The “String Along” Theory

Physics has the String Theory:

string theory

Well, that’s not quite it.

string theory

That’s more like it. In a nutshell, Any of various theories in physics hypothesizing that space-time has more than four dimensions, and that some of the dimensions are exceedingly small and stringlike in shape.

In interpersonal relationships, there is the “String  Along” Theory or how users and controllers keep their hold on people.

“If you’ll ___________ for me, I’ll ____________ for you.”  The reciprocal ___________ doesn’t happen.

“Yeah, honest, anytime you want to go, just say the word. Oh. No not that weekend. Or that one. You know, let me get back to you.”

“You get this one, I’ll get the next time.” Yet, the next time comes around and….”Oh, hey, can you get this one?” and we hop right back on the Merry-Go-Round.

gullibility test

More than a few people will size us up along these lines.

You know a least a few of these people. I’ll cal them the Big Talkers and Slow Walkers (not in the “Walking Dead” sense. Can NOT watch that show. Nope, nope, nope). Promises made and never kept. They get what they want. Sometimes, you never hear from them again (depends on whether they will want something more down the line).  And the times when you need a favor…nowhere to be found.

Another term: User.

Got a friend or an ex-friend who makes tons of promises and never keeps them? (If you want to be a little more optimistic, this is “operational truth” – they meant it at the time they said it. The pessimistic version? Manipulation, lying. Shitweasel) Does he/she first approach you with flattery, tons of attention, gifts, wine and dine, even. Then, the control begins to set in. The flattery gives way to lies. The attention to criticism, The gifts and  wining and dining? “Why don’t you pick up the tab? Well, look at all I did/spend for you.” In some situations, when the lying and manipulation start to fail, assault and battery take over. Yes. I have described domestic abuse.  “Don’t make me do this to you.”

Oh, right: They’re made of Teflon. Anything that happens to them, any hurt (emotional, financial) done to another person is always, always, always “not their fault.” Whether a lie or self-delusion doesn’t matter.  Here’s a warming sign: if you’re listening to someone talk about interpersonal difficulties and that person is NEVER at fault or the other side of the dispute is always an asshole; there is an attempted manipulation in progress. Time for your shark repellent. Your sympathy is being pulled at to pull you into line. You have been chosen as the next victim.


A friend was describing a run-in she’d had with a Big Talker/Slow Walker. The Big Talker/Slow Walker used a tale of woe to lure in her prey; illness, family issues, financial woes prior bad treatment by friends; none of it her fault. Being a kindly soul, she offered emotional support, comfort, more than a few dinners paid for.

Then, things started to shift. If the two “friends” went somewhere together, the BT/SW claimed she’d get car sick if she wasn’t driving. And she was an aggressive, angry, frightening driver. Instead of “Come With,” the trip turned into whatever the BT/SW wanted it to be. She also used the “no escape” situation to reel off a list of criticisms. And when told to “knock it off,” responded with “I’ll just leave you out here.”

My friend hadn’t gotten a pedicure in a while because her cash flow was tight and she had higher priorities. The BT/SW kept offering to give my friend a pedicure, which seemed creepy and weird. However, my friend realized that the BT/SW didn’t have a foot fetish so much as she didn’t like the way my friend’s feet looked with the aged and chipped nail polish.  Control.

For a proposed party that had nothing to do with the BT/SW, my friend had an idea of what she wanted. The BT/SW began to plan a menu and games and shitload of stuff the woman whose party it was DIDN’T FUCKING WANT. BT/SW got pissy and sulky. By the way, all the promised food that was going to be prepared? Never happened. Partly because there was a falling out before the party, but the BT/SW had no intention of following through. She just made the promises.

Of course, the aforementioned falling out is now fodder for the “woe is me” story used to hook the next victim. And BT/SW has the lines in the water.

The commodity desired by the BT/SW in the previous example was control. (She has a network going and as I’m hearing second-hand, it’s beginning to blow up on her. Why? People are smartening up and getting tired of her shit).

If you suspect you’re on the losing end of a user relationship, test it. When the big promises are made, call the bluff. “I can get you into _____ any time you want.” Set a date. If you’ve been paying for shared activities, keep your wallet in your pocket when the bill comes. When the take of woe is being told in a one-sided fashion, start challenging details. If you KNOW you’re being fed a heaping spoonful of bullshit, expose it.

penguin friends

Deeds, not words.

I have a group of friends who have helped me out tremendously, sometimes just by listening. I have helped them out with listening, moving, making/bringing food to an event, waited in a hospital while they had surgery, helped talk them down from an agitated state, even emergency baby-sitting (ONCE). Who steps up in your life? Who DO you (not would you, but DO you) step up for? THOSE are your friends, not the BT/SWs who vanish when there’s the slightest problem or when there’s heavy lifting to be done (literally and figuratively).

move body


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