Thursday, January 15, 2015

What To Do If You've Been Cheated On

When I found out that the man I was going to marry had been cheating on me… I was relieved. That might seem like an odd choice of emotion, but it’s the truth. Ok, fine, for about ten seconds I was angry. I want to say that I was shocked when I uncovered the deception that spanned approximately half of our relationship but I wasn’t, the signs were all there.  I was perhaps a little surprised, only because he had always expressed contempt and disdain for people who cheated and declared it was something he could never do, especially as he had been cheated on by all of his previous girlfriends. So based on that, I believed him.

My relief was two-fold. For one, I finally felt validated about my feelings of doubt that plagued our relationship since April. I am not a jealous or insecure person, but his sketchy actions made me one. I am, on most accounts, pretty rational and laid back, but with him I was so tightly wound and stressed that I could snap at any second.   This is because I knew something was deeply wrong with our relationship but whenever I tried to address it he lashed out at me, along with other things some of which I discussed in my last post. The truth is the way he treated me throughout the course of our relationship was completely unacceptable and deplorable. Even if he hadn't physically cheated, he was cheating me out of a loving, fair relationship.

He kicked me out of our apartment, something which came out of the blue, was not mutual but apparently was the only way to “save” our relationship. A week later, I miscarried our baby, which the doctor said was most likely due to high levels of stress and anxiety, all of which were brought on by him. His actions and treatment of me at the time made me think that I was going crazy, that maybe I WAS an unsupportive girlfriend, that perhaps he was going through a rough time. I hated myself for feeling stressed, paranoid, and doubt ridden. So finding out that I my feelings were founded in truth and that he is just a manipulative lying cheat? Flooded me with peace and relief. 

The 2nd fold of relief was that we recently got back together but I was having doubts about giving the relationship another shot. I realized I couldn’t do it, and ended it. The next day, I found out about his long term infidelity (that was still going on despite his proclamations of love for me and how serious he was to make it work between us. He even sent me emails saying that whilst on vacation with her!) made things crystal clear. I was done. Moved on, no looking back, good riddance.

It’s never easy to find out that someone we loved/cared about betrayed us but if it happens try and keep the following frame of mind/action

It’s Not Your Fault: Nothing you did or didn’t do makes someone cheating on you your fault, regardless of how they might try and spin it. It is THEIR fault. 100% And don’t forget that. Also, don’t make excuses for them. Do Not. I don’t care how stressful work is, or how hard moving in together was, or how much money they lost etc. Life happens. There are better ways of dealing with negative issues than betrayal.

Don’t Expect an Explanation or Apology: Don’t ask or want a reason. There isn’t one. At least not one that will actually justify it or make you feel remotely better. As for an apology? Are you owed one? Absolutely. Will you get one? Probably not. If you do, will it really make you feel better?

Don’t Let it Define You or Affect your Future Relationships: While our pasts are important in shaping who we are, we shouldn’t let them define or hinder our future. We have to just accept this bad experience as a one off and not go into future relationships expecting or fearing the same outcome. It’s  just one person, so don’t blame the rest of the population. Look at it this way: if you fall down the stairs, do you suddenly become terrified of stairs and refuse to take them ever again? Or grip onto the railing like it’s a life vest? No. because it’s a one off, and shouldn’t be expected.

Don’t Think About Revenge:  It is so tempting seek revenge on someone who has wronged us. To hurt them or anger them like they did us. But don’t. It’s not worth it. Not only will it solve nothing, but there is no need for you to lower yourself to that level. Let happiness and success be your revenge. Example:  My ex has a major aversion to leaving a digital footprint so I was tempted us use his name, job title, company, name of mistress etc in this post so that it would come on in a Google search on him. I knew he’d HATE that, which made me laugh to think about. But I didn’t, because really, I’m so much better than that.

Don't Blame the "Other" Woman or Man: it's easy to say snarky things about the person or people your partner cheated with but the truth is, unless they were a close friend of yours, then they have no responsibility to you. it is your partners responsibility to be faithful to you. The woman my ex was involved with, knew about me, but it's still not her fault. And as much as it's tempting to bash her the truth is that HE is the wrong one.

Don’t Be Sad: Breakups are hard. When my ex and I first ended things I was devastated, grieving this true love that I thought I was losing. When I found out the truth about him, it changed everything. I didn’t even cry. All of a sudden I realized what we had wasn’t special, and he isn’t a great guy, so I had no reason to be sad.  I still haven’t cried.

Trust Your Instincts: Unless you’re a doomsday seeker or excessively paranoid, if your instincts are telling you something, then you should probably listen. I ignored mine, against my better judgement and will never do that again. In fact, my first gut reaction to my ex when I met him four years ago was that he was a scumbag. Should’ve listened to myself :) 

Don’t Let Someone Else Control Your Feelings:  The only person in control of your feelings, your life, and your actions is you. Just like someone can choose to be faithful, you can choose to be positive vs negative, happy vs sad, productive vs lazy, to move on vs wallow. Take control of your life and don’t let someone else sooooo not worthy of your consideration waste a second more of your time.

Know Your Worth:  Everyone deserves to be in a relationship with someone who loves, values, and respects them. Someone who cheats on you,breaking your trust, hurting you, and potentially putting you in harms way (diseases etc) is not worthy of your love and commitment. Find someone who is. This also applies to people who are hooking up with someone in a relationship. You deserve to be with someone who makes you their #1. 

Move On: If someone cheats on you then end it with them and move on. It’s over anyway. It ended the minute they decided to break their commitment of fidelity to you. Are there exceptions? Yes, there are, of course. As I said in my last post, there are one off mistakes. Or more complicated situations. But my rule of thumb is, if the trust is gone, there is no room for a healthy relationship. Get out and move on. Don’t look back.

These are actually a lot simpler than they may seem. Once you decide that you won’t be sad and that you’re better off, the rest comes naturally.  I didn’t have to adjust at all, it was like I suddenly snapped into this mode.

I am not going to pretend that I am not disappointed. I am. Not because we broke up. I no longer believe that I “lost” anything.  I am disappointed that he chose to lie to me for so long.  By continuing to tell me that he  loved and wanted to marry me (a ruse kept up until January 5th and probably would’ve continued had I not told him it was over) he essentially wasted nine months of my life.  So I am disappointed about that but mostly relieved. Relieved I found out the truth. Relieved it wasn’t all in my head. Relieved, so very VERY relieved that I didn’t marry him or have children with him because then I would’ve been tied to him instead of able to walk away. Instead, I'm starting 2015 afresh. Free to do what I want, and available for someone who is worthy of me…and I couldn’t be happier.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Tell if Someone is Cheating On You

Note: When I started writing this, I couldn’t stop. I went on and on, for several pages and realized that there was too much to cover in just one post, so I am splitting the entries into two “How to Tell if You’re Being Cheated On” and “What to Do if You’ve Been Cheated On.” As this subject is relevant and currently  deeply personal to me, I have done my best to remain objective and keep the tone as consistent as possible to my other entries. 

Monogamy: A form of relationship in which an individual has one partner for their lifetime or an extended period of time

While all relationships are different, and some have agreements to be “open”... the “traditional” form of committed relationship is that of two people who have made a mutual decision to only be with each other. They operate with the understanding that they can trust their partner and that their partner is faithful to them. We all know that sometimes it doesn’t quite work out like that. Sometimes, one of the people will break the agreement and engage in extracurricular activities with someone outside of their partnership. They cheat.

There are different degrees of cheating. There is the one-off, which can happen for a variety of reasons and I tend to be more lenient about this. If it happens and it’s a huge mistake and you’re filled with regret and vow to never do it again (and don’t) then I am tempted to say, depending on  the circumstances, to give it a pass. Then there is the serial infidelity, which is a string of affairs or one-offs, which, to me, is not acceptable. Finally there is an affair, an on-going, long term (anything longer than a night) relationship with someone outside of ones relationship, which is also unacceptable. I am at a loss as to why one would want to juggle two relationships, and even more at a loss as to why “the other man/woman” would be comfortable coming in 2nd place.

People cheat for all kinds of reasons, the main one often being that they weren’t getting something from their relationship so they sought it out elsewhere. It could be a physical or emotional component. Sometimes people cheat because they have an addiction to sex, or because they are selfish and weak. Sometimes people cheat for the thrill, or to feed their ego. Whatever the reason, they did it, and it’s wrong and frankly selfish.

Monogamy isn’t easy. Relationships aren’t easy, and I’m not going to pretend for a single second that they are. However, they’re also not mandatory. There is no rule that states that we HAVE to be in a partnership. We enter into our relationships by choice. Just like we stay faithful to our partners by choice. Because it IS a choice. Every day, we are CHOOSING to be with that person and to be committed to the promises that we made to them. To break that, for whatever reason, isn’t down to science, chemistry or basic animal instincts, it’s a conscious decision that we, as consenting adults make, to willingly harm our partner both emotionally but also perhaps physically. We have a choice to not do that. We can decide to end our current relationship, or work on the issues in it. To opt for infidelity is the weak, cowardly, and selfish way out.

Usually, if someone is unfaithful it comes out at some point. The deception and lies catch up with them. Sometimes it’s a shock and sometimes there are signs all along the way. Now I don’t believe in paranoia or not trusting a partner. I think if we choose to be with someone that we should, unequivocally, trust them. I don’t believe in checking up on them, snooping through their things, or questioning them. I don’t think we should search for signs, because I think that’s unhealthy for our mental health and damaging to our relationships. But what I will say, is that if the signs are there, we don’t usually have to engage in any sneaky and covert operations to uncover them. They’re usually pretty obvious, and as much as it’s tempting to ignore them, or make excuses or them, you shouldn’t:

10 Signs Your Partner is Cheating On You:

Change of behavior: The first telling sign is when someone’s behavior changes drastically. If it’s a one-off then we can let it go. If it completely replaces the previous behavior then it it’s something to look into.  If they’ve changed, it’s for a reason. My relationship went from being a fairytale to a nightmare in the short span of a few weeks. We went from planning to get married (and talking about it constantly) to barely speaking at all.

Change of attitude: If the person you’re with has a personality or attitude shift there is a reason why. It could be something as simple and innocent as problems at work, or a family issue. But this is something that should be communicated to you. Partners are supposed to share things. If they suddenly start picking fights, lashing out, or expressing disdain for you it’s an indication that there might someone else involved.  Also if they make over the top grand gestures they might be trying to overcompensate for something.  My ex went from being loving, warm, and adoring to cold, distant, and insulting. He’d look for an excuse to criticize or insult me and then storm off and disappear. I suppose he needed an excuse to justify his infidelity or maybe just an excuse to get out of the house and see her.

Change of schedule:  Lives change and circumstances come up so even the most established of routines will alter at times. The questions are: is it temporary or permanent? And how is going to affect your relationship? Are there suddenly late nights? Is your partner always away? Are you in contact with them? Are they open about where they are and what they're doing? Do they make excuses to not see or spend time with you? My ex had a busy and demanding job which I knew about and was fine with when we got together. After all, so did I. But he just stopped being around. Started "working" all the time: late nights, weekends,  pulling “all nighters.” We went from making plans to him canceling almost everything. We couldn’t go on vacation, make weekend or even dinner plans.  I was lucky if we had a five minute conversation when he stumbled in at whatever hour he came home, usually with whiskey on his breath. The bottom line is this: you’re never too busy to get what you want. Busy people have relationships and somehow make time for their partners. If the person you’re with isn’t able to make room for you in their schedule it’s either because they don’t want to, or because they’re making room for someone else.

Unavailability: If someone is suddenly completely unavailable it’s not because they actually are, they’re just unavailable to you. Most people reply on their phone and email for work which means that they are accessible to some degree, especially if you’re a priority to them. If someone becomes impossible to reach or disappears for period of time, you have to ask yourself where they’re going, and you probably won’t like the answer. My ex went from calling me every lunch break just to say that he loved me to not being reachable at all. Never picked up the phone, nor did he reply to texts or emails. His phone frequently “broke,” "died” or “didn’t have service”  making it “impossible” for any contact to be made. This was such a huge change from the way it was before. If this change is sudden, there's a reason.

Being Defensive: If someone starts becoming overly defensive to the point of aggression or trying to guilt trip you, it’s a sign that they have something to hide. And they’re manipulating you. Questions like, ‘What time will you be home?” “What did you do last night?” “Want to meet for lunch?” shouldn’t be met with contempt. Also, if you question sketchy behavior “Why didn’t you come home last night?” “Why are you bringing your phone to the bathroom?” “why don’t you ever include me in anything anymore?” shouldn’t cause your partner to snarl at you and belittle you. These are all normal questions, and if someone finds them unreasonable, it’s probably because the answers to them is that they’re doing something they shouldn’t be. (My ex once told me it was his "God given right as a human being to not come home at night.” I should’ve walked then and there.)

Strange or unusual correspondence or relationship: If someone random or unexpected suddenly starts popping up in your significant others life, they might be more than just a business associate or friend. I’m not suggesting that we should become suspicious of every new person, that would be unreasonable. We meet new people all the time, and sometimes we interact with them either at high volume levels professionally or socially and that’s normal. But it shouldn’t be clandestine, as a partner, you should know about it. Though it's also a sign if your partner talks about someone else all the time. If the circumstances of their correspondence or relationship seems weird, then it probably is. My ex started getting lots of texts from a woman he worked with, a woman whose role was completely unrelated to his and who had no real need to text him, especially not at high frequency levels and on the weekends. He made up some half baked excuse as to why she was texting and then the sign below happened.

Overzealously protective of phone and email. While I don’t condone reading other peoples texts or emails, I do believe that if someone freaks out if you are near their phone or ipad, or goes from giving you access to their device (for whatever reason) to hiding it and changing their passwords, then it’s because they’re hiding something. Most likely an affair. That’s what happened to me. My ex used to hand me is phone to show me emails or articles or pictures and then, as soon as I asked him why he was taking his phone to the bathroom to send texts, he  suddenly started hiding it or carrying it everywhere he went. He also changed his access password. He told me it was because he thought that I didn’t trust him so he didn’t trust me. WHAT? Talk about projecting.  Behaviour like this screams “I’M CHEATING ON YOU”

Keeping lives separate: I am a big proponent on people remaining individuals while in a relationship. One should have their own interests, friends, and time but it’s important to also do things together. When we first start dating someone, we tend to spend a lot of time with them and as the relationship progresses, we calm down a bit and start reverting back to our old routine a bit. This is normal. But if your partner suddenly and actively starts keeps you away from their life then it is because they are hiding something. When my ex and I first got together, we were inseparable, as most couples are initially. He wanted to spend every waking second with me and we did. He brought me to all of his events and out with his friends and vice versa. Then suddenly he stopped. He actively kept me away from his work events (some of which I should’ve attended for my own job) and he stopped wanting me to go out with any of his friends, ever. He kept me and our time together completely isolated. I realize now that it was because he was leading a double life.

Lack of intimacy: If your partner stops engaging in intimate activities with you, it means they’re getting it elsewhere. Ok yes, when we first get involved with someone we tend to be more excited and spend an inordinate amount of time getting physical with them, and this is often not sustainable. We can’t expect it to be, but if it stops completely, and if you notice other signs: lack of physical contact like holding hands, rubbing shoulder etc, less affection etc it’s because they’re pulling away.  My ex claimed that he was stressed and it was affecting his libido. He even told me his lack of interest was because a few times I "rejected" him and his ego was still bruised.  Lies. The bottom line is that happy couples are physical with each other and if someone suddenly stops then it is a red flag.

Catching them in a lie or many. Trust is a huge component in any relationship. We have to believe the person we’re with, we need to know that they’re honest. Ok, no one is 100% honest, we all tell white lies and for inconsequential things, it doesn’t really matter. Unless the lies are frequent. Or if you catch them in a lie. Once a lie is uncovered, it’s hard to come back from that.  I caught my ex in so many lies, stupid lies that were easy to prove which made me wonder what else he was lying about. (Now I know) It also made me stop believing anything that he said. If you find out that someone is or was lying to you, you have to ask yourself why? What are they covering up?

Anger and Guilt Tripping: This is related with being defensive and change of attitude. If someone gets angry all the time or starts guilt tripping you, making you feel like a bad person or unsupportive partner, when in actuality, you aren't, it's because they're trying to push you away, hurt you, or somehow rationalize to themselves why they are cheating on you and treating you terribly. My ex berated me constantly, told me I was being needy and unsupportive if ever I displayed any signs of discontent for his deplorable behavior. He lashed out, insulted me, and punished me by becoming even more unavailable or distant. Classic signs of someone who is up to no good, and is no good.

Now I am not an angel. I openly admit to cheating on an ex boyfriend many years ago. A decision that I feel terrible about to this day. I hurt him, a man who was loving and dedicated to me, and who didn’t deserve it. I hurt him and I couldn’t be sorrier for that fact, even though he’s gotten over it and remains a close friend. I did it because I was young, and stupid, and too afraid to admit to both him and myself that the relationship wasn’t working. I did it because I was weak and selfish. And I promised myself afterwards that I would never do it again, and I haven’t.  I can’t. If I find myself tempted, I either work on my relationship or end it.

Also, I understand that my absolutist attitude might be considered unfair. As I said, all relationships are different and complicated. If someone is married with children, leaving the relationship might not seem like the best or even a viable option. I can’t comment to that as it’s not a situation I can relate to, but I can say that if there are problems in your relationship, you should work on them rather than look outside of it. If you can’t fix the problems, then end it. If you’re not married, and don’t have children then cheating makes even less sense. The obligations are non existent. Again, work on the relationship or end it. To not do so is degrading to your partner and stealing from them. You’re stealing their time, their love, and their chance to be in a relationship with someone who actually deserves and wants to be with them. 

You might wonder what is wrong with me, why on Earth I would stay with such a person, even if I didn't find out he was cheating on me. My answer is that I made a commitment, for better or for worse, and I truly believed, or at least wanted to believe, that this was temporary, a rough patch that couples go through. And I loved the man that I fell in love with, even though it seems to me now that such a man never existed.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ve always liked Thanksgiving, not because of the food, but because it is a time where loved ones come together and celebrate the good things in life.  There are no presents, no religious undertones, just a time of reflection, of giving thanks and appreciating what we have. Something that we should do more often. We spend so much time focusing on what’s wrong, what we don’t have, how things could be better, that we often find ourselves not recognizing the good that’s in front of us.

I am thankful for many things this year. I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, enough to eat, am in relatively good health, that I have a choice in what I do and who I am. I am thankful for the opportunities that have been and continue to be afforded to me. I am thankful that I have never known true suffering and hardship.  I am thankful for my family,  who are incredible and have always been behind me, supporting and loving me. I am aware that not everyone is so fortunate.The list goes on.

This year, though, my Thanksgiving dedication is a bit cliché, but necessary. I am thankful for my friends. I had a pretty rough year, for me anyway. I struggled through a depressed phase, I had a few upsetting health situations, and I watched my life plan and future blow up in my face. Now I am aware that my challenges this year, though were tough for me, are nothing compared to so many people in the world. I realize that my worst year would be considered a dream for many which makes me feel even worse about the fact that I felt so bad at points throughout the year. But that’s not what this post is about.

My friends, from all over the world, were incredible when I was feeling broken and low. They let me know, through words and actions that I wasn’t alone, that I was loved, and reminded me that I was going to be GREAT, that I AM great, even though I didn’t believe them at all. They repeated these sentiments, citing examples or just being there until I believed them. Until I remembered who I was, what I was worth, and what I deserved.  I had fallen and they picked me up and held me until I stopped stumbling. They answered their phones at all hours, they came over at the drop of a hat, they listened, they cared, and they didn’t even judge me (to my face) 

They never once complained that I was being too needy and vulnerable, and they never once abandoned me during my time of need.  I took selfishly and they gave generously, asking for nothing in return.

I was shown unconditional love, patience, compassion, and support from so many people that it was IMPOSSIBLE to not sit back and think to myself, “Yes, things are bad. Yes, I have lost things…but look at what I haven’t lost. Look at what I have surrounding me.” Through them, I saw the life that I built for myself, the real one, not the one that I was currently existing in. I also saw how relationships should be, romantic or platonic, I was reminded of what expectations should be met, and what everyone deserves. I started refocusing on the things that matter, the people who matter. Over the years, I have collected incredible people that I am lucky enough to call friends, and my life is rich and utterly blessed because of it.

So thank you friends. Nothing I could write could even come close to giving you the accolades you so deserve. I can only promise to be as good a friend to you as you were to me.

And everyone, let’s start counting our blessings more regularly. Would save a lot of heartache and complaining, I think.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Kiss on My List: How to Make a First Kiss a Good One

There is something deliciously exciting about a new relationship. The butterflies in your stomach, the anticipation of when you are going to see that person again, the coy banter that leads into those epic new relationship conversations, and of course, the first kiss.

There is nothing like the first kiss. Everything from the moments leading up to it, the look in the other persons eyes as they search your face, the curvature of their mouth as it finds yours, and then the connection where, in that moment, there is nothing else in the world, just the two of you, kissing. It is exhilarating.

One of the best parts about the first kiss is the unexpected expectation of it. Chances are, we have an idea that a kiss is going to happen at some point. In fact, we’re kind of anxiously waiting for it, but the not knowing exactly when is part of the thrill. A thrill that is often ruined by the other person asking, “Can I kiss you?”

Talk about anticlimactic.

I want to say that no one wants to be asked the question, ever, but then my friend ruined my theory by saying that she’s been kissed a lot by people she wasn’t interested in and would’ve preferred they asked rather than assumed. Everyone else I've talked to, though, agreed that asking ruins the moment. I agree with my one friend thata kiss shouldn't be an attack, but it does take the wind out of your sails when a kiss is preempted by asking permission.

I get why the person asks though. In some regards,  they want to maintain respect and consideration, so asking is a way of demonstrating that. In this day and age, we want to make it clear that we’re giving them the choice to say no.  I also think it’s the mentality of “Well if I only ask but not actually make a move then it’s not rejection.” Or at least a lesser form of rejection. Somehow it’s less embarrassing to hear the word “No” then to have someone turn their head away.

The bottom line is this: If someone wants you to kiss them, they want you to just do it, without asking. If they don’t, they certainly don’t want to have to respond to such an awkward query. I mean really, how awkward. "Um no, I'd rather you didn't." ::crickets:: or awkward blustering from them. And more importantly, most of the time it’s obvious if someone is into you.

It boils down to being able to read signals, pick your moment being realistic, and not jumping the gun. When we’re interested in someone, we sometimes read into things that we shouldn’t. We see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, and think to ourselves that this person is surely feeling the same way we are. So we go for the kiss, because that’s what WE want and then seem surprised when that person isn’t into it. Or we perceive a moment as the right one when it's clearly not. Picking a moment is still a part of reading signals. I think a lot of this confusion is due to ego but also this immense desire that people have to rush things.

We live in an instant gratification society, and while in some ways it’s great, in other ways it’s taken the romance, the fun, the novelty out of basic human interaction. Hooking up has become almost meaningless in today's world, we engage in it without even knowing the other persons last name.  I don’t understand the rush and think that confusion on many fronts could be avoided if we simply took more time to be around the person, hang out, go on dates, TALK. There is no rule that says you must kiss someone within hours of meeting them. Sometimes we do, and it’s great, and it depends entirely on the circumstance and person, but the point is we need to be able to read the signals properly, and if we can’t, then we need to take more time.

I am sure I am going to hear from people who tell me I’m over-thinking it or being unrealistic. And I admit that I am not the kind of person who goes to bars and makes out with someone I met that night. I’m not judging, it’s just not who I am. I will tell you, though, that, based on my research, a lot of people feel the same way that I do, but perhaps don’t say it, because it’s “uncool” or “old fashioned.” Perhaps I am those things (well, old fashioned, I'm definitely not uncool) but I don’t think that it’s a bad thing that I actually want to have a connection with someone before I hook up with them. One that isn’t purely fueled by alcohol or concupiscence.

 The truth is that yeah, when we are attracted to/interested in someone, we actually want the same thing. We want to get to know them, spend time with them, and get physical with them. It’s just a matter of people wanting things in different orders.  Maybe the guys that I’ve dated are just as uncool or old fashioned as I am, but I can say that every first kiss I’ve had (with a guy that I ended up dating) was after he took some time with me before making the first move***, and I have had some incredible first kisses.


What I think a lot of people don’t realize is that if they opted for a little bit of patience over instant gratification, their success rate would actually be much higher. Especially as a woman, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, we are SO USED to unwanted advances and comments (or ones that come too soon) that it’s refreshing to be around someone who doesn’t do that. It makes us want them more. Take some time, and pick up signals…so that when you go for that kiss then there’s no doubt and you won’t have to ruin any moments. 

*Thanks to J for inspiring this post and to the others who verbally contributed (but not to AW for being the exception by wanting to grant permission first.)
**Thanks to all of the sensational first kisses I've had, one of which inspired a poem (written by him, not me) because of these, I am convinced that it's more than ok for me to think and feel like this.
***(aside from the Boat Cruise, but, come on! it was senior week in university!!! Hey, Jax)
****I suppose that this is aimed at people who are not just after a one night kind of thing, but more those who are interested in the other person

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How To Move On: The Do's and Don'ts

The end of a relationship is always hard, regardless of the circumstances. We are faced with all kinds of challenges: we have to start over, relearn things, change our way of thinking, not let the past consume us, stay positive, and move on.

I have always been pretty good with breakups. I never wanted to give the relationship another try, there was always a reason for it to end. The men that I have dated have mostly been lovely, but I always knew, even when we were together, that there was no real future, which I think made it easier when we said our goodbyes.  It wasn't until my last break up that I learned just how difficult it is to let go and move on. This breakup was different, because we were planning to get married. We went from making forever plans to dividing our things and moving out of our shared home.

To say it was heartbreaking is the understatement of the year. Previously, the idea of settling down evoked a feeling of panic and suffocation, but suddenly I found myself in a relationship where I was incredibly excited about building a future with someone. So, despite knowing it was necessary, my world came crashing down when we broke up. I was devastated. I lost 15 pounds, I couldn't focus on work, all of my conversations were centered around how sad I was, I took sleeping pills at night, I had panic attacks, and the crying was non stop. I cried all the time, regardless of where I was...work, the supermarket, the side of the road. It didn't matter, my tears came and they came in abundance.

I spent a good deal of time playing everything over in my mind, thinking of what we could've done differently, wishing I had a time machine and could have a re-do. I also spent time thinking that this was a joke or a bad dream, that any minute, things would go back to normal. I am sure that I was unbearable to be around and I genuinely love and appreciate all of the people who supported me, listened to me, held me while I cried etc even though for them, it was like listening to a broken record of a bad song.

The positives, I'll say, is that I learned a lot about relationships, who I am and what I want and need, so I now have new material for my blog (something I gave up while I was otherwise engaged) but today I will discuss moving on and how to do it.

How To Move On: The Do's and Don’ts

DO:

Accept It: The first thing one needs to do to move on is accept that the relationship is over. This can be the hardest thing, because when we are so invested in something, it's hard to believe that it can just disappear. But it does. It happens. It’s horrible and excruciating, but reality. What's done is done and nothing we can do or say or promise will change that. I know it's hard, trust me, I do, but it is essential to the moving on process, Once we accept that it's over, we can begin to rebuild and reprogram our lives to suit US.

Want To: Hand and hand with acceptance is WANTING to move on. My break up was epic. We went back and forth so many times. I moved out in May, moved back in June, moved out again in August. We kept taking space but then trying to "work it out." (Talk about pointless, boring and ridiculous!) Everyone thought I was being an idiot for trying, and truthfully, I agreed with them. But still, I listened to the former "love of my life" tell me that he loved me, that he was sorry and was going to make it better. Honestly, more than anything, I wanted to believe him. I wanted to ignore the obvious fact that his actions did not match his words. But one night, I thought about it, and I realized that the only time I was unhappy was when I was with/talking about/thinking of him. Talk about a red flag and a revelation.  I realized I wasn't moving on because I hadn't wanted to give up yet. Once I realized that: the answer was obvious. Painful as it was, it's subsiding and I know that I will move on to someone who doesn't make me cry every time I think about him. In fact, the other night, I told someone that I was “happier than I’ve been in a long time,” and surprisingly realized that I actually meant it.

Mourn: Mourning kind of comes with the territory, unless you are completely devoid of emotion, in which case you shouldn't be in a relationship. Everyone mourns differently. Some retreat, some party, some sob pitifully into their pillow every night, or some do a little bit of everything. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do something. It’s ok to not be ok all the time.

Get Angry: We need to get angry. Angry with the other person, angry with ourselves, angry with the situation, angry at something. Angry because we failed. Because that's really what a break up is, a kind of failure. (Sometimes failure is a good thing.) Failure from the other person. Failing yourself. Failure of the ability to pick the right person, to make the right choice. Whatever it is, get angry, because it's upsetting and it's definitely infuriating to know that you made a bad investment. Get angry, do it. But then let it go. There is no need for long term negativity in our lives. (Note: it’s fine to be angry at the other person, but don’t express it to them.  No good will come from it.)

Forgive: To really move on we need to forgive. We need to forgive the other person for hurting us, for disenchanting us, for whatever it is they did. We need to forgive ourselves. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, and that's fine so long as we learn from them. Forgive yourself. Forgive your ex. And once you do, a weight will be lifted and your life will look a whole lot brighter.

Tap into your Social/Support Network: Our good friends and family are in our lives for a reason, because they love and care about us.  It's not always easy to let people be there for us, to open up, to be vulnerable. We also worry that we're being downers, and that our sadness and neediness is annoying. (It probably is.) But if they really care about us, they'll get over it, and help us through it and then turn to us when the tables are turned. Truly, that is what friends and family are for: being there for one another. So go out. Have fun. Surround yourself with people who care about and make you happy. Wallowing at home is unhealthy.

Escape: If possible, go on a vacation or weekend away. get away from the situation and the city that holds so many memories and reminders. It will help revitalize you and help you view everything more rationally and objectively.

Keep Things in Perspective: No matter how bad things are, they could be a lot worse. You could be infected with Ebola, or in a war torn country, or homeless. I know it sounds trite but if you really think about how bad things are in the world, in the grand scheme of life, a break up is not that big of a deal. On a smaller scale, think about how worse it would be to stay with a person who clearly isn't right and doesn't deserve you.

Write your ex a letter: But don't send it! There's no point, it won't change anything. The letter is for therapeutic and cathartic reasons only. They're also good for reading later to remind us how unhappy/mad we are and reiterate why we're better off now.

Make lists: Make a list of what you want in life, what you want in a partner, what you deserve, why you're better off without your ex, why you're a catch, and what you have to be grateful for. Make these lists and stick to them. You don't need to compromise yourself or your happiness. (I was anti-list for most of my life, but once I started making them, I found them to be empowering and inspiring.)

Action:  Make plans and move on with your life. Keeping busy is a great way to move on and stop thinking about your broken heart. Here are some Action Items to get you started:
  • Set a goal: Whether it be professional, a hobby, a move etc set a goal with a distinct time frame. Make sure it's something you really want so that you are motivated and excited about achieving it. Note: your goal should not be about getting back with your ex or dating someone new. It should be "you" focused.
  • Hobby: Find a new hobby, or get more involved in the things you already do for fun. Now that you have more time on your hands, fill it with something that brings you joy, or something you're passionate about.  For example, I am directing a play. I love the theatre but directing is something I've never tried before. It's challenging and time consuming but I am loving every second of it. Relish in the fact that your schedule is now completely your own, you don't have to plan around someone else.
  • Work hard: Throw yourself into your job. This is a cliche, but it's true. Not having to think about going home to your partner means that you can really focus on your job and elevate yourself higher professionally.
  • Start dating again: Don’t jump into a new relationship but get back in the saddle. It'll feel weird and unfamiliar but it gets easier. The night before my first date after my breakup, I called my mother in tears (she's used to it by now) "I never thought I'd have to go on another first date again!" I wailed down the phone. She told me to get over it and realize how lucky I was that I had options. (Which of course i ignored. who wants logic at a time like that!) I called her again afterwards, you guessed it, crying, "I don't want to go out with him again!" I said between gulps. And I didn’t but I got over the first hurdle. The subsequent dates that I’ve been on have actually been really great. I am not making any major plans, but simply enjoying myself, and happily realizing that the world didn't end just because my relationship did. On the contrary…

Give it Time: Moving on doesn't happen overnight. It's a process, sometimes one that is one step forward three steps back. It takes patience and effort. There is no rule for how long it will take, everyone is different. There is no need to rush but at the same time, you shouldn't still be mourning years later. There is no such thing as “The One” and harboring unrequited feelings is a barrier to what/who else is out there.  

DON’TS:

Don’t reminisce: Looking through pictures, replaying old voicemails, reading old emails and texts of better times is destructive and only causes more pain. Yes, you two were happy, and cute. Yes, you had some great times, but that was then and this is now.

Don't hope for a reconciliation: If we don't want a relationship to end, it's easy and natural to fantasize about the other person showing up at our door, telling us we are the one and riding into the sunset together. And it might happen, maybe not the riding part, but the other things. But it probably won't, and we shouldn't operate on the assumption or desire that it will.

Don’t let it consume you: This can’t control your life. Nor can you let it negatively affect your future. A breakup is sad but if handled correctly should propel us forward rather than hold us back. And for a harsh reality? Ask yourself if your ex is spending time wallowing over you and your failed romance? Chances are they’re not, so why are you?

Don’t Forget: There is a lesson in everything, so make sure you’ve learned it, and don’t forget it. Equally as important is NOT forgetting the reasons why you and your ex broke up. In the event you are thinking of getting back together remember to REMEMBER what happened, and then really evaluate the situation and make sure it's the right, best, and healthiest thing for you. Breakups aren't usually an accident, so if your ex wants you back, you need a plan for how to make it work, you can't just wing it and start over. That's unrealistic and likely to fail 

Don't try and make sense of it: It's natural to try and justify things or at least rationalize them. We are conditioned to operate this way, to find meaning, but sometimes there is none. Sometimes things won't make sense, even if we really want them to. The only thing you need to know is that it happened, and it's immutable.

There is no exact recipe for moving on, you really need to do what is best for you (as long as that isn’t calling your ex crying begging for another chance. That is NOT what is best for you.) Call a friend instead. Call me. Breakups are just another opportunity. I know that is hard to wrap your head around when you’re immersed in heartbreak and uncertainty. Believe me, I do. There were some days where I forgot what happiness even felt like, but it does get better. It really does, and all of a sudden a new world opens up, one that is ours for the taking. Personally, I'm pretty excited about it. I think the best thing to do is take it day by day, step by step, and one day, you'll turn around, only to realize you've left the past in the dust, where it belongs.


*I owe a million thank yous to many of my friends and family all over the world for listening to broken records without complaining, and for helping me back up. I couldn’t have done it with you. 
**Also thanks to a person who, as of late, has made me smile daily, which is just what I needed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

You're Never Too Busy To Get What You Want

All of our worlds are chaotic in their own way. We are all juggling multiple moving pieces; jobs, school, friends, family, lovers. We are, in short, busy people. I don’t know a single person who isn’t busy, who doesn’t have an agenda, and a myriad of things on their plate. If you ask someone how they are, what they’ve been up to, standard answers usually include “tired” and “busy.”

I am, by no means, undermining the verity of these statements. I get it, I really do. I know that I have a full time job, that often includes late nights at networking events or client dinners. On top of that, I have an active social life, I stay in touch with my friends all over the world, I’m directing a play, planning my next steps  and I’m even going on dates. It’s exhausting, and I relish in the moments where I can curl up with a book in my apartment, drink tea, and simply immerse myself in Alice-time. With everything going on in our lives, we’re also supposed to make time for ourselves. It seems an almost impossible task. But it isn’t.

I have to cite being “busy” as the most overused and ingenious excuse of all time. "Being busy" is something we blame for not doing other things. The truth is, no matter what we have going on in our lives,  we are never too busy to get what we want. I live by this rule. I apply it to myself and those around me, and when I find myself making excuses for people, I force myself to remember and apply it.

The things that matter, the things we care about, the things we WANT to do, we always seem to make time for, regardless of our other obligations. It might require some compromise on our parts, somethings got to give (I usually sacrifice sleep) but the bottom line is, we manage. We manage because we have to and more importantly, we want to. I know, first hand, that telling someone you’re busy simply means that you’re too busy for them, because they’re not a priority. Truth be told, it’s REALLY not that difficult to make time for someone, especially in this day and age. Even a simple text or an email takes all of one minute and goes a long way. It says, “Hey, you’re on my mind.” 

Some people will tell me that I’m being unreasonable (I'm not) but if they stopped and thought about it for a minute, they would realize that I am right. That they, just like everyone else, use it as an excuse, because it can’t really be questioned. If someone tells you that they’re "just really busy” you can’t exactly retort with, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” or point out the ways they could’ve fit you in. (I mean you could, but that's just embarrassing, and full disclosure: I've done that, and I felt really horrible because it was just admitting out loud, to the other person, that I knew that they held little regard for me or spending time with me.) 

Of course, there are circumstances that time is a more precious commodity than usual; if we are more swamped than usual at work, we're sick, or it’s the holidays and we’re with our family, there are always exceptions to the rule. Though I tend to live my life with the mindset that I’m the rule, not the exception. This may be because I have high standards for the people in my life, but I think it’s more due to the fact that I know what I am capable of, and I know that the people in my life that I care about, don’t ever think that I am too busy for them. Because I’m not. I make time even when there doesn’t seem to be any. I fit the people and activities in that I care about.

I have dated busy people. In fact, most of my relationships have been with people who were constantly pressed for time, but because we wanted to spend time together, we did. I had a boyfriend call me on his lunch break, almost daily, just to say that he was thinking of me, I dated a guy who took time off work to meet my parents, because he was serious about me, I even went out with a guy who changed a flight somewhere so that we could have one last dinner together. I remember once, saying to a guy that I had just started seeing that I heard he was too busy to date (the explanation he gave to everyone who asked why he was single) but that he seemed pretty available to me. His response? “You can always make time for the things you want.” Not only is that true, but it’s that simple. Which is why, when he stopped making time, I stopped dating him. I knew I was no longer a priority. Though admittedly, it took me much too long to realize it. Probably because I loved him, and acknowledging it was hard, it hurt a lot. 

That’s the difficult thing about being told by someone that they're busy, because you know, deep down that it means they just don’t care. It’s not easy to acknowledge and accept that someone doesn’t care enough about us, especially if we’re spending time caring about them. It’s a form of rejection, and as I’ve said time and time again, rejection is tough, it hurts. However, it’s better to see the writing on the wall than to waste any more time on someone who can’t be bothered to return our sentiments. We can make excuses but that’s just denial, delaying the inevitable. And for what? Momentary appeasement or to keep our often too fragile egos from being bruised. It’s better to just realistically assess the situation and move on from it. It’s unfortunate but it’s a life.

This isn't just about people we're dating. This applies to all relationships: friendships, familial, and romantic. In fact, friends and family being "too busy" can actually be worse than someone we're dating. It may seem hard to identify someone who is actually busy or someone who just says they are, though as I said the hardest part is acceptance. If you’re like me and give a lot to the people around you, it’s not easy to objectively examine your relationships to determine whether they are one sided or not. Some people don’t communicate as well as others. Believe me, I understand that.

 Anyone who knows me is well aware of my almost over zealous texting/emailing/WhatsApping, and I am fully aware that not everyone is the same, and that I can’t expect them to be. That being said, if we’re honest with ourselves, we can always tell. If you don’t believe me, or really think that you’re the exception, try a little experiment: stop touching base with the person/people in question and see if they come to you. See if they want to talk to you. If they want to, they will. If there’s silence, well, then there is your answer. 

Getting angry at them is pointless, it is what it is. Don't call them out on it, because frankly, what does that solve? It won't change anything, it won't make someone a better friend or lover, it won’t make them more attentive, at least not genuinely. The best and only course of action is to just deal with it, cut them loose, move on, focus on yourself and on those who aren’t "too busy" for you. There are plenty of them and they’re the people you should be investing in.

*thanks AL for also adopting this rule and reminding me when I forget. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gotta Have Faith....

In my last post I talked about bad dates, specifically outlining one of mine. What I didn’t mention about that date was that I didn’t even really want to go on it.  I’ve always found myself going on dates for reasons other than looking for a romantic partner. In this case, I went on the date because I was heartbroken, reeling from the end of a relationship. I was forcing myself to get back on the saddle, to move on. I don’t think this is an uncommon phenomenon, and while it does have lots of benefits, it can be counterproductive. If the date doesn’t go well, it can leave you feeling even more despondent and lonely than you were feeling before, which can lead to all kinds of issues.

But this blog post isn’t about those issues, nor is it about dating for a purpose. It’s about the good dates, the ones that we come home from with a smile on our face and a spring in our step. The ones that make up for all the duds, that remind us why we’re even doing any of this, the ones that restore our faith.

I went on one of these recently, and on my way home, kept thinking about how incredible the date had been and why. The success wasn’t on account of anything complicated, in fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how EASY it is to have (and be) a good date. There are some things you can’t control,  like chemistry. With chemistry, it’s either there or it isn’t, and you know if it’s there pretty early on. Another thing you can’t control is compatibility (personality/ values/needs/wants etc) Unlike chemistry, you can fake it, but only for a little while. However aside from those things, the rest is easy. The rules are simple:

Plan: If you’ve asked someone on a date then it is your responsibility to plan the date. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it’s not a good idea to just wing it. People like to feel like thought was given. The day before, my date CALLED me and gave me a choice of two locations, asking which would be more convenient for me, and after I told him, he replied that he’d be in touch soon with a plan. He texted me shortly after with the name of a place, address and meeting time. (Normally I’d say to pick your date up, but it’s London, and it was an after work thing, so meeting there is acceptable) The point is that, he thought about, it wasn’t thrown together last minute.

Venue: It’s a first date, or an early stages date, so the venue should reflect that, somewhere cool and fun that you can have a good conversation. My date picked a really cool and fun (sorry to use the phrase twice in two sentences) place that he’d never been to before but had been wanting to try. I was late (A big no-no but I blame my 4 inch heels) and when I got there he had a delicious drink waiting for me and had secured us a spot outside where we could sit down, nibble on appetizers and talk while we waited for our table.

Conversation:  A good conversation is key to success in so many forums, and to be fair, a lot of it depends on chemistry and compatibility, which we happened to have (I think the wait for a table was over an hour but it felt like 10 minutes) but I am a firm believer that everyone has something in common, you just have to find it. Ask them questions, respond to their answers. Steer away from  being too controversial, smile, make eye contact and avoid any talk about exes (Though I have found that swapping bad first date stories is actually a great conversation, if nothing else, it brings laughter and entertainment)
Also: it is SO important have a sense of humour. My date and I had a little banter about something innocuous that we had differing view on…we kept it lighthearted and fun, and at a few points asked the waitress or people at the table next to us to weigh in, and when I was proven right (obviously) my date took in stride, remained charming, and even sent me a follow up text the day after our date in concession.  (This was a lesson to me, who isn’t always the most graceful in defeat)

Listen: It’s very easy to get caught up in the conversation, or ourselves, that we don’t REALLY listen. It’s not just listening to answers to questions, but listening to other comments. For example: I made an offhand comment to my date that my phone was about to die, and he asked the staff around us if they had a charger. They didn’t. About 3 hours later we moved on to a wine bar, and the first thing he did (after finding us a seat and ordering us drinks) was ask the staff if they had a charger. Again, they didn’t, but the point was that he listened, he remembered, and I was impressed with his thoughtfulness.

Physicality without being Sleazy: I mentioned in my last post how I was really turned off by my bad date taking my hand and trying to kiss me. I said he was pushing intimacy, but the truth is, that if I had been into him, I doubt I would’ve been as bothered. Case in point: My amazing date helped me navigate the cobblestone streets of London in my high heels by taking my arm and later my hand, but then released it when we got to our destination. It was the perfect kind of gesture because it was natural, it had a purpose,  it was sweet, and was completely comfortable. He was a gentleman, showing me he was interested in and attracted to me but without pouncing on me.

Leaving on a High Note:  I kept checking his watch to make sure I wouldn’t miss the last train (he then set an alarm to ensure that I wouldn’t) and when the time came for me to leave, he walked me to the tube station. This should be obvious, everyone should do this, but they don’t. He then CALLED me to make sure I got home safely and to reiterate what a lovely time he had with me and how he was looking forward to seeing each other again, today.

Pretty easy right? It's the little things, like that, like wanting to find me a phone charger, and calling to set up our date and calling to make sure I was home. Those are the things that leave us with a lasting and positive impression. Those are the things that matter. All you have to do is plan a little, listen, have a good conversation and be a gentleman/lady. It's really just about having fun and being comfortable and considerate, and making sure your companion is having fun and feeling comfortable and cared for. 

I know some people will argue that it’s supposed to be easy on a first date, that we are all the best versions of ourselves, but I disagree. If that were true then there wouldn’t be so many “bad dates” occurring. There is a right and wrong way to conduct ourselves when we begin dating someone new, and thank goodness for the good dates, otherwise who knows if we'd keep going out with people after the weird, bad, and awkward ones.

 I have no idea what is going to happen from this date, to me it was a success regardless of the outcome. It was a success because it was the kind of date, the kind of man,  who not only reminded me what it was like to go out with someone considerate and gentlemanly and have a really good time with them, but also completely restored my faith in the whole process, (and let me know that we don’t have settle! We don’t! Keep the faith!!!)

*Thanks to all of the good dates out there, who make the experience fun and remind us of how it should be.