This Christmas

It’s crazy how much can change in the space of one year.

This time last year, I was involved with Michael, looking forward to him flying up on the 26th and ringing in the new year together. One bout of pneumonia, two bouts of bronchitis, two attempted breakups, one successful breakup, a bit more personal and emotional growth, one fateful Halloween party, and one amazing man later, and here I am — MUCH happier, much more at peace, and much more content, plain and simple.

I learned to truly listen to my gut, which I had kind of tuned out for a year and a half. I regained my self-respect, and I decided, once and for all, to stop putting up with shit from people. When I was finally able to step out of my situation and see that it wasn’t working, that I was being played, and that I deserved much better, it was liberating. I became my own hero, rescuing myself from yet another dead-end relationship, and having the wisdom and nerve to walk away from a toxic situation. Initially, Michael tried to get in touch with me a few times. He left a couple of long voicemails saying he didn’t like where we were {sorry, sweetheart, there is no we anymore} and that he hoped there was some chance that we could get back to the way we used to be. I’m sorry, what way is that? The way I blindly accepted your bullshit? Or the way I let things slide even though I knew you weren’t being honest with me? Or maybe it was the way I kept taking you back, even though my gut was screaming at me to cut my losses and run in the opposite direction. His last voicemail was the day after Thanksgiving. He had texted me a random Thanksgiving meme, and apparently I was supposed to go weak in the knees and come running back. His message said he had hoped I would have called him on Thanksgiving. Honestly, I was thankful not to still be dealing with that clown.

I haven’t spoken to him in more than a month. I blocked his number on my phone so that his calls {there have been a few, but not in the past couple of weeks} would go straight to voicemail. I’m hopeful that he has finally gotten the message through his thick head and will leave me alone. It’s a blessing, actually, that he lives so far away because the chances of him showing up on my doorstep are slim to none, especially since he now has custody of his kids.

I’m looking forward to this Christmas with childlike anticipation, not because of presents, but because I’ve found someone who makes me happy in such a simple, good way. It’s not about money spent, but rather the time spent together, the joy of seeing each other, and the happiness of just being with someone I fit with so well. A couple of weeks ago, Rico came up for the weekend and we had so much fun. He actually met my parents, who both really liked him {I wasn’t surprised}. This feels more real every day. We spent the weekend cooking together, watching movies, introducing him to my favorite pizza place, people watching, looking at Christmas lights and displays, holding hands, and just enjoying each other.  I think, that’s what it really boils down to. We’re living out loud, in the moment, happy with each other and excited to see where this goes.

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A Long Time Coming

As I mentioned in my last post, recently I finally ended things with Michael for good. I tried to end it two or three times before, but he always managed to keep me on the hook. The problem was, I had so many reservations about him and our relationship that I knew there was just no way it would ever work out.

First, there was the distance. He lives several states away and I truly couldn’t see any way he’d ever relocate up here. His kids, his job, his church, and his various activites were all there. My daughter is in the middle of high school, so there’s no way I was going to force her to move to another state right now. Plus my family and her dad are all here. That would be unbelievably selfish on my part to do that to her. I’m not one for ultimatums and wasn’t about to demand that he relocate. And I think, to be honest, I didn’t really want him to relocate.

Second, and most signficicant, was the dishonesty, which went on for most of our 16-month relationship. I put up with lies from my ex-husband for far too long, and I sure wasn’t about to put up with it again. First, he was dishonest about talking to other girls on Facebook {I knew for a fact that he had, on at least a few occasions}. Then he was dishonest about the Christmas gifts that supposedly got lost at the airport and arrived a month or more after Christmas.

He was supposed to come up for my birthday in July, but suddenly said he had to work. I don’t know of anyone who is able to cancel an airline reservation with such short notice and get any money back, but he claimed to do both. He said he had a gift and a card for my birthday, but even after he knew he wasn’t coming, he never put anything in the mail for me. I would have been happy with just a card, but nothing ever showed up. I was not in a great mood for most of my birthday because of it. I brought up the gifts he supposedly bought several times, but he never put anything in the mail. He claimed that the gift was still in his suitcase and that he’d bring it on his next visit. He did end up coming to visit over Labor Day weekend, and even though I knew it sounded petty and childish, I asked about the gift. He said he ended up bringing a different suitcase and forgot the gift. In my heart, I knew he was bullshitting me. I knew it was all lies.

On the last day of his visit, we stopped at the grocery store for a few things. When I was at the checkout, he said he wanted some pop and walked back to get it. I checked out and waited for him. As he approached the checkout, I saw that he had one or two greeting cards in his hand {I swear it looked like a yellow envelope and a hot pink one}. I didn’t say anything about it because he had bought cards once or twice for me before and left them in my room when he left. But after he left, I never saw any cards. I asked him about it, and he said he had hidden it {suddenly now it’s just one card?} and wanted me to find it. I looked EVERYWHERE for that friggin card… nothing. I asked him about it again, and he said that if I didn’t find it soon, he’d tell me where it was. I had this feeling there was no card in my house and told him as much. He insisted that there was one. After another week or so, I asked him to please just tell me where it was because it was driving me crazy. And he said he couldn’t remember where he had left it. My heart sank.

There was also the issue of him never going public about our relationship. He had a million reasons why he felt justified in keeping it private {or secret}, but it just felt to me like he wasn’t willing to publicly give up his bachelor card. At one point, he actually changed his Facebook status to “In a Relationship,” but he never specifically said it was with me.

This guy, this asshole, who claimed to be so in love with me and wanted to marry me, was doing nothing but stringing me along, feeding me lie after lie after lie, and I was overlooking it. I would hear myself telling these things to my friends and realized how outlandish it all sounded. I knew that if any of my friends told me the same things about guys they were seeing, I’d be thinking they were being played. So why was I putting up with it myself? No more.

I could feel myself becoming more and more distant, and I knew this just wasn’t going to work out. I think the final straw was when he went through some serious personal drama. His kids were removed from his ex-wife and put in foster care because his daughter had a {single, not plural} bruise from an argument with her brother. Michael was forced to move into a larger place, take a psych eval, and have supervised visits, even though he wasn’t even present when the incident occurred. It just all sounded extremely fishy to me. I wondered if there had been previous incidents because removing the kids to foster care over one bruise seemed so extreme.

He told me that on one occasion when he and his ex-wife were meeting with a counselor about getting the kids back, she wouldn’t shut up and kept running her mouth. He kicked her under the table to get her to be quiet. On another occasion, he was the one getting all fired up, and she tapped his hand to calm him down. That sure didn’t sound like the behavior of a divorced couple. Red flags were popping up all over. He said one day that he had called her to tell her off because he blamed her for all that was going on. I asked what her response was and he said she looked like she had been slapped. Looked. I asked if he had seen her in person since he said that, and he said that it was just a figure of speech, that he meant she had sounded that way. How do you sound like you look like you just got slapped??? The following day, he said he actually went over to her house to tell her off again.  I suspected that he was only saying that to cover his tracks about the previous conversation that had supposedly happened on the phone. I had heard enough. I flat out told him I didn’t believe him and raised all kinds of questions I had about the whole ordeal. He swore he wasn’t involved with her and that he really was divorced but I wasn’t buying it. Things were definitely coming to a head.

I finally ended things once and for all, telling him not to call me because I had nothing left to say. He has tried to call and text a few times, professing his love and saying he misses me. I haven’t responded. He even went so far as to say he had posted a few things intended for me on his Facebook page. Really? I dump you and unfriend you and NOW you want to post stuff for me?? Too little too late. It’s done. It needed to be done months ago, but I finally saw him for what he was — a slippery snake whom I could NEVER trust. Good riddance.

 

Worth Fighting For

Back in January, I ended things with Michael. I felt strong and empowered and sure of what I wanted and needed. I ended things, or so I thought.

His initial response was about what I expected. He was angry and hurt and didn’t understand where all of this was coming from. I blocked his number on my phone and removed myself from his Facebook. As far as I was concerned, this chapter was closed. What happened next, I did not see coming. After a few days of me barely responding to his e-mails, except to reiterate and justify my feelings, his tone changed. He began telling me how much he loved me and that he didn’t want to lose me. He went back to the beginning of our relationship and mentioned reasons why he had fallen in love with me in the first place.

At first, I was prickly. I stood my ground and wouldn’t let his sweet words break me down. I couldn’t figure out why he was so persistent and why he was wasting his time on what I thought was a lost cause. After a week or two, I read one of his e-mails, and something suddenly occurred to me. Michael was fighting for me. This man, who wasn’t getting much hope from my responses, wasn’t giving up on me, or on us. In my life, I’ve never had a man fight for me before. I was married for close to 20 years, and the only time my ex-husband did anything even remotely like fighting for me was when it was way past the point of no return. When he suddenly realized how much our marriage had deteriorated, it was too late. I had nothing left to give. I felt nothing anymore. Yet, here was Michael, a man I’ve known less than a year, texting me and e-mailing me every day. He was still calling and leaving voicemails, even though I still had his number blocked. This man loved me enough to fight for me. The walls began to crumble.

I unblocked his number and we started talking. We hashed out much of what had been bothering me and began to reconnect. Things haven’t been perfect, but I feel like we gained some kind of understanding through it all. We’re still not on each other’s Facebook, and that is still a sticking point, but we’re a work in progress.

He’s been amazingly sweet in the past few months. One night shortly after we started talking again, he surprised me by having 4 orders of chocolate lava cakes delivered to my house from the local Domino’s. He eventually did send a box full of Christmas gifts for my daughter and me. In February, he was told by flowers.com that there was no way to guarantee that anything could be delivered to me on Valentine’s Day, so he called directly to a flower shop near my house and made sure I would get flowers that day. And earlier this month, he knew money was tight for me and surprised me by wiring money to help get my daughter’s glasses, which I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford for a few paychecks. But it’s not all material things that have melted my heart. When I doubt myself, he shows me all the ways that he sees me as an amazing mom and a beautiful woman. He’s quick to list all the things I do, showing me that maybe I need to give myself more credit sometimes. Above all, he makes me feel loved every single day. No man has ever done that for me before.

You might think I’m an idiot for giving him another chance, and who knows if things will ultimately work out between us. But I think there’s something to be said for his actions. He could have easily said, “Screw it, there are other fish in the sea,” and deleted my number. He didn’t give up on me, and that means something to me. For the first time, I see myself as someone worth the trouble and I don’t feel so alone. He knows I’ve been through some things relationship-wise, and he’s understanding and patient. The distance is still an issue, but he’s coming back to visit in a couple of weeks, so hopefully we can make up for lost time, since his last visit was kind of a bust. He saw me at my absolute worst when I was sick, but he’s still here. That means something. For now, we’re taking baby steps, and I guess all we can do is see where it goes…

Out, Damned Spot!

It’s been a while since I thought of him. I suppose I went through the stages of break up, not necessarily in the correct order: anger, sadness, more anger, apathy, rebound sex, acceptance. I admit, I truly thought things would be different with him. Despite our near-constant bickering, there seemed to be something underneath that held us together — chemistry, amazing make-up sex, or some kind of shared brokenness that we both understood.

When we split up, it was kind of a relief. Being with him had stopped bringing me much joy and I had stopped smiling when his name popped up on my phone. Sex had become less about physical love and more about his own enjoyment and release. I lost count of how many times I was left unsatisfied while he seemed blissfully oblivious. His carefully chosen words in his last few texts were like poison darts, hitting each mark and digging in under my skin like little barbs. But I never responded. As much as it stung to read those words and to know he was deliberately trying to hurt me, I knew my silence would hurt him just as much.

Occasionally, I’ll see something that reminds me of him and momentarily forget that we haven’t spoken since Valentine’s Day. When the new Thor movie came out {swoon} I felt a little melancholy because we’d both enjoyed watching all of the Marvel movies together. I knew he’d probably be going to see it as well, and I wondered if seeing that movie or the new trailer for Captain America made him think of me.

Sometimes I do wonder if he’s written me completely out of his memory banks or if I ever cross his mind at all anymore.

But I do know that thinking of him at all feels unwelcome, as if he snuck in and whispered hello in my ear before dashing away. His presence is not welcome in my thoughts anymore, and it annoys me that he still has a place there at all. In a way, I feel the same about any reminiscing about my ex-husband. There were some good times earlier on in our marriage, but as the years wore on, I felt like my face was becoming the way Bill Cosby described his wife’s face after they had children, saying that the corners of her mouth had drawn down into a permanent frown.

Only it was my marriage causing that face, not my child. I frowned for way too many years during my marriage, and I felt myself becoming much the same way in this relationship. It had stopped bringing me any kind of joy and it had to go.

So why, if this relationship made me miserable, would I waste a single thought on this man-child? No, I don’t want him back. And if he were to come looking for another chance, he wouldn’t get it. Maybe because, as with my marriage, I was deeply hurt by someone I never would have thought would hurt me. I guess, like anything, it takes time to heal — especially with emotional scars. It takes time for those thoughts to fade and find their proper place in my distant memory. Until then, I’ll mentally scrub and scrub like Lady MacBeth in hopes that one day they’ll finally be gone.

The Boomerang {aka, the one I’m never ever ever getting back together with…like, ever.}

{I must apologize in advance for the length of this one. It’s kind of a complicated story, but one that bears telling.}
I met Todd on a dating site when I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for. He was good looking but struck me as kind of serious. I can be serious, but I’m pretty lighthearted and tend to laugh a lot. We talked for a while on the phone before deciding to meet.

We had arranged to meet for dinner at a restaurant nearby, and when I got there and saw him, I did something completely out of character for me. I walked right up to him and kissed him. He seemed surprised and didn’t immediately kiss me back, making me feel very foolish. He later said it was because he was catching a quick smoke before I got there and had a mouthful of cigarette smoke. At first glance, he reminded me of Carlton, from Fresh Prince of Bel Air…very straight laced and business-like.

We found a table, and I was amazed at how quickly I felt completely comfortable with him. We were sitting sort of facing each other, and my leg was between his. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. I really wanted to kiss him and told him as much, but he was hesitant because he was still married {separated, but still married} and was worried someone he knew could be around.

After we ate, we decided to go for a drive. Near the restaurant we discovered a small park. We pulled in… and proceeded to make out like teenagers. I couldn’t get enough. At one point, he was kind of on top of me in the front seat, then reached down and reclined the seat. I immediately went from semi-upright to being on my back, and it was so sexy. The logical, grown-up part of my brain was worried that a cop would come by and bust us for public indecency or something. We were both dressed, but still. How embarrassing would that be to get arrested or even fined for making out in a car??

How very, very naughty...

How very, very naughty…

He had me so turned on. I was very close to throwing caution to the wind and letting him take me right there in the front seat of his Corolla. He was rock hard and I wanted him so badly. I don’t know what came over me. I was never that girl who got loose on a first date, but it felt so right with him. Finally, we both knew we better be getting home. We got out of the car for a minute and he pressed me against it, kissing me. I was so turned on, I was half out of my head.

After that night, we tried to see each other whenever we could, but with work schedules and family lives, it was tough. We had some great conversations and could laugh together. We met for lunch a few times and often ended up making out in the car. It was never enough. I wanted him.

We both played hooky and met at a hotel room one afternoon. It felt so illicit, so naughty, so perfect. We had both agreed to take our time, but once we were behind closed doors, alone, all bets were off. Our clothes were off in a matter of minutes. We were all over each other, kissing, touching… It felt so good to finally have him, feel him… We had sex a few times that afternoon and dozed in between, exhausted.

Sex with Todd was unbelievably good. He may have looked like Carlton, but he loved like a wild man. I always thought of him as the male version of ‘lady in the streets, freak in the sheets.’

We saw each other for only a few months when he got some bad news…his company was downsizing and his branch was closing. I tried to be supportive but he was extremely stressed about how to pay his bills and trying not to lose his house, not to mention paying for his kids’ tuition. I was a factor that he just couldn’t deal with and he broke things off. It hurt to know he could walk away from me so easily, but I tried not to dwell on it.

A few months later, he got back in touch with me, saying he missed me. We picked up right where we left off, and it was good, but some of that excitement of a new relationship had faded. It also didn’t help that he was still technically married and was back living with his wife, even though he claimed their relationship was very platonic.

I was in the process of trying to sell my house and was under a huge amount of stress. My ex wasn’t helping at all to get the house ready to list {we both still owned it}. So it fell on me to clean, paint, fix and organize everything myself. My relationship with Todd wasn’t exactly a priority, and I think he felt that. We kind of drifted apart, and I didn’t really mind so much this time.

Several months later, I was messing with my Yahoo account when the messenger box popped up. I hadn’t used it in some time, but back when we were together, Todd and I chatted on it regularly. There was his name, with the little dot next to it, indicating that he was online. I thought about it for a while, and decided to send him a quick message. I just said hello and asked how he was, not knowing if he’d even bother to respond.

He did. We caught up a bit, making small talk, and mentioned maybe meeting for lunch sometime. Weeks went by, and I was busy with work and my new place. We were still chatting online a few times a week, but no solid plans had been made. Finally, one Saturday, we agreed to meet downtown for lunch. I deliberated for a long time over what to wear. I didn’t want to look like I had made an effort for him, but at the same time I wanted to look damn good.

I walked in and gave him a hug. I could tell he was a bit apprehensive, but I acted very casual, as if we were just two friends meeting for lunch who hadn’t seen each other in a while. It was nice to see him, but I didn’t have any expectations of anything more.

He texted me later that day and said he’d wanted to kiss me but didn’t know if I wanted him to. I realized at that moment that I did. We met for dinner a few nights later and this time there was a definite vibe in the air. I could see him looking at me with that same old hunger in his eyes. When he walked me to my car, he kissed me, and it all came flooding back. I didn’t want it to end.

He said he and his wife were again separated, he had gotten an apartment, and they were talking lawyers and divorce. I tried not to get my hopes up. We started seeing each other, yet again, and this time something was different. It all felt brand new…familiar, yet new and exciting. We talked about a future together, how he had planned to just remain alone, but now he really wanted a future with me. I could actually see it…bringing him to family events, going on dates, and having a real relationship. At last, we both seemed to be on the same page.

At first, things were fantastic. The sex was better than ever. We were trying new things, and couldn’t get enough of each other…sexually, anyway. It bothered me that we only saw each other every other week or so. There was no real reason for it. I could understand crazy work schedules, or if he had his kids, etc. But when I brought it up, he said that when he got home at the end of the day, he just fell into his routine of fixing his dinner and getting his clothes ironed for the next day, etc. Seeing me just wasn’t really in that routine. It didn’t seem to bother him that he only saw me occasionally, but I wanted and needed more. I needed to feel like a priority, not a convenience.

Another problem was that he was very cagey about what information he would share with me. To this day, I have no idea if his divorce was ever final because he refused to give me a straight answer.

He was also physically attached to his phone. Any little beep and he had to check it, even if it was just a weather update. He couldn’t understand why I thought that was rude. On one occasion, when I fussed about him checking his phone every 10 seconds, he said he might be getting a text from his kids, and said bluntly, “Yes, I have other priorities that are more important than you.” Funny how spoken words can feel like a slap in the face. I pretty much paid my half of the bill and got up and left at that point. He later apologized but it still stung that he said it at all. He made almost an identical comment a few weeks later, and yet for some reason I still didn’t kick him to the curb.

He claimed to love me, saying he honestly couldn’t see himself with anyone but me. He promised to make more of an effort to see me. He promised that once he had more money {he had picked up a side job to supplement his income} he would take me on a real date. Months went by, and nothing changed. I began to feel sad about the fact that I was apparently not worthy of his time or effort. I was also bothered by the fact that he would mostly just text me. We very rarely spoke on the phone, which struck me as odd since he had his own place. When I was married, I resigned myself to accepting scraps of attention from my {now} ex. It made me sad to realize I was back to square one, accepting scraps from Todd.

But I’m a much different woman than I was when I was married. Then, I accepted scraps because I genuinely didn’t think I could do better. Now, I’ve come to the realization that I’d rather be alone than with the wrong person, and I refuse to settle ever again. I refuse to be with someone just for the sake of being with someone. I have to believe I’m worth more than that.

I think, because certain things about our relationship were so good, I was really trying to make it work with him. Granted, any relationship is gonna take work, but in my opinion, it just shouldn’t be that hard. He said and did things a few times that made me wonder if he was trying to get me to break up with him so he wouldn’t have to do the dirty work.

The last month we were technically a couple {and I say ‘couple’ in the loosest sense of the word}, we never spoke on the phone or even saw each other. We’d had a stupid misunderstanding, and instead of trying to patch things up like we usually did, he turned it into a big issue. We texted back and forth for a month, and finally, on Valentine’s Day, of all days, we broke up. He said some intentionally hurtful things, which I know were said because he, himself, was feeling upset and hurt and was trying to hurt me. I just couldn’t get past that. In any relationship I’ve ever been in, I have never resorted to insults or intentionally hurtful words. But Todd had a way of saying just the right thing to work under my skin like a barb. I refused to stoop to his level, no matter how tempting it was.

And so, as much as it hurt to do it, I walked away from Todd for good, with my dignity intact and trying to convince myself that there was someone out there would see me as worthy of their time. Sometimes he crosses my mind, and I can’t help but wonder if he feels stupid for letting me go, for throwing away something that I think could have been amazing. I’ll probably never know.

Next up: Kiss the Girl