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.

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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?

 

Overcoming loneliness

I’ve really been doing some self examination lately (well, I am reading Eat Pray Love which has got to be the bible of self examination, albeit personal to the situation of the author herself at that moment in time).

I’ve admitted before that I have a tendency to bounce between relationships – 2 years consecutive is the longest I have been single for over the course of the past 23 years. Once again I find myself seeking out a partner, however it’s not quite so easy this time around. I am older, I have young children, I’m in the middle of a divorce, I have less money to throw at dating sites, I have a lot less time, the stakes are so much higher – it’s not really happening.

I guess it’s time to figure out why I feel the need to continue with this relentless pursuit.

Some things about me:

  • I have lived on my own with my children now for over 8 months (after a 5 month stint with my parents).
  • I pay all the bills including privately rented accommodation;
  • I do 90 per cent of the parenting and the kids are pretty happy, well fed, clean, on top of their homework and want for nothing;
  • besides the wobble with my eldest a couple of months ago, their behaviour is pretty good – standard for their ages at any rate;
  • my family have been super supportive and we have a summer holiday abroad to look forward to with my mum (and possibly some good friends), plus I am lucky enough to be able to fall back on my parents for babysitting and consequently have a fair few social events lined up this summer;
  • I have proved to myself that I can tackle practical tasks that in the past I might have assumed were ‘men’s work’ – I put together a double bed which came completely flat packed without so much as someone to pass me the screwdriver, I can fit a bike rack on my car and I now mow the lawn and unblock the drains and put the bins out;
  • I’m an introvert and I enjoy my own company whether I be cooking, writing, reading a good book, watching an unmissable box-set or movie, shopping or treating myself to a Costa latte;
  • I have never been able to sleep well sharing a bed – I am super conscious of another person in my space and I love having a room of my own, decorated to my taste – somewhere I see as my sanctuary;
  • I have a can-do attitude when it comes to meeting new people and joining groups so even if I am child-free and have a whole day to myself I know I have options even if my old friends and family are busy.
  • I have lots of friends, near far and online.

All of these things add up to me being self-sufficient – i.e. I don’t need a partner and in some ways a partner would complicate my life – I might get less sleep and have to learn to compromise again when it comes to all the little decisions that I have found I am quite capable of making on my own.

I find for the most part that I am happy, I’m certainly busy with the children a lot of my time and I don’t often find myself at a loss for something to do.

The times when I feel down tend to be days alone with the children or evenings at home alone after the children have gone to bed. A great sense of loneliness settles upon me and I feel hopeless then and depressed. I’m a practical person though and I know from experience that all it takes to overcome these negative feelings is what they call a ‘meaningful connection’ with another person. That person might be a good friend or family member – someone who I know has got my back emotionally, rather than someone who doesn’t really know me who is only available for small talk.

I’ve got a list of about ten people who know me inside out and hopefully at least one of them will always be there at the end of the phone or online for a chat.

Its also a matter of being super-organised when it comes to planning play dates and get-togethers in advance in order to reduce the amount of time I have to be alone with the kids. It sounds awful but some Saturdays I just dread.

I know that there is obviously more to this desire for a partner than just overcoming loneliness though. Sex of course. Lately though I wonder whether it’s that big a deal. It can be fun, it can be really enjoyable. On a chemical level it’s amazing – Oxytocin highs – what’s not to like? But does my life suffer without it? Not so sure.

One of the biggest things that you can only really get through a romantic relationship though is that feeling of being really special. When you are someone else’s ‘significant other and they only have eyes for you and they treat you to romantic gestures – that kind of love makes you feel so secure and confident in yourself and having experienced that and then having had it taken away again leaves you feeling, well, the opposite of special I guess.

I’m not sure if there is any way of substituting something else for the feeling of self-worth you get from being loved in that particular way but finding that love is starting to feel like one of the labours of Hercules.

I read this morning that Liz Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love got divorced from her husband of 12 years last summer (2016). This was the Brazilian guy she met in Indonesia at the end of the memoir, the love affair with whom kind of signifies something like a happy ever after for all us emotional gap-pluggers out here in the real world.

She’s now a lesbian and who could have predicted that? Which just goes to show, we cannot steam-roller a path for ourselves – what will be will be.

Post date analysis

Today I had my first ever day time/ coffee shop date. It was as much to do with convenience as anything based on two hectic parenting and work schedules but in reality it worked really well – no chance of letting alcohol do any talking (Latte doesn’t have quite the same voice in my head 🙂 ), and a chance to see the other person in broad daylight which is never a bad thing.

I went in expecting – hmm, not sure really. As I said in my previous post I had my reservations based on pre-conceived ideas I got from looking at his dating profile – pictures in particular – which give off the impression of being perhaps a bit of a player?

We’d had so little communication between us as well – I basically just took his lead and his texts were perfunctory so we agreed to meet, we imparted our availability, agreed on a date last Monday, then didn’t communicate at all until last night (Thursday) when I texted to ask if he still wanted to meet (half expecting him to say ‘thanks but no thanks’). He said he did, we agreed on a time and a place and that was it.

We met at 12pm in a little coffee shop about ten minutes drive from both of us and when I arrived a couple of minutes late he was already there and immediately got up, kissed me ‘continental style’ (he used to live in Spain & Italy) and went off to buy me a drink.

I was so relieved that he actually looked like his pictures after the last guy! We got talking, there were no awkward silences, he didn’t dominate the conversation although he probably did do more of the talking than me but that’s OK because I was super nervous.

He is interesting, we are completely on the same page politically, he also has an acrimonious relationship with his ex which, whilst not a good thing per se, was kind of re-assuring – I hate talking to people who have super-amicable relationships with their ex-partners – it makes me feel like even more of a failure!

He works nights, four on, four off as an aircraft engineer and he has his kids (7 and 11) living with him for the whole of his four off. He seems to genuinely enjoy the time he spends with his kids and described how happy he feels when he sees them again after four days apart.

He has a creative side and it sounds like he enjoys cooking as much as I do and to about the same level!

I found him attractive although there was no real flirting as such but maybe that was because we were in a coffee shop and actually, if he does like me as much as I like him then that is a really refreshing and respectful way of behaving on a first date.

I could also tell that he is a gentleman because he jumped up to open the door for a lady coming in with a toddler and a baby in a pram at one point and I got the feeling that that was his style, not that he was just doing it to create a good impression.

So now we’re in that weird ‘after-date’ place where presumably he probably has about as much idea of whether I like him as I have in reverse. All I have to go on is that he suggested we meet up again and I agreed and said next time we should have an evening date. We haven’t made an actual date as such.

If he does like me then we are going to have our work cut out for us trying to find mutually suitable times but I’m guessing that we would figure it out somehow. He would have the same problem with anyone and so would I and at least we understand exactly what challenges the other is going through.

I’m still kind of buzzing from the experience – whilst it’s not the same kind of buzzing you get from being with someone for the first time who you know feels the same way, or having properly kissed, held hands or anything, it’s a tempered kind of cautious little happy feeling.

I’ve got a lot going on at the moment socially (weirdly!), having enjoyed the Meetup social I attended last weekend and put my name down for two more events in May – an Ed Sheeran tribute in a pub and a stand up comedy and pizza night, plus I have a curry & practice run night hike next Friday with my team for the Light the Lakes experience in June.

My parents have agreed to have the kids for all three of those nights in anticipation of the husband actually playing a role in the kids’ lives at some point (obviously not with any kind of pre warning).

Is there enough time left over to start some kind of relationship with this guy (let’s call him The Scot for now – he’s Scottish)?

I’m dying to know whether he likes me or not. I’ll probably text him later on tonight and see what I get back. In the meantime, I’ve got a Teddy Bear’s Picnic to attend…

Step away from the Comfort Zone

It’s been Mayday bank holiday weekend for the past three days. It’s Monday evening now and it’s been five days since the ex dropped out again all bar his brief little attempt to talk me back into a commit-free relationship on his terms (which I declined this time).

I knew that I needed to fill my weekend up with action and social interaction and activities. Crucially knowing that I had childfree time I wanted to make the most of it and where I would have been doing nothing more interesting than another hanging out with the ex “for old time’s sake”, I wanted to prove to myself that being single and making choices which open up new experiences for me is actually really valuable and it’s the part of my life that’s been missing for the longest time.

Last week I discovered a local tennis club and made some enquiries which led to me heading down there on Saturday afternoon to check it out. I very nearly ended up walking away without even speaking to anyone but fortunately two lovely guys approached me and said it was no problem for me to stay and join in. I ended up being there for over two hours and playing in three short matches. I came away feeling that it would probably be worth joining but that, whilst the people were relatively friendly, it might take a while to make any real friendships. However, as a way of burning energy, practising my game and getting the kids some lessons it really makes sense. I don’t know if they have “socials” outside of the game but if they do then that would be an added plus.

I returned home to do some cooking, listen to some music and watch an episode of my latest unmissable TV thriller before having a bite to eat and getting myself ready for an evening out with another group of strangers.

During this time I had to really fight my feelings of loneliness. Under other circumstances I would have revelled in these solitary activities but this weekend the final break up with the ex was a little too raw and feeling like I simply didn’t yet belong to the groups I aspire to be a part of made me feel like I was hovering on my own in limbo for a while.

I really felt super nervous about heading off to the Meetup.com social that I’d signed up for. Would it be awkward? How would I know who to approach when I arrived? What if everyone knew each other so well that they were cliquey and exclusive? Nevertheless I was pretty determined to see it through – I do believe that there’s no time like the present and you have to be a bit brave and get out of your comfort zone if you want to achieve anything in this life.

As it was I arrived bang on time and didn’t know who to approach. For a second I floundered but then the one other member of the group who was there caught sight of me and came to my rescue. It was all a little weird to begin with but as more and more people arrived I found myself chatting to one person after another and feeling more and more accepted. Admittedly at one point I did get stuck talking to a bit of a bore but eventually I managed to break away and join in with some of the other girls having a dance to the live music at the venue which was great fun.

By the end of the evening I felt pretty good about the whole thing and one of the more gregarious guys came over and told me that he was impressed that I’d had the courage to just come along not knowing anyone and really get stuck in. I felt proud of myself, and he was right, that first time is the killer – once you’ve conquered that you’re no longer a stranger and next time I will head out feeling excited to meet my new friends rather than nervous.

Weirdly the activity on the dating website I’m signed up to suddenly picked up after about a month of tumbleweed blowing through. A guy I messaged ages ago finally replied after re-subscribing to full membership (without which you are unable to write or open messages). He didn’t seem very chatty so I decided to cut to the chase and suggest meeting up in person for a coffee rather than entering into one of those excruciating ping pong message matches where delayed responses become a source of soul searching agony or it all fizzles out before it’s even begun.

Now I have a pencilled in date for the end of the week which is kind of awesome and terrifying in equal measure.

If I’m honest I have a few reservations about this guy. He is a single dad with kids just a little older than mine which is great but I’m having a hard time figuring out how the hell we would manage to see each other if he’s either working or solo parenting. Also, he has a kind of “come to bed” vibe going on in a few of his photos and I suspect he may be one of those guys who isn’t really looking for a relationship, just a string of dates to round out a bachelor lifestyle. That is also borne out by the fact that under “type of relationship sought” he’s picked “let’s see what happens” from the drop down box.

Either way, it’s just another stepping stone – it’s an ego boost just to have a relatively attractive man even want to meet up with me (there are probably a load of other girls on his list but we live one town over from each other so it’s a nothing to lose scenario I guess). Plus I’m slowly beginning to see the merits in meeting a variety of people and not desperately clinging on to the idea of true love with the first person I happen to run into. I’ve lived my entire romantic life like that and I can only look back and wonder whether I somehow shut the door on a potential soulmate by settling for the path of least resistance.

So, I think I can safely say that it’s been a full on couple of days (including two days over at my parents with the boys and a roast with my sister, brother in law and niece).
Whatever the future holds i think I’ve proved to myself that life can be full and whatever you make if it if you just have the determination to put yourself out there.

One way flexibility

When I made the decision to leave my marriage I always knew that child contact was not going to be straightforward. My husband is a shift worker and his rota follows a ten week rolling pattern. I also had first hand experience of how he manages child contact due to the fact that he has a daughter from his previous relationship and his ex wife had gained a court order (I think) which required him to give her a list of dates for child contact a month at a time.

Despite this requirement I found him to be highly flaky when it came to getting organised and in the first couple of years of our relationship I acted as his personal secretary and compiled a list in triplicate – one for the ex, one for him and one for his mum who always wanted to know and be involved.

When I had my own children, I pretty much stepped down from that role and in subsequent years he has all but lost contact with his daughter – only seeing her on a very sporadic basis.

His ex wife has since told me that she wouldn’t have minded if he was out of her daughter’s life completely so she never really cared whether or not he wanted to see her – it doesn’t seem to have affected her – she took her daughter with her to the stables (where she spends half her life), but she also had a lot of family support on her doorstep.

If I want to take a weekly exercise class, join a book group, sign up for a local walk, cycle ride, talk or social event – well, I can’t because there is no family member who can drop in for an hour or so to do a bit of casual (cost-effective!) babysitting.

The other thing is that, much as I love my children, sometimes parenting them solo for a couple of weeks takes its toll. When I know that there is respite for a day or a night just around the corner, psychologically it takes the pressure off.

I appreciate that army wives have to live their lives like this but the difference is that I didn’t marry into the army – I think you have to be a certain kind of person or have a certain support network in place to thrive under those circumstances. Knowing your partner is out there, supporting you, a sounding board for parenting decisions or whatever, makes a difference.

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t get to make plans in advance with or without the husband’s cooperation. My parents have been great – taking the kids for a couple of days or the odd night when I’ve had a girl’s night out, a blog conference to attend or, this year, my big night hike in June and the pre-event curry and ‘practice run’ in May. They also take on childcare duties for a couple of days a week during school holidays which helps me out enormously.

But here’s the thing, the husband treats the child contact arrangement as a casual, last minute thing which he bases on his own convenience. Yes, he is often working – that’s not the issue – the issue is that he picks and chooses dates from his own spare time that are the best for him and he doesn’t want to commit in advance just in case a last minute social invite comes up that he doesn’t want to miss out on.

For example, at the beginning of this week he suddenly popped up asking to have the boys on Thursday. It had been 8 days since he last saw them and he had yet to give me a list of dates going forwards – he still hasn’t). I told him that I’d booked paid child care with my neighbour who needs the money (it’s school holidays). Later after talking to CiG, I decided I should be more flexible and I offered to cancel the arrangement so he could have them. He then suggested a compromise and now he is having them in the afternoon and overnight.

That’s all fine although I’m not thrilled that he left it to the last minute as it is a headache arranging child care and needs to be planned and booked and often paid in advance and I think when he already knows he has days off work during that time it would be so much more helpful, responsible and just plain courteous to let me know well in advance – particularly when I always make sure he knows school holiday dates in advance.

The arrangement was made on Monday, I asked him to let me know by the following day what time I would get the children back on Friday. It’s now Wednesday and today I asked again for a time (bear in mind that it’s Easter weekend and if I want to plan anything, either a child friendly day out or, if they’re not going to be around, an adult get together, I need to know what’s going on). He responded “I don’t know yet. Sorry. I may be invited out somewhere’.

Not only does he expect complete flexibility for himself, but he also deliberately holds back information from me knowing that it will prevent me from arranging anything myself – he continues to feel angry and aggrieved at the thought of me having a social life – he wants to punish me for leaving him.

I know this is not uncommon. In fact, I think this is probably more common than anyone would like to admit going by some of the single parent forums that I follow.

I read a lot of commentary that implies that wanting some kind of set pattern for yourself and your children (even if it is a changing pattern from week to week and only available a few weeks in advance) is just unrealistic and selfish and that trying to stand your ground and in some way ‘force’ your ex-partner’s hand in order to obtain a pre-agreed arrangement in a timely fashion would just be damaging to the children and their relationship with their dad. So essentially, put up and shut up.

I also appreciate that there are plenty of single mums out there who would point out that their children’s father is not on the scene at all, or that they have no family to baby-sit or help out or offer respite at all. In a way though, that situation at least comes with certainty – you know exactly where you stand, as hard as that life may be.

So what I’m left with is this constant questioning of my own decisions – am I being selfish wanting to have more certainty day to day? Or am I being a doormat when I let the husband get away with last minute requests or when he fails to tell me what time the kids will be returned? It’s not fair, but life is not fair so maybe I should suck it up? Worse things happen at sea? What do you think?

Having a wobble

If this is how difficult it is to get over a 4 month long relationship then thank god the break up happened when it did because any deeper in and I can’t imagine the devastation.

I think all this dating stuff has brought it home to me. I’d barely even dipped a toe in the murky dating pool when I met my boyfriend and it just seemed like serendipity to be able to bypass all this headwrecking shit that I feel I’m being drawn into again now.

I know it’s early days but somehow being pursued by non starters and ignored by the rest of the actively dating male population seems so much worse than if they never even knew I existed.

My boyfriend boosted my confidence so much – he made me feel so special – he had eyes for nobody else. It’s really hard to go back into this limbo.

Other than about 3 hours yesterday afternoon I’ve been on my own with the kids for the last 48 hours. Today wasn’t too bad – soaring temperatures here in the south of England and my eldest was at a birthday party for 3 hours, then off with his mate from the neighbourhood all afternoon so it was just me and my little cutie.

Still 48 hours with only the briefest interlude to interact with other adults does feel kind of lonely and then to be bombarded with two hours of chat last night during which I could probably have walked away from the phone and he wouldn’t even have noticed, combined with what almost felt like an attack on the things I *did* get to say left my head spinning. I normally sleep pretty well but last night I really struggled and despite not having any alcohol I awoke in the early hours with my head banging like a dehydrated drunk.

This obviously isn’t a healthy direction to be heading in and I probably need to stop.
I think it doesn’t help that I am not only losing three of my normally child free Fridays due to the Easter break but I also have zero child contact dates from the husband going forwards and psychologically that leaves me feeling like I simply have no respite.

In reality I know how lucky I am, how much I have to be grateful for. Being able to blog all this shit out of my head is helpful and I think that so many people must be feeling the same or worse than I do right now. Maybe someone needs to set up an IDA group (Internet Daters Anonymous) where those of us addicted to the potential highs but more often than not wrecked by the emotional lows can get together and support each other through this long dark teatime of the soul…

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…

Support and the single mum

I read back over my last two posts this morning and sighed. Both of my readers must be beginning to wonder if I’m succumbing to schizophrenia. The thing is, it is just too easy to feel that things are on track during your happier, calmer, more organised, more harmonious moments, only to realise that, yes indeed, sh*t happens and it’s not going to just stop happening because you had the afternoon off and read a good book.

Since last Wednesday (the evening of my last documented crash and burn parenting moment) things have calmed back down considerably. I have had the kids with me for the last six nights (and the whole weekend) and they haven’t seen their dad at all in that time. Notably my seven year old’s bad behaviour was at it’s height those first two nights.

We spent the weekend with my parents and it was Mother’s Day (UK) on Sunday so my Mum helped my eldest choose and buy me a lovely present (a new handbag – something which he’d heard me say I needed as my old one is falling apart).

They brought me a cup of tea in bed and later on my mum and I took them out for a little visit to a local attraction and in the afternoon we had a roast dinner and I went down to the recreation ground with them and we played football together as it was a sunny day.

I went along to their school this morning to see my eldest perform in his little ‘school of rock’ style concert and he was so happy to see me and came over and gave me a hug on his way back to class.

Their dad is picking them up this afternoon and giving them tea before bringing them back at 5.30 in time to wind the day up before bed. Hopefully that won’t be long enough for the poison to seep back in.

I’ve also got my appointment with the headmistress tomorrow afternoon and it’s going to feel strange opening up to her when things feel like they are back on track but I definitely think it can’t hurt to just sound her out about the problems I’ve had with behaviour lately and particularly because it does seem to be tied in with extended periods of contact with their father. (Worryingly he has them next overnight Thursday and overnight Friday after school too but fortunately my mum will be over on Saturday afternoon so I won’t be alone).

Having the support of my parents makes me realise how lucky I am. It’s nice to know that they will always be there for me unconditionally, no matter what (as long as they are fit and able to do so obviously). And I have been reflecting on the nature of ‘support’ – what I need and who from.

It would be nice to be able to support and in turn be supported by the husband when it comes to parenting but clearly that isn’t going to happen. When I talk about my ex-boyfriend/another boyfriend/potential partner I use the term ‘support’ only in terms of emotional support for me – to boost my confidence when it comes to handling my own FML moments. Because that’s what partners do isn’t it? Regardless of what your FML moments may be, it’s nice to know that your ‘significant other’ has got your back and has some empathy; that they are there to give you a hug when you feel like you might break.

Thinking about this subject in these terms makes me realise that I’m just not ready to be in another relationship right now. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a partner – someone with whom to give and take that amazing gift of love and laughter and company and fun, share physical intimacy, touch, kiss, plan together for an even better future.

But I need for this divorce to be over. I need to feel more in control at home with the support of family and the school. And I need to give myself time to recover from loss and heartbreak and time to revel in the little pleasures of single life – everything from suiting myself when it comes to choosing and planning social activities, to living in my own home, decorating as I please and entertaining who I like, when I like.

I am slowly coming to complete acceptance of and peace with the recent break up (just three weeks ago). Time moves so fast that soon I will be looking back and four months will be a drop in the ocean. Plus with time comes some more sense to see that relationship for what it was – just a lovely chapter in my life, full of all those little things I talk about above, but ultimately with someone who wasn’t right for me – if he had been right for me then he would still be here.

Which of course doesn’t mean that I don’t still have pangs and find myself scrolling his FB page, or looking back at our shared photos or checking to see whether he’s still checking out our WhatsApp thread (he is, several times a day). And it doesn’t stop me from having weak moments where I wonder whether to offer myself to him completely no strings as a friend ‘with benefits’ (which I’m not going to do – how messy would that get?). However much you tell yourself you could switch it off emotionally and disengage should he suddenly get into a relationship with someone new, I know that would feel like an absolute kick in the heart and I’m not going to do that. Plus I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t agree whatever I said – he wouldn’t trust me to keep it light-hearted and casual. And anyway I deserve better than that.

At the end of the day a relationship – be it friendship, romance or family – is all about give and take – love, support, patience, care and attention. A hand to hold, a heart to trust. Someone to reassure you that you are doing your best and give you the confidence to trust in your own strength – not someone to do your job for you or give you some kind of a free ride.

Right now my family and friends are the best a girl could get and their support is genuine and cannot be stolen away in the night.

Recognising your limits and asking for help

Last night I think I reached my tipping point. The children recently spent a couple of nights with their dad and then he collected them from school and brought them home to me two nights ago. That night my seven year old started off fine (although he seemed to have lost his appetite completely and seemed somewhat subdued). He went off to the evening club he attends and I had no fuss putting his brother to bed. He returned home at 7.40pm and very soon after that something minor happened which triggered off a bout of bad behaviour, defiance and general unwillingness to comply with anything I said.

I felt like this situation was relatively short lived and I managed to remain calm and used one of the strategies that I’ve been reading about during all of my recent free time. In the end he suddenly burst into tears and couldn’t explain why he was feeling so upset but he then became very loving and wanted hugs and reassurance and was willing to have some quiet time in bed.

Last night it was parents ‘evening’ at school (at infants level take that to mean a ten minute chat with the teacher at 4.30pm). I had failed to mention this to the husband and he later found out when my son mentioned it during a phone conversation. He asked to speak to me and shrieked at me, calling me a complete cow before continuing his conversation with our son.

Early in the evening it was the same kind of thing as the night before – my son started off very calm and cooperative – he even asked me to tell him specifically if there was anything I wanted which he could get me as a present for mother’s day. I couldn’t think of anything so I looked around and spotted a framed piece of art that I’d made for him a couple of year’s ago and suggested that he produce a piece of art which he could get framed for me as a gift as that would be home-made and personal and something that I could always keep and treasure.

It was 7.50pm and he was due to go to bed for his ‘quiet time’ at 8. Earlier in the evening I’d specifically spoken to him and offered him time on my computer playing games if he was willing to follow the routine nicely later. He had agreed and we’d shaken hands on it.

He looked over at the picture I’d made him and said “I want to do one like that…now”. I kind of laughed, told him we didn’t have the materials or the time and that he could do his picture at the weekend when my parents would be able to help him. That was the start of about 45 minutes of hell being unleashed. During that time he pushed me closer and closer to snapping, threatening to wake his little brother (with whom he shares a room), taking my drink to chuck away down the kitchen sink and spilling it, trying to pull my trousers down, becoming more and more gleeful the more wound up and upset I got, pretty much laughing at all of my threats and suggested consequences.

I found myself standing like a statue, feeling that I was facing a crisis and I couldn’t cope – I just literally had no idea how to turn things around despite having felt so strong and determined just two days before with the help of a manual full of advice and suggestions, none of which I had at my fingertips and some of which would only work as a long term strategy anyway.

In the end I just burst into tears and berated him for throwing all of my good nature and everything nice I ever did for him back in my face. I then set about a couple of household tasks – put a load of washing on and washed up some dishes while he stood by watching as tears still streamed down my face. Then I went upstairs and lay down on my bed but he followed me in and got up in my face so I changed tack and got onto his bed (the top bunk) and lay down there knowing that he would follow me. He came up and as he lay down next to me I asked him if he would like to read his chapter book with me which he responded to very well, running downstairs to get it and bring it straight back. We read the last chapter and he was then back to his normal self and I was able to leave him to his last 15 minutes of quiet time in bed before lights out.

After that I sat downstairs feeling completely wretched and hopeless and cried a bit more. Matters were only made worse by the fact that my boyfriend only very recently broke up with me specifically because this situation with my son was just too stressful for him to contemplate any longer. He left me to it and walked away taking any support I had imagined with him.

I spoke to my sister who works in schools and she told me to get the school involved, ask to speak to his teacher or the Head or anybody specific who deals with emotional problems and issues and potentially look to be referred to more specialist services.

All of that kind of freaked me out because I was having (still am) confused thoughts regarding the demarcation between ‘normal’ behaviour for a boy his age and behaviour that is affected and altered by the emotive nature of our family break up which is clearly exacerbated by his father’s inability to treat me with any kind of friendly respect (if he was capable of that I probably would have told him about the parents evenings).

We all want to make excuses, tell ourselves that we can cope alone and fear that asking outside agencies for help is a sign of weakness and failure and shame but maybe it’s true that it does take a village to raise a child, and whilst I do try my hardest and sometimes feel like I’m winning, it doesn’t hurt to ask for the opinion of someone in their professional capacity outside of the emotional circle of family alone. If nothing else, maybe my son would benefit from sharing his feelings about the break up with someone who isn’t me.

This morning after dropping the children off I went into the office and made an appointment to speak to the Head of their school. She has been kind to me in the past and I think it would be a start to at least get her opinion as an outsider but also as someone who has my child’s pastoral care in her hands.

For the time being I am just bracing myself for another bedtime battle and wishing and praying for calm to once again descend.