It feels a little silly to be so affected by a podcast about being unlucky in love when you’re in a happy long-term relationship but that’s exactly how I feel about the Love Hurts podcast I listened to last week. Deeply affected. Lines from it sitting in my head for days afterwards.
For this post to make the most sense you might want to click through and listen to that podcast. I can wait. I’ll try to make sense even if you haven’t listened to it but I think making sense might be a struggle as all I really want to do is quote bits of it and add “Aha!” and “Yes!” here and there.
The podcast is about a woman, Lea Thau, who has spent most of her life in long-term relationships investigating why she is still single after the breakup of her last relationship four years ago. That’s basically the opposite of me – the seemingly perennial singleton until two and a half years ago. The mindset of a single woman is something it took me a long time to shake off when I was first in my relationship. I don’t mean that I wanted to date or oggle other men or anything like that. I guess I mean, shaking off the I to become a We didn’t come easily. I think that’s why I still identify with so much of the podcast. You don’t shake off that many years of being alone that quickly.
Very early on Lea talks about the shame and embarrassment of being single, which isn’t a thing that people really talk about. The line, “because a woman who can’t get a man is about as low as you can go on the social totem pole,” is one that particularly stung.
My boss was on maternity leave when The Ex broke up with me and I remember dreading her asking me about him when she came back. I was so embarrassed about having to admit that we were no longer together. That I couldn’t sustain a relationship for nine sodding months. That I had a lost a boy to the ghost of his secondary school girlfriend. Have I ever mentioned that? That he dumped me because he was still in love with the girl he lost his virginity to? Even though she was engaged to someone else.
If you ever want something to completely destroy your self confidence I’d recommend that. Being alone and pining over her was preferable to being with me.
I’m being a bit unfair to him there, he did the right thing – if there’s someone you want more than the person you’re with, then you shouldn’t be with them. Plus, they’re married with two kids now so I guess she felt the same. But at the time I felt utterly destroyed. What was wrong with me? What was so great about her? I felt broken. I remember a long time after the split getting really angry with him for breaking me. I felt like my romantic life was over and I’d never be able to let my guard down enough or trust enough to have another relationship.
In the podcast, Lea speculates that her lack of luck with dating is down to being fundamentally broken by her last relationship and projecting some sort of anxiety or desperation. She says about how she used to be so open but isn’t anymore. That was me, that’s exactly how I felt. I talked about it a bit in this post.
But even before getting broken I was bad at dating. I have had lots of first and second dates but very few third dates. I like to think of it as the Third Date Fizzle. Things seem to be going well and then after the second date contact just sort of dwindles. There’s a part of the podcast where Lea talks about dating some people who were interested in her that she wasn’t that interested in and dating other people who she was interested in who weren’t that into her in return. But “the alignment of interest has seemed totally elusive”. That was my life.
I’ve already talked a bit about my experience with online dating a bit on here already and how none of the men I messaged replied to me and it made me worry that I was a repulsive dullard. Or too weird, or too plump, or too something else. Out of all the men I initiated contact with I got one reply. From a man who said that I had sent him hands down the best message he’d had but that he got the impression from my profile (which you can read here) that I was looking to meet The One and he wasn’t looking for anything that serious. I don’t know what profile he read because I thought I might come off as a bit commitmentphobic in it, myself.
When I’ve had conversations about online dating with friends it always tends to be the women who agree with me that it’s a soul destroying endeavour and the men who had a positive experience. One of my uncles did a lot of online dating when he got divorced and claimed it’s fun. FUN! I looked at him aghast when he said that.
It might seem strange to be so negative about online dating when I met my partner, who I’d rather like to keep forever please, on OkCupid but I think that meeting someone you want to keep forever still boils down to luck, no matter where you meet them. There is a lot of talk in the podcast about timing and there being a window, particularly for divorced men, when they are ready to meet someone serious.
This sort of is and isn’t true in my case. Manfriend signed up for online dating six months after he and his wife separated with the intention to meet someone he could have a relationship with, rather than to have a bit of fun. He signed up at the beginning of January, we started talking at the end of January and had our first date at the beginning of February. So his window was a matter of weeks and after listening to the podcast I kept telling him, “I’m glad I got your window.”
I was the only person he went on a date with and at first I did worry about being his “rebound girl”, but when I drunkenly brought that up six months in he laughed at me and told me I wasn’t. There is a comment Lea makes in the podcast about a man she dated and how if he’d been “blown away by [her] perhaps that other woman would have had less pull on him.”
And I sort of agree with that too, there was a man I was besotted once with who wouldn’t date me because he’d just got out of a five year relationship and claimed to like me too much and didn’t want me to become a rebound thing. Bullshit! If you like someone that much, you want to be with them and they won’t become a rebound thing. I could quite easily have been a rebound thing for Manfriend but it didn’t work out that way because we’re a really good match – 98% if you want to use OkCupid’s arbitrary score.
Lea also brings up the age old discussion of wether it’s better to wait before having sex with someone. From a personal standpoint I like to wait before I sleep with someone I like. (I say wait, but with the Manfriend it was the fifth date and three and a bit weeks, so I’m not talking a long wait.) Purely because I have rushed it before and it has led to some terrible relationships.
The false sense of intimacy it creates isn’t good for me, I find it makes me feel further into the relationship than we actually are and like we should already know each other so it hinders some of the actual getting to know you stuff. But I don’t think that you should wait to make a guy like you more. If a man judges you for doing the EXACT SAME THING HE DID then he is a giant prick and you are better off without him. If you both want to have sex, then have sex. If a relationship starts with games and deliberately waiting so that he’ll want you more that doesn’t exactly give you the most honest footing. And seriously, who wants someone that works on?
The only thing I did differently with the Manfriend than with previous relationships is simply that I was totally myself. I made stupid jokes, I said cunt on the first date, I gave him a piggyback on the second and I just generally relaxed and let things follow their course. I couldn’t tell you if that’s because he made me feel that comfortable or if it’s more about me, and how I felt at that particular time.
Maybe it was just my window.