I wrote most of this post back in February, but then everything happened with the anniversary of the fire and I wanted to write about that instead, and didn’t get round to completing this.
Now it feels more relevant as Part Two of this saga has come up.
Andrew and I had our first proper argument a few weeks (now months) ago, and it was great.
In the past, we’ve had serious conversations and even talked earnestly about whether to stay together, but I haven’t counted those as arguments, more like calm communication about serious issues.
We’ve also had some debates about politics and things, he’s annoyed me by not having the correct opinions, but I haven’t counted those as arguments either, as we’ve often ended up play-fighting.
This time, I am counting it as an argument because we both got upset and angry with each other.
We were at my house and had just had dinner. We were going to watch The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix and I was waiting for my computer to start up.
Every so often, he talks about whether his new-ish mattress is sagging in the middle. (It isn’t.) It’s one of his perfectionism obsessions.
I can’t remember why this came up, but he jokingly said, “if it is sagging in the middle, it’s your fault because of all the sex we have.”
I said, “aha! Does that mean you haven’t slept with anyone else on that mattress then? If no one else is to blame?”
The reason I said that was that Andrew and I have a running joke about the fact he won’t tell me how many people he’s slept with.
I know he doesn’t have to, but I’m curious and I’ve told him my number. I’ve even offered to show him the list.
He’s says that he doesn’t want to tell me because he’s embarrassed that his number is lower than mine. I’ve been assuming his number is three, because I know that’s the minimum it could be. I know he’s slept with me and his two ex-girlfriends. I think he hasn’t had many or any one night stands. He told me he nearly had one once, but then ‘had a freak out and left’.
I find it slightly surprising he won’t tell me his magic number, when he’s told me a lot of other details about his sexual history. I know all kinds of sexual stuff he did with his exes, and he’s told me all about other girls he dated. I even know Girlfriend Two gave him a handjob in Richmond Park.
In some ways, if he was cagier about the whole thing, it would feel more consistent. I know lots of couples who just haven’t shared much about their sexual history. However, for some reason, it just has panned out that we’ve talked about our sexual and relationship quite a lot. I think it’s because we’re both not that jealous, we both like telling stories about people from our past, and we both like hearing details about each other’s pasts.
However, it didn’t bother me much, as I assumed his number was just three, and he was just reluctant to confirm that, as he was embarrassed by the lowness.
And also, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. He’s with me now.
Anyway, every so often it comes up in conversation, and it’s a fun thing we have banter about. He doesn’t seem to mind, and I try to sneakily find out more by asking clever questions. It’s fun because he’s the one who’s a detective. (This may be more fun for me than him.)
So this time, I asked the sneaky question about the mattress. I just expected him to say the usual, “you can’t catch me out with that!”
But he didn’t. He thought about it for a moment, then said, “No, I have slept with someone else in that bed.”
“Who!” I asked.
It must have been someone I don’t know about. There was a 4 year gap in between Girlfriend Two and me, and he didn’t buy that bed that long before he met me.
“Who was it?!” I asked.
He completely refused to answer.
He said it was because he was embarrassed that he’s slept with fewer people than me, but that didn’t make sense to me.
I already know about the key players, and I was assuming they were the only ones. If you don’t want a low number, bump it up by filling me in about the stragglers.
He kept saying he didn’t want to tell me because ‘it’s not significant’ or ‘it’s not really your business’.
I kept saying, “but you’re making it significant by being so weirdly secretive about it!”
I don’t actually care how many people he’s slept with. I didn’t care that the Whippersnapper had slept with about 80, and I didn’t care when I thought Andrew had slept with 3.
I don’t mind hearing about women he’s slept with in the past.
I know he’s entitled to keep his past a secret. I just felt upset because, whereas he’d been extremely open about everyone else from his past, for some reason he was treating this mattress woman differently and keeping her a secret.
I felt very threatened the secrecy.
I got upset.
“It’s just not significant! It’s someone I only met about three times!” He said.
“If it’s not significant, why won’t you just tell me!” I replied.
“It’s someone I only spent about… well, if you only count the time we were awake…”
“Stop giving me statistics! I don’t want statistics!”
I went and washed up in the kitchen and then didn’t know what to do with myself.
I sat back down on the other side of the living room from him.
“I feel very upset and threatened by this woman because you’re being so secretive! When you’ve been very open about everyone else!”
“Well, I think you’re being… well…” and then he left a really long pause.
Even longer pause than Davina McCall used to leave before saying who was being evicted from the Big Brother house.
Then he seemed to decide against finishing his sentence.
Then he changed his mind back, and said “…well. A bit… unreasonable.”
Even at this point, when I was upset, I kind of loved him for that. With my ex-boyfriend, by this stage during an argument I’d be cowering in another room while he swore at me through the door. I loved how thoughtful Andrew was about whether to say the word ‘unreasonable’ or not.
I went off into the bedroom, and he followed me.
We sat on the edge of my bed, and he eventually told me who Mattress Woman was.
It was someone he went on about three dates with, shortly before he met me. She was slightly older than him, and divorced and didn’t live in London. She was more keen than he was.
“She was quite rude,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we were in this pub, trying to find a table. These people said they were leaving soon, and we could have their table when they left, and she said, ‘can you just leave now?'” He said, in a way that was both disapproving and admiring, at the same time.
“I honestly just didn’t tell you because it wasn’t really anything,” he said.
As soon as he’d told me, I didn’t feel jealous or threatened, but we were still upset with each other, as we both thought the whole argument had been unnecessary, for different reasons.
We went back to the living room, and I still sat far away from him, as I was still a bit pissed off.
Then I looked at him and he had his hands over his eyes, and I thought he might be crying.
I immediately went over and sat next to him on the sofa, and gave him a massive hug.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
We both apologised for upsetting each other, and lay on the sofa hugging, then we went to bed.
“Well, we made it 8 months until our first argument,” I said, as we hugged in bed.
“I’ve never had an argument with a girlfriend before,” he said.
“What?! But you’ve had two 2-year relationships!”
“Well, with Girlfriend Two, I suppose she irritated me at times, but I didn’t really care what she did.”
“What about Girlfriend One?”
“I didn’t know I could say anything. And I guess I was scared to, in case she left,” he replied.
“God. I’ve had blazing rows in the past.”
We started kissing, and the kissing escalated.
“Make-up sex is one of the best things about having an argument,” I said, knowingly.
“Really? Are we allowed to? If we’ve just argued?”
“Yeah, of course we are!”
We carried on doing advanced kissing.
“I think it’s a nice way of reconnecting and moving on. In a way, I feel even closer to you than usual,” I said.
“OK, you’re right,” he said hesitantly, moving on top of me.
We carried on kissing, and then I looked at him, and said, “you’re not 100% comfortable, are you?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I think I am.”
“If you’re not sure, than you’re not 100% comfortable. Let’s leave it.”
We went to sleep, hugging a lot.
In the morning, we got amorous again. The section of sleep in between the Argument and the Sex seemed to reassure him that it was now Within the Rules.
However, we had limited time before I needed to leave for work.
“I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to come, I’m too distracted by work,” I said, after a while. I offered to do something for him, but he kept trying to carry on doing things for me, despite me trying to get up and saying there wasn’t time.
I got up to have a shower.
“Do you want to come with me?” I said. We were still kissing and touching each other quite a lot.
He got out of bed and followed me down the hallway to the bathroom, mischievously masturbating as he walked.
I turned on the shower, and knelt in front and gave him some oral as I waited for the water to heat up.
Then, we got under the water together. I kissed and hugged him and he carried on addressing his own needs.
I got my bathroom re-tiled just before Christmas.
When I realised where he was aiming, and how close he was to completing the transaction, I said, “don’t cum on the new tiles!”
Then we both laughed and I held him, as he did, indeed, cum on the new tiles.
I gave the tiles a good rinse.
Some of my friends have said they thought I was being unreasonable during this argument, especially for being so curious about how many people he’s slept with. Reading this back, I do think I should’ve been more respectful of his boundaries about not wanting to tell me.
I guess I was caught up in a mixture of being very nosy and curious, and being used to him being so open about other personal things. I also thought it was silly to be embarrassed about his number being low, as I didn’t judge him at all, so that made me respect his need for privacy less than I should.
In my next counselling session, we talked about this argument.
We discussed how the only thing that felt threatening about this other woman was the secrecy.
One of the things we’d done in earlier sessions, was to draw a diagram of my family and talk about my family relationships. Then, we’d gone through each of my ex-boyfriends and drawn diagrams of their families, and looked for patterns.
We did this before I met Andrew, so I’d asked if this time we could do it for Andrew’s family in this session, and we had done that earlier in the session.
“How do you think Andrew would feel, if he knew how we’d been talking about his family in this session?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I mean, probably won’t show him this, because he might feel a bit… OH.”
I had a sudden realisation.
“I want to keep it private from him,” I said.
We talked about how my family is quite open about things, and that openness and secrets seem like they might be approached differently in Andrew’s family.
I said that once, Andrew told me that if he speaks to one parent on the phone, they might not pass on his news to the other parent, as keeping some information back gives them a slight sense of one-upmanship.
I contrasted that with the way that I can’t even phone my parents to quickly tell them one thing, without them spending ages faffing around putting it on speakerphone, so no one misses anything.
My family and upbringing had given me the message than openness is good.
On the other hand, some of my past relationships have given me the message that secrets are dangerous. One of my ex-boyfriends seemed to have a few flirtations with other girls which he kept secret from me. Balthazar, as much as I loved him, did lie to me about things like alcohol and money.
I started to say to the counsellor that I didn’t have any secrets from Andrew. Then I remembered about this blog. (At this stage, I had been dropping into conversation that I had a blog, but was vague about what it was about. Over the months, I’ve dropped more crumbs until he asked recently if I’ve mentioned him on the blog. I said, “you might have made the odd appearance.”)
I had been writing down things I wanted to remember from this session.
I wrote down,”Privacy is not always dangerous.”