Observant little ...

I don't understand the answer, but I may have some ideas on the question...

The Ex

Want proof that it's a small world? Check out the trio of Heather (who is now a published columnist), Benjamin, and Stephanie. Apparently, Heather and Stephanie both dated Benjamin at the same time, before they knew each other. Reading Benjamin's take on it has been particularly interesting for me. I often wonder how The Ex would write about our relationship.

It was interesting how we started. We're both friends of T&S and we met at T's birthday party many years ago. There was some idle flirting and obvious interest on both sides, though it wasn't all that obvious to me at the time as I'm notoriously blind to these things. So far that I've been known to say in the past that I didn't even know a guy liked me "that way" until his tongue was down my throat. I'm accustomed to being good friends with guys and accustomed to being one of the boys. Most guys like me for me - they like my sense of humour and my plain-talking style. I don't play games, I'm genuinely interested in people and tend to find it easy to talk to anyone.

Anyway, back to the point. We became occasional friends. Whenever we saw each other, we'd chat like old pals. Then one day he emailed me - he'd seen my email address on a group email from either T or S and sent me something sweet and slightly crazy and needlessly verbose. I wrote back, and so we became close friends by email. We still saw each other occasionally at T&S's place, but were now more likely to co-ordinate those meetings. We discussed work. We gave each other advice on our love lives. He started coming to gigs and dinners with my friends with me. In those days, I was quite the social butterfly and had friends all over the place - and the Ex became the only common denominator between my various groups of friends.

So, about a year later, when I had to bring a date to a formal party, I invited him. Although we were both single at the time, it was just a friend thing. At least it was from my perspective.

We went to the formal party. We got drunk. We had a great time. He was crashing at my place, and when we got back there in the early hours of the morning, neither of us could be bothered pulling out the spare mattress, so he slept in my bed. Again, not necessarily a non-friend thing. I've shared beds with many friends (male and female) and nothing has happened. It was just convenient in my place at the time because the spare floor area was so small.

But at some stage in the night, that changed. I'm still not sure how it all started, but I woke up and he was kissing me. And it all developed from there. I'm not going to give you a blow by blow - there ARE some people who know us both that read this after all. But, to my mind, it fit the classic scenario of the "Oh my god what did we do last night" one night stand with a friend. Until the following night, when it happened all over again, but without the alcohol.

This continued for about the next month or so. No-one knew. I hadn't told anyone and I don't think he did either. Everyone thought we were continuing our previous "just friends" relationship.

But I liked him. A lot. So eventually, I had to ask. Was this just an ongoing one night stand? Or was it going somewhere, supposed to be more? There hadn't been any definite signs from him and I wanted to know where we stood. We had "the talk". I had just come out of a purely sexual relationship and didn't want another one. He was coming off an extended term of serial monogamy didn't want to get into a full-on couple-type relationship. So we called it quits. I was cool that. A little hurt of course (after all, I did really like him), but I'd had no expectations. I did, however, tell him that I thought he was mad. In my experience to that time, I'd not found many guys that I was both sexually compatible with and mentally compatible with. His ex's had been blonde bimbos from what I'd seen and I thought he was passing up something great. And I told him so.

A month later, he agreed with me. He invited himself up to my place for the weekend and we had "the talk 2: the revised edition". And so we became an official couple.

And for about a year, it was great. We were living in different cities and so were a weekend couple. I had changed jobs and my new work frowned upon personal emailing, so that dried up, but we'd call each other at 8pm every night (when you could make cheap or free phone calls mobile to mobile) and talk about our day. He was sweet and funny and romantic and he made me feel like the sexiest woman in existence.

After many dramas (more on that later maybe), we moved in together. I think it was probably a disaster from the start, not the least because of the dramas and how we each handled them. I guess I'm an instant sort of a person. When something goes wrong, I cry and rage and need support all in the moment. Once the moment's over, my emotional response is also over. And I deal with the consequences competently and without further "what ifs" or ongoing trauma. The Ex supported me through the moment of some of these dramas, but couldn't deal with the consequences and seemed to go through a period of just not coping with anything at all. Not the best way to start our de facto life together.

And so I lost some of my respect for him. He had great ideas, but didn't follow through. He had trouble completing even the simplest task I requested of him. I discovered that he has great intelligence, but very little common sense. I found myself becoming a nag, and I hated that in myself, and started to hate him for bringing that out in me. Or maybe not hate him, just love him a little less. Because I did love him. I had some doubts at the time, but I know now that I did.

But I could still see us working in the long term. I could still see that we could make a great couple and great parents. I thought that if only we could resolve the little problems, the big ones would fall into place, because even in our worst times together, we still had communication and we still laughed together.

But ultimately, it came down to two issues:

1. I wanted marriage and kids and he wasn't sure what he wanted.
2. I was financially secure and secure in my career and he wasn't.

The end point (apparently) was actually when I suggested that we live on his income and use mine (which was significantly more) to pay off his debt. This meant that his debt would have been paid out in a couple of months instead of a couple of years. This would have meant joint bank accounts and accountability to each other for what we spent. From my perspective, I also wanted more commitment from him. I thought it was fair that, if I was going to make a significant financial contribution to his future, he could do something to convince me that we had a future as a couple. I wasn't necessarily looking for an engagement ring as I knew that he wasn't keen on that, but something to show that, after over 2 years in a full-on relationship, we had progressed beyond mere dating.

The trigger for me asking this was that, only a few weeks before, he had agreed to go overseas (for some months this time) without consulting me. And he commented that the offer had been made to him, rather than the others, because he was the only single guy in his section - all the others had responsibilities. It wasn't a requirement of his position, it was an opportunity. And I understood why he would want to go, but I felt that, as his live-in and potentially long-term partner, I should have had some input into that decision. The fact that he hadn't thought that even talking to me about it was necessary, made me wonder about his level of commitment to me. And his respect for me. So I wasn't prepared to continue to be the giving partner, without something more from him.

As it turned out, he wasn't prepared to do that. He launched his decision on me a few weeks later when everything was good. We were supposed to go away for the weekend, and he told me on the Friday night that he wouldn't be coming with me because he was going to move out. Apparently (so I was told later), I was supposed to try and talk him out of it. But his timing sucked - I had commitments that weekend and he knew that. I thought he chose his moment because he knew that I wouldn't have time to argue with him. I got home at 5:30pm and we had to be on the road by 6pm at the latest to be there on time. So I basically told him to do what he had to do, but if he was gone by the time I got back on Sunday night, then it was completely over and there was no coming back. If he was still there on Sunday night, then we could talk it over and try to reach a resolution. And when I came back on Sunday, he was gone.

Despite this, we stayed on good terms for the first month after the break-up. Then things started getting a little strained. I was coping better with the break-up than he was. I wasn't bitching about him behind his back or trying to make our mutual friends choose sides. I was encouraging friends to make the effort to stay in touch with him, as I was quite worried about how he was dealing with it. We talked fairly regularly about the mechanics of severing of our lives together, amongst other things.

Then I found out that he'd started dating (and sleeping with) a mutual friend of ours shortly after our break-up. And he'd made sure that everyone else knew before he told me about it. No-one had told me because they thought it might be a betrayal of him (after all, mutual friends does mean loyalties to both of us) and of the mutual friend. He had hoped that someone would tell me so he wouldn't have to. I couldn't believe that he would do that to me. Especially since he knew how much importance I placed on open communication to maintain a friendship.

But what really hurt was that this was a girl that he'd always said he didn't like. We'd even had a discussion about who in our group of friends we considered "dateable" (as per Seinfeld) and he said that she wasn't because "she was too whiney and needy". He had joked about how she would go for anything with a penis. And I had stood up for her. I had included her in our activities. I had accepted her invitations for us to join her in her activities. He had never wanted to.

It hurt so much - not only that he'd moved on so fast, and with a friend of mine (had he not heard of not shitting in his own nest?), but that it was with someone he'd so frequently dismissed. And he hadn't even had the guts or respect for me and our fragile friendship to discuss it with me. I seriously wondered whether he'd cheated on me with her - whether she was the cause of the break up (after all, it was very quick and unexpected). I doubted myself, that he would move from me to her. Was I really less desirable than her? It wasn't pretty, and I'm not proud of my feelings at that time, but that's how I felt.

So I cut all ties. It hurt me to see him. It hurt me to even hear about her. I felt that they'd both betrayed me. Her worse than him, but a definite sense of betrayal from them both. I had trusted him not to hurt me. To make sure that this transitional period would be as stressfree for me as I was trying to make it for him. But he hadn't even considered my feelings in this. And that really hurt.

I thought about seeking revenge - telling our mutual friends stories I knew about both of them that would hurt them and their relationship - but at I least I had enough self-respect to refrain from that. I'm glad I did. It means that I now have nothing to regret from that period of time.

I spent 6 weeks overseas on a holiday. All on my own. It was a very introspective time for me and I resolved a lot of the issues from the break up and his subsequent relationship. I came back prepared to forgive, if not to forget. I tried to re-establish contact, and heard nothing. After several attempts, I gave up.

At the gatherings of mutual friends, he ignored me. It was as if we were strangers, except that strangers would have been more friendly. And it was awkward because everyone knew that we were ex's. Friends spent significant time and energy working out how to keep us both in their lives but not anywhere near each other. He was still dating that same girl (the one after me) but she didn't get along with our mutual friends and the feeling was pretty much mutual. I think that by breaking "the code", she had also broken all ties with that group. But he seemed oblivious to this. So I emailed him again - I thought this was ridiculous and that, if we could meet for coffee and clear the air, we could at least be civil to each other on the inevitable occasions when we were part of the same group at an event. I was even prepared to be civil to the new girlfriend. But I thought we probably needed a one-on-one discussion first.

So, eventually (about 9 months after I got back from overseas), we met. And talked it all through. From my perspective, it worked to clear the air, but I found out towards the end that this reconcilliation was behind his girlfriend's back. She didn't want him having any contact with me (and this was nearly a year after they started dating) and he wasn't prepared to stand up to her about it. I told him that I was happy to meet for a chat again, but only with her knowledge. I wasn't going to be meeting him behind her back and making this into something clandestine and dodgy. It was coffee or a meal in a public venue and nothing more. But if she found out that he was meeting me, knowing that she was against it and so withholding that information from her, then it would be turned into something bigger than Ben Hur and I didn't want any part of that.

So we didn't see each other again before I went to Europe. And by the time I got back, he'd broken up with her. While I was still living with T&S, he came over when they were out and we sat and chatted while watching TV. Things are settled now, and we're friendly but it's still not a friendship. Without trust, I doubt it ever will be.

Listening to: Sarah McLaughlin - Surfacing


Blogger SwissToni said...

I'm not sure that it's the right word to use, but I really enjoyed that post. I'm sure it must have been difficult for you to write, but you'll be pleased to know that you come across as balanced (albeit a bit wistful).

I'm actually building myself up at the moment to write about a relationship / break up of mine (nearly 6 years ago) because I felt - and to some extent still feel - that it was the first time I had really hurt another person. I'm slightly hesitant about it because I also don't want to hurt the feelings of my current g'f (of nearly - but not quite - 6 year's standing.... no overlap, in case you wondered, but I'll save the gory details for my post)

People are such strange creatures, and in loads of ways relationships can bring out the worst as well as the best.

I only hope when I do get round to it, that my post it as thoughtful and articulate as yours.


10:43 pm  
Blogger OLS said...

Thanks for your comments SwissToni. I actually found it really cathartic to write about our relationship from beginning to end. Obviously there was a lot of stuff I skipped, but I think I covered the basics. From the beginning, I always tried to look at the break-up from both sides. I'm still not sure if this is a one-eyed view of events, but it's the best I can do without getting him to write a "his" view of the whole thing.

And I'm glad you enjoyed it! ;o)


9:34 am  
Blogger Diana Gallagher said...

Good post, this. Thanks for sharing it.

2:19 pm  

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