I did it. I flew across the country to meet a man I had connected with via text, talk, and FaceTime the past few months … and while it seemed romantic and adventurous it was no a fairytale. If anything it could probably be made into a comedic short film about how disastrous these situations can be.
Sam and I matched on tinder in June when I had just gotten back from Europe. We seemed to quickly connect and talked several times a week from that moment on. About a month in I asked if I could fly him out to spend a weekend with me, he said he needed time to think it over which was fine with me. But as more time passed my anxiety heightened. His anxiety renders him frozen, unable to make any choice whereas mine makes me incredibly impulsive… in my mind I saw this as a potential good relationship where we could learn from one another. Ultimately when I needed him to hold some space and understanding for me and my anxiety in the situation he freaked out and behaved in typical avoidant fashion so that was that. . Until he reached out a month later.
This time around I was still hurt from what he had done to me. I was also angry that I had held a lot of space for his needs and feelings during conversations, but felt as though he never once considered that I too struggle with anxiety. I often found myself thinking ‘Just because it doesn’t look the same as yours doesn’t mean it isn’t equally debilitating and deserving of care’. Despite this I genuinely did feel connected to him. I enjoyed talking with him. I was attracted with him. So I kept trying. Often times he’d vent about something and I’d listen or give feedback, but if I needed to vent his answers would be short to nonexistent because he was often distracted by something he was fumbling with. I continued taking my resentment out on him passive aggressively. Which led to a blow up.
Fast forward another month, I’m reading a book on patriarchy and masculinity I’m then reminded of how much men are wounded too, I saw a lot of Sam and why it seemed as though he was unable to think outside of his emotional needs in what I was reading. I felt a deep need to reach out and apologize for punishing him when he had tried rectifying the situation. I needed to see him and this wouldn’t stop popping up in my mind until we met. Miraculously he agreed so I set up my flight.
I wondered what he’d be like in person, what he’d smell like, what he’d feel like. Would we kiss? What would that be like? What would he taste like? Where would we go? Would he get me flowers? Would we talk through the night? Would I finally get to play with his perfect dark hair? I was excited! When he pulled up at the airport and didn’t get out to help me put my bags in I immediately thought to myself ‘this isn’t a good sign…. but I’m not going to overthink… it’s fine, he’s probably anxious’. I had hoped we’d go to a nice spot for dinner and get some romantic ambiance going, but instead we ordered in. We were both concerned about how our dogs would get along and didn’t want to immediately leave them alone. We didn’t touch at all and I wondered what my problem was if there’s one thing I can do it’s initiate physical contact. I couldn’t tell if I was being anxious or if he just wasn’t attracted to me. He turned on the TV when we were about to eat which I found odd… shouldn’t we talk to each other and flirt? Watching TV on a ‘first date’ in my opinion is the same as going to the movies on a date – I don’t do it in the early stages. I want to know you and feel you not stare at other people on a screen. I started to wonder if I had done something wrong. He was tired and seeing as he wasn’t taking me anywhere and didn’t seem to want to talk to me I agreed to go to bed.
I couldn’t get any read on the situation and considering I have been doing several types of sex therapy for couples and individuals over the past few years I felt ridiculous being in this situation. I put my Invisalign back in and he put his mouth guard in sending me a clear ‘we won’t be making out tonight’ signal. I was disappointed but it was only the first night. I took it as a different form of intimacy and hoped tomorrow would be better. Unfortunately, the next morning was still anxiety inducing, I could feel it in the air. Anyone could probably cut through it with a knife if they entered the space. Thankfully he brought it up – he even brought up the fact that we don’t know what the other expects in terms of physical connection. After some processing he asked if he could go visit his mom a couple hours because some people were visiting. Despite knowing we’d each do our own thing while I was visiting my ambivalent attachment did not like his request considering I felt as though he hadn’t given me any sincere attention, in that moment I wanted to leave. I hate being where I’m not wanted, but I smiled and agreed trying to protect the sting of pain I felt.
My friend drove over so we could brunch (aka champagne to the rescue). As soon as I walked up to her she tilted her head with a concerned look on her face and asked ‘are you ok?’ I hadn’t realized how much all the anxiety I was absorbing had affected me, but clearly it showed. I had brunch and talked with my her for a few hours which helped reset my mood. I went back determined to not let his anxiety dictate our weekend.
When I got back I got on top of him and sent him very obvious ‘kiss me already’ signals. When we kissed I felt relief not only that but I felt hunger and wanted more of him. More of his hands on me, around my throat, grabbing all of my body. More of his body on mine. More connection. More intimacy. More of this feeling. More. We drove to his parent’s beach house about an hour away and I thought we’d go to the beach or walk around the neighborhood and explore, we ended up staying in. I didn’t mind because I felt connected to him during this time. We talked more and cuddled on the couch it felt much nicer than the night before and finally we slept together.
Had I known that the sex would have been a one time occurrence I would have stopped before getting carried away. Later that night I tried to initiate in the middle of the night and he stopped me, which usually wouldn’t mean much to me…But I felt something change and I became anxious in bed, I lay awake for two hours wondering why he lay on the opposite end of this giant bed with zero desire to be close to me after he had just been inside of me. As someone with overall ambivalent attachment connection is like a drug to me, getting it is the best thing in the world -feeling it slip away drives me insane and deeply wounds me. I lay in bed remembering all the men in the past who had slept so far from me in bed – they all had in common the fact that they never seemed to emotionally support me. I felt rejected, alone, and uncared for. I wondered if I just called an Uber if I would spare myself any more heaviness that may come from this situation. I could feel my ability and desire to hold space dissipating ‘he doesn’t care about me at all and doesn’t even want to be near me…why do I keep putting his comfort above my own? Why am I in another situation giving more than the other person?’ I fell asleep trying not to cry.
In the morning things were worse and I started to heavily dissociate after having a bad dream triggered by my anxiety. I went to shower in hopes that it would clear my head. I hoped that after a shower I could crawl back to bed and get some morning cuddles in and that things would be good again. That he’d want to be near me and show me I was wanted. I went back to the room and he had removed everything from the bed to wash the sheets. There it was again staring me in the face – distance and rejection in visual form. It hurt.
I was in a completely new state with new sights, sounds, smells, and I too, have anxiety. Why didn’t he care about my feelings too? I can’t think of one instance where he asked me how I felt. Maybe he meant to ask, but it came out centered around him as ‘am I being weird?’ to which I’d usually say no/we both are. I pick up on other people’s anxiety intensely and the fact that he never took me anywhere outside to do anything to distract from said anxieties probably didn’t help. He often spoke about himself and his feelings which didn’t surprise me based on past conversations, but the level at which it happened and his lack of ability to empathize with how I was feeling deeply hurt me. Here I flew across the country and he couldn’t stop complaining about how I was disrupting his routine and telling me he wanted me gone with his body language. I was exhausted from pretending that I wasn’t having a difficult time too. Eventually I started crying.
The mixture of dissociation I was experiencing along with intense feelings of rejection, lack of support, and care were too reminiscent of situations I’d been in with many men before, particularly abusive men. Not only in romantic relationships – but in my paternal figures. This is how I felt most of my life and the very feeling I ran from at eighteen when I left home because I knew it would kill me. Sam was not abusive at all, but unfortunately the memories I have which were triggered by his behaviors and how I felt in the situation reminded me of my abusers. I wanted to throw up and run away. I desperately needed to feel cared for.
Eventually he realized I was upset I’m assuming it was obvious as my face was red and eyes were puffy. He got closer to me and asked if I was ok and if there was anything he could do. At this point I knew there wasn’t so I shook my head and just told him I felt crazy he kissed me and went into the kitchen. I stood nearby with the dogs as he talked about coffee, I wasn’t listening. I kept thinking ‘I’d rather be alone than be next to someone and feel completely alone…. I hate this feeling. I hate this feeling. How do I stop dissociating.’
Luckily at this point I was flooded with emotional support from friends who know me and my mental health well. Sam showed me that there was no space for my feelings here and the best I could do now was try to take care of myself the way he had been doing for himself this entire time. My friend who was visiting South Africa called me no questions asked to help ground me through all my emotions. Once I felt ‘okay’ I went inside, he was doing homework so I sat in another room and entertained myself which seemed to be the reoccurring theme of the weekend. Him paying attention to anything but me and me reading/playing on my phone/cuddling my dog waiting for him to give me a signal that it was ‘ok’ to engage with him.
Eventually I told him I wanted to talk I told him I felt disconnected which hurt me especially since I felt connected and intimate the previous night night. He agreed and said it was just because he was overwhelmed and in a constant state of anxiety – that there was nothing I could’ve done differently. I half listened to him because I knew he’d only talk about himself. I asked if he wanted me to leave instead of stay with him the last night. I didn’t think he’d provide me with a direct answer, but I knew I’d be able to decipher how he felt based on how he answered. Essentially it sounded something like ‘it’s not that I don’t want to be with you and I’d feel bad saying that but…’ then spent a couple minutes talking about how overwhelmed he was. Though I knew it had little to do with me I still couldn’t help but think …. how is my presence this horrible to you? I’ve asked nothing of you since I got here. I haven’t asked you to take me anywhere fun. I haven’t asked you to emotionally support me. I haven’t asked you to leave the comfort of your home(s). I’ve sat quietly and isolated myself half the time. And I left the house to do something else for several hours on our first and only full day together because you needed space…. and you’re still bothered by my presence?
It hurt me.
Everything hurt I wondered if I had held too much space for him in past conversations that somehow he forgot that I had feelings and needs too. I told him I’d leave, part of me wished he’d ask me to stay. Oh, ambivalent attachment you masochistic bitch.
As we continued to talk he told me none of his relationships had been stable and that it took him a ‘long time’ to get comfortable having a single sleep over with anyone he dated so an entire weekend was overwhelming. I wondered why he left that out during all our intimate talks. I’m not sure it would have stopped me from coming, but it would have told me a bit more about how severe his need to control and have a structured environment was. I had hypothesized that he was attached to structured schedule because it helped keep him sober, but had no idea just how much he was attached to his way of life. I asked if he felt fulfilled living this way and he said he wasn’t. I couldn’t help but feel sad for him. We all seem struggle with fulfillment but to feel like the only way to survive and stay on a good path is to stay on an extremely rigid and often isolated schedule sounds incredibly difficult. In that moment I thought ‘wow, it sounds like it’s hard to be Sam’ I wanted to hug him and dissect it more, but I had to stop myself from falling into the caregiver role I all too often fall into with people who don’t reciprocate.
Later as he was driving me to my friend’s apartment I mentioned the severity of his attachment to his schedule and he said ‘I don’t think it’s severe’ in my mind I thought you can’t even enjoy a weekend with a beautiful woman or have her sleep by your side or try to give you a blow job without it causing you angst….if that isn’t severe I’m afraid to know what you consider severe. I guessed he meant ‘things could be worse’ perhaps in comparison to who he was when he still drank. He really didn’t seem to have much hope that he would lead a fulfilled life so he’d rather live in the confines of a box he’s created for himself. He didn’t seem to have much self compassion or love. I wondered how he got this way I wished I knew him better, but I knew I never would.
I could feel his anxiety subside as we got closer to my friend’s apartment. I couldn’t bite my tongue anymore I was fed up and hurt ‘don’t fucking do that, don’t show me how relieved you are to see me go when I’m clearly upset. You don’t get to do that to me.’ I didn’t believe that he felt bad at all and think he just wanted me gone. I stared out the window dissociating and wishing I could tear off my own skin and disappear. I hate this longing so much so that I used to turn to physical pain and self harm to distract from it. And here I was longing for care and comfort from someone who was incapable of providing it.
I asked him to take me to a grocery store or liquor store and he said ‘there’s probably one within walking distance from her place’ it was pouring outside and I could not believe that he had said that to me. I scoffed, ‘I’m not walking in the rain you’re taking me’ at this point i was so upset I didn’t even care about food anymore I just wanted to drown in a bottle of wine, cry, and be vulnerable with someone who I knew cared for me. When we finally arrived to my friend’s apartment he didn’t help me carry any of my stuff though it shouldn’t have surprised me considering he didn’t help me with my bags when he picked me up at the airport – I was still surprised. When I got my last bag out I said “well bye see you never” which is a bit of a meaningless catchphrase I have, but probably meant it in this case. He said something back but I couldn’t hear and didn’t care to hear I closed the car door.
As soon as I got away from his car and into her building’s elevator I screamed. I felt free and supported to do so and knew my friend wouldn’t judge me or make me feel like my having emotions was an inconvenience. She had a glass of my favorite red poured and ready to go and gave me a long comforting hug. This was exactly what I needed – all I needed- support and love. Her and her partner then cooked me a wonderful meal and I felt like myself again allowed to talk and be the full version of myself without worry that I had to be walking on eggshells.
The next day I realized I had forgotten something at his place so I told him in case he wanted to toss them. While I was texting him I was texting a client who I had recently met and had great chemistry with, he lived in NYC and wanted to see me. I was thrilled I’d get taken out on an incredible date, get treated like a goddess, get laid and get paid to do it. Yes please! I absolutely needed to be treated well and cared for. Mindlessly I went to text my friend and in a frenzy of excitement I stopped and realized I had sent them to Sam and not my friend. I felt horrible. One, Sam had no clue I was a high end escort – maybe he suspected because of my open support of sex work and talk about sugar arrangements, but I hadn’t told him and didn’t think I ever would. Usually I can read which type of person will be able to accept/process that part of my life and who will judge me/side with stigma. Based on his questions about cultural and feminist topics in the past and a few distasteful jokes he’d made I didn’t think he’d accept me as a whole person if he knew about my third job. I would no longer be any of the things he knew me as and I’d just be a sex worker. An absurd ending to an absurd situation, at least it was fitting.
I didn’t expect to hear back from him I don’t even know what one would say in response to texts like that even if they weren’t avoidant. I hope he didn’t think I did it with malicious intent. Maybe he hates me now, maybe he feels grossed out, maybe he feels betrayed, maybe it turned him on, maybe he didn’t care at all. Maybe maybe maybe. At the end of the day how he feels about it is none of my business anymore. I had held enough space for him. Now he can add ‘yeah this girl flew out to meet me and it sucked 90% of the time. Oh and she was a high end escort. Wild’ to his list of dating stories.
Admittedly, I get off on that a little bit – at least no one will ever be able to say I’m boring or predictable. I’ve never wanted to lead an ordinary or mediocre life, if you’re not new here you’ve probably picked up on that. I’m most alive on the edge and my comfort zone is in the unpredictable and spontaneous.
I think if Sam was healthier (or I was so at least I wasn’t triggered) we could’ve had a great time. I believe he’s a good person with a lot of healing and growing to do. My heart feels heavy for him more than it feels angry I can’t imagine him healing as much as he needs to if his fear keeps ruling his life. I know my heart and I know the type of souls I am drawn to, unfortunately his was one was too covered in walls, fire, and defense mechanisms for me to even remotely touch the center of him. I hope one day he stops letting fear dictate his life and that he’s able to take full control of his life – maybe then he’ll find fulfillment, hell maybe even love with a healthy partner.
What I learned: I have the most incredible friends, I’m healthier than I realized; my reactivity and emotional regulation is eons better, don’t text without being sure of who you’re texting, don’t fly across the country for any man on your own dime. Most importantly I reinforced the fact that I can fall in love again, it was very different than what I have had with the musician the past year (see this draft). This time I realized I can connect with someone and still hold space in my heart for A and the days where I still grieve his death. I am a resilient human and through the hell I’ve been through with love (or lack thereof) I still believe in the depths of my soul I will find love again. A may have been the love of my life up until my mid 20’s, but like everything else I’ve believed this strongly at the core of my being I’ve eventually gotten it.
I will love again. I will risk everything time and time again for the possibility of love and I will never regret it.
When it comes to dating I’m no longer anything like the woman I was just a couple years ago. I’m able to put myself first and respect myself while still giving it my all until I have to say ‘enough is enough’ and walk away. I can walk away now without blaming myself. To accomplish that after the amount of abuse I’ve endured in the past is truly incredible. I’m excited to get to know the woman I’m becoming.
I’ve been waiting my entire life to meet her. She’s here.