Hello and welcome to another instalment of Chubby Chick Goes Dating! CW: some may find this emotionally heavy. Buckle in kids, this is a long one.
What can I say? Not much is happening during lockdown, and not much has happened since summer. I’ve actually deleted all dating apps, since it was having such a negative impact on my mental health. Dating that guy from my previous posts sort of fizzled out (he still tried to hit me up for sex a month later, under the pretence of working things out with me) and I just got so bored of having empty conversations that can’t lead anywhere, because we’re not allowed to go on ‘proper’ dates right now. I’m trying to be extra careful, since any contact with anyone who tests positive for COVID results in 14 days self isolation from work – something I’m going through right now.
BUT something happened to me a little over a week ago. I uhm’d and ah’d about writing about it, but this is my blog after all, and it is part of my dating life, with a lesson attached.
Picture this: I’ve made my pandemic life as comfortable as possible. This year has been tough. Sept 2019 I got a new job, which I lost right at the start of lockdown 1. Enter: acute anxiety and stress while I scrabble about trying to find something new again – luckily after two weeks of worry, I found something, and the week after that, I started a new job.
Throughout the first lockdown, I broke up with a boyfriend I’d been dating since January, fought through regular panic attacks at home, the odd one at work, and tried to settle into a routine. In the summer, I started this blog, I started dating again, and I thought that I had it all figured out. Then the new thing fizzled out, I got bored with the dating scene, and Lockdown 2.0 enters – along with one of those rubbish anniversaries of a horrifically traumatic break up.
Naturally, you do start to think of the other person, even if you can’t stand them now. I struggled a bit remembering all the lovely times we had, a whirlwind romance that, looking back, was probably all just one big lie.
Let me take you back a little bit – September 2019, my then boyfriend (I’ll refer to him as J) decided to come home to visit me one weekend and celebrate his birthday. He’d been away with work for over a month, and it was a week after his birthday, since he’d been stuck at work for it. I was excited to see him and planned a few birthday surprises, baked a cake, decorated a little bit. He seemed a little overwhelmed, but happy. We spent the night together – but the next day just before he left, he turned cold and told me that there was ‘no future for us.’
I was totally blindsided. The night before we’d been talking about marriage, then suddenly my world was crumbling around me. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was hysterical – I couldn’t help it. I was utterly heartbroken. He said something unforgivable, he tried to turn himself into the bad guy, but in that moment I was still in love with him so I wouldn’t hear it. He told me that there was no one else, but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. I had trusted him with all my heart, but it wasn’t enough.
Maybe he didn’t realise, but the reason it hurt all the more was because I had so many ‘firsts’ with him. I’d been single for about 5 years, dating on and off but keeping my guard up and never falling in love. I guess with J I just fell very hard. He always put me first, wanted to surprise me, he was the first person I felt safe enough to make memories with, take photos with, and introduce to my family. I’ve never really been interested in having children, but I wanted to make a family with him. I remember how he told me he loved me for the first time, telling me it was ok if I didn’t feel the same, but I didn’t have the words so I just kissed him as though my life depended on it. I remember his face when I blurted out ‘I love you’ the very next day, because I did. Later on, how he asked me to marry him, and I jokingly told him he’d have to ask my dad first.
It took me months to get over him. The only thing is, I believe that he was cheating. And for me, that’s a total deal breaker. I couldn’t be in love with someone who has zero respect for me, and once I picked myself up, I started trying to date again after Christmas. I would be lying if I said I never thought of him, but it wasn’t in the same way as when we first broke up. I never cried any more. I was still angry, but that mostly passed and life settled down again like it does.
I always say that the phrase ‘time is a great healer’ is only a cliché because it’s true! Time passed, I healed, I fixed my own broken heart and I am so proud of myself for getting through. I’ve had a lot of heartbreak in the past, and this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
So, imagine my surprise when I come back from work one day and there’s a piece of post that I’ve missed. It was a moonpig card, I recognised it from the envelope. I opened it thinking it was a Christmas card... but, no.
It was a moonpig card from J. I had to read it multiple times before I could even comprehend what was going on. This man, who hadn’t contacted me since the start of lockdown (a different story) and was now blocked on everything, had sent a letter to my HOUSE. Talk about crossing a boundary.
The contents were... confusing, at best. I knew it was him, not from the way he signed it (no name, just ‘I will always remember you...’) but from the way he rambled on, using up one whole side of the card. He offered up several apologies, and an explanation – which never came. He told me that he still thinks of me, he regrets his decision and will for the rest of his life, I was the best thing to ever happen to him, I must still be very hurt...Etc, etc. He has always had a flair for the dramatic. The front of the card was a photo of Daisies in a field, and on the back was a single Daisy, with the caption ‘take care, (nickname he used for me)’.
Initially, I was confused. Then, angry – how dare he send something to my house when he couldn’t contact me otherwise. Was I not clear enough the last time we spoke? I’m pretty sure I had told him, in no uncertain terms, to F off. If he had sent this before last Christmas, I would’ve completely gone to bits. However, Lockdown Daisy is much stronger than the Daisy he knew before. I’m more at peace with myself, I know what I deserve now and I don’t deserve being disrespected like that in my own home by someone who isn’t even there.
I spoke to a few friends, who told me to ignore it, but agreed that it was a violation of my boundaries. But something niggled in the back of my head – why should we, as the ‘dumped party’ stand for this kind of manipulative behaviour? If I contacted him to tell him to back off, was I giving him the attention he wanted? Or does he hope I still harbour feelings for him? With Christmas and Valentine’s Day around the corner, would I be getting more of these cards? I let the anger subside and decided to try and text his old number to get him to call me.
I didn’t ask, and this is important. When someone blatantly disregards a boundary of yours, it’s very important to clearly reinstate it. I wasn’t nervous, angry or upset. I managed to stay calm, and simply told him ‘If you get this, call me on Sunday. I need to speak to you.’ He responded and with short, efficient answers, I set up a time for a phone call.
On the phone, I got right to the point and J immediately told me he was worried I might go to the police. He was worried that I might consider it harassment, but he did it anyway, which is completely insane and unacceptable behaviour. I talked a little bit about how it was manipulative, narcissistic and completely crossing a boundary. J told me he understood, and said multiple times that I will never hear from him again. I gave him one more chance to tell me the truth, and he remained silent. Before I hung up, I told him that he needed to move on from this, because I have. And, in that moment, I realised that I truly had. It may have taken a year to get some form of ‘closure’, and I never got the full truth, but it’s clear to me now that the J I knew wasn’t real, and now either version of him is a stranger to me.
Sometimes confrontation isn’t the healthy way to do things, but I am so glad that I could retain my composure and be firm on my boundaries, because for me that is clear progress. I used to let people walk all over me, I was a ‘yes’ person. For me, it was the healthiest choice at that moment in time, to make me feel safe.
Just because someone from your past pops up again, it doesn’t mean that they are entitled to your time or your emotional labour. Of course, I gave a little time, and had to do some emotional processing, because that is how I work through things. I am sure that he thought he was being romantic, but in reality it was completely out of line.
The lessons I learned from our break up, all the way through the year til now, will stay with me. I am well and truly stronger because of them. Going into this holiday season, I hope that you will all be strong enough to reinforce your boundaries with any family/friends/romantic partners (current or previous) – it’s well worth the peace of mind and inner strength. It’s difficult, but standing your ground is so important and I’m still learning the value of that.
And if you’re going through it right now, remember-
Time really is a great healer.