What I learned from my breakup

I was slightly stunned last week when I realised that it’s been nearly three years since the end of my most serious relationship.  That breakup ripped me up in the worst possible way.  I’ve never felt quite so adrift as I did in the weeks and months following that event.  But as horrible life events often are, my breakup was a real learning experience.  At the risk of sounding utterly trite, I learned so much about myself and about love from the aftermath of that breakup.  And now that I’ve had time to reflect upon it, I’d like to share some of those hard-earned insights with you.

 

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There is no such thing as “The One”

For years I hung onto the idea that there was a single person out there for everyone.  I think it comes from being raised in a family with two happily-married parents, with happily married grandparents and aunts and uncles who have long and happy marriages. In addition to my home environment, pop culture was also a guiding force in my firm belief in “The One”.  And for a very long time I believed that my then-boyfriend was The One.  And when that relationship ended I felt utterly shattered because that’s not what’s supposed to happen.  I worried whether I was wrong about him being my Person.  Or if he was my Person and that meant that I didn’t get another One.

 

After a lot of reflection and dating, I’ve come to the conclusion that The One is a myth.  There will always be people who are so compatible that you believe that the two of you were made for one another.  And for some people, that feeling comes only once in a lifetime.  Some people find it multiple times.  And some people don’t find it, or perhaps aren’t interested in romance.  I truly believe that my ex-boyfriend was The One for me from the ages 17 through 27.  But after that we were no longer compatible.  And I believe that I’ll get to have that feeling again.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is tear everything down and start fresh

After our final fight, I left and found a flat for me and my two cats.  I had almost no furniture because I’d sold most of my shitty second-hand stuff when I’d moved in with my boyfriend.  So I spent many, many nights in a very empty flat feeling alone, bereft and very sorry for myself.

After a long period of wallowing, I started working on filling my flat and my life.  I took a full-time job, which ultimately led to my current job which I really enjoy.  With the money I earned I bought furniture and household items that I actually liked.  I spent time with my friends and made new mates.  I started exploring new interests.  I did some online dating and had a series of incredible experiences there.

But the point is, I would never have done those things if my relationship had remained on track.  I would never have needed to buy new things or meet new people.  Although it sucked at the time, stripping that floundering relationship from my life made room and space for things that have made me feel happier and more “me” than ever before.

Fear of failure is worse than actual failure

I’m a very anxious person.  For years one of my biggest fears was that my relationship with my partner would end.  Even when our relationship was good, I would sometimes lie awake at nights freaking out about how awful it would be if we broke up.  And when we did, it was like a nightmare had come true.  Only it wasn’t as awful as I’d imagined it would be.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was pretty fucking brutal.  But it wasn’t as all-consuming and insurmountable than the scenario my very active imagination had created.  I managed to deal with it, survive and thrive.

 

This realisation has helped dramatically with my anxiety.  When I’m about to take a risk or I feel scared about something, I reassure myself with the knowledge that the fear is worse than the actual scenario of failing.  And that’s not just a cliche that I placate myself with. I know that to be true.

 

Letting a partner be your plan for the future is a mistake

I did a very dumb thing during the course of my relationship.  There were many moments when I should have been planning for my future, and I’d brush away those scary thoughts about superannuation and mortgages and let Future Vanessa deal with them.  You see, I thought that my relationship would last forever, and I thought that meant I’d be set for life.  My partner worked hard and had a well-paying job.  He knew what he wanted from his career and I was happy to just go along with that, getting away with working part-time because he earned enough to take care of the bigger, scarier expenses.

 

But then we broke up.  And I realised I was screwed, financially.  I’ve always been good with my money, but I’d never earned much.  I’d saved some cash, but I never thought to put anything into my superannuation, or worry about my financial future.  My plan for the future was to let my boyfriend take care of it.  I’m ashamed to admit that, but it was the truth.  And I paid dearly for that error.  But after some panicking and nervous crying I got my butt into gear.  I took on a full-time job to better support myself.  I opened a dedicated savings account.  I put money into superannuation.  I started researching investments and cutting my discretionary spending.  And now I’m in a much more comfortable financial position.

So now, if I wind up on my own for good, I’ll be set up to take care of myself.  And if I do end up getting married down the track, I’m coming into that union with a solid foundation and the knowledge that I’ve got my own back.

A “successful” relationship doesn’t always mean “One that doesn’t end”

For a long time I nursed a deep wound caused by the feeling that I’d failed.  I felt that because we’d broken up, my relationship with my boyfriend was all terrible and all wrong.  I tortured myself thinking about all our happy memories, and tainting them with the idea that they were somehow flawed because we had broken up.

 

I had an epiphany while watching How I Met Your Mother.  In the final episode, where Barney and Robin reveal that they are getting divorced after a few years of marriage, Robin mentions that their marriage hadn’t failed, but rather that it was a successful marriage that only lasted three years.  That hit me so hard, because it’s really true.  Not all wonderful, successful and important relationships last forever.  And not all long-term relationships are successful.  For so much of our time together, my relationship with my ex was awesomely fun, romantic and nurturing.  I felt supported and truly happy.  And that isn’t tainted by the fact that our relationship didn’t last.  It was what was right for us for a portion of our lives, but after that we were no longer compatible.  It happens, and it doesn’t make me or my ex a failure.

 

Have you learned any hard lessons from a breakup?  If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

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A geeks guide to online dating: your dating profile

This is the third post in my Geek’s Guide to Online Dating series.  We’ve already talked about your profile picture and choosing a username.  So today I’m going to get down to the gritty details of filling out your profile.

 

My online dating profile has undergone a number of makeovers in the last year.  As I’ve discovered what works and doesn’t work for me, I’ve polished and updated my profile accordingly.  In it’s current incarnation, my profile is witty, honest and somewhat detailed.  Just the way I believe it should be.  Everyone has a different idea about what makes a good online dating profile, just like everyone is looking for something different in a date.  So my suggestions aren’t a definitive guide.

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Be honest about what you want…and what you don’t want.

I found that my online dating game jumped up a notch when I got brutally honest about what I was looking for.   My profile mentions things like the fact that I’m open to long-distance as long as the other person is willing to share the responsibility of travel.  Or my desire to find someone relatively introverted who is OK with not going out all the time. I also mention that I’m not interested in casual sex, and that even though I’m bisexual I’m not interested in playing the special guest star in your three-way.

 

Once I got honest about what I wanted, the replies I got were a lot more selective and much more suited to my tastes.  Sure, I still got the occasional dickhead writing to ask for pictures of my boobs, but they became less frequent.

 

Here’s the deal: it doesn’t really matter what you’re looking for, but it’s much better if you’re honest about it.  I don’t mind if you’re looking for a hookup, or you want to get married, or you are exclusively interested in women who are experts at Fallout.  But actually saying “I want X, I don’t want Y” gives the person reading your profile a better idea of what you’re after and whether it’s worth getting in touch with you.  It saves everyone time and you’re less likely to go on a bunch of mismatched dates.

 

Be wordy, but not too wordy.

There’s a fine line to tread when it comes to the length of your profile.  You don’t want it to be too sparse, or you won’t generate any interest.  But on the other hand, if you write an essay that’s roughly the length of War and Peace, nobody is going to slog through it all.

 

You want to write in enough detail that you give the person reading a snapshot of who you are and what you like.  I tend to click away immediately when I see a profile that has only answered the bare minimum questions, because I have no idea about the person who wrote it.  They could be the most interesting, hilarious person ever, but how would I know because there’s no hint of that on their profile?

 

When filling out your profile, make sure you provide some details, but keep it on the succinct side.  Always leave the reader wanting more.  After all, if you tell them everything, there’s no reason for them to want to get to know you further.

 

Include a secret code (wink wink!)

There’s always the danger that you’ll be contacted by someone who has just seen your profile picture, thought you were cute and hasn’t read your profile at all.  If you’re cool with that, then you don’t need to worry.  But if you want to be sure that people have actually read your profile, then you can weave in a little insurance policy.  I’ve seen profiles that say “please message me with the following phrase to show you’ve read my profile” or ask you to answer a particular question in your message.  These aren’t foolproof, but the secret code method helps to weed out those who have actually taken the time to check out your profile.

 

Your time to shine.

You need to make sure that your profile has a sparkle to it, something that sets it apart from everyone else.  So how do you do that?  Well, for starters, don’t write the obvious.  Sure, you like music, pizza and movies.  Who doesn’t?  Stand out from the pack with original answers.  Talk about the band that changed your life or your ability to whip up the best fettuccine carbonara in the galaxy.  Talk about your love for 80’s television.  Highlight the things that make you YOU.  Those things might not seem like the coolest or trendiest, but that’s a good thing.  There just might be an awesome person out there who gets pumped to find out that there’s another person on the planet who enjoys watching Biodome.  It’s those silly quirks that stand out, so let your geekery shine brightly to lead your date to you.

 

Do you have any other tips that I’ve forgotten?  What do you think makes a good online dating profile.

 

A geeks guide to online dating: your profile name.

Ok, so it’s been a couple of weeks since we discussed choosing the right picture for your online dating profile.  Now I think it’s about time we had a chat about picking out a profile name that will work for you.

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It might seem like a small thing, but your profile name can actually have a big impact on who clicks on your dating profile.  Choosing the wrong name could mean driving away potential matches.  So how should you go about picking a user name?  Here’s my top tips.

Don’t go with a generic moniker

Your name should be interesting enough to draw in a potential match.  It doesn’t have to be entirely original or covered in metaphorical stardust but it should be the tiniest bit clever or witty.  I get so turned off by people who choose the generic computer-suggested user names.  I am very unlikely to click on a profile named “Your name-in-a-box” or “Such-and-such-taco”.  These are the names that OK Cupid throws out when your preferred user name is taken.  To me, that just seems too dull and I wonder if you put any thought at all into creating your profile.  Trust me, a little bit of wit and originality will go a long way.

Avoid names that scream “I’m a douchebag”

There are certain phrases that induce an automatic eye-roll when I read them in a dating profile.  And when those phrases pop up in someone’s user name, I’m instantly running for the hills.  The chief phrase is the dreaded, “But I’m a nice guy”.  In my experience, Nice Guys don’t need to constantly tell you how nice they are.  Generally the ones who constantly harp about what a “nice guy” they are tend to be the same dudes who are whining about how the girls they like always “friendzone” them.  Don’t be that guy.  Using the phrase “Nice Guy” in your profile name will get you nowhere with me.  I’ve seen dudes who call themselves things like “Justaniceguy” or even once “Ipromiseimnice”.  To me these just read as a bit creepy and desperate.  If you want your profile to have a chance of being read by a woman worth her salt, don’t use douchey phrasing in your profile name.

Unless you’re looking for casual sex, avoid sexual terms and euphemisms.

I should point out that there is nothing wrong with seeking out casual sex.  If that’s what you’re after, then I don’t judge you for it.  But when it comes to dating, that’s not what I’m looking for.  So if I see a user name that is sexually explicit, I tend to skip over that profile.  Using sexual terminology in your username gives the impression that you’re looking for a hook up.  So if you want more than just a one night stand, I’d advise against using any sexy lingo in your profile name.

Jokes and geeky references will get you everywhere

Do you want to know a secret?  I love to laugh.  (OK, that’s not a secret.  But it’s the truth).  And I’m a massive geek.  So if I see a user name that gives me the giggles, or alludes to one of my favourite fandoms, I’m going to give it a click.  In those cases, I want to get to know a bit more about the clever-trousers who thought up the hilarious profile name.  If you are a bit of a geek, it definitely pays to use a funny or pun-tastic user name.  Not only will it attract like-minded people, but it will draw in more potential matches than if you just used some generic user name.  It doesn’t have to be super sophisticated, just silly or witty enough to generate a giggle in your future sweetheart.  Some great user names I’ve seen include:  Mr Snrub, George Glass and Duke Silver, just to name a select few.

Should you use your real name?

This is a bit of a sticky topic.  On the one hand, using your real name means that you don’t have to think up a witty nickname.  However it does leave you open to unwanted familiarity.  It’s entirely up to you, but I’d suggest keeping your real name to yourself, at least at the beginning. Then when you’ve chatted to someone for a bit you can reveal your true identity if you feel comfortable doing so.  It’s entirely up to you, but I’d be wary about using your real name as your user name.

Do you have anything to add?  What are some of your pet peeves and greatest draws when it comes to dating profile usernames.

A geek’s guide to online dating: your profile picture.

I’ve been dabbling in online dating this year.  It’s been an *ahem* interesting experience.  I’ve met some fantastic people, and some not-so-fantastic people.  I’ve been on more first dates in this year than I have in my entire adult life.  And it’s been eye-opening.

I truly believe that online dating can be awesome.  It’s a great way to meet new people and broaden your horizons, particularly if you are shy or live in an area where the dating pool is sparsely populated (I tick both boxes).

However it’s easy to make mistakes.  I know, because I’ve made plenty.  So I thought that it might be cool to share some of my do’s and don’ts for online dating, so that you don’t make the same mistakes I have.  I’m hoping to make this into a series, and it seemed logical to kick off with a post about your profile picture.

Keep in mind that a lot of the tips here are based on my own personal opinion.  You may entirely disagree with me and that’s cool.  A lot of them are directed towards men because generally that’s who I’m looking at when I’m browsing online matches.  I do look at women too, but not as often.  So I apologise if these tips are male-centric.

Profile pictures- What not to do

  • The first one is so obvious I can’t believe I have to say it: make sure you’re in your profile picture.  I have seen profile pics that are everything from a cup of coffee, to a guitar and even a picture of Bilbo Baggins.  And I never click on those ones.  Why?  Because I have no clue about the person behind them.  People are visual creatures, and they want to see the person they will potentially be chatting with.  Even if you’re shy taking a picture of yourself, actually having your face on your profile will dramatically increase the likelihood that someone will read your profile.
  • If there is more than one person in your profile picture, make sure it’s obvious which one is you.  I see so many people who use group shots as their profile picture. Or worse- pictures of them with their exes.  I’m a busy girl, and I’m not going to take the time to try to figure out which one of the peeps in the picture is you.  You should be the star of the picture.
  • Don’t use a professional headshot as your profile picture.  I get it, you want to look as good as possible to attract a potential mate.  But a professional shot makes it look like you’re trying way too hard.  A simple selfie is fine and makes you seem more approachable.
  • Make sure that your face is clearly visible.  No blurry shots, no back-of-the-head shots and none of those weird eyes-and-forehead crops.  Show your whole face.  All of it.  I want to see who I’m talking to.
  • Don’t take your profile picture in bed.  It just reads as sleazy.  Ditto shirtless pics.
  • Don’t be holding a gun in your profile picture.  To me it’s a major turn-off for two reasons: 1. I’m really anti-hunting and 2. It makes me wonder if you’re a serial killer.

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Profile picture- Things to try

  • Inject a little personality into your profile picture.  For example, if you like to travel you could use a picture of yourself from your latest adventure.  Into animals?  Choose a pic of you with your furry friend.  Even something quirky and geeky like wearing a fandom tee shirt can really speak volumes about who you are and what you like.
  • Use a picture where you are dressed nicely, as you would for a coffee date.  That way you look presentable and approachable without being too over the top.  (If you normally wear full makeup and a cocktail dress for a coffee date, that’s also fine.  Best to be real).
  • A word about cosplay photos: I’m a cosplayer and I get psyched when I meet someone who is also into cosplay.  But I’m iffy about using a cosplay picture as my main profile pic.  The reason for this is that you don’t really look like “you”; you look like a caricature.  By all means, add some of your wicked cosplay snaps to your albums, but I’d hesitate to use one as your profile picture.
  • Don’t be pressured to smile in your profile picture.  I mean, a smile is nice but if you aren’t a typically smiley person then don’t feel like you need to paste a fake grin on your face for the picture.

I think the best advice I can give you is to choose a picture that accurately represents who you are.  That way when people are flicking through loads of profiles they will have a good idea of what you’re about and you’ll be more likely to snag the interest of a like-minded person.

 

Do you have any questions about online dating you would like me to answer?  What do you think my next post in this series should cover?

Why being single at Christmas is awesome.

This year was the second Christmas that I’ve celebrated as a single woman.  I’ll admit that in the lead-up to Christmas I was a bit down about going it alone during the holidays.  All the cheer of Christmas can be hard to swallow when you’re all by yourself.  It gets tough fielding constant questions from relatives about your relationship status, reading gift guides for couples and knowing that you’ve got nobody to snuggle up with on Christmas Eve.

But it isn’t all bad being single during the holidays.  In fact, there are a lot of fantastic things about celebrating a solo Christmas.  I’ve been reflecting on all the ways that being single at Christmas is awesome, and today I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

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– There are no fights about whose parents to spend Christmas Day with.  You can spend as much of the day with your own people as you’d like.  You don’t have to rush about, trying to spend equal time with both families.  You can just chill out and divide up your time however you’d like.

– There are no dramas about buying romantic gifts.   You don’t have to agonize about finding just the right gift for your significant other.  There’s no need to stress about how much to spend on your new boyfriend, or whether it’s too soon to buy them a “serious” gift.

– You don’t have to worry about opening a disappointing gift from your boyfriend on Christmas morning.  There’s nothing quite like spending a fortune on a set of gorgeous cufflinks for your man, only to be presented with a gift voucher for JB-HiFi on Christmas morning.

– You can regale all of your married cousins with thrilling tales about your exciting single life over drinks on Christmas Eve.

-You get to entirely side-step the horror that is joint holiday card writing.

– There is nobody to disturb you during your post-lunch nap on Christmas Day.  You can nap as long as you want, without some horny dude trying to fondle you in your sleep.

– You don’t have to suffer through wearing the itchy, ill-fitting “sexy” lingerie that your boyfriend bought you for Christmas.  Nor do you have to open said lingerie in front of your parents.

– You can watch “Love Actually” and “A Muppet Christmas Carol” on repeat and there’ s nobody to poke fun at you when you tear up at the end.

– You are in total control of the Christmas decorations.  You don’t have to compromise and hang the hideous decorations he inherited from his great-aunt.  And likewise, there’s nobody to tell you that you can’t hang the stockings you made in kindergarten.

DSCF9220– There’s no need to stress about your post-Christmas-lunch body.  I would always feel so self-conscious about eating too much on Christmas day, lest I be bloated and sluggish if my boyfriend wanted to have sex that night.  Now, I know that any Christmas night sex will be a solo affair, and I don’t mind if I’m rocking a food baby.

– You don’t have to buy presents for in-laws. You don’t have to take part in your boyfriend’s family’s Kris Kringle and wind up buying a present for his aunt Marjorie who you’ve never met.  You don’t have to buy presents for your lazy or clueless boyfriend to give to your parents.

-You can put Christmas hats on your pets without your boyfriend rolling his eyes at you.

-You can cuddle your cousin’s baby without your grandma making goo-goo eyes at you and cooing “Getting clucky are we?  You two should start thinking about children soon, you know?”

Did you celebrate a solo Christmas this year?  What are the best bits about being single at Christmas?

Celebrating Valentines Day Solo.

This year will be the first time in more than a decade that I will celebrate Valentines Day without a boyfriend.  It’s a bit daunting.  To tell the truth, I’d been dreading V-day a bit these past few weeks.  I imagined that it would be a day filled with disappointment and depression.

But I’ve decided to take charge and give myself an amazing Valentines day.  I’ve ordered myself some beautiful presents (vintage jewellery and lingerie, in case you were wondering).  I was originally planning on going out to dinner, but I’m not sure that I’m self-assured enough to enjoy a solo meal in among a sea of coupled-up diners.  So instead I’m going to stay home, order a pizza and watch Clueless (which constitutes a pretty sweet evening in my book).

So what should you do if you’re also flying solo this Valentines Day?  I’ve got a few ideas…

Option 1: Opt out

So, here’s the thing: you don’t actually HAVE to celebrate Valentines Day.  It’s not mandatory.  If the thought V-day makes you want to retch, you don’t have to mark the day in any way at all.  If you’re fretting about Valentines Day and you don’t really feel like participating in the lovey-dovey nonsense, you have my permission to opt out.

Option 2: Romance yourself

On the other hand, Valentines Day is the perfect opportunity to shower yourself with a little bit of self-love.  Take the opportunity to spoil yourself a little bit.  Have a think about how you’d like to spend the day.  What does your ideal Valentines day look like?  Does it include an amazing home-cooked breakfast?  A special piece of jewelry?  An afternoon of pampering?  Dinner and a movie?  Hours of video games and popcorn?

Whatever your idea of a fabulous V-Day entails, do your best to give that to yourself.  Take yourself out on a date, buy yourself a gift, write a letter to yourself listing all the reasons why you’re rad.  Indulge in self-love and shower yourself with affection and romance.

If you’re a little hesitant about romancing yourself, you might like to read this post I wrote a while ago about romance for one.  If you’re strapped for ideas, I’ve got 15 to share with you.

Option 3: Galentines Day!

 

With all the emphasis on romantic love, it can be easy to forget that there are so many other types of love.  Like friendship!  Treat Valentines day as an opportunity to catch up with your mates and romance them a little bit.  Send a card to each of your single friends, bake them treats or organize a brunch date with your favourite buddies.

Option 4: Fam jam.

Another type of love that you might like to celebrate on Valentines Day is the love you have for your family.  Plan a special outing with your parents, take your kids to the park, or hang out with your siblings.  Perhaps you might like to get a cute gift for your mum, like a scented candle or a new book.  Maybe you could write your Dad a poem about all the things he’s taught you.  Or you could just catch up with your geeky brother and play Cards Against Humanity.

 

So you see, there are so many awesome ways to celebrate Valentines Day even if you’re flying the single flag this year.  Love comes in so many different forms and this is an opportunity to celebrate that.

 

What are your plans for Valentines Day?  Whether you’re single or coupled, I want to hear all about it!

What I learned from my Nana.

Yesterday would have been my Nana’s birthday.  It’s the first birthday that’s passed since she died in November.  It was a really hard day, and needless to say I missed her a lot.

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I began thinking about Nana, and all the amazing memories I have of her.  She was a truly incredible woman and I’m so blessed to have had her as my grandmother.  She spent so much time with my brother and I and she taught us so many things.  Today, in honour of her, I’d like to share some of the things I learned from Nan.

– You are so much stronger than you realise.  You are capable of withstanding more heartbreak, difficulty and struggle than you would have thought possible.  My Nana experienced a lot of difficulties in her life.  Her husband was chronically ill for the last ten years of his life, and she cared for him at home tirelessly.  She raised three kids and lived on a farm which was a pretty hard life (although she loved it).  She battled cancer and dealt with the death of her mother at a young age.  In spite of all that difficulty, Nan kept going, and she rarely complained.

– Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Nan was a tiny, grey-haired angel with glittering blue eyes and perfectly manicured nails.  To look at her, you would imagine that she’d be into things like knitting, bird-watching and drinking tea from china mugs.  Well, she did love all of those things, but she also loved grisly murder mystery novels, swearing like a sailor and puffing cigarettes in secret.  She also loved dirty jokes.  But you would never have guessed that by looking at her.

-If you love someone, make it obvious.  Love isn’t for hiding away, it’s for sharing loudly and often.

– If someone has hurt you deeply, and you think they’ll do it again, you don’t have to let them back into your life.  Accept their apology if one is offered but don’t give them any more of your time if you’ve got a good reason to think you’re going to get hurt again.

– If things are looking grim, for the love of God, crack a joke.

– We don’t love people because they’re perfect.  We love the little imperfections that make them unique.

-If someone you love is keeping you dangling on a string, or is playing games with you, get rid of them.  If someone truly loves you, they won’t put you through the heartache and anguish of playing “hard to get”.  They won’t give you false hope and they won’t make promises that they don’t intend to keep.  You deserve better.

– Cedel hairspray is the best brand there is.

– A kiss, a song and a squeeze of the hand are sometimes all it takes to turn somebody’s day around.

– Sex isn’t the most important thing in a relationship.  What’s more important is choosing someone that loves you for who you are, who you can comfortably sit in silence with and who will support you no matter what.

– You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world.  You don’t have to be the most successful.  You don’t have to be the most popular or the most beautiful.  You just need to be open, loving and kind.  Nana offered love so easily, so effortlessly, to so many people.  And they all loved her back.  She wasn’t rich, or especially beautifully or fantastically smart, but her life was so full with the love she’d given and received.