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.

Post date analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step away from the Comfort Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Why is it so difficult to take my own advice?

It’s Saturday evening. I’ve been solo parenting for two days now (yesterday was the last day of school holidays). I’ve taken them to a posh “play barn” and today an expensive “leisure pool” with lots of water slides which was actually better fun than I’d anticipated.

We had all been getting on great but then I had another difficult afternoon with my eldest who became really stroppy when I told him that we were going to the park so his little brother could play with his new ball (I got them both £3 plastic balls at the supermarket this morning).

He was out playing with the neighbourhood boys and actually getting into a bit of aggro along with his trouble-making friend. He threw a complete wobbly at the suggestion of going to the park until I stretched the truth and told him it would only be for five minutes.

All the time we were at the park he was moody and whingey and kept threatening to throw his brothers ball in the fishing pond. When we got home I let him go back out on the proviso that he would come in with no fuss when I said it was time. Of course that didn’t happen and another immense wobbler took place which involved all sorts of bad behaviour including planting grass cuttings in my bed and chucking one of my boots across the bedroom, narrowly avoiding smashing a mirror (not his intention but still). At that point I lost my cool completely and raged at him which at least got him to back down.

Anyway to cut a long story short he calmed and mellowed over the following couple of hours and has accepted that he is grounded after school on Monday.

I have been struggling with my feelings around the (ex) boyfriend again. We’re back on friendly terms and I know he was off today for a weekend of camping, fishing and general merriment with all three of his 20-something children, his best mate and his adult kids too.

Even though I never met his kids, don’t like the idea of fishing (ok, can’t think of anything more dull!) and am more of a fair weather camper (it’s April in the U.K. and 3 degrees Celsius later on tonight) the thought of him out there surrounded by friends and family, able to do all the things he loves with the people he loves best makes me feel a huge sense of sadness and loneliness.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge him that happiness but I feel excluded from this happy picture and I wonder if he was thinking about times like this when he chose to break up with me. Did he struggle to see me fitting in? Think I’d cramp his style or just fail to imagine it being my cup of tea or something that could be planned around my parenting schedule?

I’ve sneaky peaked his Facebook updates and pics of the event. That didn’t help. I texted him to ask if they were having fun. He asked me how my evening was going and I very nearly mentioned the struggle with my son but checked myself. I didn’t want to give him a reason to pat himself on the back for having the correct instinct to dump me and leave me to my parenting woes! He was probably right, who would actively invite that kind of a headache into their life?

I decided to just give a one word answer to his question “Great. X”. Obviously I’m not a very good liar because he then asked “is that a sarcastic ‘great’?” To which after some thought I responded “I’ve got strawberry lime cider and Line of Duty on the iPlayer later. Bit lonely but life could be worse – I’m not facing down a Japanese death squad #everycloud 😂”. He agreed, life could be a lot worse. I thanked him and wrapped it up telling him to enjoy his evening with his family.

I continued feeling weepy, lonely and royally shafted by my current situation – I love my kids and I love having a balance between time with them and time at work and time to myself but sometimes everything falls out of balance, everyone else in the world seems busy and unavailable and feelings of being hurt, rejected and excluded come surging forth.

I’m very much one for positive thinking, ( I love the wisdom in the quote “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”) and I want to be happy, I crave happiness. I also know that happiness is integrally linked to our expectations. There’s no actual “secret formula” to it, it’s a matter of adjusting your reality. I’m still an optimist but there’s something in the expression “expect the worst but hope for the best”. Also, if you write yourself into a story where only one possible outcome can make you feel happy or successful or fulfilled then you’ve just chucked all your eggs into one basket in a rather heavy handed way…

So maybe it’s time I start taking my own advice.

Searching for love in all the wrong places

So yesterday I decided to go ahead and meet up with the guy I’d been in touch with (Curvaceous Issues Guy – CiG). He phoned me again Sunday night and this time the call went on for three hours – again mostly with him talking non-stop. However on this phone call I got more of a sense of who he was rather than just his non-stop (frankly wacky) opinions about a range of things.

I found out that he has three daughters in their 20s each with children of their own. I asked about their mum at one point and he told me that she had died of cancer over 20 years ago.

I found out that his mum and dad split up when he was 8 and his mum bad-mouthed his dad so much over the years that he ended up disliking her.

We talked about my situation with the husband and he encouraged me to always put the children first and let them see their dad even if he leaves it to the last minute to ask.

I still knew that he wasn’t the one but I decided to meet up with him because sometimes you just crave that human connection and the novelty of going on a ‘date’.

When he approached me at the bar of the pub we’d agreed to meet at I had to do a double take because he looked nothing like his pictures. He actually looked about 15 years older than his main photo and ten years older than the one he’d put on to show his ‘ugly/hungover’ side.

I couldn’t help but consider the irony given his previous obsession with my appearance and just how honest I’d been with both photos and description. He was clearly very happy with the fact that I at least had given a truthful description of myself.

I’m almost embarrassed to say this but the date started at 2pm and didn’t end until 9.30pm (at his flat). That is mostly down to the fact that he just talked incessantly and there never really seemed to be a suitable point to end it. Come about 6pm I just cut in and told him that I was feeling hungry and would probably have to go. He seemed a bit annoyed that I hadn’t eaten lunch knowing that we were coming on a date. I told him I had eaten lunch of a bowl of soup and some yogurt at work at about 12.30pm (and obviously hadn’t realised that this date would go on for more than a couple of hours). He still seemed bemused by my desire to have an evening meal but I suggested we go somewhere – said I’d be happy with fish & chips and he offered to take me by the chippy near his home. I agreed – I just needed food.

When we got there he let me go in and buy my own food saying he’d just have some chips if there were any left over – apparently he had eaten a piece of fried bread and an egg for lunch and it was going to fuel him through to the following day (he has this dumb theory that essentially negates all received wisdom about how different food groups affect the body and swears by a sugar donut as the one thing that will fill you up and keep you full the longest. Go figure).

I found myself back at his place – the tiniest one bedroom flat with some tired looking furniture and a big flat screen TV. Again I’m not sure why I was OK with all this.

Earlier, at the pub, he had asked to kiss me and after letting him I felt like my teeth were clenched, I was shaking, I felt anxious. I told him about what had happened with the boyfriend recently and tears came to my eyes – I got quite emotional. He seemed compassionate and told me that there may have been a reason for the boyfriend to leave beyond what he had told me and that I would probably never know, but I should look on the four months we had together fondly as a lovely interlude in my life and then move on.

By 9.30 I realised that it was dark and late and I needed to go home (and have some peace and quiet). I’ve said it before but as an introvert its just so draining to be caught up in a social situation that you can’t get out of for hours on end. I felt so extremely tired but fortunately even he conceded that 7 hours was long enough for a first date and he drove me back to my car.

I was glad that I’d told him about the boyfriend and cried in front of him too because I knew that it gave me a plausible explanation to cut things off – it’s even true: I do need time to grieve; I do still burst into tears sometimes when I think about what I’ve lost; I am still so, so tempted to fire off a message and see whether I get anything back.

However it’s also true that I found some of the opinions CiG expressed to be anathema to my world view – his politics in particular. I didn’t find him physically attractive, and I felt he failed a bit at the ‘first date’ first hurdle by letting me buy the drinks and not offering to get my food for me (it was pretty cheap but it would have been a nice gesture).

His life and lifestyle seemed less than he’d portrayed – he spent a lot of time talking about various TV shows and documentaries that he watches and I think he must spend a fair bit of time vegging on the sofa watching ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here!’ and eating sugar donuts.

I told him I need time to get over the boyfriend and that I would be coming off the dating website in order to concentrate on being alone for a bit. I then went on the site and blocked him so I would become invisible. I have paid for another 3 and a half weeks on there and then I’m letting the subscription lapse.

Frankly it’s been a big disappointment – he is the only person who has replied to a message I’ve sent out (bar one sweet guy who had the decency to reply and let me know that he’s just started seeing someone else) and I’m not sure if people are put off by the thought of my kids (although I’ve only approached people who have kids of their own and come across as family types); or maybe they are already seeing someone, or they genuinely don’t fancy me. The point is I’ve sent messages only to people who have spent time crafting an interesting written profile and who have clearly got a fair bit in common with me so it feels that is pretty much it. Unless I want to trawl deeper and message people who live too far away, or who I don’t really fancy, what is the point?

I immediately start thinking about Meetup groups or some other way to meet someone but the point is life is too full right now – full of parenting, struggling with the co-parenting, work, catching up with friends and family, reading, watching movies and box-sets that I’ve missed, events I am booked in to attend, play dates, a bit of blogging and the occasional brainstorm about the book I will, one day, write.

I think that pursuing a relationship with anyone right now is just a daydream. I made the mistake of letting loneliness and the sense of rejection and plain desperation get the better of me before and I ended up spending ten years with the wrong man.

This is a time to re-group, consolidate what I’ve got and tackle any challenges head on without the need to keep relentlessly pursuing some kind of love interest. If it happens, it happens without me forcing the issue.

 

Having a wobble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To date or not to date…

So I did what I said I wouldn’t do and signed up to a dating site. I realise that I am probably inviting trouble back into my life but there is something in me that I can’t silence – this need for a partner – and it’s even stronger since experiencing (albeit briefly) life with someone who was probably the best partner I’ve ever had – kind, caring, generous, emotionally intelligent…

I’ve paid for a month (must remember to cancel subscription!) on this one site which seems to appeal to a more literate, liberal, culturally aware breed of person.

Unfortunately I think I might have just thrown £32 down the drain because only one of the 6 people I’ve messaged has responded.

On the plus side he ticks some boxes – he lives in the next town over, where I work; he’s four years older than me; he looks ok (as far as I can tell); he’s taller than me; he’s writing a novel and he is gainfully employed.

On the down side, having spent a while crafting a message that picked up on things he’d said in his profile and made the effort to get the balance right he eventually responded “hey, how’s you? :-)” which was a bit underwhelming but I forged ahead. It quickly transpired that he didn’t want to spend ages messaging and would rather speak on the phone. Fair enough. We exchanged numbers and I told him it would have to be after 9.30pm when both kids would finally be in bed asleep.

I also thought I might as well make use of the fact that my parents have got the kids Monday night and suggested that we meet up for a drink (particularly because the husband has me in limbo again with no listed dates for child contact going forwards). He agreed.

9.35pm and in came the call.

I’m sure everyone has this little fantasy in their head when someone with an ounce of potential comes on the scene: this could be the one; wouldn’t it be wonderful if this was the last date I ever had to have? You allow yourself this sliver of hope.

As soon as I heard him speak I knew that he wasn’t the one. Almost the first thing he said to me was something deep about how we’re living in an age where no one really expects to have a relationship for life and we’ll probably all just keep moving on. Bear in mind that his profile specifies that his potential partner/date should believe in “real fairytales” I have to wonder WTF is that if not a lasting relationship (with a real person, flaws and all)?

He then proceeded to talk at me for the following TWO hours 😳 during which I barely got a word in edgewise.

At one point, having prompted him a couple of times with questions about himself based on some stuff from his date profile he implied that I was a bit of a stalker to have read and remembered those things! I said isn’t that the point, that we use that information as an icebreaker and suggested that I was waiting for him to ask *me* a question.

For a minute I breathed a sigh of relief as he informed me that he had indeed picked up on something I’d written about myself. He wanted to know just exactly what I meant by describing myself as “curvaceous”. I immediately responded “hourglass” but it was no good he wanted a detailed discussion (one sided) about the ambiguity of the word “curvaceous” (which I might add, was something I got from a dropdown box). Apparently women who are maybe a bit “obese” sometimes use this word to put a positive spin on things. I pointed out that he had seen a photo of me looking relatively slim and fit but he wasn’t convinced that it was a recent picture. I assured him that it was taken just three weeks before.

In the end I had to talk him through my exact dress size only stopping shy of giving him my bra size! FFS!

It got to 11.45pm and I finally managed to break his flow gently suggesting that I may need to get some sleep before the kids jumped all over me in just over 6 hours time. He conceded and we had a brief discussion on where and when we would meet on Monday. It turns out the best option for him is for me to roll out of work at 1.30pm and meet in town then as he works from home and later on wasn’t really convenient.

Honestly it did occur to me that I could’ve spent last night watching 2 episodes of Walking Dead and perhaps my childfree time on Monday evening would be better spent doing something I actually enjoy because I can almost guarantee that this will not be one of those dates where you walk away with that buzz of satisfaction having met up with a kindred spirit. Who knows, we might have sexual chemistry and there might be that but is it worth it?

I did explain my situation with the kids and the “high conflict” ex and a recent relationship which didn’t work out so in theory I could just turn around and say I’ve decided I’m not ready for all this, but then it would be awkward if he saw that my little green light on the dating site was activated. What a minefield!

To be fair it’s probably for the best that it’s not working out because I had told myself that I need to give it a year, or at least 6 months, or at least until the divorce was finalised before putting myself out there because otherwise I would only be short changing any potential suitors (haha now I feel like a princess using the word “suitors”).

On the upside it is one helluva distraction/moving on tactic to get over the boyfriend/recent dumping.

Send wine, send help, send love…

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!