Love Hurts

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.

Life lately

I’ve been struggling to blog for quite some time because I feel like I needed something to blog about. A rounded post on a topic. But then I realised that I blog for me. I don’t aim to achieve anything from this blog, it is just a place for me to splurge my thoughts and share snippets of my life with anyone who’s interested. So I can write whatever the hell I want. My posts don’t have to have a theme or a conclusion.

I don’t suppose I helped myself with the Leigh vs something naming convention. There’s been Leigh vs the Property Ladder, Leigh vs Love, Leigh vs Emotional Baggage bouncing around my head, to name but a few. And this very post could be called Leigh vs Writers block I suppose, or just Leigh vs Life.

These days I’m simultaneously really happy and completely shitty. I bought a house, which is fantastic and I’m very lucky to have been able to do so but it’s frazzling my nerves. You just don’t see all the things that are wrong with a house until it’s yours. I love my house, don’t get me wrong. I love its little low maintenance yard, big (chilly) bathroom, built in wardrobes and huge (but never huge enough for all my crap) kitchen. But I hate the leaky back door, the damp patches, the windows that need replacing and the fact that it just doesn’t get warm.

I haven’t had a dreamless night’s sleep in months and it’s really starting to take its toll. I’m exhausted all the time and really struggle to get up in the mornings. Plus the dreams are usually horrid. I have had a couple of dreams that the Manfriend breaks up with me, which would suggest that I’m worried about our relationship but in waking life I’m really not. I’ve never been more secure, we’ve talked about marriage* and children** and when I told him that our upcoming anniversary will be the first 2 year anniversary I’ve had, he told me it will also be my last.

He also gave notice on his flat yesterday and is moving in with me some time next month, which is exciting and terrifying. Mainly exciting though as I miss him when he goes home. Plus he comes with a super kingsize bed and an espresso machine. Win win.

Most of my fears seem to revolve around him getting frustrated with how messy I am and when I’m going to wax my arms without him knowing I do that. As if he can’t tell… *eyeroll at the tiny crazy person who lives in my brain*

So you can probably expect a Leigh vs Cohabiting post at some point. Maybe. I am going to try to blog more often as I think it would be good for my mental health. I’ve always thought better in pen and sometimes I just need to get things out of my brain.

* Yep. (I told him he has to marry me as he “married the last one and I’m loads better.” Fortunately he agreed.)

** Meh, maybe. But Christ, not now. Urgh.

Leigh vs Depression

I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was nearly 20. I was a chubby, shy teen who saw boys as somehow “other” and therefore scary. Even when I got a bit less shy and more attractive as I grew into my looks (and plucked my ginormous eyebrows) I had absolutely no game. Looking back there were boys who I now realise fancied me but at the time I was convinced they had a thing for my friend. Oblivious. Or even when I had an inkling just not confident enough to actually believe it. The boyfriend I did get at 19 was a bit of a fluke, I grabbed him and snogged him while drunk and it just kind of turned into a (really bad) relationship.

My point is that I spent my formative years yearning for a boyfriend and deeply miserable that boys didn’t like me. All of my sad was put down to that. Having a boyfriend would fix me. And it’s something I unknowingly brought with me into adulthood.

I was depressed for a large portion of my relationship with The Ex but I didn’t face it. My immune system was shot to pieces, the doctor kept asking me if I was stressed and I was saying no then whining to people that that’s their answer to everything. Not actually stopping to think he might be right. Deep down I think I thought, but I’m in a relationship, how can I be depressed?

Then when it ended I had such a huge crash. Because I’d finally admitted to myself that something was wrong. Well that everything was wrong as it felt back then.

Learning that has been a really good thing for me because right now I know that my mental state is not good and I’m not just ignoring it because I’m in a (really happy this time) relationship. I can be sad and stressed out and still be in love with my boyfriend. Admitting that I need some help is not saying that he’s not enough. Because how could you ever expect one person to fix you. It’s your job to make sure you’re happy, not someone else’s.

So I went to see my doctor last week. I ummed and ahhed over it for a while because really I knew what I wanted him to do was to put me back on citalopram and going on antidepressants felt a bit like giving in to it. Then I stopped and I thought, no one would baulk at taking an antacid before going out for a big meal if they’re prone to heartburn or indigestion. And who would turn down a neurofen if they had a migraine? So why shouldn’t I go on antidepressants when I’m going through a stressful time (having to apply for my job and trying to buy a house, by myself) and I know I’m prone to depressive episodes?

I’ve been taking them again for a few days and I already feel a bit better. Not because they’re working yet, that will take a couple of weeks, but because I’ve done something. I’m not playing ostrich again. Knowing myself and having the sense to seek help makes me feel strangely strong, in a situation that many people probably perceive as weakness. I’m also proud of myself because I’ve told people at work. I’m not going to be ashamed. You wouldn’t be ashamed of taking insulin or high blood pressure tablets so I’m not going to be ashamed about taking tablets for my slightly off kilter brain.

Leigh vs Emotional Adolescence

I think it’s fair to say that I’m shit at relationships. Or inexperienced at least. I have spent the majority of my adult life single and The Ex was my only relationship that lasted more than a few months. Looking back on that relationship now that I’ve gained a little more perspective through the passage of time and being with a lovely man I can see now that it wasn’t really like a proper adult relationship should be.

So I feel like I’m in my first one now. Trying to learn how to do that communicating thing I hear talked about so much. And the whole emotional vulnerability shiznit. Struggling with that one rather a lot.

In all the relationships I’ve had in the past I’ve felt like I’ve had to hide my feelings. Terrified that if I revealed that I actually cared, that if I admitted I might want the relationship to last then they’d take it away. Which is silly and as well as probably showing a need for some serious CBT is possibly a large part of why the relationships failed. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t actually show them that they care about them? It’s odd though because I am so liberal with my affection and declarations of love in all other aspects of my life. I love you is used in lieu of goodbye on most of my phone calls and if a loved one does something daft, amusing or kind it usually prompts me to tell them I love them.

Yet I can’t do it with boys I’m boinking.

I’ll want to. God, will I want to. They’ve been bubbling up, just waiting to burst out when manfriend blames autistic badgers for eating my cereal or when he makes me dance around the kitchen with him. But there’s just something that stops me, a fear that makes me not blurt it out. The worry that he’ll say, “ooh that’s a bit serious.” That I’m not allowed to love him.

I have told him I love him three times. All while drunk. And he didn’t say “ooh that’s a bit serious” but he didn’t just parrot it back. The first time he told me that he found it a hard word to say, which was fine because I don’t need him to say it. I know how he feels about me. Being told I’m delightful and he’s glad he found me on the Internet is enough. I just need to be able to tell him that I love him without the fear that it’s going to be a thing every time I say it.

The second and third time I said it, I was so drunk that I couldn’t do my own drunk dialling and was lying on the toilet floor thinking I may die. I decided I wanted him there and got my cousin’s girlfriend to call him for me. 10 minutes later he was holding my hair for me and and stroking my back, while I kept thanking him for coming and chucking in the odd I love you. He said, “I know,” the first time and “I love you too,” the second, possibly worried I was going to just keep it up until he said it.

I’m choosing to believe him – what man who doesn’t love you would drive over to look after you – but I’m still stopping the I love yous that build up behind my lips when I’m sober. I suppose in part because I don’t want him to think I’m saying it because I want to hear it back and feel pressured.

Despite the lack of I love yous I have let myself be more romantic and expressive with him than I have previously so I am slowly getting through my delayed onset emotional puberty. I hid post-its around his flat listing reasons I like him (which he has kept and stuck to the frame of his mirror) and I will use proper terms of endearment (usually in German though, let’s not get silly), which I’ve not really done before.

I’m learning to communicate about the little things too. I’m not saving up my niggles and questions for when I’m drunk so much anymore. One of his friends who he talks to quite a lot refers to me as “Online” and I found out the other day that he calls me it back to her (“If I call you Leigh she gets confused and thinks I mean [friend called Leigh]”), which bothered me a bit. I think it’s sort of rude that she doesn’t use my real name – my friends don’t still call him The Man From the Internet, because he’s a person now and an important one to me. And that deserves the respect of using his name. Or maybe I’m overthinking it. But it upset me, made me feel unimportant.

So I told him. Via text of course, and in relation to something else. But still, it’s progress. And obviously, because he’s not a dick, he said that didn’t realise it bothered me and that he would stop. Simple. I’m beginning to understand why people recommend talking to your partner so much.

Maybe we’ll get a grown up out of me yet.

Leigh vs Happiness

The adage happy people don’t blog certainly seems to ring true for me. Life is far from perfect but I’ve been pretty happy of late so appear to have absolutely nothing to say. I’m still in that sickening first flush of new relationship excitement where if I was to blog, or even tweet more frequently there’s the danger that it would just turn into a catalogue of every perceived funny or sweet thing my pet man said or did. Either that or enthusiastically telling you about the sex. (God, how I’ve missed regular two person sex!)

I’ve started a few posts when the tiny crazy person who lives in my brain was kicking up a fuss but as it’s pretty much always been over nothing I’m usually back to my nauseatingly chirpy self and telling anyone who’ll listen – and often those who won’t – how fabulous my boyfriend looks naked before I’ve written more than a couple of paragraphs. Then I just feel silly trying to explain what I was fretting over. So the drafts get shelved or deleted and I stay silent.

But I shouldn’t stay silent. As I was writing this I remembered a line I’d liked when I listened to the audiobook of The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry:

“It is always worth itemising happiness, there is so much of the other thing in a life, you had better put down the markers for happiness while you can.”

It’s very true. We don’t celebrate our happy moments enough. If I were to read this blog back in years to come I don’t only want to be reminded of the sad times. I want to remember being blissfully, smugly happy.  I want to read about the nice things that a boy who cares about me said or did and the fun things we did together.  The time he offered to carry me back to bed from the bathroom floor I was lying on, so hungover I was convinced I might die and then put a towel under my head when I requested he save himself and go on without me.  Or just the way he looks at me when I’m excited over something silly like Minions or getting to see The Princess Bride in the cinema. I want to remember how it feels to be with someone who calls me lovely face and compliments me frequently.  I don’t want to only remember being a crazy neurotic mess.

So yeah, I’m happy and I should shout it from the rooftops.

Leigh vs The Talk

I don’t think I’ve ever actually had The Talk with anyone.  You know the one I mean, the chat you’re supposed to have when you’ve been dating for a while, you have no intention of seeing anyone else and you want to check that – to get all American on you – they’re on the same page.

With The Ex I just phoned him when I was drunk and slurred, “Are you my boyfriend?” at him.  And with all previous boyfriends I didn’t even do that, I just ignored the subject altogether.  I only found out that Work Ex had actually considered me his girlfriend after we broke up.

I’d like to do things differently this time and try acting like an adult.  I’m still dating the chap of Leigh vs the first date fame and things seem to be going well so the thought of The Talk has started to play on my mind.  Not that I’m in any great rush to have it.  I don’t have a burning desire to be able to call him my boyfriend, that all feels a bit soon and scary.  But sooner or later we probably do need to have a conversation about Us.  Especially as we met online, therefore raising the whole deleting of profile issue.  I’d quite like to get rid of mine now as I’m not doing anything with it and I was going to delete it anyway before he contacted me but that might look a bit premature to him so I’ve just left it for now.

I’m beginning to think my blog may have magic powers.  I blog about giving up online dating and then a nice man sends me a message.  I start writing about having The Talk with said man during the day and then that night he calls me his girlfriend.  So I guess that negates the need for The Talk.

I almost feel cheated out of it.  My inner drama queen was a bit miffed by the simplicity of it all.  Where was the angst and the struggle to bring it up in a way that doesn’t make a Big Deal out of it?  You’d almost think I’m having an adult relationship or something.  That can’t be right surely?

Leigh vs the First Date

So I write about how rubbish I’ve been at online dating and then I get a message from a man I find attractive AND who makes me laugh. And get this, instead of ignoring him for two weeks while I mentally attempt to draft something witty, I just replied. Just like that. Then he sent me another message, and I only went and bloody replied to that one too. Do I get a high-five or a fist bump or something?

Instead of feeling sick with fear or only replying out of obligation I found myself being excited and smiley when I saw an email pop up letting me know I had a message from him. And when he then asked me if I wanted to go for a coffee, I didn’t even have to think about whether to say yes.

Obviously, I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t had a little nervous wobble. I had to text him to postpone because of an overrunning hair appointment and the daft, scared part of me really wanted to just cancel the whole thing instead.  But fortunately I didn’t as his face is nice, he’s funny, eloquent, has nice muscles and I could spot a sexy bit of chest hair, which I’m rather partial to.

One coffee turned into two, which turned into going for dinner and before I knew it was half nine and he was walking me to my car.  All I could think about was whether he was going to kiss me and not in the oh god I hope he doesn’t try to kiss me way that I’ve become accustomed to, but in a I wonder if he’ll kiss me.  I hope he kisses me.  What if he doesn’t kiss me?  Shall I kiss him? kind of way.

And then he did kiss me.  And my brain shut up.

I don’t want to gush* for fear of tempting fate and it failing before it’s even really begun, but I like him.  He’s fun and I fancy him and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

*Totally do want to gush.