Breaking the ‘dating rules’ in my 30’s

This is my second post for today, but the first one didn’t encompass this aspect of my life, which I am currently obsessed with: dating. A few days ago I posted about this guy I met online and who I went on one date with. I had a blast and I think he’s amazing. We were supposed to meet up again yesterday and it didn’t happen. We hadn’t set concrete plans which was fine because I had all intentions of staying in otherwise, but when Saturday came and went without an invite anywhere, I was getting a bit frustrated. We were still talking all day, so why not set the plans? Every self-help, dating advice, or the like that I’ve come across (which I have to admit isn’t many) all say the same thing: wait for him to make the first move. Because if I, as a woman, invite him out, I’m making myself too available and even though it may work, I will never know how he feels, etc., etc. … ugh, that’s so annoying! And it left me wondering why he’s not planning anything when we were meant to meet the next day?

By this point, we’d been talking for three weeks so I felt fairly comfortable just asking him what’s happening so, on Sunday morning, when I woke to a text that said ‘morning’, I just asked him straight up, what we were doing that day, thus breaking Rule #1 apparently. He evaded, saying he was with his dad and a bit more, so I just finally said that I was going to the beach and he was welcome to join me, breaking Rule #2. He doesn’t respond to this for hours and at about 4pm I get a message from him and he starts a conversation. I politely said that I expected to see him and asked why I hadn’t heard from him (maybe breaking another rule here by talking about it?) and he asked if I wanted to catch up that night still. I said no. I said I would’ve but that he’d waited too long and I could no longer meet up. I said that I need plans and that although I can appreciate spontaneity, I’m a busy person who likes it that way and I’m going to make plans to fill my time so waiting until that day is not going to work with me. I then asked him what his end goal was, since he kept messaging me and via text sounded very keen, but then doesn’t seem fussed to actually meet up again.

I’m pretty sure I broke all the rules at that point, but didn’t care because to me, no matter how amazing our first date was, this man was disrespecting me by thinking I’d wait around for him to contact me last minute – as if I’m a second option if nothing better came around. So who the hell wrote these rules? Why can’t I just know what I want and not enter into the mind games of who likes who and playing it cool and whatnot? I didn’t intend to go straight into ‘the talk’ of asking where this could be headed, nor did I mean it that way when I asked; I thought I was just checking to see if we were on the same page with what we wanted hypothetically… after some thought, it turns out these are pretty much the same thing. But whatever, I’d sent it and it was too late to take back so, after I’d broken likely all of them, I started to wonder, AGAIN, who wrote these rules?

What I got back surprised me. He not only agreed to make solid plans with me, but he went into detail about what he wanted, what he expected and stated flat-out that he wants to see me again. He explained that he’d met two other people since online dating, that there was no connection with them and it didn’t go any further, but that I was different. Thinking himself to be a very direct person, he was surprised when I told him that he was hard to read and when I apologised for any insult I may have caused being so direct in my questioning, he said he appreciated it, stating ‘no one likes games’.

I continued being bold and told him I wanted to see him again as well. He said for me to name the time and place and he would meet me wherever… so we have our second date tomorrow, where I want to go and when it suits me best. So, in the end of this conversation, by unintentially breaking all the rules, I managed to lay all my cards on the table and express how I felt and what I expected, learn how he feels both about me and his expectations, and managed to secure a second date in the process.

I told my friend Marie this, laughing and saying that the second date was actually a miracle given my stereotypical too-pushy/needy/clingy/whatever girly behaviour, and she said that while she doesn’t typically condone acting crazy (which is how we were defining my actions), what I did was great. Marie has been single for years, and recently found out (thanks facebook) that her ex, who she left because he had no ambition or desire for a future, is now managing some big international company and just got married on a beautiful, Pacific Island beach. It’s been three years since they separated and while he is now married, she has yet to find another boyfriend, or even another decent shot at a boyfriend. All the men she’s met, mostly online, have led her on or just used her for a few weeks. It’s awful. Marie is one of the most incredible people I know. She’s beautiful, intelligent, successful, well-traveled and she has the biggest heart. She’s that friend I ask for advice/ideas and she not only listens and responds, but will research further and send links after the fact. She’s the one who calls to check in when she gets the feeling I might just need a chat, and she’s the one, guaranteed, that would give the shirt off her back to anyone who needed it more than her. She’s what I think most women would/should aspire to be. How is this woman single?

We talked a bit about it and we think it’s because she’s too lenient. The experiences that she’s had with men of late have been so bad, that when I asked what she thinks about someone she responded with ‘well, there’s nothing else out there’. That’s so sad that this amazing woman is being overlooked, and has been for years. The last guy she was talking to said he’d skype her on a trip… that was three weeks ago. He got back and told Marie that he’d let her know when he was free to catch up with her… that was a week ago and he hasn’t messaged her since. I asked her if he called today, would she go out with him still? She said yes, because there’s nothing else out there. Not because she likes him or is excited about dating him, and she also stated that she knows how disrespectful he’s being, but again, she would say yes because there’s nothing else out there. We talked about that a bit and she does agree that it’s better to be single than to be with someone so disrespectful, but I can see that these experiences are wearing on her. She’s read so many of the books/articles/etc. of what a woman should/shouldn’t do when dating, that I think she’s blinded by trying to follow the rules and trying to not scare any potential partner off that she likely does it unintentionally.

While I thought I had screwed things up by asking my date so many direct questions, it worked out in my favour. When Marie followed all the rules and did whatever the books said to do, she didn’t even get a date. So again I ask, who wrote these rules? In my opinion, there are no golden rules to follow. Just be true to yourself and the right person will love you for it. Until then, good luck to all of us who remain single, kissing frogs while hoping to find Prince Charming. Above all else, respect yourselves ladies! We are in control of our worth!


Lacking tolerance in my 30’s

My recent ex, we’ll call him Bob, and I were trying to stay friends, until just this past Friday night. We broke up about a month ago, and it was my decision, not his – but it was his decision to stay friends and I accepted this since I didn’t want to hurt him. He was a lovely person and treated me well while we were together, he was just too young and unambitious for me which ultimately led to me growing tired of the relationship. It became tedious to do any activities together and he looked to me to entertain him every time he was bored. He put his entire heart into the relationship, despite my continual suggestions to find hobbies, etc, he developed his life around our relationship and only that… it was suffocating. At the end of the day, I can chalk his neediness and insecurities up to being in his early twenties, but it didn’t change the fact that it was not what I was looking for.

So, Bob and I have met up a few times since we broke up, and things were uncomfortable the first time, as one would expect, but the second time it was fun. We had tickets to see a show on Friday night that were booked and paid for two months ago, so we stuck to the plan and went to the show. I ubered there because I was having a few drinks and after the show, which was amazing, Bob offered me a ride home. I declined but he insisted until it was rude of me to object. When we got to my place he asked if he could come in to use the toilet and fill up a bottle of water for the drive home, which does take him about 45 minutes. I reluctantly said yes, because although I didn’t want him in the house for fear that he would AGAIN start a conversation about the break up, what else am I going to say? ‘um, no, I’m sorry, but you can’t pee and you’ll just have to hold it. Thanks for the ride though.’ That’s not very nice!

So up he comes for a quick, he’s stated over and over ‘just quick’, toilet and water break and he goes to head off. On the way to the door he asked if I want to get beer and wings two days later. Look, I’m all for staying civil and being friends, but I don’t want to be besties or anything – if I wanted to see him every second day, I wouldn’t have broken up with him in the first place. So, I said no but thanks for the offer. He then wheels around and says he needs to talk to me and asks if we can talk now. He’s already in my house, looks like we’re talking now. *eye roll* I knew this would happen!

He talks for a bit and finally says that he can’t be my friend. I told him I understood where he was coming from and that there were no hard feelings. You would think this is it, but no, it’s not. He then proceeds to tell me why he can’t be my friend, and I’m patiently open to listening to him, until he actually starts speaking. The reason, see, is because he’s not comfortable with me hooking up with a bunch of different men and that he can’t respect someone who does that… WHAT?!?! Even if I was doing that, he has no right to judge, but I’ll get there. Right now, I need to be clear: I’m not like this. I never have been. A lot of people go through a phase, a trial, a whatever, some people just like to sleep around, and some never do… each person is different and I honestly could care less what choices a person makes in their intimate lives – it’s their business, and in this case it’s my business, not his. So, because I haven’t been with anyone else, I ask Bob where he’s getting this information. His response is to tell me that he just knows I am because that’s what I do and that he hates to use the word, but he will: slut.

WHAT?! You come into my house, MY HOUSE and slutshame me? No Bob, just f*cking NO. I was beyond angry at this point and I, politely but firmly – which is still more than he deserved – ushered him out.

In this conversation, he told me about his Saturday night and how there was a good looking girl that was trying to take him home and that his mates were all encouraging him to do it. I know it’s false bravado speaking from a place of hurt and wanting to prove that he has options. He’s a good looking young man, of course he has options, so while the story itself was neither surprising or overly hurtful, what was is that he brought it up seemingly for two reasons: to get a rise from me, and/or to hammer in the point that he wouldn’t do that because he doesn’t respect women who do that. Which brings about the inequality in gender stereotypes. He’s not saying he wouldn’t do that because he respects himself or the woman too much, but that he disrespects the woman too much to want to be with her. That’s awful! I know that gender stereotypes and slutshaming aren’t new, but it’s infuriating to me. When will society accept that it’s ok for women to do whatever they please with their bodies? When no laws are being broken and no one’s getting hurt, what’s the big deal? Men have historically been celebrated for sleeping around and if not, at the very least, it’s accepted/understood that ‘boys will be boys’. Well, sometimes a woman just wants to get in on that action, and this should also be accepted.

At the end of the day, what I do with my life and my body is my own business. I will not stand for being judged by anyone who has no right to comment on my actions.

A fairy tale evening in my 30’s

The last couple of posts on here were quite serious topics and today I really wanted to share what a great mood I’m in! You see, a few weeks ago I ended a six month relationship with a lovely guy because I truly believed we were incompatible. Before that I was single for about a year, and I had been single for 8 or so years before I met my ex-fiancé with only a few dates here and there. As I was saying, we were incompatible mainly because he’s nine years my junior, and although I genuinely believe that age should not be a consideration, at the end of the day, it was for us because of who we are as individuals. He lacked the life experience that I took for granted and while he was happy to settle for a simple life, I don’t think I’ll ever want that for myself. Nonetheless, it was not an easy choice to give up comfort and stability in a relationship with someone who loved me unconditionally, but I did it, and I knew from the bottom of my heart that it was the right decision. Since then, I went on two dates with two different men. The first one was not my cup of tea but the second one… wow!

This man, that I JUST met yesterday, has my head spinning! I had no intentions of getting into a relationship and just decided to go on a couple of dates soon after my break up so that I could remind myself that just because I ended my relationship did not mean that I would end up alone forever. I also wanted to remind myself what else was out there as far as partners are concerned so that I could really solidify why my recently finished relationship wouldn’t work should ever I regret ending it a few months down the road. And yes, I know these are not the reasons that I should’ve signed into online dating, but they are my reasons, and I’m so glad I did.

So onto Happn I went. I had tried tinder last year and found far too many rude jerks looking for short, physical relations only, willing to put next to no effort into a conversation. I had also tried RSVP and found the other end of the spectrum, where I’m sure 90% had already chosen their wedding tux. To be fair, this was a nice change to the cliché where women are usually the ones that are thinking much further ahead, but, I’ve digressed. Happn seems to be the middle ground at the moment. What it will end up being, I have no idea, but for now, I have now spoken to four different men on there, and all four have been polite and patient.

Last night I met this person who is quite literally the man of my dreams. He’s smart, he’s very funny, he’s direct, he’s polite, he’s complimentary, he’s creative, he’s amazing with words, he’s considerate, he’s such a gentleman (which is so very rare these days), and he’s very attractive. Oh, and did I mention he’s a doctor? Because, well, he’s even A DOCTOR! *swoon* So while I try to figure out what I’m missing – because, let’s face it, no one is this perfect – I wanted to share just how happy I am to have experienced our first date last night.

It was like a reawakening for me. It was, in two hours, a completed case put in front of me as to why none of my previous relationships have ever worked out. No, I didn’t compare him to anyone else I’ve dated and no, I wasn’t making lists of any kind… it was just in the way he made me feel. I’ve always been a very picky person, and happy to be on my own, but even with the men that I did give a relationship a chance with in the past, there has always been something that I’ve overlooked from the get-go. That feeling that something’s missing, or that he’s not entirely well suited to me because of x,y, and z, however small the reasons may seem. So in the past I have overlooked these things because no one is perfect and their greater good outweighed what I perceived as a flaw, but I have to say, last night was the first time I didn’t see any of these things I would need to overlook. Did I mention how happy he made me? Because at one point in the night I was smiling so much it made my cheeks hurt – which made me wonder briefly if I looked like a creep just constantly smiling, but then he cracked another joke and I forgot about that thought until this morning when I woke up and saw myself STILL smiling!

Today I’ve been considering this more and I can say with complete certainty that I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. Not my first boyfriend in highschool or my ex-fiancée whom I thought was the love of my life. I can’t believe that I found someone that makes me literally giddy. I walked 7kms to work this morning smiling and waving at everyone I crossed paths with. I played with the dogs out for walks and I danced along to the music playing from my phone without even realising what song it was that was playing, how far I had actually walked, or who was in the cars driving past me. I was more than 3/4 of the way to work before I even realised how far I’d walked… it’d been nearly an hour. I walked into work and was greeting instantly with a bunch of questions about what I did last night because, to quote a colleague, ‘it must’ve been something amazing’. Well, it was.

I know that this was only the first date and that I shouldn’t have my hopes up at this point… but I really do. I can’t help myself – not that I’ve tried much. I’ve even told all my friends about how great he is already because I figure: if this works out then great, no harm done; and if it doesn’t work out, well, that’s a bummer, but there’s still no harm done. Had I waited until I knew more before getting excited about it (even if I could’ve!), well, then I would’ve missed out on this amazing day of sharing my excitement and happiness with my friends. And there’s no shame in something not working out. It’s no one’s fault if two people are not compatible, one is not attracted to the other, or for whatever reason a relationship may never get off the ground. I used to be afraid of rejection and saw it as a personal failure, but that’s not the case at all. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. If it does turn out that this won’t work out, I just hope I don’t find out for another few days because I want to feel this for at least a little while longer.

And so, as far as my mind goes, this is not going to end. For today, there is this unbelievable excitement coursing through me at the possibilities that meeting him just opened up. I have never been so comfortable with someone on the first date! I have never left a first date not only imagining a second one, but thinking how lucky I am to have found someone so completely amazing and who I could enjoy my time with so thoroughly. All day as my phone beeps I excitedly look to see if it’s him messaging me. I’ve been telling everyone who will listen about how amazing our date was, and this is not like me at all. He hasn’t disappointed me yet… despite working in the Emergency Department of one of the biggest hospitals in the city, he’s still found a few scarce moments to text me a few times today. It’s a nice gesture, and I’m thrilled everytime I see his name pop up on my screen.

Today I choose to believe in this romanticised match-made-in-heaven and to live in this moment of happy excitement for as long as I can hold on to it. I had no idea what I was missing in never having felt this before.

A glimpse into why I am the way I am in my 30’s

I’m finding that my ability to bounce back from things that bother me is not quite as quick as it was when I was in my 20’s and I imagine it’ll only get worse. When I was younger, I would endure something stressful and it might take a couple hours, but I could usually get over it after those couple of hours. I imagine it’s because the things I’m experiencing now are more consequential than my experiences back then. Or just that my ability to bounce back was stronger. In my last post, I talked about the effect seeing my ex, after 16 months of complete avoidance, had on me two days ago and I’m proud to admit that while it did ruin my entire day, by the time I went to sleep, I had found my way back on top. This was a huge win for me.

Over the last two years or so I have suffered from depression and anxiety. The likely cause of this would have to be the emotional abuse I sustained while in my previous relationship, and the inability to find the strength to leave for some time, even after I recognised what was happening. This is not a simple thing. People who have never experienced anything like this would think that I could just walk away whenever I wanted, or even that because I chose to stay it couldn’t have been as bad as I later described to them. To be fair, I’m not saying that my ex had no redeeming qualities. As the relationship progressed I found it harder and harder to find these redeeming qualities, but there was once enough good in him and us that I fell in love. Realistically I think I fell in love with the idea of us and the fact that he ‘ticked all the boxes’ rather than him as a person. As a person, yes, he was an ass – but he could be charming and disarming when he wanted to be, and he had his sights set on me.

Unfortunately, after the disarming fog was lifted, it turned out that he was rude and arrogant, believed himself better than everyone he met, and was, by definition a psychopath. I’m not just bitterly name-calling here, I did my research when I left the relationship and found that he not only resembled the description of a psychopath, but that he exibited most of the characteristics in his very soul and daily actions. Not to say that I found him capable of murdering someone or anything, but when we started watching Dexter I would tease him about the similarities until it got so disturbing that I had to stop. Plus, he got mad when I called him Dexter – I think he recognised himself a bit too much as well. For reference, I’ll outline some of the key traits of psychopaths include (but are not limited to):

  • disregard for social mores… well, my ex was an idiot in social situations and typically just insulted whoever we were with in ‘jest’ (but actually meant it, and they could usually tell so I would have to do damage control afterwards)
  • disregard for the rights of others… he was all for people doing what they wanted, so long as it didn’t affect him. If it affected him, then look out. I remember a time when we were flying and he got into an argument with the stewardess because she asked him to sit the back of his seat up for take off. He went on and on belittling her because he paid for his seat and he could do whatever he chose and without his money, she wouldn’t have a job, etc. It was not only humiliating but awful to see him treat her with such disrespect for trying to do her job.
  • failure to feel remorse or guilt… really, he lived and breathed this and there are far too many examples to choose from. One of his favourite sayings for doing something stupid when drunk was ‘if I don’t remember it, it never happened’. He would stick to that, no matter how much pain he caused me when drinking. Accountability was not even a word in his vocabulary.
  • tendency to display violent behavior… he took his frustrations out by walking away (sometimes for days to do who knows what) or exercising to exhaustion, which, in my opinion, was far better than physical abuse.
  • unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy… he was the least supportive person I could imagine. I went home (to Canada from Australia) because my grandfather passed away and when I called him upset he hung up on me, and text me that he did not want to listen to my problems again if I wasn’t even going to ask him how his day was first. I asked him if something had happened, he said no and that he was just annoyed that I was being so self-involved… my grandfather had passed away (a man he knew) and I was having a very hard time dealing with this and still, he hung up on me: his crying fiancée. This, and the strength I found from my family and being away from him physically, was actually the push I needed to finally leave him.
  • very manipulative… this was his defining trait from the moment I met him, I just thought I was clever enough to see through it and strong enough to withstand it. I was wrong. Even a mountain will erode over time.
  • the list goes on, but suffice it to say that he was also well educated, held a steady job, meticulous in his appearance and portraying a calm, composed demeanor. tick, tick, tick in all my metaphorical boxes as to what defines the man I wanted to find.

I got these key traits from Psychology Today and used my examples to explain what I meant when I said he was a psychopath. There’s plenty more information out there, and if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation as I was, I would highly recommend reading more. Understanding, and inevitably labeling, who he was has helped me to understand how I fell victim to his abuse for as long as I did, and ultimately helped me stop blaming myself for allowing it to happen. Unfortunately we live in a victim-blaming society and people often look for ways to justify malicious actions, particularly when they’re close to one’s heart.

After all the gaslighting (look this up too if you’re unfamiliar: it’s basically second guessing and questioning someone until they’re unable to make even the smallest decision) and manipulation I endured at the hands of that psychopath, I found myself on the other side with not many defenses left. I’d used up all the strength I had in leaving the relationship and I found myself, a few days after my ex had left the house, alone and crying my eyes out wondering if I’d made a terrible mistake. It wasn’t because I wanted that relationship back, it was because I was alone and completely unable to make a decision for myself as simple as what I wanted to eat for dinner that night. I felt lost, scared and unable to live on my own without his ‘guidance’ anymore. This feeling lasted a few days and then it slowly got better as I recognised that I was living my life day to day and I didn’t need him to tell me how I felt or what I should do. It was about two weeks after I last heard from him (because he was avoiding all contact at this time, blaming me for whatever circumstances he found himself in at that point) when I finally realised that my tension was less, that my sleep was better, and that I was free to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. It was a magical feeling!

It didn’t last though. That high I felt momentarily kept me determined in my decision to leave, but once he contacted me again I felt the same cowardice creeping over me and when he came over to get more stuff and discuss the separation, it was everything I could do not to give in to his manipulation. He offered to help me clean, to take me to the grocery store (because we had one car and he took it when he left), to help me find a new flat when that time came, and even offered for me to call him if ever I was horny. I politely declined all of these offers, the last one making me feel physically ill. He followed it up by asking me if I was going to offer to help him in the same way – I said no. At this point he pinned me on the couch and tried to passionately kiss me… it didn’t work, and the revoltion I felt before intensified until he got off me. Being a foot taller and 50+kgs heavier than me, I didn’t stand much of a chance getting him off of me if he didn’t want to and in that moment I remembered how clear that was and I was determined never to be in that situation with him again. He’d used his physical strength to pin me down before – to tickle me or play fight, but he always stopped when I started crying and I justified this by telling myself he wasn’t aware of his strength. But I never should have ended up in tears in the first place. Despite his apologies afterwards, I believe that he was always aware of his strength, made a conscious decision to hold me when he knew I was not comfortable, and just wanted to exert control and remind both himself and me how dominating he truly was.

I kept our communications on email after that and ensured that when he came to get the rest of his stuff, I was not there. I ran into him twice after this. Once on the street about two weeks later, but fortunately I was with friends and we did not have to talk, and the second time was when I asked him to come over and do the cleaning in the backyard of our rental that I couldn’t reach, after I had cleaned the entire house we were renting, which was another couple weeks after the first. I tried to talk to him civilly and he refused to be civil. I asked him why he couldn’t help with our mutual responsibilities before that day and he answered “I don’t want to tell you”. I gave up, got back on my bike and never saw him again, until a videocall two days ago (I mentioned this in a previous post). Over email he threatened to take me to court for things that weren’t justified, he told me that I don’t decide my worth, that I owed him money, etc… none of this was true but when he said ‘pay me my money (his half of the rental bond) and you never have to see or speak to me again’ I accepted. I offered him the entire rental bond ($800 of my own money) to never have to see him again. Apparently the property manager has to split the bond evenly so I ended up getting my bond in my account, but I was still holding him to his word, and after the email where he told me ‘I don’t determine my own worth’, I stopped all replies and refused to speak to him ever again. I got texts wishing me a merry christmas, happy new year, happy valentine’s day, telling me about a restaurant I should try, etc etc… Mr Nice Guy was back and trying desperately to get me to speak to him, but I stayed strong and resisted. This lasted for months – five months – and it wore me down. I never gave in, but he haunted me. Every time my phone every time it would go off I was worried that it would be him.

People who have never experienced abuse may not understand that a simple ‘hello’ or ‘merry christmas’ can have a negative effect. It does and it’s terrifying. It’s a reminder that he can still get to me and in an instant of seeing his name display on my phone I’m brought right back to the pain and torment I endured in that relationship. I have tried daily mantras, meditation, antidepressants, antianxiety medication, healthy eating, binge eating, binge drinking, a rebound relationship, casual relations, focusing on career, rekindling old friendships, making new friends, etc… the list goes on. At the end of the day, I need to change internally before any external influence will make any difference. One step at a time, one day at a time, and one realisation at a time.

Yes, I lived with a psychopath for years and it took it’s toll. But what I want to focus on from here on out is not that I lived with it, but that I lived through it.

Altered, but still strong.

Getting over emotional abuse in my 30’s

It’s been 19 months since I left a relationship of 7 years. At that time, I’d considered leaving on and off for a while – years in fact. I kept holding on to the ‘good times’ and ignoring, or at the very least, justifying the ‘bad times’. I’d tell myself that it wasn’t so bad and that I shouldn’t be so picky. I’d found someone who loved me and that I loved back and all the articles about how relationships aren’t easy had led me to believe that my relationship was as good as it could get. It wasn’t until after I left the relationship that I realised how much of an impact my ex had on every aspect of my life, and how much of that was negative. Why I thought:

  • ‘if I can’t get sex at home, I’ll find it somewhere else’ was a valid argument, or
  • ‘I think you’re perfect, but you would be happier if you lost some weight’ was supportive, or
  • ‘I know you better than you know yourself and you don’t want…’ was romantic, or
  • ‘let me finish your dinner  because you don’t need to eat all that’ was helpful *while I was still forking food into my mouth*, or even
  • walking out on me for days only to come home and pretend nothing happened was preferable to fighting…

I never did understand his rational for most of his comments and we often did end up arguing about these, or others. See, despite a common belief that emotionally abused people are weak, conflicted, damaged, struggling, etc., this is not the case and it certainly wasn’t the case for me. I’m confident, outgoing, stubborn, hardheaded, and for the most part, I am fearless. I’ve traveled to 50+ countries, I’ve lived in six, I have a good job and I’m not afraid to try anything new or to take on some of the worst challenges. And unfortunately, that last point, and my constant need to succeed, is what got me stuck in this relationship for 7 years. I believed that my ex was a good person deep down and I saw it as a personal challenge to bring out that side of him and let the world see what I knew was buried under a damaged, arrogant exterior. Aside from feeling like a failure, one of the worst feelings at the end of my relationship was having to admit that, despite arguing that he was a better person, he did, in fact, turn out to be exactly what many other people saw him as from the very beginning. I know I’m not alone in finding a ‘fixer-upper’ as a partner and believing all the good in them, and I know that I’m not alone in trying to put up with things that I otherwise wouldn’t put up with so that I can be with the ‘man he could be’ when he gets his act together. This is a common theme with women (and others, I’m only speaking from my experience) in their 20’s and early 30’s because we tend to believe we can fix any relationship problems and are resilient (or maybe naive?) enough to believe that we will never fall victim to abuse. Well, that wasn’t my case, and it’s taken a long time for me to be comfortable in admitting that. But let’s fast forward a bit…

I had been making good progress in getting over my lack of confidence and feelings of worthlessness and this morning I woke up to a video call from an old friend of mine who lives halfway across the world. I’ll call him John. I haven’t spoken to John in about a year, which is normal as he’s a flighty character, so I excitedly answered the call. He says to me ‘I have a surprise for you’ and my mind begins reeling, trying to figure out what he’s going to show me: plane tickets to come visit perhaps? A photo of us he set out to reminisce as he had a drink that night? I wasn’t sure… but what I wasn’t prepared for was when he panned the camera over to his lounge and in it, was my ex; sitting in a relaxed position with his legs outstretched in front of him, a grin on his face and a beer in hand. He raised his beer to the camera, said ‘hey’ and I think my heart stopped for a full 5 seconds.

I have been avoiding any contact with this man for 16 months. I have ignored his messages and cut him out of my life. I’ve deleted or hidden all reminders of us – of him – and I’ve turned my life around, bit by bit, taking it one day at a time. I found my way through that messy breakup and straight into depression and anxiety, through loss and a new ‘love’ (a year later and it didn’t last, but that’s for another post), found a new home, regained *some of* my confidence, even adopted a cat and got my life back in order… and after 16 months of struggles, he tore it all down with a <1 minute video chat, one word and his typical, smug, sh*t-eating grin.

The thing no one really talks about after a relationship breakdown is the after math. We all hear about how hard it will be in the beginning, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is long after. What happens years later when you run into your ex? What about 16 months later when you turn on your phone to find his face looking back at you? This may not be the case if a relationship ends well or mutually, but for me, this was a surprise that I was not prepared for. Worse than seeing his face and hearing his voice after so long, was the feelings it stirred in me. Part of me wanted to yell and scream and tell him all the things I hadn’t in the past that I know he deserves to hear, like how much he hurt me, and all the things that he did that weren’t acceptable; because that part of me wants him to know how horrible he was, to feel bad and to suffer for how everything he did to me created a mountain of suffering for me to overcome alone. Another part of me wanted to just hang up the phone as soon as I saw him come onto the screen and just pretend it never happened, because, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m still scared of the effect that his words can have on me and I still have an internal run-and-hide instinct when I even think of him. Just seeing him brought back so much pain already that it was terrifying to make a decision either way. John brought me out of my shock-induced staring contest with the screen, and I found option three, deep within the darkest recesses of myself. I didn’t yell, I didn’t hang up, but I politely said ‘hi’ wished them both to enjoy their night and stated that I had to get ready for work. I finished by saying it was good to see my friend (specifically because, although I’d like to be, I’m not a big enough person to say that to my ex) and I hung up the phone. It would’ve been clear to the boys that I was eager to get off the phone, but I don’t care about that. What I care about, is that I regained composure after only a few seconds of shock, was polite and did not let my ex get a rise out of me. I was in control as far as he was concerned, and he never needs to find out about my shaking hands, my nearly vomiting, my close tears or how I called my best friend after I composed myself a little bit and screamed to the world (through her) how angry I was at the three people involved:

  • My ex: where does he get off trying to contact me through such a snakelike way of using a friend to get in contact with me? It’s not fair to anyone involved and he, acting like a little puppet master, had our friend convinced somehow that this was a good idea, and had me, unsuspectingly, answer the phone and open my heart to be instantly dragged back through a world of hurt.
  • John: what happened in my relationship is none of his business and he has no right stepping in between like that and trying to corner me into speaking to my ex, whatever he may have said to convince him this was a good idea.
  • and finally, me: I am angry that he can still get a rise out of me, whether I admit that to him or not. I’m angry that in <1 minute, all the doubts he cast in those seven years were back and I was that small, worthless girl who couldn’t make a decision because of all his gaslighting. I am angry that although it was only <1 minute, it has currently overcome my entire morning and now, nearly seven hours later, the only comfort I can find is in writing about this.

Given the fact that my ex is as manipulative as he is, I’m angry that John set me up, but knowing that he tries to fix everything and believes the best in everyone, I am honestly not surprised that he believed whatever yarn my ex was spinning and that my ex managed to weasle his way into contacting me again through John. It’s not the first time he’s used other people to try to get to me, although it is the most unexpected. He’s supposed to be in the USA, I’m in Australia and John is in Norway – of course it caught me off guard, so no, I will not beat myself up for falling into that trap.

All I have been able to do all morning so far is seeth and remind myself that he is not in my life, he no longer controls me or my thoughts, he does NOT determine my worth, or what I want out of life. This is MY life and I refuse to give him control of it… and yet, here I am, back to dwelling on a man who hasn’t been in my life for 16 months. But as I write this, I find solace in knowing that I am stronger now than I was when he’d torn me down year after year, subtly manipulating each aspect of my life. That although I can be as stubborn as anything, even a mountain will be eroded by water over time, but that at the end of the day, the mountain will still stand: altered, but still strong.

The thing I’m starting to recognise, is that maybe emotional abuse triggers never leave us. The trigger will always be there and maybe it’ll be seeing him again or hearing someone’s accent that reminds me of him… none of these things are in my control. My reaction is though. And I’m proud of my reaction to him this morning. I could’ve yelled and screamed or ran away from the call by hanging up, but I took the high road. And the fact that it affected me as much as it did? Well I think that’s a normal reaction to being thrown under a bus by a friend and into a cactus (prick). I don’t have to like him, I don’t have to talk to him, but I do have to recognise that he cannot hurt me anymore. I felt very foolish this morning that he was able to have such an effect on me, but now, and for the last few hours, I’m working my way to conviction that this is a perfectly normal response to such a surprise. I have spent 16 months building barriers and, caught off guard, he managed to circumvent them in a drunken conversation with an old mate.  I’ve done what I can to avoid him and will continue to do so because he’s not worth my tears, pain or struggles. So here I am, altered, but still strong.

Dating in my 30’s

Well I’ve started dating again. Friday was the first one in about 8 months. During that time I had a 6 month relationship that ended quite well – we just determined that we weren’t right for eachother. By ‘we’ I mean ‘me’ and unfortunately my ex had to come to terms with that. But he is a very understanding person and managed quite well after the initial shock wore off. And so here I am, back in the realm of dating… online dating because of all my friends, I am apparently the only single person they know.

I remember that dating used to be fun. People would go out and there would be an element of charm and allure mixed in with the excitement. Two people trying to put their best foot forward… well this was not Friday’s date. I straightened my hair, chose my ‘business classy’ outfit and even put makeup on – a feat that doesn’t happen too frequently for me – and went to the bar/restaurant my date had picked. I was 5 minutes late, as usual, because I didn’t want to look over eager. When I arrived, he was there, already sitting at a table, and waved me over. I didn’t recognise him at first because the man in the profile photos had a clean shaven face and short hair. The man sitting at the table had long hair, a beard and was wearing a tshirt and shorts – a strong contrast to the ‘polished’ look that I had chosen to make my first impression.

I sat down smiling and we started chatting over some red wine – he went up to the bar and bought a bottle, without me even looking at a menu. Strike 1 for him because I like to make my own decisions, but check 1 for him for attempting chivalry on our first date. I explained that this was my first date in a long time – perhaps that was mistake number 1 for me because he took a very large, long drink of wine and looked a little uncomfortable at that remark. I had no idea honesty would be met with such discomfort. He recovered well enough and we got back to chatting… which soon turned into what could only be described as an interrogation by onlookers, with him asking questions and me talking. He would respond to my questions with short answers and then ask me to keep talking so my choice was to babble on or to sit in awkward silence – everyone hates awkward silence, especially me. So on and on I continue my rambling, which was perhaps mistake number 2, because he didn’t seem to care about what I was saying so much as just wanting to finish the wine he bought as fast as possible. Maybe next time he’ll wait for his date to say she just wants a glass before he goes and buys a bottle…

At this point, we’re both painfully aware that we have nothing in common and that this is going nowhere fast. While he was a nice-enough person, he seemed very cocky – bordering arrogant – and the only real information I got from him was that he liked to work from home so that he didn’t have to pretend to care about his colleagues’ day to day lives. ‘I like avoiding all that “Good morning, how are you?” crap that comes with going into the office you know?’ was a question/statement he made. Mistake number 3 was clearly the face I pulled at that comment because he stopped talking and went back to drinking. I have an expressive face… one might say a bitch face… and sometimes I’m not quite fast enough to stop it. By now I’m a little tipsy and far more confident that this will not work and one thing was really bugging me that I had to ask him. So I did: ‘don’t take this the wrong way, but how old are your photos?’ I covered implying that he looked much older by saying he had short hair in his photos and the curly locks in front of me must’ve taken a while to grow out. Clever tipsy me. He defensively answered that he had long hair in the photo of him with the flowers in his hair (in hind sight, there were so many signs that this would not end well) and then avoided any other comment. We both went quiet and finished our wine at which point we called it a night.

All in all, my first date back in the game could’ve been much much worse – I remember the first date I had last year: he was the rudest, most ignorant person I’d ever met in my life. I spent the entire time wondering how I’d ended up in such a predicament. Rather than leaving I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, so instead, I stayed and got drunk while taking notes to share with my friends about how stupid someone can actually be… it turned out to be pretty amusing, albeit insulting at times. This Charlie Sheen wannabe – complete with ‘#winning’ tattoo on the inside of his bicep and quoting the infamous actor in every second line – tried to convince me that all women are the same and that I shouldn’t feel good about my uniqueness because I, in fact, had none, was just like every other woman out there, and was just another ‘pretty face’ in an ocean full of options for him to date. I imagine, had he been from the USA, he would’ve even voted for Trump! So, compared to that first one last year, Friday’s was a walk in the park. And a good reminder just why it’s so hard to find someone that actually makes me happy… perhaps I’m picky, but I would like to go on a date with someone respectful, intelligent, fun/funny, and who actually looks like the photos they show me. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and I don’t intend on settling until I’ve found it.

We’ll see how the rest of my dating adventures play out. I have one that’s supposed to be tonight: with a surgeon. I’m just hoping the ego I’ve already seen (and the amount of photos he’s sent me of himself) in conversation is simply bravado via messaging rather than his actual personality.

Another hindrance to successful dating is that I quite often think I shouldn’t have been born in the time of social media and constant online presence… it’s truly exhausting. Especially when I’m currently stuck being just a little bit fat (ok more than a little – I am about 15kgs heavier than I was last year at this time), bored with my contract job and yet determined to find permanency soon: what can only be an impossible task, and forever just a little bit older than I’m comfortable with. I didn’t have a meltdown when I turned 30 so maybe this new discomfort with being as old as I am is a delayed reaction. Or the result of having dated someone 9 years my junior for 6 months recently… wow, there’s nothing like partying with a bunch of kids in their 20’s to remind me how different being in my 30’s really is.

Lost in my 30’s

Hi there, and thanks for checking out my blog. I decided to write this because I keep thinking that I know where I’m headed and then something sends me wildly off course. For example: I have been working towards healthy living for a couple years now, but that morning tea or extra glass of wine will always find its way into my hand… and then, of course, once I start I can’t stop. I have no self-control so moderation – that beautiful ‘key’ that is discussed on all diet, health, and fitness websites – goes straight out the window.

Or how about my track record with relationships? I thought I was doing it right: I found the right man and (quite literally) moved across the world to make it work, only to find out that he was not the right man at all. I ended a 6.5 year relationship only 2 months before my 30th birthday and though I couldn’t have been happier with that decision, it left me wondering if that was my only chance. My dating track record ever since does lead me to believe that maybe the wrong man is the only kind of man out there.  Then I still find myself reading about the success stories of online dating and think maybe – maybe – the next one won’t show up being 10 years older than his photo, or won’t tell me I owe him a beer for making him take the bus to meet me… maybe. There were one or two nice ones too, but if spitting wine all over the table and his shirt (oh right, I’m also super clumsy) didn’t have him running for the hills, well, I don’t know what would.

So this has brought me to blogging. The way I see it is that I can’t possibly be alone in these experiences, trying and failing at daily self-improvements while barely holding onto a moderately successful career and constantly fighting the social pressures that told me I should be married with kids by now. But that’s not me. I’m a traveller with very different priorities to most people, trying to find contentment in a ‘normal’ life. So here’s what really happens when you try: to live as a vegetarian (that lasted 2 days) or a minimalist (still working on it) or try meditating on the bus (DO NOT fall asleep, trust me).