My first experience with Internet dating scored me a husband. I paid RSVP my fee and started looking for Mr Right. After being a serial monogamist during my late teens and early twenties I travelled and concentrated on work, trusting that the universe would provide love when the time was right. After ten years of the universe providing me with nothing, not even a few losers to help me work out who I was and who I wanted, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and sign up for online assistance.
This was 2008, and dating apps were not yet a thing, and the stigma of dating on line was still very real. None of my friends had met their husbands that way and I had to own the whole process so that I didn’t feel like too much of a loser. When I showed my friends the men I had matched with I could feel their palpable concern that I would be raped and murdered by one of these strangers. The idea of meeting “the one” without being introduced by a mutual friend who could vouch for the guy, was a very foreign concept indeed, and I assured them I would be most cautious. Safety first!
I matched with Husband after just a few days, and we exchanged a few messages. He seemed normal and genuinely interested in finding someone for a real relationship. We met for a drink, and while it wasn’t love at first sight, we had plenty in common and felt like the possibility of a connection was real. A very normal romance ensued; drinks became dinner, dinner became kisses, kisses became sex, sex became sleepovers, sleepovers became meeting each other’s friends, friends became introductions to family and ultimately the “I love you”s. It was a wonderful time of getting to know each other and indulging in all the couple fantasies you have as a single person. We enjoyed weekends away and our friends wholeheartedly approved of our match.
I did have a tough time with separation from him. We would spend all weekend together and when Sunday night came around and he had to go home to prepare for the week I would do anything I could think of to make him stay. I had an insatiable need to be with him as much as I could, until I want to disconnect. I know it can be smothering but at the time I didn’t realise how badly it affected the relationship.
After 4 months together we shared our first Christmas. It was a big day where I met his extended family and felt very accepted. He was clearly thrilled that I had been embraced so warmly by his family who “never thought he would ever meet someone”. On the drive home, he drunkenly told me he had never enjoyed Christmas as much as he had that day and it was all down to me being there. It was amazing to hear and I hadn’t felt so loved and wanted by someone else in a very long time.
We both had other holiday commitments over the next few days with other friends and family, but spoke and texted, and he came over on 30 December. I was so thrilled that I was going to have a boyfriend on NYE for the first time in forever. I would actually have someone to kiss when the clock struck 12! We spent the afternoon together but he seemed a bit off. I kept pushing him to tell me what was wrong and eventually he cracked – “I’ve been thinking about my ex-girlfriend a lot and I don’t know what I want.”
The world fell away from beneath my feet and my blood ran cold. To my embarrassment, I begged him to believe in the special bond we had and to not throw away the rare thing we had found. At that point our relationship had been nothing but laughter, sex and fun. I couldn’t understand why he would give that up for a person who had treated him badly. He had told me that they moved in together after a week of knowing each other, she had lost custody of her children and then she disappeared one day without a word. He worried for days before he discovered she had left him to live with a different guy. What a peach! And now he wanted to leave me for her?
He left me and my broken heart to drown my sorrows in booze and cigarettes and loud melancholy music. I made sure he knew he had made a big mistake, pulled my socks up and spent my time with my girlfriends, who are always there to listen and comfort. After a few weeks he came to his senses and we tentatively started to spend time together again. He explained his melt down on feeling smothered (my fault obviously) and it being a year since he and the ex-girlfriend had met. During our time apart I had read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, as you do, in an effort to understand what happened. It made me believe that I had not allowed him his “man cave time” to recharge and have a chance to miss me. I had been too available and wanted to spend all my time with him, forgetting that he was a 38 year old guy who had been single most of his life and was used to A LOT of alone time (my fault again).
Time went by, the heart break faded, and when my lease ended he suggested we move in together. It would be the first time I lived with a partner and I was pretty excited and scared.
We shifted in to the new pad in June, just a few weeks before his birthday. It was a new area to me so we did lots of exploring together, made joint purchases for the home and played house happily. On his birthday I was getting ready for work when I heard his phone going off. He had left without it and there were messages coming through for his birthday. I took a look at the phone to see who was messaging him (the start of a terrible and revealing habit) and found the latest message was a highly affectionate one from the ex-girlfriend. I scrolled down their history and found they had been texting and calling regularly over the previous few months, and I did NOT like the frequent usage of “honey/baby/love you” that I found. There was a message that said “Hang on a few minutes, she is going out and I will call you then” from just the weekend previously when I had been heading out to get his birthday gift.
The world fell away from beneath my feet and my blood ran cold. I had just moved in with this guy! Why would he ask me to move in if he still wanted her? I confronted him and he assured me they were just friends and I shouldn’t “overreact” (my fault obviously), that he wouldn’t have moved in with me if he didn’t want to be with me. It was the first time I heard a phrase he repeated over the years to follow – “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be”.
Some people might be comforted by that, and it was how he intended it to be received, but I heard it as a threat. If you fuck up I will leave you.
We argued about the ex-girlfriend, and I laid down the law about them speaking. If you must be friends with her, I want to know about it. When you hear from her I want you to tell me. My insecurities reared their ugly heads and the ex-girlfriend continued to rear her ugly head fairly regularly over the course of our time together. The formula was pretty consistent: He would leave his phone at home, I would try and fail to stop myself checking his messages, I would find something, I would confront him, he would tell me “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be”, I would feel like it was my fault. Six months would pass and then it would happen all over again.
I hated that I was snooping on him, but every time I felt like something stank, I would find that the stink was her. I wasn’t imagining it, and I always felt like I would rather know if there was a problem so I could deal with it. On the other hand, he felt like there was nothing for me to worry about so I should just trust him. The problem with that is that he lied to me. A lot.
He drunkenly dropped to one knee and proposed to me a few months later. We hadn’t had any problems for about 3 months and I remember thinking to myself “Oh well, we can always get divorced”. I’m such an optimist. We got swept up in the happiness and celebrations of an engagement and planned the wedding. We were totally in tune with what we wanted for the wedding and it all came together smoothly. One Saturday we had our Hens and Bucks do’s. I had a civilised Ladies Lunch at a friend’s house, which was very sedate except for the penis straws, and he had a day at the football and a bar with his mates.
I got home in time for dinner and he rolled in drunk about 9pm and went right to bed. I asked him about his day and it all sounded great until he told me he had just walked 10kms to get home because he wanted to sober up a bit. He was NOT a fit man and that made no sense to me. He kept repeating the same story over and over and eventually he went to sleep. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was lying again and got up and checked his wallet. There was a receipt from a McDonalds just an hour earlier. It was a McDonald about 30kms from where he said he had been that night. So I checked his phone.
There were messages from someone I didn’t know inviting them to their house for a party. I woke him and angrily demanded to know what the fuck was going on? Where had he been? Being drunk and caught with hard evidence he had to confess. He had been invited to the party in a group text by someone he had met previously on another dating site. He snuck out of his own bucks party and took an expensive cab ride to the party (I get the feeling it was one of those parties where a bowl of keys is involved). When he arrived he had a coffee and a chat with the host and decided he didn’t want to be there and went outside to wait for a cab. He told me he realised once he was there he didn’t belong there, he belonged at home with me.
This happened two weeks before our wedding. What should I do? I felt betrayed and lied to again, but I had 100 people coming to a wedding that was all paid for and I was really looking forward to, an amazing honeymoon booked. The thought of having to tell everyone it was off seemed like a nightmare. So what do I do? I had a man that I truly loved who it seemed made stupid decisions and was a terrible liar. But nobody is perfect, right? And he didn’t actually DO anything….right?
The wedding day was perfect, and we basked in the glow all through the honeymoon and subsequent weeks. I returned to work to find there had been a scandal involving one of my closest friends and that shook my trust again. But now I had a Husband by my side to comfort me through the hard times, and he did. We endured that betrayal, the death of my beloved dog, two house moves, a home invasion and robbery, job losses and redundancy in the ensuing year. It was hard on both of us but we had each other and kept reminding ourselves that we were a strong team to be going through all these things and still be together. “A lesser couple would have crumbled, but not us!”
When I was made redundant, we took the cash and had a massive, expensive holiday to New York. It was wonderful, but again we had to endure a small trial in the form of Hurricane Sandy, which kept us confined to our hotel room for a few days. Husband went stir crazy but I didn’t mind as I had been really sick with a cold for much of the trip. I put it down to stress and Husband had been taking walks and trips to bars of an evening without me, while I rested happily in the hotel. We looked on the bright side and enjoyed the rare, quiet stillness of NYC after the storm and went on to relish the remaining weeks of our trip before we would have to return to “the real world” and get jobs.
When we returned I was still unable to shake the cold and went to see my doctor. While I was there I asked my doctor to check a lump at the top of my left breast. I wasn’t worried. There was no history of cancer in my family and I figured it was a pulled muscle from hefting luggage during our trip. The doctor ordered an ultrasound to be sure and I still wasn’t worried. I went to the appointment and lay on the table getting checked. I still wasn’t worried, I was sure it was the muscle or, at worst a cyst, which would go away on it’s own.
“While you are here, let’s do a mammogram”.
Now I was worried. Mammograms were for old people! I was only 40. I was too young for cancer. But it was cancer. I spent the next year undergoing surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. Husband stood by my side and endured the horrible year with me. He worked two jobs to support us and stayed positive despite how fearful he was. We both stayed very positive and got through it as best we could.
But all this took a toll on us. I got better and wanted to take life by the horns and return to a passionate, loving and exciting relationship. Husband had seen me sicker than anyone should ever be and I think that coloured his view of me permanently. We had 18 months of trying to work out why he didn’t want to be intimate with me, me putting a smile on to cover up the profoundly awful rejection I was feeling. My body had been through hell, and while my scars are virtually unnoticeable, I needed to know my husband (the man who loved me the most) still found me beautiful and sexy. I had always been proud of my large, shapely breasts and now they were not the same. Now slightly uneven with small scars, it took me a long time to be able to look at my body in the mirror and I needed to hear his reassurance and feel his unflinching touch. I never got that from him.
Of course the ex-girlfriend stuck her head up out of the sand and we had yet another fight about that. He spent more and more time away from me while I desperately tried to come up with a reason and solution for our problems. Husband did not want to participate in the discussion at all and during one particularly tense afternoon, he told me he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married. I asked him to forget the being married part, it is just a piece of paper, and just tell me whether he wanted to be with me or not. He didn’t answer. Which was the answer.
We had another week of non-stop discussions about our situation. I say “discussion” but it was really me interrogating him, trying to work out what the problem was. We had tried therapy, journaling our feelings, time apart, time together, talking with friends and family, everything we could think of but nothing helped him articulate how he felt.
Then one Thursday night we did it. Pulled off the band aid and called it quits. It was horrible, traumatic and dramatic and I lost the man I loved in an instant. I wasn’t going to be married anymore. I was a failure. No one tells you how much of a failure you will feel when you can’t make a marriage work. You expect fights and tears and drama, but I was underprepared for the feelings of sadness, regret and failure. No matter how hard I tried I had failed. It was undeniable.
I packed up and left. And that was it. Marriage over, tiny one-person flat, meals for one, nobody to come home to at night and share my day with, no one to cuddle or kiss whenever I wanted. And at the same time a great weight was lifted and I felt free. And I was horny.
Comic Jen Kirkman described exactly this feeling in one of her stand up shows. Your body doesn’t know that you and your Husband are not getting along. But it does know you are lying next to the man you love every night and not getting any sex. So when you leave getting laid is all you can think about. Your body wants it and you need the validation (Feminist firing squad form an orderly queue please).
I’ve always had a high sex drive and despite the constant rejection during my marriage I still relentlessly pursued my Husband, which smothered and pressured him (my fault again). The rejection hurts to your very core and I felt like I was totally undesirable. I NEEDED to have sex with someone who desired me and would make me feel good about that part of myself again. And I knew just the guy….The Married Man.