Wednesday 16 January 2019

Love, love me do...

Often I listen to podcasts when I am driving. I used to listen to audio books in the car -I adore books, but with so little time to read it was a good compromise. I remember driving in North Wales through some stunning scenery while listening to Richard E Grant reading his autobiography With Nails and it's a memory that has stayed with me. A bit like driving along crying at every song on the radio. It was clearly another bad break up - there were so many I can't recall exact detail. I remembered this earlier this evening while I was listening to Caitlin Moran reading her autobiography. She describes a relationship with a man who treats her terribly, but she keeps trying to make up for this by loving him even more. It felt like someone had reached inside me and pulled my insides out.

Yes I have done that too Caitlin. Pretty much every woman I know has. I'm not talking about the 'bad boy' who appeals because you just know he's going to be trouble. I mean the man / boy who is charming and says all the right things. He is convincing and you are totally taken in. It starts small. A changed plan here or a cancelled date there. The broken promises. "We will do it another time." You don't. "I'll make it up to you." He doesn't. Then it gets bigger. "I'll let you know when I can see you. I'm just really busy." And days go by. Then weeks. If you have a particularly special case he will just take you for granted and act like he's doing you a favour when he does decide to come back into your life.

I once stood outside Top Shop in Oxford Circus to meet - let's call him smooth talker. I had arranged to meet him there - this was before mobile phones - and he was late. I kept checking to see if I was in the right place - called his office and he wasn't there either. Eventually I went home. I won't even say how long I waited as I'm so embarrassed. This was the lad who had a girlfriend and I was unwittingly the 'other woman." A friend told me on the phone as he was convinced I already knew. I didn't. It all made sense now. The lateness, the broken plans, the lack of contact. I was the chump in all this. I really wanted to think the best of him. I've done that a lot. I do that a lot.

Despite all my instincts and every fibre of my being telling me, "this is not someone who respects or loves you," I would just keep going. Convincing myself that this was a good man underneath it all. That if I just kept doing my best it would be ok. He didn't call because he's busy. Remember he said he would be ?

Then there's - let's call him Porto - who didn't turn up when we were supposed to go out and I just sat downstairs with my housemates not saying anything as it was clear he had forgotten or just not bothered. He eventually turned up at 11pm and had all the silver-tongued excuses for his behaviour. Turns out the truth (which he didn't tell me) was that he was an alcoholic and had been asleep all day. He was also the one who once we'd broken up would call me at the same time every Monday to ask if I wanted to go out and do something. When we were actually going out he never wanted to go anywhere. He couldn't seem to accept that it was over and I wasn't pining or suffering at him not being in my life any more.

When Moran talks about it all being ok 'because we are in love" I felt a catch in my throat. I naively believed that if someone loves you they treat you well. I can't do enough for the ones I love. I have driven hours to see someone I love, to give them a hug or to just say "I'm here for you." I've changed my plans just to see them for a little while. I've been at the end of the phone when things are going wrong in their life. Day and night. When they ignored me entirely I was still there when they decided to talk to me again. I know I'm an idiot - right ?

There was the guy who broke up with me during the interval of a show - I call him a lot of things, but that's not for here - and we sat next to each other with me knowing I had to share a car with him on the journey home now he had dumped me. Or the guy who goaded me all through dinner and when I reacted he walked off before the concert started. I went in alone not knowing if he was going to come back or not. He didn't.

What makes a person put up with this ? Is it a lack of self respect ? I suspect that is part of it. I didn't feel I deserved any better than I was getting. I was lucky any guy wanted to be with me. Whatever he was prepared to give I should be grateful. I never once thought to ask for more. How could I ? That meant risking him walking away. I didn't consider it might mean I could have better.

If I did have the courage to say something, I would always make light of it. "Yeah - just fitting me in between other commitments - ironic emoji." and in response I'd get, "Yep that's me doing my best to fit you in when I can. I'm such a terrible person." I mean who wouldn't feel incredibly flattered being fitted in between other far more important things ? How dare I not see this for the grand romantic gesture it clearly was ?

I would do more and more to make up for getting less and less. In yet another example of my stunning capacity to get it wrong I tried to tell him why I wasn't happy with how he was behaving towards me. I sat opposite him trying not to catch his eye. I know that I can't hide how I feel and I wanted to maintain my composure as much as I could. In the end I was standing in the street crying and ranting at him - because that's a great way to win over someone - clearly. I pointed out that if this was it I understood, but I just wasn't going to be taken for granted any more. Of course dear reader you already know that it made not a blind bit of difference. As usual I apologised for standing up for myself - repeatedly. Then things just went back to how they were before.

I frequently go out of my way to ensure no one is put out to see me. I'm not worth it you see. Why should I expect anyone to make any effort for me ? I won't ask. I don't expect. This is still an overhang from these destructive relationships that reaffirmed what I already believed. That no one would love me really. That I had to be better, look different, be nicer, not make a fuss. I should be grateful that a man was giving me any attention after all.

Raising my boys I am bringing them up to respect themselves and others. I don't want my sons to treat anyone this way. The bottom line is even if you can't make grand gestures you don't have to be cruel. Kindness is so important. It makes a person feel special and cared about. A kind word, a lovely message, an unexpected card or a surprise visit just to make someone's day. Maybe I'm a sap for thinking this simple stuff is of value, but I've always appreciated it.

I want my boys to remember some simple rules for life:

  • Kindness costs nothing 
  • Loving someone is an active thing not a passive one 
  • You can love someone, but not like they way they behave 
  • If someone loves you they won't make excuses - they will make time
  • You are precious and wonderful - don't let anyone ever treat you like you are not  

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