All change

I’m still trying to fathom how everything can change so quickly in the world of singledom (and single-mum-dom).

I have dipped my toe into the (very) shallow waters of match.com in the last week or so. I know I was feeling like my self confidence had been knocked after the complete lack of interest from the Scot so even though I was being philosophical and positive about single life I had this little niggle, kind of like an itch that could only be scratched by some positive attention from the opposite sex.

I had no intention (still don’t) of paying any money so a lot of the functionality of the site is out of bounds but I’ve discovered that I can have a full profile and full searchability and if someone has opted for this “connect” package I am able to message them for free on my part.

To be honest there’s not a huge amount of them but I’ve had a couple of chats. The first guy looked good in his pic but he was just so wooden to talk to. It was dullsville. I had a message from a 21 year old saying “age is just a number, right?”. Wow. I was tempted to get back to him saying “if you were 38 then, yes, I would most definitely be agreeing, age is just a number, but I am literally old enough to be your mother!”, however I opted not to reply as I didn’t want to enter into any kind of dialogue.

Then over the weekend I finally got talking to someone who seemed intelligent and normal who is actually relatively nearby but after an hour or so of chatting when it got to the bit where he might have suggested a date he just disappeared which I thought was a bit rude but only to be expected with internet dating.

He messaged the next day to say he’d fallen asleep but we had literally exchanged messages a minute apart. Meh!

Since the Meetup night out I went to a couple of weeks ago I’ve exchanged a couple of messages with one of the guys who books and organises the events. I only very briefly met him on the night but he got in touch with me a while back to ask if I wanted to book up for a comedy night coming up. At the time I did wonder whether he asked because he liked me or just because he was trying to bump the numbers up.

He then sent me a friend request on Facebook and started following me on Instagram. Plot thickens. We exchanged another couple of messages on FB – just general chit chat. He posted a status update over the weekend saying that he was watching the movie “12 Years a Slave” which has been on my to-watch list for a while so I commented asking if it was good and he DM’d me.

He asked about my taste in movies and whether or not I liked the Alien movies. I mentioned Alien Covenant which is just out here in the UK and he then asked me if I’d fancy going to see it and so I thought, why not?

We then proceeded to have a pretty long conversation actually finding out some stuff about each other. He’s the same age as me and he doesn’t have any kids of his own. He tentatively asked about my relationship status and I mentioned the divorce without going into too much detail. I mentioned the kids (he already knew I had kids) and a little bit about needing a combination of babysitters, parents and the ex in order to have a social life.

At that point I was wondering if he was thinking ‘heck, what am I getting myself into here?!’ but he persevered. He told me he had wanted to talk to me at the meetup night out but didn’t in the end as I was the newbie. I guess he meant he didn’t want to come across like someone who would be all over any new girl who happened to turn up!

To be honest it went completely under my radar. He’s not really what I would call my type at all but I like him, he’s easy to talk to and interesting and outgoing and I’m flattered that he likes me – it definitely is an ego-boost. It also makes a lovely change from just about every single guy I have come across through my admittedly limited experience of internet dating.

So we’ve got a date. Alien Covenant. Friday night. I don’t know what it is I want from this. Right now I think I just need someone who likes me to date with no expectations. I don’t want to introduce anyone to my children again – not the way I did with my ex – so soon and with so many expectations which were trashed for all of us after a few short months.

 

Man trouble

When someone breaks up with you it’s normally because they’ve got tired of you, right? They’ve fallen out of love, stopped finding you attractive, spent enough time around you to finally be acting on that old adage ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. With the husband, I probably reached that point at least three years before I finally left although there was obviously a lot more to it than that and if you’ve read this blog from the very beginning you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

With the boyfriend it’s different. It was a long enough relationship to form a real bond and become emotionally connected – you know that thing where it seems as though you are both thinking the same thing at the same time even when you’re not together physically?

I raise this subject because it has obviously been harder to move on knowing that our love didn’t actually die. What makes it even worse is the fact that, for the second time he has contacted me and told me that he misses the same things as me – each other’s love, care and physical presence. He told me that I ticked all his boxes and even ones he hadn’t put on his list yet. He told me he intended to visit me, giving me a date and time (at his own instigation, not mine – I neither encouraged nor discouraged him). Then the following day he took it back and apologised for contacting me.

I can’t lie, that was hurtful, frustrating and I feel like it has set my path to emotional recovery back again. I think he cut himself off from me for a reason external to who I am or who we were as a couple and whilst he sticks by his reason it makes emotional disconnect that much more difficult for him even though he is the dumper and not the dump-ee. In moments of weakness – maybe a lonely evening after a couple of beers, he finds himself drawn back but unless I have some clear indication that he’s changed his mind about us as a couple I really need him to stop doing that.

So that’s one down.

The husband is still messing about with dates for contact, telling me that he might not be able to have the kids one day this week which has been on his list for the past month. Whatever his reason I told him that for his contact dates, he is responsible for them and if alternative arrangements need to be made – whether that be a babysitter or grandparents or whatever, then that is up to him. He asked if I have plans which I do in this instance – a visit to Oxford to see some of my family who are over from Ireland – then he laughed at the thought of me missing out – that he has the power to send a ripple effect into my efforts at happiness and a social world that doesn’t involve him.

I know it is up to me to manage him and my own expectations and it’s not the end of the world to cancel plans (and I probably won’t have to) but in the heat of the moment, it upset me.

You’re probably thinking that’s it then, but no, just one more man to throw into the mix. My next door neighbour’s lodger has taken a shine to me and begun to message me via Facebook Messenger. I ignored it before but in a moment of weakness I responded in a very non-committal way last night and despite my best efforts to put him off I ended up agreeing to have a chat with him outside the front door after the kids were in bed – all togged up in my pyjamas and a duffel coat.

So here’s the problem – he clearly likes me but he is totally not my type and I have no interest in having a relationship with him of any kind really but he is being super over-familiar – sent a message with kisses before bed and then first thing in the morning (literally 5.50am). So now I feel like I have one more man whose behaviour I need to manage. It’s suddenly all turning into an unrequited love rectangle. Give me strength!

Learning to let go

He got back to me eventually and said he would like to stay friends. He told me I’m the sweetest person he’s ever met. He told me he still loves me. He told me that he thinks about me all the time and misses me. But he didn’t tell me that he’d changed his mind; or that he’d had a crazy moment of madness and wanted to take it all back.

I poured out my heart then in a virtual text essay, putting my spin on the situation, telling him we’d clearly moved too fast; offering a more laid back, child-free version of the immediate future together. 26 hours later he replied “I still think about you all the time and miss you but I just don’t know what to say at the moment ❤ X”.

After that I had some more conversations with friends and my sister and everyone said the same thing: “DON’T TEXT HIM!”.

I managed that for nearly 48 hours but yesterday was his birthday and I felt really weird to just say nothing so I texted “Happy Birthday X” in the evening. He then pinged back almost straight away “Thank you darling” and a twinkly heart. Then again “How are you?”

I replied “Up/down…sad. Happy, supported. Excluded. How did you celebrate your birthday?” He responded “Up/down Lonely Sad Alone Confused Crying X”. I was surprised. I felt sad for him – I hadn’t realised how fucked up he was feeling, and I tried to talk to him some more – asking him whether he really knew what he wanted to which he replied “I want to be Happy”. I said “Do you know how to be happy though? What is making you so sad?”. He went silent.

I ploughed on the next morning, sending a text… let’s just say reminding him what he was missing (it wasn’t a picture!) and he responded over an hour later confirming the obvious – he still thinks about our sex life. Nothing more.

I kept pushing – would he come over tomorrow afternoon and help me fit a bike rack on my car? After all he’d promised to help me whenever he can and up to a week ago his schedule was very free or very flexible – he came over at least three or four times a week and when I was child-free he made a special effort.

Five hours later he sent a ‘sorry, I can’t make tomorrow’ reply with a couple of lame excuses attached. At that point I found myself finally sobbing again. I think somehow I thought I could change him; change his mind; heal him; bring him back to me. But now I know he has no intention of letting that happen.

I drafted several different versions of a ‘fuck you then’ text in my head but then my seven year old saw me crying and acted really gently towards me. I dried my eyes, played a couple of board games with him and began to appreciate that this is what matters – not some transient relationship with a man who clearly has issues which I couldn’t even have guessed at two weeks ago. And really – do I need that kind of emotional instability in my life right now? No I do not. What I need is a chance to recover from the heart shock of all this. I need a chance to get over it and eventually open my heart back up to the possibility of a true, stable, balanced, loving, honest, tenacious partner who will not drop out like bad Wi-Fi the second my kids get a little bit hangry.

I have to admit I am still tempted to have my final word – you know the ‘have a nice life then’/’forget friendship’/’screw you and your lame excuses’ kind of stuff but at the end of the day I’m still that sweet girl who doesn’t want to leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth as their last memory so I’ll take the advice and let it slide. I’ll stop looking at the pictures, stop checking to see when he last looked. Let the silence rush back in and fill my void with as much love, self-love, laughter, family, friends, plans and pursuits as I can and one day soon it won’t hurt any more to remember those four months of love and romance and happiness.

Its not me, it’s him…

I can hardly understand how its come to this – me sitting here in tears writing this post. I genuinely thought that I had found something – someone – who was right for me, who would love me and support me; who was prepared to take the rough with the smooth and who had my back.

It’s been four months. I have had not a bad word to say about my boyfriend. I thought he was a good person – someone who was very similar to me in temperament and personality and who I enjoyed spending my time with. He made the effort with my kids – he showed patience and sat with my 7 year old, listening to him read his school books and guiding him with his maths homework.

He drove for an hour each way to visit me with or without my kids – he wasn’t someone who made me feel like I had to choose between him or them.

He brought me tea in bed, brought me home cooked food when I had a busy week and we spoke or at the very least texted each other every day for the last four months.

We went away for a romantic weekend last time I was child free – two weeks ago. It was great. His birthday is next weekend and I had planned a lovely day together in London – I’ve bought tickets for the Shard and was going to suggest we combine that with a wander round Borough food market and a lobster dinner somewhere nearby.

I have opened up to him and felt like I could tell him anything. I have felt that he is a genuine, honest and loving person.

I am child free tonight and he was due to come over and spend the evening and night with me. He turned up as planned but I could immediately see that he had bad news.

He broke up with me. Just like that. No notice. Nothing.

Apparently the issues I have with parenting my kids – particularly my 7 year old who does tend to be very defiant and demanding – are just too stressful for him and because of that he simply can’t see our relationship working. He had clearly made his mind up.

He told me he still loves me but I just can’t understand that.

The way that I have immersed myself in this relationship, it just feels like there will now be a massive void. He has been more than a lover – he’s become a best friend and basically the person who held my happiness in his hands and now that’s just vanished into thin air – like all it ever was, was smoke and mirrors.

Facebook misdeeds and affairs of the heart

It’s been a full on Christmas. It’s been a full on year. I still haven’t got much to show by way of progress on the divorce. The courts will have received the petition and as far as I know there is nothing to hinder them from rubber stamping for a Decree Nisi at this point, however, we are just at the beginning of our negotiations around finances and I’ve no idea how long this part will take.

My solicitor has asked for another three valuations on the jointly owned house (I got three valuations back in June but there’s been too much of a time lapse). This is onerous because I can’t see the husband pulling his finger out to organise a damn thing. As such I’m ringing around the same estate agents to ask if they can re-evaluate based on market fluctuation without having to re-attend. No idea if this is acceptable but it’s something.

In the meantime I am without a child maintenance payment for either December or January due to what I believe is a poorly worded letter from the Child Maintenance Service indicating that he could skip two months payments.

I’ve had to withdraw half of one savings account to compensate for January and allow me to pay both childcare and bills. I told him that no matter what the CMS says he has a moral responsibility to his children but he wouldn’t listen to me.

In other news, my new relationship is blossoming. We’ve been seeing each other since mid-October and due to his current flexibility with work we’ve managed to get together at least three times a week. He’s such a good person compared to the husband – such a good partner. He knows what it is like to be a parent – he has three of his own (fully grown) and spent Christmas Day with them, his brother and mum at his house where he cooked them all Christmas dinner. That in itself speaks volumes – they are a close family and the role he plays is a caring one – he’s a feeder and he behaves the way I expect a good dad to behave.

We hadn’t spent much time around my boys up to this week – he often visits me in the evening after the children have gone to bed – and we make the most of the days and nights when the husband has the children. We’ve been to Christmas markets, one of our more local seaside towns, meals out, meals in (cooked together – we’re both foodies and have introduced each other to various delicacies – another thing that is completely alien within my marriage to a fussy, picky eater), been to the cinema and he’s read and enjoyed a book that I bought him.

We exchanged a pile of Christmas pressies but we kept it real with relatively low end goodies – chocolates, novelties, bath bombs, stuff for the kitchen, that kind of thing. Neither of us is a huge spender – I think we both know that love isn’t something bought through shiny expensive trinkets and he’s made more romantic gestures to me over the course of the past ten weeks than I think the husband ever did – from little surprise cards on my pillow to a single red rose (I know cheesy but I still loved it 🙂 ).

So this Tuesday (Christmas bank holiday) it was a bright crisp icy sunny day and we decided to get together with my kids in order to get them some fresh air and exercise after a, frankly, anguish inducing Boxing Day where boredom and sibling rivalry kicked in big time!

We met up at a National Trust outdoor play trail up in Box Hill, Surrey and from start to finish it was really a day full of fun and joy. The boyfriend is a natural with kids and they seemed to get on with him so well. We were outside for hours and afterwards took them down to the local bikers café for a cheeseburger before going our separate ways.

When I got home I sent him a text saying “We’re home darling. I really enjoyed today. I love you ❤ Xxx”. I hit send and almost immediately I knew I’d made a huge mistake – instead of the boyfriend, the text pinged off to the husband.

I couldn’t take it back so I just had to steel myself to the backlash.

What happened next was unexpected. I received a message from one of my best friends asking if I’d been onto Facebook. The husband had taken a screenshot of my text and posted it on his timeline. A string of comments ensued -everything from hilarity to sympathy for him to digs about me and how it was, in some unknown way, ‘karma’.

This is a prime example of the petty type of behaviour the husband will stoop to. We have been separated for nearly a year. He started a relationship about six weeks into our separation and just because that appears to be foundering, it doesn’t negate the fact that he fully admitted it, brought his girlfriend to our son’s fourth birthday party, took the kids to stay at her house overnight without ever asking me if I’d like to meet her first and has allowed me to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery (his).

Earlier this evening I had to go and pick the children up from him after a three day stay. They were supposed to be with him but apparently spent both nights at his parents house whilst he went out and all of this morning whilst he was off doing goodness knows what. He was, as expected, aggressive and moody and despite me asking him relentlessly for his next list of child contact dates (I’ve been asking since the 15th December) he said he hadn’t had time.

He came up very close to my face and told me he hopes I get “what’s coming to me”. It was intimidating.

I am so gutted that I have to keep seeing this man – that he is the father of my children, but I’m also hopeful that, in time, we can forge a new step family life that involves love, respect, mutual admiration and lots of fun and laughter. Whatever happens I will never regret making the decision to leave.

Emotional rhino hide…

It’s been a while since I posted anything on here and I guess the reason for that is that, for the most part, I’ve been pretty happy in my new love bubble. It’s been two months and still going strong. And yes, I’ve had some unpleasant exchanges with the ex but it has really helped to have someone completely neutral (well, totally on my side obviously!) to let me cry on their shoulder and get it all out. And that despite the fact that I expressed my concern to him that I was off-loading a little too much but he is so wonderful and supportive and just knowing that he’s there for me has given me extra strength to bat off the negative stuff being lobbed my way.

It also helps to have someone other than my parents to talk to when I’m feeling stressed and under attack because they are far too closely connected to the situation to advise me in the most calm and unemotional way.

Having said that there is the occasional sleepless night after an abusive phone or text exchange which inevitably breaks down from the practical to the downright mentally unstable as far as he is concerned.

Just last week, and bearing in mind I left him mid February and our divorce proceedings are well under way, plus the fact that he’s had a girlfriend since at least April, he texted me to ask about picking the kids up from school and proceeded to practically beg me to consider getting back together with him.

When I point blank refused to entertain the notion telling him that it’s not something I believe can be repaired (and let’s face it, his abusive behaviour over the course of the past ten months has hardly sold the concept of reconciliation to me!) he then resorted to name calling, I’m controlling, I’m selfish and I should be ashamed of myself apparently. He insisted that I pick the children up from him the following day rather than him dropping them back to me so I had no choice.

In the event it was not worth the energy I expended worrying as he was relatively cheerful when I collected the boys and nothing further was said on the matter.

The latest flare up came tonight. He phoned me demanding on the voicemail that I call him back about ‘childcare this week’. He is due to have the boys from Tuesday afternoon through to Wednesday afternoon (I’m at work all day Wednesday). As far as I can see from his work duties he is on rest days Monday through Thursday.

For whatever reason he was in a bad mood this evening, full of bile,  and he was abusive to me on the phone telling me that I must now drop the children to his parents on Tuesday and when I explained that my parents have the children between now (Sunday) and Tuesday he became downright rude “I hate your fucking parents” etc. I put the phone from my ear and told him I would call his parents rather than listen to anything further from him and hung up.

I then phoned his parents expecting to at the very least arrange the handover of the children amicably, if not express to them my distress at hearing him denigrate my own mother and father. What I wasn’t expecting was more abuse from his father, who was very short with me, sarcastic and essentially hung up on me before I could even discuss the time I would be arriving with the children.

From an outsiders perspective it would appear that I must have behaved very badly for these people to treat me with such contempt and disrespect but actually, all I’ve done is make the decision not to put up with a life of misery and walking on eggshells with a man who I believe to be personality disordered.

I know that they blow hot and cold – as I said above I’ve expended far too much energy at times worrying about moments of future conflict – particularly when I know I will be forced to face him (or now in this case, his parents) in person. It makes me feel so trapped knowing that I can’t escape these people because they are a part of my children’s lives but really, at the end of the day someone has to be the stable one for the sake of those two little boys and I just have to continue to develop a nice thick skin for their sake.

His previous ex seems to have managed to do it and yes, I know he holds her beneath his contempt but eleven years have gone by and not only does his behaviour have very little impact on her life now, but his 12 year old daughter appears to want little to do with him which massively mitigates the need for any contact between any of them.

So there’s my answer – time – and in the meantime: emotional rhino hide.

Dickish behaviour and over-analysis

What a weekend I’ve had! It started on such a high – to be honest it started on Thursday night when my boyfriend (yes, we’ve reached that ‘labelled’ phase) came over and cooked for me (a delicious Indian meal from scratch – call me easily pleased but I was impressed!) to a wonderful day together on Friday, the evening of which he went home and I had an early night in preparation for my early start on Saturday.

I took the 7.34 train into central London – initially to pop straight over to one of the year’s biggest blogging conferences for which I’ve had my ticket for some time. However out of the blue one of my best friends in the world messaged me earlier in the week to tell me she was over in London on business and had a 24 hour window to spare before flying back out to San Francisco so I altered my plans slightly and went up to Soho to have a long breakfast in a restaurant with her and catch up on our four lost years before she hopped in a taxi to Heathrow and I jumped back on the tube to Kings Cross.

I had had my doubts about attending a blog conference at a time when I feel so useless as a blogger – like tumbleweed has been blowing through the pages of my public facing site, but I’m so glad I went because not only was it great to catch up with lots of friendly faces but I also came away feeling really inspired and fired up to start thinking  and writing again and to ‘find my voice’ the way so many others have found theirs over the course of the last three years.

All in all Saturday was completely awesome – I had some hassle from the husband over the airwaves but even when I arrived home to take the reins from my mum the kids were absolutely fine and completely happy which made my evening a calm and peaceful one.

The tide then turned on Sunday morning when I received a phone call out of the blue from the husband informing me (in a really shitty way) that he was dumping his flexi time at work and would, from now on, not be available to have the children on Thursdays any more – something which had been agreed very amicably and to everyone’s benefit back at the end of August in our last mediation session.

I got really upset, tearful and anxious, during that conversation. It simply felt like he was trying to re-assert his control over my life and routine – throwing me back into our continual haphazard ‘arrangement’ regarding child contact.

I later asked my 7 year old whether or not daddy had been asking questions about my life and my friends and whilst the boys don’t know I’ve started a new relationship they have met my boyfriend who is just known to them as a friend and yes, my eldest has mentioned him to daddy. Suspicions duly aroused…

The second part of this downward spiral today happened later on. I took the boys over to my parents house for a pre-arranged roast lunch. Boyfriend & I had discussed whether or not it was too soon to mention our new relationship to my parents and came to the decision that it was better out in the open. I hate the feeling of lying and covering things up to them and I wanted them to get their heads around the situation sooner rather than later so it seemed like the right thing to do.

Unfortunately the timing was particularly bad after my tears in the morning – they were drawn back into this very stressful part of my post-break up world and weren’t very receptive to what I had to say. In fact my dad’s first reaction to the news that I’ve begun dating someone new was “Oh god, couldn’t you just become a lesbian?”, which, as you can imagine went down with me like a lead balloon (no offence to the lesbian community!).

Now, I realise that, in their eyes, I am a shit judge of character when it comes to men. I’ve made some bad choices, I admit, but the last one I made was ten years ago and I’m not naïve – I have reached a point where I am screening frantically the whole time, just looking for those red flags to pop up above the parapet.

They quizzed me on everything from his job to his home to whether or not we’d ‘done the deed’ (oh god, for shame!). The one thing that put me right on the back foot though, was my dad saying “what are your shared interests?”, to which I stuttered and stammered like a broken record.

They sent me off with a look of disappointment and recrimination (at least that’s how it felt).

Later on I pondered on their point of view. Maybe they are being the voice of reason just worrying and looking out for their vulnerable daughter (who, let’s face it, is costing them quite a bit both financially and emotionally). But from my point of view they are sitting way outside of my experience.

They’ve been pretty happily married for over 50 years. They’ve never found themselves back on the dating scene in middle age. They are assuming that there is some kind of ‘Mr Right’ out there and that I’m taking short cuts and making snap decisions without stepping back to see the bigger picture. They could not possibly know what it is like to try and find a new partner later in life.

Now, no-one’s perfect and no relationship is perfect but I did begin to have this little niggle – what are our shared interests?! He’s not a big reader (I love books, writing and the English language), but he is less of an intellectual and more of an active, outdoorsy kind of person. I’m OK with that because I love the idea of an active life, travel, adventure, fresh air and exercise. But does his differing background disable our potential future?

I began to fear the worst until I came across an article called “Why shared values are more important than shared interests” and suddenly a lightbulb went on in my head. There is a reason, albeit subconscious up to this point, that I have spent a fair bit of time talking to the boyfriend about his political and religious leanings, his attitude to feminism and equality in general and the anatomy of his previous failed relationships.

I have wanted to understand the relationships he has with his family members and his friends too and I’ve wanted to give him full disclosure on all of my own values. And all of these queries of mine have superseded anything more shallow we may have discussed (favourite movies, hobbies or pastimes).

Don’t get me wrong I think that it helps things along immensely to have some shared interests but I also think that being with someone who is tolerant and supportive of your own interests and pursuits, whether or not they are shared, is a huge deal. I have just come out of a relationship where, not only did we not really share any interests but where my partner was resentful and discouraging towards the pursuits that really mattered to me. I don’t want to ever be made to feel that way again.

So that’s where things are at. I feel that I need to discuss some of this with the boyfriend but I’m also a little bit afraid to put any kind of a downer on this very strong feeling which I think we both have right now of being in love with one another.

As my sister says, whatever happens the emotional support I’m receiving from the boyfriend along with what I class as the amazing trip I’m getting off the back of all these feel good brain chemicals surging through my head at this point is an end in itself even if it all comes to nothing.