The 10 Year Recovery

10 years is a long time to hold on to something, so it's time to clear out some thoughts, feelings and speak honestly about it, not just for my own sake but so people know me better. I've been single for 10 years.

So yeah. Single 10 years. That's crazy. The worst is I've only recently started to deal with the stuff that caused it and how it's changed me over the last 10 years. But first off, I want to make an apology. I have not been honest with people. I have, occasionally over the last 10 years stated I've been in a relationship or was 'seeing someone'. I haven't been. Those were lies I'd tell to make me feel better, to have something positive to talk about, to hide behind a facade. Pretending everything is ok is something I got relatively good at. I don't like that I've done it and hope that you guys can forgive that.

I guess the best way to start this is talking about my actual relationship history. I dated a few girls in my teens but I'd say I had two girlfriends before moving to London. Jenn and Meg. Jenn was lovely. I started dating her at the beginning of my 5th year. She was the year below me at a different school (I went to an all boys school and she went to an all girls school), so we wouldn't see each other everyday but I'd see her at the weekends. It was nice. The day after my 16 birthday, her Mum called me saying she didn't want me dating her anymore because I was 16. I thought it was dumb, but respected what she asked because, basically, it was how I was raised. I didn't like it but there we are. We remained friends and at points got quite close to dating again but it never materialised. I started dating Meg at the beginning of my lower 6th. I met her at work on a Friday evening shift I'd taken last minute. The shop was dead quiet and we ended up hiding in the back chatting for most of our shift. We started dating shortly after. She was my first love, amongst other firsts. I liked Jenn but with Meg I was head over heels. She broke up with me after about 6 months. I didn't like it, like I said she was my first love and I didn't handle it particularly well. It was awkward as fuck at work too, people took sides, it was very weird. I didn't date again until university. I hooked up with girls but I avoided dating. I turned down a relationship with someone because I was about to move to London.

Happier times - me being tickled by Emily whilst she took pictures

Happier times - me being tickled by Emily whilst she took pictures

Moving to London, starting university, I wasn't thinking about dating. I wanted to make friends, have some fun and start my new life. Having that amount of freedom was strange, not having to think about letting someone know if I was going out or wasn't going to make it home. So yeah, I indulged in my new found freedom and had some fun. I won't go into details but I was doing pretty well for myself in the young, single department. I was happy. Then I met Emily, and boom, thoughts of single, fun-loving Joe disappeared. I didn't want to be single, I wanted to be with her. And I got her. I somehow managed to work some magic and start a relationship with this girl who was gorgeous and fun and just a little wacky. It was a completely different relationship to my previous one's. Before moving to London, I couldn't, for example, spend a whole weekend with a girlfriend. I was 16/17 and living with my parents, the most time I could hope for was a few hours. Now I would be with Emily from the moment we were out of classes on Friday to Sunday night or Monday morning. There were some weeks she would practically be living with me. I was very happy. We had started dating in December and by January were official. All was good.

Fast foward to April 2008, 3 months in, I'd met her parents and Grandparents at a play she was doing so thought it would be nice to take her back home to visit my parents and meet some of my friends. As soon as we got to my parents house she was very quiet and withdrawn, not the bubbly girl who I'd been with for the last 3 months. We went down on the Friday, on Saturday we met up with one of my close friends at the time, Andy and his girlfriend. She continued to be quiet. We were walking back to Andy's car and she stopped holding my hand and started to walk ahead of me. I remember the questioning look that Andy threw my way like it was yesterday. Looking back now I knew something was wrong but I put it to the back of my mind. That is until that night in my parents spare bedroom where we were staying. Bear in mind here that Emily and I were both at the Central School of Speech and Drama, me for Production Management and her for Acting for Stage and Screen. It's not like your usual university course. You're in every single day whether that's for classes, rehearsals or working on your term production. It was full on. Anyway, now that you've got that information, we can go back to Emily breaking up with me on a Saturday night in my parents spare bedroom. Her reasoning was she couldn't handle having a boyfriend and her course. I understood that part, I didn't understand the timing. Why would she do it at that point. We were on Easter break so doing it before the summer term started made sense but why do it at my parents place?! I was angry and upset. I'm also the nicest guy ever because I didn't dump her at a station to get back to London, I still drove her back.

I was upset, but it was about to get worse. About a week later I got a text from one of the girls in Emily's class asking if I was ok. We chatted about the breakup and things, it felt good to talk to someone about it. To that point I hadn't really spoken to my friends about the details, they just knew that we'd broken up. Then she told me what was really going on. Emily wasn't overwhelmed with juggling her course and a boyfriend. She had started dating another actor that week. So it was all bullshit. Safe to say, I was furious and completely ruined by the information.

I didn't hook up with anyone at university again. I managed to get through the next term by keeping busy with my production and trying to fill every spare moment with something fun so I didn't have a spare moment to think about Emily. Over the summer, I tried to do the same thing. I hooked up with a couple of girls of the break but it was purely sex and nothing more by the time I got back to university in October girls were the last thing on my mind. I had no interest. The problem was I was starting to withdraw myself from other people. I started to feel suspicious about peoples motives and was questioning what they really thought about me. My self doubt grew. By the end of the academic year I'd dropped out. I had withdrawn from my friendship group so much over the year that I had become very isolated. Over the next 18 months I had the opportunity to date but turned it down, my trust was so shook that I was convinced that sooner or later they'd lie and cheat. There have been moments in the years since when I thought maybe I could date someone but at the end of the day (and I know this sound corny as hell) I just didn't trust anyone with my heart. So in the roughly 8 ½ years since that opportunity to date I've basically been a monk. I've kissed one girl in 8 ½ years. Ugh.

It's only been in the last few months that I've been able to start looking back and letting go. Up until recently I had blamed Emily for everything. It was her fault that I dropped out, it was her fault that I don't really trust anyone (second chances are hard to get from me), it was her fault that I was single, it was her fault that I'd put on a load of weight, it was her fault that I became a recluse. I could go on forever with what I blamed on her. But it's not her fault. Sure the breakup was a catalyst for things to change for the worst but it's not Emily's fault, it's mine. I used it as an excuse to give in to a lot of feeling I'd be repressing since my teens. Instead of dealing with issues of self doubt, anxiety and to a certain extent laziness and used my breakup as an excuse to wallow in those feelings. Saying that, I can't say I will ever forgive Emily for the way she broke up with my because I still think it was really shitty but not blaming her for the rest of it is a good step in my moving on with my life even if it did take 10 years to get to this point.

I'm not sure I will ever be confident enough again to just go for it with a girl. I'm not the same person I was when I was in my teens and full of confidence. I'm positive that 2 out of 3 of those relationships would never happen with the current or any future version of Joe. And that's ok, but it's also part of what I'm trying to work through. Accepting that I can't go back to being that person is hard because he was certainly happier a lot of the time but I'm now far more honest with myself and how a portray myself than I have been at any point in my life.

Here's some advice for you if you're reading this don't be me; the guy who took 10 years to get over his relationship. Be the guy who took a few weeks.

Much love,