“And so you felt like dropping in
And just expect me to be free
But now I’m saving all my loving
For someone who’s loving me…”

–       Gloria Gaynor I will Survive (Lyrics by Frederick J. Perren and Dino Fekaris)

Your talking

Recently I asked via The Good Girl Confessional Facebook page if anyone else had experienced the strange dynamic of an ex suddenly contacting you out of the blue, the moment you started dating someone new. I’ve had endless conversations with girlfriends and colleagues about this very thing and now having put it out there to the beautiful readers of The Good Girl Confessional, so many people said yes, it has not only happened to them, but that it seems to be a common occurrence!

In the not so distance past after going on a date with someone, I received a text from a builder that I hadn’t seen in almost 8 months! We’ve had no contact at all in  that time and while I have occasionally thought of Superman (so named for the tattoo he is sporting on his ankle), it really seemed to be a much closed chapter. Things didn’t really end badly between us, but it’s fair to say that Superman is a self-confessed commitment-phobe.

Divorced for 6 years, he is a bachelor and he loves the life style. The successful owner of a building firm, we started dating early on in my singledom. It only lasted for 4 months and the builder decided that he “liked me too much” and that I wasn’t “the type of woman you can play games with.” Whenever we were together (which was usually once a week), he was attentive and present, respectful and kind. He cooked for me many times and was always charming. I met some of his  closest friends, and his cousin. He met my wing girl Bella (in fact he and his mate came with Bella and I to a concert once).

After observing us together, Bella could see why I believed what I shared with the builder was a relationship. She pointed out that Superman looked at me like a man who cared deeply, and he proudly showed me off when we were together in public. He listened intently to me as I spoke and he would place his hand in the small of my back to guide me through the crowd of the concert, or reach behind him to find my hand. Small gestures of affection were common, like squeezing my hand or tucking my hair behind my ear for me.

Now it was fair to say that I was a little sad when it ended but honestly, he was a player (though he doesn’t like that term…of course!). He sincerely did me a huge favour. Funny, articulate and a doting dad to his kids (we never met each other’s children), he is easy on the eye, with tanned olive skin and deep brown eyes…with no doubt an endless list of numbers in his little black book, quite happily notching up ticks on his proverbial belt. He next contacted me some time after that, citing that he missed me and that it might be possible for us to hang out with a view to be “just friends”. To be honest, this sounded like a good idea at the time and he was always so much fun to be around. I figured that if we could hang out and take all the static of dating out of the equation, it would be brilliant. Why not, right?The problem with hanging out with an ex is that if there is still chemistry between you, things can become a little cloudy. In our case, Superman just couldn’t help his flirtatious nature and eventually he wanted to step over the blurry line between friendship and friends-with-benefits. At the time I was dating someone else so it just wasn’t going to happen. The last time I saw him was almost 8 months ago when I said thanks, but no thanks.

So why suddenly would Superman pop up? I guess the cynic in me would say that he has suddenly found himself at a loose end! A little bit of loneliness can certainly inspire any guy to start looking through his back catalogue of ghosts of dating-past! A very good male platonic friend of mine is adamant that while a lot of guys like “alone” time, they don’t relish the feeling of actually “being alone”.Case in point was when my girlfriend, Rose’s ex suddenly contacted her, even though he actually knew she’d been in a new relationship for 6 months. Suddenly she seemed like a much more attractive proposition to him. When they were together, he had been quite commitment shy, yet suddenly he was very interested in what was happening with her life. Perhaps it is that we gain more value in the eyes of an ex when someone else is entertaining your time? This is my ‘I’ll have what he’s having’ theory! Do we suddenly put out some vibe into the ethos that reaches ex’s when you are ready to move onto to something new?

Superman phoned me as I hadn’t gotten around to responding to his text immediately. What followed was a lovely catch up chat, and we sounded like old friends checking in. He felt the need to apologise for having treated me “not quite as well as he could have”, which was unnecessary though still lovely to hear. He explained that I had “scared him” by being a woman that he “might have developed feelings for.” Well, gee, thanks dude.

We caught up. I guess I was intrigued and curious enough to know if he was simply hedging his bets. Did he really think this time we could simply be friends or was he hoping I’d be free and available to hang out with him when he felt like a little female company!

Meeting at a bar which was neutral territory for both of us, Superman smiled when he locked eyes with me. It was really lovely to see him. His charismatic personality is hard not to like. Laughing a lot, we chatted and he pointed out that the chemistry between us was (and will possibly always be) undeniable. This is why I feel we will probably never be just hanging out as friends!  He said of all the women he had dated over the past 6 years, I was the one that came closest to tempting his across to the “other side” – to the Relationship. Nice to hear, but the truth is, if I was tempting, I was clearly not tempting enough! I strongly suspect also that (as denting to my pride as this might be), Superman would have the same level of chemistry with just about any woman he came into contact with. Some men are just naturally charming and in this case, he knows how to use it to his advantage.

 He wondered out loud what might happen if we started seeing each other again…good question, sure, but I pointed out a few things to Superman.

  1.    He would have to be monogamous
  2.    He would have to be at least open to the possibility of a ‘relationship’
  3.    He should know that I wasn’t interested in having sex with him unless the first two points were agreed to. He contemplated and then said he’d need to really think it through!

Ok, dude, you do that! So while he was contemplating, and of course being his flirty self, the strangest thing happened. My ex-husband, the Taurus, walked into the bar at 9.45pm on a week night, with his Fiancé. What are the chances of that?

The Taurus, who had never seen me with another man, looked like he had seen a ghost. He had suddenly came face to face with his ex-wife on a date with a guy she is not actually dating…awkward! Superman was suave and affable and introduced himself quickly to them, and an awkward chat went on between the four of us with the Taurus looking a little shocked (I have always maintained that even when you are over a relationship, seeing your ex with someone else is always difficult. While I’ve see the Taurus many times with his new partner, he was a little confronted I think by this “first”). That wasn’t exactly how I thought that would ever happen, though in truth maybe it was better for the Taurus that it happened so organically, I couldn’t have planned it if I tired.

 So I can say that since that catch up at the bar, I have not heard from Superman again. I’m so not surprised by that. While I am wanting to find my Mr. Darcy, whoever he may turn out to be, the idea of stepping into a long-term relationship might simply be a bridge too far for a confirmed bachelor like the builder. While he romanticized about the idea of it, in practice he is afraid to give up his bachelor ways and his perceived freedom.

He told me that he doesn’t want to be the guy, who at 50, is still picking up and having meaningless trysts with women whose names he can barely remember. It doesn’t sound like much fun really. The danger though for Superman and others like him is that if they never take the chance to step into a relationship, how will they ever know if it’s possible for them? Their grave fears of one day being lonely old men might actually be self-fulfilling prophesies.

Now I’m not saying that if you reignite a relationship with an ex, it won’t ever work and in fact I know people who really got it together on their second waltz around the dance floor. Sometimes love absolutely blossoms the second time around.  I think you would both need to be on the same page at the same time for it to work. If you both decided to step into with an open mind and a belief that a relationship was at least a possibility, they may be onto a winner. Sometimes it’s all about timing.

What Superman lacks is a belief that being a relationship might be more fulfilling than being a single guy with a carousel of lovelies to choose from. He concedes that he misses the feeling of coming home to someone who loves and adores him, who will kiss him and climb into bed with him each and every night. What he fears, he admitted, was giving up his freedom to come and go as he pleases, hang out with his many mates and simply never answer to another. There is sadness in his eyes. When I pointed that out, he nodded and agreed.

 “I fear the longer you leave it, the harder it is to step back in,” he told me.

I’m really glad I met up with him. Seeing my ex reinforced to me that while being single life was thrust upon me and it’s a lot of fun, filled with interesting people and possibilities, this is not a life path for me! He commented that I have changed.  Damn strait I have. Life experience tends to do that. In my case it’s been positive. I’ve grown into myself a little more. I now have a clear idea of what I want in my life, so choosing less than, or acting if I am less than, is simply not an option anymore. I personally can’t love someone whose heart is not open to the possability of love and a life together.

Relationship is not a dirty word. Being with the right someone is not something to fear but something I sincerely look forward to. I am a hopeless romantic – and I believe in love. The feeling of waking up next to someone you love, and feel their arms around you is priceless. To see yourself reflected back in the eyes of someone you truly love and who loves you equally is the most beautiful feeling.  If that’s too gushy, oh well, bite me!

I’m not sure if I will ever hear from Superman again, but I know that he never lied to me about where he was at. He always said he didn’t know if he could settle down again. Some facts you simply cannot change. Superman is the quintessential Daniel Cleaver of Bridget Jones Diary fame. Charming, disarming…totally non-committal. Thanks for the lovely memories but I’ll keep seeking my own Mark Darcy!