Mr. Brightside 11 - The Patron Saint of Mediocrity

"We are a society consumed with falling in love but not the sustaining of love."

- Katherine Woodward Thomas: Calling in the One

The day before Mr. Brightside and I broke up, I experienced a profoundly poignant moment while looking at myself in the bathroom mirror.

I stood there and saw myself - really saw myself - in a way that I usually don't.

All too often when we glance at ourselves in the mirror, we aren't really taking ourselves in; we look but we don't see.

But in that moment I saw myself: a beautiful, brilliant woman with such a kind heart and so much love to give. I felt the essence of my spirit.

And that made me feel incredibly sad as I realized that the man I was with made me feel quite ordinary, as though he either didn't recognize the incredible value of the woman he had in front of him, or that he simply didn't know how to appreciate her.

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet."

Precious things - like our hearts - should be given to people who have the capacity to recognize the value of the things they have, and who have the ability to handle those things with the care.

The reasons why Mr. Brightside didn't make me feel special don't matter; whether it was him not falling in love, him being emotionally unavailable, or any other shortcomings on his part.

'Why' doesn't matter because the end result was the same: I was giving the best of myself to a man who was limited in his ability to make me feel seen, appreciated, and cared for.

I felt so profoundly...ordinary.

He made me feel ordinary.

I let him make me feel ordinary.

The realization washed over me like a wave of nausea, immediately followed by the question as to why I would allow that.

"The catalyst of most life-altering transformations is usually a really good question... How does the poor treatment I am getting reflect the way I feel about myself?

What I am suggesting is that you seriously ask yourself how it is that you gave someone else permission to disrespect and abuse you, because that's your issue.

You can make someone wrong and go to all sorts of lengths to blame them and shame them and to ultimately get rid of them entirely, but until you take full responsibility for how you have been an invitation for abuse, you'll most likely attract in another abusive person in spite of your best efforts to avoid re-creating that situation."

- Katherine Woodward Thomas: Calling in the One 

Was I ordinary?

I felt ordinary because I felt so taken for granted; my presence, my time, my effort, my heart. It felt as though it all just didn't mean much to Mr. Brightside.

His responses always fit into one of three categories:
  • Non-existent, where he didn't even notice the effort or acknowledge it in any way
  • Underwhelming, where his response was completely flat in contrast to the magnitude of the deed (i.e. To a gourmet meal "Thanks, this is good.") 
  • Undercutting, where he actually took credit away from the deed (i.e. Back to the gourmet meal "I don't know what's involved in creating a meal like this so I can't appreciate it.")
I kept checking myself every time I got one of his lacklustre responses, and asking myself "Is this commonplace? Everything that I'm doing, giving, and being? Do other people do this? All of this?"

The answer I kept coming up with was no.

But the truth is, I didn't expect to be appreciated because I so rarely (if ever) had been in my fractured family dynamicMy parents were not good at recognizing effort, and in order to get any acknowledgement from them I often felt like I had to bend over backwards until I nearly snapped before I was noticed.

Yet another way Mr. Brightside was a reflection and replaying of my childhood experiences.

The next night, after I had received Mr. Brightside's break-up message, I emailed my good friend Mr. Gold.

I told him that Mr. Brightside and I had broken-up, and that although I knew it was for the best, I told him I could use a pep talk.

He messaged back first thing the next morning.

Dear Jasmin,

Very sorry to hear this. You know it’s easy to say “not meant to be” etc., but often words of solace fall short.

One thing you wrote struck me 
“I realize that Mr. Brightside made me feel quite ordinary.” Well my dear that’s probably because Mr. Brightside is ordinary. That’s not to say he isn’t a decent fellow and I’m sure he’s a great match for multitudes of women, but clearly not you. 

The difference between being ordinary and extraordinary, is the word “extra” and that’s what you are. Make no mistake you have that something extra which makes you different and also exciting.

One of the worst things we can do is to sell ourselves short. Maybe you dodged a bullet. I can’t believe he let a woman like you get away from him, very bad judgment. If the situation were different, believe me, you wouldn’t have gotten away from me or any other man worth being with.

All this is easy to say but being by yourself can be lonely and that’s a curse. This bloody pandemic doesn’t make it any easier. Will call soon but thought I’d respond immediately by email.

Chin up, as they used to say in the Merchant Navy.

Mr. Gold

Was Mr. Brightside ordinary?

What he was or wasn't doesn't matter - what matters is what I am. 

And I am not ordinary.

Mr. Gold and I talked later that week.

He was supportive in the kind of way any friend ought to be in that situation: he let me know he was very much on team Jasmin.

One of the things I like best about Mr. Gold is that he occasionally gets on his soapbox in order to impart some particularly insightful bit of wisdom, and this time was no different.

"Well you know, there's a big difference between getting a woman and keeping a woman. Most men do alright getting her, but then don't know what to do with her once they've got her.

And what they forget is that a woman needs both the steak, and the sizzle.

The steak is the solid, reliable part of a man; it's what makes him a good provider and someone who can be counted on. Women need that.

But women also need the sizzle; the fatty part of the steak that adds flavour - and those are things like what you're talking about; the words, the gestures, whatever creates that electric feeling that raises your blood pressure. Because most women won't hang around for just steak, and it sounds as though Mr. Brightside was mostly steak.

Honestly, every time I got off the phone with you, I remember thinking to myself "My goodness this guy sounds flat - really flat - the Patron Saint of Mediocrity."

Which made me laugh out loud in a way that only a particularly cutting truth can.

When going through a break-up, I think a touch of schadenfreude is permitted after all?

Ah yes - the sizzle. There was no sizzle.

Now don't get me wrong, there was chemistry. We had loads of chemistry. But no sizzle - no passion.

I didn't know there was a difference until my relationship with Mr. Brightside, because up until that point, I thought that they were the same and had used the terms interchangeably.

But now I would describe the difference as follows:

Chemistry is when bodies align; all the parts fit together, the tastes are delicious, the smells are intoxicating.

Passion is when souls align; when you merge with another down to the very core of yourselves in such a way that you don't know where you end and they begin. In those moments, you are unified, you are one.

Mr. Brightside and I had a lot of chemistry. But no passion.

Passion requires recognition of the other as yourself; there is no separateness, there is no 'other' and so in your physical union, you become one. You give yourself over so completely that you lose your 'self.'

You must be willing to give your 'self' to the union.

And you must know the 'self' which you are giving.

After our break-up, Mr. Brightside admitted that he didn't think he knew who he was apart from his identity as a parent. From that foundation, I don't believe it's possible to create anything with another, and certainly not a relationship, let alone a passionate one.

Mr. Brightside told me that on our first date, one of the things that stood out for him the most about me was how direct I was. He said he liked direct, wanted direct, needed direct, because he wasn't good at picking up subtleties.

And so I was direct in asking him to say and do the things that would create passion between us. I wouldn't have made such a point to spell things out to him if he hadn't specifically and repeatedly said how much he needed that directness.

He also kept emphasizing the big "relationship" he wanted; a partner who would help him raise his daughters and then once they were out of the house, to travel with her and explore the world.

I wasn't honest with myself about whether or not I wanted all of that in the first place, let alone with him. All I knew was that the detached and un-emotional behaviour he was exhibiting was in direct opposition to the relationship he said he wanted to create.

However because I'm a "make shit happen" kind of woman, instead of ending the relationship when I clearly saw the discrepancy between his words and his actions, I kept asking him for the things that would bridge the gap from where we were to where he said he wanted us to be:

Compliments and feedback in general. ("I'm not good at that.")
Wanting to speak to me between dates. ("I don't like talking on the phone.")
Random acts of thoughtfulness. ("I live in the present moment, so can't think ahead.")
Asking questions and volunteering information. ("I'm used to being alone.")
Appreciation, warmth, validation, etc.

I kept asking him for the things that should have been a given from someone who truly wanted to build a serious relationship.

What I realize now is that I was exactly right in that - the things I was asking for should have been a given from someone who truly wanted to build a serious relationship - and him or any man not giving them freely means they don't want a relationship. Or they don't want the relationship they're currently in anyhow.

In order to create desire and passion, a man needs to let a woman know with his actions that he is noticing her as a woman.

For example, I don't need a man to tell me I'm beautiful because I require that validation for myself, I need a man to tell me he thinks I'm beautiful because I require confirmation of his desire for me.

Everything a man says and does should in some manner have the underlying message "I WANT YOU." You wanting me makes me want you. Even if I'm not initially attracted to you, if you come at me with that kind of desire, it's going to be damn hard for me (for any woman) to resist.

Mr. Brightside didn't make me feel like he wanted me.

And that's probably because he didn't.

He said to me in his break-up message that "The words of affection you crave will always sound empty coming from me because I'm not falling in love with you" but right from the start he hadn't done the things that would allow that love to grow.

He put his lack of loving actions on the fact that he wasn't falling in love with me, but his lack of action guaranteed that nothing real would ever grow between us.

So that was either general ineptitude with regards to social/romantic interactions (definitely part of the problem), him not wanting to be in a relationship at all (which seemed to be the case after the fact) or him not wanting to be in a relationship with me specifically (which makes no sense because as already discussed, I'm a fucking delight.)

In hindsight of course, we both realized that he was not emotionally available (he willingly admitted this during post-break-up talk #2).

When we were in the situation though, neither one of us knew this consciously and so I kept trying to explain to him - very directly as had been repeatedly requested of me - the things that were required to grow our relationship.

This only succeeded in creating an uncomfortable power struggle, of me asking him for the things I knew I needed in order to grow the relationship he kept insisting he wanted, and him driving his stake more and more firmly into the ground, with each small concession feeling like a very hard won victory. (OMG - he managed to actually call me "honey" OUT LOUD!)

We each grew incredibly exasperated with the other as a result.

If either one of us had been more honest and self-aware, we would never have been in the relationship to begin with: him because he would have known that he didn't actually want a relationship, and me because I would have known that him not performing many of those actions which would create love meant that he did not desire me/the relationship and therefore, was not a candidate I should have been considering at all. (Alright, that and all the other ways he wasn't actually what I wanted, at all.)

I cut him a lot of slack both because of my past and because of his military background. He kept talking to me about being on deployment for months and months at a time, and needing to put his whole emotional life on hold while he was away.

I thought to myself that this was why he was living in his own bubble and was so emotionally disconnected from the world around him that he couldn't relate to many situations the way that most people would.

I thought I could love it out of him. I thought if I set an example, and did all sorts of kind, thoughtful, loving things for him and his daughters, he would see what I was doing and understand how and why he should reciprocate. I thought I could be the exception, and get him to change.

It didn't work. I just gave and gave and he was either oblivious to my efforts, or generally un-interested in his own potential growth.

Granted, he did make small adjustments, he did try, but it was mostly actions without feeling - "Sargent Brightside reporting for relationship duty m'am!" - and he protested vehemently along the way "I don't know if I can keep this up long-term."

(What, you mean doing things that show care and concern for another human being, specifically one that you are interviewing to be your life partner and the step-mother of your children?? This is too much for you??)

His empty actions made me feel as though I was losing my mind; although he was doing some of the things, it all felt so empty that it made me want to shake the shit out of him, scream at him, ask him if there was a real live human inside of him somewhere.

"Once more with feeling, for chrissake!"

I had deep sympathy for his ex-wives in those moments, because although I do believe based on some of their actions that they might have been legitimately crazy, I do wonder how much of what they did was based on their desperation to get him to see them and acknowledge them. Or to see him emote, well, anything.

(RED FLAG: if someone tells you all of their exes were crazy - RUN FAST THE OTHER WAY. Because the common denominator was them, and make no mistake, they contributed to the crazy in some manner.)

I grew more and more frustrated because I felt as though I was throwing things against a brick wall, and they just kept hitting and falling, hitting and falling, again and again.

I was showing, I was telling, and I couldn't do more.

After our break-up, he thanked me for my patience with him. I'm not sure in what specific context he meant, but perhaps in some way he did actually notice what I was trying to do for him, for his kids, and for us.

All of this to say: Mr. Gold was right, there was no sizzle.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults.
If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

In the time we were together, I got more compliments from my UPS man than I did from Mr. Brightside 

(Every time my UPS man sees me he says "You are so beautiful, every time I see you, you make my day." And if I'm not there when he delivers a package, he always draws a smiley face on the address label.)

After our break-up, I was mercifully showered with praise to help heal my wounded and sagging ego.


Man, you've got it! And you've always had it - even when you didn't believe it, you still had it.

I remember when I first met you, I had the gut feeling that I'd just run into someone really, really special - and being able to get confirmation on that gut feeling was awesome.

Don't let anyone diminish what you are - you are very, very special. You're a diamond.

The biggest joy about you is how multi-faceted you are; you're incredibly gorgeous, you're very intelligent, and extremely talented. Because you're so perfect on so many different levels, I would imagine that it would be hard for a lot of guys to feel adequate for you.

Anytime I see you, whenever you make your entrance, it's always a rush of joy to be able to see. It's like when a beautiful person enters the movie screen, it's that type of feeling, you have that sort of effect.

As a guy it is your responsibility to let a woman know that she is your queen; you have to have the mindset that she is the most important person to you.

Any normal guy who has any interest in anything other than your physical appearance is going to want to know everything about you; about your vulnerabilities and about the good and bad in that brain of yours.

You're too damn special and too damn unique not to have those things, it might be different if you were ordinary, but you're not, you don't deserve to feel ordinary.

I really hope you meet someone who can live up to you; I would be so happy for you. I don't think you've had that yet but I look forward to the day that it happens.

"We are a society consumed with falling in love but not the sustaining of love."

- Katherine Woodward Thomas: Calling in the One




Those are things that need to be created and then maintained through sustained EFFORT.

Two people have to continue to do the big and little things to show how they feel about one another...EFFORT.

Perhaps there are people out there who don't want or need any effort. Those people either aren't in relationships or are in relationships that have all of the warmth and passion of two garden snails mating.(Do garden snails mate?)

I suspect that in certain ways, the amount of effort I made actually made Mr. Brightside uncomfortable because it made him aware of the fact that effort was also required from him. And the truth about Mr. Brightside is that he was a pretty low-effort kind of guy.

Now, low-effort is really another way of saying lazy. He was a pretty lazy guy. And he admitted this himself - his exact words were "I'm a pretty lazy bean."

Yes, yes you are.

I imagine that there must be a woman out there who doesn't require any effort; they could then be two lazy beans in a pod.

Now I don't know who that woman is, I've never met a woman who requires little effort unless she:

a) Has incredibly low self-worth and therefore is unable to own her desire to receive effort (admittedly like I was) or...

b) Doesn't actually want him or the relationship, in which case she won't care what he does or doesn't do because her future doesn't include him and his actions or lack thereof are of no consequence to her. (Kind of like his ex whom he spoke so reverently about - who - if you can believe it - was even more emotionally unavailable than he was.)

At the end of the day, lack of effort will land you most predictably in a sea of mediocrity, because ordinary can never be found on the extra mile.

That's it; this was my LAST post about Mr. Brightside. His name will likely still come up from time to time, but I'm done with him.

To be fair though - as one of my friends said - this was never about him - even our 'relationship' wasn't about him. I've said it all along, he was only the foil for my growth and learning. It was eight challenging months: four months with Mr. Brightside, and then four months processing all the insights about my family that my relationship with Mr. Brightside triggered.

I needed him to be exactly what he was. That's why even though I think he's an unfortunate nitwit, I'm glad he was what he was so that I could use our experience to free myself from my past.

I do declare with the utmost certainty that I am not the same person now as I was last September when I met Mr. Brightside. I am so, so much closer to becoming the person I was always meant to be but haven't become yet because of my past, and because my parents have a way of still bringing the past into the present.

But because of this relationship, a veil has been lifted and now I see myself in a way I never have before.

Who I am - my soul - is radiant and beautiful. It always has been.

I just didn't know that until now.

So thank you Mr. Brightside; your shortcomings helped me to really see myself.

And also, I'm sorry Mr. Brightside; now that I see myself, I understand that the end of our relationship truly was your loss.


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