A small tear trickled down my cheek, then another, and another, until I found myself sobbing uncontrollably and burying my soggy face in a pillow.
My ex had given me some divorce papers to read and something in the wording had unexpectedly triggered this reaction. I wasn’t crying because I wanted my husband back, but for the finality, reality and sense of failure it brought about. I had failed at being married – something which doesn’t take special skills or qualifications. Somehow, I had not been able to keep it together.
You are probably thinking “Why is she still not divorced?” I agree – it’s been a long time coming and I’ve been in limbo for quite a while, but it wasn’t like I was going to get married again; I am not sure anyone would take me, even if I did feel like doing the whole ring-exchanging, dress wearing shebang.
While the whole d-i-v-o-r-c-e thing is mutual, it still feels like being dumped. Except a long, drawn out dumping, with lots of paperwork. I remember the good old days of being chucked. It was hellish, but at least it didn’t take a couple of years or involve no longer being together, but having to remain in the same house until one of you could move out. It also cost a lot less – maybe a CD, or pair of socks, but not the bank-breaking prospect of buying out someone’s share of the house/car/dog.
My first memory of being dumped was the 18-year-old groper I went out with when I was 15. The whole thing was doomed from the start – I was too shy to speak to him, other than yes, no and other monosyllables while all he wanted to do was stick his tongue down my throat and his hand down my pants. You couldn’t say it was Romeo and Juliet in the making.
This was back in the late 80s/early 90s, so there wasn’t widespread internet or mobile phone use, so no hiding behind typed words. This meant he used the easy method of that era, i.e. doing nothing and hoping I’d go away. He suddenly stopped phoning me. Every evening, I would wait by the phone, walk past it, check it had not been accidentally left off the hook or unplugged. I became a phone obsessive. I eventually plucked up the courage to ring him myself, but somehow he was always “out”.
When he realised I was going to keep phoning, he must have finally asked his mum to stop lying for him, took the call and gave me the first of many “I can’t do this any mores” – it’s usually that or “this isn’t working”. Although “I can’t do this any more” always makes me chuckle, when I’m over the break-up, as it sounds like they are constipated or that the whole relationship was down to their hard work and effort – yeah, and I was just passive while you slobbered on me, stuck it in, forced me to watch some dull action movie, put up with your kebab breath…
The other big avoiding-my- calls-break-up was H from uni. He was my third ‘relationship’ before Christmas, but this time, I had completely fallen for him. The guy was a drunk, but he was a witty, intelligent and talented one, who could play guitar and write songs like a proper rock star. I was in awe of him and at times turned into the shy 15-year-old I had been with ‘the groper’, even though by now I had a few notches on my bedpost and knew a little more about what to do with young men.
We were involved for the rest of the year – Christmas until the summer. Unbeknown to me, he was probably counting the days until he disappeared to Northampton and I would be over 100 miles away. Then he could put his no phone contact plan into action. He was either out, asleep, busy, in the shower or up a tree when I tried to contact him. As before, he eventually condescended to speak to me with good old “I can’t do this any more”! He was capable of far better than that, but clearly, this line trips off every man’s tongue.
Fast forward many years later and we can all hide behind text and email, wording it as elaborately or simply as we wish. In favour of writing, though, it does mean you can get things down that leave your head when you are face to face.
I remember seeing a guy I met through an internet dating site. I thought things were going well, the sex was fantastic, we had lots in common and could laugh together. The only warning sign was his lingering anger at his ex-wife which bubbled to the surface now and then. But there were no obvious signs that the axe was swinging over me. Until I got a text message on my way to work. It read: “I can’t do this any more. I am not ready for a relationship – my head is all over the place. All I wanted was a few dates.” I was absolutely gutted and had to keep sneaking from my desk to the toilet to cry.
Now, I think: “Hold on to your head and press it down, and don’t spend three hours in bed with me when all you wanted was a few dates!”
Face to face break ups have been very rare for me, but the best was one from a similar era to the internet guy. I called him Benito in a previous post, so let’s stick to that. Things never really got off the ground with Benito, so I shouldn’t have been shocked when it ended after five weeks. We had got into a habit of meeting for a lunchtime coffee every other week. I thought this was just another such meeting. But no, he had a mission. I will at least credit him with giving a full speech.
And he used “this isn’t working for me” for a change. There was a long ‘presentation’, including things like “we are too similar”, “I want kids but you already have one, so probably won’t want to do it again” (this had never been discussed so how dare he assume!), “you are really pretty, but I don’t feel we are right for each other” etc. etc. Then the pièce de résistance: “I’ve been back in touch with my ex-girlfriend and went to see her the other night and we kissed.” If he had said this from the start it would have saved us from all the other flannel.
I don’t want to portray myself as an innocent victim in all of this – I have delivered some devastating blows in my life and still feel a tinge of guilt for some of them, while with others I know I was doing us both a favour.
But whatever your age, rejection and being told you are not good enough still hurts like Hell and it takes time to recover from being verbally kicked in the stomach, whether it’s face to face, on text, email, fax, letter or flashing up on the scoreboard at a football match…