On 11 May 2015, Mariah Carey sued her billionaire ex-fiancé for a post-engagement ‘inconvenience fee’ of $50 million for wasting her time. The settlement resulted in her being awarded ‘between $5 and $10 million’ and she kept the engagement ring, also worth $10 million – but that’s not the point, it’s the principle!
Six months into a situationship, which thankfully hadn’t progressed to sexual intimacy, I received a flurry of WhatsApps from someone I’ll refer to as ‘T’. Let’s not disclose his full name, seeing as he studied law and I myself might be at risk of being sued. While he claimed to acknowledge and admit his errors in a string of half-hearted apologies, being put on blast could lead to a legal claim against me for defamation of character.
Let me also state clearly that I take no issue with polyamory as long as it’s stated and consensual from all parties from the start, in the interest of ‘expectation management’.
For example, six weeks after the ‘first date’, I enquired about our next link-up.
He said: “Even though I know you are in fact marginally irate, your patience means maybe I don’t need to obsess over ruining a long-running friendship of distance. Instead, I might have stumbled upon a relationship, either romantic or platonic, that for once might not have a toxic and confusing ending – but instead be the beginning of a long-running partnership based on mutual growth twinned with physical and cognitive sexual attraction.”
He meant (and did eventually disclose, five months later): ‘Disclaimer: I’m dating four ppl simultaneously.’
My immediate reaction was errr, make that three! Naaaaaaaaaah… Drop me out. Dead that. What the…
… That could never be me
Why not just say that in the first place? Why make me wait? Why beg me to be patient with him? – This all seemed so sadistic!
On 24th March 2022 at 8.22 a.m., shortly after the shell-shocked sensation subsided, Mariah’s headline flashed across my mind. That sentence was part of a flurry of WhatsApp exchanges I’d received in response to my provocation: “I don’t deal well with guessing games and the silence is deafening.”
This revelation was so contrary to everything he’d continually assured me of in terms of exclusivity during the six months of courtship as well as 10 years of his calm, composed, consistently well-mannered nature since we first met.
The TikTok soundtrack of Hi, this is me, you’re probably wondering how I got here? Well, it’s a long story! echoed in my mind as I doom-scrolled back up through our chat history to try to figure out how I’d become so misguided.
First of all, I’d been so committed to the importance of me being consistently transparent about my every thought, feeling and intention (in order to pave the foundations of a healthy, harmonious, prospective relationship) that I hadn’t for a second considered that he might not be telling me the full story while waxing lyrical about how enamoured he was with me. I’ve since learnt from Google that this is called ‘breadcrumbing’.
In the final months of 2021, every time I had asked about a second, third and eventually our fourth and final date, he’d insisted repeatedly that he had been ‘busy with work’ which was partly true, but nonetheless triggering considering my father shared the same rhetoric – which I told T all about. That’s what hurt the most actually: how honest I thought we had been, how vulnerable I thought we had become to each other through mutual emotional intimacy.
Now, I’m not saying he’s completely to blame because I happen to be trained in Attachment Theory, having previously undertaken work with vulnerable, young people. A childhood exposed to constant conflict between my care givers has resulted in me being pensive, analytical and observant. Hypersensitive, hypervigilant and hyperaware. All of this has led to ongoing self-enquiry, which I approach with a mixture of fascination and frustration.
Consequently, the algorithm of my Instagram explore page regularly humbles me by presenting digestible, memorable suggestions of best practice in terms of safeguarding my mental health. Through sharing posts and screenshots, I share this mindfulness Gospel, my IG story, with the same keenness elders of certain communities and belief systems feel compelled to distribute Bible verses.
What was it that got me so worked up about this guy? Was he physically attractive? Kinda. Was he intelligent? He seemed so. The intellectual tennis we seemed to play was very alluring for him and rather infuriating for me. He consistently irked me with his behaviour, but seemed so delighted by how eloquently I was able to articulate my thoughts and feelings.
What’s that all about? Ego, I guess…
“But what else was it,” I enquired internally.
On our first ‘date’ I was fresh out of a long-term relationship, I was candid with him about that from the get-go. I met him with a mixture of intrigue and bemusement. A 10-hour walk around Peckham, which ended by him escorting me home to the other side of the city didn’t make my feelings towards him, if any, any clearer. I mean: he was incredibly attentive and seemed very sweet, but can you even call that a date? I’d say it was 85% platonic and – due to the extensive duration – also felt like a whirlwind of several dates in one.
I can’t remember what songs he sent me afterwards or what they might have been in reference to because I’ve archived and deleted our chat histories several times since then, naturally. I jokingly retorted that he should make me a playlist instead of this clumsy scattering of songs. He said, I thought jovially, that he’d make one for me by the end of the week and I thought nothing more of it. A day or two later, he’d sent me a diligently curated, genre-defying Spotify playlist entitled – get this – ‘Divine Timing’.
Having been mere acquaintances before becoming a little closer platonically during the purgatorial pandemic, this honestly came as a surprise. Sure, he had claimed to have been instantly drawn to me the first time we met (a decade prior) and too shy to make a move back then, but I wasn’t convinced. I took this as a compliment but didn’t really take it that seriously to begin with. I thought: “That’s all talk, move to me with some action.”
He later confessed that he was so attracted to me he’d checked my tagged photos on IG to get a better look at me, because I tend to curate my Instagram page as a stream of consciousness rather than saturating it with selfies – depending on how I’m feeling.
Towards the end of our first ‘date’, I was so sleepy that we stumbled into our first comfortable silence. Not that we’d ever had an uncomfortable silence before that point: we’d literally been talking non-stop the entire time. The undivided attention he indulged me in and intensity of even a few seconds of eye contact left me, well, speechless… How can the affirmation of some conversations feel more nourishing and soothing than physical (non-sexual) touch or eating a meal?
But what else?
… Sweet talk.
Look out for Part 2 of ‘Situationship Sabbatical’ to see what happened once our girl and T could meet again IRL.
Artwork credit: Throat Chakra (2020) Emily Mulenga
In the first part of her heart-felt, humorous account of why she’s taking a sabbatical from bad situationships, our writer explains how she got sucked into a WhatsApp-dominated, toxic ‘relationship’ at the height of the pandemic.
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