He’s just not that into you – hitting the brick wall

My friend over at Misadventuresat30something.wordpress.com will get this. And I apologise for totally nicking your expression but I have just experienced the brick wall.

So I started dating this guy a couple of weeks ago. I got the ball rolling by messaging him on the dating site we’re both on after noticing he’d ‘winked’ at me a couple of weeks before (I know I’m a slow starter – I’d only just decided to pay subscription due to a hot pre-black Friday deal).

Anyway, we met up for a drink in a pub and chatted and seemed to get on OK. I gave him a lift home and we kissed. So far so good. This was a Thursday and he is also a single parent but it was his child free weekend and it was child free for me too so I suggested we meet up for brunch and a walk in the park on the Sunday morning.

That also happened and we spent about three and half hours together, had a pleasant walk in the sunshine and a lovely kiss goodbye in the car park at which point I told him he could ask me out for the next date as I felt like I’d done all the running.

I then proceeded to wait four entire days for any kind of contact from him at which point he texted surprised that I hadn’t contacted him first. I then prompted him to ask me out at which point he said “Oh I forgot I was supposed to be asking” and I had to give him my available dates again. He asked if I’d like to meet for another daytime coffee date and I replied “Yes, that would be nice – when and where? X”. His reply? “I’ve asked you out, do I have to think of where too? x”.

I then suggested a lovely country pub I know for lunch and he didn’t respond for a while so I panicked and said “alternatively can stick to a coffee – just couldn’t think of anywhere except Costa!”

Anyway, the upshot is that we met up for coffee/breakfast in his town again (which is close to mine but just a bit classier) and I got to ask him some things that had been on my mind, like for him to express what he’s really looking for in a woman right now and whether or not he’s dating anyone else. His answers were good enough (he said he wouldn’t have time to date anyone else!) and I went away that day feeling like things were progressing.

We had another date lined up (which I should have been on right now as I write this blog in fact) and we were both about to embark upon full single parental weekend duties so he warned me not to expect any quick replies to texts over the weekend.

In the event I ended up sending him a brief one on the Saturday evening telling him I’d been swimming with the boys and out to see our local football team play a home game and asking what he’d been up to with his children.

Tumbleweed.

He didn’t come back to me until 10.20am on  Monday morning and only to say “Hope you had a good weekend. Put tree up yesterday and had manic weekend. x”. Then in the evening (this is yesterday) he texted to say he’d be away in another UK town about a 2 hour drive away during the day today and wasn’t sure until when. He asked when my next free day/night would be and I replied “OK. Saturday night”.

I then asked him to clarify whether tonight would still be a possibility as I really value my child free time when the kids are with their dad and he answered “It is but I really won’t know until tomorrow. So if you want to fill that with something definite I understand. Know the value of that time so would hate you to hang around for me on the off chance and will understand. Xx”.

I left it then until I got home from work today and sent him the following message at 2.15pm “As of right now I am still free tonight so let me know whether you’re going to be around or not. X”. That was six hours ago – it’s now just after 8 at night and he still hasn’t replied.

Frankly I am pretty pissed off and disappointed with his behaviour. OK so he may be the most technophobic (but no, he has an iPhone) or laid back person in the world but leaving someone hanging like this is just rude and disrespectful and lacks any kind of empathy.

My sister says “cut him loose, he’s already altering your sense of self worth” and she’s right. It doesn’t matter what his take on it is – I have a very strong need for an emotional connection with someone and I don’t feel like I know him, trust him, I feel like he’s got a massive barrier up – I feel like he is emotionally unavailable to me and that’s just not good enough. I get the distinct impression that he isn’t really interested in getting to know me – I don’t feel like I can be myself around him and when I start talking about myself I feel like his attention drifts which makes me feel not good enough and I know that’s not true.

Brick wall men. Why is this so common place right now and are there any guys out there who want to connect with a woman on a real, emotional, human level?

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Knowing what you want, and getting what you need

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself this time last week. A Tuesday afternoon – I had a long, dark teatime of the soul which involved me weeping in front of my kids and having to tell them once again that the reason for my tears was simply “life”.

Surprisingly though, I think I may have very quickly scrolled through the stages of grief coming out the other side not too much the worse for wear. It may have even helped to find out what I did because it has allowed me to let go of something which, up to this point, felt like a defining moment – a relationship with someone too good to be true who I couldn’t quite let go of. It’s a lot easier to let go of someone who turns out to be deeply flawed.

I actually looked him up on Meetup and copied a photograph from a recent event he attended which shows him looking over-weight and unattractive. My sister said “he was hardly God’s gift” – I said “God’s gift comes in all shapes and sizes and it was his way of being within a relationship that made him the perfect man”. Knowing what I know now about what was going on in his head in the background throughout our relationship means that he wasn’t God’s gift in any respect so why waste any more time or words on the man?

I checked out the discount situation for Match and lo and behold they were heavily discounting a month’s membership at the knockdown rate of £4.99. Despite my misgivings, I couldn’t turn down such a bargain.

It was interesting to see what kind of contact I’d missed out on with my free (read: entirely locked down) profile. Winks and favourites and messages from the most oddball bunch of guys imaginable. Twenty-somethings, people from far flung lands, people you wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley…

I waited until someone vaguely attractive sent a wink then messaged a brief hello “I’m ready to date again if you are?”. (It’s tough knowing what to say – I need to be better than “Hi” but spending ages crafting a thoughtful message doesn’t seem worth the stacked odds that you will be ignored and left hanging.)

He came back to me quickly “How would you like to be fine wined, dined and thoroughly seduced by me? J x”. I thought, blimey, no beating about the bush there, and followed up with a simple “why not?”.

The next thing that happened: tumbleweed. After 24 hours I told him “I assume this means you’re either married or you got a better offer”. To which he then responded, “no, not married, just been busy. When did you last have sex?”. AHEM!

To cut a medium length story short, the conversation descended to him pretty much downgrading his offer from fine wining and dining to just straight sex.

I said thanks but no thanks and swiftly moved on. I mean I miss sex, I think about it a lot, sometimes at work I have to read and assess some pretty graphic stuff and it can send me into meltdown (ha ha!) but having said that, I’m not about to hook up with a stranger I met on the internet for sex. If I wanted to do that, I’d be on Plenty of Fish!

I took another chance, I messaged another man – someone who seemed a little more down to earth – not spectacularly good looking but what I’d call “just normal”. Kind of what I’m looking for in a man right now: just normal, honest, kind, decent. Of course he needs to have a great sense of humour and a whole load of other qualities too but there has to be a baseline.

On the plus side he lives in the next town over, he’s a couple of years older than me which is preferable, he seems to be gainfully employed and he has children just a couple of years older than mine which is important to me because I think it really helps to be at a similar life stage to your potential partner. Someone with adult children has moved past where I’m at right now and someone with no kids is never going to fully appreciate the rollercoaster I find myself on.

We had a brief chat on Match and he continued to seem normal, so I invited him out on a date and he said yes. As far as I know we are meeting up for drinks this Thursday (although I’m well aware that this is internet dating and he could drop out and disappear at any time, before or after [hopefully not during 🙂 ].

So watch this space.

 

Black mirror

Have you ever had an experience that you believed passionately represented one specific thing in your life only to have a black mirror held up to show you a darker reality?

To be fair I’ve never been cheated on (to my knowledge) so I am probably simply experiencing what a lot of people have gone through and there’s nothing new or shocking about it. But there is for me.

It started when I decided to place a picture of myself as a vampire into the shared photo album I had with my ex – M – on Halloween. The album was empty since he deleted everything else in it so I commented “Happy Halloween from a ghost”.

To cut a long story short this prompted a text conversation which followed a pattern he has established since he dumped me back in March. He is out of contact for 6 weeks or a couple of months then he contacts me and quickly turns the conversation to sex.

I let him visit me a couple of times over the summer. To be fair I wasn’t over him at all – he’d been the best partner I’d ever had albeit for a very short four month time span. I would have let him come over a lot more than he chose to. Then he went quickly cold, told me that it all felt wrong and wasn’t for him after all and disappeared.

This time he did the usual, ask for pics, ask to come over and “cuddle” me all night long. He also told me, when I asked, that he’d had sex with a “friend with benefits who is no more” six weeks previously then became evasive on the subject. I was more conflicted this time than ever before. When you realise that you are feeding a toxic cycle and chances are you won’t even really enjoy it, it makes the whole thing a lot less appealing. But I acceded because, well I guess I thought I still loved him.

I discussed it with friends the following day and decided to back out but before I got the chance to message him, he beat me to the punch. I had another contrite message taking back all the assurances he’d given the night before and telling me “I really have to get you out of my head. It’s wrong of me and unfair to keep contacting you like this once in a while. I will delete all those lovely photos you sent me and also delete your number.”

I was upset and angry despite the fact that it sounds like he is being self aware here – he has done this before three or four times this year and it has really messed with my head. The worst thing was that he blocked my number so I couldn’t even have the last say.

I then did something crazy – looked up his previous ex on Facebook and sent her a long unsolicited message telling her what I’d experienced with him and asking if she had experienced anything similar.

It was a risk – she could have been angry with me but she wasn’t. She responded “You described almost exactly what happened to me” and gave me her number.

I called her the following day and we talked for two hours. We both found out some shocking truths. During my relationship with him (which started up just six short weeks after he dumped her completely out of the blue after a loving, seemingly perfect two year relationship) he was constantly texting her trying to persuade her to become a friend with benefits. She gave me specific dates and this was happening during what I thought were really special times for us as a couple: a romantic weekend away; Valentines; the point at which he first told me he loved me…

This whole year she says he has continued to be in touch with no more than a two or three week gap which is a huge contrast to the almost half hearted effort he has made to keep things going with me – maybe I just made it too easy for him, but then again she played a lot bigger role in his life, supporting him through chemotherapy (he dumped her after he got the all clear).

The way she described it he sounds almost obsessed with her although he told me that he had popped round to see her once after their break up to help with a job in her house and then had no more to do with her. This obsession does not, I hasten to add, mean that he wants her back – he just seems to want to keep her on the string and continually try to wear her down so she’ll sleep with him again.

You can imagine how I feel. Not only was I well and truly downgraded to a fuck buddy – one who got to have no say in when or how often, or to what standard – but I wasn’t even important to him when we were together – he clearly never intended to have a long term relationship with me or treat what we had seriously. That hurts like a fucking dagger in the heart. It makes me feel de-humanised, less than.

His ex told me that up to the point where she received my message she had always had a question mark over the possibility of getting back together with him – exactly as I had. She said he was the perfect partner to her – never put a foot wrong – and even when he dumped her his entire family were dumbfounded and his mum was angry with him.

Now she knows what he’s been up to and how he seems to have set up a Meet Up group so he can take his pick of potentially vulnerable, lonely women that join up (and apparently already has started a new relationship) she told me she thinks he’s a complete piece of work, a scumbag.

I can’t help but feel not good enough except everyone I’ve spoken to, including her, has told me it’s not me, it’s him. He obviously has issues with controlling all of us like some kind of back catalogue (his third ex from years ago is probably the “friend with benefits” who he described to me as someone who knows him better than anyone).

Both his ex and the first friend I spoke to about this told me that they would put money on him unblocking my number at some point and when he does I have this message to give him:

M, you are not the man I thought you were. You have been playing a cruel game and you should be ashamed of yourself for playing fast and loose with other human hearts. I feel sorry for any woman who gets involved with you – I feel sorry for G & J & S (and the children caught in the crossfire). How dare you portray yourself as some kind of perfect partner whilst sneaking behind your “lover’s” back to fuck someone else. Every nice, kind, romantic, thoughtful thing you ever did is tainted. I am left with nothing but a bad taste in my mouth. 

One thing is certain, keep going the way you are and you’ll never be happy.

(Adult) toddler wrangling and #sidepussy

It is 8.30 on a Saturday morning. The Husband is due to have the children from 5pm tomorrow afternoon (why from 5? Go figure, I guess he must have other plans for his day). He just text me saying “Any chance I could have the children today?”. Now, the previous incarnation of me would have jumped at the chance – other than taking the kids to my parents house later on we have no plans and when we have no plans things inevitably go bad because my eldest becomes quite the horror if he isn’t kept continually entertained!

However, I am on a sharp learning curve right now having discovered the potential cost of court involvement in formalising child contact arrangements. Without the resources to pursue that course of action I have no one to count on but myself. I need to begin acting like the responsible adult which means learning how to say no and dealing with the fallout.

I went through this with my son last year. I realised what a soft touch I am as a parent, how I was letting him walk all over me, unable to put a stop to the back chat and the defiance. And all because I never ever followed through with consequences.

The day I followed through he had what’s known as “an extinction burst” which is essentially the one thing that had me ready to run for the hills.

When someone who has been letting you get away with unacceptable behaviour suddenly changes and stands firm and proves that they are actually capable of making the harsh decisions and standing by them, it’s going to provoke outrage and rage and that person is going to put you right in the eye of their storm.

That day my son picked up a plastic bottle full of shampoo and hurled it across the room. He yelled abuse in my face and picked up my laptop threatening to throw it at me. He hit me on the arm with the full force he could muster and it hurt.

That was his extinction burst. He’s never behaved as badly before or since.

I knew that it would be bad and I prepared myself for it. I managed to remain calm and talk to him in a reasoned manner despite his behaviour. I told him he would be grounded this time and I stuck to it.

I’m using this as an analogy. His father is not going to like me withdrawing the flexibility he’s become used to. It might make him angry and verbally abusive. However the fact of the matter is that he’s been angry and verbally abusive to me on a fairly regular basis over the course of the past 20 months anyway, culminating in police involvement. I really feel like I have nothing to lose by standing firm from here on in, so wish me luck!

On a completely different note, I went out to see the comedienne Katherine Ryan the other day and was taken aback to find out that a lot of her show was taken up talking about being a single mum, co parenting, feelings about men (just about as intelligent as dolphins apparently) and being really happy with her single status.

She asked if there were any single mums in the audience and a few of us called out. She struck up a chat with another woman (no not me sorry, guess I wasn’t vocal enough!) and found out this woman had been single (and celebate) for six years. She applauded the single status but told her she should get herself some “side pussy”. We didn’t really know what she was on about but I think she meant get a fuck buddy – someone you can sleep with but not commit to. That’s something traditionally gendered I guess. And not in favour of the woman. It then occurred to me that I spent a significant amount of this year as someone’s “side pussy”. I thought I was ok with it but it unravelled.

After about 8 weeks having no contact with the ex he suddenly tried to call me about one am on Wednesday morning, sent me a dick pic and told me he could come over (after 2pm) and stay the night Friday. Before I had time to compose a response which suitably conveyed what a knob he was being he dialled it in and apologised for his inappropriate behaviour. I never even touched my phone.

I read a meme the other day that said something like, “girlfriend, he’s not missing you, he’s either horny, drunk or he heard you were moving on”. Seems about right and actually my attitude to the ex becomes more and more cynical with every bad decision he makes to the extent that this latest incarnation leaves me cold. I think I’m finally done with him in my mind.

Same shit, different year

I can’t believe that on this weekend last year I met my ex for the first time. I remember vividly how excited and nervous and hopeful I felt as I headed out the door knowing that it was the start of the rest of my life – a chance to start over. I didn’t know I’d fall in love.

This might be the first time in my life I’ve had such a marker to look back on – a whole year and here I am today feeling like a light has been extinguished – things actually got darker. The hope I had went away.

I know divorce is always going to be a rough place to be and time will heal these wounds and things will change. I still believe that out there somewhere is a lover, a best friend, the person I need in my life. Until the day I’m destined to meet that person I just have to keep on fighting the fight, drying my own tears, finding every single way I can to live life to the full, laugh and soak up any joy the world sees fit to offer me.

As Paolo Nutini sings in Let Me Down Easy: “we are broken by others, but we mend ourselves”…

Sharing the misery

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being single. I watch a lot of dating shows and occasionally chat to a 20-something friend at work about dating disasters, short lived relationships and Tinder.

It’s always on my mind. I realised the other day that I’ve only been truly single three times since I was 22 – all three times for around 8 months (must be some kind of magic number..)

There is something so reassuring about having a love interest in my life and I have plenty of moments of obsessing over the lack of a potential mate. In fact I’d go as far as to say that I have moments of feeling blind panic at the thought of being alone.
On the whole though it is this fear that time is running out.

I find myself reassessing men that I’ve already discounted as potential mates for the simple reason that they are at least present in my life.

I look at my ex (not The Husband) and pine and consider every day how to reach back to him before coming to my senses.

I look at my friend, the one I briefly dated, the one I see often, chat to easily and share loads of stuff in common with but I still can’t quite see us as a couple.

I even briefly looked at the next door’s ex (remember the dodgy one?). I was letting him become really friendly (ok not *that* friendly!) for a couple of weeks until his behaviour started weirding me out a little and I gave myself a good talking to and cut him loose.

Now I feel just about as single as I’ve felt this side of March 2005.

The thing is I know I want someone who is good, kind, warm, generous, romantic and considerate (amongst gabillion other traits) but there is no way I would ever want to inflict the shit storm that is my life right now on someone that lovely (if, in fact, that person actually exists). And there’s the rub… I neither believe there is someone that good just lurking round the corner nor do I believe that sharing my misery would be either a problem halved in this case nor a fair trade off.

I look back at the posts I was writing this time last year and – oh my goodness – it’s like nothing has changed at all with the Husband. He’s still messing me around the same as ever although this year he has upped the ante with his over-blown allegations of my supposed abuse, control and coercion. Yes, that’s right – those are things he pins on me (whilst looking in the mirror?).

I know now that I need to make changes in myself – in the way I deal with him. I need to put my foot down about him giving me pre-agreed dates and sticking to them. No more flexibility, no more Mr (Mrs) nice guy, no more bending over backwards. I have a clear view of just where that gets me and it looks an awful lot like the inside of a police interview room right now.

One thing is certain: the status of my love life ain’t going to change in 2017. We have a court date in January 2018 and that is currently the light at the end of my never-ending divorce tunnel but I can tell you right now that by this time next year I will be done with the Husband. He will no longer be the ‘Husband’ – he will be the ex-nightmare – and I might actually be taking my first tentative steps on a path to becoming some kind of eligible bachelorette (albeit on the wrong side of 40).

In the meantime I shall try my very hardest to push aside the misery, enjoy the lovelier things about single life – making choices for myself, having platonic male friends to hang out with, spending time with lovely people doing fun stuff and getting to nurture my kids alone with undivided love and affection.

Shifting sands

Right now I am pretty numb with despair. Despair that my life seems to be dictated by the vindictive whims of one man. Despair that my children have to witness me breaking down in tears so often. Despair that they must be subjected to emotional abuse.

Things reached a critical mass a few weeks ago during a hand over at lunchtime one Saturday afternoon. He hadn’t had the children overnight for a month. I needed a break. Our five year old refused to go, screaming and crying whilst I told him he must go. If he didn’t go it would be setting a precedent that he never had to go to his dad if he didn’t want to. I would be accused of ‘poisoning’ him against his father.

His father started being unkind. In the street outside our jointly owned home (where he still lives) he began telling our child “Mummy doesn’t want to take you with her because she’d rather have her social life”. He approached me with bitterness and anger in his eyes and demanded to know where I was going, who I was going with, what I was doing. He demanded to know if I had a boyfriend, mentioned the name of my ex and kept repeating to the children the notion that I didn’t want them because I wanted to go out without them.

Maybe this doesn’t sound too bad to read it written down like this but I was desperate to get away. I was upset, frustrated, worried about the effects on the children, I felt harassed, provoked.

He leant in to my car where our five year old was still sitting and began saying something derogatory about me. I gave him a tap on the bum to ask him to move away from my car and our child.

Little did I know that 24 hours later he would have reported me to the police for assault.

I had to wait three weeks to be interviewed (voluntarily) and I won’t know the outcome for a few days yet but I get the impression that the matter will be dropped. It has been an enormous waste of police time and resources and left me reeling.

In the meantime I have had to chase my solicitor relentlessly to try and figure out just what on earth to do going forwards. I simply cannot be around my ex – I have started to show physical symptoms of stress and anxiety and when he is nearby I feel tearful and shaky.

I need to change the way we handle hand overs of the children. I need to find a way to force him to provide me with contact dates in advance and stick to them for the sake of us all.

However I have now discovered that pursuing a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ could cost up to £7500 in solicitors fees and I cannot pay that sort of money.

I have begun to feel as though I am trapped in my own life – at least until the children come of age, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen years from now.

These are supposed to be the precious days of our lives aren’t they? Not some kind of ordeal to live through.

I have so much sadness right now.

Change your heart, look around you…

Change your heart, it will astound you.

I alluded to one of my favourite films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in an earlier post by using a still shot of Jim Carrey having his memory wiped after a failed relationship.

Excuse me if I mention my ex just one more time but yesterday, after the whole “reset to neutral” thing I discovered that he had deleted our shared album – pictures that had remained accessible since March when he first broke up with me.

I really have been deleted now.

It’s tough for me to process these feelings because I have managed to go through four long term relationships over the course of 22 years of my adult life and never know what it’s like to be dumped and cut off by someone. Karma maybe but when I have broken up with people in the past it has been  after years and at a point where “unreasonable behaviour” has already caused me a great deal of pain emotionally. The break ups, whilst initially upsetting, have been a release and a relief.

When you think about the hurt someone has caused you, how much you still want to be a part of their life, the fact that you still find them attractive and feel powerless to change the outcome – to change their heart – when you feel that their life is on the up whilst you are tumbling into the abyss, that’s when your mood plummets. For some, that’s when obsession and bitterness kick in.

I’ve often wondered why people let themselves become obsessed with another human being. Yes, love is an immensely powerful emotion but we’re all just specks of dust in the cosmos – might as well take the time you have and seek happiness, not dwell on what’s gone wrong and what you don’t have. Someone chose to let you go from their life – that’s a pretty clear indication that he or she was not the one so make your peace with that, forgive them, wish them well and let it go.

You may feel like you have had the control and power over your own situation ripped away, snipped and discarded like an umbilical cord which was tethering you to where you thought you needed to be, but each and every one of us is ultimately responsible for ourselves, our own thought patterns and feelings and if you can (and I mean, if you are lucky enough to have the mental capacity and emotional stability to do so – and I know I do) then you have to do more than change your heart, you have to change your mind.

You have to be your own cognitive behavioural therapist and re-adjust your thought processes to focus on what makes you happy and not what makes you sad.
None of us can eliminate sad thoughts and we will all have low moods from time to time – we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t – but this ability to imagine and believe and create a better life for ourselves is the one thing we have control of and no one can take that away from us.

Is it possible to find a life partner in your 40s?

I often find myself wondering what my life might have been like if I’d got lucky and met someone perfect for me when I was young (like, the formative years – early 20s). I look at people I know who are in their 40s in a long term partnership with someone they met when they were young and see them enjoying family life, knowing each other inside out, sharing half a lifetime of memories. I wonder if, as partners, they are the best they could ever be for each other because when they met they were not set in their ways yet, they hadn’t had a chance to develop selfish attitudes about how their life should be. And chances are they were not ground down by excessive dating and, certainly back then, unaware of the myriad of other potential partners because online dating, social media and apps hadn’t been invented yet.

Certainly when I’m looking at potential partners now I am a lot more critical than I might have been 20-25 years ago. Someone’s “red flags” from the get go do matter and are noticeable – if you go into a relationship thinking you might be able to change the other person you are kidding yourself. By middle age people are pretty much set.
I wish I knew of some happy couples in their 70s who met in their 40s because I could perhaps let this negative feeling go but I don’t.

I went on a date with a guy about six months ago who told me straight out that he didn’t believe we were meant to be with just one person our whole lives, that we should embrace the idea that we can be happy going from one partner to the next over the course of time but I didn’t like that idea despite my life looking very much like it’s followed that model to this point. The way he spun it, it seemed as though he was suggesting that each of these short term partnerships would end mutually and amicably to the satisfaction of each party simply because they were both ready for a change. REALITY CHECK! Human connections and emotions don’t work like that.

Maybe I’m just a romantic but a long term partner should be exactly the same as a lifelong best friend underneath the attraction and the physical relationship, lust and initial passion. You should really genuinely like each other and enjoy each other’s company on a level a lot deeper than the sexual.

With my ex (not the husband) I really felt that we had a lot of similarities, shared values and I thought he was a great person to know and hang out with. I thought we complimented each other quite well but now I wonder what he was really thinking – that we had nothing in common except a high sex drive? I know I am a much more highly educated person than him, having completed two degrees where he left school and ended up in a blue collar profession, and that I am wordy and love to read, visit the theatre and value cultural experiences where he would rather pass his time camping, fishing and sailing. He was an intelligent man though and a deep thinker. Maybe he saw those cultural differences as a huge barrier and never really believed we were compatible deep down.

And this is it – you can have a tick list of essential requirements in a partner and be seen as inflexible and narrow minded, but opt to overlook the odd difference or two and suddenly you’re making yourself vulnerable to misunderstanding and may never truly be able to appreciate one another because however accepting you aim to be, you can’t ever second guess someone else’s motivations and intentions.

 

Reset to neutral

So, despite my earlier musings (see: Adjust your expectations) I ploughed on with a summer dominated by a “relationship” with my ex which in hindsight amounted to no more than a bunch of texts, three physical visits, only one of which felt like a real date, and a whole lot of waiting and wondering, hoping that we could form a more lasting bond in the shape of a friendship (with, inevitably a whole lot more intimacy) and that such a friendship might, in time, evolve into something more. Either that or I had just accepted and embraced the idea of retaining a physically intimate partner whilst letting go of emotional intimacy and real companionship during this difficult period of my life. I was happy to accept such a compromise – it was comforting to know that I still had the ability to turn a man on, and not just any man but someone who had previously loved and then rejected me.

Inevitably he eventually got cold feet and wanted to change the nature of one of our pre planned meetings. We drove to a canal side pub on a sunny afternoon to discuss where we stood and I told him the friends with benefits relationship suited me as my life is tied right now but I don’t want to miss out on physical affection while I wait for the storm to pass. Before we had even finished our drinks he was back on board so to speak and we were back in my bedroom.

Subsequently we chatted about getting together for platonic activities and he told me that, as I don’t work Fridays we should get together for a bike ride some time in September when the kids were back at school.

Then came a period of holiday busy-ness for us both during which I sensed a change in him. After a couple of unanswered texts I finally re-piqued his interest and we arranged an afternoon get together (although he avoided my initial question about meeting up for that promised bike ride). I let him know I would need to take a couple of hours off work and he seemed very pleased when I confirmed the date.

Then, the day before, I got a very familiar message telling me he wouldn’t be coming after all, that he’d changed his mind about the whole arrangement, that he was in “a strange place” and wanted to figure out where he needed to be.

I received the message whilst sat at my desk at work and tears immediately sprang to my eyes. I hadn’t realised how invested I had become in a “relationship” which in reality was nothing more than the satisfying of a physical urge for him.

He had become seriously involved in one of his local meet up groups, planning and organising social pub walks and cycle rides. I admit to snooping the open source web pages which show event details, times, dates, messages from group members and photos. I could see that this was becoming a bit of a passion for him although I assumed it was limited by the full on nature of the job he does – something which is beginning to kick back in after a period of long term illness, cancer and chemotherapy.

I wrote a long and heartfelt reply, telling him that I felt his moral dilemma ironically made him the best person I could have chosen for a no strings sexual partner because it showed me that he cared and felt responsible and didn’t take it lightly or for granted.
I told him that I completely understood that being single was the right thing for him at this point and that it was not my intention to deprive him of that choice. I also said it would be understandable if he’d met another woman and wanted to pursue a relationship with someone who had a completely uncomplicated life and lived much closer to him than I do. I asked him to respond just to let me know whether my thoughts were fair and accurate.

Seven hours later, despite having read my message, he still hadn’t replied. I checked his meet up group only to see that he’d disappeared, along with all his future events and old messages and replies he’d written were attributed only to “a former member”. I began to worry about him thinking that something drastic in his life must have happened – a return of the cancer? A family member ill or in trouble? Then, as I lay in bed turning it all over in my mind I began to think like a detective – to unravel any mystery you have to first list all potential reasons for any given outcome.

I checked back into meet up and tried a key word search on a name place local to my ex where he had previously arranged an event. Sure enough up popped a whole new group entirely organised by him with the same kind of events but also meals out, camping and beach trips. Looking at the time line it would appear that during the period in the day where he had texted my rejection message and I had quietly broken down at my desk and begun to agonise over the heartache of what felt like yet another dumping (that’s three so far) he was happily fiddling about online, devising fun trips and writing the blurb for his new events.

I then began to feel angry, used, kept in the dark. Bear in mind that I was also suffering raging PMT. I immediately fired off a message taking back my previous platitudes and told him I had begun to believe that this “strange place” he was in was nothing more than an excuse – that he seemed to be in a very happy place and had obviously decided that keeping a connection with me, even for free sex, wasn’t worth the hassle of feeling obligated in any way. I told him that for all his talk of friendship I didn’t believe he saw me that way after all and maybe every moment we ever spent together he was just killing time from one sexual encounter to the next. I told him I felt like a fucking idiot.
He replied very briefly asking me not to expect an immediate response as he was off to bed but assured me that I wasn’t actually a fucking idiot. I cried. A lot. It was midnight and I could hardly breathe. Needless to say it wasn’t a good night’s sleep.

The next day he finally responded telling me that he had found me to be “an attractive, fun and friendly girl (also extremely sexy)”. He told me that he had always found me attractive and that he had loved me. He said that he needed to figure out what he wanted from life and part of that process was to reset parts of his life to neutral and that included his relationship with me and that I shouldn’t take it personally.
He said “all I ask is that you give me space to  figure out my life and who knows, one day we may still be able to be friends.”

I felt upset. I refused to let him have the final word – wrapping things up to suit his own narrative – and sent off one last message. I told him that, whilst there is nothing wrong with the description “attractive, fun and friendly” there is so much more to me than that. I told him that I wish I could “reset to neutral” – like waving a magic wand and deleting certain people and events from your life – but that at my age, it was a bit too late in the day.

I told him that I didn’t believe he really wanted to have me as a friend now or ever. He just doesn’t seem to value me in that way. I wrapped it up by saying that as deeply hurt as I am right now, I hope he finds the happiness he’s looking for and if that happens to be with another partner he should be patient, accepting and willing to compromise and to give the next person a chance (the chance he never gave me).
I do not intend to contact him again. I have discovered all I need to know about him and “us” and it’s a hiding to nothing.

Now I wonder whether there is something about me (other than my offensive ex husband and hard work children!) that makes me an unsuitable partner for anyone – or at least anyone who I would find desirable. Am I too intelligent? Not intelligent enough? Too low brow? (I do watch a hell of a lot of dating shows). Or maybe I’m not interesting enough? Not driven enough? Not intriguing enough? Not fiery enough? Too independent? Not independent enough? What the hell do men want from a long term partner anyway?