The aftermath of ‘the National Trust meltdown’

When I was driving us home from our troubled weekend away, occasionally Andrew kissed my shoulder.

“Ah, that’s nice. What was that for?” I asked.

“Because you’re brilliant,” he replied.

When we got back to mine, he stayed for half an hour or so, then went back to his place. Things seemed slightly less easy than usual between us, but OK.

I felt sad, disappointed and pissed off that weekend turned out as it did. I was embarrassed I had got visibly annoyed when we were hanging around outside the National Trust house, as it’s out of character for me. I felt insecure after spending a weekend with people I hadn’t really been able to connect with.

I also still felt sick and exhausted when I went into work on Monday morning.

On Mondays I work in GP surgery on my own all day, but on Tuesdays I share an office with two colleagues I’m good friends with. I told them about the awful weekend. They were sympathetic.

By the time I texted my friend Leona about it, I made myself laugh when I said “I nearly had a meltdown outside the National Trust.”

(For non-Brits, the National Trust is an organisation that preserves historic buildings and gardens. Visiting a National Trust house or garden is a staple of any earnest, middle class holiday. It’s usually associated more with mildly interesting historical artefacts, polite notices, and genteel gift shops, rather than meltdowns and drama.)

I started feeling better about the whole thing.

Until Andrew came around on the Tuesday night.

We were hugging and chatting in bed, when he said, “I thought maybe we could go and stay with Jim and Carrie in Wales?”

Oh god no. Really? I’d rather shit in my hands and clap.

Jim was Andrew’s closest friend from the group, but also probably the friend who made the least effort to talk to me. His wife was the one who didn’t say anything or even look at me when we arrived, when others were introducing themselves.

(She’d also the one who overheard us later on, horsing around when I said I was fucking Andrew up the arse, and Andrew was complaining about all the conversation being about children.)

When Jim did finally talk to me, I liked him. He was very cool (he had a hipster beard) and charismatic. I got the impression he was kind of the leader of the group, but also a bit selfish.

His wife did talk to me when I asked her direct questions, like about where she was from, but it was a struggle.

“Hmm. Maybe,” I said. “I guess it might be easier to get to know people if we were one on one.”

I suggested other couples from the group who I’d be more enthusiastic about visiting.

We got onto talking about the weekend.

Andrew said, “I was disappointed with how the weekend went. I felt let down by the way you got angry at the National Trust. It wasn’t necessary.”

At first I didn’t mind what he was saying too much, as I was also regretful that I got pissed off.

I said I was sorry.

However, as the conversation progressed I got more and more upset.

He said, “I thought you’d get on better with everyone, and they’d get on better with you.”

It felt like he was blaming me for the weekend not going well.

“A lot of the time it seemed like you didn’t want to be there,” he said.

A lot of the time I didn’t, frankly.

“What did you expect me to do that I didn’t? Whenever I could join in the conversation I did. I made efforts to talk to people all weekend. I came and joined in with the games even though I felt sick. What should I have done that I didn’t?” I said.

“Well, a lot of the time on the Saturday you weren’t really talking to anyone and just looked like you didn’t want to be there. I can’t really remember what happened on the Friday night.”

I reminded him that on the Friday night, I’d got on really well with everyone over dinner and helped clear up afterwards.

“And I chatted to the guys at the barbecue on Sunday.”

He agreed that was true.

I said that maybe, if he’d never thought this about me before, when he’d introduced me to people, maybe this time it was more about this group of friends than me.

I pointed out that he’d felt annoyed with his friends before I did, with their conversation being so child-focused.

He said that he’d managed to get past it and still make an effort, whereas I hadn’t, but he agreed when I pointed out that it was much easier for him because of his shared history with them.

I pointed out that Jim didn’t even speak to me until the last day, and he also agreed with that, and that they hadn’t made enough effort overall.

We got back on to National Trust-gate.

He said, “It wasn’t necessary to get angry. I thought after I supported you when we went to your old house in February, you could’ve done this for me.”

I got really pissed off then, and said it was completely unreasonable to compare the two. Just because he was amazingly supportive to me in one situation (visiting my old house, which burnt down, killing my ex-boyfriend), it doesn’t mean I owe him the sum of never getting annoyed for the rest of my life.

I tried to explain why I’d reached the end of my tether and how physically uncomfortable I felt, when I was getting ill and we were standing in the cold for no reason.

He said he didn’t think it was that annoying.

“Well, you have an unusually long fuse!” I said.

“Maybe that’s something you need to work on,” he said.

I can’t remember exactly at which point, but I ended up crying and getting hysterical.

I kept thinking about times over the weekend when I’d made an effort and I thought I’d got on well with people, and feeling really embarrassed because it must’ve not been enough.

It reminded me of being at school and groups of people not liking me. I kept having flashbacks of times when classmates made it clear they didn’t like me.

When I got upset, he was absolutely lovely to me. He was holding me and telling me he loved me.

“I didn’t mean it to come out like a character assassination!” He said.

I was worried I was being manipulative by crying. I thought it was important he was able to say how he felt. When I’d told him how I felt, after we visited my parents and things, he just took it and reflected on it, whereas I’d got upset and forced him to kind of backtrack.

However, I couldn’t stop it and I do think it was partly because he’d been bloody unreasonable.

I also think I got so emotional because I was feeling physically unwell. I didn’t stop feeling nauseous until a week later.

We had an OK evening once I calmed down.

I spoke to my friend on the phone, the following afternoon, and she made me feel much better. She said she’d felt like she was back at school once, when she was away for the weekend with a group of her boyfriend’s friends. She helped me understand how I was feeling.

When I spoke to Andrew on the phone, that evening, I said I didn’t ever want him to bring up the visit to my old house like that again.

“You can’t have that hanging over me forever. Even though you did something amazing for me, I’m still going to make mistakes sometimes.”

I also said I was hurt that he didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt, even though there hadn’t been a problem when he’d introduced me to anyone else.

“I think this weekend going badly was a reflection of you and your friends being at different life stages, but you’ve blamed me for it.”

He said he could see it from my point of view and apologised.

On the Thursday, when I came home from work, I unlocked the front door and found my hallway smelt of cooking. I wondered it was coming from my neighbour’s flat.

Then I got into the living room and found he’d unexpectedly come around and cooked dinner for us.

“I wanted to put things right between us,” he said.

We had a great evening, just hanging out and talking about our days and things, and then really great sex.

Things were starting to feel back to normal. Last weekend we had a good time together.

He’s a great one for having baths, and we had a bath together for the first time.

His bath has a complicated plug, where you have to turn a knob to release or close the plug. When I first got in, the bath nearly overflowed, so he released the plug slightly to let a bit of water out.

He then asked me to turn the knob back to put the back in, as I was nearer, but I accidentally got clockwise and anticlockwise mixed up, and emptied the bath.

Once we’d refilled it, we had a lovely time. He’d never had a bath with someone else before, and had been skeptical, but liked it.

We had dinner and then went out for a few drinks. We put the world to rights.We talked about how we still get butterflies before seeing each other.

The next day, we met up with two of his uni friends for a Sunday lunch, and had a really good time.

But there was still something nagging away at me, that I couldn’t let go of.

The way he said I’d ‘lost my temper’ at the National Trust, when actually, all I’d done was say quietly that I was cold and bored. Most of the people wouldn’t have realised.

I didn’t like the way he’d said losing my temper was something I needed to work on. He has an unusually long fuse. Mine isn’t as long as his, but still way longer than average.

“I was just 45 minutes late for meeting you and you didn’t even react! You’re one of the calmest people I know!” My friend Tess said, when I talked to her about it.

I felt like he was saying I wasn’t allowed to get pissed off, which rang alarms for me for two reasons.

Firstly, when I was in a slightly abusive relationship, I wasn’t allowed to have certain feelings that my ex-boyfriend didn’t like.

Once he got really angry and shouted at me aggressively for ages, calling me horrible names, because I’d ‘looked disappointed’. He cancelled his plans going to come with me to spend Easter with my parents, in the Lake District, because he wanted to go to a football match.

I said it was OK, but I looked disappointed that he wasn’t coming.

“You made NO ATTEMPT to mask your disappointment!” He stood over me, shouting and pointing in my face.

“I think it’s OK! or even important! To say if you’re disappointed or whatever, in a relationship! I don’t think I should have to hide it! Should I?” I replied uncertainly.

“I’d LOVE to live in your world, where everything is so BLACK AND WHITE!” He bellowed.

(We broke up shortly after that. There was a page on Mumsnet that I’d somehow stumbled across and got obsessed with, called ‘Am I being unreasonable?’ where people would post dilemmas and get (often brutal) feedback from strangers about whether they were the one in the wrong or not.

I created an account and posted ‘am I being unreasonable for not masking my disappointment?’ as I’d completely lost sight of what was normal in a relationship.

I got 5 pages of replies saying ‘please leave him.’

One person wrote “if you don’t leave him now, in 20 years you’ll end up beating him to death with a statue of his favourite footballer, saying ‘I am disappointed! I am disappointed!'”)

I don’t ever want to be in another relationship where I’m not allowed to have certain feelings. I’m allowed to get pissed off sometimes.

The second reason, is that it wasn’t easy for me to reach a point where I feel like it’s OK to be angry.

When I was 15, I had depression and developed an eating disorder. I self-harmed sometimes. It was right before it became so widespread, in the late 90s, and I thought I’d invented it myself, as I had never heard of anyone else doing it.

I had counselling, and realised in those sessions that part of reason I self-harmed was that I had no idea how to feel or express anger.

I felt some anger because a group of former friends started excluding me. I didn’t think I was allowed to feel angry and I didn’t know how to express this feeling, so the only way I could make it go away was to take it out on myself.

I’ve read articles since then about how girls/women self-harm more than boys/men, and this could be due to gender differences in how we view anger.

We have so few role models of women expressing anger in a healthy, socially acceptable way.

I think in Britain, we are all quite uncomfortable about anger, compared to other nations. However, when men get angry, there’s a sense of powerfulness and strength in how it’s perceived. When women get angry, they’re seen as crazy, ugly and unacceptable.

Andrew saying I need to work on my anger, after my very mild expression of dissatisfaction, felt jarring.

I wasn’t sure whether to say anything, as we had put it behind us and were moving on. I didn’t want to have yet more arguments.

However, I was surprised it had happened and it was making me question other things about our relationship.

Yesterday morning, I woke up in his bed. He was keen to have sex, but I didn’t feel like it, which was unusual for me. I hadn’t felt like it the last time I’d seen him, either.

He said ‘OK’, and was hugging me, and asked if anything was wrong.

I thought about it, and realised I probably did need to talk to him about it.

“Can I talk to you about something? I didn’t want to bring this up again, but it’s been playing on my mind,” I said.

“OK.”

“Some of that conversation we had, after the weekend away, it reminded me of…” I realised it was going to be hard to say.

I took a long sip of tea.

“I was surprised by…” I trailed off.

“What did it remind you of? Actually, you don’t have to say if you don’t want,” Andrew said.

“Well, I know they’re two completely different things, but when I was with Matthew…” I told him the story above.

“…I’m not saying you’re anything like him, but when you said those things about me losing my temper, it reminded me of that. I don’t want to be in another relationship where I’m not allowed to get pissed off.”

Andrew said he agreed.

He said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said, about the weekend, and I think you’re right. I felt out on a limb with my friends and it wasn’t your fault. I’m sorry.”

I was sitting up, on the bed, and he was lying down.

I moved towards him and realised I had cold sweat pouring from both my armpits.

He said, “If I’m ever reminding you of Matthew again, tell me! Or if you can’t tell me at the time, text me afterwards.”

Then I realised he had tears in his eyes.

“I don’t ever want to be Matthew-esque,” he said. “Of course you can get pissed off. You’re right.”

“Thank you for being lovely about it,” I said.

“But I haven’t been!” He said. “I’m sorry.”

Shortly after that, I did want to have sex with him again, and everything felt back to normal.

11 thoughts on “The aftermath of ‘the National Trust meltdown’

  1. I am stunned he thought you had anger issues because you expressed annoyance with having to stand outside in the cold for an unusually long time when you weren’t feeling well! WTH. I’m glad he realized it was more about him and his relationship with his friends than about you. ❤ And I'm so happy to hear that things are back on track!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ve been impatiently waiting for your post and hear your news lol
    I think that you need to stop comparing your current relationship with your previous ones, that could only harm both of you. However, communicating what’s bothering you with your partner is a great idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with the poster above. People who are involved with us in the present shouldn’t pay for the misdeeds of others in our past or youth. You’re mad at him because of girls in early school??? Another man? That’s the definition of unhealthy baggage, and it’s not theirs to fix, nor pay fees for! Gotta be honest: If I were in a relationship where my every move is observed, documented, fragmented and scrutinized, then “talked about to reprimand me” I would consider it abusive and hightail it out of there, no woman would suggest a friend stay in such situation, is it different because the genders are swapped here? I think Andrew is beginning to rebel against the control. Dater be careful this doesn’t backfire, because there’s only so much a man/woman can take when they’re constantly told they fail you. You either love him as he is or you don’t- why are you trying to change him? Again: We wouldn’t tolerate this from a man. I hope you put your feelings aside and think of the big picture here- I say it in good faith.

    Like

  4. Ouch Dater, that one stung. I feel injured on your behalf and I know you use this blog as a sort of therapeutic journal, so you kind of expect that readers will understand your perspective. I hadn’t thought of it in the same way that Raquel did but that’s perhaps because I enjoy your storytelling and have known you for ages (how it feels anyway!). However, maybe there’s a grain of truth on both sides? Maybe, by nature, you are extremely reflective and analytical (hence name of blog!), and you can’t help but pore over past relationships and friendships, and slights and hurts? It;s what makes you human, and a delight to read. Don’t be too hard on yourself. In your telling of the National Trust debacle, I sided with your feelings, which weren’t in the least unreasonable. I think you behaved well even by your standards – which are higher than most people’s. Andrew tries hard and so do you – that’s the definition of a good relationship right there.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s