Despite writing about matters of the heart on a regular basis I wouldn't be arrogant enough to suggest that I haven't made mistakes myself in the past, why, it was only recently that I spent a good six months at the end of a relationship kidding myself that what I had was actually far more than it was. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and despite living in a fairly constant state of anxiety during this period, at the time I refused to recognise that texting your boyfriend of a year - 'Hey stranger!' (cringe) could be called a subtle indication (or glaring flourescent red light) that things weren't quite as balanced as I hoped they were. It is only now with the wisdom of experience and a bit of distance, that I recognise that, you know what ... he just wasn't that into me.
Recently, I received an email from a reader, let's call her 'sad and misguided'. Ok, let's not, let's call her Mary. Mary wrote to me, prompted by the fact that she was confused and anxious about her relationship - about her partner - who regularly needed 'space', had no intention of moving in (after two and a half years) and frequently got irritated when she would call round unannounced.
She reasoned that it was better the devil you know, she didn't want to pressure him, maybe she was needy and that perhaps, in time, he would come around to the idea of some sort of commitment. After all, it's not like he was beating her up or cheating on her! Way to go Mary, that's a glass half full if I ever saw one.
My response was that she clearly wasn't putting enough into the relationship, should back the hell away and make sure that, moving forward, her partner had absolute control over every aspect of their relationship.
Why stop at one person making you feel like crap when you could have two! Self-worth? F**k that, life's too short to feel good about yourself.
No. My response was this.
There are a number of easy ways to recognise a bad relationship and without torturing her further by reeling off the job she'd already done for me - guys who want space, want space from you. Guys who won't commit after two and a half years won't commit to you and guys who don't like being called on unannounced don't like being called on unannounced by you.
I decided to explain, in simple terms, the one golden rule that should apply to all people uncertain about the relationship they are in.
If the person you are with makes you unhappy ... you should leave the relationship.
But he's nice to me most of the time!
Most of the time isn't good enough. That's not to suggest that people can't argue and be utter a-holes to each other from time to time, but just that when somebody isn't nice to you regularly, and it's one-sided, it's not good enough. Would you allow a friend to be nice to you 'most of the time'? Would you allow a colleague to be nice to you 'most of the time'? No, of course you wouldn't. So allowing a partner the luxury of picking and choosing when they feel like being nice, leaving you second guessing their mood and being grateful when they're having a good day. Yeah, there's a thing called emotional abuse, you might want to Google it.
But he's busy at work!
So, there's a funny thing about men and work. Isn't it strange how when you first meet a guy (or there is the promise of sex) they never seem to have any meetings, good timing or what! I have known CEOs of international companies, who, when the promise of phone sex is on the table, have made time for the call; men who, when in the first throws of romance, can always fit in some kind of contact. I don't know how many times I have said this and, Lord knows, it's through trial and error that I've come up with this beauty, but ...
If a man has time to eat and shit he has time to text.
And presuming your man has time to both eat and shit, (though, God willing, not at the same time) then he has time to text and if he doesn't it's because he doesn't want to.
But he has issues!
Issues? Great, give him the number of a good therapist.
But I don't want to be on my own!
You don't want to be on your own? What are you, five? A break up is shit, you feel like crap for a while, struggle to eat, struggle to sleep, have to stop yourself from hunting down the nearest smack head in rehab in a bid to have a conversation with somebody who can relate to the effects of drug withdrawal but it will pass. Not only will it pass but it will make you a stronger person on the other side, somebody who knows when to say enough is enough and not settle for a life full of phone watching and constant anxiety.
But I think if I hang in there he will change!
No, he won't change. Not because people are incapable of change, far from it, I believe there is change within everyone but because after two and a half years of making you feel like crap and not caring that he does, this man isn't going to change for you.
But he must like me deep down or he wouldn't stay!
There is one thing I have learnt about the difference between men and women in my time as a relationship writer, it's not a one size fits all rule but, safe to say, it's a generalisation I would stand by. Men don't leave until there's something better to go to. Meaning that, historically women are actually far better equipped emotionally to leave because a situation doesn't feel right, with no safety net to catch the fall. Men? Yeah, they can be on their own but more often than not they'll jog along until you do the hard work for them and then find comfort in the nearest warm bosom elsewhere. So yes, he probably does like you, just like he's nice to you sometimes and 50% of the time doesn't get pissed off when you call round unannounced, if that's good enough for you, knock yourself out girlfriend.
I could continue with my list of lame-arsed excuses to stay in a bad relationship but the point I am trying to make is this - there are no excuses for staying in a relationship that doesn't make you happy and anxiety, self doubt and confusion should never be part of the deal.
So Mary, sure, make your excuses and carry on as you are or open your eyes, and remind yourself that life is too short and the next time you find yourself using the expression 'sometimes nice to me' change it to 'not good enough thank you' .... Or my personal preference 'F**k you, you selfish arsehole' ... I think you'll find either work equally as well.