Last week…or maybe two weeks ago…I don’t know, I am not great at keeping track of time…Anyway, some time ago I posted about my ex-boyfriend getting engaged to the person he started dating after we broke up, which wouldn’t mean much to anyone who wasn’t around in 2011 to witness my relationship with said ex. It was very dramatic and I wrote all about it.
So, yeah, when I found out that Dale was engaged I think it was quite reasonable to feel like:
To be clear, since our breakup in 2011 I haven’t been sitting around pining away for him. For the first two years I sent him two text messages, both on his birthday, which were met with consistent silence. In 2014 I needed the professional opinion of someone in his field of work, and he obliged via a Facebook message, after which we did not speak again. I was obviously aware through Facebook that he had a girlfriend, but didn’t think much of it. I eventually started seeing other people a couple of months after our final fight in 2011 during which he made it clear that we were never, ever, ever getting back together. Like, ever. And I even had another serious boyfriend who I didn’t love even a fraction of the amount I loved Dale.
I never wrote about said boyfriend because after dating for a considerable amount of time he turned out to be an absolute tit and he really doesn’t deserve his own storyline on this blog. He can be a sidenote in Dale’s story, though. Basically, it started out casual and then somehow that turned into him staying at mine almost every night, and one day he just casually called me his girlfriend and I went with it since I wasn’t seeing anyone else at the time. On his birthday I said something that made him laugh so hard that he spit his beer out and then he said, ‘That’s why I love you,’ and when I saw the panic on his face when he realised what he said and asked him if he meant it he looked me in the eyes and told me that he loved me. I told him that I loved him too in an attempt to avoid a panic attack and because I tend to mirror people in most situations, relationships included, and from there things escalated quickly. It was only when he asked me to move in with him that I hit the breaks.
‘It’s not that I want to breakup with him, it’s just that I think I want to demote our relationship…’ I had said to Lad Boy and Kate over dinner at Bodean’s. LB insisted on making me take a shot of whiskey with gherkin juice and the night evolved into us all getting very drunk on gin and whiskey and Kate ultimately declaring that she thought my boyfriend was ‘batting above his average.’ Kate does this to all her friends – gives a very frank assessment of their partners, since she says that she would want us to do the same. It was kind of a harsh assessment, but at the end of the day it was true. Not because I felt like I was better than him, that wasn’t the case at all, but because he thought I was better than him.
The night we broke up we were in The Folly at Monument and he looked around and declared that it was full of ‘Henry Hoo-Rahs’ which, one, is a phrase that I’ve never heard before, and B. was said with distain for the people around us. I go to The Folly all the time, it’s full of people that I’m friends with and for the first time ever I felt a social divide between us, imposed entirely by him. He did not have an Oxbridge degree but seemed to think that people who did automatically thought they were better than everyone else. Anyway, as we waited at the bar I caught eyes with someone who had been staring at me. I tried to maintain at least some chill as the guy who I had been sleeping with for a year prior to settling down with said boyfriend started walking towards me in brogues, dark jeans, a crisp white tailored shirt, a blue blazer and a fucking red cravat. OF ALL THE DAYS TO WEAR A FUCKING CRAVAT. There is never really an appropriate day to wear a cravat to be fair. He kissed me hello on the cheek and I introduced him to my boyfriend. I noticed my boyfriend giving cravat man a once over and I’m sure was internally rolling his eyes to the back of his skull. I had to lie through my teeth when he asked how I knew cravat man, but I think my ‘He’s just a friend’ was as subtle as a shark attack.
This happened to be the day of the O2 blackout so at some point my boyfriend had to borrow my phone and I took his blackberry so I could play brickbreaker while he was outside. There was a flicker of hesitation, I’m talking like a fraction of a second, before my boyfriend opened the game and then handed me his phone. I used his phone all the time and there was rarely anything of interest in it, but I had a weird feeling and opened his texts to discover he had been messaging girls he met on Plenty of Fish. PLENTY OF FISH. Grow up and use Tinder like a fucking adult. Anyway, I wasn’t even mad. I was just relieved that I finally had a substantial reason to break up with someone who, up until that moment, had been a very nice and decent guy. I ended up having a drink with cravat man before making plans to meet up the following week and going home. We did meet up and sleep together the next week and unlike the crippling depression that hit after breaking up with Dale I was over this breakup, the first since Dale, pretty immediately.
So yeah I never wrote about that guy because he’s an
I moved into a new flat and shortly afterward Dale moved as well and it turned out he was practically in the same post code. I decided to just see if we ever ended up running into each other and not to worry about it otherwise. I was pretty certain that at some point fate would make it so our paths crossed again and until that moment organically arose I just continued living my life, sporadically checking Facebook to see if he had broken up with his girlfriend yet.
Flash-forward two years and it was the first time I had to be reminded by Facebook that it was Dale’s birthday. I went to his page and saw some random photos, nothing too major, but in one he was clearly at a party giving a toast. I clicked on the name of someone else tagged in the photo and it turned out to be the same girlfriend, who hadn’t really featured prominently on his page so I figured maybe in the past year of me not paying attention they broke up or something. Except that the first thing on her public Facebook profile was a picture of them, her with a big ol’ rock on her left hand and the title ‘I said yes!’
I closed out the Facebook app on my phone and pressed the power button, the screen-lock clicking sound effect echoing through my flat. I bit the inside of my cheek as I sat there for a moment, the dreadful feeling of heartbreak washing over me as if he was sitting in front of me in my room at university like he had in 2011 telling me that it he wanted to breakup all over again. There was at least a small rational part of my brain trying to take over and drive home the fact that we broke up four years ago and that we hadn’t even spoken in four years. Another part of me was that very small thread of hope I’d never let go of, the thought that it really had just been bad timing, but that someday there would be another time. We’d both look back at how immature we were with the gift of hindsight and put the whole thing behind us and start again. This wasn’t an everyday kind of hope, it wasn’t something I even actively wished for, it was just something that was there somewhere. And now I had to really get over it. To finally let go of all hope, no matter how little or repressed it was, and face the fact that the only reason I picked myself up and finally got my life back together four years ago was because I had hoped that someday Dale would want me back.
I squeezed my eyes shut, blinking one eye open at a time to try and defiantly keep myself from crying even though my eyelids felt like they were on fire. I wiped away one rogue tear as I pulled out a bottle of wine, because if anything suppresses tears it’s alcohol am I right? I sat down and thought about that first month when I finally got out of bed and started to get my shit together, not just lying there staring out the window and thinking and feeling nothing. I had read some random quote like, ‘Routine is the ladder we use to get back to normal’ or some nonsense like that. I had written it down on a post-it note that was meant for revision purposes and I still have it somewhere in a drawer. I had looked at things like this
and thought, yeah, one day I’ll understand why this all happened to me. But four years have passed and I’m no closer to understanding why.
After one glass of wine I allowed myself to cry briefly, and luckily after four years I know how to turn off the water works. Another glass of wine later I thought about all the things that I’ve done in four years. Like graduating, travelling, moving to different places, having amazing adventures with friends, all sorts of things that I may or may not have done if I weren’t single. There were even times when I wasn’t single, but those relationships just felt wrong and like I was going through the motions, so I haven’t really let anything get too serious.
The only thing that is slightly worrying is that not only have I not actively been thinking of ways to get Dale back, I’ve simultaneously had no desire to have a relationship like that again. Not because I only want Dale or anything like that, but because I hate how much control I lose when I fall in love with someone. It’s counterproductive to basically every other ambition I have in life and it’s just easier not to be that vulnerable.
I’ve been to a couple of weddings, I’ve even been in weddings, and the entire time I’m usually thinking
I’m not even 30 and I have friends my age who are DIVORCED. I think I just got to a point where I realised that after Dale broke up with me I felt like a significant part of myself was missing. And that’s not right. You shouldn’t be an incomplete person. I don’t think it’s possible to properly love someone if you haven’t figured yourself out first, which is what I’ve been trying to do. I haven’t, by the way, figured myself out yet. The only absolutes that I know are that I hate injustice and I love dogs.
I wasn’t even going to properly write about the Dale thing because I really didn’t shut up about it when it first happened for a pretty long time. To the point where even my friends were like
And now when I tell people that I actually want to be single and that I do not want to have a serious relationship they’re like
What really made me think about what’s happened is an email I received from someone who saw my attempt at joking about Dale’s engagement and wrote me a very thoughtful note that went thusly:
For the first time in a while I looked over your blog today and noticed your gif about Dale – The Ex – becoming engaged.
I screwed up my relationship at Oxford. And I screwed up the following two years too – I wanted to be with her, but wouldn’t commit. Suppressed my emotions, thought it wasn’t the right time. ‘Not yet, but soon’. It was an awful mess of pain, angst and love really. She’s in love with someone else now – and moved in with him.
But, going back to you, if I recall correctly: you are clever, you are kind, you are important. These are great things. Remember them.
I was somewhat floored by the frank admission of someone who probably shared Dale’s point of view more than mine, and also by the compliment. I don’t think that I’m stupid and frankly what I believe would be the worst thing to do is to try and artificially recreate what I had with someone else because knowing what being in love with someone feels like is both a blessing and a curse. It is one of the greatest things in the world, but once it’s gone you can’t just settle for something that might slightly resemble it. I am convinced it is to do with biology and chemistry at the base of it, given that there have been glaring flaws that I’ve completely overlooked when it comes to the people I’ve fallen in love with due to what can only be explained as a physical addiction to them. Love is so irrational that I really hate the idea of it sometimes because it’s so uncontrollable and so overwhelming that I can really only compare it to actual addiction.
So, for now I’m going to focus on one thing, and one thing only.
And when I do fall in love again hopefully it will be less
(I mean, Romeo and Juliet lasted like a week and six people died…terrible love story)
And that’s all I have to say about that.