Sunday, 24 August 2014

Make Up Make Up Never Ever Break Up

Except sometimes you really should.

The heartache of ending a relationship is a hugely complicated thing. I can't begin to imagine the pain of being dumped (thankfully I haven't had to experience that yet) but I do know that it's rarely a walk in the park for the one making that decision either. Just because you end a relationship it does not mean the feelings go away. And I also know a lot of people who are unhappy in their relationship but too frightened to take the leap.

I have been through 3.5 break-ups in my life. The first, when I was 16, happened over MSN chat; it was a calm, mutual agreement in which I told my boyfriend I'd seen Sammie K wearing his hoodie and that he hadn't texted me for 2 days. He suggested it wasn't working and I full-heartedly agreed. But I still felt a bit sad and "bleurgh" for about a week. Just as he had been my first forray into love, he was then my first into heart-break. I had no idea...

The second is the 0.5 in this break up equation. We only dated for about 6 weeks and I wasn't really aware it was even a relationship until in week 4 he confessed undying love (which I gently told him wasn't reciprocated). By week 5 he was clingy as hell and when I learned he'd asked his last girlfriend to marry him I broke it off in week 6. The resulting tantrum is what qualifies this non-relationship for break-up status: threats of suicide (that I did not believe for a second), full-on screams of anguish and a really quite unnerving ambush when I was home alone two days later. What I took away from this was don't date drummers, because they must clearly ALL be unhinged (a sweeping statement, but it would prove not to be untrue 5 years later).

At the end of that school year my cute, geeky friend that I set next to in Media Studies bought me chocolate and asked me to prom on one knee. I was a bit surprised but totally smitten. I finally gave up my closely guarded virginity (on prom night) and fell in love in a crazed endorphin and hormone tornado. We did not argue until our 1 year anniversary, when he was a grumpy asshole and made me cry for the first time. But you can't break up on your 1 year anniversary! So we made up and carried on.

Then I met Gym Guy and this is when it gets complicated. I worked in the cafe at the gym he instructed at. He was hot and I did not know what to do with myself when he began flirting with me and eventually asked me quite bluntly if I'd sleep with him. He had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend but neither of us was completely happy with them. However I was not going to throw away a relationship for a pair of biceps who just wanted an ego-boost through getting in my knickers. So I fended him off for about 8 months.

Finally I cracked. I did not sleep with him but we had an evening of sexy, forbidden making out and inappropriate touching. He made me feel desirable but also wracked with guilt. I had a decision to make: stay with my unsatisfying but sweet and loyal boyfriend (by then of 2 years) or leave him for this scoundrel who just wanted sex? My father is a handwriting analyst, which means he can tell everything about a person from their handwriting. I took him samples of both the BF's and GG's writing and he told me neither of them were right for me, but at least the BF wasn't going to hurt me. I told Gym Guy I could never see or speak to him again, because I wanted to make my relationship work. I failed to see the 3rd option - dump them both, be free and find someone better. It didn't even occur to me that I could be single.

I did hear from Gym Guy a few times after that, but I stuck to my guns and my relationship lasted another 3 years. We moved to London together, got a kitten and then I realised the next step up was inevitably getting engaged, then married, then having babies, then getting a divorce - because I already knew he wasn't the One. I don't even believe in this idea of the "One" but I knew I couldn't marry this guy. He was lovely but our relationship had lost all spark and it was dead, we just hadn't peeled back the denial yet. It took me about 3 months after this realisation to build up the courage to end it. During that time I felt sick with worry, slept badly and our failing sex life died an agonising death.

The moment I was finally unable to lie to him and to myself anymore was bitter-sweet. He cried and begged me not to leave but I had made up my mind. I had the best night's sleep and felt as if a huge weight had gone from my life. This break up was long and drawn out because we lived together; this dictated we speak almost daily for about a month as we negotiated leaving the lease early and even continued to live in the same apartment until I found a new place to live. When we finally said goodbye I wanted nothing but the best for this guy I'd spent almost 5 years growing up with.

So I was single! I did not know what to do with myself. Single people had lots of casual sex, so the media told me, and I figured this was a good way to go. Then I discovered a message on Facebook, that I had never seen, from Gym Guy a few months earlier, saying he'd finally moved on and that he hoped I was ok. Well there was my perfect opportunity for casual sex! I messaged back.

A few weeks later, GG came to London. I was so nervous about seeing him again - would he still fancy me, would we get on? He was the complete opposite of my ex: 27, manly, muscles, brooding and confident. Around him I became nervous, giggly and at the same time very aware of the effect I seemed to have on him too. It was intoxicating to feel so desired. The sex blew my mind.

Unfortunately, I had not realised GG's feelings for me were deeper than purely physical. He lived on the south coast, I was in London, so I proposed a casual, no-strings-attached friendship with benefits. At first he seemed willing but soon turned around and confessed he couldn't share me. I wasn't keen on the idea of a committed relationship - I felt like I'd just got out of relationship jail! - so GG cut all contact and we went our separate ways.

Until a month later. Despite a lot of drunken grinding in clubs and the offer of a threesome with 2 rugby players, I hadn't found anyone I wanted to have casual sex with. I knew if I called GG I'd have to agree to strict monogamy... but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing? I missed him. A friend told me to stop overthinking what was "right for me" and do what I wanted.

So GG and I gave our relationship a chance. I didn't so much fall in love as plummet and land with a dizzying crash. But the moment I did, the arguments and the insecurities began. It began with an ultimatum over the smallest thing, then escalating into a row that left me feeling like a shitty person and crying myself to sleep. The rose-tinted glass had cracked and I stopped falling any further in love.

When we were together it was great - but GG had a habit of telling me about all the attention he got from other girls, because he thought it was funny. I wasn't allowed to mention any male attention I received, even if it was hilarious, because it made him too mad. Then he started a new job and my imagination went into overdrive - this time I was the long-distance girlfriend and he was at work with lots of girls. Would history repeat itself? One girl, he told me, thought he was attractive and "it's really funny because people at work thought there was something between us, when there isn't"! Music to my ears - what the hell was he doing with this girl that co-workers thought they were an item?

I brought up my concerns over this and admitted I didn't fully trust him. He seemed so hurt and so sad that I soon found myself apologising to him. When I asked him to stop talking about the female attention he got, I was accused of censoring him - when that was exactly what he did to me. The arguments became more and more frequent as he became more and more sensitive - we argued because I stopped following his gym program, because I got drunk, because I was a feminist... It became too much. I avoided other men and felt guilty if I dressed up, in case I got any male attention that I knew GG wouldn't like. I felt I could never do anything right and soon I was watching everything I said to him and holding back things that could potentially spark an argument.

But I did still love him and I began making excuses for him, to myself and to my friends. They could see I wasn't really happy; there's only so many times you can see disapproval and concern in your friends' faces before the rose-tinted glasses I was holding to my face had to come down. I cried that night and the whole next morning, had a panic attack on the way to meet my best friend, but finally came to terms with my decision. That evening I called him and told him it was over: by then I was so spent of emotion that I came across cold and robotic on the phone. He cried and told me he'd never love another person again - once again I was the bitch and he was the victim. In my anger at his indignation I later sent him a spiteful text, saying I'd had a lucky escape.

I waited for the sense of relief I'd experienced with the last break up. It didn't come. Even three days' later, I was wracked with guilt at how I'd spoken to him. Despite his controlling ways, I knew he had loved me 3 years ago and I knew he loved me now and I had broken his heart. I emailed him to apologise for the hurtful things I'd said, not expecting a reply. To my surprise he emailed back; he was angry that I had taken the decision away from him, because he'd wanted to spend his life with me. That was 4 days ago and we haven't spoken since - he has deleted every trace of me from his life, on all social media at least. We'll never speak again. I can't decide if this is a sign of how much he cared for me, that he can't bear to have any reminders of what we had, or if his ability to erase me from existence is proof of something else? I don't see any point in trying to forget him; I had a lot of fun times and learned a valuable lesson...

It's only whilst writing this post that I've realised the extent of the control GG had over me. Did I spend a month being single, and not sleep with anyone, because I knew if I did he wouldn't want me? Even at the beginning, he had so much power over me that a decision I thought I made independently was actually manipulated. And to the point where I apologised again, for breaking up with him, when it was all because of his insecurities and possessiveness. Writing that email to him made me feel more at ease, I think because I am not a bad person and hurting anyone feels wrong, but he hurt me too and I will never get an apology. I have no doubt he will continue to act exactly as he always has done because I'm not sure he even realises he's doing it; in his mind he is completely justified - the victim. I hope the next girl is strong enough to handle it. Oh and yeah, GG told me he played the drums - this should have been my warning sign!

I'm still climbing out of the hole he put me in and I still miss him (it has only been a week) but I know I made the right decision. How much worse would it have got? In fact, looking back at all 3.5 of my break ups, I don't regret a thing. But I know it's hard to leave someone, to reject love and affection, two things we crave and need as the overly-complex and emotional organisms we are. But I do believe that life is too short to settle and next time a friend is unhappy with his/her partner, I hope they're strong enough to see that they deserve more. My friends helped me see that and I'm reminded again of how fricking lucky I am.