For my sons

I don’t know if this is a subject you want to hear from me. I imagine not. But I think I am the best placed to give you this lesson.

I don’t envy either of you. The world is a very different place than it was when I was your age. But some things stay the same.

The world is filled with images of how we ‘are supposed’ be. Instagram, Facebook, advertisements, magazines, film…all telling us what is attractive. This is for men and for women. The pressure is there for both.

Remember one thing. Someone, somewhere made the decision of what ‘attractive’ is. They then published it for one reason only – so we will buy what they are selling so we can look and feel like that. Keep that in mind every time you see an advert for abs, or for bulking up or whatever else men are subjected to.

My advice? Be healthy. Exercise, eat well, keep clean and tidy and dress well. That, my sons, will be enough. No one is enamoured with someone who never brushes their teeth.

I’m sure you realise though, that the pressure on women is perhaps even greater and always has been. Not only are they presented with professionally made-up women with their perfect hair and make up, these women are airbrushed and filtered. Whilst the male physique never really changes from a fashion sense, a woman’s certainly does. At this moment, round bottoms and tiny waists are in fashion. How ridiculous is that boys? A woman’s shape can be in fashion or not. What message is that giving them?

So for that reason, here is my advice to you.

No matter how beautiful you find a woman there will ALWAYS be a part of herself that she hates. She might even be unhappy with most of herself.

How will you know? It’s the part that she covers up: with make up, with clothes, with her hands. It might be the parts that she is always working on – a new diet or exercise plan, a new cream or make up product.

Make no mistake, whilst she wants to improve herself for her own wellbeing, don’t be fooled. If you are with her, she is doing it for you too. If not, then for whoever she wants to find. How much that is an incentive to her will be different for every woman but it will be there. Why? Because we all want acceptance. We all want to be needed and wanted and desired by someone else.

So this is where is becomes difficult for you. How do you navigate this emotionally difficult situation? How can you seem supportive and non judgemental but not dismissive of her feelings? That my sons, is the tricky part.

Whilst it is not your job to boost the self esteem of every woman you ever date, it is certainly your role to support her with that difficult task.

How?

By noticing.

On the days where she has tried extra hard with her hair or make up or clothes, tell her you’ve noticed. On the days she gets out of bed with her hair dishevelled and wearing cuddly pyjamas, tell her how much you love her eyes or smile or whatever else made you want to be with her.

Tell her, this woman you love, that to you she is perfect how she is, flaws and all. Tell her you don’t care if she thinks her bum is flat or boobs are small or stomach is flabby or whatever else. You love her how she is – healthy and happy and her.

No one is perfect boys. No one. Maybe there are parts of her that deep down you wish were a little different. Know this – we each could describe an construct a perfect person to be with. But what is perfect for us may still not be perfect in their eyes. Loving someone is loving all of them.

At the same time, if you say these things too much then it can have the opposite effect that you were trying to achieve. She won’t believe you and think you insincere. I know that it is a difficult balance, and it will be different with every woman. Again I give you this advice…Notice. Pay attention.

Never, ever tell a girl she is too fat or thin even in anger, even if she is. The moment you say those words you will lose something in your relationship which you will never get back. If you are worried about her weight then support her with it when she asks. Exercise together, cook together, encourage and support never criticise or point out her mistakes.

A woman’s self esteem is fragile boys, no matter how confident she seems. If she loves you, it becomes all the more delicate. Remember that.

Games

During a particular tricky period in our relationship (Ramadan in April last year – my first cancelled trip due to Covid), we started to play an online game.

I’ve never really been one for computer games. Occasionally, when bored, I lay download a couple for a while then delete. I like games involving strategy  – those that make my mind work and make me feel a sense of accomplishment when I solve them.

We started with a game of online Ludo. He had only recently downloaded it through Facebook and asked me to do the same. The first few games he absolutely destroyed me but I didn’t care. In this delicate period of our relationship, it brought us together and gave us something to do, to talk about and laugh about. Eventually … and I mean eventually, I started to win a few games which added to the fun. He won most of the time but whilst I am competitive I didn’t mind because I enjoyed it all so much.

During a recent conversation, chess was brought up and how he would like to play. We discovered that neither of us really knew how but that it may be too difficult to learn together due to the language barrier. He then suggested draughts.

My dad taught me how to play draughts  . Dad always won, but I soon started to learn and would win some games and I liked the strategy and cunning of the game.

So you understand, I was quite happy to find an online version of this game.

He destroys me. Nearly every time. We both started on 500 points – he is now on 27500ish and I am on 7500ish. We have drawn a few times, I have won occasionally. I don’t care though.

Or rather, I didn’t. 

I love that about him – his intelligence, the way his mind works. I don’t mind that I lose because we keep playing and having fun. Am I surprised I lost a lot? Sure. I thought I was reasonably ok at draughts and thought we would be more evenly matched, but it’s ok.

Then, this morning after I lost again, he commented that I always lose and maybe he needs to play with someone else- a stronger player.

Wow, that hurt. He was joking, it was trash talk. But it really stung and – as per goddam usual – my eyes filled up. I thought I had got away with it – it was the end of the call and he wasn’t playing full attention but he noticed as he always does.

How to explain? How to tell him that his comment felt like a knife in my gut – that I am not good enough. That my mind rolled and played with that idea…that I am stupid, not good enough and I never will be. That every moment of my anxiety comes from that – that I am not good enough for him and that one day he will find someone better and I will be left alone.

It is not the winning. I genuinely didn’t care about that because I loved the fact that he won, that he is so intelligent, and that made me more. But his comment – however much he was joking – just made me love myself less.

Is it his job to make me feel good about myself?

If you pay attention to the many online relationship and coaching gurus, no it is not. And I do get that. Confidence comes from within. You have to have pride in yourself, see your own worth – dampen down you inner critic. If I don’t feel positive about myself, how can I expect anyone else to?

But.

I can’t believe this is the entirety of the situation.  Surely, part of feeling loved is feeling that you are special to that person? That they love all of you: They value your strengths. They find you attractive and sexy.  They love your flaws and your faults because they make you who you are.

In making the person you love feel that love and attraction you feel for them, they feel good about themselves.

So…how does that work then? For someone to love you, you need to feel good about yourself but someone loving you makes you feel good about yourself.  Chicken and egg I think.

Does he make me feel good about myself?

Sometimes. Every call makes me happy. When he tells me misses me – which is not often. When he tells me I look beautiful or that he wants me. When he mentions something about our future.

These things don’t happen every day and I don’t expect them to.

But every day he calls me, every day he kisses me, every day he tells me he loves me. He makes me feel loved.

So what’s my problem? I have absolutely no idea.

His loving me has made me feel better about myself. It has made me want to improve myself more.

I try very hard to be a good person. I work hard. I am successful – I have achieved. I try my best when I can. I try to look after myself – make the best of who and what I am. I have a lot to offer someone.

So why do I feel this way? Why can a throwaway comment make me feel so bad – make me feel like I am not good enough for him?

Anxiety 1, Me 1

I think the increased anxiety medication is finally having some impact, thank goodness. That’s not to say I haven’t been anxious, but not quite as much and my mind has been able to process and calm myself a little. It’s an achievement, no matter how small.

My sister and I discussed my anxiety yesterday, particularly around Wild Card. We both acknowledged that my anxiety is to expected due to the distance (the Facebook LDR group has proved how normal my feelings are), Coronavirus and all its stress and then my own historical dating issues too.

Tuesday night, Wild Card and I had a bit of a wobble. We were both at fault. Once again, he demonstrated how well he knows me. In the end, it was nothing too serious and the call ended well. Yesterday everything was wonderful again.

As my mind is starting to work better through the anxiety, events have made me think. My sister’s questioning likewise.

I love him. I am wholly and completely in love with him. I don’t know how it happened or why and I certainly didn’t expect it to. But it has.

I’m scared of losing him. It makes me react sometimes in a way that creates problems. I’ve just got to realise, that if my irrational fears ever turn out to be true, then he wasn’t the person I thought he was or want to be with. It will sting but it’s the truth.

I know he loves me.

But we are eight months on. I’m waiting and waiting for those borders to open so I can be with him and take this to the next step. It’s essential. And yet – as my sister quite rightly pointed out – my mind has already taken that next step. Hours of daily videochat means that I feel like we have already done that, somehow. It’s confusing.

If you have never been in a long distance relationship you will not understand this. I wouldn’t have understood this before. My sister barely understands it. “How can you be in love with someone that you’ve been with for 7 days?”

But it’s not seven days. It doesn’t feel like seven days. It’s seven months. Seven months of seeing him on video chat, for hours every single day. That’s more than I saw my husband when we first met – it was once or twice a week with a couple of phone calls for about six months.

I’m frustrated, not just because I long to be with him (sexually, romantically – yes, but also just sat next to him in the car or eating dinner together.) but because I feel like I need proof that this really is what I am feeling.

I doubt myself and my thoughts. I allow my negativity to tell me that this can’t possibly be happening, he can’t possibly love me like that… There has to be a mistake or a misunderstanding or something nefarious going on because there is no way that this handsome, funny, caring man wants me. Or even if he does, it’s not going to last. I’m just temporary. Or someone better will come along and I will be forgotten. Or he will get sick of my… Whatever… And go and choose one of the many girls who like him.

Whilst those thoughts have always been there, the last few weeks of increased anxiety gave them a power to overwhelm me. To make my chest tight, heart pound. To make fear course through me.

But I know he love me.

And now I have some calm. If he ends up with another girl then he wasn’t who I thought he was and I don’t want him anyway. Ironically, trust and honesty is really important to me.

I may not be the most beautiful, or thin or intelligent or funny, but he phones me repeatedly every single day. It’s me he spends hours with, me he makes laugh.

Who says I’m not worthy of him? Or not good enough? Only me, it seems.

And if this was to end…well then it wasn’t meant to be. So I learn from it. I try to learn by mistakes. I tell myself that him not being the right one, no matter how much I thought he was, doesn’t mean the right one isn’t around the corner.

I’m good enough to be loved.

So, take that anxiety.

Advice

Happiness comes when you are at peace with yourself.

Facebook friend

So my sunshine and dark clouds mood has continued throughout the day.

I’ve been trying hard to process everything, as I do. As the hours went on, I came to the conclusion that whilst he was still in regular contact, despite his mood, I have to believe that there is not an issue between us.

The only problem with that was, the hours crept by and he didn’t get back in contact. But I had decided that, as he is not himself, it’s important to let him take the lead. Hounding him when he’s not in the mood is not a good idea. But as two hours became three became four, panic started to set in.

At this point I did three things that helped. I spoke to my sisters, I went for a walk and I read some articles online which helped me gain some perspective. I found a site called Markmanson.net. He’s quite informal in his writing and I like his tone. I read quite a few of his articles and what he said made sense:

Whilst reading the above, Wild Card called me. Once again he was a little more like himself – each conversation seems to inch him slowly back to the norm. We talked a little, we laughed. There were still some awkward silences and at one point he was a little snappy.

Being honest, as the call ended, the tides had turned a little. Whilst glad we had some semblance of normality, I actually considered that sometimes the way he had spoken to me was not acceptable and at one stage I had pointed that out to him. He is also still withholding some of the affectionate things he does and I again thought about how unfair that was.

He has said I have done nothing wrong, so why then behave that way? It’s one thing to be a little tired and irritable but another to be sullen.

I decided to heed someone of my own advice. This situation is challenging for everyone at the moment. I’m not making any decisions and I’m certainly not going to jump to any conclusions. I’m going to be patient and understanding but I’m not going to be walked over.

Funnily enough, whilst making these decisions, I received a few messages from the German man again: He pops up now and again for a chat. After a bit of conversation he told me the above quote. And it stuck with me.

How can I be at peace with myself?

Wild Card makes me happy most of the time. Why?

Because he makes me feel loved and wanted. And when that happens, I am at peace with myself. Because for him to love me and want me, I must be good enough.

So I crave his attention for that feeling. Because, as he is so attractive (in every way, not just physical) , his approval makes me so.

But, who makes his opinion count? I do. By showing me any positive attention, he has made me feel worthy. He doesn’t need to keep doing it – he has already done it. I don’t need him to keep doing it.

I don’t need him to justify that I am worthy.

I am successful. I have worked hard throughout my life to get where I am, without help. I worked two jobs to go through university. I worked to get myself through my postgrad in teaching.

I have a house, a car, a job. These are all materialistic things which show my success. But what about me as a person?

This is harder. And because I’m not comfortable with proclaiming my own virtues, I will recount what people have told me.

I’ve been told that I am a good teacher and that I am approachable. Pupils feel comfortable coming to me with their issues. Likewise, some staff have come to me when they haven’t been able to go anywhere else.

I’ve been told that I am beautiful and pretty. I’ve been told that I look younger than I am. People like my eyes, my lips, my smile, my bottom. I am attractive to some people.

I am strong and independent. I am a good listener. I’m not afraid to say what is right and stuck up for what is right.

I am loyal and faithful. I am honest. I have an infinite amount of love and will shower those I care about with that love. I will work hard to make them happy. I am sensitive and have good emotional intelligence. I am sensual and sexual.

And so, I have to let go. I have to stop seeking control. Him loving me or not does not make me worthy – I was that already. If he decides I’m not the one for him it is going to hurt like hell (it hurts just writing about it) but that doesn’t mean I’m not good enough or pretty enough. It just means I wasn’t right for him.

And that’s a bitter pill to swallow because I thought that we were. Maybe we are, maybe we are not. But I can’t force that. Worrying about it doesn’t change it. Willing it to be the truth doesn’t make it the truth. I can’t make him love me or want me.

He called back less than half an hour later and asked me what was wrong. I think he knew that he had been ‘off’ on the previous conversation and this was his way of acknowledgement – he was giving me an opportunity to bring it up. I didn’t tell him. We talked briefly but he was really tired. The call ended and I finally got my kiss.

Waiting for when

The problem is, I don’t think I deserve it.

I’m not pretty enough, not thin enough, not toned enough.

I don’t look after myself, I am too greedy, too lazy.

I’m not as nice as I think I am: I’m boring and awkward.

I believed something could happen with him because he made me believe I was attractive and beautiful and interesting. I needed to believe it was true so I needed him to commit to it, somehow.

He didn’t.  Now I don’t believe.

I plan and I scheme and I wait for when:

When I lose weight.

When I get fit.

When I’ve dyed my hair.

When my kids are happy.

When I’m happy in work.

When I get a divorce.

 

When will when come?

It won’t come while I wait for it. So I plan to manufacture it. It hasn’t worked yet.

He was here and I coped. I ignored. I didn’t look though my eyes burned with want.

And at the corner of my eye I saw the tell tale signs. I heard the usual hints. The same game play with rules I can never understand.

Except acknowledging that the only way I win is by losing. Saying goodbye to when and hello to now.

Farewell 

I’m exhausted. The type of exhausted that when you sit down your eyelids go down too. 

Today we said farewell to another Aunty. That’s two who have passed away in two months. 

It was sad to see my uncle so upset. My uncle and Aunty used to live not 100 yards up the road. My dad and my uncle ran a market gardening business when I was younger. Therefore my childhood is filled with memories of running around their farm and `helping out’. My uncle was/is a much bigger man than my dad. He was a whizz with anything mechanical.  Now, in his 80s, and grieving the woman he has been with for most of his life, I can see a vulnerability that I never saw before. 

My dad told me that he had never seen his brother upset until my Aunty died. That leaves so many unanswered questions but more than anything, shows how devoted he was to her.  Is it wrong that I hope to feel like that one day? To have lived and shared the majority of my life with someone, to have devoted our precious moments alive to be together. 

***

As I fully expected, I have heard nothing from Lost Soul. I don’t have his number which I’m glad of as I could have been tempted to get in touch. In any guise, this would not be a good idea. Whatever that was – a hello or a farewell – I’ve got to let him show me the way. I have experienced what happens when I pursue him. Plus, I want him to come to me because he wants to. 

As has always been the way with him, our encounter has put him at the forefront of my mind. It’s dangerous territory. I allow my mind to wander through all sorts of possibilities, good and bad. 

There’s a part of me that is still scared by the feelings that he creates in me. Being ten months separated, I now have very specific ideas about what I want from any further relationships. On the one hand, no one I have ever met has made me feel like he does. No one has made such a connection with me. I want that. Thing is, I had resigned myself to the fact that it would never be with him. And then Monday happened. But then, on the other hand, I do not want to be with someone as dependent as my ex. I want a partner not a grown up child. Lost Soul is vulnerable and as much as I want to help him, I want any relationship to be about us and not him. 

Another big issue is my weight. I don’t actually know if I could be naked in front of him. I worry that he would not be attracted to me and wouldn’t want me. There’s an irony there because I know he does find me attractive and that many, many people have thought we were together due to our chemistry. But I also know that the reason that we never took it further in the past could have been because of my weight – you only have to look at his subsequent girlfriends to know that. 

I hate that I am half way back in that place where my thoughts and feelings for him consumed me. Monday night happened. It happened when we were both sober and single. It happened with passion and tenderness. When he kissed me, it felt right. But I can’t afford to dwell on these memories and feelings and possibilities. I have to say farewell to the past and enjoy the now.