*Apologies for taking so long to write this post. It’s been tricky to write, and there have been several iterations of it over the last week.*
On Monday morning, last week, I said, “I love you,” to Andrew, and he didn’t say it back.
I had stayed over at his on the Sunday night. It was our 6 month anniversary. It was a low-key evening – we just had ready meals and watched TV, and only really marked the occasion by discussing that it was our 6 month anniversary.
“Imagine if we could travel back in time to May, and come into this room and say to the Us that’s on their first date ‘we’re from the future, and in 6 months’ time, it’ll still be going really well!'” I said.
“Yes! Imagine that!” Andrew replied.
“And then, imagine if another us from 6 months in the future came in, and the May 2019 Us said to the Current Us ‘Andrew, you really should go back to the doctor about your tender balls.'” I said.
“And the May 2018 Us, on our first date, would be like ‘Can you all get out please, we’re trying to have a kiss and cuddle here.'”
We lay on the sofa and watched Gavin and Stacey on Netflix, that night, and when they said it to each other for the first time, I hugged him a bit tighter. I’d been wanting to tell him I loved him for ages. I was conscious 6 months seemed a long time to go without saying it.
On the Monday morning, I got up really early, as I had to travel all the way across London for work.
I had a shower, then got back into bed with a cup of tea, and we had a nice hug, although he wasn’t properly awake. Then, I got dressed and said goodbye to him, and went out into the hallway to get all my things together, and put my coat on.
While I was faffing around in the hallway, he got out of bed and came and gave me another hug. At first I assumed he’d just got up to go to the bathroom, but then I realised he had just got out of bed to hug me.
I felt so touched by him getting out of bed at the crack of dawn, just for a hug, that I blurted out, “I love you.”
He didn’t say anything, then, when the hug ended, he said, “have a good day at work.”
Oh, fuck off mate.
I bustled out the front door and went to catch my train.
And felt crushed.
On my way to work, I wondered
- did he hear? His benign brain tumour is near his ear, and it does effect his hearing on one side. Sometimes in bed, he literally doesn’t even know I’ve spoken if his good ear is muffled by the pillow. Maybe he just didn’t hear the proclamation.
- does he love me but he was caught off guard? He’d barely been awake for more than a few moments.
- Or does he not love me?
Obviously, I’m a therapist, which means I have the emotional intelligence to handle a situation like this with self-awareness and maturity.
So I spent the whole week avoiding his phone calls and ignoring him.
On the Monday night, I went to the cinema with friends, and he called me when I got home. I did answer that time, and we spoke for about an hour. I had thought maybe he’d bring up the L-word and say something nice, maybe even say it back, but he didn’t. We just talked about general things, but it seemed normal.
For the rest of the week, he was very busy with work, as there was a court case looming, and I went to bed a bit earlier than usual, partly to avoid speaking to him.
Then, on Friday, he came round to my place.
I was a bit prickly when he arrived. He was being very affectionate and I said, “why are you being so nice to me?”
Then he looked a bit confused and a tiny bit hurt, and I said, “sorry, I don’t know why I said that. You’re always nice to me.”
I’d had my first counselling session that day. As I wrote in a previous post, I had a few sessions of counselling through Occupational Health at work, about a year ago, and I decided to refer myself for some more sessions, now I’m a bit stressed about a few different things.
I told him about how it had gone.
I told him that, in my previous counselling, we talked a lot about my past relationships, and identified the repeating patterns I’d fallen into. We talked about how I needed to meet someone who would take responsibility for looking after themselves and for addressing problems, instead of me taking all the responsibility for things.
Before our final session, she’d asked me to make a list of ways I could tell if someone I met in the future would take responsibility.
Before our first session, on Friday, I found my sheets of paper from last time, and read through them.
I read through the list of ways in which a boyfriend might take responsibility, and had a massive smile on my face, when I realised Andrew does all of them.
It was nice to see the same counsellor again, and tell her that, even though I was obviously back because I had more problems, things had moved forward. I had met someone nice, I had put into practice what we discussed, and he does take responsibility.
It was nice telling Andrew about this.
Then, I got up to get us some drinks, and then said, “We should probably talk about what happened on Monday morning.”
He smiled in the kind of embarrassed way that a child might, if they’ve been caught doing something they’re not supposed to.
So he did hear.
“I assume you know what I’m referring to,” I added.
He said yes. “I can’t… say it back. But… that doesn’t mean I won’t ever be able to.”
He talks really slowly at the best of times, and this was excruciating. He added, “I’ve never ever said it to anyone before.”
“OK, I mean, I’ve been really stressed out about it all week, but I also didn’t think it was a total disaster. I knew it might be harder for you to say, as… I remember you saying that you don’t really say it in your family, whereas my family and I say it all the time. And I know you haven’t really had past relationships where you both loved each other.”
“Yes. I’ve never said it to anyone before. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever felt it before.”
So we talked about it, for a long time. He said although he doesn’t feel ready to say it yet, he’s thought about the future with me.
“I’ve thought about having a family with you, and how I think you’d be a brilliant Mum.”
For once, he did much more of the talking than me. He told me a lot more about his past relationships. I was surprised to hear him say that he’d never been in love before, as, a few months into our relationship, he had told me he did love his first girlfriend, but she didn’t love him back.
“I thought you did love Girlfriend One?”
“I thought I did too, but now I think it’s wasn’t love, I just a bit obsessed with her, in an unhealthy way.”
I asked what the difference was between our relationship and how he felt about Girlfriend Two. He had previously told me that Girlfriend Two loved him, but he didn’t love her back. Until now, I had always sensed that his relationship with me was completely different to theirs, but over the past week, I had worried that I was the next Girlfriend Two.
“It’s completely different with you. I look forward to seeing you, and I’m a lot more attracted to you, and I’m always interested to hear what you have to say about things.”
A lot of what he said was very reassuring, and I do think that, objectively, this is just about his history with love, and nothing to do with his feelings about me.
But a bit later on, I got a bit upset and cried in front of him for the first time.
I suddenly started feeling like such a failure. It felt broader than even just my concerns about how he feels about me. Something in my head said “you can’t even be in a relationship with someone who loves you back.” Lots of other things I’ve failed at, recently, came tumbling into my head, like times my card has been declined in shops because I can’t manage my finances, and the fact I got a £500 fine because I was waiting in a yellow box at a junction, and I hadn’t updated my address with the DVLA.
I explained to Andrew that, when I was a lot younger, I didn’t like myself, and lots of people at school didn’t like me. Now, I do like the person I’ve become. People have said heartfelt, positive things about me, over the years, and I’ve taken it in. I’m proud of some of the things I do.
But if I was a house of cards, even though most of the cards would be good ones now, on the bottom row, there would still be a few cards with things written on them like “nobody likes you” and “you’re a rubbish person.”
I feel like him not loving me has confirmed all my worst fears about not being good enough.
When I started crying, he seemed really upset and pulled me towards him and hugged me, almost so tightly I couldn’t breathe.
“Don’t see this as a bad thing. This is the most I’ve ever, ever communicated with a girlfriend. I think it’s going well with you and I want it to keep going. We’re just coming at this with very different experiences.”
We discussed what it means to be in love, and I think he’s got no idea. He had asked me if I really loved my ex-boyfriends, and they really loved me.
“Yes. We did.”
“But I thought you said there were problems in those relationships,” he said.
“Yes! They’re not mutually exclusive.”
I think he thinks loves means something completely unrealistic. I told him what I thought love meant.
“When we did love poetry for GCSE English, our teacher, Mr Witts, told us what love meant. It means when you really like someone and you know all their good points, but you also know all their flaws, but you’ve made a balanced decision and you think they’re great anyway. It’s like a feeling in your body, like a warm, comfortable but also excited feeling, when you want be to be around them all the time and you worry about them and want good things to happen for them. It’s just when you’ve been banging someone for a while and you really like them.”
Eventually, we went to bed and I was feeling OK. Although it hadn’t turned out how I hoped, there were some major positives – things he’d said that were kind of better than if he’d just said ‘I love you’ back. We had really good sex.
However, in the morning, the mean voice was back. He was trying to be amorous, before we’d properly woken up, but I couldn’t stop thinking, “yeah, but he doesn’t love you.”
I went to make a cup of tea, and cried in the kitchen.
We talked again, and he made me feel better.
I think that how he feels about saying “I love you” for the first time, is how I felt about losing my virginity – it was something I definitely wanted to do, but it was a big fucking deal, and not something I was going to rush into. Whereas, at the time, some of my counterparts of the opposite sex felt a lot less encumbered by the need for extensive self-reflection before proceeding.
I said to him, “what might happen now, is, over the next few weeks, I might want to push you away and avoid you, to protect myself from getting hurt. But don’t let me, too much.”
I’m having some building work done on my flat, and we can’t use the shower at the moment, so we got into the bath together. It was the first time we’d had a bath together, and it was nice.
One of my best friends was visiting London that weekend. The plan was for Andrew and I to meet her and her boyfriend, and then later, Andrew was going off to meet his brother, who was also visiting London, and my friends were going to stay at mine.
I had been dying to see this friend for ages, as she’s one of my absolute favourite people, and I’ve missed her so much since she moved away from London. However, she and her boyfriend recently got engaged, and in my state of feeling like a massive failure for being unable to be loved, I kind of wished both things weren’t happening the same weekend.
Andrew and I got the train into central London. With all the L-word-gate drama, we hadn’t had anything to eat all day. On the train, I complained of hunger pangs. He remembered he had three peppers in his rucksack (capsicums) and we each ate a pepper on the Northern Line (he had the orange and I had the yellow). I’ve never eaten a pepper like an apple before, but it was fun.
We met my friend and her boyfriend at the Hummingbird Bakery cafe, and everyone instantly got on.
Later, we went to a pub together. My friend and I went and got a table in the room upstairs, while the men went to the bar.
“I love him!” my friend said. “He’s so thoughtful, I really like the way he really thinks about what he’s saying, and asks really thoughtful questions. You’re a great match, as you’ve obviously got the same values.”
I gave her a quick update about L-word-gate. At first, we were trying to discuss it as quickly as we could, before the boys came back.
She was very reassuring and confirmed what the sensible part of me thought – that just was just about his history and not about how he felt about me.
At first, I was glad we’d had a chance to chat about it, uninterrupted, but after a while, we started to wonder what had happened to the boys.
“They are taking ages to get served!” I said.
“No, they were already getting served when we came up here!” my friend said.
“Shall I go down and check they’re OK?” I suggested, and my friend agreed.
I went down the stairs, and saw Andrew and my friend’s boyfriend, standing at the bar, deep in conversation.
I walked over to them and said, “is everything OK?”
They both looked a bit startled, and for a moment, I felt like I’d interrupted something.
“Oh, I mean, obviously you can carry on your conversation! But we just wanted to check you were OK!”
At first, I had felt like I interrupted them having a heart to heart about something (maybe even L-word-gate) but it turned out they had just been getting on so well, they’d completely lost track of time. I think they’d just been talking about my friend’s boyfriend job. Afterwards, Andrew kept saying, “his job is so interesting! Coding about sports gambling!”
Eventually, Andrew had to go to meet his brother, and the rest of us went out for dinner. I brought my friend’s boyfriend up to speed with L-word-gate, and they were both helpful. I had been really wrong to worry about hanging with a newly engaged couple – well, with this newly engaged couple, anyway.
In the morning, they were helping me dry up and put away my cutlery. My cutlery is all different, bright colours. I was saying, “I like using a knife and fork of different colours, but colours that go together, and I quite like it if the colours also go with the food, like if I’m eating baked beans, I like using the orange fork.”
“Aw, I love you!” my friend said.
“You see, you can say it! Why can’t he!” I cried.
My friend gave me a hug and her boyfriend patted my arm.
We went out for breakfast, and then went out separate ways.
After Andrew had left to see his brother, he had sent me a few messages about how much of a good time he’d had with my friends. In the morning, he sent a couple more messages, and also tried to phone me.
Even though I had been feeling better about things, when I had woken up the next morning, I had been half-dreaming, half-thinking about ending things with him, because of how bad L-word-gate felt.
Even though I knew it was a bit extreme, the more that Sunday went on, the more I couldn’t stop thinking it was only option. He had sent me all these messages and tried to call me, and I just couldn’t reply. I was supposed to be seeing him on Wednesday, but I just felt like I couldn’t do it.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, he called me again.
I did answer this time.
“Are you pissed off with me?” he asked.
“No, I’m not. It’s just… difficult.” I replied.
He said, “I thought maybe we could meet up today. Do you want me to come to you?”
It meant so much to me. Normally we only see each other once or twice a week, because of his shifts and the distance, and we had only just seen each other. I had told him I needed him not to let me avoid him, and he had done exactly what I needed, and been persistent when any normal person would have left me to it.
We met up that night and it was great. We talked more about how we felt, and had a really fun time together.
Since then, I’ve mainly been feeling excited about our relationship. We’ve both said we feel closer to each other than we did before L-word-gate. Some of what has happened is better than if he’d just said “I love you” back.
It feels very significant that he’s communicating so much with me, when he never has before, and he’s been responding to my needs.
But every so often, I still listen to the Failure Voice.