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.

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.

An advert for Bournemouth

I was in Bournemouth yesterday. It’s a place where we went when we were first dating. I remember pretty vividly (we would have only been a few months in) he knelt down to tie his shoelaces and made a joke that he wasn’t proposing to me. Then, I probably would have followed him to the moon if he’d asked, so it was a little bit of a stab, but it didn’t matter. We went to the oceanarium and saw otters, which is probably the best part of that memory. We played mini golf and I let him win because he complained that he was doing so poorly.

We were in Bournemouth on his 24th birthday. We walked up and down a pier and he talked about how it wasn’t his best birthday ever. We went to a music shop and I offered to buy him a piece of new equipment. He couldn’t choose anything, but we left the shop hand in hand and felt like we had a pleasant enough day.

We were in Bournemouth for his 26th birthday this year. We ate lunch in a restaurant which overlooked the sea. He didn’t enjoy his food much, but had a couple of pieces of my fish and chips. We went to the amusement arcade, and I wonder if I’ll ever go to an amusement arcade without thinking of him.

In writing all of this down, it sounds like I don’t have particularly fond memories of him and Bournemouth, but I do. It feels like he’s all over that place.

I’ve been several other times. Once for a particularly boring hen do, once for an afternoon tea with two friends. Yesterday I was there for a comedy show. I like the aviary that’s in the public gardens. I like the seafront. I like the cat cafe in Bournemouth, and its policy of hiring staff from diverse backgrounds.

But I was still thinking of him a lot. Which is shit, because I’m so much less sad about him, to the point where the sadness feels unfamiliar and intrusive, rather than my default.

I’m supposed to be seeing him in two days (not in Bournemouth). We had a short text conversation about an hour ago and arranged a time to meet up. I’m wondering just now, however, what I want to get out of seeing him.

On the one hand, he’s probably the only person in the world who would understand why I feel sad. He has all of those memories too, and probably has even more that I can’t think of. He’s recently been to Amsterdam, so it would be pretty cool to hear about his trip there. I could tell him about this comedy gig I saw, and about how much my mother’s been irritating me.

But then there’s the question of what I get out of this. Why do I need to see him and have these conversations, when really all I’ll feel is a sense of missing him and a big question mark over why we needed to break up.

I could ask him some things about the break up, some of the things he said. Would that give me closure? I could ask him if he ever wanted to move in with me and build a life, but I think I probably know the answer to that one.

So now, at almost midnight on a night before a 13-hour shift, I feel like I want to enter into a goodbye text conversation.

I want to tell him that I loved him, and that I’ll always be fond of him. I would tell him that I genuinely hope he has success in his music and his career. I would tell him that despite how petty I sometimes feel, I want him to meet a person who completed him in a way I never could.

And then I would want to tell him we shouldn’t meet up any more. It doesn’t give us anything, and they’re occasions that are platitudes as a shadow of when we would talk about the world.

But I can’t do that over text at midnight. So maybe I’ll have to tell him at lunch on Sunday.

Feeling like I need someone

So my grandmother is ill. She has been for a while. My whole life, she’s had heart issues, diabetes and a whole host of other things that have made her life hard. More recently, she’s suffering from dementia and Alzheimers, and it’s these that people are finding hardest to cope with.

I don’t live in the same city as her, but I try to call and visit when my stupid shift pattern allows. My mum, her eldest daughter, lives closer and so tries to visit and stay for a few days every couple of weeks.

I’ve just gotten off the phone with them. My uncle is shouting at my grandmother for crying in pain. My mother is shouting at him, but also telling me that my grandmother has been crying all day so this isn’t new. I spoke to my grandmother – she’s trying to sound brave but she’s sobbing.

I can’t go up there as I don’t have the time, and I’m not safe to drive at the moment as I’m knackered after night shifts.

I’m so sad for my grandmother, and angry at her children for shouting at her when she needs patience, no matter how trying that is.

I’m pissed off at myself, because all I want to do is phone my ex-boyfriend and tell him all about it, and listen to him help me with solutions.

Although I love where I live, and the life and job that I have, I can very keenly feel the distance between me and my family and friends right now.

Assigning meaning to things

When I was a child, a family member died. My grandfather had died when I was 5, but I think I was too young to take that in fully and appreciate the meaning.

When I was 8 or 9, my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband died. (The Scottish side of my family were all very close). He’d been ill for a while, not that I knew that at the time. My parents and I had visited their house several times, and I can still clearly remember the big picture window they had in their living room that looked over a beautiful part of the North of Scotland.

Because I was a little older, I understood the reality and finality of death a little bit better. Although my parents weren’t religious, I attended a school run by the Church of England which to this day still gives me a complicated relationship with God and religion.

Long story short, I used to pray to a string of dust that hung from the ceiling. It’s ridiculous to type that out, and I’m sure it’s a ridiculous thing to read.

I was scared to go to sleep. I’d have little panic attacks nightly about death. When the lights turned off, the glow of the streetlights outside would catch this string of dust. The string used to move, and as I was a child, I couldn’t conceive of why it would move if God wasn’t the one moving it.

So I’d pray to the string as a conduit for God. I’d ask Him to look after my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband. And, later, when my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister, and my grandmother’s brother died, I’d pray that He’d make sure they were happy too.

I’m quite firmly agnostic now, as much as anyone can be ‘firmly’ agnostic. I look back on the string of dust and wonder why I ever cared so much or ascribed so much meaning to it.

I don’t mean to trivialise these thoughts on death and religion, but thinking on this made me think about how I assign a lot of meaning to small actions of others. Even more so within the context of the breakup.

It’s been seven weeks now. We saw each other two weeks ago and I read into every action of his. That means he’s sad about the breakup, this means he misses me. Maybe he said it like that because he knows that will make me miss him more. Maybe he still loves me.

I’m starting to accept the finality. A few people at work asked about whether he and I would get back together. That knowledge and belief from an external person gave me some feeling that it could happen, but I’m starting to see the reality that it probably won’t.

Am I sad? I’m still trying to navigate this. The freedom and the opportunity are still tickling at me.

I went to a wedding

It’s been nearly four weeks. Where did that go? How has it been four weeks since he loved me?

How melodramatic.

It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. I remember in the early days of our relationship, I used to count every day and week. Our anniversary was April 19th, so on the 19th of every month for at least two years, I was so excited that we’d reached another milestone. Now I’m counting that time in a different direction.

It does feel easier. I don’t often have that same pit of dread when I think of him, and I can make jokes more easily about our relationship and the natural imperfections that we had (that everyone has).

I can’t contemplate the reality of dating somebody. It would be nice to jump straight back to when he loved me and to enjoy the things we enjoyed, but I can’t think of anybody else touching me or kissing me. Or even talking to me – but let’s ignore my little piece of introversion.

I’ve deleted the latest dating app that I has downloaded. It started to feel so pointless, and I did start to feel like I was leading people on with my online presence and my unwillingness to reply. These are people who want to be with somebody, and all I could focus on were the minute grammar errors to use as proof that they weren’t worthy of my time. So it also started to feel like I was being a dick.

I went to a wedding yesterday. My friend of 8 years was marrying his partner of 6 years (fiancé of 2 years). I went along with my friend of 5 years to replace the boyfriend of 5 years who decided he didn’t love me anymore.

(I can’t stop saying that phrase, is that a problem? Do I have an issue?)

It was a lovely day. The ceremony was lovely and I cried. The speeches were lovely and I laughed. The music was shit, which it always is with any random DJ that someone hires for the best day of their life. I felt happy for my friend – never jealous (which I was relieved about, because that would’ve been another dickish thing about me this week).

So, this shit DJ. He played a lot of breakup music. Weird thing to do at a wedding anyway, but in that golden alcohol haze after a bit too much gin, it felt like every song was directed at me.

The sad breakup songs became poignant. The triumphant breakup songs were too much. The songs about loving yourself after a breakup were annoying, because I don’t right now.

Then he played Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. It’s strange and catchy and it was everywhere for one summer five years ago, so it became our song. We had talked about Daft Punk when messaging on Match. We listened to Get Lucky and complained about how it was following us. He learned to play Get Lucky on guitar at a guitar camp he went to that was our first trip away together. It was our song.

I looked around at all of the couples on the dance floor. There were so many happy, comfortable people who just seemed to enjoy each other’s company. I looked at my friend, and despite how much I love her (platonically) and think she’s brilliant, she’ll never be someone who is just for me like he used to be. I started to cry, slowly, silently, privately.

I sat down. Pissed about on social media on my phone for 10 minutes and got up and pretended I was okay. I feel like this might be a theme for a little while.

This all makes me so anxious

In the little under a week since I wrote my last post, I have deleted two dating profiles and set up a third one. I don’t know what this is, it’s like some weird compulsion that I dip out of the second the anxiety gets a little too high.

So I’d downloaded Bumble. It was fine but strange, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a traditionalist in saying a man must message a woman, I am a shy and awkward idiot who finds messaging first difficult. I made conversation with my cheesy lines, but it all felt a little too hollow and vapid. It’s dull to do the introductory conversation several times with different strangers.

I’d signed up to eHarmony, but I hadn’t paid for it. It would cost my liver to sign up for a short period of time. I ended up only being able to trade virtual ‘smiles’ with blurry pictures of strangers I would have to pay to see. It felt a little pointless, so that one was deleted as well (for the second time…)

I’ve joined Match. I met him on Match, so there’s that little bittersweet edge to it. It reminds me of the days when we first spoke, and how it felt to be that 21 year old organising her first ever date.

But it also builds the anxiety. The truth of it is, in a five-year relationship, there is so much comfort and familiarity and love and history. There’s so much that is shared. Even though there’s that cruel part of my brain telling me he never truly loved me in those five years, I know that at the very least he knew me and that we were the closest friend.

There’s the anxiety of knowing that no relationship will be like that one. And I loved that relationship. I loved him. It’s so hard to know that all of the stuff we built up is gone, and I have to try that again.

What if nobody likes me? What if I don’t like anybody? But really, and what I care about most, what if nobody likes me?

I don’t consider myself an anxious person. I’m quite relaxed and I take a lot in my stride. I deal with emergencies at work, and I’m able to do what I need to and not feel too deeply in that moment. But there’s this (sad) ache in my chest when I think about what might happen next from an online conversation, and I can’t quite shake that.

I’ve paid for the Match profile. It was £21 for a month, so I feel like I have to see this through. I’m not wanting for money, and I also don’t see the point in wasting £21 just to prove this weird, sad point I have.

Let’s see what happens.

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.

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.