Reset to neutral

So, despite my earlier musings (see: Adjust your expectations) I ploughed on with a summer dominated by a “relationship” with my ex which in hindsight amounted to no more than a bunch of texts, three physical visits, only one of which felt like a real date, and a whole lot of waiting and wondering, hoping that we could form a more lasting bond in the shape of a friendship (with, inevitably a whole lot more intimacy) and that such a friendship might, in time, evolve into something more. Either that or I had just accepted and embraced the idea of retaining a physically intimate partner whilst letting go of emotional intimacy and real companionship during this difficult period of my life. I was happy to accept such a compromise – it was comforting to know that I still had the ability to turn a man on, and not just any man but someone who had previously loved and then rejected me.

Inevitably he eventually got cold feet and wanted to change the nature of one of our pre planned meetings. We drove to a canal side pub on a sunny afternoon to discuss where we stood and I told him the friends with benefits relationship suited me as my life is tied right now but I don’t want to miss out on physical affection while I wait for the storm to pass. Before we had even finished our drinks he was back on board so to speak and we were back in my bedroom.

Subsequently we chatted about getting together for platonic activities and he told me that, as I don’t work Fridays we should get together for a bike ride some time in September when the kids were back at school.

Then came a period of holiday busy-ness for us both during which I sensed a change in him. After a couple of unanswered texts I finally re-piqued his interest and we arranged an afternoon get together (although he avoided my initial question about meeting up for that promised bike ride). I let him know I would need to take a couple of hours off work and he seemed very pleased when I confirmed the date.

Then, the day before, I got a very familiar message telling me he wouldn’t be coming after all, that he’d changed his mind about the whole arrangement, that he was in “a strange place” and wanted to figure out where he needed to be.

I received the message whilst sat at my desk at work and tears immediately sprang to my eyes. I hadn’t realised how invested I had become in a “relationship” which in reality was nothing more than the satisfying of a physical urge for him.

He had become seriously involved in one of his local meet up groups, planning and organising social pub walks and cycle rides. I admit to snooping the open source web pages which show event details, times, dates, messages from group members and photos. I could see that this was becoming a bit of a passion for him although I assumed it was limited by the full on nature of the job he does – something which is beginning to kick back in after a period of long term illness, cancer and chemotherapy.

I wrote a long and heartfelt reply, telling him that I felt his moral dilemma ironically made him the best person I could have chosen for a no strings sexual partner because it showed me that he cared and felt responsible and didn’t take it lightly or for granted.
I told him that I completely understood that being single was the right thing for him at this point and that it was not my intention to deprive him of that choice. I also said it would be understandable if he’d met another woman and wanted to pursue a relationship with someone who had a completely uncomplicated life and lived much closer to him than I do. I asked him to respond just to let me know whether my thoughts were fair and accurate.

Seven hours later, despite having read my message, he still hadn’t replied. I checked his meet up group only to see that he’d disappeared, along with all his future events and old messages and replies he’d written were attributed only to “a former member”. I began to worry about him thinking that something drastic in his life must have happened – a return of the cancer? A family member ill or in trouble? Then, as I lay in bed turning it all over in my mind I began to think like a detective – to unravel any mystery you have to first list all potential reasons for any given outcome.

I checked back into meet up and tried a key word search on a name place local to my ex where he had previously arranged an event. Sure enough up popped a whole new group entirely organised by him with the same kind of events but also meals out, camping and beach trips. Looking at the time line it would appear that during the period in the day where he had texted my rejection message and I had quietly broken down at my desk and begun to agonise over the heartache of what felt like yet another dumping (that’s three so far) he was happily fiddling about online, devising fun trips and writing the blurb for his new events.

I then began to feel angry, used, kept in the dark. Bear in mind that I was also suffering raging PMT. I immediately fired off a message taking back my previous platitudes and told him I had begun to believe that this “strange place” he was in was nothing more than an excuse – that he seemed to be in a very happy place and had obviously decided that keeping a connection with me, even for free sex, wasn’t worth the hassle of feeling obligated in any way. I told him that for all his talk of friendship I didn’t believe he saw me that way after all and maybe every moment we ever spent together he was just killing time from one sexual encounter to the next. I told him I felt like a fucking idiot.
He replied very briefly asking me not to expect an immediate response as he was off to bed but assured me that I wasn’t actually a fucking idiot. I cried. A lot. It was midnight and I could hardly breathe. Needless to say it wasn’t a good night’s sleep.

The next day he finally responded telling me that he had found me to be “an attractive, fun and friendly girl (also extremely sexy)”. He told me that he had always found me attractive and that he had loved me. He said that he needed to figure out what he wanted from life and part of that process was to reset parts of his life to neutral and that included his relationship with me and that I shouldn’t take it personally.
He said “all I ask is that you give me space to  figure out my life and who knows, one day we may still be able to be friends.”

I felt upset. I refused to let him have the final word – wrapping things up to suit his own narrative – and sent off one last message. I told him that, whilst there is nothing wrong with the description “attractive, fun and friendly” there is so much more to me than that. I told him that I wish I could “reset to neutral” – like waving a magic wand and deleting certain people and events from your life – but that at my age, it was a bit too late in the day.

I told him that I didn’t believe he really wanted to have me as a friend now or ever. He just doesn’t seem to value me in that way. I wrapped it up by saying that as deeply hurt as I am right now, I hope he finds the happiness he’s looking for and if that happens to be with another partner he should be patient, accepting and willing to compromise and to give the next person a chance (the chance he never gave me).
I do not intend to contact him again. I have discovered all I need to know about him and “us” and it’s a hiding to nothing.

Now I wonder whether there is something about me (other than my offensive ex husband and hard work children!) that makes me an unsuitable partner for anyone – or at least anyone who I would find desirable. Am I too intelligent? Not intelligent enough? Too low brow? (I do watch a hell of a lot of dating shows). Or maybe I’m not interesting enough? Not driven enough? Not intriguing enough? Not fiery enough? Too independent? Not independent enough? What the hell do men want from a long term partner anyway?

 

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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.

Somebody stop me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

But since then…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheesh. Somebody give me a good talking to please.

Meeting up

It’s another child-free weekend. We’ve been having a ‘mini’ heatwave here in the UK for the last week and I’ve really enjoyed the feeling of summer, the blue skies, the sense of freedom that comes from being able to spend time outside. I’ve had some fun with the six year old – ‘playing’ tennis (AKA knocking balls around and having the odd rally which involved more than one misfired hit). I’ve also had a lot of grief from him but it was his last couple of days at school and I think tiredness played a big part, that and the slightly increased amount of time he has spent with his father lately who has no doubt been pinning the blame for all the woes of the world firmly on my shoulders.

Anyway, last weekend the boys were with him overnight on the Friday and all day Saturday. Friday night I met up with one of my oldest friends (who is single and child-free herself) and we went to dinner at the local branch of Jamie’s Italian. It was good to catch up – my mum and dad were away for the weekend so I was on my own apart from that.

On the Saturday morning it was sunny so I decided to take myself over the Thames and treat myself to Brunch which I think I’ve already mentioned in a previous post. It was fine to be on my own – not like I didn’t have the constant companionship of my phone and Kindle, but somehow the busy-ness of the place and the over-all social nature of brunch didn’t really quite work the same as taking yourself off to a coffee shop which has never ever bothered me. Being reliant on waiting staff to attend to you changes the equation as you can’t just up and leave when you get fed up!

This weekend the husband made a last minute request to have the kids overnight last night and all day today and tonight (Saturday). It is our youngest son’s birthday tomorrow and, mostly to please the husband, I have arranged a get together with all his family at a local country park where there are play areas and a café. I am going to go and meet them all there at 11.30am (picking my step-daughter up on the way over).

I have been trying to arrange a few things lately and one of those things was a blogger meet-up tonight. Whether it’s just really bad timing on my part (people do seem a lot busier during the summer holidays) or whether people just don’t buy into me as a group organiser (I can’t say I blame them – I’ve never had much luck in that arena) one by one every single invitee dropped out until I was back to the drawing board.

I’ve been looking at this website called meetup.com lately – it’s essentially a place where anyone can go and start up a social group centred around whatever it might be that they love doing – walking, yoga, speaking Spanish – whatever. I happened to notice that there was a very nice midsummer walk being organised for last night – all along the Thames to Richmond which is very nice and local to me. I monitored the situation to see who was popping up to RSVP – it seemed to be a good mixture of men and women – so I decided to bite the bullet and go along.

I have to say I was nervous. It was a bit like going on a blind date with 20 strangers. I also remember being part of the local Youth Hostel Association for a brief period back in my early 20s and observed at the time that that kind of group did seem to attract some oddballs and misfits who had probably had a hard time making friends through traditional methods. So yes, I did wonder if this would be the same kind of thing.

I nervously joined the group milling about at the designated meeting place, not really knowing who to talk to or what to say. Then another girl arrived and stood next to me and we got chatting straight away.

We ended up walking together all the way to Richmond and chatting together the whole way! We did talk to other people too at times and her and I also joined the group organiser and another guy for an al fresco pizza at the end of the evening but it was very lovely to come away from the evening feeling like I had not only done something very civilised and taken in the beautiful scenery of this little South West corner of London at it’s absolute best (a balmy, midsummer’s evening), but also now have a new friend too.

There is also the prospect of lots more opportunities – not just with this group but with any number of other groups, to be around friendly faces – other people who will be inclusive at a time when I might otherwise have been sitting alone feeling increasingly depressed and isolated.

After reading ‘The Pursuit of Happiness: and how it’s making us anxious’ by Ruth Whippman earlier this year, I am definitely more aware of the role community and feeling like a part of a social group contributes to happiness – more so than internal reflection and positive self-talk.

I’ve said before that I’m comfortable in my own company but there are definitely times when enough is enough I want to be around another human being! Having said that I know that I need to find the right balance right now. I could have gone on another, longer Surrey country walk today but I realised that I probably needed the time to sort out some stuff – present wrapping, party bags etc. as well as just some much needed down-time. I am going for dinner & drinks with another of my old friends tonight now (who is also single & child-free) and it’s a real benefit and luxury to have the time to re-connect  with people I’ve known for decades but not seen in a long time.

It’s been three weeks since my date and in a way I’m kind of glad that he wasn’t right for me – or didn’t even hit that borderline area where some boxes were being ticked and you could convince yourself that the grey areas could be ironed out in time. It’s too easy to waste a lot of time and energy on something that isn’t really right and in the meantime miss out on actually getting out and enjoying doing things you love and being your own person.

In other news, the husband is apparently bringing the new girlfriend and her 17 year old daughter to our son’s 4th birthday picnic tomorrow so that should be super awkward…