As you’ll have noticed from this blog, I’m a big advocate of dating.
I’m of the opinion that dating is a learning curve, and the more dates you go on, the more you learn, not simply about yourself, but also about other people.
The more people you meet, the better you can identify exactly what it is that you need and want from a partner. Whilst you may have an idealistic view of your ideal match, when faced with reality, often those ideals will change. If I look back across the last eleven months, my ideas of the person I will eventually settle down with have changed immensely.
However there are other aspects of dating which I’ve learned a great deal about. Eleven months ago, I described my ‘courtship’ and dates with Henley Boy as ‘perfect’. A year on and I look back on those few weeks with very different eyes.
It’s true what they say – sometimes you only learn lessons when they happen to you. You can give other people advice, but it’s only when you try to follow it yourself that you can begin to understand why advice on the matter even needs to be given.
We all learn best through experience. And when it comes to dating, unfortunately not all the experiences will be picture perfect.
I’ve always liked to think I had good, strong morals, especially when it comes to being faithful. My first boyfriend at university cheated on me with one of my best friends at the time, and so I’ve always been pretty opinionated when it comes to the topic of cheating …
One of the phrases I love from the film ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’, is the differentiation between the Exception and the Rule. When it comes to Dating, we always think we’re the Exception. We can see the wood for the trees in everyone else’s love life, and yet when it comes to our own, rules and sensibilities go out the window.
And so, a few years ago, I’m embarrassed to admit that I found myself in a situation where I ended up as the Other Woman.
I’d been close friends with a guy I worked with for about six months. We lift shared, a two hour-long round trip each day. On the long drives to and from work, we’d talk about anything and everything. One of those topics was his girlfriend. They’d been having problems, and often he’d share the tales of the issues they were having. I thought nothing of it, and simply tried to offer advice. We got on well, but The Geezer wasn’t single, so I never even saw him as an option.
In November of that year, I went away on holiday, and every day I was in the States, the Geezer would text me with updates from work, and ask how my trip was going.
A few weeks later at my staff party, we got drunk and kissed. Nothing else happened, but I fell asleep in his arms, and the next day we were both as surprised by the events as each other. The Geezer promised to break up with his girlfriend and we agreed nothing else would happen until he was single.
A few days later they broke up. But they had a holiday booked together the next week, which neither of them was prepared to sacrifice, and so they agreed to go away as friends.
I guess it all happened so quickly, and so out of the blue, that I didn’t think it through. Things were all so new and last-minute, that I didn’t think to query why he was still choosing to go away with her. I knew he’d had a tough year, and it was the first time he’d been able to afford to go away, and so I fixed a smile, and let him head off to the other side of the world with his ex.
Even when I had doubts, The Geezer turned up on my doorstep on Christmas Day, telling me there was no one else he wanted to spend the day with, and apologising for the situation with the holiday.
And so a few days later, the man I thought of as my new boyfriend went away on holiday with his ex-girlfriend.
He sent me daily updates, telling me about the very separate lives the pair were living on holiday. He sent me photos, and rang me a couple of times, excitedly planning dates on his return.
I smiled through it all, trying to play the dutiful new girlfriend and act as understanding as possible.
When he got back from Florida, we chatted about the way things had started. I’d been in a relationship before with someone who split up with a girlfriend to date me instead, and had already been burned by the situation because he’d needed time to get over the break-up. He was adamant that wasn’t the case this time. That he and his ex would have ended things anyway – it hadn’t been working for some time. That he’d never kissed another girl before, and that it was just a sign of the fact he was no longer invested in his relationship.
The Geezer asked if we could keep the relationship relatively quiet for a few months. He didn’t want to rub it in his ex’s face – apparently she’d been dubious about him lift-sharing with a single girl in the first place. And he didn’t want people we worked with, who knew he’d had a girlfriend outside of work, to think we were having an affair.
I agreed. Again, I was naïve, and didn’t want to kick up a fuss. I wanted to come across as understanding and mature about the situation. After all – I had him. Why should I worry about what other people knew about our relationship?
I was introduced to his family, and went to regular family meals. It was my first ‘adult’ relationship for some time, and we quickly fell into an easy routine. Every time I worried about keeping things quiet, I would reassure myself that all the important people in his life knew we were dating.
Three months in, I asked about Facebook. Silly and juvenile, but I wanted to celebrate the fact I was in a relationship with a guy.
He kicked off, saying he didn’t understand why it was important.
I dropped the argument, but a few weeks later, I bought him a Percy Pig easter egg – one of our favourite sweets. He put a picture on Facebook, which his ex-girlfriend liked. Seeing the picture, I added a silly message. ‘Wow, you must have one amazing girlfriend ;)’
That evening he sulked at me. ‘You were rubbing it in her face!’
‘You knew she’d seen the photo and that she’d see your comment!’
‘But I’m your girlfriend, why can’t I comment on a photo of an Easter egg that I gave you?!’
It turned into an argument, as I raised the issue of why he cared more about what his ex-girlfriend thought than how it made his current girlfriend feel.
We still weren’t allowed to be ‘in a relationship’ on Facebook.
A few weeks later we attended a friend’s wedding. My friend’s nephew took a really cute photo of us together, which I made my profile photo.
The next day, he kicked off again, shouting at me for changing my profile photo. ‘My ex might see!’
I argued that it shoudn’t matter – they’d been split up for months.
He shouted at me, told me I was paranoid about his ex, and that he didn’t need all this. He didn’t want to be forced to spend his weekend at weddings.
And then he split up with me, blaming it on my paranoia.
A few weeks later, I found out he was back with her.
Over the next six months, through a mutual friend of his ex-girlfriend, I was able to patch more and more of the story together.
The Geezer hadn’t split up with his ex before Christmas, and they had gone on holiday still a couple. The first month we’d been dating, they’d still been together, and he’d continued to meet up with her, even after they split up. There was at least a month-long window, at the end of my relationship, when he’d also been sleeping with his ex.
The sad part was, I thought I knew better.
While I was doing my Masters, I’d dated a guy who split up with his girlfriend to go out with me, and I’d already realised what poor foundations that created for a relationship. He’d never had chance to get over his ex before he’d dated me, and six months into our relationship he’d dumped me out of the blue, declaring he just needed to be single.
This time was no different. Or rather it was, because it turned out he hadn’t even properly split up with her. Inadvertently, I had become the other woman. Something I never set out to become. And then at the end of our relationship, he’d also turned his ex into the other woman.
The sad part was, for the best part of a year, he made both of us think the other girl was the issue. I never blamed it on him – it was her I had been paranoid about. Her, who I’d felt was ruining my relationship.
It wasn’t her. And I know she must have felt the same way about me.
It was him.
The Geezer was the one too cowardly to end things properly with either of us. He was the one refusing to acknowledge our relationship and making me feel like a sordid secret.
I learned a lot that year. I learned that a guy is only worth your time, if he’s genuinely excited and proud to be with you. I want to date a man who wants to tell the world he’s with me – not someone who keeps me behind closed doors. Because that’s how I feel when I’m dating someone I care about.
I also learned that no matter how innocent you think it is, or how ‘over’ their relationship is, you should never start a relationship with someone who is still involved with someone else. If they will treat another girl like that, they won’t think twice about doing the same to you. Once a cheater, always a cheater.
I learned that you can’t always trust someone – no matter how close you think you are to him, and sometimes you have to trust your instincts.
And I learned that the lesson I noticed before was true. Give a guy time to get over an ex. We all need space at different times in our lives, and when you’ve just come out of a long-term relationship is a really important time to be single.
I wanted to be the Exception. I have a couple of friends who started relationships in less than savoury ways, but are now married with kids to that other person. I wanted to prove myself wrong – maybe you can date someone fresh out of a relationship, if you’re meant to be together …
But I was the Rule. And I was the rule for a reason – it’s just taken me years of hindsight to appreciate just how wrong The Geezer was for me! Ironically, if I met him today on a blind date, I know I wouldn’t even fancy him.
None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes. I’m not proud of what I did, and the role I played as ‘The Other Woman’, no matter how unwittingly, but I certainly learned a lesson from it. And unfortunately sometimes you need to experience the pain of a lesson to appreciate its meaning. You can tell a small child over and over not to touch something hot, but until they’ve felt the sting of a burn, they won’t heed the warning.
Ironically my mutual friend used to comment on how similar me and The Geezer’s ex were (probably why he saw us as so interchangeable!). My friend swore that if he hadn’t played us off against one another, and we’d met under different circumstances, we’d have probably been friends. For months we used the same gym, making awkward eye contact in the changing rooms, or in the mirror during yoga. We both recognised each other (good old Facebook!) but neither would admit it.
And then one day, I decided to just stop and introduce myself properly. None of this was our fault or our doing. It was The Geezer’s problem. I wanted to stop being ‘The Other Woman’, and show her I was an actual real person – and one who had probably been tricked just as much as she had.
Turns out, in the end he lost out on both of us!
Miss Twenty-Nine xx