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.

It’s a no from me

So, yet more navel gazing from the frontlines of the confusing, frustrating, disappointing world of internet dating.

If you read my last post then you know that I was vaguely excited by what I’d considered a ‘good’ date yesterday. I was in the dark about how The Scot felt about me or what would happen next given hectic schedules on both sides. I needn’t have worried.

After about 8 hours I sent a brief message saying I’d enjoyed meeting him and suggesting that if he could get a night off soon then I would attempt to do the same, I got nothing back. At least not until 15 hours later when I receive the fairly lame “It was nice to meet you too, Layla. I’ll try and get a night off soon Xx”.

The first thing that irritated me about this was that, well, Layla isn’t my real name but I’ve got the kind of name that is shortened to the first three letters – always. I don’t feel comfortable if someone uses my full name – it’s not Elizabeth but if it was, and I was used to being called Liz then you can see how formal and arms length it would seem to use the long version. That’s the first thing he did.

I had said “I really enjoyed meeting you today [Scot]” and he responded “It was nice to meet you”. Not the same I’m afraid, in fact generically polite and dispassionate.

Despite these little niggles though the one thing that spoke volumes was the time scale. It quickly became clear to me that this was more than just someone who doesn’t really ‘do’ messaging. And once I had come to that realisation, I began to unpick everything – total deconstruction of the dating process, my expectations, what I want, what I need, everything.

Before I had even decided what the time lag was all about I already knew that whatever, it meant something to me – it meant that, to coin a phrase, he just wasn’t that into me. And that’s OK – disappointing initially, but OK. And actually, on reflection, I begin to see that there was something fundamentally lacking in our interaction, something which is really quite important to me: humour. There was no banter, no flirting, no naughty twinkle in anyone’s eye.

To be fair I’ve got myself in trouble before by my attraction to men who have a bit of the joker about them, and I realised that when I was scrolling through one dating website the first time I was even narrowing my search down to men who described themselves as ‘a big kid’. Then I happened to stumble across the profile of the Husband and noticed that he describes himself as ‘a big kid’. Oh dear.

Heaven knows I don’t want another child in my life but a sense of humour, the signs that the other person doesn’t take themselves too seriously, the impression that they enjoy the fun stuff whilst still being able to man up to the challenges we all face in our day to day lives and switch on a bit of depth for a real emotional connection – that’s a pretty big deal to me. Unless someone is naturally that way inclined then I find it difficult to feel truly at ease in their company.

I am a self-deprecating kind of person, I LOVE to laugh – live comedy is one of my absolute favourite things to watch. It’s part of my history, growing up as a regular audience member on the London Comedy Circuit. I would rather discuss my favourite funny films and shows than discuss politics.*

I would rather go to bed with someone who makes me laugh (not like that!) because it puts you at your ease and it’s the beginning of ‘playful’ and I like playful. All that intense Fifty Shades bullshit just makes me cringe.

So, yeah, all that to say, this whole experience has started with me feeling rejected and ended with me feeling grateful – grateful to be given the opportunity to re-assess what it is I need. Grateful that I have the ability to keep it all in perspective and not to take it personally, because I know that I would have dated this guy and I know now that it wouldn’t have taken.

  • I do talk about politics and political issues do matter to me but if I just put this out there: Ben Elton, circa 1986 and ‘a little bit of politics’… that’s the way I like it…