, reliable, average looking, and never fails to start in the winter. He might be a bit boring, he is a Volvo after all, but he is there, they have a nice house and two lovely kids. Now she realizes that she didn't want a Volvo. She wants flowers."

Around that time I realized I was seeing an Alfa Romeo. Gorgeous and high maintenance.
posted by dabitch at 2:51 AM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


*leaves for newer post*
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:51 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think some folks genuinely get fooledband others are addicted to drama. Being emotionally unavailable is not just a male thing. I think hisorically, men have gotten away with it more because they could. There some women put there who take advantage of men, cougars if you will.
I do think in a very word way, this woman gives some good advice, but I don't like the shilling. It seems like she has tried to create a liveliehood out of her blog. There is an element of tease that I don't like.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:03 AM on December 5, 2010


I would definitely subscribe to AlsoMike's relationship blog.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:06 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


joost de vries: "It's not that complicated; if someone's not good to you you should leave. The overanalysing is a symptom of not leaving.

Can it be that these women admire these men for not being that into them?
As in Grouch Marx' "I don't want to belong to a club that would accept me as a member"
"

Yeah, it'd be nice if dealing with relationship problems were so simple and cut and dry. Maybe for some people it is. But we're not all fully self-aware, self-actualized individuals who are capable of recognizing immediately when the relationship isn't worth it, when they've turned sour, when that's their problem and not ours, and so on. The human heart's a complicated thing, and some people do need the help in working out how to deal with their emotions and figuring out what's going on in their relationship. Maybe that entails blogs like this. If it helps people gain the self-awareness and self-respect to get up and leave, awesome.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:08 AM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hate myself for having a Castlevania quote in my head right now.

Do you mean you feel miserable? I'm so bored of your secrecy! *breaks up with Marisa, steals his soul*
posted by ersatz at 5:46 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm already depressed thinking about all the hate mail she must get.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:03 AM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


it'd be nice if dealing with relationship problems were so simple and cut and dry.
Oh I'm fully aware of how complicated relationships can be, believe me.
My point is that sometimes this complication is part of the problem and is in need of radical simplification.
I got that impression of the relationship worrying on that website.
posted by joost de vries at 7:05 AM on December 5, 2010


If I could grab the tender hands of my younger self and tell her one thing, one thing to make her path smoother in the above-referenced matters, it would be this: men and women are not natural enemies. You must believe this, I would say -- beautiful and very young are Philo-Sophia and poetry, her ally in the service of the good -- men are not plotting against you, men are not aliens, men are human. Ergo, a man who is constantly being a dick to you is not being a man in some mysterious way you must decode and support him for; he is simply a dick. And you can go and find a man who will not do this to you, any more than any friend would, because he is a decent human being.

Some day, I will tell a teenage daughter that, and she will be looking at the door the whole time and say look Mom that's really sweet but I'm really okay and I gotta go.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:07 AM on December 5, 2010 [28 favorites]


Countess Elena, if I could favorite that a million times, I would.

Can it be that these women admire these men for not being that into them?

At every time in my life when I put up with more than I should have and made excuses for being treated badly by some man, it wasn't because I admired him for not being into me.

It was because I felt I wasn't good enough, or loveable enough or fuckable enough, whatever you want to call it, to deserve better.

Today, I am thankful for the good man who taught me that I am perfectly loveable and fuckable just the way I am.
posted by misha at 9:09 AM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I apologize for not being specific enough. The English language is built in such a way that it doesn't do qualifiers very well. By "all men" I only meant "all men whom I've dated and who seem to interact with a large number of female and gay male acquaintances from whom I hear similar experiences, of which there are many, or so it is said.""

Hey, leave the English language out of this!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:45 AM on December 5, 2010


When I mess around with drama and stress it's usually because the sex is really good and/or the drama and stress is really good. YMMV
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:30 AM on December 5, 2010


I agree that Lue should include in her audience gay couples and straight guys with emotionally unavailable women much more. She's starting to. If you read her blog assuming she's saying "all men are emotionally unavailable" you're going to get the wrong impression.

Relationship writing needs to get over its reliance on gender stereotypes. I didn't see BaggageReclaim as being one of those Venus/Mars sites, which is why I recommend it.

Slumberfiend, she's already married with two kids to a guy she got together with after going through all the realizations she went through. I think you're safe.
posted by xenophile at 10:53 AM on December 5, 2010


I like what I've read so far but it throws me every time she refers to a "This one time at band camp" story. Because the phrase that follows that one in my head is very definitely not the one she means.
posted by athenasbanquet at 3:21 PM on December 5, 2010


The English language is built in such a way that it doesn't do qualifiers very well.

Avenger, that is the lamest, most improbable defense of bigotry I've ever heard.

Beats "Ya don't see any white people flying planes into the twin towers, do ya?", hands down.

Way better than "Statistically, most of them ARE black. Or African-American, or whatever they're calling themselves these days."

Even better than "I don't mean you. You're one of the good Jews!"

The English language "doesn't do qualifiers very well." Heh. Yep, almost poetic in its absurdism.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:25 PM on December 5, 2010


I like AlsoMike's rendition but also have a nit: desire is never satisfied, as such, in Lacanian psychoanalysis as much as it is obliterated, annihilated, ceases to exist.

Being “satisfied” doesn’t have representation in Lacanian or Lacan-derived psychonanalytics (at least not to my knowledge in the English transltations ca. 1998).

It’s a reason to put Lacan down. Was for me.
posted by mistersquid at 6:15 PM on December 5, 2010


that's the first time i've seen a comment with 583 favorites.

Hmmm...well, this one has 622 favorites, and I think it's far more worthy of such attention.
posted by velvet winter at 6:25 PM on December 5, 2010


Eh, one is comedy the other is serious; both have their place.
posted by Justinian at 9:47 PM on December 5, 2010


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