I bit the bullet

I’ve heard mixed ideas on the best thing to do after being dumped. I googled it (of course) which suggested being sad for four days maximum before never talking about it again because it upsets other people.

I ignored that one.

I’ve spoken to people who say to enjoy being single and to say yes to everything and to become more spontaneous. To use this as the opportunity to do what I never felt I could before.

But I felt I was quite fortunate in the relationship that we could – and did – do so much together.

Then there’s the people who’ve told me to jump straight back on the horse. To start dating again straight away, and maybe look at people I hadn’t before. Casual hookups. Short flings.

Definitely not doing that (right now).

I’ve done my happy medium. I downloaded a dating app and actually decided to apply myself to it. I’ve downloaded Bumble and I’ve reactivated my very short lived profile from eHarmony.

The beauty and the hardship of Bumble is that women have to make the first move. Two people can mutually ‘like’ each other, but only women can start a conversation. I felt that in signing up to dating apps so soon, I wanted some validation from real people that I still hold some appeal after someone I loved left me. The tricky thing when I have to make the first move is that requires impetus.

I have more of an attitude of ‘sod it’ right now. I feel like it would take somebody magical to really make me consider a relationship right now, because I know that most truly I’m not ready. This means that I can write to people in a more careless way, maybe flirt more than I would have done because I’m probably never going to meet them.

I’ve written cheesy things so far. ‘Strong glasses game’ to someone who is wearing glasses in their profile picture. ‘How much do you lift’ to somebody else who’s into Crossfit. ‘You have a genuine smile’ to someone who is… smiling.

It’s a bit like a game. I feel like I’ll probably delete the app soon, so unless anyone has been intoxicated by my stunning pick up lines of ‘your hair is very nice in your picture’, I’m not going to break any hearts when my profile suddenly disappears.

It’s also addictive. It’s very easy to swipe through pictures of people who don’t feel like real people and wait for the sweet little moment when the phone screen turns yellow and tells me somebody has ‘liked’ me too. It’s a little heady, and it’s given me the token of validation and shallow appreciation that I felt like I needed.

It’s nearly two weeks post break up. It definitely already hurts less, although I do still miss having that best friend figure to ask me about my day. I’d been quite caught up in trying to justify why the break up was a good thing for us both, that I’ve forced myself not to focus on the things I will miss about him. In thinking about a potential new relationship, I’d forgotten just what I liked about ours.

It was very much ours. The inside jokes. The way we would cuddle. The acceptance of spending time in the same room doing separate activities. The reliability of knowing he would pick me up from work sometimes. Or that if I lost my keys, he could come and let me in. The way he loved my cats. The relationship he had with my mother.

It’s just shit that he’s left me.

I’m not calling myself single yet

Yesterday after writing my blog post, I joined eHarmony and felt quite light and free about making an account. It felt like a step towards embracing possibility. It felt important and exciting to potentially meet somebody who would be my new somebody.

I chose pictures of myself to upload to my profile. This forced me to look at the pictures that I’ve taken in the year I’ve had this phone. I’ve avoided looking at my pictures because there are so many of us together, and it’s quite painful to look at pictures of us kissing a month ago.

So I looked at the pictures. I noticed that I haven’t taken any pictures of him in months, or of us together for a similar amount of time. I’m not a massive selfie fan, so the only pictures of me are ones that he has taken of me when we would have a day out.

This attached a lot of baggage to the whole profile picture thing. I chose three. One that was a rare selfie of mine. One from visiting Iceland together in February this year. One from visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour last year, also together.

Do I delete the photos? Within this new framework of aiming to be friends, I don’t really feel like I have to delete them and because our split hasn’t been acrimonious. We don’t hate each other, we’re just saying we don’t love each other anymore.

The profile pictures uploaded. I flicked through the potential matches I had and hesitated about actually paying the £30+ to subscribe to eHarmony and view people’s pictures. It suddenly felt more real when I considered the money. It felt more like a decision to pay and start talking to people. I had a little panic and deleted my account.

I realised that I don’t really consider myself single yet. Granted it’s only just about been a week, so it’s okay for this to not yet feel concrete and real. But if I were to say his name in conversation and somebody asked me who he is, I don’t think I could say ‘ex’ when he still feels like ‘boyfriend’.

That’s probably why I panicked at the dating website. It felt a little like cheating.

Well, that and the idea of dating anybody new is terrifying.

Do I want to date again?

I met up with him today. It was a source of anxiety, but at the practical level I needed to get my house keys back. On the emotional level I think I needed to see him to remind myself that we don’t hate each other, we’re still the same people and that maybe we could be friends.

But do I want to be friends? It’s been 8 days (8 days!) since the break up, and I have come to realise that no matter how sad or tearful I sometimes am, it’s not because I want him back. I wrote previously about the reasons that actually I have a sense of freedom and a burgeoning sense of excitement about one day finding somebody new.

Do I want to be friends? Do I miss him as a boyfriend or as a person? Do I just miss that sense of having somebody that was just mine and that knew everything about me?

I think that the very fact of having questions is the useful part of blogging. It’s really handy to write it out in slightly flowery language and try and figure out what I’m feeling.

So we saw each other. We had lunch. We chatted a bit about future plans for ourselves. He’s deferring his degree to focus on mental health, which is a massive and positive decision on his part. I’m waiting to see what is happening with my application to study a Master’s. He’s going to some events for his hobbies. I’m seeing friends on various places and hoping to make the most of this ridiculous British heatwave.

We split the bill in the restaurant. An echo of our first ever date. For the last five years, one or other of us has always paid the bill in full and swapped off for the next time. We got bubble tea which tasted horrible. Space Oddity was playing in the background and I sang along. He said the song would always remind him of me.

We said goodbye. We hugged and then both slightly ducked in for a kiss. We didn’t kiss, but there was a beat of tension when we realised what we had automatically begun to do. I made a joke about it. He laughed.

I pretended to laugh. I walked away and cried in my car.

I’m not a frequent crier, and I’ve forgotten how sometimes it feels like a release. I left the encounter feeling positive and lighter. I never once thought about wanting him back, or wondering if he cared or loved me. These were the things which I’d worried about, so it was nice to realise that although I was sad at the ending, I wasn’t sad that it had ended.

So this brings me to my question. Do I want to date again? As in, date again soon and now?

In seeing him, in a strange way it made me feel loved again. When I was a teenager, I never believed I would be loved, and just after he dumped me, I believed that he had never loved me. Seeing him showed me that although he broke up with me for our differences, there was a lot that he still liked about me.

To date again now would feel like searching for proof that I can be loved. It would feel like I was looking for validation, and there’s a part of me that would like to sign up to a dating website just to chat to strangers and feel that buzz of talking to new people. That might be all the validation I need at the moment.

It’s hard to pretend

He dumped me on Tuesday, and it’s currently the early hours of the morning on Monday. With my night shifts, the days and weeks often blur together, but especially this week, it’s hard to know where I am or quite how I feel or think. I spoke about getting back to work and how it felt positive to be my professional self and not to wallow. But I’m starting to wonder if I need more time just to reflect.

At work, people ask quickly if I’m okay, but they don’t want to hear more. Friends check in, but I’m very conscious that friends will have their own dramas. How long is appropriate to spend on your own feelings? How long is normal to ask for people’s support and genuinely expect them to care? Probably about ten minutes.

My friend came to the house today. He’s getting married in 18 days, and today I helped him write his wedding speech. I’m so happy for him, but it feels bittersweet, as we met our boyfriends at about the same time. He’s getting married, I’ve been dumped.

I don’t want everything to be all about me, that’s never been my personality. I’m introverted and introspective and I don’t often want people’s attentions or questions. But I think maybe this week (this year, this never-ending eternity) I’d quite like some attention.

My friend came to my house expecting to have to pick me up off the floor, and was very relieved that he didn’t have to. There’s a tiny kernel of bitterness in me that feels that neither he or anybody else would actually want to.

I’m hiding behind jokes, and the expansive and positive affirmation that ‘it’s ultimately for the best’. Fuck but it’s easy to divert attention if I say that loudly enough.

We texted today. Me, and the ex. I asked our mutual friend if it might be a good idea. She gave a terse ‘yes’ and hasn’t spoken to me since. Another thing to ponder anxiously in bed at 2am.

I unblocked his number (hello petty self) and messaged to arrange a meet up. We’ll meet on Wednesday, 8 days after the fact. I get a little obsessed with keeping track of the number of days, and I’m looking forward to when that will feel less relevant.

Messaging was horrible. He called me by name. ‘Hi Laura, good to hear from you’! I don’t think I’ve heard him call me Laura for about a year before this last two weeks. It’s always been pet names: ‘sweetheart’ and ‘baby’. The one that always made me feel fuzziest was ‘my love’. But now I’m just Laura.

I’m still the same person

He broke up with me on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I lounged around the house with my mother looking after me. On Thursday, I attempted to eat at a restaurant and promptly felt nauseous after every song in the background made me think of him. On Friday, I saw a light-hearted musical film and cried more than is appropriate. On Friday night, I prepared for my shift and now I’m here, on my break, eating crisps.

Crisps are an excellent thing to eat no matter what is going on in your life because crisps don’t ask you how you’re feeling.

On the Tuesday, I made a Facebook post about the breakup. It felt a bit strange to share something so intensely personal about 6 hours after it happened. But I couldn’t bear the thought that people at work would ask me about him and I would have to have the same awkward conversation about my heartbreak several times.

The upside of the Facebook post is that my wonderful, supportive, caring group of colleagues know and are treating me kindly accordingly. The downside is that for other people, this is a minor drama that they’re distantly aware of. It’s not impactful to them. It’s not important beyond the realms of quickly making sure I’m okay. This has forced the breakup to become normality, when for me, the thing that keeps gutting me is it’s new and longlasting strangeness.

I work in a team full of women. I can struggle and think of maybe a handful of single people, and one of those is because she is asexual and aromantic and has no desire to be in a couple with anybody. It’s hard to hear about people’s husbands and partners and boyfriends and girlfriends, when my best friend has left me. It’s tricky to hear stories about ‘aren’t men silly’ when my security blanket has decided not to be mine.

And I suppose that’s what this feels like. It feels like I’m exposed, and without that comfort of somebody who was ‘my person’ and dedicated to me. It really does feel like my security blanket is gone, because when you’re happily ensconced in a couple, there’s a certain amount of immunity from the bullshit that single people face.

In getting back to work, I’ve been forced to realise that I’m still the same person. I’m a health care worker, and my patients still need me and listen to me as ever before, because as far as they’re concerned, I am a concerned and available professional that’s there for them.

It feels strange to put on my uniform and put on my professionalism and embrace it like the facet of my personality that it is. It feels strange that I am changed and sad, when externally I look as I ever did before.

Ultimately, I take comfort in the fact that I can function. It’s good to know that I’m not useless just because he doesn’t love me anymore.

Parallels with death

My dad died ten years ago. I was 16, he was an alcoholic. To some degree it was expected, but in others it wasn’t. He was 54, and had only really become unwell in the last year of his life.

My dad was my mum’s first and only boyfriend. They met when she was 21, and they were together (sometimes happily, oftentimes not) until he died. My mum has made the decision not to date since my father’s death, and this is her decision to make.

In the year after his death, my mum struggled to listen to music. She loves music, and will spend hours trawling through YouTube to find her favorite motown hits.

(I’ve tried to teach her about Spotify, it doesn’t work)

Today, mum took me out for lunch and I struggled to listen to some of the ambient music in the shops. There are songs that remind me about the boyfriend, and songs that make me tearful because of their message. So today I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Michael Jackson, because that’s music that has always belonged to me and something that he never understood.

I don’t mean to belittle death. I don’t mean to belittle that ultimate loss and finality that death brings, and the knowledge that you’ll never see that person again. Sometimes that’s a palatable thing. Sometimes that’s acceptable, and it becomes part of your new reality.

Sometimes the death of a loved one never truly feels true, and it feels like they might return at any point. That maybe they were playing the worst practical joke. That they were a secret agent who’s been undercover and that they’ll come back soon.

I don’t quite know how the breakup is going to feel. I have a sense of finality, and as I wrote about previously, it feels like there will be positivity eventually. For the time being, I’m going to keep listening to Michael Jackson.

I’m less sad today

I woke up at 11am to my mother poking me and telling me she was going out shopping. I picked up my phone and I looked at rubbish and thought about my new reality as a single person, and just how strange and new that feels. I thought about the new freedom I have and how heady and terrifying that is. Then I had a wee and ate two apples (but not at the same time).

I’m not quite so sad today. I’ve watched my second Adam Sandler movie in two days and realised that his movies make me think about my dead father, which is a nice thing because it’s lovely to have little reminders of my dad every so often. Thinking of a parent’s death also puts a relationship break down into context, because neither of us have died and that’s pretty nice. I don’t even feel like someone has died today, so that’s also pretty nice.

Not quite so nice that my best friend has decided to leave me, but I think that’s okay.

Last night I downloaded Tinder and Match promptly freaked out. Over the last five years, I’m aware that the dating game has changed. I know that I’ve changed too, but it’s very different when you have the smiling pictures in dating profiles looking up at you at 1am.

I mentioned the headiness. It’s exhilarating to think of kissing somebody new, a faceless amorphous somebody who will hopefully not mind my chubbiness or my lack of willing to wax every piece of body hair I have.

He didn’t mind that, and it makes me sad (again) that he’s gone.

But, he was shorter than me, which is easy enough when you’re 5’9. And he didn’t earn much money, which worried a small and secret part of my mind that only comes out at night. He was white, and I am brown, which sometimes concerned me that he would never quite understand some parts of my history.

He was also kind to me, and he was talented. He showed me the delights of live music, and he introduced me to some friends who I hope I’ll be able to keep.

I deleted the dating apps. I’m not ready for somebody new, and I do want to grasp the freedom I have. I might well download them again in the future, but for now, I’ll try and enjoy the boundless possibilities in front of me.

The relationship by the numbers

We’d been together for five years and three months.

He is (was) my first boyfriend, which I know is strange when you’re 21 – to not have had a boyfriend before. Or a shag. Or a kiss. So yes, he was my first everything. I suppose he always will be my first everything, although that’s a weird and hard thing to think.

We were together for five years and three months. We met online, we have four dates. We kissed in front of a hen party, and I remember having to go to the loo and tell myself that it was okay to have my first ever kiss in front of seven drunk women. We kissed and we stayed in that pub for an hour and then I went home (alone) and we saw each other twelve hours later.

So fast forward five years. And holy shit, FIVE YEARS is such a long amount of time. In that time, I’ve started to advance in my career. I’ve passed my driving test. I’ve bought a house. I’ve adopted my two beautiful fur babies. I’ve done those things off my own back, and largely alone – but more on that later.

I come from a friend group of very settled down twenty-somethings. Everyone has been with their partners for several years since they met either at college or uni. Some are married or engaged. Some are happy, some aren’t. And when you’re also somewhere within that demographic, that’s a smugly wonderful place to be. When you’re not, that’s a shittily sad place to be.

So, to the dumping itself. Four months ago we had an argument in a public place and he decided he saw me differently. Three months ago, we had a blissful holiday to celebrate our five years together. Two weeks ago, we had an argument that changed everything. One week ago, we had a discussion and agreed to try again. Today he dumped me.

I’m not a particularly emotional person. I feel quite numb sometimes, and I only tend to cry in confrontational situations, or at films. This was neither of those, and holy fuck did I cry. I cried so much, and it was like the depth of that sadness just kept going. And like I couldn’t allow myself to breathe, because whenever I did the sobbing would start again.

It’s painful to cry, both physically and emotionally. I don’t know how to handle the lack of control I had, and the lack of ability to move from my position on the floor while he moved a picture of us away from my eye line.

It was a picture from a distractingly happy time.

He was kind. He hugged me, and kissed my forehead. Once of his own volition, and once because I leaned up to his lips, because that’s what I would always do when he was leaving. Normally when he would leave a restaurant table to go to the loo, this time because he was leaving my house for potentially the last time.

We don’t live together, and we never have. Is that a blessing? Is that a sign that maybe we weren’t a real couple within the framework our friends provide, because we haven’t taken so many of the steps they have?

I asked him to leave his keys. As he attempted to remove the two keys from his key chain, it became too unbearable. That finality, that gesture that he would no longer be able to independently access my home which is filled with little pieces of him and our relationship.

He left.

I texted seven friends. I waited seven minutes and called my mother who came within two hours.

But he’d still left.

I intend to write this blog daily. I want to chart what I do from here, and how I feel and what my next steps are. I want a record of who I am day to day, and where I am. I want to look back at this one day, either when I’ve found my someone perfect, or when I’m next dumped, and know that I could and did succeed.

Well fuck, now I just need to do that.