Relationships

After about seven months of dating failure after failure (with a constant undercurrent of a torturous, nonconstructive crush on someone at work), I just started going out with someone amazing and it’s made me think a lot about my previous relationships (all two of them!). Maybe it’s not quite fair (and maybe it’s the honeymoon period happy hormones talking) to compare someone I’ve only been formally dating for three weeks to the people I was with for almost 6 years and around 3 months, respectively, but it’s very hard not to do when even from the beginning he blows all of them out of the water. And it really makes me wonder what the hell I was doing especially with my last ex, Mitsu – I feel like I need to write a postmortem on that. I keep thinking back on that particular 3-month thing and certain things he did seem so weird now in hindsight. I was definitely right to break up with him in February.

Around my birthday (mid-January), at about two months together, things had been great and I had really thought we were in love. But then work got crazy for him and he put me right on the back burner, more or less without a word. Messages I sent to him during the workday on breaks would go unread and unreplied for hours, and maybe even not acknowledged at all that day. I didn’t even find out why things were so hectic at work for him (two people had left) until I started making a fuss about his unresponsiveness. This was the second time this issue with irregular communication had come up, and the first time he had been very apologetic. This time? I was basically told “This is how it is. You have to wait for my timing to be right for me to contact you.” I’m sorry, YOUR timing? What about my timing?? I am being stolen from at home, my job sucks, I’m trying to find a new place to live and a new job all at the same time and I can’t rely on you to be there for me when I need you to, only if it aligns with YOUR schedule! Once that happened, my feelings cooled FAST. Unbelievably fast. I considered holding onto him for the companionship and physical affection, even if the emotional component was long gone, but I couldn’t do it – I felt nothing for him anymore, and it meant I had zero patience for his crap (like asking me to help him hang up his laundry, or telling me what to do, or not being my ally when I encountered subtle racism in his presence [like being brought a spoon in a rice bowl restaurant when I was already using chopsticks, or being addressed in English], his reluctance to come over to my place instead of me coming to his), all of which I had forgiven at first. After a couple weeks of feeling like this, I was finally able to meet up with him in person and break up. […] So, that was my first relationship with a Japanese guy, lasted three months. I’m a little jaded now on whether they’re all going to be like this (shunt me aside as soon as work gets crazy, no matter what’s going on in my life), especially because I really thought Mitsu was a sweet guy, but now I see he was actually pretty selfish and inconsiderate.

I guess it’s easy to tell it probably wasn’t gonna last if you look back at what I wrote when we started dating

Getting a boyfriend hasn’t helped [my busy schedule] either – not that I’m not enjoying myself or that I don’t like him, of course! Quite the opposite, I’m having fun with a new experience and just sort of seeing how things go. He’s Japanese and we’ll call him Mitsu. But I think I realized right after I planned [the] first date […] that “Wait, I don’t have the time to be dating, what am I doing focusing energy on this?” But in the end I liked talking to him and we clicked in person […], and when he asked me to be his girlfriend a month ago I said yes. I don’t regret the decision but it’s just another thing to fit into my schedule….

Yeah, that sounds ビミョー (lukewarm) as hell. That does not sound like I’m excited to be with this person. I think it was just that it was two months after breaking up with Kirk, I’d gone on dates with two guys and I liked him better (we had a pretty funny exchange at the end of our first date about whether ghosts at a shrine would like to eat me, an American, or him, a Japanese, better). Plus, the notion of having my first Japanese boyfriend was very intriguing, and he did speak English too (something about the idea of only having a relationship in Japanese is weird to me – I want at least the option of English to be there too) and was fairly cute, so when he asked me to be his girlfriend during our second date (at Nichome – ha! Literally he asked me on the dance floor of a gay club), I agreed. But also, the dance floor was loud, so I hadn’t heard anything he’d said in the lead-up to actually asking me out – and based on the look on his face, it was probably some complimentary stuff. I really wished I’d heard that, because it was probably the only compliments he ever gave me. I’m serious. For the whole relationship I was left wondering WHY he wanted to date me, because he never said things like “You look cute” or “You’re so beautiful” or “You’re so smart” – and believe me, he had chances. I think the closest thing to a compliment I ever got was, when he was in a silly mood, he just busted out with (in English) “I love your pointy nose!!”

But there were just sooooo many issues. He prioritized his work and his hobbies above me – he was into foreign languages and always wanted to be studying one he already knew or learning a new one (which is probably why he always wanted us to speak English when we were together – which was ok, but I really prefer a bilingual experience where at least we have SOME Japanese too, or else it just feels like you’re using me), and he had high career goals and his company was a start-up so his job demanded a lot of his time, which I think he gave not only out of typical obligation to the company but out of a sense of pride too – “see how important I am, how much my job/company needs me.” He’d leave the office at night but continue working, and bring his laptop so he could work on the weekends too (he even brought it and did some work on a weekend trip we went on!). I think Kirk indulged in this too from time to time, but it just makes me roll my eyes. Unless you’re the president or a CEO or something, you aren’t important because of your job – you’re just not. But A LOT of guys especially get caught up in this. Fortunately, current boyfriend does not even though he does have a good job, and I’m SO glad. If he’s with me, he’s focused on me – he’s not taking work calls or answering work emails or even thinking about work. I love it. I even commented on that to him and he said exactly what I believe too – “When I’m with my girlfriend, that’s our time, not work time.” Ahhh~

Anyway, so yeah. The relationship with Mitsu is still just baffling because I don’t understand why he didn’t put more effort in and why he thought I’d be satisfied with so little, or why he even wanted to go out with me in the first place. I suspect now that he’s just a strange person, maybe even mildly asperger’s-y in some way, with how he was just completely focused on himself. Like, when I showed him the job posting for the job I was applying for (and eventually got), he read through it and murmured “Yeah, I have that. I have that too” and made it all about him (?!) instead of saying something like “You do have all these qualifications, I bet you’ll get it!” or something. And when I was taking the JLPT N1, it was minutes before the test began and I didn’t have a message from him wishing me good luck, even though he knew I was taking it. I had to bug him with reminders “About to take the JLPT!” before he finally sent me something. I just never felt like he was there for me emotionally. After we broke up I have never heard from him again (although we’re still facebook friends and I think he might have liked a random status once).

As for Kirk… I never really did a postmortem there either. Well, it was my first relationship, so (as with Mitsu where he was simply the most suitable, intriguing candidate at a time when I was curious about dating in his case a Japanese guy) it’s possible that it was just that Kirk was the one who stuck around and I didn’t run away from so he ended up as my first boyfriend at a time when it was getting to be ridiculous that I’d never had one. But also, things were good at the beginning. We were incredibly happy to have started dating and he even wrote me a mushy LiveJournal (lol) entry – that only I could see – during our first week together. Around our first Thanksgiving and Christmas (we started dating in October), we also had a lot of mushy, sweet moments. It was clear that he really adored me and thought I was amazing. (Although he gave me in-ear earphones for Christmas even though I had specifically told him not to get me that type of earphone because I hate it – he decided “well, this is the best one so I’m going to get it for her anyway” – which I didn’t appreciate, and he ended up returning them.)

The first bump in the road was after Christmas, when at a mutual friend’s party I realized that he had lied to me about something from his past – something I would have been totally fine knowing, but he decided that I was too innocent to be told the full truth and thus flat-out lied about it. Our first fight, and not a fun one at all. We also had a very uneven time around my birthday (mid-January) where I got too drunk and incapacitated and he was upset for various reasons related to that (reasons that were more concerned about his desires than mine). But we rallied and had an extremely romantic first Valentine’s Day together, and then things were going so well that I decided not to even consider going to teach in Japan directly after graduation but instead to stay in Dallas and work and wait for him to graduate (at that point we believed he had another year, though it would in fact take him 2.5 more years to graduate) and then we would go to Japan together.

Over the next six years a lot of things happened–my anxiety got out of control and I eventually needed meds and therapy, and while he tried his best to support that, it was essentially too much for him to handle. The passion and adoration I’d felt from him when we first started dating got eroded away (probably by the stress of dealing with an anxious, needy, afraid-everything-would-lead-to-death-at-all-times girlfriend), and I missed the loss sorely. I would be impatient and get mad at him, which he resented. My dreams of going to Japan kept getting postponed by his timeline, until eventually I just decided to go by myself. More and more, there was built-up resentment and not the spontaneity and passion that I wanted from a relationship. We had enough good times to keep us going, but we also fought regularly. We were long-distance for most of the relationship, and we’d usually fight during one of our visits to see each other, in some cases right upon coming in the door (when I was upset that he didn’t notice a dramatic haircut). Despite all that, I still felt that he was my best friend, and we had a lot of shared inside jokes, sounds, phrases we’d say… It made it very hard to let go, even when I left for Japan. We broke up a year after that, and the reason wasn’t the distance, it was that I realized he’d reached a limit for what he would do for me, and it was maxed out already. I thought if I moved back to Texas, we’d get engaged soon after (otherwise, why come back for him?) but all of the anxiety and resentment had given him serious doubts and he couldn’t promise that we’d do anything other than “see how things go” once I came back. If I had an anxiety attack that I wanted him to talk me through, instead of comforting me he’d increasingly say things like “I just don’t know if I can see myself marrying someone who does this.” I felt like I had to deal with my issues alone so as not to drive him away (more). And he definitely wouldn’t consider, ostensibly for career reasons, moving to Tokyo like I asked. So I initiated the conversation that led to the break-up.

It was a good decision… I still believe that. As I gain romantic experience, I see so many ways I wasn’t getting my needs met, but I put up with it because I didn’t know better or I thought the good outweighed it. Or if I tried to ask to have those needs met, it was just another way I was nagging him or bothering him to change – another source of resentment, even if he did comply. There were so many times when he did something with me because I’d asked, but did not hide the fact that he didn’t want to be there and was having a terrible time – whereas if he asked me to do something I wasn’t that thrilled about (like hang out with his parents), I always put on a happy face, I never sat around scowling and looking like I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I really wished he could have been a person who was more game to do something with me because I’d asked (Mitsu was similar, flat-out refusing to join me for a run with my group, claiming he had to work).

I was also determined to make my first relationship work, for whatever reason. I wanted to prove it to people around us (like my dad, or his ex) who thought we wouldn’t work and/or wanted to see us end, and part of me liked the idea of finding the one on my first try and never being with anyone else again. But it stings when I realize that he’d already let go of us a long time ago, and was just holding on maybe out of habit or kindness to me. Within a week of our break-up (again we were together almost 6 years and considered ourselves life partners/very serious), he had a new girlfriend. They dated for a couple months, then he got together with a girl at work instead and they’re still together. Meanwhile I was single for two months, dated someone for three months, single for seven months, and just when I’d given up on ever finding someone good – no really, I had – I meet someone. It’s so annoying how a good man is never single for very long, but good women are single for a long time.

But on to the new guy – Shiki (actually the name of one of my favorite guys from one of the games my company publishes! But the first mora of their names are the same). I know I’m biased and still high on honeymoon period feelings, but he’s really, really great, and I think my excitement is well-founded. So far, he has basically done everything right, and I’m super pleased. We met the same way I’ve met all the other guys – dating website, but this was a new one I had just signed up for, and it seemed like the guys there were more serious. At first I got some weird messages from older (40s-50s – my profile says I am looking for someone much younger) Japanese men in other cities (profile also says I want someone in Tokyo), or messages written in crappy English even though my profile is in both Japanese and English, which was annoying, but then I got this very sweet message from a cute, young (28) guy that actually referenced things in my profile and was written in half fluent English and half Japanese.

Keep in mind, this is after months and months of terrible dates with a parade of guys (American and Japanese) who just didn’t seem into me (or not in the right ways). I was EXTREMELY wary of getting my hopes up, but we became LINE friends and started messaging (all in Japanese). I really liked that he would send me about 5 messages at a time covering everything I’d asked about (Kirk’s ADD meant he’d often forget to categorically reply to everything I’d asked, only the ones that came last), which I would respond to with 5 messages, and then we would continue from there. In early October there was a typhoon day where everyone was huddled up at home worried about the torrential rain and wind (which in the end was NOT a big deal at all, nowhere near as bad as the typhoon before that had been), and we spent almost the whole day talking to each other on LINE. The following Friday, we kept in touch as we headed out drinking with our respective groups of friends, and continued talking to each other all night as we proceeded to get tipsier and tipsier (ok, I did get so drunk I threw up…). He asked where I was drinking, and I told him Nichome (this is partially a test), and he responded positively and that he’d always been curious about it. (The only reason Mitsu and I had ended up in Nichome on our second date is that we were already in Shinjuku for dinner and I suggested we walk over there afterward and he somewhat reluctantly agreed.) So our first date was in Nichome the very next night, and during the date we discussed all sorts of things we wanted to do (and discovered all kinds of things we have in common, like a love of animals, specifically cats – and I found out that he lived in the US from ages 8 to 17 and that his mom and youngest brother are still there), and one thing we both wanted to do was go to an owl cafe here. So the next weekend we had our owl cafe date (we also went to the rabbit cafe), and I was so impressed by how he took care of the reservations and everything. The owl cafe we decided to go to, the one in Tsukiji, doesn’t take phone reservations – you have to go line up the day you want to go around opening time and hope you get a spot. I told him I’d found that out and was worried, and he offered to go line up in the morning because he was already going to be in the area anyway!! So he did and he got us a highly coveted spot. I was sooooooo impressed. I am used to being with guys who do not have their shit together, who can’t get a difficult reservation, and who leave the planning up to me otherwise we’d never do anything. But this was different, and amazing. Oh, and he paid for almost the entire date, and while usually I like to split things 50/50, in the past it’s also made me feel like my past two boyfriends (who agreed to that too easily) didn’t appreciate me, so it was nice to feel treated for once. We capped off the day with dinner on the patio of a restaurant next to the water, and we also discussed about 5-10 potential dates for the future (go to Ikea, go running, etc…). At the station he insisted on walking me all the way back to my platform (about 500 meters out of his way), and while we waited for my train he very sweetly asked for a third date before I left on a planned long weekend trip to Seoul.

On that third date, dinner after work on a Wednesday night, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I had been hoping he would at some point even if not that night, so I was thrilled and said yes. I seriously can’t tell you how happy I am that it worked out like this and that I’ve found someone so great. Other facts: he takes cooking lessons (!) and has already made me dinner twice (the second was chicken soup after I mentioned that I wanted some to help me over a cold – and he upgraded the chicken to Nagoya cochin!), he has two younger brothers, he turned 28 in September so we’re about 8 months apart (but he doesn’t act younger or more immature at all), he likes sports like soccer and baseball and was on the teams for all those things in school (in the US! Our memories of things like birthday parties at roller skating rinks and moms bringing cupcakes to classrooms for birthdays coincide, it’s crazy)… he’s just basically awesome. We have so much fun together; we went to Hakone and stayed overnight and it was amazing. He’s always up for what I suggest, he’s very responsive with his LINE messages even if work is busy (and even then, he doesn’t work crazy late overtime – he usually leaves work around 6-7, maybe as late as 8 – this is unheard of for a typical Japanese guy), and he compliments me nonstop and isn’t afraid of PDA in the slightest (those last two are extremely rare for Japanese people). And of course he’s very cute and may even get glasses soon…

It’s just the most I’ve ever felt like I was getting my needs met in a relationship – more than I could have ever dreamed of or realized was possible. If I think about the things that Mitsu did – like not properly encouraging me in my job hunt or before my JLPT test (and even Kirk was so ADD I could never count on him to be there at the right times) – I could never see Shiki doing that. He would do the opposite, in fact he already does – he really encouraged me when I had my monthly in-department presentation this past week. I told him after the presentations everyone votes on the best one and he said, multiple times, that he hoped/knew I’d get #1 (even though that’s a long shot and not something I’m even trying to get). Overall, he’s just so supportive, so sweet, always sees me in the best light, but teases me good-naturedly too. I definitely hope things continue like this, and that both of us stay happy with the other. In short, I have high hopes for the future. ahhhh~

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