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?

 

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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 date or not to date…

So I did what I said I wouldn’t do and signed up to a dating site. I realise that I am probably inviting trouble back into my life but there is something in me that I can’t silence – this need for a partner – and it’s even stronger since experiencing (albeit briefly) life with someone who was probably the best partner I’ve ever had – kind, caring, generous, emotionally intelligent…

I’ve paid for a month (must remember to cancel subscription!) on this one site which seems to appeal to a more literate, liberal, culturally aware breed of person.

Unfortunately I think I might have just thrown £32 down the drain because only one of the 6 people I’ve messaged has responded.

On the plus side he ticks some boxes – he lives in the next town over, where I work; he’s four years older than me; he looks ok (as far as I can tell); he’s taller than me; he’s writing a novel and he is gainfully employed.

On the down side, having spent a while crafting a message that picked up on things he’d said in his profile and made the effort to get the balance right he eventually responded “hey, how’s you? :-)” which was a bit underwhelming but I forged ahead. It quickly transpired that he didn’t want to spend ages messaging and would rather speak on the phone. Fair enough. We exchanged numbers and I told him it would have to be after 9.30pm when both kids would finally be in bed asleep.

I also thought I might as well make use of the fact that my parents have got the kids Monday night and suggested that we meet up for a drink (particularly because the husband has me in limbo again with no listed dates for child contact going forwards). He agreed.

9.35pm and in came the call.

I’m sure everyone has this little fantasy in their head when someone with an ounce of potential comes on the scene: this could be the one; wouldn’t it be wonderful if this was the last date I ever had to have? You allow yourself this sliver of hope.

As soon as I heard him speak I knew that he wasn’t the one. Almost the first thing he said to me was something deep about how we’re living in an age where no one really expects to have a relationship for life and we’ll probably all just keep moving on. Bear in mind that his profile specifies that his potential partner/date should believe in “real fairytales” I have to wonder WTF is that if not a lasting relationship (with a real person, flaws and all)?

He then proceeded to talk at me for the following TWO hours 😳 during which I barely got a word in edgewise.

At one point, having prompted him a couple of times with questions about himself based on some stuff from his date profile he implied that I was a bit of a stalker to have read and remembered those things! I said isn’t that the point, that we use that information as an icebreaker and suggested that I was waiting for him to ask *me* a question.

For a minute I breathed a sigh of relief as he informed me that he had indeed picked up on something I’d written about myself. He wanted to know just exactly what I meant by describing myself as “curvaceous”. I immediately responded “hourglass” but it was no good he wanted a detailed discussion (one sided) about the ambiguity of the word “curvaceous” (which I might add, was something I got from a dropdown box). Apparently women who are maybe a bit “obese” sometimes use this word to put a positive spin on things. I pointed out that he had seen a photo of me looking relatively slim and fit but he wasn’t convinced that it was a recent picture. I assured him that it was taken just three weeks before.

In the end I had to talk him through my exact dress size only stopping shy of giving him my bra size! FFS!

It got to 11.45pm and I finally managed to break his flow gently suggesting that I may need to get some sleep before the kids jumped all over me in just over 6 hours time. He conceded and we had a brief discussion on where and when we would meet on Monday. It turns out the best option for him is for me to roll out of work at 1.30pm and meet in town then as he works from home and later on wasn’t really convenient.

Honestly it did occur to me that I could’ve spent last night watching 2 episodes of Walking Dead and perhaps my childfree time on Monday evening would be better spent doing something I actually enjoy because I can almost guarantee that this will not be one of those dates where you walk away with that buzz of satisfaction having met up with a kindred spirit. Who knows, we might have sexual chemistry and there might be that but is it worth it?

I did explain my situation with the kids and the “high conflict” ex and a recent relationship which didn’t work out so in theory I could just turn around and say I’ve decided I’m not ready for all this, but then it would be awkward if he saw that my little green light on the dating site was activated. What a minefield!

To be fair it’s probably for the best that it’s not working out because I had told myself that I need to give it a year, or at least 6 months, or at least until the divorce was finalised before putting myself out there because otherwise I would only be short changing any potential suitors (haha now I feel like a princess using the word “suitors”).

On the upside it is one helluva distraction/moving on tactic to get over the boyfriend/recent dumping.

Send wine, send help, send love…

Somebody stop me!

OK, so I told you all about what happened with my new next door neighbours: in a nutshell – he is flirtatious, she is paranoid.

I was good to go to cut them both loose and after hearing nothing from either of them for the best part of a week I thought it was done but then he turned up on my doorstep again and told me that I should speak to her and reassure her that everything is OK because it would be a shame for the kids to pick up on bad vibes and be excluded from the dog walks, etc.

She turned up while he was standing outside my door and he tried to call her over but she was slamming doors and appearing un-cooperative – kind of awkward. Then eventually she came to my door and began to chastise me and I lost it a bit and became quite emotional and told her that frankly, I was tempted to just stop talking to them both.

She stepped inside my house and closed the door and then we had a massive heart to heart about what was going on, what he’s like, his problems, abuse he suffered from his step father as a child. I told her that I believe in ‘the sisterhood’ – that all of my female friends (and quite a few new ones) had gathered round me since my break up and been wonderfully supportive and shared their own stories. (Some lovely men – blogging friends and friends’ husbands have been there too which is also amazing).

I told her that I have never been adulterous or slept with someone who is in a relationship with someone else and that it is not my intention to do so with him.

I assured her that I would let her know if he texted me or called me. And then, next time he texted me and I responded I screen-shotted the whole conversation and forwarded it to her.

But since then…

Well, this is the weird thing with mutual attraction and fantastical obsession – I have gone against my better instincts and gradually allowed him to pretty much pick up where he left off with the calls and texts. Still nothing overtly sexual but he has said things that don’t sit right with me – kind of half imagined non-promises about holidays with the kids and binning off ‘the dragon’.

He’s said more than once that he feels he has more in common with me than he does with her because she doesn’t have children (he’s got one 9 year old son who doesn’t live with him), and also because he’s gone through divorce and because he has a connection with the organisation I work for.

I don’t work on Fridays and he knows that so he came home early today and I actually invited him into my house for tea and a biccie because heaven knows I didn’t want a repeat of the last time – me in her house without her knowledge.

He brought his laptop in and commenced fiddling about with work emails whilst at the same time talking to me – telling me stuff about what’s wrong with the relationship with her; how unhappy he is and how he’s planning to break up with her by telling her he’s met someone else (not me!).

I asked him why they had broken up and got back together three times. He said the last time she was struggling with her mortgage so he moved back in to sleep in the spare room and help her pay the bills but then she’d discovered pictures of him, and I quote “having sex with other girls” on his phone.

Hearing him say that made me feel quite sick. But for some reason I let him hug me; I let him believe that something could potentially happen between us (it didn’t).

Why? Why did I do that? I genuinely like his girlfriend and I feel like I am colluding in a web of deceit with a guy who’s moral compass has no true North.

Yes, I’m sexually frustrated, yes I feel worried that there may be no hope for a woman of my age to attract a decent, attractive, real man who might actually want to be a part of my *real* world and muck in with the kids and at the same time get who I am as a person but is that enough of a reason to get myself caught up with someone who I could never trust?

Someone who I feel probably needs (a lot of) counselling; who seems to be, at heart, a nice guy, but maybe has some sort of – if not sex addiction then addiction to the idea of behaving like a sexual butterfly; who has found a way to make it sound *almost* plausible that there is a non-sexual reason why we should be together, but at the same time isn’t coming close to convincing me that he knows the real me – not one little bit.

I feel like I need to go on a date with someone else or something – a way of showing them both that my life goes on without their drama – that I don’t need him, that I don’t want him, that I am a self-sufficient, strong, single woman – someone who needs to put her children first and foremost and not become embroiled in some kind of soap opera.

I don’t want to morph into her – playing the role of the spurned lover, the one who is always wanting to check their partner’s phone but scared of what they might find; someone who detects the smell of another woman’s perfume in the car and just can’t accept the innocent explanation.

It’s a helluva situation and only more complicated by the fact that we are all going out together on a jolly ‘family’ type outing tomorrow to celebrate his son’s 10th birthday.

Sheesh. Somebody give me a good talking to please.

Finding some balance

It’s been a weird couple of weeks for me. First moving back into our home whilst my husband was away, then moving back out again. Going from the fairly peaceful days whilst my husband was far away immersed in his training course to having him back in my headspace with his bitter words and attempts to sabotage my relationship with my children.

And looming even larger in my mind, the completely unexpected approach of a seemingly eligible single man who it turns out I had nothing real in common with and who just didn’t stimulate me enough (in any sense of the word!).

As I have said before the thought of a new relationship – the pursuit of a companion/lover/partner in crime – was nothing more than the vaguest of notions simmering away on a back burner up to this point.

When I was in the thick of my marriage – the bad bit – I remember thinking “I want nothing more to do with men”, I felt that I could happily be celibate for the rest of my life, that I am probably better suited to being alone and that having my first ever home – just mine (and the kids of course) would be an exciting novelty. For the only person controlling me to be me. For compromise to be a thing of a the past.

But now? This recent tryst has opened up the floodgates to a lot of feelings of self doubt and worry about loneliness – suddenly feeling sexy again only to be plunged straight back into long-term celibacy. Honestly, I just can’t stop thinking about it right now which is a bit shit considering I was doing so well just being me and being as good a mum to my kids as I could be.

I read a couple of articles yesterday about sex and the single mum and one of them really helped me come to terms with where I’m at – or at least put things in some perspective. The author mentioned that feeling of being in a daze at the beginning of a new relationship – totally pre-occupied, you know? Not great when you have small children who need you to organise everything from their homework, to their meals to their social lives. Giving 25% is kind of short-changing them somewhat.

Then there are all the thoughts about being in the dating pool, dealing with idiots, trying to navigate the sharks, trying not to get sucked into another relationship vortex, trying to decide if ‘casual’ no-strings relationships are the way forward or just the fast-track into an emotional mire.

I need to try and remember all the things I was looking forward to about getting out of a bad relationship and being single again. Yes, one of the things I wrote down at the time was ‘flirting’ (not much of that goes on in a bad marriage), but actually, most of it was about getting out and doing things I enjoy again, seeing my friends un-hindered and experiencing things that my husband would have disapproved of (festivals, blog conferences – ha ha!).

Plus despite my ever increasing years I need to remember that people don’t just stop having relationships once they hit 40. I don’t have a biological clock ticking any more which is kind of cool in that there is no pressure to rush into anything. Also one of my good friends at work – an absolutely lovely guy – just got married for the first time at the age of 55 to his partner – a two-time divorcee in her 50s with two grown up children and grandchildren.

The one thing that is dumbfounding me right now is that my husband, after a separation of four and half months, is deeply involved with another woman – someone who seems uniquely suited to him (although I don’t envy her long term). He is suddenly taking up tennis and talking about skiing holidays (two of my favourite sports which he would never have contemplated during our ten years together).

At one and the same time he has moved on so, so quickly, (I know they have already discussed moving in together – don’t ask me how!) and is yet still so wrought with anger over my decision to leave him.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Single, frustrated and under attack but still hopeful for the future because it’s in my own hands now.