What I Learned from My Last Relationship

I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit beating myself up over my last relationship. It lasted 4 months, a new record of shortness. Here’s what happened and what I learned:

The first date

I cancelled it.

Someone informed me that this person had a girlfriend with whom he went back to his hometown with right after he and I made plans to go to dinner. We made them three weeks in advance because of our schedules, and I’m a single mom. I need LOTS of notice in order to go anywhere without my child. Maybe it would be different if I still lived in a small town and could pop over to a restaurant for an hour. Now, I live in the city, so it takes time to get to the destination, have a date, and get back home.

I told this person that I didn’t feel like it was the right time for me to date. I was already considering the big, geographical move that is on the table now. I didn’t want to get involved with someone and then leave. As a single mom, I don’t have a lot of time to text, talk on the phone, go on dates. It all takes time and attention away from my son. Yes, I believe in having time for myself, but an hour or an evening here and there works well for me.

I told him, sorry, not going to happen. Have a good life. No hard feelings. I did not mention the info about his supposed girlfriend because that was part of the deal when I received it.

He left me alone for a little while, a week or two.

Then he started texting, and I thought, ‘Be open. He’s a nice guy who isn’t going to stalk you. You won’t know until you try, and maybe if things go well, he’d follow you wherever you move.’

Ha.

I wish I had told him to bugger off. I do not know why some people pester and pester thinking that things will go their way if they pester.

To my regret, I replied to the texts. A friendly conversation ensued.

The actual first date

I don’t know if I’d call it a date, but it was all I was okay with. I had an evening to myself, and I invited him over for a very simple dinner and a movie. He was respectful. He did not try anything funny. He told me that part of the reason he wanted a relationship was because he didn’t want to die alone.

I don’t NEED a relationship. Some people do. He was one of them.

I knew that night that he wasn’t right for me. I didn’t stand up for myself or obey my instinct to not see him again. It got late, we stopped the movie and made plans to finish it the next weekend. I felt obliged to carry this out.

I’m human, make mistakes and learn from them. Right?

I am never obliged to do anything!

The second date

He had me over for a delicious dinner. (Man could cook well!) Upon my arrival, he kissed me, like tongue-kissed but in a tonsil-sweeping way. Uh, WTF? No! It took me completely by surprise. Boundaries: I did not set this one well. Setting boundaries about meeting my child: ironclad. But this? Dammit! I was so grossed out, and yet, it kept happening. Every time, I wondered, ‘Did his ex-wife like to be kissed like this?’

Again, human, mistakes, learning, kick some ass in this department next time. Right?

One thing I did right: I expressed a preference as to how I like to be kissed. It didn’t get through or he forgot or something. Cue theme of the relationship.

We finished our movie after dinner, and he asked me if I’d like to go upstairs, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I declined. Some people can sleep with whoever they’re dating right away. I am not one of those people. It does not work for me. I explained that to him.

Had I thought this night through a bit sooner, I would have realized that by asking me to sleep with him that night, he did not respect me. I should have said, “See ya, don’t call me again, I’m seriously not into this,” right then and there. He was so, so nice, in general, and positive, a dad, tidy, had experienced loss, no alcohol issues, and washed his hands after blowing his nose, which is a huge, huge deal with me. I kept seeing him.

We set our next date for about three of four weeks later. Hi. Yeah, single mom thing. That’s the time I have and am willing to give. Unfortunately, I gave him almost all of the time I had for myself, leaving me short.

Setting Boundaries

For example, three months into dating, my son went away for a weekend to a camp. I expressed a need for time to myself. He thought an hour should suffice, where I preferred four. I got an hour and reviewed my boundaries again.

He also kept pestering me to let him meet my son, and I had to say thank you for being so inclusive, and no, it’s too early. Six months to a year has not passed in this relationship, and you will not meet him or get to know him until that has happened. See? Ironclad. I had to say this every week. Remember the theme? I didn’t get through or he forgot or something. Every week. And it applied to other things too. He’d ask me the same questions multiple times and never remember the answers.

The Wind-Down

I didn’t see him again after that weekend that my son had gone to camp. I didn’t feel well. I slept a lot. Conversation was too much for me, and I felt guilty for that, yet not. I resented him and myself for not prioritizing my needs that last weekend we had spent time together. Our relationship dwindled to near nothing, and I started enjoying my lunch hours again, rather than using them to text.

The Breakup

Christmas neared, followed by his birthday, and I knew I would feel worse to go through those holidays with this person than without. On the way back from a grocery store trip, I called him to break up with him. I know. Over the phone sucks. I didn’t care at this point. Also, single mom, no time.

The Rewards

Life got better after this. I had my time back. I had time with my son without distraction. I didn’t feel guilty for rarely having time or energy to talk on the phone.

To stop beating myself up over this relationship, I’ve been practicing a meditation by Thubton Chodron on forgiving ourselves. In it, I practice compassion for myself. Some notes I have taken include: “Who I am now is not who I was then. I operated from a point-of-view that didn’t see clearly, and my wisdom was not functioning properly. I am not my actions. I can learn from my actions. I can have understanding that others are like me and make mistakes. I can move forward.”

Lessons learned

Set boundaries and stick to them. Listen to your instinct. I am never obliged to do anything. I can make mistakes and learn from them.

What have you learned? Have you had a similar experience? How did you improve your ways of setting and expressing your boundaries? How did you recover from your mistakes?

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