Having got through the meeting of my friends relatively unscathed (other than a short term dip in my mental health on the night), Filipeen and I continued towards Christmas at full speed. Well, full speed with a couple of speed bumps.
His query about how close, or not, I was with my best straight guy friend he’d met at pie night came up again a couple of times, and with every time I had to defend my platonic relationship I found myself getting more frustrated. He’d also started to ask me more pointed questions about life goals, seemingly following on from the conversation at the steak restaurant, and every time would include him sitting in silence while I felt more and more inclined to fill the silence with justifications for whatever I’d just said. And his initial warmth was now being broken up with more and more cold patches, winter was definitely getting chillier.
We also spent an inordinate amount of time one night sat in his car in a Walmart parking lot discussing – I don’t want to say arguing about – weed. (This sentence makes me feel very North American. LOL.)
The “discussion” wasn’t actually about weed itself, but it stemmed from it. Smoking pot is an incredibly common occurrence in Vancouver, I always say you’re more likely to smell that than cigarette smoke here. He told me early on he smoked it to help with muscle pain he had from a snowboarding accident. My personal take on weed – I don’t smoke it, never have, my ex did, I don’t have good feelings about it. For me, that is. For you, for Filipeen, for anyone else? Carry on, knock yourself out, have fun, I have no judgement about it.
But as we were leaving the house that night, to go to Walmart to pick up another set of lights to decorate his place with, he made a comment about how tired he was and that when we got back I could roll him a joint and he’d make dinner. I laughed and said “um no, we’ll do the other way around” and that started the weirdest / most disproportionately reactive “discussion” I’d ever had with him.
Sat in the car once we reached Walmart he told me I was projecting feelings about my ex onto him, that I was judgemental and he topped off those statements by telling me that I was a hypocrite for not liking weed when I drank so much. Wow. Where the hell had that come from?
I remember being sat in the front passenger seat, him beside me, telling me how unhealthy my life was, as I looked out at the rain bouncing off the windshield, and thinking what the fuck is going on? Am I losing my mind? Why am I having to justify my lifestyle?
It became clear that we weren’t going to get to a consensus so in an effort to get out of the car which by that point felt like it was closing in on me after 20 long ass minutes, we agreed to disagree and instead walked round Walmart pretending everything was fine when in fact I had no clue what had just happened and was questioning my own sanity. Probably much like most people in Walmart.
We moved on from the Walmart car park debacle but it was still very much in the back of my head. Actually, more like the front and by the week before Christmas we both knew there was some underlying tension, given the rise in the number of tense conversations we were having. And we both knew it should be discussed – at least we were both on the same page about that – so we made plans to go out for dinner on the Friday night with the unspoken fact that we would try and work things out. .
As luck would have it by the end of that week I was sick as a dog with a cold and should have been in bed. Instead I drugged myself up, had a nip of whisky before I went out and steeled myself for what I didn’t think was going to be an all that fun night. When had I started to not look forward to seeing him?
The night didn’t start well with some confusion around the reservation time, I couldn’t get a cab and he was running late but I’d picked a place he’d had always wanted to go and where the food was great so at least we had that in our favour. Unfortunately I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to taste a single bite and in some respects I got to dinner just wanting to have the conversation and then get to bed.
We did the usual “how was your day” chit chat to begin with but as the starters arrived we got round to talking about the massive elephant in the room. We started by both agreeing that doing the couple-y things, like walking the dog or going to get groceries or decorating his house with Christmas lights, can be great but we’re really not there yet or at least not to the point where that had become almost all we did. And we don’t know each other well enough to be with each other when we’re trying to run errands or deal with stress or fit things into a crazy busy day.
I then explained I was having difficulty with his back and forth between hot and cold which had started in the last few weeks and that, ultimately, in those moments when he was being cold I was left feeling rejected. And rejection is my biggest fear. I think it’s likely most people’s, but since my divorce I know that I’ve actively sought to avoid any situation where rejection could arise. While also trying not to become a hermit – not easy.
He admitted that he wasn’t sure how he felt about me/us. He said “sometimes I look at you and think “I am not in the same place as her and I need to tell her””. I questioned why then he wouldn’t have put some distance between us or attempted not to create these ridiculously couple-y scenarios, or declined my offers to do things a girlfriend would do like walk his dog, and all he could say was “because sometimes I think I am in the same place as you but then most of the time I don’t think I am”.
I let the words hang in the air and could feel the tears sting behind my eyes. I wanted to believe it was just the cold but that admission weighed heavily on me and it would prove to haunt me for a long while afterwards. He did follow it up by saying that he hoped he would get to the same place as me but that for now he was feeling like I was “much further down the road”.
My head was already cloudy as shit with the cold but this conversation was really fogging it up and while I had hoped it would bring me clarity I was getting the distinct impression it might do the opposite. There was some other chat along the same lines which lasted for most of dinner, and between the topic of conversation, my inability to taste the difference between gumbo and mac and cheese (we were at a Southern restaurant) and only being able to breathe out of my mouth, it wasn’t the most fun Friday I’ve ever had.
We did however finish the night discussing how we were going to try and resolve things, both acknowledging that we did want to try. We decided to get back to proper dates – dinners and drinks and walks and cinema and other fun stuff. We knew we needed to spend time together getting to know each other doing fun, random stuff, not chores or errands at someone’s house. And no more friend intros, until we’d figured this out.
While I was totally on board for all of that, I knew I needed to be ok with feeling like it was going a little backwards and not take it as a negative. I also knew I had to stop offering to do things out of kindness and set some boundaries for myself. He clearly wasn’t going to say no, why would you when someone’s offering to walk your dog when it’s shitting snow outside and you can stay indoors and cook? I also had to let go of the fact that he argued that meeting my friends had been too soon, yet he was the one who was super keen to come that night. And that he was saying I was too far down the road, yet he hadn’t put up any vocal objections about any of the stuff we’d been doing.
We called it a night after main courses, thankfully he didn’t want dessert and all I wanted was my bed. As I went home alone (he didn’t stay, I was that sick), one of my friends called to ask how the dinner had gone and, after I told her the tale of the night and how confused by it all I was, she completely accurately stated – “it shouldn’t really be feeling this difficult this early on and you really shouldn’t be this confused.”
She was, of course, entirely right. And the confusion she spoke of, that was overwhelming for me, was only compounded the next day when, driven by what I can only think was maybe a sense of guilt after seeing my reaction to some of the things he’d had said to me (he’s Catholic after all), Filipeen messaged me early in the morning to see how I was feeling and to say sorry that last night hadn’t been a tonne of fun. That bit wasn’t confusing, that bit was nice.
What was confusing was that after all the chat we’d had a mere 12 hours prior, when we’d decided we’d stop doing couple-y things until we both felt ready, he insisted that I go over to his house so that he could take care of me while I was sick. He said he would have come to mine to look after me but he had work to do from home so if I could get over there he’d do the rest.
Now, ordinarily, in the cold light of a good health day, I wouldn’t have thought twice about saying no. Not least because a) I’ve found myself to be fiercely independent when it comes to taking care of myself since I got divorced, and also because b) it was the exact opposite of what we said we were going to do! However, I was feeling like such a bag of shit, so ridiculously sorry for myself and clearly having a weak moment that I took him up on it.
I packed a bag, and my self pity, and went over to his place. Cue the confusion rising…
He’d changed the sheets on his bed so they were fresh for me. He was making chicken soup to make me feel better. He had the air purifier on in his bedroom to help clear my head. The kettle was boiled to make me a honey and lemon drink. There had been a table moved next to the bed for me to put all my tissues, drinks, phone etc on. And there was a bath running with lavender epsom salts in it to relax me before I got into bed.
Don’t get me wrong, you can be kind to someone you’re dating when they’re sick – take them some soup or pick them up some meds. But all of that? And while I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven, there was a voice somewhere, really far back in my head, almost silently screaming “what in the actual fuck happened to what we talked about last night?!” At another time I would have tried to make sense of it but for then I took a long hot soak in the bath followed by an afternoon spent watching Netflix while he periodically checked on me, got me fresh water, made me more hot drinks and then made us dinner as well.
The next day as he drove me home on Sunday morning before he went to church, when thankfully I was feeling much better, we mused on the fact that in a week it was Christmas. Knowing we both had pretty busy weeks coming up we agreed that we’d see each other the following Friday, when we’d both have finished work for Christmas and could do something fun.
That felt a little better, a little more “normal”, a little more like what we’d talked about at dinner two nights previous.
That week passed by in a blur, work was so busy and seeing friends before they left for their Christmas trips kept me occupied but I was aware that there was definitely a shift in things. We didn’t text as much and when we did it was generally at night and him saying he was tired and going to bed. I tried to put it out of my mind as much as I could until I saw him on the Friday.
When the end of the week rolled around, he suggested he cook dinner and we stay in seeing as we’d both had such busy weeks. And while that did sound like bliss, I couldn’t help but feel like again, that wasn’t quite what we’d agreed on at the Friday night dinner previous. I also know I’m a stickler for the rules and need to loosen up at times so I just went with it. We had a super chilled, super relaxed evening and a lot of really great sex.
Have I mentioned the sex? I don’t think I have. Or at least not enough. We had incredible sex. Throughout it all, even when that underlying tension was bubbling to the surface, the sex was always amazing. And there was always a lot of it. I’m pretty sure his shower had been designed specifically for it. Maybe that was why I always went to stay there…
But I digress, back to the weekend of Christmas. The Saturday morning rolled around and it was Christmas Eve. We started the day off with a run with the dog and then went to buy food and drink for a dinner he was hosting for friends on Boxing Day. And I know what you’re thinking – if that doesn’t sound like a couple-y Christmas Eve I don’t know what does. Yah, you and me both.
As he dropped me off home early that afternoon after all of our errands he made mention of the Boxing Day dinner we’d been doing all the shopping for. We’d previously discussed it and he’d hinted at me going, but that was before all the confusion and the weirdness and saying we weren’t going to do friends again until things were a little better. So when he brought it up in a way that presumed I was going to be there I couldn’t just let it slide.
I told him I presumed I wasn’t going to be there and I was absolutely ok with that. It was his best friends he was having round and I didn’t want to add a layer of complication to that, I also was trying to be respectful of the fact that just over a week ago he’d said he didn’t totally know how he felt about me and that we shouldn’t “do the friends thing”, so was it really wise for me to go?
He said he would love for me to be there but it was up to me. Way to put on the pressure. I told him I’d think about it but in the back of my head I knew I should sit this one out. Which would have been made easier if it hadn’t been for the fact that seeing as I was going to Filipeen’s on Christmas Night, I was obviously going to wake up there on Boxing Day.
Christmas night itself was… difficult. When he picked me up from my dinner (side story – I ended up going for Christmas dinner to a friend’s house, the friend who’d known Welsh Rugby Playing Lawyer, and it turned out he was coming for dinner too, so the four of us sat and ate turkey together all the while I wanted to ask what the fuck had happened and why the fuck he’d ghosted me, alas I did not – wow actually this story deserves it’s entire own blog post now I think about it…) his demeanour was not that of someone who had spent all Christmas Day with his family. Or maybe it was, I mean families can be stressful.
Either way, he wasn’t what I’d describe as “cheery”. So on what had been a really lovely day I’d spent with friends and had been looking forward to finishing it off with him, I found myself going through a car wash at 9pm on Christmas night on our way back to his place because his car needed a clean. That’s not a Christmas Day activity! I thought he was a Catholic!! He did also admit, mid soap suds, that he had found Christmas hard because he wasn’t where he wanted to be in his life, that he was with his brother and his family but he’d thought by his age (38) he would have a family of his own to have Christmas with.
Now I heard him, loud and clear. As I think I said in my very first blog post, did I really expect to be where I am? FUCK NO. But here I am. And yes, there are times it gets me down and there are times I wonder why, but they’re fairly few and far between now and as long as I know I’m doing what I can to get myself where I want to be and as long as I’m spending time with good people while I’m doing that then I feel like I’m able to manage my mood a little better than he apparently could.
After the very solemn Christmas Night car wash (honestly, this story, wtf) the rest of the night wasn’t a night of cosying up on the sofa and enjoying each others company. It ended up being spent starting prep for the feast the next day. There were about 15 people invited and he’d decided he wanted to do 3 main courses, 4 side dishes, 2 desserts and a tonne of appetisers to begin with – there was a lot to do.
However, he insisted I didn’t do anything apart from enjoy a gin from the bottle of Botanist I’d bought for us for Christmas. We decided we weren’t doing presents for each other, we agreed it was too early for that but apparently not for domesticated bliss on Christmas Night. Confused much?
So instead I got drunk (I’d started my Christmas Day at a bottomless mimosa brunch with one of my closest friends) and maybe a little belligerent, told him he was boring and took myself to bed. Yup! Merry Christmas folks!!
The next morning brought with it no mention of the night before, apart from the horrific hangover I had, more food prep and me playing sous chef and runner. There was a laundry list of things he’d forgotten from the supermarket so he asked me to drive his car to Safeway and pick them up. So now I’m driving his car, which is his pride and joy, to go grocery shopping for a dinner party for his friends that I wasn’t even planning on attending.
My girlfriends were getting a running commentary of it all over text and by this point they were all just like “GO HOME!”. I, of course, did not go home. I couldn’t find the opportune time to leave him to finish the prep himself, because I knew it would leave him in the shit. There was no way he’d get everything done by himself. And I couldn’t leave him, I’m not that person, I’m too nice.
As the time rolled around, and the day had passed to the point where people were due to be arriving in 20 minutes I resigned myself to the fact I was obviously staying and about to meet his closest friends. I should probably change out of my sweatpants.
The night was good, if a little awkward when I was introduced and no one even knew he was dating someone. Not helped by the fact that when guests were arriving he had disappeared into the kitchen so I ended up greeting people. You know, like a good girlfriend does. Oh that’s right, I’m not his girlfriend, he introduced me a couple of times as his “friend”. Right, got it.
Fuck. My. Life.
I desperately wanted to go home, but I couldn’t drive because my coping mechanism had been to get stuck into the wine. The wine he and I had chosen on Christmas Eve when we’d been doing the shopping together, LIKE A COUPLE. I got drunk again, and that night after everyone had left and he took himself to bed almost instantly, a little more belligerent. After helping him all day, being the perfect hostess for a dinner I wasn’t even hosting with people I didn’t even know (they were all lovely though thankfully), clearing up the kitchen afterwards, he barely thanked me and instead got into bed after “such a tiring day”.
I was angry. I was hurt. I was confused. I was drunk. And the way drunk me acts is always a great indicator of what else is going on in my life. If drunk me is a nutcase, I’m dealing with unresolved issues. If drunk me is laughing and having a great time, my life is all roses. Let’s just say drunk me wasn’t laughing and having a great time.
Luckily he was asleep, or at least trying to, so was entirely unresponsive when I told him I didn’t want to be a housewife and he’d treated me like a slave all day. It was maybe a little over dramatic but it was obviously my underlying feeling. I eventually joined him in bed and went to sleep in a drunken stupor of misery and confusion.
How had my first Christmas dating someone since my ex turned into such a shit show? Why was I so confused and on edge all the time now? How had he made me feel like I needed to prove to him that I was worthy of him wanting to date me and introduce me to his friends by playing hostess with the mostess? And why the hell wasn’t I calling him out on the fact that his actions and his words could not be more mismatched if they tried?