So I dated David many moons ago - he was someone from my very distant past who I had crushed on, who showed up, confessed he had been suffering undying love for over a decade, and then proceeded to get intense and scary, to the point where I had to tell him to get lost. He said "I love you" after a week, as a direct response to my tear-filled confession that I was still in love with A Complicated Man in the UK. I had said we could explore a relationship if he could take it easy, play it cool - which he couldn't. We completely lost contact as he was so embarrassed by his behaviour he didn't feel we could be friends, and frankly, he had been so needy, I didn't want to be friends.
As time went by, I began to blame myself utterly for our bust –up. He had been devoted and in love and ready to commit – and I had been a mess. No wonder it hadn’t worked. I hadn’t given him a chance.
This past fall, I was feeling like I was ready for a long-term relationship, to meet someone I could really be with. I wanted to clear the karmic slate - and David was the only ex that I was on on bad terms with. I sent him a Facebook message to apologize if anything I had done had hurt him. He responded several weeks later that there was nothing forgive, that he was happy in a relationship, and would I be interested in meeting up for coffee?
I wasn't, but I went. And we had a nice time! David seemed confident, not at all intensely into me as he had been before, and just charming, flirty and funny - the David I remembered being friends with all those years ago. Pretty soon we were hanging out all the time. Except, he wasn't telling his girlfriend about it. At Christmas, when he showed up at my house with a gift, I gave him an ultimatum: either his girlfriend had to go, or I did.
I should have heeded the warning signs when David didn't immediately dump his girlfriend It was mind boggling to me that he just couldn't get it together to break the news to the ex, who he was desperately unhappy with - he had said so at our first meeting. I refused to see him until he figured his shit out, but made a few exceptions when he said he had to talk to me.
"What do you want," I asked him directly, at one of these meetings.
"Well, it's very hard for my girlfriend," he began, then stopped. "My girlfriend feels..." he stopped again. "My girlfriend needs..." he trailed off.
"What do YOU want," I asked again.
"Well, I want to be with you," he finally stammered.
I was relieved. I thought that now that he had articulated what he wanted, he would take the steps to make it happen.
It took him another three months - and not for any nefarious reason. This man is not a player whatsoever. He just couldn't work up the courage to tell her. Or to even articulate to himself what he wanted.
When I finally got the text message, just after February, that they had broken up, it was almost, almost too late. But we immediately started dating.
The sex was amazing, as it had been when we dated before. So, yeah. That was awesome.
But outside of the sex, David immediately lost his spine. He was tentative and unsure around me, and expressed no opinions of his own, deferring to me in everything. This was a frustrating backslide to where we had been when we had dated previously. The difference was, this time we talked about it. Or rather, I talked. I communicated all over the place. Every time my needs weren't met (which was often), I told him.
When he just stopped calling me during a busy work period in my life, because he "thought he was bothering me," I told him how much that upset me. When he couldn't open up and talk to me about anything deeper than what he had eaten that day for lunch, I told him how much that upset me. When I got tired of listening to him tell me the ephemera of his co-workers' days, rather than what was going on in his own life, I told him how much that upset me. Every time I was stressed and busy and he patronizingly (and plaintively) said, "Well, whatever I can do to help..." and then trailed off - well, I told him that upset me too. Want to help? FABULOUS. Just - think of something you think might be nice or supportive or helpful, and do it. Don't wait for me to tell you what that is.
But we continued down into this weird place where the only place David and I worked was in bed. He was tentative and deferent at all times, waiting for me to give him direction on almost everything. And I wasn't getting the emotional connection I needed - because I quickly realized that the charming, flirty, funny surface David - well, that's really all there is. For whatever reason, David refuses to engage in any introspection or divulge any inner life. He even as admitted as much to me - and promised to change.
And so I gritted my teeth and kept going. After all, I told myself over and over again, he's just so nice. He's supportive and adoring. You can't give that up, RCC. So I kept talking. I kept challenging, asking questions, until it got to the point a few weeks ago where I was feeling so critical, and demanding, that I didn't recognize myself.
"How fair is it that I'm asking to change everything that you are?" I asked David tearfully. "I feel like a bitch."
"Listen, I know you're worried that you're being a bitch. But - I'll tell you when you are," he said. (Would he? I thought). "I'm planning to be in this for the long-term - I'm going to make this work."
But in the end - I snapped. If I wasn't sparkling and entertaining and chatty, David would sit in silence, waiting for me to become that person again. It wasn't OK for me to be tired or non-talkative or moody - he couldn't cheer me up or carry us until I was feeling more rested and together. He'd just sit and watch me balefully, expectantly.
After two and a half days of silence last week, I finally exploded. David was sitting on my couch watching me get ready for an event I was performing at. He didn't say a word. He'd been over the night before and hadn't say a word either, and neither had I.
"This is so boring. And frustrating," I finally screamed, waving my hair straightener at him. "You haven't talked to me in days! It is so hard to think of anything to do with you or for you, because you never express any desires or needs. I am so close to being done."
"Well, I thought it was fine if I didn't say anything, that we were at the point where we'd said what we needed to say to each other."
"After 5 months?" I shrieked. "I know nothing about you. I don't know what your hopes or ambitions are, your fears, what you like about yourself, what you hate about yourself - nothing. You don't talk, and I have no idea how to make you talk, or to give you what you need!"
"I really don't know what to do with you," he exclaimed. He felt that he didn't have anything else to say, or things he needed, which frankly, boggled my mind but also convinced me that David would avoid introspection at all costs. Or, he was the most boring person on the face of the planet.
"This is not working," I said. "I am so angry that you won't talk to me. That you won't express opinions or preferences. That everything is about me all the time."
"You just want an alpha-male," he said. "That's what you're used to."
"Maybe it's what I'm used to," I admitted. "But this isn't a partnership. This isn't 50/50."
"You are so difficult to get to know!" he said accusingly.
"I am?" I said incredulously. "I talk. All the time."
He immediately backtracked. "Well - actually, yeah, you do," he said. I think what he meant was, "You're so difficult to please." Which shows you exactly where his head was at. It was all about pleasing me, not us pleasing each other.
So, I ended it. I told him if he couldn't talk to me about himself and what was going on inside, then it was over. That I felt like he was a wounded person (more than one person had observed to me that he seemed like someone harbouring some kind of hurt), living in the safety of surface interactions with people, but that I wanted something deeper. That I needed something deeper. And with that, I left for my event.
A few hours later I got a text: "Miserable. Please call."
I called him.
"I've been doing a lot of thinking," he said. "You're right - I have been avoiding introspection, to the point of being defensive with you. And you are entitled to an explanation. You do deserve to hear what I feel and what I think. And I want to tell you, just not over the phone."
I was relieved. Maybe it wouldn't be over. Maybe he could give me what I needed. I told him I would see him later that week.
The next day, he texted me to say that he'd been doing some thinking and only needed 10 minutes of my time. 10 minutes of my time did not sound like telling me his deepest heart's desires.
In he stormed. "You're not getting my life story, or any involved discussion," he said. "I'm sorry I can't be the person you want me to be. It's clear my behaviour makes you angry. Here's your key back." And he left.
So - rather than actually talk to me, David broke up with (OK, technically, I'd already broken up with him - let's say he refused to fight for) the woman he said he'd been pining after for over a decade.
Which really, is for the best. I don't need that kind of co-dependency, and I wasn't in love with him enough to insist on him healing whatever was broken, not without his help and commitment.
So, but for the pangs of, "Oh shit, I'm 32 and single...again," and maybe the great mind-blowing sex, I don't miss him at all. And maybe I was too hard on myself the last time he and I spectacularly imploded. Maybe it wasn't me.