Using and used. Chasing and chased.

I’m embarrassing myself.

I hate feeling needy, or like I need someone else for validation. I don’t want to depend on someone else’s words or actions to make me feel better, or pretty, or interesting.

So I had the successful date nearly a week ago. It’s mad that it’s already nearly a week ago, and it’s gone so quickly. We saw each other on the Friday, slept together on the Saturday, and have had boring surface level conversations since Sunday.

I was sad about this. I was telling friends about how I felt sad, and how it was upsetting me that the content of his messages had changed. It had moved from ‘Hey beautiful :)’ to ‘Hello, how’s work?’

God, even writing that down I feel petty. I feel embarrassed. I feel petty and embarrassed that I care what someone who, ultimately, I’ve met twice thinks about me. Or how he makes me feel. I’ve told friends about this. The advice varies from ‘just sleep with a lot of people’ to ‘this probably means you’re soulmates, keep messaging him’.

I feel a subtle shift in the content of his messages, and I don’t like that. There’s only so many times I can ask to meet again, or to try and be funny and engaging with little response before I think maybe this isn’t it.

I still have this guilt about having slept with two new people. I firmly believe that if a friend told me she’d slept with half of the world’s population, I wouldn’t judge her. But because it’s me, I feel like I’m being slutty or wrong. There’s also a part of me that feels used, because that’s now two men who’ve slept with me and then been cold in further messages.

But, if to some degree I was using them for validation, or attention, or sex, does it matter that they’re using me too? Do I care that I’m an adult having short, adult, casual relationships following the end of a long term relationship?

I think the issue remains that I’m stuck in the mode of long term relationships. I’m used to having someone to message and care about. Someone who wants my attention, and will provide me with some validation.

So maybe I do need to sleep with a lot of people. Maybe I need to break this current mindset.

Or maybe I just need to find one long term partner and live happily ever after.

Watch this space.

Dating

I’ve had a lovely date tonight. With a different man to ‘the fling’.

It’s currently half past midnight, we spent nearly six hours together. We ate dinner – he educated me on sushi – and then we got drunk together at a bar. We each went to our separate homes.

He was flirty from the first Tinder message, but my brand of flirty. A littlr but awkward, but still forthcoming. A little bit nerdy, but still with clear intentions.

He touched my hand. He touched my arm. He guided me by the waist. I’m not generally a fan of these paternalistic, flirty manoeuvres. But this was pleasant. It’s nice to feel wanted and dainty and attractive.

He’s coming over tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.

Responsibility and friendship

I think the brief fling is over. I think it probably was a fling in the truest sense of the term because it is over.

I had a little spate of checking to see if he’d messaged me on WhatsApp. I had muted the notifications from him because I thought that it meant I’d have less anxiety about each time the WhatsApp icon popped up. In truth, it meant that I was checking the app all the time to see if there were messages I was missing.

So I had my little obsessive phase. A little blink of time where I thought about him and what it would be like to be together and what it would be like to kiss him again when he’s back in the country. But now that’s gone, and genuinely that’s pretty okay.

(This may have been helped along by the event of me trying to show his profile on Tinder to a friend and realising that his new profile information was asking for kinky kinky sex in the city he’s in.) (Which isn’t something for me, but I don’t mind that it is for him.)

So the journey of post break up continues. It’s not sad anymore, and having a fling has proved to me that I’m capable of touching another person. I might have a date coming up which is always a little exciting.

There’s always going to be that little tie to my ex. My first everything. Someone I think of as a friend, even if friendship right now means sending each other memes on Instagram.

The other day we were chatting about how his band is probably going to break up. He was sad about it and feeling quite defeatist, and then he mentioned that it was karma. Having spent five years with this man, I knew that this was something I was supposed to explore with him.

I briefly thought about responsibility. Is it my responsibility to cheer him up and give pep talks when he’s feeling so down, now? But then, if we’ve made this dedication to friendship, I think it still is. I just won’t give him a snog afterwards.

So. Karma. He tells me it’s karma for how bad he made me feel when he dumped me. Something he feels guilty about ‘at least once a week’. I phoned him – it’s very hard to have an emotional chat through text.

We chatted. I told him how the break up was necessary. How we weren’t perfect for a long time. Things that I’ve thought and written about here, but finally finally got the chance to actually say. I told him how he shouldn’t feel bad for being the one to end things. How I appreciated that on that day, he stayed with me until I asked him to leave. How I appreciated that he kissed me on the forehead. That I was looking to the future a short time later, because it was right to break up.

I got to tell him something that pissed me off about the break up. The one thing he said that’s always gotten under my skin. He didn’t apologise, but that’s okay – I said it. I let out this irritating little bug that’s been sat in my brain for nearly a year, and it was so cathartic.

He told me he was proud of us for being friends. And truthfully, so am I.

Loved

As much as there’s a big part of me that believes my ex boyfriend was never truly ‘in love’ with me, I know that he did love me.

Let me explain what I mean.

To me, ‘in love’ means that you’re intoxicated by a person. You think they’re wonderful and brilliant and exciting, and you’re blinded to their imperfections. You think they’re devastatingly attractive. The sun shines out of their arse. ‘Love’, by comparison, I see as accepting someone for who they are, acknowledging the things about them that aren’t perfect, but caring for them anyway. I think other people think of this as ‘lust vs love’, or ‘the honeymoon period’.

I loved him, and was in love with him. It’s only now with some time and distance, that I can see some of the sacrifices and compromises I made. While those aren’t bad things, I’m appreciative now that I don’t have to make those same sacrifices and compromises.

But I don’t think he was ever in love with me.

And maybe that’s my insecurities, maybe that’s not a realistic way for anyone to ever view another person. Maybe that feeling is only ever short term – ephemeral and therefore beautiful and prized. Maybe, just maybe, he was.

He did love me. He wanted to be near me. He liked to hold my hand. He was willing to drive to see me, and bring me food. He made me music. He trusted me to listen to his deepest feelings, and actively wanted to hear mine.

This short term, casual, friends with benefits, fuck buddy situation I currently have throws my previous relationship into stark relief. As much as I enjoy the fun of this physical relationship, I do miss the feeling of being loved. It’s exciting to feel sexy and physically wanted, but this weekend I’ve felt the heaviness of not having that best friend that I used to have.

What would have been our sixth anniversary is coming up. It feels like a big deal, and it is strange not to have planned something to mark it as I had done the last few years of my life. I think that when that has passed, the date will have less significance to me and I should hopefully feel a lot lighter.

The most important thing is that I don’t miss him (although I do continue to feel that he’s a good person, and I’m glad he’s still somewhat in my life). I miss feeling loved.

Second firsts

I met somebody on Tinder. It was never going to be a long lasting thing, but it was brilliant to have some new firsts, especially as what would have been my sixth anniversary approaches.

So.

My friend has developed a habit of swiping for me on dating apps. She’s married, and met her husband before the advent of dating apps, so it’s all a big novelty to her.

I can understand why: there’s so much weird humanity on display on Tinder. You get to view these strange little conceptions that people have made of themselves, and briefly you imagine a life with this person. You can think about what it would be like to be with a man who has a child already. Could I be a stepmother? Or a man who’s very into the gym. Would he make me more active? A woman who sings in a choir. Would she inspire my creativity? Of course there are terrible people, but there’s a little bit of the romantic in me that likes to imagine the many different lives that splinter into the horizon.

So.

My friend was swiping. She saw this man, and swiped right on him. And several others. She’s fairly indiscriminate. He and I start talking. It becomes flirty. He comes to my house one evening. That was a first for me.

But everything else that followed were second firsts. It’s exhilarating to know that someone fancied me, but also that I fancied someone. It’s exciting to kiss somebody different and notice the different feelings and emotions and sensations. It’s hilarious to have a hickey at the age of 27 and have people take the piss out of me at work.

So.

I relished the newness. I knew it would never be a long term thing. He has big grand life plans that take him far away from my brand of a quiet life in England. But again, that splintering of an alternate life was glimmering in the horizon, and I did think about following him to different countries, learning new languages and being more adventurous. Realistically, though, it’s not to be.

That first day, it revolutionised my thinking. I was so blown away that I could meet someone casually, and that it’s easy and fun and positive. It made me realise that I am an adult who can make adult decisions, and there could be more for me out there than falling into a long term monogamous relationship and firing out some babies.

Today we were talking and flirting all day. Nothing came of it, but I did ask about meeting again. To which he revealed that he’s out of the country as of Saturday.

I’d been discussing with my friends about the casual aspect of this encounter. It is great to have no commitment. I liked the way that I knew it was going to be a limited time. But I’d imagined the limited time would be a few months away and not two days away.

I’m feeling sad, presently. And I’d been so pleased with myself about all of those independent thoughts. So now to realise that maybe I liked him (or the way he made me feel) more than I’d thought is deflating.

So.

Has this been a good experience? I’ve proved to myself that I can have a different type of relationship or encounter that I’d thought. I’ve had it proved to me that I can be thought of as sexy or attractive by someone who isn’t my ex. I can have physical experiences I haven’t had for a long time.

The thing that’s troubling me is have I been used?

Or, actually, have I used someone else?

The thrill of the chased

Just after the breakup, I wrote about the ego boost of being fancied by strangers on the Internet. It’s a buzz; to know someone finds you attractive, to receive compliments, to think there might be a new relationship. But in those early days, I was just using it as a crutch. I recognise this is wrong, but those fleeting messages with strangers never got any further than one or two days worth of empty platitudes and small talk.

But now as times moves on and the prospect of a real new relationship feels more enticing, I think I’ve come to realise that I’m one of those wankers who likes to be chased.

The story so far: I went on two dates with a man. I enjoyed his company, but maybe wasn’t ready to date and maybe didn’t find him attractive. I said ‘thanks but no thanks’. A month later, after a very boring first date with a different man I contacted the first man, realising that the first man was probably actually pretty cool. We talked. We met up. We continue to text.

Before my ‘no thank you’, we were texting all day every day, sometimes to the point of boredom. After my attempt to rekindle, we speak less often and in lower volume. Intellectually, I can recognise that this is great – it’s less intense, gives more space, and it means that any conversations are more interesting because we’re skipping the minutiae.

But! And this is the crucial bit. I liked that there was someone who wanted to message me all the time. Someone to ask me about every little aspect of my day. Of course I reciprocated, and that’s quite fun too! Having a person who wants to involve me in their life.

So now that there’s fewer messages , I feel less wanted. I make more effort to start conversation and to try and be more sparkling or interesting or knowledgeable. It makes each interaction feel more charged. Not necessarily sexually, just that there’s more pressure to fit all the personality into a handful of texts rather than a day’s worth.

I’m also conscious that I feel more attracted to him, and I’m thinking more about kissing him.

Is this shallow? Am I being horrible for making more effort only when I felt like he was cooling off? Is this a technique on his part, kinda like playing hard to get? Is this just a natural response to me saying ‘no thank you’ before, because I initially rejected him?

Am I analysing too much? (Again.)

The proof will be in the pudding. I’m seeing him on Saturday. It’ll be our fourth time of meeting. Let’s see what happens.

Attraction is difficult

I only started to have sexual feelings after I’d first had sex. It wasn’t as if I’d never been curious, or that I didn’t want to have sex. But I don’t think I understood sexual attraction until I’d actually lost my virginity and started to think about what I might like and want.

The first time I had sex was with my ex boyfriend. We’d known each other for a month. He was the first person I’d kissed or touched or had a date with. He’d had a couple of short relationships before me, but he was no lothario. We were both 21. Because I was 21, I felt emotionally ready to have sex, so my first time will always be something I remember fondly – not with any pain, or worry, or sense of coercion.

We were together for five years and we were monogamous (I don’t think polyamory is for me!) so he’s still the only person I’ve ever kissed or had sex with. I used to have a lot of worry about that fact, but it’s nothing shameful or weird, it’s just a fact of me.

So it was only after I’d had sex that I could picture what it would be to have sex with a person. So in the idle crushes I’d get, I could understand what sexual attraction was. My ex and I would talk about crushes we had – I still think of this as healthy, because it meant that we were honest about our feelings. And because the crushes were always transient, it meant that we could appreciate what we were to each other.

Obviously it wasn’t perfect because be dumped me. But that’s not the point I’m making.

In this post-dumping wasteland (is it a wasteland? Is it just my same life, now without a boyfriend?) when I’m starting to think about new people, I’m unsure if I’m supposed to feel sexual attraction to a person I go on a date with.

When I met the ex, I can vividly remember how on our fourth date I felt this urge of wanting to kiss him for the first time. So when we finally did kiss, it was lovely and powerful (and public). When we first had sex, it was spur of the moment, and again I have a vivid memory of ‘fuck it, why not?’ So when I’ve been on this small handful of dates, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel that rush as with a lusty crush, or if it’ll creep up on me and I’ll know when the situation arises.

This isn’t hypothetical. I’ve not met up with a man three times and he’s hilarious and intriguing. As in, quick witted, same sense of humour, interesting, varied, layered, quirky. And a handful of other adjectives that are positive. But I don’t have a surge of sexual attraction. Can that build with time? Should I not pursue this because it’s not there right now?

The difficult thing with this is that there’s not answer. I realise that I’m fairly scared of either being rejected or having to reject someone, so the prospect of not having an easy and obvious route is annoying.

Until then, I suppose I’ll just enjoy having someone to laugh out loud with.

Hesitant to talk

I feel quite insular. I think I’ve concluded that over December and into the New Year, I probably did have a bout of depression. It’s something that I’m annoyed about, but I don’t think there’s inherent harm in recognising it or acknowledging it.

Looking back, it was recognisable by lethargy. I just wanted to be alone in my house, sitting very still and aimlessly scrolling through social media. That behaviour alone isn’t new for me. But the willingness to do it for days and days on end was a bit of a problem.

Work was hard, speaking to family and friends was hard. I didn’t want to go to the gym and work with my personal trainer. I just wanted to be alone.

This isn’t directly related to being dumped. I think I was suffering from the forced introspection of the end of the year. I can’t say that I had a bad year because I’ve achieved some good things. It’s just it wasn’t the greatest year of my life.

So I was hesitant to talk to my family and friends, partly because of apathy and partly because I didn’t know what to say. I was hesitant to talk to randomers on dating apps, because if I wasn’t feeling sparkling and sexy, what could I offer to prospective new partners?

I could have talked to the ex, although there are long standing feelings of weirdness around how much is normal to discuss with him. Turns out he has similar issues, so I feel like we need to talk about how much we want to talk to each other. But then we’d have to talk, and how can we talk if we’re hesitant to talk? What a stupid cycle.

Saying no and being picky

So I’ve been on a date. There was a little bit of ‘it’s not him’, but mainly a lot of ‘I don’t think I find you attractive’. He was a brilliant person, bright and funny and friendly. But just not for me.

We had a second date. Bright and funny and friendly. But I was able to say no thank you – politely, kindly, succinctly.

It was revolutionary. I don’t often say no to anybody. With the ex, he was my first ever date and then we were together for five years. In being the dumpee, I had no power in the breakup. Looking back, I had more concerns than I’d ever even articulated to myself. But by being dumped, I wasn’t able to process that. I was only able to feel grief.

So I said no thank you to this lovely man. It was the right decision, but with predictable anxiety, I’ve managed to stress over the decision in the weeks following.

It’s good to know that these things can be amicable. I have a baseline fear of being spoken to rudely or angrily, and I was so grateful that he took my decision with grace. I think I’ll need to unpick at a later time why I might be so scared of being shouted at.

The Internet dating continues. Lots of people are a bit weird. But then again, so am I.

Fun, flirty and under thirty

I’ve rejoined Tinder. It was on the insistence of a friend, so over some fried chicken, we made a profile for me.

The pictures look good. I think I’ve gotten the correct mixture of insouciance with some genuine information about me thrown in there. I tend to refuse to put down my job, because I feel like working in healthcare, it’s important to keep a professional appearance in all public spaces if I have my job title attached to me.

Some observations: lots of couples looking for threesomes. Lots of kinky people who use their kink as their entire profile. Lots of people who use ‘gym’ as their only hobby in life.

Some surprises: no genital pictures! Only one overt reference to someone wanting to have sex with me. Lots of people who are happy just to have a chat. No women who are matching back with me… Unsure what to feel about that last one.

This is the longest since the breakup that I’ve stayed on a dating app, so I suppose it shows I’m a little bit more ready. One man did ask me what I wanted, and I answered (with surprising honesty) that I wanted some flirtiness and some dates. That’s quite nice, really. To be ready for the idea of just hanging out with people and seeing where it might lead.

A friend came to visit today. She’s been in a relationship with her boyfriend for a few years, and they’re a little bit patchy at the moment. It’s been good to talk to someone about some of the shitty feelings that can crop up, even though we’re in different situations.

We went to see a fireworks display. I adore fireworks, and the ex used to love watching me love fireworks. It’s a time when I’d feel genuinely loved by him. I’d catch him watching me with a dopey smile, and it’s sad that I’ll never see him look at me like that again.

So I watched the fireworks feeling a little bit heartbroken. But then went to a shop and bought alcohol and chocolate with my two friends. We came home and watched a terrible Christmas movie (because November=Christmas apparently), and I was reminded that even if I’m not loved by him, I am loved.