I am romantically unlearned and under-educated.
I don’t know how people do it. I see couples all the time – they bewilder me. I can kinda understand functional people having a functional relationship but then I meet dysfunctional people in relationships and I am thoroughly confused. Heck, I’ve even met emotionally closed people in relationships making it work! But I cannot. I tried recently. It was a long-term relationship and everything. Needless to say, but just in case I do, it didn’t work out.
Most people would think of my four-week dating of more-than-a-friend-but-much-less-than-a-boyfriend as neither ‘long-term’ nor a ‘relationship’. Well, stuff you. It was the longest thing I’ve had in years. And personally, I think having a special focus on ONE PERSON for that long demands more praise. (Praise can be written in the comment section below – cheers.)
History: I was a commitment-lover. Loved the thing. And I was a romantic, at least out of practice. I genuinely wanted to be one of those people who married their first kiss but that didn’t happen. So I changed my mind to be one of those people who married in their early twenties. Bless me. My definition of a successful person was someone who married young – they must been more special than those who don’t marry, or those who only marry later. And so, when dear twenty-four year old *Mike* came along when I was 20 and we caught eyes, that was it. We didn’t ever date. We threw ourselves into the relationship. When he did things I didn’t like, I never thought, ‘hey, I don’t have to deal with this’, I would just ramp up my efforts to work through it. I was on his side when he changed careers ‘because God told him to’ four times over the course of a year. Committed.
I was lucky to have made a particularly good friend at work while dating Mike. When we were together, we’d giggle with girlish immaturity; non-funny things were hilarious with her. Mike considered her competition for my attention and asked me to work alternative shifts – “I don’t like the person you are when you hang out with her”. Change shifts. I did. For a month or so. And then we were back working the same shifts and laughing girlishly – I just didn’t tell him about it. Breaking up, however, didn’t cross my mind. I was a girl of commitment. Being in a relationship meant I was successful. Breaking up meant I was a failure, and failure was not part of the plan.
After an eternity in Christian-dating-land//a year according to the Gregorian calendar, he proposed and I was delighted. No one else was particularly happy about it except us and his family and other people I don’t wish to insult, but wish to insult simultaneously. Since the beginning, his family had treated me as though I was one of their own, and now the law was going to reflect this. Horrah! Then, one unspectacular afternoon two months before our wedding was due to take place, we had our first serious argument on the phone. I was going to see him later that night at a church event so I didn’t bother calling back when he hung up on me for the first time in our history. I had to calm down anyway so calling back was going to be unproductive.
However, that night, he didn’t turn up. I can’t remember feeling anything but confusion and annoyance. He could have at least called to say he wasn’t coming. I was supposed to be staying at his house that night for an early morning (3.30am start) family trip up north but given his absence, I went straight home. Instead of packing, I spent most of the time checking my phone. He didn’t call or text; I copied his lead.
Assuming Mike, ever the romantic, would arrive at my place and tap on the window at 2am, I went to sleep. I woke up at 8.30 the next morning. No arrival. No window tap. No missed call. No text. And that continued the whole weekend I was supposed to be with my fiance and his family. By Sunday (I’m an incredibly slow processor), I started to realise that this wasn’t the aftermath of our first serious fight, this was an engagement break up.
And so, that Sunday night, I eventually convinced him to speak to me. We arranged to meet in a unimportant car park for the proposal reversal and said goodbye. We barely spoke after that even though we went to the same church. His family would make a guard around him on Sundays even though no one was guarding me. They even threw a party one Saturday night with all my friends and then told me specifically that I wasn’t invited.
Because he had always occupied most of my time, I had lost the modest number of friends I had accumulated since depression had lifted. I distracted myself making new friends. I didn’t have standards in terms of the calibre of connection I made with these new ‘friends’ – selection came much later in the healing process. But because I was so willing to be distracted by anything or anyone, it seemed like I had never loved or even liked him. Of course, that was not true. I didn’t have an appetite and activities like walking alone on the beach were torture. I couldn’t study for my exams and I blared my music loudly in my car when I had to drive alone because I didn’t know how to be alone. I distracted myself for more than a year, all the while appearing (at least on facebook etc) to be having the best year of my life. Even now, I look at the happy photos from 2008 with a sympathetic knowing. I wish I could give my earlier self a hug. She needed it.
(Kirst and Pas, thank you both for your friendship then, and since then. I know I complained a lot and must have been exhausting to be around.)
Eventually, I faced the brick wall of emotional exhaustion 14 months later. I spent the month of July playing break up or love songs on my guitar alone. Some songs were for Mike, some weren’t. Mike’s breakup meant that I clutched onto other friends, probably a little too tightly, and any disturbance in my new friendships resulted in my perceiving it as another [albeit platonic] breakup. I was a sensitive soul; there were a bunch of friends to sing about.
After Mike, there were two main other guys too. One arrived too soon and the other was the closest thing I’ve had to love, but seemed to want different things to me. Both played a significant role in my life then (more than just the obvious point), and in some ways, always will. But after these two, I gave up on romantic love. I had experienced too much boy-related heartbreak in too short a two year period and needed me-time. I reduced my open and somewhat-dysfunctional friendship circle to quality girl friends only, moved to Brisbane, started my masters and changed jobs. I went on dates regularly without regularly dating the same one.
Me-time has lasted years. This really needs an another-part blog entry. I want to tell you all about how life (ie single life) has been such a pleasure. I’m constantly amazed how I’ve changed but how I’ve stayed exactly the same person, and I wonder if I could have done that with one person by my side, heavily influenced by my changing. My dreamboat girl friends don’t mind my changing opinions; I guess I imagine boyfriends would be more directly effected. The thing, now, is, I don’t know how to stay in a relationship: unlike Katie Version 2007/8, I only know how to break up. And worse, I think my ending any dating ‘thing’ as a raging success, rather than a failure.
The thing about being older and dating is that you feel like you’re making more informed decisions. But those ‘more informed decisions’ are hideously more unsuccessful as those uninformed decisions I made when I was younger. At least when I was younger, I could maintain a relationship; I could put up with another person’s crap (defined as: insecurities/inconsiderations/weaknesses/response to mine of the same etc). Now, I suss out someone, obviously consider them worth my time and emotional energy, kiss them, show them respect/expect the best of them for a bit until I find their crap; then I crack and say ‘seeya’. I keep telling myself its because I’m dating the wrong person; that when ‘a’ right person comes along, I won’t want to end it.
There’s no way to prove that.
But here’s hoping anyway.