Catherine Townsend: Sleeping around

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"I'm sorry, but I'm just not feeling this relationship," my Richard said, staring at me over a latte. "Maybe I'm too scared to have a girlfriend." I couldn't believe it. I can handle being kicked to the kerb, but I'm having a hell of a lot harder time coming to terms with the fact that the passionate guy I fell for may never have existed at all.

Where was the man who once sent a text saying, "I can't stop thinking about you, and I don't want to?", who had been my friend for months while pursuing me ardently, whisked me away for a weekend to Switzerland and chased me down the street, crying and telling me he "didn't want to lose me" after we'd had a fight. I felt like suing him for false advertising.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, I'm neurotic, intense and driven. He's the laid-back guy who has trouble committing to dinner, and breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of stepping outside his circle of friends.

My mum had warned me that Richard may have "caveman syndrome", when a guy pursues his conquest just long enough to club her over the head and drag her back to his lair - only to find he can't handle the reality. And even though I sensed that Richard had a lot of hidden insecurities, I focused on his kind heart and boyish charm. And I started to fall in love. Every time he revealed any emotion (like getting drunk and telling me he'd imagined living with me in 10 years' time) he would freak out the next day. Still, I wanted so badly to believe in him that I couldn't see that the only place we'd ever inhabit was at the intersection of Fantasyland and Not Gonna Happen.

"So, am I your girlfriend?" I asked him teasingly a few weeks ago. Instead of answering, he said, "What do you think?" and started kissing me. The sex was fantastic, but lying in bed next to him was the loneliest I have ever felt - much worse than being on my own.

The fat lady finally sang on Friday night, at my friend Amy's 30th birthday party. It was the first time he was due to meet my girlfriends' partners - both highly successful and brilliant guys who adore them - on his own, without his posse.

He never showed up. I finally got a lame call at 3am saying that his battery had run out. But we both knew that his phone wasn't the only thing that died that night. The next morning, after our fateful coffee, I got up from the table and walked out, with my heart shattered but my dignity intact.

Then I wandered the streets, crying, before knocking on Victoria's door. Several tequila shots later, she helped me separate the fantasy guy I'd created from the rather nastier reality. "Cat, you said that you were afraid he was too laid back for you," she said, "so, what exactly are you missing?"

"But he was so sweet and chivalrous," I blubbered. Victoria grabbed my shoulders. "He stood you up," she said. "How chivalrous is that?"

I miss him. But he did me a favour. I don't want to settle for some half-arsed casual relationship. Like the Stone Roses song says, I want to be adored.

c.townsend@independent.co.uk

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