Pushed to the limit

It’s the school summer holidays. I expect that most ex partners who co-parent probably have a discussion a couple of months in advance to agree on which dates the non-resident parent will take the children over that period. I’ve been told that it’s not uncommon for the NR to have the children for two weeks, whether all in one go or split.

I long ago gave up trying to get dates out of the Husband. I took matters into my own hands and made other childcare arrangements for the period that they will be off school and I will be working. My parents agreed to have them from Sunday night through Tuesday afternoons for the first three weeks and I booked and paid £72 a week for them to be enrolled in a local Holiday Club for the Wednesdays and Thursdays of the first four weeks.

I knew that the Husband had booked a two week period off work mid-August – he had even phoned at one point (albeit after I had already paid for the holiday club) and told me that he might want to take the children away somewhere on one of those weeks but he refused to say when or where. He also told me that he wouldn’t refund the money I’d paid if that happened.

The children have just spent their first Sunday-Tuesday period with my parents and lo and behold he has decided to bemoan the fact that he actually could have had them instead because he wasn’t working.

He texted me today asking to have them when they were returned this afternoon and hassled me to get my mother to bring them back earlier than planned. I asked him what times he would like to have them and he told me just for one hour because he was going out in the evening.

When he arrived to pick them up the five year old refused to go with him and he accused me of “poisoning” the children against him which is extremely ironic as I never bad mouth him to them and he is constantly bad mouthing me and my family to them. I know this from things like my seven year old asking me “is the word B-I-C-H a swear word Mummy? Because daddy says it about you all the time”. Fortunately he was mature enough to add “He shouldn’t do that because it’s setting me and [my brother] a bad example” without any prompting.

I had to pull out the big bribes to get the five year old to go along today but not before he had called me ‘scum’ in front of them and said some derogatory things about my family (he knew my mum was inside the house and would be able to hear).

He has been texting me almost non-stop whilst they have been with him – being very antagonistic – the children must be having a ball!

He wants to know if he can have the children next Tuesday which happens to be my birthday and keep them until Thursday. Any other time I might have agreed but I do have plans for a birthday celebration and my parents are very kindly looking after the children whilst I go up to London for a few hours during the day with a friend.

I’ve told him he can have them Wednesday and Thursday without having to compensate me for the holiday club and overnight on Thursday instead of Tuesday as that would simply be easier and more practical.

He is desperate to ruin my plans – it wouldn’t be the first time he’s ruined a birthday for me – when we were still together in 2014 he got himself in such a rage about something that he refused to talk to me and went out to a pub in another town for several hours in the evening with his friends leaving me at home alone with the children who were then 2 and 4.

He has just dropped them back to me – over an hour after he said he would. I asked him again to give me a list of dates for the sake of the children who need to know where they stand and have some kind of stability and not the shifting sands they are on when he asks to see them at short notice on a whim. He once again equated my request with a selfish desire on my part to plan my own social life.

Of course I want to be able to have a social life – I don’t think that is unreasonable – however I gave up expecting to be able to use his contact dates for that purpose some time ago instead preferring to get either babysitting from family members or paying for a sitter. When he has the children he always appears to be absolutely obsessed with my whereabouts and movements calling me controlling if I decline to provide that information and working himself up into a rage. I’d almost prefer to be at home alone doing nothing at those times if it means he remains calm during his time with the children.

I definitely felt pushed to my limit earlier despite all my best intentions of remaining calm and not letting him and his words and behaviour unnerve me and crank up the anxiety levels.

I will stand my ground about the contact dates for next week and he will simply have to comply with my request for dates in advance. When he has given me a list in the past it has kept our relationship civil as everyone knew where they stood. I just wish he could open his eyes and see that civility between us is the way forwards – however I know that this is a complete daydream on my part – he has undiagnosed mental health issues and until and unless he addresses those issues, his behaviour will remain the same and he will never be able to take responsibility for the failures in his life, including eroding his own relationships – every one.

*Update*

It’s a couple of hours later and I have received an email from the Husband’s parents accusing me of depriving them of time with their much loved grandsons and telling me that my behaviour is not very mature for “a woman of my age, let alone a mother”.

I have replied to them with the utmost dignity and let them know that I have been expecting dates from the Husband for months – and expect him to liaise with them although in the absence of that happening I have suggested a date for them to spend time with the children this coming weekend.

I remained gracious in thanking them for the gift they gave the five year old for his birthday and pointed out that the arrangements for the summer holidays would have been more inclusive if I’d had a pre-agreed schedule from their own son.

I’m hoping that they are a bit shamed by my reasonable and reasoned response, but at the same time I currently just feel like curling up in a ball and crying my eyes out. It’s hard enough to deal with him without his parents going on the attack. Some days I wish I’d never met any of them.

I need to keep telling myself that this is a particularly awful moment in the whole break up/divorce scenario – even after nearly 18 months things are still so raw between all of us and it seems to be pushing it to expect even civility despite the fact that I am desperate for a bit of kindness and understanding from them.

Adjust your expectations

Why is it that I continue to believe that it is possible to be friends, or even more than friends, with an ex and still remain emotionally detached? Maybe it’s something that comes easily to men – hell, maybe it comes easily to other women – but I seem to find it impossible.

I keep letting myself get sucked into this cycle of doom which inevitably ends with me feeling rejected, taken for granted, de-prioritised, shelved – essentially just ‘less than’: less than I was before, when my partner was feeling intoxicated by our love affair; less than I was when he wanted to hold my hand, and share every thought and hold me in his arms, discussing the future.

I tried so hard to just keep it casual, nothing more than a diversion, but just as internet dating seems to involve a lot of people who want to have a bit of a diversion via the medium of the small screen, so my ex now seems to have joined their ranks. I ask for a meet up ‘in real life’ and he suddenly disappears for 24 hours only to come back with reasons he can’t make it – too tired, work commitments, etc.

I point out, to myself, that I am looking at my ex through rose-coloured glasses – at the end of the day (apologies to my dad for using one of his most hated clichés 😉 ) he is a 52 year old man (my ex, not my dad!) who has flaws and annoying stuff about him and we have clashing interests and we’re at different life stages and it’s not the dream, it’s not the fantasy, it’s just someone – someone who I thought cared or who had the capacity to give me what I needed. But he doesn’t.

Once again I am reminded that one of the toughest things to control in relationships whether they be old or new, casual or serious, is your own expectations. As soon as you start projecting your desires onto the situation you are on very shaky territory because there is no way of second guessing how the other person is thinking or feeling. Even if they seem to be on board, sometimes, in their own mind, they have already cast off the lifeboat under cover of darkness and prepared for a swift getaway.

“Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises”. Shakespeare’s way of saying “expectation is the root of all heartache”. Which just goes to show that no matter how mundane your failed love life might be, the way you feel is probably universal and ageless.

At least I’m not alone.

Baggage

I’ve come to a conclusion about my love life – or at any rate my love life as of 2017. Pretty obvious really but it’s still taken me this long to put it all in perspective.

I would say that there are numerous men out there who have no initial problem with dating a single mum but  everyone’s situation is different and what comes to light over the course of a few weeks or months is that background issues become apparent. In my case, right now I would have to admit that the Husband is still just a little bit too present in my life – and not in a good way.

I can imagine being a man dating me – little by little finding out that my not yet ex husband and father of my young children is what I describe as a “high conflict personality”, with a personality disorder who is full of bitterness towards me but still seems to want to reconcile at times.

The fact that he is also a police officer and gym obsessive just adds to that heady mix of negative bordering on a bit scary and just generally not a person you would want to invite into an otherwise stress free life.

I know the children themselves complicate things and the lack of a regular child contact agreement restricts my ability to be spontaneous but ultimately it’s him – this dark shadow on my shoulder.

My first ex post marriage was concerned about stress in his life despite assuring me that his feelings towards me didn’t really change – he carried on loving me and fancying me after the break up.

My recent partner is not as in tune with his own feelings and by his own admission buries his head in the sand at times rather than tackling whatever doesn’t sit right with him which kind of explains him telling me that he didn’t even know why he pulled back from intimacy and why I ended up being the one to instigate the break up. His “action” is really just omission. I genuinely don’t think it was because I did anything wrong or because he doesn’t like me or find me attractive any more.

The fact that, during a conversation yesterday he said “I know it’s rubbish now but it’ll get better [Layla}” shows that he is well aware that it is the situation I find myself in that is the problem, not me.

So I’m left wondering how the next phase of my love life is going to go. Do I just have to accept that, if I want a love life at all I’ll probably have to expect to bounce from one short term thing to the next just trying to keep the heartache to a minimum? The alternative is to remain single but I’m afraid I’m hard wired to seek out love affection and intimacy – without those things in my life I have discovered the hard way that I just end up feeling lost and lonely.

Another relationship bites the dust

Yep that’s right folks – after six weeks of dating I experienced one too many little rejections which all added up to feeling like a bit of a loser to be honest.

Let me explain. This relationship started because the guy, W, sought me out after meeting very briefly at my first social Meet Up in a pub back in April. He went under my radar but he started following me on Instagram and “friended” me on Facebook and messaged me via the Meet Up chat facility asking if I wanted to attend an event in July that he was hosting. We got chatting and one thing lead to another – i.e. he asked me out on a date to the cinema.

We hit it off fine and enjoyed the film, went for drinks after before having our first kiss at the station before he had to run for his train. It was all good.

He is very active on the two Meet Up groups that he arranges events for and had a fair few things in the diary that first couple of weeks – things which I was interested in attending too and therefore our next couple of dates were kind of a hybrid of Meet Up mingling with others and time alone before and after events.

The subject of sex obviously came up – what is too soon? What is just right? I mentioned that old chestnut “The Third Date Rule”. To be honest I’m kind of a ‘go in for the kill early’ kind of girl – I can’t help it – I’ve got a high sex drive and I begin to feel very easily frustrated if I’m kept waiting! So any way, lo and behold we ended up spending the night together on our third date – a night in a hotel arranged by him because of the unfortunate fact that he is currently living with his mum and dad.

It was good – successful I’d say as far as first nights together go – it’s never going to be perfect when you don’t know the other person that way and nerves and expectations come into play, but I was happy that we had initiated that side of things.

I knew that we couldn’t keep spending money on hotels and the obvious next step would be for him to come to my house and as soon as I knew I had child free time I invited him and he agreed willingly. Until that is, right before the day when he came up with some excuse about taking his car to the garage for a quote on a scratched bumper.

Not great but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and invited him the following Sunday which again he agreed to… until the day itself when he told me that he was going to be going to a barbeque at his brother’s house. I told him to stop making excuses and just tell me he didn’t want to see me anymore but he eventually replied to say that he did want to keep seeing me, just wanted to slow it down a bit.

I felt like there was a bit of hypocrisy there considering how he jumped at the night we spent together in the hotel but again I gave him the benefit of the doubt acknowledging that we were still only a couple of weeks into things and knowing that I tend to jump into relationships at 100 miles an hour.

We actually ended up not seeing each other at all for the whole two weeks after that night. Then I decided to stump up for a babysitter just so we could get together and see each other at least once a week when the Husband was unavailable (i.e. all the time). I ended up driving the 20 minutes over to his town to the pub we’d first met in a couple of times whilst also paying a babysitter up to £20 on top.

We had one more night at the cinema and went for a meal too and he seemed really keen that time although we weren’t due to spend that night together and I ended up giving him a lift home because his train was a long wait. We had quite a frank conversation about everything that time and I told him that if we continued down the more or less platonic route then we would slip over into the ‘friend zone’.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, this past weekend (six weeks into our relationship) we had a night out which had been planned long in advance. It was another Meet Up event that he’d organised and we’d arranged, once again, for him to finally come to my house beforehand and then come back and spend the night afterwards.

I think you can probably guess what happened? That’s right, he made another last minute excuse on the day about wanting to meet in town instead and not planning to come back after due to tiredness after a stressy week at work.

I could no longer give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe for some people dating is all about taking it really, really slowly and not pushing for any kind of physical or emotional intimacy but I genuinely think that six weeks is a bit of a turning point.

I mean, I’d love to know what other people think, but even he knew that I was going to be upset this time and when we met up on our own for a pre-meal drink I did get a bit tearful and he told me he was unable to explain what made him keep pulling back the way he had been because he didn’t even really understand it himself.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be told something that vague. I said that I didn’t think we were compatible as a couple unfortunately because I needed someone who would want to hold my hand, take the initiative, make the first move sometimes, reach out and not always leave it to me to initiate contact.

I tried to give him ways to pull it back, step it up, make up for what’s been lacking but he either deliberately or unwittingly failed to follow up on any of that, telling me that he still wanted to do the things together that we had planned – one of which was a trip up the Shard building in London on my birthday.

I told him that I was happy to stay friends and do the other event but that my birthday was a day when I want to spend time with either an old friend, a family member or a boyfriend. His response to that seemed a bit bitter – “of course you wouldn’t want to spend your birthday with me”. I told him “you’ve missed the point, I wanted to spend my birthday with you as my boyfriend”. He countered “No [Layla] I haven’t missed the point at all”.

I tried one last time to get him to give me some kind of explanation that would help me get over the sense of rejection (the whole sex thing dents me – I have a lot of my sense of identity as a woman wrapped up in who I am sexually and to have someone pull away from that whilst still wanting to remain more than friends is something I find hard to deal with or understand).

He just failed to respond at all and I decided to let it go after having a bit of a cry. I told him to forget the whole conversation because I felt like an idiot. And that’s about the end of that sad little story.

Onwards and upwards?

 

To be hated…

It’s been a funny kind of summer so far. I have heard very little from the Husband for a while – he has had the children on three occasions in June – two of them overnight. Tonight is the third and last overnight for June. It’s Thursday. This was arranged on Monday. I pay for the children to go to after school club on a Thursday – £24 and I normally pick them up between 5 and 5.30 after I finish my working day. He will pick them up, give them tea, let them bounce off the walls for a couple of hours before putting them to bed and taking them to school in the morning. He is also off work on Friday and over the weekend but he has asked for them Sunday afternoon only.

There is nothing for me to do tonight even though I don’t have to get up in the morning because it’s my day off. It was too late to arrange anything although to be fair I think I am probably too tired to do anything right now anyway – I will just enjoy this peace and quiet, not having to jump to the constant demands and break up the inevitable squabbles. I will enjoy having the freedom to start watching a DVD at 6pm or listening to my music loud or staying up past my own bedtime. Woo! What an exciting life I lead.

What has become very apparent is that the Husband has been spiralling into a vicious mood in recent days. I’m not sure what’s triggered it, whether it’s his lack of success with the ladies lately or his 8 days in a row at work culminating in two night shifts or just the fact that when he knows he’s going to be seeing the children it is his one chance to force his way into my life and my consciousness while we manoeuvre our way out of the shallows and into the cross currents which represent our co-parenting exchange.

His phone broke the other day and during the period when he didn’t have the phone I had to physically attend his house to write my number down for him as he made no attempt to contact me regarding child contact or indeed to speak to the children for over 7 days. I found out that he had his phone back fixed but all the numbers wiped out however he did not attempt to contact me or the children. In the end I texted him saying “do you ever want to see your children again?” to which he replied “who is this?”.

I replied “your children’s mother”. He countered “The one who left me?” before telling me he didn’t want to talk to me – “you are the last person I want to speak to”.

A couple of days later I thought I would pre-empt the shit storm that ensued last year by texting him with dates of parents evenings coming up at school plus an information evening up at the Junior school where our eldest will be starting in September and all the details of the birthday party I have arranged for our youngest at the end of July. He didn’t reply to this but later in the day he texted “It looks like your car is still registered at this address”.

I thought that was odd and looked out my Vehicle registration documentation and driving licence and both are registered to my current address. I asked him what he’d got there and he said “Renewal notice apparently”. I asked “renewal of what?” to which he replied “stop bothering me”.

I pointed out that I had gone to the effort of providing him with important dates recently and that it would be kind of him to simply tell me which document it was he was referring to – i.e. which agency it was from.

He replied “you FINALLY have started doing that. Remember the way you left me? You can crawl under the nearest rock as far as I’m concerned”. I told him I would stop providing him with information if that was all the thanks I would be getting and he said “you should be doing it anyway!”.

He then tried to get me to call him, tried to call me, which I declined, told me it was my loss and when I asked what he was trying to call me for he said “To tell you about the document!!”.

He tried to call again this morning and I didn’t answer. It was 7.40 am – prime school run prep time so no reason not to suppose that I could have been in the shower/making the kids breakfast, or any number of other tasks that need to be completed like clockwork in the morning so we all get out of the house on time. He told me “there’s always an excuse for you not answering your phone and I’ve had enough of it. Your post will be in the recycling bin, unless you want it somewhere else?”.

I texted “just leave it inside the door and I’ll get it when I drop the bag off”. He responded “Now why would I do that? You haven’t even tried to call me back”.

When I dropped the bag off the post was by the door. I flicked through quickly and immediately recognised the yellow logo of the AA (that’s Automobile Association for any of you Americans out there 🙂 ). It was a letter dated May telling me that my breakdown cover had been auto renewed.

He could have mentioned AA to me at any point and there would have been no need for any further discussion on the matter. This is a classic case of him using the smallest tool to try and manoeuvre himself into a position of power – some small piece of information that he thinks I will be desperate to get my hands on. Because I wasn’t and didn’t jump to his demands or take his calls, he became irate.

This afternoon he texted me “when will we be divorced?”. I replied “Not before September” (which is when our Financial Dispute Resolution appointment at court takes place) and he responded “I hate you”.

About half an hour later he texted “will the children have eaten?” – an entirely practical, innocuous, reasonable co-parenting type question which fails in any way to acknowledge his previous vitriol.

So there we have it – undisguised hatred. And what does that feel like? At my weakest moments it feels like a knife in the heart.

I am not a bad person – I have lots of friends and I don’t have enemies. I don’t engage in backstabbing gossip or think the worst of people. I try to always be kind and loving and open. I know from my recent attempts at relationships that I am the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve, bends over backwards to be thoughtful and generous – generous with my love and my affection, but also financially, I pay my way and I don’t expect to be given a free ride.

Even though I give a lot less fucks than I did as a young person I still generally want to be liked and well thought of. It really hurts to know that someone is out there thinking dark black thoughts about me, sending their negative karma my way.

I unexpectedly bumped into the Husband’s mother in the supermarket this morning and I’ve never seen someone smile at me through such gritted teeth. I know there must be a mad concoction of what he tells them and the destructive behaviour they must witness in him which all adds up to them feeling nothing but angry and bitter towards me, but it is blind of them. I haven’t taken their grandchildren away from them, their son has messed his own life up – two failed marriages with children, two women who’s experiences mirror each others so closely that we have bonded over the debris and identify so closely that we are now more like family to each other than either of us ever wants to be with him again in this lifetime.

 

Dating update

I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the doubts and negative feelings you might experience in the early days of dating someone come through miscommunication or just different styles of communicating.

After my last post I’ve had a few more dates with W – we’ve been to the cinema and a live comedy show and meal & drinks. We’ve had a chance to really open up and talk about what we want and need and he admitted that he had found it hard to say no when I invited him out even when he wasn’t ready to be that intimately involved that quickly because he didn’t want to disappoint me so that’s why all the last minute excuses. I told him that it was more disappointing to have a date arranged and then cancelled last minute. He seems to get that so hopefully it won’t happen again.

I need to be the one to offer dates because my time is so limited and I don’t want to feel like I never know where I stand. In that vein I tentatively invited him to be my Plus One on my Big Birthday adventure in London which probably means that I might actually have to tell some family members that he exists…

In a few days time it will have been a month since our only night together so far which is weird for me although who knows – it might be completely standard for him. To be fair things have changed because I’m a single Mum now – the restrictions on my time are huge and my last relationship lulled me into the false sense that potential partners would be willing and able to be super keen and flexible.

The difference with him was that he was on the tail end of a long term work hiatus to recover from chemotherapy when I met him meaning he did not have the stresses and pressures of a regular work schedule and making an hour’s drive to see me of an evening after my kids were tucked up in bed doable as he could simply catch up on sleep the next day.

In hindsight it’s very telling that he chose to break up with me just as he was being integrated back into full time (shift) work.

With W what I tend to find is that no matter what kind of understanding we come to in person,  after a few days where our only form of communication is text I start second guessing everything – why am I being so enthusiastic when he comes across so flat and unenthused at times? Has something happened to make him lose interest or has he just had a tiring day at work? Does he like me keeping our connection going or is it annoying him? Should I back off or take heed of the fact that he told me that his previous partner sent him a clear picture of her real disinterest by leaving a three day gap between one message and the next?

Why does it all have to be this confusing and complicated?

Maybe I just need to bear in mind that right now we are on good terms, we have dates in the diary, we have both expressed enjoyment in each other’s company on all of our dates, we enjoyed our intimacy, we’ve talked about that and both looking forward to the next time. Of course I can only vouch for my own complete openness and honesty in regards to all these feelings but I’m not sure if I have any good reason to doubt him.

These really are the standard ponderings of a fledgling relationship and we’ve just started something new too – having a conversation on the actual phone! Weirdly it hadn’t even occurred to me to do that before now which just goes to show how wrapped up we all are in our social media world. There is no substitute for real voices together engaging over the course of over an hour. Maybe it’s because it’s Friday night and he’s finally unwinding – or maybe because we know we’re not seeing each other til Monday night but it felt really good just to hear his voice for the first time in four days.

All or nothing?

Sometimes I wonder if the dating game isn’t just some kind of self-inflicted school course in self discovery. With each new person and each new experience you gain knowledge of others (in my case, men, with all their gifts and faults) but in addition, you have your own expectations and needs reflected back on you and that can be disconcerting.

The latest person to enter my life is someone who I don’t have illusions about – he’s not the man of my dreams. But he’s OK and that’s good enough for me right now. Or is it?

I know I’m not in the right place to start a long-term, meaningful relationship but I still want to have an emotional and physical connection with someone. For me, that means communicating every day, sharing both the important and insignificant moments, if not real, then virtual kisses in the morning and before falling asleep at night, regular dates both in and out of my home with no date-free hiatus during which you feel like you’re in limbo.

But perhaps this is my problem? Perhaps this is rushing in headlong trying to impose intimacy on a virtual stranger in just a few short weeks. Perhaps this is where my last relationship went wrong (although I tend to think it was the introduction to the children and family life that sparked the beginning of the end there..)

I invited him (the new one) to my house three times in two weeks and each time he said yes and then backed out with some quite feeble excuses at the last minute. The last time this happened I sent him a message saying “you don’t have to keep making excuses, if you don’t want to see me any more please just tell me”. He responded (five hours later) saying “I do want to see you [Layla], just want to take it a bit slower if that’s alright”.

The thing is, I don’t know if it is alright. I said I’d just leave him to invite me out in future but I hate not knowing when/if we will see each other again and it makes me feel like the messages and chats I regularly instigate are not worth my energy. I feel out of control of the situation and it doesn’t seem to fulfil the needs I have.

Are my needs unrealistic and out of proportion and over the top? I might be deluded but I just tend to think of myself as a pretty cool, easy-going, attractive, open, honest, loyal, generous partner and it confounds me when someone holds all of that off at arm’s length. It makes me question them (are they playing the field, are they scared by the very idea of emotional intimacy, do they think that I will turn into some kind of bunny boiler and lock them in the second they cross my threshold?)

And if you tend to agree that my ‘all-in’ attitude is too much, then how does emotional intimacy even begin? Is there this one day where everyone agrees it’s OK to expect a bit more than a sporadic get together? When it’s OK to start holding hands? When you can finally begin to think of yourselves as an actual couple?