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Filling a void means we are a temporary stand-in until someone or something else better comes along. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop—you don’t know when or where, but eventually, it will happen—the second a new (or possibly old) opportunity arrives. Ouch! ~ Stephen Bailey, Paired Life
We’re all humans just trying our best to get through life.
We all cope with a plethora of issues—the loss of loved ones, failures in relationships, or trying to find our footing on our career path. We’re not taught to leave the baggage of our past behind gracefully. We carry it with us wherever we go.
What happens when we do? We damage relationships and lash out—intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes to fill our voids, we turn to the most readily-available option—finding someone who will invest the time and energy necessary for us to feel the love, care, and acknowledgement we crave. We all long for belongingness, but what if you’ve found someone who also longs for those things, not fill their void, but to build a meaningful relationship?
For someone without a lot of relationship experience, I’ve had my share of emotionally unavailable men. I should’ve been more aware. I’ve managed to overlook their shortcomings, believing they might offer something meaningful, only to learn their actions were based on low impulse control.
After moving to the United Kingdom for school, I met this amazing, charming, and bubbly guy who livened the scene wherever he went. I found his outgoing, friendly, reassuring (lol), and vulnerable personality irresistible. Then I witnessed his impulsive side, a side that was oblivious to how he harmed the people around him.
I’m not here to unfold what went down but to share what I learnt from this emotionally-wrenching experience. Initially, he did everything right—cooking for me, introducing me to his friends, trusting me with his tragic past, and posting me on his social media, until he did me wrong; breaking up via text because he suddenly couldn’t invest in our relationship.
When someone does all the right things, it’s easy to overlook their damaged traits. Traits that only make sense after you’re invested and everything is out of your hand.
So, how do you recognize if someone’s using you to fill their void?
1. Their focus is on themselves.
You were all they wanted to talk about: your dreams, your passions, your likes and dislikes, but before you realize it, the focus turns to them. Everything is constantly about their jobs, their problems, their families, and their f*cking emotional baggage, which has been dumped on you. Now you’re emotionally invested in them and not yourself.
2. They don’t consider your state of mind.
They trusted you with their past, so you courageously try to open up about yours. When you share, they counter with their experience with that type of trauma and how theirs is bigger than yours—belittling your vulnerability through their self-absorption.
3. Only words, no actions.
It should be easy to recognize someone biting off more than they can chew. Throwing out heavy words and fake promises about making your life better or something cliche like, “I’ll always be there, no matter what.” Actions speak louder than words.
3. Zero efforts.
People have a tendency to confuse doing the bare minimum with putting in effort. Drawing from my experience, he lived 30 minutes away. I travelled to him because I understood he had a busy schedule. Then my friends told me, if he really wanted to see me, he’d find a way to visit me no matter what. When you step back and look at things objectively, you’ll begin to realize when your relationship isn’t balanced.
4. They belittle or insult you in ways you won’t recognize at first.
Take note of how they talk about you, your interests, or way of life. Pay attention to subtleties, even humour. They can have a tendency to slip in their actual intentions and opinions about you unknowingly. I was judged on basis of the type of food I ate and the clothes I wore.
5. They have selective conversation.
They have all the time in the world to chat about life’s superficialities via a text, but when confronted with an important question, they ignore or avoid the conversation. That’s a red flag.
6. They talk about their ex with a tone of excitement.
No matter how open you want to be, if they’re talking about their ex-partner with excitement, it’s something you should note. It may be an indication they’re still hung up on them.
7. They make your life decisions without consulting you.
Like breaking up over a text. Imagine giving your time, energy, and mental space to someone you adored above all others who abruptly texts you, “Hey, I don’t think I can invest time anymore, it’s best to go our separate ways.” Did he understand I was also part of the relationship or was it only about him?
The way they break up tells a lot about them. If they don’t offer you closure with care and respect, it could mean their expressions of caring during the relationship were designed to keep you invested. In other words, just for show.
8. Always listen to your gut feeling.
I believe your gut feeling is your guardian angel. If something’s not right, face it. When the time comes, you’ll be ready and it will be easier to move on.
I’m going to end this with a quote by my favourite YouTube vlogger, Nathaniel Drew, which I carry in my heart:
“How can I remember that others’ actions are just a reflection of where they’re at in life?”