Not so easy

It’s been about two weeks since I had the first date that I thought was successful, and four days since we last spoke. There still exists a little glimmer of hope within me that this dude will message again, but as time goes on, I think I just need to come to peace with the fact that I was used for sex.

That sounds so dramatic. It was completely consensual and fun. It was a choice and it was enjoyable. In a lot of ways, I like the fact that I’ve now slept with more than one person in my life (wow, 3!) because there’s less mystique around the whole concept.

I don’t like the fact that he was less chatty after we slept together. I don’t like the fact that it felt like it could have gone somewhere. I don’t like the fact that I feel easy and guilty and I’m still checking my WhatsApp – just in case he might have messaged and I didn’t see it.

My relationship with my ex boyfriend started in such a linear way, so I think I’ve expected any subsequent relationship to be easy as well. With the ex, we had four dates before we kissed. He asked me to be his girlfriend a week later. We slept together after. We were together for five years. Granted, we didn’t do the whole ‘marriage and babies’ thing. But the beginning at least was very straightforward.

So I think this has skewed me. I’d never had to do the serial dates and the little disappointments and the mini heartbreaks.

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s been less than a year since I was dumped. I don’t need to find my next person so swiftly. I can enjoy this stage or dating and meeting lots of people. I can enjoy the sleeping with people. (If only I could get rid of this stupid guilt).

A friend at work said that she likes this feeling. She likes the uncertainty that occurs before the mundanity sets in.

But maybe I’m just a mundane person.

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?

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.

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.

It’s been four weeks

It’s been four weeks since he dumped me, and as strange as that is, I know it’s going to be okay.

He came over today. He gave me some clothes that have been at his house for years. I gave him a mug and a sex toy, which I feel accurately sums us up. It was meant to be a flying visit, maybe a quick cup of tea. He stayed for three hours and we ate lunch.

It’s still hard to traverse the new boundaries that we have. We hugged a few times. He held out his hand to hold mine when we went into the garden briefly. I squeezed a spot on his face (which was a normal thing we did – this isn’t a new post break up thing). There were differences in it – we sat further apart, we called each other ‘mate’. It was familiar but different.

He had wanted to give me photos of me that he had. We spent some time looking through them, including the ones from our five-year anniversary trip which was only four months ago. Four months ago we were happy in Denmark, and now we’re a bit sad in England.

It as good to see that he was sad too. I’d been searching for validation in new people on dating sites, but I think that the best validation was in knowing that he finds this hard too.

So we looked at photos.

We dated from the age of 21 to 26, so some of the old ones stored on my phone feel very old. We look younger (and thinner) and different, and it was important to see the happy memories and think on days neither of use had thought about for a long time.

I sent him a lot of photos of him that I had taken. He wanted some of the two of us – the cheesy couples selfies I’ve curated over the years. Again, it felt good to know that he wanted to see these and keep them.

Maybe he’ll delete them one day when this isn’t all so new and we’ve found other people to take new coupley pictures with. But it’s good to know that we are important to each other.

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.