The Ballad of Libby and Dylan

Dylan’s solution was to get himself a girlfriend, Libby, via Tinder, soon after he was allowed out unsupervised. (I was impressed. I thought you just got sex from Tinder[1].) This was all arranged by phone from the safety of Ascot House and then he could go out without being alone. 

He immediately threw himself into this relationship with alarming gusto and dedication. They texted constantly. By the second week, Dylan was talking about love. By the third, he’d paid off her £700 overdraft. He’d insisted, against her (very sensible) reluctance. He was also talking about them moving in together.

But he would worry obsessively. One evening, early in the relationship, he suddenly went into a precipitous decline, because she hadn’t messaged him enough. He worked himself into a terrible fret about it, looking at pictures of her and her ex-boyfriend on Facebook, wondering if she said the same loving things to all her exes. He couldn’t stop it; he couldn’t think about anything else. 

He developed an excessive hatred of his predecessor, an unprepossessing young chap who’d split up with Libby by mutual consent. Dylan would take detours, on the way to meet her, so that he could glare at the poor lad in the café where he worked. One time, Dylan and I went in to town together and he took me past the café so we could both glare in through the window. 

When, inevitably, they argued, Dylan was distraught. It was about money, which I think demonstrated how quickly he was moving the relationship on: that’s the sort of argument you have when you’re newly married. Dylan is very careful with money, and he disapproved of what he saw as Libby’s profligacy, as displayed by the overdraft he’d paid off. Libby, in turn, felt uncomfortable with the debt she owed him, so when Dylan started advising her on how to spend (or, rather, save) her money, she took fright, thinking he felt he had a claim on her, and she snapped at him. This led her on to voice fears that he was already too dependent on her, and even an admission that she sometimes found him “too tactile”

In other words, like me, she was alarmed by the speed the relationship was developing at. The “argument” was never more than a slight coldness, and a slight clipped-ness, of tone, an unexpected directness, but it hurled Dylan into a deep gloom, a “Slough of Despond”, a “brown study”[2]. He feared he would be abandoned and this reminded him of how isolated and alone he was, apart from her, and thus how dependent, how weak and ineffective, sitting there, quaking, waiting to be dumped. He told me, “the urge to self-harm was very high”. 

It soon blew over, but I sympathised with both of them. Dylan’s behaviour in this relationship seemed compulsive, obsessive, symptomatic of ADHD. He must have been a right little handful for poor Libby. Never a dull moment, though. 

Never a dull moment: Philip, my therapist, maintains that every behaviour you indulge in serves a purpose. It is obvious what benefits Dylan’s relationship with Libby brought him, but what was the purpose of all the fever and the fret? Well, it certainly passed the time, structured and gave purpose to his days, established proximal and achievable goals and surmountable obstacles. And it gave us something to talk about at bed time. 

And now I’m thrown back through decades to my own first catastrophic love – Lulu. This was an immensely damaging and destructive relationship, so what was its purpose? 

I guess it was also obsessive and compulsive. Was this early evidence that I, too, had this personality type? I thought about her all the time. It provided me with an absorbing purpose and pre-occupation. Brooding over Lulu’s slights and cruelties, planning reconciliations, took up all my time. It was comforting and purposeful. I never had to consider the vast, cold, pointless mortality of the universe, the pathetic insignificance and brevity of human life, the daunting prospect of what to do with myself for the next 60 years (if I was lucky). I was in love with Lulu. That’s who I was; that’s what I did. 

Footnotes:

[1] Ok, so he got some of that first.

[2] What the hell am I on about?!

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