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.

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.