Sunday, 27 February 2011

Holier Than Thou

Its official - the heartbreaker’s heart has been broken.

So there I was, in love, feeling safe and elated, and being prompted to do the ‘right’ thing by my new boyfriend – to put the ex out of his misery by admitting I’d met someone else – and then, when I least expect it, the ex tells me he’s done exactly the same.

Actually, that wasn’t the hurtful aspect of it. The dagger started to penetrate when I noticed the joy in his voice as he proceeded to tell me that the one guy he had slept with since our break-up is now someone he is ‘seeing’, despite finding it really awkward having sex with someone other than me for the first time in 18 months.

“He’s this...” “He’s that”... “You should see the size of his legs...” The only reason I said I’d met someone else, too, was to fight back the pain he was inflicting on me. I am many things, I can easily say the wrong thing at the right time, but one thing I’m not is cruel. And I found that cruel – it’s shaken me to my absolute core and completely disabled me.

If this had happened yesterday it wouldn’t have had the same effect. If anything, I’d have welcomed it and felt relief from my guilt for being happy with someone else, but today things were different. I don’t really know what’s changed, mainly because it’s such a huge and significant change that I’m still trying to adjust. I'm subconsciously looking behind me on either side trying to find things that I recognise. It’s bizarre and this is how I can best describe it:

I was standing on the tube home today, it was fairly busy, mostly with people who’d had a late shift at the office, I’m fairly relaxed and the tube is moving fairly quickly, for a change. All the sudden, I find myself staring down the length of the carriage, unnaturally noticing the windows on both sides at the same in my peripheral vision. More unnaturally, I’m noticing what I’m traveling past. Then it dawned on me – I’m standing in a metal cylinder, on metal wheels, being dragged along a metal track through a tight tunnel at high velocity by the power of electricity – what could possibly go wrong?

I started to panic as though we were heading for a train crash – I could picture the disaster on tomorrow's evening news  – it was like waking up from a cosy day dream and asking yourself, “How the fuck did I just get here?” And I did; out loud! At the time I wondered if I’d live to write about this and eventually I rationalised the situation. Then I got home, picked up the incoming call from my ex and almost immediately crashed into the wall I feared my central line train was heading for.

There’s no rationalising this. Not yet. The only way I’ve managed to ease the pain has been by telling myself that I deserve it. The ‘holier than thou’ pride I’ve been fighting against has beaten me. It’s been a fair old game, really. I’ve just got to try to believe that  he really did feel like this when he found out that I’d slept with someone else, then inadvertently came across a very flattering photo of him in my phone; where his used to be.

For the latter part of the relationship we were practically metaphorically auctioning each other to each other, asking, “Come on then, how much am I worth to you?”, testing for how far we could push the negative boundaries further and further to the point of malice.

I don’t feel like I did anything wrong. I genuinely do feel that he did, though. I feel like he didn’t try nearly half as hard as I did to make it work, and now some sexy, successful, attractive guy is reaping the grain from the seeds I worked so hard to sow.

It’s ironic and cliché, but I knew this was going to happen. I knew that it was going to take a new love to take me away from the old one. I just didn’t think it would happen the other way around or that I'd be this devastated by it.

That'll learns me! That's another chapter of my life painfully closed and another lesson learned in what I don't want from a partner. Good luck to them. I just hope he's learned something, too.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

St Valentine - Mr Right or Mr Right Now?

This time of the western calendar can mean many things to many people. The obvious is what was always intended – an excuse to ‘anonymously’ declare your undying lust or emotional obsession to the object of your affection. For others it’s a commercial conspiracy for you to spend money on someone you no longer feel deserves it. And for a lucky few, it’s a time to get all loved-up and reignite (or throw petrol at) the fire that got them together in the first place.

I dread going past greetings card retailers in the run-up to St Valentine’s Day when I’m single – it’s depressing. This is probably the first time I’ve been single and unfazed by it. I am well aware we’re all too busy or become too complacent in our relationships for a daily dose of romance, but I genuinely think that in the perfect relationship, it should feel like St Valentine’s Day everyday.

Until Jane Austin brought us Pride and Prejudice in the mid 1800s we probably thought there were only two types of men. There was the respectable, well-to-do,  husband material type, and then there was the 'love rat' worthy of nothing more than a clandestine affair - a guilty pleasure. Austin merged these two characters to form the infamous Mr Darcy and has had men and women firmly place this fictional character as a benchmark in their love lives ever since.

Until recently, had I not known of the popular culture that Austin's work has become, I would have placed myself in the 'husband material' category. I'd like to think I'm also 'well-to-do', but unfortunately, riches is not something that features in my past or present. Now I see myself sitting firmly on the fence and drawn to others in the same category, having been categorically described as a 'guilty pleasure'. That hurt.

I've almost always been regarded as a 'trophy partner' until they realised I have a brain and an intelligent opinion. I was the type of boyfriend one wanted to introduce to the family and the wider social circle early on. The type of partner you feel proud of when he's centre of attention recounting a funny personal experience to your friends in an intimate social setting. But then I ended up representing the 'love rat', an awful heart-breaker that should be kept at arm's length or ignored altogether for all his sins.

Valentine's Day could be an excuse for a couple to attempt putting their troubles behind them and remember why they invested so much time and effort to each other in the first place. However, if you've tried that before on countless occasions, I would suggest you use the novelty to remind yourself of your self-worth, what you want and what you deserve from a partner. I used to think that high expectations heralded more disappointment, but who can deny that you're ultimately better off alone than unhappy? And why should any one's version of Mr Darcy be just a fictional, unattainable, unrealistic benchmark? Why is it not the standard expectation to aim for in a life-partner?

I've learned that if you get together with someone who you don't genuinely feel could easily be your best friend from the start, it'll be destined to fail; unless you're partial to a bit of S&M and you choose to take it outside the dungeon. I understand that not everyone wants a life partner or genuinely believes in 'till death do us part', that's fine, too - times have moved on and you have to be realistic - but whatever you want or desire from another, you should be honest enough with them and yourself to ensure you both get the most out of the experience and keep heartache to a minimum.

Jane Austin did us a monumental favour in changing our understanding of romance and sexual relationships. If nothing else, a relationship should be a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. We should not settle for society's expectations of us, but for our own. If you don't feel someone enriches your life and inspires you to do more with it, you are settling for second best. 

In conclusion, I don't think many people fall into just one of the aforementioned categories. We all have a romantic side, a naughty side and desires we're not keen to share or act-out with just anyone. I think most people fall into a fourth category - a Jekyll & Hyde type of character that cautiously tests how far they can push boundaries before laying their cards on the table.  

The upside to romance in this modern world we live in is that with every relationship we learn what we don't want in the next one and perfect it as we grow older. Occasionally, someone will come along when you least expect it who will inadvertently unleash the romantic beast within you - the one you thought would never get an airing - that's my idea of passion and true love.

It is unrealistic to expect a partner to lay on a surprise romantic meal, rose petals leading to a heavenly candle-lit bath, aromatic essential oils and fresh linen for a sensual massage, or mind-blowing sex every night of the week. It wouldn't be a surprise if you started expecting it, but there's no reason why you can't try to do it often...

...why wait for Valentine's Day? 

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Good Boy Gone Bad

Could it be age? Could it be experience? Or could it just be my cynicism, overgrown like a giant weed in an unsightly garden? Whatever it is, I'm not the optimistic, naive twenty-something I used to be. I've gone from being a helpless romantic of husband material status to a harsh realist unable to control certain urges. I've gone from fearing the laws of attraction to holding a criminal record for heart-breaking. I'm a good boy gone bad.

It’s not something I'm proud of. The transition wasn't a steady one, there were highs and lows and this is a conclusion on reflection. At one point I also went from laughing at the idea of gay marriage to then proposing to a man I genuinely thought I would spend the rest of my life with. It seems that as one part of my mind thaws, a small part of my heart freezes further and I'm barely able to feel some emotions these days.