The following is an abridged excerpt from chapter 7 of my book, ‘Start with You’ Trusting our instincts is always difficult when we are determined to make a relationship work, regardless of the facts in front of us.
Does any of the following resonate with you? I would love to hear about your own thoughts and experiences!
‘Oh, hello! You back again, D? Did you like the bouquet he sent you last week, hon? He is spoiling you, isn’t he?’
Oh, what a priceless Candid Camera moment that was as I stood in a florist’s shop with my then boyfriend, buying flowers to take to friends we were about to visit. And did the florist pause and realise the impact of her words? She did not.
‘It was a beautiful bouquet. All your favourite flowers in it, he said, and the card! So thoughtful and loving.’
Through gritted teeth and sideways evils at my boyfriend, who was turning greener than the foliage he was holding, I told her that no, the flowers had not been for me.
‘Are you sure? I delivered them myself.’
And there we have it. The flower lady had indeed delivered the bouquet, and this last comment prompted the boyfriend to mutter that they had been for a ‘friend’ and not me. As we walked away from the florist in stony silence, he assumed a nonchalant air and an increasingly familiar sneer.
‘I suppose you’re going to have a go at me now, aren’t you?’
Oh, well done. Meaning that any genuine emotional response to convey my shock and hurt was now going to be dismissed as being irrational and nagging.
Amazingly, instead of taking the flowers we’d just bought and shoving them where the sun doesn’t shine, I stayed incredibly calm.
We had only been together for about five months, having met through mutual friends at a barn dance. There had been an instant physical attraction, and as it had been three years since the breakup of my last relationship, my radar at the time had been on overdrive:
‘Alert! Alert! Potential new partner. All details to be filtered and distorted to suit desire to mate.’ When he asked me out he clearly said that he was still going through a messy divorce and had only just come out of an on/off relationship with someone he had met when he first became separated. My radar at that point flashed, ‘Ignore! Ignore!’ as I replied, ‘No problem. You are only asking me out for a drink, not to marry you.’
Long story short, we did go out and had some lovely times. However, I soon realised that he really had meant it when he said he wasn’t in a good place. I found his mood swings difficult, and became exhausted trying to second-guess his feelings in order to pep him up or appease him.
Back to the flower shop and his response to my question.
‘It was her birthday, and I as I hadn’t acknowledged her at Christmas and she’s going through a tough time, I thought it would cheer her up.’
On the face of it, that was fair enough as he was emulating the warm friendship that I still enjoyed with my ex.
Except, this was all happening one week after I had encouraged him to meet up with her so they could have the adult conversation they hadn’t had when they’d broken up.
After the meeting in question, he’d duly reported back that while it had been great to see her, she had stated clearly that she still loved him and wanted him back, so he had made it equally clear that he was now happy with me and they should wish each other well and move on.
Marvellous. I should have felt no doubt at all about his commitment then. Certainty and significance should have been abundant, along with more love and connection than you could shake a stick at. How proud I was of his growth, and of my contribution to that. The elastic of my superhero pants was positively twanging with self-congratulation.
Then came the flowers. And the fact he hadn’t told me about them.
I swallowed my outrage while managing to squeak, ‘OK, but I too have been going through a tough time recently, and yet I have never received any flowers. I feel you are valuing her needs over mine here.’
Meaning, ‘Now listen, mate, you haven’t exactly pushed the boat out in terms of making me feel sure of you, despite me constantly building your confidence and sense of self-worth by telling and showing you how important you are to me.’
‘I didn’t know you liked flowers.’
How I then stopped myself from jumping on his head is beyond me. In that moment, the calm adult would have said, ‘You know what? It’s not the flowers I’m hurt about. It’s the fact that after you met with her, I specifically said that if you had stirred up any unresolved feelings and you felt you owed it to her and that relationship to try again, then that is what you must do. There is no point in us being together if you’re not sure. So actually, I want to end this here and now as I realise that we are not right together. We don’t meet each other’s needs and this clearly isn’t what either of us really want.’
Did I say that? Did I heck!
All of my uncertainty rushed to the surface, along with a maelstrom of emotions. What if I pushed him away by being stroppy? Was I being unreasonable? It was a nice thing he did, and after all, he didn’t go back to her. He chose me, so why make waves?
But why did I feel so rejected and devalued? Why was I clamouring for reassurance so I could feel that all was how I wanted it to be? Because deep down, I knew it would never be so.
My superhero pants were now bunched saggily around my ankles.