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.

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.

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.

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.

New normal

It’s honestly wonderful to get to a point where I don’t know how many weeks it’s been since we broke up.

I like numbers. I like patterns in numbers, and collecting numbers and dates and amounts. So to be in a place where I’m not quantifying how long it’s been is wonderful. It’s a new normal, and it’s nice to be on this even keel.

Of course there are bits where I miss him, but as I’ve alluded to before, it’s no longer about him in the specific, and more about missing having a someone who is there for me.

My example this week is that I’ve had a cold. He was never that great about looking after me when I was unwell, but he is a kind soul who would listen to me whine about how grim I felt. So I’ve missed the opportunity to be pathetic in my minor respiratory virus, but I didn’t miss his brand of comfort specifically.

In other news, I’ve applied for a dating show. For any British person that might read this – I’ve applied for First Dates. It’s a big show, and it must of thousands of applicants. It was a fun diversion to spend a bit of time writing about who I am and who I’d like to date. It also gave me that little fix I was getting from downloading multiple dating apps – the validation of knowing that someone might fancy me, and the satisfaction that I could act upon these urges if I wanted to.

I don’t think I am particularly desperate to meet anybody at the moment. It remains pleasant to just worry about myself, although that does mean that my house is a shithole, because I’m the only one that’s been in it for weeks. And the cats definitely don’t care if there’s dirty dishes in the sink.

The one slightly tricky thing about applying for the dating show was that it asked who I’m interested in. In an effort to attempt to be a good bisexual, I chose the option of ‘looking for men and women’.

The reality of that remains scary. I went on a little extended daydream about what would happen if I were accepted onto the television show, and what would happen if they matched me with a woman in order to make good television, and what would happen if my friends and family saw that.

Of course, it’s incredibly unlikely that I would be accepted onto the show, but what if? What if?

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 (fianc√© 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.

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.