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.

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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?