Between the second and third date (when we were chatting until 2 or 3 a.m.), T spoke of me meeting his parents, fatherhood and marriage. He remarked that our children would be ‘annoyingly cute’ and assured me I’d be an ideal partner in his parents’ opinion, detailing that his mother in particular would be ‘in awe’ of me. He went on to digress that we might host an engagement party in Paris, because he has a lot of family in France. Fashion is imperative for him both personally and professionally, so he specified that I might wed him in an Oscar De La Renta dress, before honeymooning at his father’s property by Lake Como.
All of this sounds so silly even to me as I type, but I guess some part of me must long for the fantastical fairy tale, which seems strange because my divorced parents’ dynamic had instilled a notion that marriage was not romantic whatsoever. The playful pillow talk seemed like a cross between a Disney film and the script of one of those irritatingly smug Sex and the City sequels.
That’s not me!
However, fresh out of the pandemic and inevitably feeling the funk of that post-apocalyptic haze, I take comfort in trusting that lockdown did strange things to a lot of people.
So what was this feeling? I can’t describe it, but it took months to shake it. Grief, I guess. And now that I’ve escaped it, I’m experiencing overwhelming relief to have catapulted myself out of the cycle of chasing someone who had quite clearly had absolutely no intention of honouring my time and energy the way I deserved, despite his claims of how much ‘respect’ and admiration he had for me, that he held me in such ‘high regard’.
What else was this sensation? There was something about it that felt archaic and ancient. Filling me with dread and unearthing something so stilted and stagnant. How did this somehow feel worse than all of the arguments of my previous four-year relationship combined?
Or is there something about withdrawal from the hormone oxytocin that presents an amnesia about how things really were in the past and how they actually felt? Is it possible to fall for someone so deeply in a moment, that it can hurt worse than the ensuing sensations felt throughout a much more formalised and established relationship?
As with previous professional relationships, in which I’ve been financially rather than emotionally assaulted, I foolishly fell for the promise of potential prospects rather than examining the evidence and swiftly proceeding to terminate the contract on the grounds of it being completely and utterly void.
I kept going back and forth with negotiations, within the constraints of this unbearably uncomfortable in-between space. Each time I confronted him about his vagueness, nonchalance and generally lackadaisical behaviour, he’d rush to reassure me that everything was okay. Each and every time I proceeded to gaslight myself about all this, he insisted that he was completely to blame and managed to convince me that I was not, in actual fact, losing my mind.
There was something so different about this in comparison to previous experiences. This time I genuinely thought I’d had it all figured out. I was convinced I’d get a return on my investment. I’d been so clinically clear about how I felt and so cautious to continually self-advocate, yet the cycle of inaction on his part continued.
So what was keeping me from drawing a line under it all and saying ‘enough’ before he confessed that he’d been gravely dishonest to me and that he’d been dating four people? What was preventing me from opting out: out of respect for myself and the remnants of my mental state by that point?
I’d never before experienced the dynamic of me having to chase anyone before. Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing or that there were no other issues in previous experiences. It made me wonder: had I misinterpreted chemistry when what I was actually overwhelmed with was a sense of anxiety? Did it thrill me slightly? Was it in some way exciting?
Had I developed a morbid fascination with what might or might not happen? Did I somehow, on a subconscious level perhaps, think I deserved this treatment. Even though I was convinced his true character was the opposite of his negligent behaviour. When he continually proved me wrong, why did I keep refusing to believe it? Did I really think I could force him to alter his behaviour through preserving perpetually?
Was I tending to a broken heart or simply a bruised ego, or both? How can we tell the difference?
What was it that had me so caught up in all of this? Was it an escape from my less-than-ideal domestic cohabitation situation? The threat of 2021’s autumn and winter approaching?
Having had such unpredictable workflow during the pandemic, was I attempting to connect with something tangible? Was it actually just boredom? Could it be… loneliness? Did I feel so overwhelmed and out of control in many areas of my life that I was diverting all of my attention on him as a ludicrous form of escapism?
The self-gaslighting made me feel as though everything I was expressing was a ghost of a former self. I couldn’t tell if I was subconsciously battling for justice in a situation I was no longer experiencing (projections from childhood or previous relationships) or feeling disorientated by navigating this new, previously unchartered territory that I had convinced myself was healthy, harmonious and healing.
Straight after a dozen consecutive WhatsApps or lengthy voice notes, I’d feel guilty and think perhaps I’m being too harsh. But before I even got the chance to take any of it back, he would always insist that my behaviour was totally justified, apologising profusely. That really threw me and left me feenin for more.
More what, though?
Affirmation, I suppose. That my thoughts were sane, that my feelings were valid and justified. Wow, what a rush I must have experienced this before, surely, but perhaps not as frequently and consistently. It was so addictive!
I’d never demanded a response from anyone in this manner ever before… I’d never had to. I’ve always been the type to roll their eyes at the mere concept of ‘dating’, insisting instead that “I’m either in a relationship, or I’m not.”
That awkward in-between stage of ‘kind of’ ‘seeing’ someone tends to repel and repulse me. When friends coo about the prospect of me dating, I’m horrified and am renowned for pointing out that ‘dating’ is actually just unpaid admin. I’d spent much of my teenage years and adult life ‘single’ and felt very comfortable with that. Even the term ‘single’ irks me as it’s so often interpreted as ‘readily available’ or ‘single (with a subtext of) and looking’...
**Read Part 3 to find out how our Hot Girl finally resolved the challenges of dealing with this situationship. **
Artwork credit: Throat Chakra (2020) Emily Mulenga