Many years ago, I had my wisdom teeth out. They had grown at an angle that made them very difficult to remove (they had to drill all the way down to the roots, and cut them in half, lengthways) so I had the option of having it done under conscious sedation, which I took.
It’s like a general anaesthetic, but you’re awake the whole time. You’re just very relaxed and have no memory of it afterwards.
I remember them putting a cannula in the vein in my hand. I was lying down, staring at the ceiling, and within a few seconds, the ceiling went wobbly.
The next thing I remember, it was hours later, and it was all over. The lovely dentist and nurse were saying, “do you want to try walking again?”
My ex-boyfriend, Balthazar, said that every time I tried to walk, I was still so sedated, I looked like a ‘mime artist pretending to walk down stairs.’
I remember the leaflet they gave me about conscious sedation beforehand.
“You must not make important decisions for 24 hours after sedation.”
I recently realised that the same is true at Christmas and New Year – you shouldn’t make important decisions at these times either, as your objectivity and rationality might be compromised.
I had a good Christmas; my family came to stay with me, and I hosted Christmas for the first time.
It went really well, but I felt really low over Christmas, and nearly broke up with Andrew on New Year’s Eve.
I guess it started at the start of December, with L-word-gate. I was upset at first, when I told him I love him and he didn’t say it back. However, after talking to friends and family, talking about in counselling, writing about it on here, and reading your helpful comments, I felt better. I realised that his behaviour and how he treats me are more important than whether or not he says the ‘L-word’.
I’ve had lots of boyfriends who found it easy to say they loved me, but their behaviour didn’t match it. For example, the Whippersnapper said he loved me but hardly ever wanted to see me. Matthew said he loved me but regularly made me feel bad on purpose.
Andrew treats me as if he loves me, and when I’ve explained what I mean by the L-word, he’s said he feels all the same things. He makes me feel so special, because he’s always so enthusiastic about seeing me or speaking to me, and I think he’d do anything for me.
I think that him not saying he loves me would only be a problem if the barrier to him saying it was something detrimental to our relationship, like him loving someone else, or him being unable to love me because I’m not right for him. However, it seems very clear that the barrier is nothing to do with me or our relationship – it’s just his lack of experience and the fact he’s never been in love before, and he’s hardly ever been told he’s loved by other people.
He says that what we have in our relationship is ‘uncharted territory’, and this is the closest he’s ever been to anyone. He thinks he’ll be able to say it eventually, but he doesn’t feel ready yet.
Any other problems we’ve had in our relationship seemed to be down to his lack of experience (e.g. never prioritising a relationship against work before) and as soon as he’s realised there’s a problem, he’s changed things.
So, first L-word-gate happened, then I felt better.
But as December progressed, I felt worse and worse, as various stressful things went on.
It was exciting having building work done in my flat. My bathroom and kitchen floors were rubbish and as soon as I bought the flat, I knew I had to get them fixed, but I put it off.
Both floors sloped upwards and then downward again, instead of being flat and level all the way across, and were covered with horrible, torn, stained lino. Additionally, the tiles in the shower only went halfway up the wall, so every day, shower water was pouring onto a wall that was half just painted plaster, so the plaster was getting bubbly and damaged.
The builder and his side-kick were really great, but it was stressful. I couldn’t use the shower for ages, and it took longer as the wall was much more damaged than expected.
This was my bathroom wall for a while:
One day I came home and everything was all over the place – the toilet was in the hallway and the fridge and washing machine were in the middle of the living room. I was stressed because I knew it was really inconvenient for my friend who was living with me, and I was worried my neighbours might be annoyed by the noise.
Also, I had a horrible job interview in December that really knocked my confidence. I realised that L-word-gate made me feel like a failure, and now, this job interview, had made me feel the same.
As time went on, my feelings about L-word-gate went backwards. I guess I hoped that, once he knew how much it meant to me, he would start thinking about it more and then say it, before long. When nearly a month had gone by, I started getting frustrated and angry with him for being such an emotional luddite.
I just can’t seem to let it go. I just so badly need him to say L-word back. I’ve started picking holes in everything he does.
I wrote that survey about love, and I’m planning to write another post with the results, which were great. (Thanks everyone who did it!)
But, I thought it would make me feel better, seeing the wide range in people’s interpretations of what love means.
But in a way, it made me feel worse. Each time I read another result, I felt like If all these people know what love is, why the hell doesn’t he know?
I know it was a self-selecting sample of people, so anyone who didn’t know what love is probably wouldn’t complete it, but still.
We didn’t see each other over Christmas, as he was visiting his family in a different part of the country.
The last time I saw him before Christmas was 22nd December. I met his friends for the first time. I had been worried about it, as two of them were girls he lived with for several years, and he seems very close to them. There was one I had flagged as a potential love rival (although I didn’t think that for long) and another one that absolutely didn’t seem my cup of tea.
However, it went really well. I really liked them, and they seemed to like me. One of them had written me a Christmas card, saying it was nice to finally meet me, (and spelt my name correctly, which lots of my lifelong friends don’t do), which I thought was a really nice touch.
However, I felt a bit upset afterwards, because it felt like it went well in spite of Andrew. He didn’t introduce me to anyone, so every time a new person arrived (and there ended up being five new people) I had to say, “sorry, which one are you?”
When I’ve introduced him to friends, I’ve tried to put him at ease by explaining in-jokes or bringing up things I’m proud of about him, or saying things like “tell them that story from the other day!”
However, if you saw footage of this meeting, you’d assume Andrew had never met me before, and he was the only one at the table who wasn’t interested in getting to know me. He didn’t speak that much, but when he did, it was only to ask his friends about things which usually lead to tangents I couldn’t join in with.
We spoke on the phone, later on, and I explained how I felt. I said I felt like it had gone really well, over all, and I liked them, but I was upset that he hadn’t behaved more like a boyfriend. I felt like he wasn’t proud of me or didn’t think I was special.
He was really apologetic and said he hadn’t intervened or said anything because he thought I was getting on well with everyone, and he didn’t want to seem like a patronising chaperone.
It turned out it was only the second time he’d ever introduced a girl to his friends. I suppose when I first introduced a boyfriend to my friends, as a teenager, he did complain of feeling left out, but I guess over the years, I’ve developed how I do it, to avoid making anyone feel like that.
I felt fine about it, after that. I feel confident that the next time he’ll make an effort to act more like a boyfriend, and even if it takes a bit of practice, it will be good in the end.
The next day, on the 23rd Dec, I was getting things ready before my parents arrived. Andrew had been keen to meet my parents, and even changed plans with his sister to try and make it happen, but in the end, it didn’t work out as my parents took too long to get to London from the Lake District.
I had done a big Christmas food shop and was making cakes and sausage rolls, in the morning. I couldn’t stop thinking about L-word-gate and I felt close to tears, as I listened to Christmas songs in my newly tiled kitchen.
I couldn’t stop thinking What’s the point of your relationship if he doesn’t love you?
I knew I needed to talk to him, so we spoke on a video call. I said I don’t know if I can carry on going out with him because it’s making me so miserable that he can’t say he loves me.
He was upset and said he really doesn’t want it to end between us, but he doesn’t feel ready to say it yet. He kept saying, “I just feel like it’s been going really well between us, and I just thought it would keep going well, and eventually it would feel right to say it.”
We spoke for about an hour, but in the end, I just said we might as well end the call because we weren’t getting anywhere. I need him to say he loves me, he can’t, so we’re stuck.
My parents arrived later that evening, and we had a good Christmas together. When I first suggested hosting Christmas, earlier this year, it was partly because of being excited about my new flat, and partly because, last year, the stress of doing all the Christmas things seemed to make my Mum’s memory worse.
A few months ago, when I first suggested we do it differently this year, my Mum had seemed a bit unsure not being the host, whereas my Dad was very keen, as it meant my difficult Uncle wouldn’t be coming.
However, on Christmas Day, my Mum kept saying how special it was that everything was being done for them. The Christmas dinner went well, and I only got slightly stressed at one moment, when I was about to dish up. I had 200 degrees of oven heat on my thighs, and half the dishes weren’t quite ready, and the other half were on the cusp of burning. I’d just about created enough space for my Dad to carve the meat, when my Mum started getting under my feet trying to “warm the plates, otherwise it’ll spoil the dinner,” when I’d already vetoed plate-warming, due to lack of space.
We had a really nice day, and my Mum said it was the best Christmas dinner she’d had (I’m sure it wasn’t, but I appreciated it).
A few weeks earlier, I had been a bit sad that my oldest brother wasn’t planning to spend it with us, for the first time ever. He was spending it with his new girlfriend. However, on the day, I was glad it was just me and my parents when I was getting stressed about the pigs in blankets, and then my brother and his girlfriend came and spent a few days with us from Boxing Day, which was great.
We spoke to my other brother, in Australia, and his family, a few times, on the phone.
We did really cool things, like on 27th Dec, we spontaneously decided to spend the day in Brighton, which was great. On 28th Dec, we went into central London and went to the Tate Modern.
It was lovely spending time with my family, but my Mum’s memory isn’t getting any better. One morning my Mum was tearful about it, as she knows it’s getting worse. Most of the time it’s OK, but she would often ask the same questions or say the same things, with no idea she had already said it. Her attention span doesn’t seem as long, and she struggled to find words more. There were some memories from longer ago, in the past, which she had lost some details of, like whether it was me or my brothers that did things. However, it was interesting when she told me about other memories from her life, which she had never told me before.
One morning I was tearful about the situation with Andrew, and whereas usually, I find it really helpful going to my Mum for advice, this time, she couldn’t remember enough about the situation to help. It makes me feel so sad and worried.
Andrew seemed really keen to speak on the phone every night. We’ve started using video chat most times. We both hated it at first, as we hated seeing our own faces on the screen, but now he tends to phone me with video chat every time, because he ‘wants to see my face’.
Sometimes I didn’t answer, because I was playing a board game with my family, or something, or because I felt too upset to talk to him. Then, he would try a few more times, or call me again in the morning. Sometimes, when we spoke, he was reluctant for the call to end.
It’s such a change from when we first met, and we just texted, and not always every day.
On OkCupid, in the questions you can fill in, there was a question that said “how often would you expect to be in touch when you’re in a relationship?”
He had put “less than every day.”
However, now, he seems to really miss it if we don’t speak every day.
I can’t explain why I felt so gloomy. Most of the time, when I was with my family, I was quite jolly. Maybe it was a combination of
- a background level of slight stress, because it was small space for so many people to be in for so long. Stress at things like my parents not putting their mugs on coasters, not rinsing the suds off things when they washed up, and constantly having to rearrange the fridge to find more space for leftovers
- a weird mixture of feeling like I didn’t have a minute to myself to think, but also thinking too much
- drinking more than usual
- the focus on relationships and family, and the sense of Christmas and New Year as a barometer for how your life is going overall
- not seeing Andrew in person, to be able to talk properly
One night and then morning, I got myself into a bit of state, after talking to him.
Andrew’s family sound quite different to mine. His Dad is a Communist, and his Mum is a Catholic, and basically he has inherited guilt from both directions. He feels guilty if he feels he’s having ‘too much luxury’ (including having Tropicana orange juice) and he feels guilty if he’s having ‘too much fun’.
His family don’t seem to be big on presents. During the time I’ve been with him, I’ve seen him receive presents from other people and not open them for ages, because he feels he ‘doesn’t deserve them’.
When we talked about what presents we’ve given our exes, he couldn’t remember a single thing he gave Girlfriend Two, even though they were together for two years.
Once, apparently he decided to buy Girlfriend One, some clothes. He found a jacket in a shop, which looked promising. He asked the shop assistant for her advice, and she said, “Obviously, if you think it’s the right thing you should get it. But, just so you know, I buried my mother in something similar.”
Another time, he bought her a dress that was several sizes too big.
Apparently, he’s never given anyone jewellery before.
“Just so you know, I will be expecting jewellery. Nothing expensive, just a nice necklace Accessorize. I just wear a lot of jewellery and love wearing things people have given me,” I had informed him, ages ago.
I knew that, on 22nd December, he hadn’t bought me anything yet (or anyone else).
In the period in between Christmas and New Year, one time, when we were chatting on the phone, Christmas presents came up in conversation.
He said, “Don’t get your hopes up.”
After the phone call ended, I ruminated on this, and interpreted it as meaning, “I haven’t made any effort at all, as you don’t deserve it.”
I wound myself up and went a bit mad, and decided I was going to break up with him. It wasn’t that I cared whether he’d spent a lot of money or bought me a lot of things, but him not making an effort magnified my feelings of being unloved.
Even if he’d just drawn a picture on a post-it note, if he’d put a lot of effort into it, I would’ve been thrilled.
I’d bought him some cuff-links shaped like a cricket bat and ball, as he loves cricket. I also got him a Harry Potter mug that changed colour when you put hot water in, as we both like Harry Potter, and some weighing scales, because when we cooked dinner at his, he said he didn’t have any and always cooked the wrong amount of rice.
I also made him a January advent calendar. This was an idea I had in a dream, a few Januaries ago. When you have a Christmas advent calendar, it gives you something to look forward to, in the mornings. In my dream, I had thought that you need that more in January than December.
Andrew had told me he always feels depressed in January, so I thought he would benefit from it. Behind each door, I drew a picture of something we’d done, or wrote a catchphrase from our relationship.
He came around on New Year’s Eve, and it was the first time I had seen him over Christmas.
When he arrived, we kissed in my halfway. Sometimes, we first see each other, he’s up for some sex, straight away, but I feel like I’m not ready yet.
However, this time, as we kissed, and I felt his erection, I was up for having sex in my hallway.
When we had spoken on the phone, over the previous week, we’d talked about sex quite a lot. The night before, I had reminisced about the time, early in our relationship, when he kept teasing me throughout the night, and we even went out to the pub when all I wanted to do was have sex. He kept putting his hand in my underwear but then saying I had to wait.
I cursed myself from bringing that up, because when we were in my hallway, he remembered I had liked it, and did the same. He kept touching me but then not taking it any further, and saying I had to wait.
I went for a quick shower (as I’d ended up only just finishing the Advent Calendar 20 minutes before he arrived). When I got back from the shower, and suggested he ‘chat to me while I get dressed’, I managed to break him and we had really good sex.
It was so good, I tried to say his name at one point, but I couldn’t remember it.
I felt so good to be back together. It felt like being home.
After some post-coital cuddling, we got dressed and went to the shop, to get ingredients for our New Years’ Eve dinner. As we walked down the street, I started having dark thoughts again, like he doesn’t love you.
I started thinking of how I might say to him that we should break up, later on.
He looked at me and grabbed my hand, and held it tightly. We had fun in Sainsbury’s.
When we got back from the shop, we exchanged our presents.
He had got me a nice necklace from Accessorize, as instructed. Not only that, but he’d got me the nicest necklace in the shop. The last time I went to Accessorize, I looked around the whole shop, and bought something similar for Faith, for her birthday, as it was the nicest necklace they had. He said he’d spent a lot time trying to choose the right thing, but hadn’t wanted to ask anything else their advice.
He had also got me a small piece of artwork. I love ladybirds, and art, and things that have been made out of something else, and he was a piece of artwork with ladybirds that had been made out of old coke cans. It was perfect.
He loved his presents from me. He said he was ‘bowled over’ by the advent calendar.
Even though it had gone so well, I got really upset and it all came out about how bad I was feeling. I sat on the sofa being quiet and moving further and further away from him, and he kept moving closer and closer, until he was on top of me, hugging me.
I told him how bad I felt and that I didn’t think I could go on, being so miserable. Him not being able to say he loved me made me feel so unloved and like such a failure. At first, I just felt bad when I was on my own, and I over-thought and tortured myself about it, but now I had started feeling awful when we were together, and I felt a rush of love and wanted to say it, but I couldn’t.
He was really upset and said he wanted us to stay together, and that he thought he would say it eventually. He said the same things he’d said before, about how strong his feelings were for me, and how our relationship was completely uncharted territory. He said that he wanted us to have a future together.
For a lot of the time, we just sat in silence on the sofa. I love the way that, with him, even when we’re having the equivalent of an argument, we just sit and quietly say how we feel, and there’s a lot of silences, as we both think. Sometimes, I got tearful and a bit dramatic and hyperbolic, like “I just think you’re never going to say it, so what’s the point!” Then, he always just seems upset that I’m upset, and strokes my arm or hugs me.
At one point, he said, “let me finish, please…” and that was the most heated I’d ever seen him.
I’m used to arguments involving furniture being flipped over or me being called horrible names, so this is great.
I kept saying, “I just feel so down, but you can’t give me what I need!”
He seemed really upset, in a reserved way, about the idea of ending things. (His eyes looked a bit shiny at times, and he went to the toilet, and when he came back, his eyes looked red, but he does have a lot of problems with his contact lenses.)
“I want us to stay together!” He said.
Then, an idea came into my head.
I thought about the things that people wrote in my survey, about what love means.
“Do you ever get, like, a warm feeling, when you see me, or think of me?” I asked.
“Yes! Every time.”
“How would you describe how it feels, like how you feel about me?”
“I don’t know… I’m never very good at knowing how I’m feeling. Like… excitement? Or, I suppose, joy?”
“Do you miss me, when we’re not together?”
“OK. Do you worry about me?” I asked.
“Yes. Especially since you’ve been feeling down lately. Why, do you worry about me?” he asked.
“Yes, especially because you’re a police man.”
“Do you ever feeling like your heart is full of love?” I asked.
He wasn’t sure about that one, and I couldn’t explain it, apart from saying it was like feeling full of warmth, joy and excitement, which we’d already covered.
I said, “you feel all the things I mean, when I say ‘I love you.’ Maybe, we could try staying together, and when I want to say ‘I love you’, I will, and maybe you say back ‘I feel all the same things you feel’.”
“OK! Let’s try that!”
Then, he kind of put his foot in it when I was asking him some other questions. It isn’t worth explaining who said what, but it made me go back to thinking we shouldn’t be together.
I realised something I hadn’t realised before, and sobbed as I said to him, “this all makes me have feelings I haven’t had for years and years. You not being able to say you love me reminds me when I was a teenager and no one liked me. When I was anorexic because I thought if I could just get thin enough, people would like me.”
He gave me a massive hug and said, “but this is a completely different situation. So many people like you and love you. And I like you so much.”
I felt a bit overwhelmed and went and sadly washed up in the kitchen. He kept piping up, every so often, saying, “can we try what you said? Can we try and stay together?”
After a while, I thought about how great he is, and thought, Do you really want to lose him because he said the wrong thing? When he clearly does love you, even if he can’t say it?
I said, “OK. We can try it so if I say I love you, you can say something back, like ‘I feel all the things you feel.’ And if I promise to try and remember that this situation is not like when I was a teenager, can you promise to try and be less passive about saying you love me? Because, it sounds like you’re just planning to passively wait for it to happen, but it might be more of an active thing. Like, you’re just expecting it to be a delivery you have to wait to receive, but maybe it’s something you have to go and collect. Maybe it will involve taking a risk and feeling uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.”
Later on, we hugged and I said, “I’m sorry I can’t just take this into my stride more.”
He said, “you are as you are. And I am as I am.”
Acceptance. That’s another thing that love means.
For the rest of the evening, we had a great New Years’ Eve night.
We had planned to play a board game and watch the new Black Mirror episode, but, as usual for us, we spent too long talking and didn’t do either.
I put the TV on at about 11.30pm, and we flicked between Jools Holland and the fireworks on the BBC.
We had some Prosecco at midnight, and kissed and hugged.
“You were my best thing in 2018,” I told him.
“You were my best thing in 2018,” he replied. When he says nice things back to me, I know he really means them now.
We had the central London fireworks on the TV, but didn’t pay any attention to them, because I realised that, from my living room window, I could six or seven firework displays on the horizon, as my flat is on the top floor and kind of on a hill.
We turned the lights off and pressed our faces to the window to watch the distant fireworks.
It made me love my flat even more – my other best thing of 2018.
We looked down and saw a bus driver waiting at the bus stop, opposite my house.
“Shall we give him some prosecco?” I suggested.
Andrew said he probably wasn’t allowed to drink on duty, and we didn’t want to start the year getting someone fired.
“Shall I take him out a gluten-free mince pie instead?” I asked, but then the bus drove off.
We danced around my living room and eventually played half-hearted jenga, before going and having the first sex of 2019.
The next day, we watched Black Mirror in bed, and he let me have tea out of his new Harry Potter mug.
When he was leaving, we said what a great New Year’s Eve we’d had, despite nearly breaking up.
We hugged in my kitchen, and I said, “I love you.”
He said, “I feel all the same things you feel.”