Baggage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another relationship bites the dust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onwards and upwards?

 

Closure and new beginnings

It feels kind of right that this should all be happening in springtime – just as the blossoms fall like confetti to the ground.

I mentioned that the (ex) boyfriend and I were back in touch. It was a bit more than that. He responded to an innocuous message I sent via text a couple of weeks ago. He suggested we meet up again in person. We did. It was good but weird in that I felt we were just shadow puppets of our former selves, playing out a familiar scene from the past rather than two people re-connecting on a meaningful level.

I had told myself that it was fine – a “friends with benefits” arrangement; a stop gap; an occasional companion who I felt I knew and could trust. He told me he would do a few little jobs around my house when he got the chance. I began to feel like I could send him a few idle chit-chat type messages during the week to stay in touch without the fear of invoking a ‘subtext’.

We met up twice in two weeks – trying to fit these meet ups in at my child-free times but also taking into account his busy work schedule. I could tell that it was all on his terms.

Last Sunday night he came over – we talked about the next time. I suggested the following weekend and he agreed. I made arrangements for my parents to have the children as I was still in the dark with the husband about child contact going forwards.

Come Wednesday, I received a message from him at midday telling me he’d “fucked up” by double booking himself. He was going to be at a mate’s barbeque so he wouldn’t be coming to see me.

I’ll be honest, rightly or wrongly I was a little upset. I had carved out some free time specifically for him which is not always easy in my situation. Understandably people double book themselves for stuff all the time and under those circumstances someone always loses out and it’s most likely to be a case of last in first out.

Under other circumstances I would have been irritated but philosophical. Under these circumstances I couldn’t help feel like it was a really clear sign that he had placed me and ‘us’ in a category of friendship which could be labelled – ‘potential fun when convenient’. That didn’t make me feel too good. I guess naively, I’d hoped for more. I’d hoped that seeing me again would trigger those feelings of love and affection and happiness which we lived out for four months and put me higher up his list of priorities.

I mulled over any number of responses – all of which would have been bridge burning. I held back from responding at all until 7 hours later when I decided to go with “we all make mistakes x”.

I thought that was vaguely poetic. I didn’t realise at the time that it would trigger him into another, ultimately much more final, ‘goodbye and good luck’ response. He used my poetry against me. He told me all the nice stuff – I’m a ‘very special lady’ who deserves more commitment than he can offer etc. etc.

I cried. I felt like I’d been dumped all over again. I felt bitter. I felt lonely. I felt like I was ‘not good enough’. I’m a walking cliché.

That was two days ago and in that time I seem to have recovered. I did the passive/aggressive Facebook ‘unfriending’; I archived our WhatsApp thread – the one place I could go to find out whether he was still thinking about me due to the scrolling time-stamp; I found a Meetup.com social event which I could join up with on Saturday night and RSVP’d; I briefly discussed the situation with two friends at work and they both told me the same thing – it’s been a learning experience; it’s closure.

I had a nightmare or bad dream last night – another dream where I was watching a character in a movie being chased by a someone or something who meant them harm but seeing the situation through my own eyes at the same time. I woke up with a headache – no doubt I’d had my jaws clenched tight all night long.

However, today I have felt happier than I have in a long time. It’s a bit like a weight has been lifted off my mind – I no longer feel the need to look backwards in mourning. I can finally accept that my brief relationship with the ex was just a stepping stone on my journey and not the destination.

I spent a couple of hours with one of my good friends and her mum this morning having coffee and a good chat. I am in the process of joining a local tennis club where the kids can also get lessons. I am beginning to get my blog mojo back.

I finally heard from the husband who is going to have the children Saturday afternoon and evening which is great because it means my parents are let off the hook and I don’t have to do a 1.5 hour round trip to drop them off.

I am feeling more organised and using some of my child-free down time to get ahead with meal plans and shopping. It actually feels like a lot of headspace has been opened up by the demise of my relationship.

I’ve realised that I could look at my situation one of two ways: 1) I am screwed by my lack of routine, my lack of control and inability to attend regular events or commit to anything or anyone. It will be impossible to find love because no one is that flexible; 2) I am single and free to become a part of many groups and get involved (albeit sporadically) in any number of activities. I am embarking upon a spontaneous journey in the pursuit of happiness – one which doesn’t include a map or any road signs. Romantic love may not be a part of my story for a while but that doesn’t mean I am lost, lonely, unhappy or done with all the opportunities that might become available to me at any given time.

On the school pick up this afternoon I was walking along behind a couple who were having a minor domestic dispute and for the first time I felt lucky. Relationships are fraught with power struggles, little resentments and compromise. I am willing to accept the work that is involved at the right time with the right person but for now, it’s good to have a breather. There is a power in being a strong, single, independent woman who can fend for herself, tap into her ingenuity and recruit others for everything else.

I intend to expand my networks, keep up with my interests and keep working on my relationship with my children because they can only benefit from my undivided attention.

I don’t promise that this super positive mood is unbreakable. I know I will still have low moments when I pine for love and affection and miss my ex but I also know that those feelings will pass – quicker than they did before because I know now that there is no going back.

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…

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.

Perspective

For 36 hours, other than a few snatched periods of restless sleep filled with dark dreams and a few pockets of stability, I cried. It’s only natural – the person with whom you have become deeply intimate, shared every thought, hope and dream, someone with whom you never exchanged a cross word for four solid months – the person who, just 18 hours before sent you a message telling you they loved you with a twinkly heart attached, shows up on your doorstep, not for the planned assignation which you were expecting but with the express purpose of breaking things off.

To put it in perspective, just two weeks before this we had been enjoying a romantic weekend getaway to the coast, holding hands on the sea wall and fossil hunting the pebbled shores of Charmouth. We had discussed summer barbeques, camping trips abroad and family gatherings.

I’ve already explained the reasons he gave for ending ‘us’, so I won’t re-hash here. What I need to express and explore now is how I am adjusting and what comes next. I’ve been living out the five stages of grief in microcosm – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I’ve composed a long text message asking him to continue a relationship of sorts only to delete it almost immediately.

I’ve raged about the broken promises, the over-sensitivity, the hypocrisy of telling someone you still love them but then dropping them like a hot potato, the weakness of a person who can’t understand that love should conquer all or alternatively the duplicity of someone who never really loved or let love in whilst claiming otherwise.

I have mourned for the loss of a loving, supportive partner; I have questioned every word and action wondering whether I gave offence unwittingly at some point and re-hashed conversations during our first few dates when we were still offering unguarded information about the nature of our lives and our hearts.

I’ve considered a bleak future in which I live alone with my challenging children in a void punctuated by the bitter attacks of my emotionally abusive ex-husband. I’ve feared that this experience has starkly demonstrated that, in my situation, a middle-aged single mum with two kids in KS1, I am become ‘untouchable’, that a long-term love may be a concept I need to let go of.

But as the hours pass I see things slightly differently. We were two middle aged people who chanced upon one another; we both happened to be single and allowed an attraction to form. We were no star-crossed young lovers. We weren’t the perfect match, we had elements of compatibility.

I re-calibrated my expectations earlier and realised that the pain inflicted upon me two days ago was undeniably centred upon the cruel and unexpected nature of his decision – the fact that he orchestrated a completely one-sided conversation and took any control over the how, why and when of the break-up out of my hands.

If he truly lacks the capacity to man up and offer unconditional love and support to a partner who clearly has her own struggles, or to find a way to control his own stressors and work things through, then he’s not the man I hoped he was and I accept his decision.

However, I still like him, I still think that he is a good man who was generous and open and empathetic and generally fun to be around, so I decided to send him a text asking if he would be willing to continue seeing each other as friends. I sent that message four and a half hours ago. He still hasn’t responded and now I’m not sure what to think…

Homeless

Yesterday we had our first session of Family Mediation. It was the first time in over two months that I have spent more than five minutes in the husband’s presence and I was nervous. I have pushed for this mediation and had to cancel and re-arrange it twice because of his work so it was long awaited.

The way Mediation works (or did in this instance) was that each of us had half an hour alone with the mediator to explain our point of view and be given all the information we should need on the process before spending an hour and a half hashing it out together with the mediator as a ‘guide’. I had written and typed up a list of points – first and foremost to discuss our current living situation (me and the kids with my parents in their three bedroom house 30 miles from the kids’ school), and try and find some way to get back into our home, at least until financial matters are finalised.

Unfortunately the husband point blank refused to move out and the mediator didn’t dwell on the subject as nobody has the power to force someone out of a home which they own either fully or jointly. He pointed out that I was at liberty to move back in with the kids any time I saw fit but there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of me walking back into the lion’s den.

That makes the situation at ‘home’ sound.. well, almost dangerous. It’s not, at least not physically. As I’ve mentioned before my husband is not a narcissist. The way he has used our children as pawns in a power struggle between us proves, however, that he doesn’t think the way a normal, caring, invested father should and he sees no harm in demonising me if he thinks it will win him sympathy from our six year old.

He offered to buy me out of the house and came up with a figure which was only £10,000 short of the figure I’d had in mind myself. Weirdly, I wasn’t as thrilled with this outcome as I’d thought I would be. It was my intention to ask for the house to be sold and the proceeds split anyway and I had it in my mind that the lump sum would allow me to put down a deposit on a share of a ‘part buy, part rent’ property.

In theory, I could take the money and run with it but now I’ve tentatively started looking into the possibility of being eligible for a mortgage in my sole name based on my lowly part time salary and a minimal child maintenance sum the picture’s not looking so rosy. I’ve still got a lot of research to do and I tend to be optimistic about these things, but it kind of occurred to me earlier today that me and the kids are, effectively, homeless right now. We are in limbo.

I broke down in tears earlier, like proper heart-wrenching sobbing, and this was whilst I was lying in bed with the three year old supposedly singing him to sleep! Try explaining that to a pre-schooler.

I just suddenly thought, that’s it, my own home, the place I researched and fought for and furnished and lived in for the last 8 years (the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere other than my childhood home) is a place I will never go back into in the same way again.

I know it was my decision to end the marriage, my decision to leave the house, and believe me I don’t have any huge attachment to that place – it’s a nice enough three bed Victorian semi with a pleasant garden but it’s not really my idea of a ‘forever’ home (the parking and some of the neighbours leave a lot to be desired). So why do I feel so bad?