Monday, September 6, 2010

When your Ex Gets Engaged Before You

Warning to my readers: This is a long emotional ex-relationship rant which is something I felt I had to get out of my system. I will not be offended if you decide to skip this. But if you have ever had your heart broken or had a relationship where you loved someone and hated them equally passionately or hdd a break up where you never received any closure and found it hard to move on... well, maybe you will enjoy my story. I certainly feel better after writing it all down. Hopefully now it will make it easier to forget and move on.

The day he walked through the elevator door and grinned at me with that mischievous grin and those stupid stupid braids, I knew that life as I knew it was over. I would never be the same. My life was forever altered. It sounds dramatic right? It was.

Perhaps it was one of the single most dramatic moments in my life. Believe me, I wish that I could say otherwise.

Technically, the first time I spoke to him on the phone... I knew. His voice. So perfect with his posh British accent... Later, I would find I could listen to him for hours. It's cheesy, I know but he literally had me at "hello." Oh man. I should have known then that I was done for. I should have hung up right away and told him the deal was off that it was all a mistake. That he absolutely did not have a job working anywhere in the vicinity of me. Or maybe I should have fled the country immediately. Unfortunately, I didn't... And 7 (almost 8) years later, I still think about him way more often than I want to admit.

It was my second week living in China. My job required me to train teachers that someone else had hired. I had a group of 5 people to train. One of them was the Scottish Boy who somehow managed to miss the group training due to a previously scheduled vacation.. He needed to reschedule a special training time with me. On the weekend. I agreed. I would learn later that with him it was always an exception. He was above rules or "normality." He could charm anyone and therefore pretty much get away with anything.

After several phone calls apologizing for being several hours late, the Scottish boy finally managed to arrive at the office - disheveled and hungover - or possibly still drunk as I learned later. He stumbled out of the elevator wearing a maroon shirt and tan trousers (as he called fondly them) - an outfit I would come to later despise and attempt to hide from him so he could not wear it anymore. His terrible clothing later became a source of contention between us.

So, we got on with the training and began working together. I don't know if was the tan trousers, the stupid braids in his hair, the mischievous smile, or more likely his charming voice, but I found myself falling hard for the Scottish Boy and we soon found ourselves in a relationship.

The Scottish Boy challenged me in ways I had never been challenged. He was intellectually superior and could drink me under the table. When we went on vacation, he would print an article that he felt I should read, then we would debate the article - of course he always won the argument and usually manage to make me feel inadequate. He challenged me to read more and to develop articulate opinions about the world. He would throw away my gossip magazines and replace them with the Economist. He mildly tolerated my love for crime novels but encouraged me to alter them with non-fiction.

I was in awe of him. He spoke fluent Mandarin and in addition to his teaching job, had many business ventures on the side. His goal was to be a self-made millionaire by the time he turned 30. I have no idea if he achieved this or not but I never doubted that he would do it. His affluent background and privileged life was reflected in both his accent and his boarding school stories. His mother is to this day one of the most intimidating women I have ever met. I think he found her to be so as well and this most likely shaped him in ways that I will never understand.

And he was fun! Hanging out with him was always an adventure. I never to this day have met someone who could challenge me on so many levels. Some nights during the time we lived together we would blast house music and drink the better part of a bottle of vodka (usually waking up surprised at 9 am to find the music still blaring and all the lights still on) and other nights we would curls up in bed reading and talking about the state of the world.

When asked about him, I describe him as "the person you want to sit next to at a table" or "the coolest person in the room." He was literally the guy that boys wanted to be and girls wanted to be with. He was always the center of the room, the center of the group. The undisputed leader. 

His Braids were like this
I guess it was his charisma that really made him stand out, although I later came to believe it was the way he managed to subtly manipulate people. Looks-wise, he is probably average: tall dark and attractive but certainly not conventionally handsome. His fashion sense was disastrous. As I previously alluded to, he wore his hair in terrible braids (think Chris Cross as in 'Chriss Cross will make you jump jump' - the irony of this was lost on him as he was way too cool to know who Chris Cross was). His mother finally convinced him (actually, I think she paid him) to cut off the braids (despite my begging, I could never get him to do it for me) and his appearance generally improved as a result, but he tended to wear a baseball cap to cover his prematurely greying hair. The baseball cap was unfortunately another source of contention between us since he tended to favor a Yankees cap over one of the many Boston Red Sox hats I gave him over the years which he claimed to loose. Hello, I'm from Massachusetts! In my part of the world 'Yankees Suck.' and you do not wear Yankee hats unless you are looking for trouble. Unfortunately, he knew this and wore the Yankees Cap just to spite me. Cuz that's how he was.

He was hot and cold. Sometimes the sweetest lover under the sun showering me with "cuddles and kisses". Sometimes the coldest person I knew angrily pushing me out of bed for breathing too loud whole asleep or when awake purposefully criticizing me and saying hurtful things to make me feel insecure. I learned that if I asked for something, he would probably deny me, but if I wished for something silently, that he would understand and usually do it. I found that rather than trying to directly influence his fashion choices, that if I really wanted him to wear something, then it was better to crumple it up and throw it on the floor of the bedroom and then he would most likely choose that outfit out of pure laziness (see I found ways to manipulate him too) but if I were to suggest that he wear a shirt that I liked, then he would flat out refuse.

He claimed that he didn't believe in emotions. He pretended not to have any. He learned this from his mother he said. He encouraged me to think logically and not with my heart - no good will come of that he said. He always tried to give off an appearance of being extremely tough. But it always seemed to me that his emotions were so close to the surface. In fact looking back, I sometimes believe that he was the most emotional guy I ever dated.

I was living in China on a permanent basis for a year and a half. We dated the entire time. When I was leaving, I was actually glad to leave him. I thought we were done. I wanted something different and I was tired of how he treated me. And to this day, I swear that if the boy "with no emotions" hadn't broke down and cried his eyes out the morning I was leaving, I honestly think that I might have left China and left him behind (just as I had with all the other boys). But when he cried... I was done. It broke my heart or perhaps it opened my heart to be broken again and again by him over the next years. But it was that moment when I left him the first time when I fell for him so hard.

Other than his terrible clothing,. the Yankees cap and the fact that after a year and a half together living in China, I moved to Sweden (although was often in China) and our relationship was logistically challenged by distance, our other major source of contention was his friends. Or to put it more precisely "how we got along as a couple in social scenarios." It's probably pretty obvious to you by now, he totally called the shots in our relationship. Early on, my friends were deemed more or less unacceptable (And truth be told, I didn't have that many friends in China so this was less of a big deal than it may sound). So, his friends were our focus. And according to him, they didn't like me.

So, what is a girl to do when her boyfriend's friends do not like her? Well... I will tell you what I did. I felt AWKWARD around them all the time! And this resulted in me acting funny and making everyone like me even less. But what could I do? If I was acting happy and confident, the Scottish Boy would tell me to stop being such an ego manic (he loved to us that word to describe me and others around him while ironically it was him that was probably the most egocentric of us all) and trying to draw all the attention to myself.

 If I was quiet and reserved and trying to keep a low-profile, I was accused of 'sulking' and ruining his happy mood. I couldn't win with him! And the more I tried to fit in, the more awkward and left out I felt. It didn't help that most of the time he intentionally didn't invite me along with his friends since he claimed "they don't like hanging out with you." So, when I was actually invited along, I was completely nervous.

It wasn't just that his friends didn't like me, it was like we had problems existing together in social situations. Looking back, I think it's because both of us were so used to being the center of attention, the leaders of the group. It was difficult for us to figure out how to work a room together when we both were fighting for the same seat at the table. We couldn't seem to put aside our strong personalities at all to give the other person a enough space to exist. He needed to be in control of all situations at all times and I also am used to being in the driver's seat. This constant power struggle was a continuous source of drama throughout our relationship.

Our relationship was volatile and hurtful and devastating. It was like continuously having your heart broken and continuously getting back together. The fatal yet addictive make up and break up cycle that is so beautiful and painful all at once (C'mon you know what I'm talking about). Our relationship lasted four years off and on. Hurting each other, getting back together, other people in between, sometimes other people at the same time, trying to make a relationship work between continents. Trying to make something work that we probably never meant to me.

He made me so upset at times that I couldn't eat. At one point, I lost so much weight that my hair started to fall out. I felt incredibly insecure all the time and got into destructive patterns of dating lots of men while apart from him, just to show that I could. Just to pretend that I was in control. To be sure that if he was dating other women, I was definitely dating more men. It was so destructive. I'm a smart girl. I knew that then as I know that now. But I couldn't stop it. His hold over me was too strong.

Whenever I hear the popular song of the moment "Love the Way You Lie" by Rhinna and Eminem or watch  watch that amazing video, I think of the Scottish Boy. He wasn't physical with me (although sometimes I felt that the relationship could have headed down that ugly path), but similar emotions were there. With him it was always so passionate that it was unhealthy. I knew it was unhealthy but I couldn't stand the thought of leaving him. I loved him as much as I hated him.

Anyway, our relationship went on and on and on until one day just he cut me off cold. One minute we were talking about figuring out a way to live together possibly by moving to a neutral place like Hong Kong (yes, if he had just said the word, I would have jumped oceans for him). And one day he stopped answering his phone, writing to me on messenger and emailing me. Yes. It was that sudden. And I was devastated.

I found out later through reluctant friends that he had begun to date this Billionaire's daughter - let's call her BD. BD was someone he went to school with. She was also someone who would visit him over the years when I was living in Sweden for part of the time. She only tended to visit when I was not living with him in China and I always found this odd although he assured me that he was not romantically interested in her in anyway claiming that she was "too old and too ugly for him." Ladies... lessons learned. Trust your instincts with your man!

The thing is that the Scottish Boy revealed himself to be a bit of a Gold Digger. Every time we broke up (or I left China for a lengthy period of time), he tended to date some rich Chinese girl. It generally seemed that he was fascinated by wealth - it was obvious to me that money was very important to him and he often hinted that my economic background (which he actually knew nothing about) was not good enough for him. So, I guess it shouldn't have come as such a surprise that he is now engaged to an heiress.

Sadly, it has taken me years to get over him.  Without any explanation. Without any good-bye... He just up and left my life and I found it hard to move on with no closure. From what I could tell, there was no real change in how we felt about each other. If anything, our relationship improved and matured over the years (we even sort of figured out how to interact socially together and his friends eventually tolerated if not accepted me). There was no final fight or argument.

The major breaking point was the fact that my job no longer required me to be in China as often. It meant if we wanted to make the relationship continue to work, there needed to be more commitment from his side. And obviously, he wasn't up for it. Unfortunately, he wasn't up for telling me that that either. Of course there were small subtle signs and signals that I should have paid more attention to. But I was a girl in love so I ignoring the small signs and telling myself that he felt the same way. Yes, I look back now and realize that I was deliberately fooling myself. He did drop small hints but in my defense, not once did he say to me "I no longer want to be with you. This relationship is over. I'm moving on." Hearing those words would have devastated me (he knew this and obviously didn't want to deal with my tears).  But perhaps they would have helped me to move on sooner.

Isn't it interesting that a boy who tried to be so strong, to show no emotions was actually a big COWARD? Too afraid of his own emotions to deal with a difficult situation. It was easier for him to just cut me off completely. And so he did.

I'm finally in a place where my heart doesn't stop and my stomach doesn't drop when I hear his name or come across an old picture. Even the news of his engagement didn't throw me too much (although it is obviously inspiring me to write this super long and emotional blog). I haven't spoken to him since 2007 so there is the whole time healing factor which helps as well. But actually, the thing is, that as much as I loved him and was totally in awe of him, deep dark down in a place I didn't want to admit out loud, I knew that there was perhaps more bad in relationship than good. And therefore, as much as I tried to envision it, I could never see us getting engaged - this fact also makes the news of his engagement hurt less. I knew it was never meant to be me and him.

I guess at the end of the day, I always believed more in myself then I believed in him. Although I let him hurt me again and again over the years, I truly believed and still believe that there was someone out there who is better for me than he was... Someone as fun and as smart and as dynamic as the Scottish Boy but also someone who made me feel confident and secure, who wanted me to be friends with his friends, who didn't kick me out of bed for breathing loud, who would call me every night, who would put in effort to make it work even if it meant crossing oceans and dealing with complicated logistics. Oh and hopefully someone with a better fashion sense. (A girl can dream right)?

Unfortunately, I still have not met this person. And unfortunately, the Scottish Boy is still the measuring stick that I hold up every man to and so far, every man just fails - miserably. But I still am trying to believe that "Mr. Right" is out there for me. And even if he's not, I know deep down that the Scottish Boy was not him.

Actually, what I'm really shocked about is the fact that he got engaged before me! I never in a million years would have imagined this. I was the one who wanted a stable relationship, the house, the kids... He was the one who wanted to make money and travel. He always claimed that some day when he settled down it would be with a younger, stupid woman who was more arm candy than anything else.*

But since I'm being very honest here, I have to also admit that it always felt like he was the "one who got away." Of course I entertained the idea that just maybe someday we would both meet again someday when we were mature adults and could figure out a way to live in the same place and treat each other with mutual respect and take another shot at a relationship together. What can I say? I'm a ridiculous, romantic girl. Forgive me. But with this announcement of his engagement, I realize that door is now closed. Probably locked. And you know what? I think I'm ok with that? I think I'm ready to let him go once and for all.

Writing is my release. It's cathartic. It's as if I can write it down, then I can leave it alone because it's there on paper somewhere and therefore, I can stop playing it again and again in my head.

With this blog post I release you Scottish Boy. I can honestly say that I hope you have love and happiness in your life. I hope that you have matured and found yourself in a better place. I wish you the best of luck with BD. Goodbye.

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. If I had not met the Scottish Boy, I would not have met my great friends M and T and The Lady.** Yes, these are those same friends who the Scottish Boy told me did not like me. Ironically, it is his friends who did not like me that I maintain a close friendship with and it is the Scottish Boy who I no longer speak to! Funny how life works. And for those of you who follow my blog, you might recognize M and T as the couple I frequently hang out with in London. The couple who I have partied with in many cities all over the world. People I consider true friends and who got me through a rough move in London.*** So, if nothing else, thank you Scottish Boy for introducing me to great friends who are here for me even when you have long left the scene.

*By all accounts BD is a smart and tough cookie although not completely well received by our mutual friends (or at least that's what they tell me). And she's older than him. And lookswise... well, no comment (yes, of course I checked her out on Facebook - but not obsessively I swear just through pictures others posted). Anyway, by all accounts it sounds like she gives him a run for his money (ha ha).

**M - you are the best! And you know I'm glad that you told me he was engaged in the way that you did. I would rather have heard it from you than from someone else. And I promise that even thought I'm writing this super long blog rant, that I'm not that upset about it. I'm only loosing a small amount of sleep over it. JK. And in case anyone is wondering, M and T are still friends with the Scottish Boy and see him often but it's not awkward at all between all of us as they handle it well and we do not often talk about him (doesn't hurt that the Scottish Boy still lives in China).

***Despite the Scottish Boy's best attempts to keep his friends and me from becoming friends, we eventually managed to discover that we did actually like each other. In fact, I later learned that he not only told me they didn't like me, he told them I didn't like them! No wonder it was all so difficult. Thank God we managed to resolve that!


Matt79 said...

Great post - I think it takes a lot of bravery to write a post like this. Some of those times sound really tough. I'm glad you feel better for having written it.

International Woman of Mystery said...

Thanks for reading my long rant Matt! You are a true blog friend. :) I do feel better after writing it though. Although I have to say it took me ages to compose!

P.Y.T. said...

I just came across your blog and this was the first post I read. It was very moving and so much of what you went through reminds me of the saga I went through with my ex. The friends, the back and forth, the feeling like no matter how much you do or who you are its just not enough.

Its really, really tough to handle that over and over again but it seems to have made you stronger and wiser which is exactly what should happen! You can really be proud of how far you've come. I can't wait to read the rest of your blog.