Multi Player Game Loading…


In this world of online dating, the swiping and matching and compatibility scores make it all seem very game like, but when I entered it, I still expected it was going to be a two person game. Turns out I was wrong.

I wanted to write about this because my post earlier this week and the one coming up next week combine to very much exemplify the trials and tribulations of multi player dating, as I like to call it. I also had someone ask me “are dates with just one person not a thing anymore?” after listening to my Instagram stories over the last few weeks. And it was a fair question!

It’s true, I am knee deep in the world of multi player dating, that is to say that at any one time there may be multiple men I am chatting with on an app and/or going on dates with. It’s the done thing now, in a world where you can scroll endlessly through “options” as if shopping for clothes and you know you’re only ever a few swipes from a match at any time, it seems people no longer wish to be tied down too quickly, if at all. And I feel really really conflicted about it.

On the positive side, it does allow you to meet a lot of people, in a relatively short space of time, and give you good comparisons for what you are/aren’t looking for. At my age, I hate wasting time on anything, so at least this way it feels like efficient dating. And I’m all for efficiencies.

Plus, given the sheer level of flakiness of people – is it just Vancouver, or is it the same everywhere? – you could be chatting with ten guys online, have organised three dates and only one of those people will you actually end up meeting in person. So it’s kinda like making sure you have enough fish in the bucket to catch one, does that make sense? (Side note – is it terrible I’m comparing men to fish and dating to fishing?)

It does also help me stay a little more unattached than I might otherwise. I love to jump head first (into that fish pond) and I have definitely been guilty of getting ahead of myself when there wasn’t any foundation for it (this is a whole other blog post topic) but at least when there are multiple guys on the scene it allows me to not be motivated by a fear of scarcity and so build an entire life in my head with someone I’ve met once.

And at the end of the day, it’s how it is now. I didn’t feel that I could really not get onboard, unless I wanted to be the girl who was dating one person at a time when every guy I was dating was probably chatting to numerous other women. People who haven’t dated in years can’t get their head around it, and neither could I until I was thrust back into this dating life, and will say they couldn’t/wouldn’t do it but I’m not honestly sure there’s another way.

That doesn’t mean I love it, however. It took me a really long time to be comfortable (if I’m even comfortable with it now?) and I still have pangs of guilt at times because, you know, I have a conscience.

The whole practice feeds into the fact that people don’t give things a chance to develop – we’re so quick to move onto the next if the first date isn’t perfect, if the person doesn’t tick every single one of our prerequisite boxes, because we think the person we have a first date planned with tomorrow might! In the same way online dating apps can feel like online shopping, we also hope for the same return policies it seems.

And in having another first date set up for the next day are we setting the expectation that today’s date won’t be good? There’s a balance between not putting all our eggs in one basket and making sure there’s another egg available should the one we picked be bad. (Side note – now, men are eggs? Wow, all the comparisons are coming out today…) But there has to be something to be said for going into a date with nothing else on the horizon so you do truly give it the time and effort and mindfulness it deserves.

It also means you have to trust in the mis-trust, as I call it. You trust that the other person has the same level of mis-trust, that this isn’t going to work and so is also multi player dating. You never talk about it, you just assume that they know the rules of engagement, and so are also still swiping and matching and dating, and assume that they assume the same of you. There’s a lot of assumption, and let’s be honest, that’s never going to end well.

Where it does end normally is in an awkward conversation where one of you decides they don’t want to multi player date anymore and instead wants to get back to the traditional two player game, so has to ask “are you still dating other people?” No one wants the answer to that question to be yes. So the other tact is to go at it from the assumption route and frame it as “I’d like if we didn’t date anyone else anymore”, making it known you assume they have been and that essentially you have been also. It’s tres romantic. And let’s not even get into the health risks of sleeping with multiple people.

The whole thing just feels like being on a series of the Bachelor but you don’t get to see the other contestants, how’s that fair? You can’t beat the competition if you don’t know the competition, am I right?! Jokes, be yourself, don’t compete for anyone. But it makes my point.

And at the end of the day I like monogamy! Sorry not sorry if that’s boring but at the end of the day that’s what I’m looking for, that’s what I’m comfortable with, that’s the goal so why do I have to endure the uncertainty and ambiguity and secrecy that comes with multi player dating. And I always struggle with it because it makes me think lesser of the person (people!) I’m dating because I know they’re doing it…. but we all are!

What is it they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game. Though, if we’re honest, we could all be better, more mindful players too.

…previous post

Strings Optional


If you were to describe an ideal date for you, what would it be? A fancy dinner? Beers on the beach? A walk to some beautiful waterfalls? Or maybe it would be playing video games and eating junk food?

I didn’t know that last option would strike such a chord with me until I matched with a guy on Tinder and his opening line was “wanna play Mario Kart and eat ice cream?” and, dammit, the only answer I could give to that was a resounding “hell yes!”

And so we arranged a first date fairly quickly, which I always like. We did amend the initial plan, though, to just meeting for ice cream so that we would be in a public place, could both check out the other’s level of crazy and make sure we were both comfortable but, all being well, then a second date was going to be Mario Kart and ice cream at his place.

He was a 25 year old personal trainer, originally from France but had moved to Canada when he was 6 so was French accent-less, and was on some crazy bulking “diet” where he had to eat a ridiculous number of calories in a day – so the ice cream was really just to help him. And who am I, if not a supportive person?

We met at an ice cream place near where he lived – I went over a bridge for him. Well, technically I went over a bridge for ice cream, but… semantics. I wasn’t sure what to expect. If I’m being totally honest, I had 100% swiped right for the abs. The shirtless pic of him among friends had really got me. I still remember it, green leaf print board shorts, stupid look on his face, throwing some sign with his left hand that I’m not cool enough to understand the meaning of and with these glistening abs of steel.

As I’d found out with Arms, you should never judge books with good abs by their cover alone but his date suggestion, of Mario Kart and ice cream, was hardly a trip to an art gallery, so I didn’t know how much would be below the surface of the abs.

Thankfully, as we tucked into our ice cream, having been shown by him the best combo to have at this particular ice cream place, it became clear there was in fact a lot going on under that taught washboard stomach. He’d studied back in France for a year, found a lot of the North American way of life to be boring and vapid, was starting to build out his own business and loved repairing old motorbikes.

It was a good first date, even when his best friend and girlfriend happened to turn up for ice cream. They seemed nice, which is always a good sign, and it was an easy and fun chit chat that Frenchie, as he would be known, navigated smoothly. The only reason the date ended when it did was that he worked early mornings and so always had early nights. We said goodbye on the street, confirmed we’d do Mario Kart and ice cream next time and with a quick peck on the cheek, I was headed home.

Less than a week later and I was making my way over to his place – I travelled! Again! We’d also added pizza into the mix so essentially I was heading to a date dreamed up by a nine year old boy – pizza, ice cream, Mario Kart. And I wasn’t necessarily complaining.

It was a very fun night. I was absolutely abhorrent at Mario Kart, and devastated that I’d lost all the skills I’d had as a kid. It was most unfortunate considering we’d shared a fair amount of banter back and forth pre-date about who was going to kick whose ass. Turns out my confidence was misplaced.

My confidence that night in general was a little AWOL. In the week between dates, we’d had a fairly frank discussion about what we were both looking for and while up until that point I’d always been of the opinion that I was looking for a relationship, I was heading home to the UK for the entire month of April, so had decided maybe fun was a better option for now and when I came back I could re-assess. That sentiment worked with him and so the second date came with the unspoken expectation that while on the surface of it, it sounded like a nine year old’s dream Wednesday night, it was probably going to end a little differently.

And while over the months my confidence had been growing, there was something I found intimidating about the fact he was a personal trainer. It’s like when your hair needs doing and there’s a hairdresser in your group. Or when you’ve had some house renovations done and a contractor friend comes round to visit. You’re always worried about their judgement. In this case, I was worried that Mr Personal Trainer was going to be critical of my work-in-progress-body.

I know, I know, I know, body positivity is where it’s at. Who gives a fuck what someone else thinks about your body. Your body is incredibly strong and resilient and should be shown more respect than to be cheapened by numbers on a scale. But let’s be honest, when you’re thinking about being naked, particularly for the first time with someone you find attractive, there’s often a little voice in the back of your head hurling doubts at you.

But the voice got real quiet, when after Mario Kart and stuffing ourselves on pizza and ice cream – seriously, he might have been bulking, but I shouldn’t have been – the next, non-nine year old part of the date slowly but surely progressed and at the first stage of nakedness Frenchie stopped kissing me to say “your body is hot”. Umm, well, that’s not the worst thing to hear, especially from someone who improves bodies for a living.

Ugh, and I hate that I even wrote those last three paragraphs. I want to be one of those people that’s like “This is me bitches! Take me as I am!” And some days? Some days I am. Other days, most days, I’m like the majority of women (people?) who don’t always totally love everything about themselves.

Lying half naked on his couch with his compliment ringing in my ears definitely helped me relax and enjoy it more than I might have. Which was good, because his body, the sex, it all absolutely should have been enjoyed. There wasn’t a lot wrong with any of it. Apart from maybe the Mario Kart music going round on a loop in the background…

Despite the mood killer of the Mario Kart musical accompaniment, it was fun, we both seemed to enjoy it and as I left that night, saying I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see him before I left for my trip home, he asked me the most romantic of questions – “how do you feel about a threesome?”

My instant reaction was to ask which sex the third would be and he responded “whatever you’d want”. Hmm, interesting. I laughed and without answering kissed him goodbye and said I’d maybe see him in a month or so.

We weren’t in touch while I was away but when I got back I messaged him to catch up and see how things were. I realised that in the two dates we’d had before I left and now I was back, every time we texted it was easy, uncomplicated, straightforward, maybe slightly transactional? And I didn’t mind it. I always knew where I stood. Can you do this time? Yes/no. Does this time work? Yes. Great. Done.

Between his early mornings, my training for a half marathon and a busy social calendar, and his second job as a Butler In The Buff – yep, he’s one of those guys that has to serve champagne to drunken bachelorette parties wearing nothing but an apron – it was hard to get time to see each other but when we did it was always fun and it was always leading to one thing. No, not Mario Kart.

Most of the times I went over to his place, but I decided to put a stop to that after we ended up in his bedroom one time – yes, it had been the couch or bust before that but then he got a flatmate – and his bedroom was… questionable at best. Rancid at worst.

And, seriously, I need a clean and tidy surrounding to be able to fully get in the mood. The fact that his bed wasn’t even made, and I don’t just mean the covers turned up, I mean there were no sheets on the bed, and that you couldn’t see a surface because every inch was covered in.. stuff… it just didn’t make me feel super comfortable. Helped least of all by the fact that on the far side of his bed I noticed an open condom wrapper and bobby pins – neither of which had come from our interaction that night. It was definitely one of those “WTF – how did I get here?!” moments I write about a lot.

So I took a step back at that point and wasn’t planning on seeing him again, but he must have caught me at a weak spot because I ended up seeing him one more time but insisted he came over to mine. At least I knew where my sheets had been.

He came over on a sunny Sunday afternoon and brought some wine. We shared it on the balcony and chatted about life, his business, my dating. He was fascinated by me being 32, almost about to turn 33, and when he found out I was divorced – it had never come up in conversation prior to that day – it was a massive turn on for him. Which was just plain weird to me.

But regardless, whatever effect it had on him, it was a good one, we had some of the best sex we’d had that afternoon. Something I’d also learnt over this time; 25 year olds are unbelievably generous in the bedroom department. It was a revelation. And an incredibly welcome one. There is definitely something to be said for dating, or at least sleeping with, younger guys. Though maybe not as young as Billy The Kid

Following the afternoon of sunshine drenched sex, we didn’t see each other for a few weeks due to conflicting schedules and two weeks later as I was out celebrating my birthday weekend, I got a text from him, about plans we’d made for the following week, saying he’d met someone and was dating her exclusively now but if I still wanted to meet up as friends we could.

It was a really weird feeling. Or rather it was really weird because there was no feeling. None. Other than “hmm, ok, nice.” I declined his offer to meet as friends, I hadn’t been on Tinder to meet friends and I thought it might be a bit weird for his new girlfriend. But it was the easiest “break up” I’ve had. There was no emotion involved. It had been purely about the sex and while it was unfortunate that that wasn’t going to be available anymore, it wasn’t like it had been happening that regularly anyway so it wasn’t a great loss.

And so a few days after my 33rd birthday I was able to confidently say that I’d engaged and disengaged from a no strings attached relationship. And, more importantly, my pride, my feelings and my self worth were intact. You really do never stop learning about yourself, even from 25 years olds. And the threesome never did come up again.

…previous post

Swiping For The Night


Are you one of those people who were young and free in their twenties and enjoyed all that went along with dating in university, when your end of term tests included a trip to the sexual health clinic too? Or have you always been in long term relationships and couldn’t image dating people casually, much less having a one night stand?

Maybe you’ve made the transition from the unbeholden youngster to the more stable “adult’? That’s the usual transition, the more socially acceptable one, from the former to the latter. I went from the latter to the former.

I had no experience of anything other than monogamous, fairly serious relationships up until the time I was 30. Even when I’d been at high school and university I think I maybe had one slightly wild night and ended up at some guy’s place. But it was a guy from my brother’s group of friends and nothing ended up happening.

I’d go as far as to say I was fairly judgemental about people who were looser with their sexuality, but I know now, as with most judgement, it came from a place of fear of the unknown. I was also probably jealous of the fact people had that level of comfort in themselves and their surroundings. It was totally alien to me.

When I got back into dating after my divorce, I was absolutely, 100% looking for a relationship. It never crossed my mind that I might like to date around for a while, keep things casual. And I don’t mean rush into a relationship, I obviously wanted it to be the right one. But to begin with I couldn’t even get my head around messaging multiple people at once so I never imagined I’d ever be just swiping on people for the night – like I had essentially been doing the weekend of rugby sevens or with The Tourist.

As I became more comfortable with myself, my boundaries, my needs, – and the more aware of the fact that a great relationship wasn’t easily falling into my lap – I also became more open to just having fun, exploring things, people, situations. Was I making up for my “lost twenties” (as one of my friends put it)? (Side note – I wouldn’t have said my twenties were lost, they were spent building a life I hoped I was going to be living for a very long time, in fact I think I remember planning for it til I died)

So at some point, needing to have a connection with someone or wanting something more than a night with someone was replaced with being ok with just having a fun night, or a fun couple of nights with nothing else likely to come of it. It was a refreshingly new outlook for me.

And I felt judged. I felt judged by myself – is that possible?!. I felt judged by friends – was that a projection of my own feelings?!. I felt judged by society – was society even paying attention?!. It was something I was worried about being honest about when I started this blog because of what light it might paint me in. I felt that there was the possibility that if the protagonist you’re reading about is sleeping around, you’re maybe not going to have quite the same empathy for her and her journey/struggles/stories. (Did you read the story about the 21 year old?!)

Society is undeniably judgemental of promiscuity – a synonym for “promiscuous” is “immoral” for God’s sake! And especially judgemental when it comes to women. Men get high fived for sleeping with women, while women get asked if they had feelings for them and if they used protection. Where the hell are my high fives?!

Of course there’s things to be said for being safe, sexually healthy and making sure all parties are free, or at least aware, of other ongoing relationships but in the cold light of day there should be no shame in the sex game! Creating a safe space to say that, to talk about it, to debate it, to explore it, understand it, question it, is something I have been trying to do more and more with my friends. There are some I’ve still not quite broached the subject with, but there are others who it’s totally normal with. I have two friends in particular that I know every time we meet up our conversations will always eventually turn to chats about anal. Yup, I said it – we talk about anal sex, normally while eating pie. Shocking… (where’s the rolling eye emoji)

For some of you, you’ll be like “what’s the big deal, you’ve slept with some guys and talk about sex?” but for a lot of women, me included, this isn’t or at least hasn’t always been the case. I’m grateful that this random life path I’ve found myself on has allowed me to explore this entirely new side to relationships and life and sex.

I’ve been told I talk like a guy now when it comes to sex… by guys. I don’t know if I should take that as a compliment or an insult. But it says a lot that just the fact I talk openly and bluntly about it, (note – there’s a difference between bluntness and crassness) means that I’m deemed less womanly, less feminine. Oh well, suck it! (pun intended)

Swiping for the night and swiping for Mr Right can be very different but sometimes when you think you’re doing one you’re actually doing the other so who knows… but the good news is I’m now comfortable with both, whether society is or not, and that is a happy place to be.

Next post…

…previous post

Are You On The Guestlist? And Do You Have ID?


This is a story I’ve been kind of dreading telling… You know when things happen, situations arise, decisions are made and then you’re like “wow, did that just happen?” That was how I felt come the Monday morning after this particular escapade. But you know what? I’m not going to shy away from telling the story, I’m going to own it and chalk it up to that great big wonderful thing you can’t get without fucking up every now and again – experience!

It was my favourite weekend in Vancouver – Rugby Sevens – and as well as bumping into Toronto Dimple Chin, it had been two days filled with Tindering and Bumbling while all the players (and referees – shout out to Mike!) were in town. My friends had made some questionable swipes and started some wholly inappropriate chats but in the midst of that I’d also matched with one of the players on the Japanese team and had been messaging throughout the weekend – yes, while he should have been concentrating on playing.

He was originally from New Zealand, but was playing for Japan through residency rules, and he had pretty good banter, including calling my friend out when she had taken over the messaging for a while and congratulated him on their most recent game, which they’d lost…

We made plans to meetup on the Sunday night, when the tournament was over. It’s always a pretty big night because the players can let loose and the rest of us have been drinking for two days straight. And those sensible among us, always take the Monday off work because, like I say, sensible.

By the time the Sunday night came around, most of my friends were very worse for wear and some of them weren’t sensible and didn’t take the Monday off, so it ended up being just 3 of us who were going to see it out and head to the bar that the players all go to once the tournament wraps up.

On reaching the bar, I remembered why I don’t like going to places like this – the lineup was insane, and I’m too old/mature/boring/lazy (*delete as appropriate) for that shit. In fact there were two lines – one going either way down the street from the door. What kind of merry hell was this?!

Two of my friends didn’t even want to find out, so they sensibly bailed right away. Which left me and one of my best girlfriends, who is one of the best wing women you could ask for. Her husband had already gone home, but she was stoic in her support of my rugby player plans and had already begun finding ways for us to cut the line before I could ask what she wanted to do.

She worked out one of the lines was general admission and one was guestlist. She then found a group of mostly guys about a third of the way through the guestlist line from the door, sidled up to them, confirmed they were on the guestlist and asked if we could piggy back.

This group of fairly fresh faced guys were probably thrown by the random English woman asking them if her and her Scottish friend could join them, that they just nodded in agreement and we duly slipped into the line at the back of their group.

To pass the time waiting, we naturally started chatting to the group who were gracious enough to let us hop on their guestlist group. It turned out they were all students at one of the city’s universities and a number of them were there on baseball scholarships. They grilled us on what we knew about baseball, we responded entirely with answers relating to either cricket or rounders – what can I say? We’re British.

Finally, we got to the door, the guys kindly told the bouncers we were with them and in next to no time we were all inside. Them scattering to no doubt go and check out the lie of the land, my girlfriend and I to the bar. Priorities.

Once we got a drink, we did a walk around the place. I’d only been there once before, on the Sunday night of Rugby Sevens the year before, and I forgot how dingy it was. But that’s where I said I’d see Japanese Kiwi Rugby Player so here we were. But he’d also pointed out to me that once he left his hotel he wouldn’t have any mobile data so he wouldn’t be able to message me and we’d just have to “find each other”. If the place hadn’t been such a hole, it might have been romantic.

It was at that stage I realised what a pain the arse that was going to be. It wasn’t exactly a small bar and it was packed out – hence the massive lines outside. How was I going to know when he got there? How would he find me in amongst the swathes of university students who were just out for their usual Sunday night session and bemused by all these drunken rugby fans and players?

Rather than worry about that we went to the bar a couple more times, engaged in some hilarious people watching, feeling every one of our thirty plus years, and bumped into our newly made student friends from the lineup outside a couple of times. The third time we saw them, the guy who we’d conversed with the most in the lineup asked us if we wanted a drink. He was cute and fresh faced and screamed naivety so we felt bad taking his money and instead offered to get him a drink.

As we’d watched them from afar it was clear he was pretty popular amongst his group, both with the guys he’d gone in with and with a few groups of girls who’d made a beeline for them when they arrived. I was having serious flashbacks to my university days, which were not all that recent in my memory.

Somewhere between that first drink we all got together and the third, after we’d each bought each other a drink (he insisted he wanted to repay the favour), I decided that I didn’t want to stay out much longer. The weekend was catching up with me and seeing as I had no idea what time Japanese Kiwi Rugby Player might turn up, I didn’t fancy hanging around forever, especially when there was a real chance he might not turn up at all, or he would and we’d never see each other.

At round the same time, my wing woman, our new found student friend and I took a picture together and I remember putting my hand on his back and being pleasantly surprised by how muscular it was. Who knew baseball players were so jacked? I naturally then checked out his arms and didn’t find a terrible sight there either.

What happened next is like when the waitress comes to take your order and you can’t decide but you know you’re really hungry and you don’t want to waste more precious time, so you make a rushed, maybe slightly questionable choice.

Somewhere between the back, the arms and the gin, I decided that maybe I shouldn’t bother waiting for the rugby player who was probably having the same conversation with ten different girls over the course of the weekend? Maybe I should just take this fairly eager young stud (yep I wrote that, yep I’m having a Jackie Collins moment again) and be done with it. I was pretty sure he was flirting with me…

Fast forward maybe 20 minutes, my girlfriend goes to the bathroom and I decided… well essentially I decided “fuck it”. I ask him if he wants to come back to mine, he gave a pretty positive response and before my girlfriend returned we were off. I know, props to my girlfriend who being the wing woman she is presumed after coming back to the bar and doing a lap of the place that we’d gone, and so promptly took herself home where I’m sure she wished she’d been hours ago.

While my friend was quite possibly doing her last look for us, with me leading the way and the student grasping my hand, we headed for the door making our way through the crowds. With the front door in sight, I couldn’t wait to get out the sweaty, noisy, dark, dingy hole but being so focused on the exit strategy it was impossible to miss a whole group of what looked like.. um, yeah… what looked like, unmistakably a team of Japanese rugby players.

The next 15 seconds happened in slow motion, I can still picture it in my head. I’m striding towards the street, there’s this whole group coming towards us and in the midst of nine or ten fairly fit looking guys, mostly Japanese, I see a face that is pretty familiar given the number of times I’ve looked at it on his Tinder profile, he looks up at the exact same second, sees me, the recognition sweeps across his face as it sweeps across mine, as we’re both getting closer to each other given that we’re going in opposite directions but in the exact same path, and as we pass by, within ridiculous close proximity of each other, given how busy with bodies the place was, he looks at me, looks down at my hand, looks up at the guy holding my hand and clearly following me, looks back at me and mouths “where the fuck are you going?” with a really confused look on his face.

And just like, with a sort of apologetic shrug, I kept going and we were out onto the street with student none the wiser as to what had just happened.

The rest of that night was a disappointing blur, we didn’t even get McDonald’s on the way home. What kind of a sick joke is that? Instead we got home and both absolutely crashed. The morning however was also an equal disappointment, with some terrible morning sex which I realised halfway through was being carried out while he was still wearing socks. White, ankle sports socks. Who goes out in those? Oh yeah, the guy who was also wearing a baseball cap backwards that’s who.

The sex, was also barely even sex, if you know what I’m saying. I don’t know if it was a hangover or he wasn’t used to strange Scottish women taking him home but he definitely wasn’t the virile mid-twenty-something I had hoped.

Instead we mostly lay and talked about his courses, baseball, his family, his life ambition, he asked a lot about how I could afford to live in an apartment like I did, how I’d got into the job I had now and why I wasn’t getting up for work.

As I explained I’d taken the day off but did need to get up because I was going to meet friends for breakfast – a total lie just to get him out of my place – he stopped me and said “can I ask a weird question?” Oh god, really… “Sure!” “Would it be ok if I showered before I left? Your bathroom is so much nicer than the ones we have on campus.”

Oh dear god, this is what has become of me?! How did this happen? Why did I not take longer to make my food order?? Why was I so hungry???

As he showered and I questioned my life, I was also texting my usual group chat of girlfriends, the wing woman from the previous night and two friends we have in London. Wing woman had presumed I’d ended up going off with student, or had maybe actually met Japanese Kiwi Rugby Player, and the two girls across the pond were wanting all the details of both. In amongst many of the details they asked, they also asked student’s age and just as I was about to reply with “24 I think”, my friend pipes up and in front of my eyes, on the whatsapp screen that had been making me feel better up until that point I see “21”.

WHAAAAAAAAAT?! No! He was not 21… He was not 11 years younger than me… He was not younger than my youngest cousin… He was not more than an entire decade away from me in age!! How had I not known that? At what point had my friend got that information and I had either not heard, mis-heard or decided to not remember? Mother of all that is good in this world, there was a 21 year old CHILD showering naked in my bathroom.

My girlfriends, of course, were of much comfort at this point. Not. The kid jokes started coming in thick and fast, and given what his name was, he was quickly referred to from then on as Billy The Kid. Never before have I ever wished so much that joining that line up the night before we’d not only asked them if they were on the guestlist but if we could, in fact, also pre-check their ID.

Next post…

…previous post

Full Disclosure Required


Nobody wants to be a downer on a first date and generally topics such as bad breakups or ongoing medical conditions might be left until a possible second or third date. But when does trying to keep things light and fun actually become hiding, or lying about, your current state?

I met Irish Tech Triathlete online, he was 36, so entirely age appropriate (whatever the hell that means) for me, we had a lot in common in that we both worked in tech and we both enjoyed working out, not that I was training for triathlons or iron man races, and he was pretty funny.

We matched on a Sunday afternoon and by 5pm he called me. Like phoned me. On the telephone. I forgot people used them for that. It was a pleasant surprise in a number of ways – a) no one calls anymore, everyone hides behind texts (me included); b) often online matches can take what seems like an age to actually get to the meeting stage which bores me and; c) he was just as fun on the phone as he was on text.

He had a busy week coming up, and so did I, so he suggested we meet for drinks in the next hour. Um… what? I’m lying on my sofa, covered in cookie crumbs, wearing bed socks and now I have to make myself presentable not just to the world but to a first date. Ugh… fine.

An hour and a half later, cookie crumbs and bed socks gone, and we’re in a bar close to my house, having a really fun time. He was a super funny guy, we got on immediately, with a lot in common and easy banter back and forth. It’s the one difference I’ve noticed between dating North Americans and people from “back home” or maybe just outside of North America – there’s a sense of fun and banter and sarcasm and teasing that I haven’t found with people from Canada and the US. That’s not to say they don’t get there eventually but in the first instance, with someone new I don’t feel like they’re entirely comfortable with being that way. Brits or Irish on the other hand are happy to absolutely take the piss out of anyone and there’s something strangely comforting in it!

As the date went on, we had more drinks and he probably had two beers for every gin I had but he was a big guy, like 6”2 and he was well built so I didn’t think much of it. However by the time we got ready to leave he’d had a good few pints and I was aware he was definitely tipsy, while I felt fine, thankfully.

I lived a block round the corner which I didn’t strictly tell him but when he suggested walking me home, I figured I didn’t mind him knowing where I lived. When we got to my building though he made a comment about the building I lived in and how he was interested to see the view from my apartment. I’d had no intention of inviting him up but for whatever reason, in that moment I decided I’d let him come up. I was actually surprised by how much I liked him.

Did I feel pressure? A little. Did I think it was easier just to concede to a half drunk guy? Probably. Did I feel threatened? No, not explicitly. But it was another situation where maybe I should have found and used my voice more vociferously.

Voice MIA, we go up to my apartment, and in my head I know it’s literally going to be a look around, let him see the view and then say bye, no offer of a drink, no offer of a seat, nothing. I’m aware that trying to get rid of him from inside my apartment is arguably more difficult than from outside my apartment building when my concierge was 20 metres away. I’m not saying it made sense, but it’s what I did.

We duly look at the view, I show him around my tiny apartment which takes all of 20 seconds and then I say it’s time for him to go and me to go to bed. Of course he makes a joke about us both just going to my bed, which I laugh off. Then he says “but how am I supposed to get home? I drove and I can’t drive now.”

This is where, previously, I would have started feeling bad, offered for him to stay, offered to drive him myself (even though I definitely couldn’t have either), just tried to fix it in some way. But after bending over backwards for guys previously and it coming back to bite me on the arse, I decided he was a grown ass man who could figure it out himself. How had he thought this was going to play out? That I’d just let him stay? Not tonight my friend, not tonight.

He pretended to be hurt that I wasn’t helping him solve the problem he’d created for himself and then conceded that he would get a cab and come back for his car in the morning. He kissed me goodnight and it was a nice, albeit slightly drunken kiss. As the kiss went on I could feel him exerting some of that 6”2 frame on me to try and get me towards my bedroom from standing by my front door. I tried to resist, but at 5”4.5 I was really up against it.

So I pulled away, called him out on it and said goodnight. He gave me another peck, then just as I thought he was leaving, came back and started to kiss me again, and yet again tried to move me towards the bedroom. At this point I realised he had to go, so I pulled back, opened the door and essentially, hand in the small of his back (which was about mid-rib height on me), ushered him out.

I was disappointed the night had ended like that, he’d been a really fun guy and I had wanted to see him again but feeling like he was pressuring me first to come up to my apartment, then to stay and then to get me into my bedroom – it didn’t feel great. I put it down to him being drunk, he hadn’t seemed like that earlier in the night, but even if it was “just” when he’s drunk surely that was enough to be a red flag. And I wondered if he was even aware of it.

The next morning he messaged to say he’d had a great time, that he’d picked up his car and he was sorry for being a little “worse for wear”, he hadn’t realised how much he’d had to drink. I appreciated that he made mention of it. I’d have found it more difficult if he’d just swept it under the carpet. I also felt bad for him that it was a Monday morning and he was feeling rough – not a great start to anyone’s week.

Still, the end of the night before had definitely left a sour taste in my mouth and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see him again. So I replied to his initial text, something light and non-committal, wished him a good day and left it at that.

We texted a couple of times over the coming week, just small talk around our days, jokes from our first date and then the next Saturday when we were messaging, he said was skiing up in Whistler but suggested meeting up when he was back down in the city. I figured a second date was at least worth a go, so told him to text me when he got back and then we could see what time it was and make plans.


I never heard from him again. For two and a half weeks. No follow up to our potential Saturday night plans, no messages afterwards to say his day had changed or to catch up with me after the weekend. Then one random Thursday afternoon at 5pm he messaged asking if I was free and wanted to go for drinks that night.

I was already at happy hour with a couple of friends, but figured I could go meet him after that. In hindsight, between the weird end to the first date and him going MIA for over two weeks I should have called it quits at that point, but it seems I’m not a quitter, in the worst possible way, so we made plans and I headed to meet him around 8pm.

He was really apologetic about his disappearance, which I fully called him out on. He’d been busy with work and there had been a lot of stuff going on. I explained that inconsistency didn’t work for me, which he said he understood and it wouldn’t happen again. He’d wanted to see me, but had just needed to sort some stuff out.

In the next couple of hours he did a great job of turning around the situation because somehow we ended up back in my apartment, again, and this time I was more open to the possibility of him ending up in my bed.

He was really fun and funny and (despite the initial red flags) seemed to have his shit together. He had his own place, had a good job, seemed to have a busy social life. He also wasn’t bad to look at and that never hurts. The rugby sevens weekend was coming up and he hadn’t been planning to go but as we were talking about it he mentioned it would be fun to hang out together at it, so he’d look at getting tickets. It felt like he could actually slot into my life kinda nicely, if it came to that.

Back at mine, he was far more respectful and guarded than he’d been the first night. He didn’t seem in a rush either which was nice. Or at least, it would have been if it hadn’t been for the fact that as things were about to start getting kind of serious after a whole lot of getting naked (side note – triathletes have incredibly lean bodies!) he “lost that loving feeling” – as it were.

Now, I get it, shit happens, you can’t control that thing – I mean the feeling, not the actual “thing”, although I’ve heard it claimed many a time it does in fact have a mind of its own – but twice? I had to try my best not to take it personally and wonder if my less than triathlete lean body wasn’t quite doing it for him.

After the second time, it was clear he wasn’t up (pun intended) for trying to make it work and instead just lay quietly in the dark. I gave it a minute and then asked the darkness “so, what’s up with that?” I’m sure I could have been more sensitive but… fuck it.

He stayed silent for a few minutes as the question kind of hung in the air. A number of times I wanted to interject the sound of tumbleweed and make a joke or try and offer up a possible reason or solution but instead I let the silence fill the space.

Eventually, after what felt like a lifetime, he started to talk. With an arm over his face, like a little boy admitting to something he’d done. He explained to me that the ex he had mentioned briefly on our first date was not only an ex from just a few weeks ago (the most recent time they’d broken up anyway), she was in fact also the mother of his 18 month old child.

A child he was now in a custody battle for, but was already solely looking after. A child he’d had with him in Whistler those few weekends ago and so was never going to be able to go out when he got back to the city. A child that he was going to have at the weekend and so he was never going to be able to come to the rugby sevens. A child that meant he only worked 4 days a week, yet he’d made comments about being Monday to Friday. A child he’d had done a very good job of actively avoiding talking about. A child I didn’t know he had.

The fact he had a child wasn’t the issue. The fact that when he’d told stories, like how he’d been hiking the other weekend, he purposely neglected to tell me that the other person on the hike with him, had been his baby. That when we agreed about how great living alone was, he didn’t actually live alone, he lived with his child.

I get it, it was a second date, I was hardly about to walk down the aisle and was just hearing all this stuff for the first time but there was something about the fact that it was a massive part of his life that he’d left out, so the whole picture of his life he’d painted was in fact false. Plus, now that massive part of his life was impacting his ability to be present in this part of his life.

He had been trying to learn Canadian child custody laws so he could fight for sole custody without having to pay for lawyers he couldn’t afford, he’d had to get a restraining order against his ex to stop her taking the child out the country, which apparently she’d attempted to do a number of times, he didn’t have a huge support network here with his family being back in Ireland and the 4 days of the week he worked he would do 14 hour days so he was almost working full time hours.

When he was explaining the situation, and giving the backstory, he was clearly anguished, he was clearly stressed and, despite how little I knew him (clearly!), it pained me to witness it. I started having flashbacks to when I had felt trapped and unable to cope with a situation. But that was years ago and I wasn’t attempting to date while going through it.

I mostly stayed quiet throughout his explanation. There wasn’t a lot I could say. I quieted my first instinct to help and, I don’t know, offer to babysit?! This wasn’t my mess to try and fix and while I felt bad for him and thought it was incredible he was stepping up to be the sole caregiver and I hoped the situation would resolve itself, I knew that I didn’t have the capacity to support someone through something like this. And in fairness, he wasn’t asking me to. But he clearly also wasn’t able to put it aside, which is no surprise, and so there really wasn’t a lot else to say.

He admitted he had hoped that dating might help him take his mind off it and would bring some light relief to an otherwise fairly stressful life, but had realised that in fact he wasn’t ready for it. Well no fucking shit. If he’d actually told me the situation right off the bat I would have told him he was attempting a triathlon before he could even crawl.

I halted the dragging night from taking either of us down further with a swift and entirely inappropriately cheery “well, you should probably go now!” I’m not sure I’ve ever asked someone to leave as they were lying naked next to me in my bed. But I guess there’s a first time for everything? And this felt like the right time to try it out.

And that was that, Irish Tech Triathlete, and his complicated custody issues, was never to be heard from again.

Next post…

…previous post

The Real Love Of My Life


Why am I writing a blog about dating if I’ve already found the love of my life? Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler that I’ve found my life partner – although if she were single and we both swung that way I wouldn’t say no.

No, the real love of my life I’m talking about is someone I’ve mentioned a couple of times in previous posts, who’s always there to help me in my time of need, and knows just what to say.  The love of my life is Julia, my therapist. She who assists me in learning all the lessons I write about.

Talking about my problems, or really anything, has never been a problem for me, I’ll tell anyone. Sometimes I wish I maybe had a little more of a filter, but it’s how I am. Sharing is caring, right? So going to “speak to someone” about things like my ex-husband cheating wasn’t that difficult. I know for some people the thought of having to be vulnerable or self reflect is enough to make them run for the hills.

I had been to see counsellors back in the UK, when my parents divorced when I was a teenager and also when issues first surfaced in my marriage, and while I always thought of them as positive experiences I never felt I had any real “a-ha!”, come to Jesus moments in those sessions. I never really came out feeling all that much different.

Yes, I had maybe learnt some new coping mechanisms or better ways to communicate but in terms of feeling wholly better about the issue at hand? I wouldn’t say that there was an overwhelming feeling of change. So I’d let the time between sessions get longer and eventually stop going altogether.

My life changed though when during a particularly difficult few months of my new life in Canada, I found myself in a fairly dark, deepening spiral of depression-like symptoms and knew I needed to do something about it. I had begun to experience severe social anxiety as a result, which I hated because it perpetuated the issue. The anxiety made me not want to go out, so I’d stay in and the feelings would deepen, and the anxiety would worsen with the longer I squirrelled myself away. It was a never ending cycle.

I didn’t know exactly what was at the bottom of it, but given some experience with depression in my late teens, I was aware of what the feelings were and knew I needed to seek help.

And that can sometimes be the hardest part – just knowing you need help when you’re reaching breaking point. Thankfully my friend who is a therapist (she of brilliance who helped me craft the final text to Filipeen) recommended me to another therapist she knew to be good. Given that my friend can’t counsel me, it was the next best thing to get a recommendation from her, someone I trust.

My first few sessions with Julia were, as is normal with a new therapist/client relationship, mostly me just unloading all my experience (we don’t call it baggage) and explaining what I was struggling with. There was a lot, I mean I think it was session three or four before I was no longer telling her about another life dramas I hadn’t gotten round to with her yet. But at the end of every session she would ask “what was something useful today?” and there would always be something. Either a question she asked that got me to think about something differently, or a comment she would make or a story she would tell of her own personal experience to complement mine.

There was always something, usually more than one thing, that was useful. So while I wasn’t having any massive revelations in the first few weeks/months, it was definitely feeling beneficial right from the outset.

The sessions were hard, I would come out of them emotionally wrought and exhausted. I got into the habit of having them late on Friday afternoons, and then I would take my tear stained cheeks home and hibernate for the night. But despite the rawness of those sessions, with tissue in hand, I would text my Mum on the walk home and say what a great session it was. Every single time.

I started seeing Julia at the end of the September and by the early-February I had made contact with my father who I hadn’t spoken to in 15 years, had truly processed my divorce and started to deal with the residual bullshit it had left me with, and had started dating again. She was a miracle worker. And for the first time in a really long time I could say I felt happy.

For me, there was something about being able to see the change, being able to feel the release of years of tension and anguish and hurt and guilt. One of my favourite things to do is carry guilt about situations I had no control over, it’s a skill. And the impact that had on my day to day life and, more importantly, my mental state was huge.

Mental health is no joke. One in five people in Canada will experience a mental health problem or illness each year and in the UK that number is one in four. Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures and around 10% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.

I truly believe that as a society we need to do more to remove the stigma around mental health and also accept the fact that you don’t necessarily need to be manically depressed to need, or be benefitted by, therapy. Life is hard, everyone’s life is hard – yes, even the people who seemingly have it easy. They likely also have struggles. Everyone does. Why do we pretend we don’t?

I get that it’s not the most glamorous or comfortable thing to talk about, but we do need more to make sure we’re creating safe spaces where people can feel like they can be honest about it and where they can get help. I know I’m lucky that I have the ability to seek out and pay for my own therapy.

Even if you’ve never experienced a big life trauma such as a divorce, or the loss of a loved one, or addiction, abuse, or another life event which you may seek therapy for afterwards, I still believe there’s value in having someone, in a safe space, you can be vulnerable and self reflect with.

As you may be able to tell, I am a massive advocate of therapy and have recommended Julia to a number of my friends. I’m also super happy to talk to my friends about anything – my issues, their issues – but just talking isn’t the same. A professional has years of training and, crucially, they also have no bias. As friends, or as anyone who in some way is connected to that person other than for therapy’s sake, we can’t say that.

Support networks are important, don’t get me wrong. Having my friends and family support me after I’d had a tough session or when I was facing big changes was key and I couldn’t have done any of it without them. But without Julia I don’t know that I’d have gotten to where I am now.

That’s not to say that everything in my life is now perfect, it’s not and it never will be. Nothing is perfect. I still see Julia every month or so, for “little tune ups” as I call them or when something shakes me I’ll go more often, like after Filipeen I was there a lot more frequently, unsurprisingly.

In this world of ever changing situations, and relationships, and myself, it’s important to keep reflecting and growing and Julia provides me with the ability to do that, which makes it the best money I spend each month, hands down. And I don’t doubt, as this journey still has many more corners to turn and curve balls to throw at me, that my dates with the real love of my life will continue to be some of the best dates I have.

Next post…

…previous post

Death By Dimple


As I stated in my very first blog post, there have been many What The Actual F^&% moments throughout the process of my divorce and since getting back into dating, in fairness I think that’s just life in general. But most of them were “WTAF is this shit?” Few are “WTAF this is brilliant!” But every so often, just now and again, those pleasant WTAFs do appear.

Having wallowed and reflected for a few weeks after Filipeen, I eventually felt better enough (read bored enough) to get back on the dating apps and see what was out there. It had been lovely not to be on them for three months while I was dating (and then getting over) him but here in Vancouver, it’s unfortunately the easiest way to meet people.

I’d gone super blonde in the week after Filipeen – what is it they say about “new hair, don’t care”? Well I had new hair but at that point I still did care –  so on the Thursday night that I got back to using the apps (Bumble and Tinder were my go tos), I updated my photos and began endlessly swiping. As I always find with Bumble, when you haven’t been on for a while, you get a string of really attractive guys up first to make you think you’ve been missing out, and then slowly it fades into the faces you’ve seen on there months before and didn’t swipe right (positively) for then and won’t be swiping right for now.

I’m always convinced those attractive bait ones are just made up accounts – the men are too pretty – but the next morning I was to be proved wrong when one of them swiped right on me, we matched and we started chatting when I commented on the fact he stated in his profile that he hated the cold – and we were in mid-winter. The conversation went from there and by the time I was walking out my office that afternoon for the weekend, we had made plans to meet up the next night.

Up until that point he’d been fairly serious, with only slight hints of jokes in his messages but that Friday night, as I was getting ready to go out with friends and we were texting, it became a little more banterful (how I prefer all my messaging) and flirty. He had finished up work just after I did and was meeting up with some friends for drinks and he thought a dinner. When it turned out the dinner wasn’t going to happen he asked if I was free to bring our date forward a night and meet up later that evening.

As much as I was excited to meet him, it was going to have to wait. I had a friend’s birthday I was going out for that night and I wasn’t sure inviting him along would be a great basis for a first date because a) my friends are liabilities and b) we were going to an amateur strip show in a super dingy bar on the east side of the city. Yes, yes, you read that right. It was a strip show with only two rules: entrants couldn’t be professional strippers and; no sex acts on stage. Otherwise anyone and everyone could have at ‘er.

However, after a couple of drinks at the birthday boy’s apartment before we all went out, I obviously changed my mind about this not being a good breeding ground for a first date and asked him if he wanted to join. We’d been texting almost constantly and I realised it would be easier, and less rude, for him to just be here than for me to be on my phone all night. At first he sounded keen, even when I’d provided full disclosure about where we were going, but then when he realised I was already with all my friends and he wouldn’t be meeting me first he changed his mind. I did offer to go meet him separately but he insisted I stayed with my friends and we’d just do Saturday instead, as originally planned.

I was kinda disappointed he didn’t come out, it would have been a great first date story, something we agreed on as we continued to text while I was in a cab to the bar with some of my friends. He mentioned we’d just have to make tomorrow as good a story, maybe with the same level of nakedness. I had told him the show was full nudity… so his message was presumptuous… but I didn’t hate it.

He was 29, originally from Vancouver, his parents were still here but he was now living in Toronto. He had just sold a business he’d built from nothing and was recently appointed President at a new sports tech business. He used to play basketball, still seemed to keep himself incredibly fit, was 5”11 and from all his pictures looked pretty god damn fine.

The fact he didn’t live here, albeit he travelled back here for work about once a month, and the mention of nudity on the first date, I was well aware that a date with him wasn’t likely to be the start of a beautiful long-term relationship. But at that point, I decided a sex date might actually be just what I needed to wash Filipeen out of my newly blonded hair once and for all. What is it they say about getting over a man, get under another one?

As my night became more debauched and drunken and naked (the strippers, you understand, not me) there were texts back and forth with him about private dances and eventually he admitted he wished he’d come out and instead he was lying all alone in his bed. Normally I would have thought that was a not-so-subtle invitation for me to go over, but given that he stays with his parents when he’s in town, it was unlikely that he wanted me to turn up on his parents’ doorstep.

We said goodnight and planned to be in touch the next day to make arrangements. It had been a pretty escalating day of chat, considering we only matched that morning, and I was really looking forward to meeting him – he seemed like a funny (dry sense of humour) guy, who seemed to have his shit together and if he looked even remotely like his pictures I was in for a treat.

The next day, over texts and a couple of phone calls, we made plans that he would come downtown after an early dinner he had with his parents. I tried to arrange to meet at a bar but he was insistent about staying in with a bottle of wine. And to be honest, still feeling a little shaky from the birthday antics the night before, I was ok with that. So, for the first time ever, I gave a man I had never met my address and had him turn up on my doorstep.

And I know what you’re thinking – ARE YOU FUCKING NUTS?! Always meet in a public place, never give your address until you know them, make sure they know you do kickboxing and can kick their ass etc etc!

Like I say, it was the first time I’d ever done it and part of me was horrified at myself, but the other part trusted my gut, and my gut told me it was ok, he didn’t seem like “that sort of guy”. You know, the sort to murder a Bumble date in her apartment. (I joke, but it’s a serious issue and I’m aware that women need to take care of their safety at all times, which I don’t take lightly.) And so just after 8pm my buzzer went and I apprehensively waited for the elevator to deliver him to the 10th floor and hear a knock on my door.

To say I wasn’t disappointed is the understatement of the year.

Things I hadn’t noticed or seen in his profile pictures – this unbelievably sexy salt and pepper hair, more expected on a man of 40 or 50 but hugely attractive on a hot guy of 29; arms that even under his jacket I could tell were going to be my favourite part about him; and this deep dimple square in the middle of his chin that I just wanted to nestle my head in forever. And something I couldn’t have known from his profile but had picked up in the couple of phone calls earlier in the day but was now confirmed; an incredibly attractive, accented, maybe east coast-ish, slightly husky voice.

This WTAF moment was possibly the best, most pleasantly surprising I’d ever experienced. I had to do all I could to pick my jaw up off the floor and make words come out of my mouth while simultaneously quieting the voice in the back of my head that was saying “well, he’s going to be disappointed with you”.

He’d brought wine so while I got that opened and he took a look at the view from my place, the easy chatting we’d had over text picked up in person. He was super easy to talk to and had led a really interesting life. He was also clearly a lover of the finer things (the wine he brought was not a cheap bottle, apparently he only flies business class and his taste in hotels includes some of the finest in the world) and I think knew he was very successful for his age, but in a matter of fact, appreciative, because he’d made so many sacrifices, kind of a way. And I didn’t hate any of it.

We discovered a shared love of rugby and spoke about the rugby sevens coming up in Vancouver in a few months, but he didn’t think he’d be in town for it. I realised I was already hoping to hear of any next visits to Vancouver he may have, and we weren’t even through our first glass of wine yet…

With so much talking, it took me a while to realise that either we were going to just have a lovely evening of wine and chit chat or he was going to have to make a move. Because I knew I sure as hell wasn’t. I also realised that surely being in someone’s apartment, other than it having easy access to a bedroom, made it more difficult for something more physical to happen naturally, no? At least at a bar you might be huddled around a table and able to get a little closer. Or moving from a restaurant to a bar there’s the opportunity for some contact while you’re walking. At the movies, there’s the potential for a brushing of hands. Sitting on the couch in someone’s house? You really had to make that shit happen for yourself. And I knew that I, for one, would not be the one to do that. No matter how much I wanted to get a little closer to that dimple.

We ended up talking about basketball at one stage, with me asking him if he’d always played, if he still played etc etc. I commented that, despite playing in high school, it wasn’t the sport for me given my short, fat fingers. As I said it, he leaned forward and took my wine glass out my hand, placed it on the table and took my hand to look at said short, fat fingers.

I was simultaneously distressed at the fact he was now examining one of the areas of my body I hated the most – why had I brought up my goddamn chunky digits?! – but thrilled that, other than a swift hug when he’d first arrived which I hadn’t been able to enjoy because I was so pleasantly stunned, we were now engaging in physical contact.

That physical contact seemed to be the only in he needed. He briefly dropped my hand, to have more of his wine, and then in one swift movement was over on the other part of the sectional sofa, half standing, half kneeling on the sofa over me. It felt imposing and incredibly sexy, and I was aware instantly, there was something about his energy in that moment, that he was probably very dominant sexually. This could be fun.

He was forceful in a very flirtatious way, so that not once did I have a concern about a man, whom I’d met only a couple of hours earlier and let into my apartment, ordering me around. To be honest, I was more than happy to comply. He took his shirt off and the delight I experienced when he first arrived, was elevated by about a hundred. His arms were, as I had imagined from that first in real life glimpse, delightful. That salt and pepper hair, which turned out to be outrageously long on top of his head when I actually ran my fingers through it, and matching stubble and chest hair was ridiculously sexy. And that dimple? Good God, that dimple.

The only thing I didn’t like was some of the chat. Now, I’m a talker during sex, I mean not like a “hi, how’s your day been” kinda talker, but I like keeping the lines of communication open, vocalising appreciation, making suggestions and laughing. There’s nothing I love more than when you’re comfortable enough with a sexual partner that you can laugh at the unavoidable weird/awkward/funny stuff that happens during sex. Silent sex does not do it for me.

But some questions, particularly when you don’t know your partner all that well, you know like when you only met him for the first time when he turned up on your doorstep two and a half hours ago, just seem a little forced and unnecessary. And I know for some people hearing their partner talk about what they like and want done to them, in the midst of sex, is a massive turn on and usually I’d be all for it but I found that I struggled a little with not knowing him all that well.

What I didn’t struggle with was when, after making out and getting pretty handsy on the sofa for a while, he picked me up, carried me to the bedroom and threw me on the bed. And I’m not just using that phrase because it sounds great. He actually threw me down on the mattress with such force I remember bouncing. I wasn’t sure bouncing was sexy, so I attempted to steady myself, find some composure and maintain an air of sexiness.

The sex was better than great. He knew what he was doing and obviously knew what he liked, but he was also suitably generous. The one thing I did notice, however, was that when we started having sex, the kissing stopped. I think there’s something that men, and maybe women, equate about kissing during sex with intimacy, and when they’re not looking for a relationship, they think that a way to avoid that is to minimise intimacy. There is, of course, the argument that sex in and of itself can be one of the most intimate acts that humans engage in.

What was a little more off-putting than the no kissing, was the lack of post-sex cuddles. I think I’ve said it before, I’m a massive cuddler. That closeness, that comfort, I miss that as a singleton. But similarly to the kissing, I think for some people that closeness after sex scares them because it feels too intimate. As if having your genitals entwined just moments before somehow wasn’t.

So instead we lay, slightly apart, in bed chatting until he said he should get going. I realised at that point that we hadn’t really had any particularly deep conversations. It was all fairly surface level. And despite the groping, the nakedness, the hot sweaty sex, I could have had almost the same level of actual conversation with him sat in public at a bar.

It was unfortunate to see him get dressed again but that dimple at least couldn’t hide behind clothes. We talked about maybe seeing each other on the Sunday, but we both had plans with friends and, as we hugged goodbye, we left it that we’d see how it went.

The next morning, as I was filling in one of my girlfriends, the girlfriend who helped craft the final text to Filipeen, about my previous night’s antics she commented that she knew someone who worked in the industry that Toronto Dimple Chin (as he was now Christened) used to work in. Within three minutes she came back to me to tell me that yep, her friend knew him, mostly in a professional capacity but that he was a good guy. We joke that she’s better at finding out stuff about people than the FBI. Those memes you see on Instagram about giving someone a first name and five minutes later they have the whole family tree? That’s this friend of mine. In fact I have two of them, and they’re hilariously helpful.

As it turned out Toronto Dimple Chin and I never caught up the next day, and he left town at the beginning of the week. He’d said it would be about six weeks until he was back again so I said he should text when he was next back in town and we could maybe catch up. “Catch up” obviously meaning, get together and have sex.

Four weeks later, I was with said FBI agent girlfriend and my best straight guy friend, the one Filipeen had concerns about, at a bar inside the sports stadium where we were spending the weekend watching rugby sevens. As they were ordering drinks, I happened to turn around, and see walking in our direction Toronto Dimple Chin and some friends. Despite the crowds, he saw me at the same time, said something to his friends who carried on walking and came over to where I was standing.

Jeez, I’d forgotten just how attractive he was. Is anyone else seeing this?!?!

As soon as he was beside me I remembered that my two, fairly drunk, friends were nearby and while, yes, they would indeed see it, I also hoped they’d keep their shit together and not embarrass me.

He and I hugged and said hello as they sidled up beside me, their drinks replenished in both hands, so it was an easy and quick introduction and then, in my friends’ defence, they said their goodbyes and headed back to our seats. Though I could tell by the look on their faces there was much they wanted to say.

Toronto Dimple Chin and I had a fairly quick chat, he said he wasn’t supposed to be in town but his plans had changed, that it was nice to see me and we should do something while he was still in town. I agreed, another quick hug, a glance at the dimple and I returned to where my friends were sitting and he headed off in the direction of his.

Before I even reached within earshot of our seats, I could tell the two witnesses were filling in the rest of my friends with the details of the bar encounter. As I approached my girlfriend stopped talking, looked at me and said “he is one of the most attractive men I’ve seen in real life, in my life”. And I couldn’t disagree.

It turns out even our straight, male friend thought the same. When they’d turned around and saw me chatting to Toronto Dimple Chin, he’d said “I don’t know who he is, but I’d do him” and then was apparently incredulous that I had in fact actually already “done him”.

It was a relief to know that I hadn’t dreamt up his attractiveness or remembered the cuteness of that dimple through inaccurate rose-tinted spectacles. And not only for me to be reminded of it but for friends to witness it as well – it made me sound a little less nuts when I was insistent that he was probably the most attractive man I’d slept with.

Despite the excitement of seeing him again and the pleasantries we exchanged in the stadium concourse, we didn’t meet up during the rest of his time in Vancouver. Instead we texted a couple of times and then it sort of went nowhere, which was kind of disappointing but if I’m honest, if he lived in closer proximity and I’d seen him more? That dimple could well have been the death of me.

Next post…

…previous post

As Long As There Are Lessons


I try to look at every experience as a positive, in some way at least. Whether a dating experience ended horribly or it didn’t meet my hopes/expectations, if I can learn something then it was a good thing for the experience to have happened. And I do truly believe everything happens for a reason, even if at the time the reason seems unfathomable.

On every date I’d been on in the past year, I had learnt something – about myself, about dating in general or about men. The biggest learnings though had undoubtedly come from Canadian DJ and Filipeen. Arms gets an honourable mention because he was such a treat.

There were two lessons with Canadian DJ. The first was an incredibly positive one. I realised I could actually feel something for someone again. That wasn’t something I’d been entirely sure of since the end of my marriage. I was so scarred from that experience that for a long while my heart (and my vagina) had felt nothing. Remembering those feelings of heart flutters, hopes, excitement and burning loins (legit wrote that thinking I was Joan Collins) was like a re-birth for me. Knowing you will feel something for someone again was so encouraging for me.

The second lesson was that making allowances for someone’s behaviour based on what they’re going through (in his case his divorce) didn’t allow me to take care of myself and, instead, I put him first. And especially having come from where I’ve been in the past, I’ve realised I should always be my number one priority.

And as Julia puts it, it’s not always about making decisions which will make me happy in the short term, but decisions which when I look ahead two, or five, or ten years I know will be the best for me. As much as short term it could have been fun with Canadian DJ – who doesn’t want a trip to Mexico? – the red flags were already there in abundance and did I really want to live through another divorce, albeit not mine this time?

It could have been years of struggle and who knows how it would have ended up. That process changes a person so much. I know, I’ve been there. In trying to be sympathetic and kind and a good person, I allowed someone to be less than good to me. Be kind to yourself first, so you’re able to continue being kind to others. Putting yourself first does not equate to selfishness or unkindness towards someone else.

With Filipeen, it was a lesson in standing up for myself and not letting someone make me question myself and my self worth, especially when their sense of me seemed so warped. Don’t feel like you’ve got to be agreeable just so you don’t rock the boat. If standing up for yourself is going to tip the boat over, especially if it’s already listing, then let that motherfucker sink.

On reflection of this situation afterwards, I realised it was far more about him, than it was me. And I randomly happened on this quote, which felt incredibly apt – “If you are willing to look at another person’s behaviour toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.” – Yogi Bhajan

Deciding what your standards of acceptable behaviour are is critical. Just because you’re not married & he’s not cheating on you & sexting people (i.e. me using my ex-husband as a yardstick), doesn’t make his behaviour ok. That’s not the only form of poor behaviour & anything that’s not as bad as that isn’t necessarily good. There’s a whole scale of shitty and unacceptable behaviour.

If I wouldn’t accept it for one of my friends, then I shouldn’t accept it for me. If I wouldn’t accept me doing it to someone else, then I shouldn’t accept it being done to me. And if by respecting someone else so much I end up disrespecting myself, it’s my actions that need to change.

As much as learning lessons is an enriching part of life, when it’s a painful experience to get to the lesson it’s natural to feel like you’d maybe rather have avoided it and either learnt the lesson another way (tip – there is no other way) or never learnt the lesson at all (tip – all these lessons are invaluable, deal with it).

I always ask myself how I can make sure I don’t find myself in the same situation again, not repeat the same mistakes or, rather, put my newly learnt lessons into practice. But you do the best you can with what emotional capability you have/the information you know at the time. And trying to never let the pain be repeated can mean you look to change some of your own inherent qualities.

As much as I can look at past experiences and think “if I hadn’t let it go so far so quickly” or “if I’d just stood back a bit and tried to get a better measure of the person” or “maybe I shouldn’t have given so much of myself”, ultimately I don’t want to become guarded. I don’t want to question my decision making ability. Especially when you cannot control what is coming at you from the other side of a relationship. You cannot control how honest or vulnerable or committed the other person will be.

Change is also unsettling. Adapting to a shift in your life – whether it’s a relationship, physical environment, career – takes time and can be challenging. This is particularly true when the shift involves another person, a human being who, for a certain time anyway, brought some love and light to your life. But there is something poetic about the ebb and flow of people into and out of your life.

However, a change which when it happens can seem so significant (whether that’s someone coming or going), can seem so irrelevant when looking back in a few months / years /decades. Being able to remember that these, at the time, pretty big / meaningful / painful life events will eventually all just become small threads in the fabric of your entire life can help with providing some perspective and letting you take a step back from the minutiae of the overwhelming feelings. In the end they’re all just really good stories in your life book.

And uncertainty is a given when getting into a new relationship. Which is unfortunate, because I like to have a handle on things. I like to know what’s what and know what’s not. It’s important for me to have a sense of control, feel like I know what to expect and be able to prepare myself.

I’ve always been sort of like that but the control requirement really got out of hand when my marriage unravelled and I felt like I didn’t have a handle on anything – my emotions, my husband, my life. It was a scary feeling.

So post-separation and divorce I held on for dear life onto any control I could get because it made me feel safe, it made me feel less vulnerable, it made me feel like for the first time in a long time at least I got to make proactive decisions rather than reactive decisions.

Getting into a new relationship, however,  doesn’t provide any of that – even in the best of circumstances when you know yourself, when you don’t doubt people’s honesty and when relationships don’t seem like a potential black hole of disaster (wow, I sound so positive!). But in my circumstance, when I can’t even answer the question “what are you like in a relationship?” it provides a whole extra level of uncertainty to the already pre-existing unknowns. So that’s… fun.

I don’t know what I’m like in a relationship because I’m not the same person I was when I was last in a relationship. It was over 5 years ago (jeeeeeez I’ve never seen that written down before!) and it was my painfully broken marriage. The experience of that situation changed me in ways I didn’t even realise until a few years ago and there’s definitely been elements I’ve tried to scrub from the memory bank. So my “truth” of how I was in that relationship is unlikely to be anything like how I’d be as a partner now, for so many reasons. And how I would be now, after so much change, is anybody’s guess.

A fairly unsurprising residual from my marriage, which broke down due to infidelity on my husband’s part, is of course the fun time feeling that is insecurity. While I never questioned that the severe misgivings in my marriage were his doing and not mine (albeit I don’t suggest I was the 100% perfect wife), women particularly seem incapable of not taking on an incredible – usually, unwarranted – amount of self loathing/self doubt in circumstances where cheating has occurred and I was no different. Was I not good enough, was I not smart enough, was I not attractive enough, not good enough in bed…

It’s indescribable how much it can eat away under the surface, like rot infiltrating the foundations of what looks like an otherwise stable home. And sometimes the “stable home” may only realise the extent of the rot when it comes time to potentially welcome a new dweller in.

Trust is the other bitch. It’s the thing that you hear so much about – you can’t have a relationship without it, you need to earn it, it’s a mutual thing, once it’s gone you can never get it back. Very little is spoken about trust in a superlatively positive way.

So when you realise that you’ve developed such a strong sense of mistrust, it’s difficult to figure out how you’re going to get around it when you meet someone new. And when I say mistrust, I mean in everyone. Every single person in your life. To the point that you genuinely think your friends are lying to you when they say they can’t go to a movie with you. And it’s no reflection on them. It’s you, it’s your mind, it’s the mental abuse you suffered when you knew something wasn’t right and someone you loved lied straight to your face. Over, and over, and over. About the biggest things and the smallest things. Did you sleep with her? No (I have a text from her saying otherwise and he later admitted it). Did you forget to take your lunch to work today? No (I’m staring at it sat in the fridge).

So how do you set yourself up for a new relationship when you already don’t believe a single thing that anyone says to you. And now you’re supposed to trust a stranger who wants into your bed and into your life, and you’re not sure which is their main priority.

I’d also moved to a brand new country, a whole other continent no less, so is dating here different? Are relationship roles/expectations the same as back in the UK? I don’t know how dating in this day and age works!

I also came here by myself, with my family thousands of miles away, so does that impact what I need/want from a partner? Do I need more stability, a ready made family given that I don’t have my own here. I don’t know, I don’t know if I would still be looking for those things if I did have my family closeby.

I’m also now 30 plus… so you’re looking for different things than you were in your twenties. It’s not all “oh I’ll just see how it goes”. I don’t have time for that. Your patience and your tolerance are a lot lower in your thirties I’ve found.

Based on the above I know it sounds like I lack self confidence, I don’t trust a single soul, I’m in a weird new place and I’m old… this isn’t all strictly true.

I spent a lot of time, and money, working on the self confidence and the trust issues, not least learning to trust myself and my gut again, so they’ve definitely had some repair work. My new location has given me an incredible new lease of life in the best possible way and the extra years of experience (we don’t use the word baggage) are invaluable.

Technically I could/should be in a much better place now than ever before to get into a relationship. And I don’t actually argue with that. But I do have an additional level of unknown. having changed so much in the last few years, Friends and family who have seen me through it all, have commented on how different I am. Thankfully, always in a good way, that I’m so much happier. But that change means I don’t know who I am in a relationship. I don’t know what to expect of myself.

So I’m trying to figure it out as I go and situations like Canadian DJ and Flilipeen, while painful and difficult at the time, are all part of that and I’m thankful for the lessons they provided.

(Sorry for the lack of jokes in this post, dating after divorce ain’t all funny stories and sex-ploits.)

Next post…

…previous post

The Aftermath – Part 4.1?


I guess you could call this a bonus post? I had thought I’d be able to get the whole godforsaken Filipeen saga wrapped up in 4 parts (you can read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) but there’s still more shittery to write about, so here I am.

Having sobbed all the way home, I actually felt better than I thought I would when I settled myself on the sofa to eat my feelings in leftover Christmas chocolate. I absolutely knew I’d done the right thing and I felt relieved it was over, that I didn’t have to deal with Filipeen again, but I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d got myself into the mess to begin with…

Why hadn’t I been quicker to walk away? Why had I let it get so far, to the point he was able to diminish my self worth? Why did I honestly think he might be the only person that would want to date me? Where did that “scarcity fear”, as Julia calls it, come from?

Those weren’t questions I had answers for right at that moment but as I pondered them, my thoughts were interrupted by a text. From him. “So I don’t really know where we left it? Am I ok to contact you? Can we still be friends?”

Mother of fuck, get a clue.

I had no ability to see how we could be friends. I hadn’t been on Bumble to make friends and ultimately when someone has stripped your character down to nothing, why would you want to keep them in your life? It made no sense to me. But he’d done a great job of making me feel guilty even about that. During the discussion yesterday, when he’d made a point about how he hoped we could be friends he commented that people who can’t remain friends after dating clearly aren’t mature. Setting up the narrative that if I said we couldn’t be friends, I was obviously immature. Even now he was manipulating my thoughts.

I didn’t even know what to say in reply, and I was too tired to try to deal with it. So I just said “I don’t know right now. How about text me if you want and I’ll see how I feel?”

That was the Sunday and on the Tuesday he took it literally when he texted me to ask if I’d watched anymore Archer. We’d been watching it together whenever I was over at his place, funnily I hadn’t been tempted to remind myself of those nights by watching more of it in the last couple of days. I replied “no, I’ve been busy seeing friends and taking care of myself”. I was hoping the terse response would help him realise I wasn’t interested in friendly chit chat.

I made it through the rest of the week relatively unscathed, given it was the first week back after the holidays and I was hardly in the best of moods to start with. To celebrate surviving I went out with a girlfriend to eat tacos, drink margaritas and catch up after the holidays. Obviously my festive tales were fairly exclusively focused on Filipeen and as we were knee deep in the pre-NYE character assassination chat, my phone buzzed. Being the terrible friend I am, I checked it mid-sentence and stopped dead.

It was the star of the story and the look on my face obviously said so. My friend’s only response was “tell me how exactly this story turns around to the point where he’s still fucking texting you now?” She was incredulous. I insisted on finishing the story before we dived into this most recent text. And as the story progressed she’d interject every so often with “and he’s STILL texting you??!?! HOW?!?!?”

When the story finally caught up with current day, I read the text out loud to her “hey! Where was that bottomless mimosa brunch place you were saying was good?” Ohhhh, now you want to leverage my downtown party lifestyle knowledge??? What am I, some fucking restaurant concierge?

My friend asked me how I felt. I said not good, I didn’t want his name popping up on my phone and disturbing my days / nights / life, and she was right when she said I needed to tell him that. Fuck what he thought about people who couldn’t stay friends after dating, fuck it if he thought I wasn’t coping, fuck it if he thought he’d got to me. She was pretty resolute about it.

So we spent the next half hour crafting the perfect response as we moved from the restaurant to Forever 21 to look for outfit pieces for an event we were going to in a few weeks. Browsing the racks we put together a text that ultimately said that I didn’t want to be friends with him, I didn’t see how that could bring value to my life, and that in hindsight I had realised that the way he treated me and how he’d acted had been incredibly selfish, confusing and unfair. I wanted to be nice but honest, I wanted to be firm but fair. And ultimately I wanted him to leave me the fuck alone. Text iterated for the 100th time…. and sent!

He replied later that night, with an essay length text, saying it was unfortunate that I saw the situation that way (insinuating, of course, that it wasn’t that way in reality at all) and that as a result he didn’t think we could be friends (when I’d just said in my text that I didn’t want us to be friends, of course he needed the last say in that) but he wished me nothing but the best because I really was an incredible person who deserved to meet someone who was right for me and the life I “really wanted to lead” (a nod to the fact he didn’t think I was honest about the life I wanted to live).

I never replied and instead deleted our entire message history.

I was grateful I had been with my friend when the brunch text came in. I probably would have sent a mindless reply otherwise. Instead we talked through the whole thing. She’s a therapist and while she can’t counsel me professionally (instead she introduced me to the therapist love of my life, Julia), she does an incredible job at putting her knowledge to use when chatting with friends in situations just like this. She’s also one of the most empathetic people I know, which helps massively and I love her for it.

Discussing it with her, I realised he gave so many excuses for why it wouldn’t work, as if he was grasping for any old reason. Yet none of them were reason enough for him to cut it off himself. He had to tell me everything that was wrong with me and leave it to me to decide if I could live with staying in the relationship while knowing he was feeling all of those things.

I don’t believe it was a actually a choice for me to make, rather it was a test to see how much I would put up with and, ultimately, a way of getting me to be the one to break it off rather than him. So that he wasn’t the cause of anymore hurt to me than I’d had in my past, so that he wasn’t the bad guy. Even wanting to stay friends afterwards, always the sign of the good guy right?

It’s bullshit. I wish he’d been man enough to say “this is how I’m feeling, it’s not working for me, I’m sorry but we can’t keep dating”. Instead, by being a coward (or trying to save me hurt, as he put it) it caused me more confusion. And if there’s one thing that causes more lasting damage than hurt, it’s confusion.

Confusion breeds doubt and insecurity. It leads to not trusting your gut and being unable to cut through the noise. I feel like it’s a go to tactic for men – confuse her, that’ll really fuck her up. Because if there’s one thing that’s easy to walk away from and explain why you walked away, it’s a messed up woman.

Well fuck him. I knew what I wanted, I put it out there and I don’t regret it. It’s me – it’s how I am, it’s how I live my life and it’s how I love (not that I loved him – to be clear). I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the reason behind why he felt the way he did/didn’t or acted the way he did. Were we really not compatible or was he scared? I don’t know and it doesn’t actually matter.

I want someone to be all in with me, someone whose commitment I never have to question or wonder about. And that wasn’t him. End of saga.

Next post…

…previous post

All Kinds of F*&%ed Up – Part 4 of 4


The morning after Boxing Day, Filipeen was back at work but I had an extra day off, so in my “I can’t help but be nice” state of mind, I finished tidying up the rest of his place. We’d done a lot of it the night before but there was still piles of dishes, boxes of drink and generally stuff all out of place. So I let my cleanliness OCD take over and fixed it all up. I also walked the dog and, for the second day in a row, he’d given me the keys to his pride and joy to drive the rental plates and glasses back to the hire place. As you do with someone who the night prior you’d been introducing as “a friend”.

And I did all of that with a hangover and confusion fogged brain, trying to work what in the hell’s name was going on. Dropping off his house key to him at his office as I made my way back downtown I couldn’t help but feel that the thanks and minimal kiss he’d offered on the side of the street weren’t quite enough reward for the bitch of a morning I’d just had.

But had he asked me to do all those chores or had I offered and he’d just taken me up on it? Did it matter? Well, yeah, because I guess I can’t really be mad if I offered and then was pissed off because I didn’t get a big enough pat on the back. But it was more than that. It was because he’d let me do all of that while still clearly not knowing where he was at with his feelings for me. But again, can you blame him? Who wouldn’t take up the offer of a free housemaid for the morning. Especially one who you’d had shower sex with before you went to work.

That’s right, throughout it all, the sex was an unwavering constant. Maybe the only unwavering constant. And it was always great. It was the one time when I wasn’t second guessing myself with him. By this point I felt fairly confident in my own sexuality and I was sure there were no complaints from his side, in fact there was more talk about it being some of the best he’d had than it being a further source of disconnect for us.

But I found myself post-Boxing Day dinner party, post-Christmas Night weirdness, post-Christmas Eve domesticity, having a really hard time getting a grip on what in fuck’s name was going on. I couldn’t understand how we’d gotten to a place with so much confusion and tension and ultimately, where I was feeling worse about myself instead of better.

To add to the festive period trials, New Year’s Eve was coming up. Which would have been fine if we weren’t going to spend it together but a few weeks back, before things had gotten this far down weird street, I’d mentioned that I was going to an engagement party on NYE and that he should come if he didn’t have any plans. It wasn’t like a big “let’s bring in the new year together” or “I want to take you as my plus one to a friend’s engagement party”, it truly was “if you’re not doing anything else that night, come along, it should be a super fun party”.

After everything that had gone before we probably should have rethought the decision and instead taken it as a night for ourselves, apart from each other. But why try and keep things simple when you can add more confusion to the mix?

With the residual feelings from Boxing Day still lingering, I knew I needed to address them before NYE – I hate taking negativity into a new year and I knew if there were underlying issues and I got drunk all hell could break loose. So on the 30th December I, of course, went over to his place where he cooked us dinner and we found ourselves having another chat about our relationship a mere two weeks since the last one.

I started by saying that I knew that despite saying we should slow down and focus more on just spending time the two of us, Christmas had kind of got in the way of that with Boxing Day dinner and now NYE coming up. So we should just forgive ourselves those but come January we’ll try and start afresh again. I just thought we needed to slow down like we spoke about and I knew I needed to stop giving so much of myself by doing things like walking the dog and being domesticated at his house (oh my god I’m having deja vu from the conversation two weeks ago – had I learnt nothing?!).

I presumed he was going to agree, we were going to try (again) to make those changes and things would get better. End of story. But his reaction left me speechless.

He told me right off the bat that he felt like something was missing and he wasn’t sure that our life goals aligned. The trail off at the end of “you tick all the boxes on paper but something feels off, I mean you should be everything I want but…” isn’t really something you want to hear.

He said he felt something was missing with me. The pointedness of making sure I knew it was ME that there was something missing with and not him wasn’t lost on me. But the part that got me the most, the thing that definitely shattered a little piece of my heart was when, looking me in the eye, he told me “I don’t have butterflies about you”. Not to be melodramatic but it felt like a stab, like the quickest insertion of the finest blade deep inside me. My biggest fear – rejection – was staring my squarely in the face.

As I fought back the tears, he continued by telling me he didn’t think I wanted to give up my downtown party lifestyle and that, despite what I’d said, he didn’t believe me when I said I wanted to have kids. The want to cry quickly turned into the want to punch him in the throat.

At what point had all of my trips across the bridge to the suburban North Shore, and walking his dog in the shitting snow, before having cosy quiet nights in at his place made it seem like I wouldn’t want to change my “downtown party lifestyle”? And even that phrase was ridiculous! I am practically a GRANNY! I hardly ever go out and in fact my drinking had increased since I met him. (Possibly because of the mental anguish he caused me.)

And don’t get me started on how insulting it was that he would question my sincerity, my honesty, my vulnerability when opening up about how I felt about having kids. Who the fuck was he to tell me that he thought I wasn’t being honest about it?

As I was sitting on my hands to stop me reaching out to strangle him, what I thought was rock bottom plummeted further when he finished up his character assassination of me with “but look, I’m hoping all those feelings about you change because I would really love this to work. I’m happy to give it time, to work on it, and see if those feelings develop and if maybe our life goals can align. If you are? But I understand you’ve been hurt in the past and the last thing I want to do is hurt you anymore, so I’ll understand if you want to walk away. I’ll let you make the decision. ”

If it hadn’t been for my ex-husband’s incredible displays of psychological manipulation years before, I’d have said this was the most exquisite example of gaslighting I’d ever seen.

I hadn’t even really wanted to be going this fast. Yes it was fun and ultimately domesticated bliss was the long term goal but it was scaring the shit out of me and the confusion it was bringing with it wasn’t worth it. But for some reason I was sat on that sofa actually weighing up the options. Whereas now with a clear head and hindsight all I can scream as I type these words is “RUN, YOU DUMB BITCH.” Trust me, reader, I feel your frustration.

I was so torn and in that moment I felt incredibly alone. Again, in hindsight, I know I could have reached out to any of my friends and they’d have likely uttered the exact same all caps instruction as above, but at the time I felt stuck with this decision all by myself.

My mind was racing but kind of in slow motion: surely we need to be together for those feelings to develop and for him to realise we are on the same page re life goals. i.e. spending time apart isn’t going to convince him of those things, so taking a break or walking away won’t help? But if those feelings aren’t there now, will they ever be? And do I really want to be feeling like I need to try and convince him that we’re right for each other? Does any of this matter right now? It’s still so early. Do we even need to be having these conversations? Is walking away sensible self preservation or is it running scared at the first hint of trouble?

As I was trying to calm my mind to the point I could move or talk or do something, ideally to get up and go home, he outdid himself by coming out with “look, I can tell you’re upset, this wasn’t a fun conversation to have and you shouldn’t be alone tonight, so why don’t you stay?”

Again in hindsight, it should have been a no brainer, I should have already been halfway back across that mother fucking bridge. But I was still there on the couch. And ultimately I ended up staying. I felt so paralysed by the fear of making the wrong decision. Like if I’d gone home that night it would have been over and, despite everything, I really didn’t know if I wanted that.

At the time all I could think was I really wouldn’t not want him in my life. Amidst all the bullshit, he did make me laugh, he was generally sweet and caring, he seemed like such a good person, with good values, he made me want to be better with his motivation and drive, and I loved how family and friends orientated he was. Plus, you know, the sex was incredible.

But that night as we climbed into bed, as we had done countless times before that, I felt like I was drowning in uncertainty and fear. Fear I’d make the wrong choice, fear that once again I was going to have to face the feeling of rejection, fear that I was once more going to have to walk away from something when it wasn’t entirely what I wanted to do but I knew that I should.

When he tried to initiate sex, his lack of true understanding of the situation shocked me. I had to explain to him that I didn’t want to be only enough for him in the bedroom if I wasn’t enough for him sitting on that couch 15 minutes earlier. While he turned over and went to sleep, I replayed everything he said to me, every untruth he told me about myself, over and over in my head and, as the 31st of December dawned, I cried myself to a restless couple of hours of sleep.

The best part (note the sarcasm) of all of this is that the way he’d left the conversation was entirely on my shoulders, the decision was mine to make, I was the ref who had to make the call. And despite the mass of billowing red flags hitting me across the face from all directions, I genuinely didn’t know what to do. So what would you do in that situation? I bet the answer isn’t “still go to your friend’s NYE engagement party with him”? But mine was!

Yup, we got all dressed up that night, having told him I wanted to put the whole thing out of my mind and not think about it, and instead to try and enjoy the night, off we went for him to meet more of my friends and bring in the new year, celebrating love, while feeling like I had fully lost my mind.

The night itself was surprisingly not a complete wash. There were moments I’d catch myself starting to think about it and would have to actively change my train of thought, especially when he’d make comments about how he hoped he would get an invite to the wedding or that he’d love to hang out with my friends again. You don’t even know that you like me, why do you think we’ll be together in 9 months when the wedding is?!?! Otherwise we did pretty good and the friends we were with that night, none of whom had met him before, had no clue anything was wrong and thought he was great.

After we’d successfully seen in 2017 and toasted the upcoming nuptials while I remained sensibly semi-sober, I dutifully went back over the water to his place despite my house only being 10 minutes away from the party, but he had to go home for the dog. Always the damn dog! I loved that dog, she was a sweetheart but fuck me it was an annoying excuse he always had up his sleeve.

On January first he dropped me off back at home for me to go and do the annual New Year’s Day ocean swim with some friends. Before he left he suggested we do dinner the next night, our last night of the festive period before going back to work. At that point I knew I didn’t have another trip across the bridge in me so I insisted he come over to downtown and we go somewhere convenient for me, which he happily agreed to.

A few hours later I was at a bar with a couple of guy friends, trying to warm ourselves up by a heater and with a whisky each having shocked our systems by diving into freezing water, and I told them the story of Filipeen. They knew I was dating someone but hadn’t heard any of the rest of the story. I actually hadn’t really told anyone about the pre-NYE chat, I couldn’t bring myself to because it was just so… embarrassing. It felt embarrassing.

Naturally, both of their reactions were ones of absolute horror that I’d gone to NYE with him, much less that I was even considering what I should do about the whole thing. They were incredibly kind and said some very lovely, and much needed, things about how I deserved better and how he sounded “like a nutter”, as one of my friends so eloquently put it.

I think I had known that would be what everyone had said, but he’d done such a good job of making it seem so normal to say the things he had and turn it around the way he had on me, and of course with his less than stellar review of my character weighing on my mind, I had definitely started to believe that maybe those things were wrong with me and maybe I should just be happy he was willing to try and make it work? Yes, my self worth was entirely MIA by this point.

Lesson learnt that day – always sense check shit a guy says to you with your friends.

The following day I prepared myself for dinner with him, wondering if I should just cut it off with him that night. But I was all too aware that he was the first serious “relationship” I’d had since I started dating and I wasn’t sure if I was running scared or if I was self sabotaging.

Instead I decided to give it a bit more time, have a session with my therapist Julia (have I mentioned her? I LOVE HER) and go from there. Of course, that night we had to get just a little bit of couple domesticity in and went to buy a laundry basket for him – just how every girl wants a dinner date to start – before heading to the restaurant.

Dinner was fine, we kept the conversation light and it did feel like a nice way to finish the holidays. We’d started them together and, in some capacity at least, we were finishing them together. But when he came back upstairs to mine for a bit before he went home things changed. He sat away from me on the sofa – in fact he sat on the only other chair in my apartment – while he told me he felt like “the decision” had been on my mind all night and we wouldn’t get anywhere if I couldn’t let it go.

“If I couldn’t let it go”? “IF I COULDN’T LET IT GO”?!?!?!?!?! I’m sorry, it’s kinda hard to forget that the person you’re sitting across from at dinner, going out to parties with, sleeping in a bed with isn’t sure that you’re right for them and has actively you told you just that, along with all the many fucking reasons, enough to fill your new fucking laundry basket.

And he had the audacity to get annoyed with me as he said it. HE was annoyed with ME. I was speechless, though I did manage to tell him I thought he should leave. I didn’t want to see his face, I didn’t want him near me, I didn’t want him in my house.

He called me that night to try and apologise but it was a short conversation that I ended by telling him I wanted to be left alone for a week. We went back to work the next day and at the end of that week I had an appointment to see Julia. I knew she’d sort me out. I knew she’d be able to help me get back to clarity and unpack the craziness of the last few weeks.

That Friday as I relayed the story to Julia, in her cosy, comfortable, safe space, and as I heard all the words come out of my mouth in the way they’ve tumbled onto this post, I knew. I knew what I should do, I knew that walking away was the only sensible option. But for some reason I needed that reinforced. I needed to be told that it was ok and I was doing the right thing. Because instead of just knowing I should do it, I had this feeling that me walking away was me not doing enough, not trying hard enough. It was mildly reminiscent of when I struggled so much with walking away from my marriage, albeit on a totally different scale. My self worth definitely still needed some work.

Julia’s role isn’t typically to tell me what to do, that’s not how counselling/therapy works. She asks questions to get me to look at things differently, think a little deeper about how things have happened or why I feel the way I do, reflect on things in new ways. But on this occasion she broke with her usual “no opinions given” demeanour and pointedly told me “you know I’m not here to tell you what you should do, but you already know what you need to do – you know you need to walk away and that is absolutely the right thing to do.”

It was all I needed.

I messaged him on the Saturday morning and asked if we could meet up sometime over the weekend to talk. He suggested Sunday afternoon, he would come over to downtown and we’d walk the seawall. So on a bitterly cold early January afternoon, I met him (and the dog) from the seabus and we started to walk.

There were a couple of minutes of catching up generally before he said “it seems like the woman has something on her mind…” with a smile on his face. The patronising tone and the fact he had seemingly very little understanding of the mental anguish this whole situation had been causing me, were perfect reminders of why I was about to say what I was about to say.

I’d gone through it in my head many times over the previous day and a half so I launched straight into it, ensuring I left no breaks for him to interject. It was straightforward – “I don’t want to be with someone who isn’t sure about me. I don’t want someone who questions whether what I tell them about my life goals is the truth or not. I don’t want someone who thinks I drink too much or that I’ve dated too much. I want someone who knows me and that what they know of me makes them want to know more, not less. I need someone whose actions meet their words. I want someone who gets butterflies about me the way I get butterflies about them. I need to feel safe, loved and supported. And you offer me none of these things, so I can’t see you anymore.”

He seemed a little taken aback by my brevity. In fact so was I. He had such a way of making me stumble over my words, and my thoughts, and for once I’d been able to concisely convey just how he made me feel, without worrying about upsetting him.

He responded by saying he had wanted to connect on a deeper level and felt the relationship had become too sexually focused – something he’d never mentioned to me before. That he’d hoped to get to know me more but he felt there were barriers up. He said he thought we would be better as friends and that he didn’t not want me in his life in some way because I was such a great person and my friends were so fun. Ummmm…. how bout no?

A lot of his thoughts, if not all, I disagree with, other than me being such a great person and my friends being so fun, obviously. A perfect example of us being on different pages and I didn’t really think it was worth debating.

After starting to feel my fingers go numb, and my brain from all of his shit talk, I suggested we walk back to the station for him to go back to the North Shore. I had kept myself pretty well together throughout but I could feel the tears start to rise as we got closer to the station. As I hugged him goodbye he did an incredible job of leaving me with the perfect reminder of what a shit bag he was, saying in all seriousness “do you want to feel my arms one last time?”

He knew I had a thing for arms and in that moment all I wanted to do was tell him there were already a pair of Arms in my life that far exceeded his. My friends have since told me I should have. Instead, I took the high road, politely declined and turned to walk home, bursting into tears as soon as I knew I was out of his sight and sobbing all the way home. Whether the tears were out of heartbreak or relief, I wasn’t entirely sure, but the heart was definitely hurting a little.

Next post…

…previous post