Voices: Paige’s Love Island situation sums up one of the scariest things about dating

·5-min read
Paige’s fear of embarrassment makes me close myself up when I’m dating (ITV2)
Paige’s fear of embarrassment makes me close myself up when I’m dating (ITV2)

This week’s Love Island episodes have seen Paige Thorne in frequent tears about her budding (or maybe not so budding) relationship with Jacques O’Neill.

We saw her crying after a conversation a couple of days ago with Samuel Agbiji, in which Samuel said his honest opinion was that Paige liked Jacques more than Jacques liked her. “I don’t want to be that person that’s let myself be a mug all over again; I just can’t be doing it,” she sobbed.

In that sentence, Paige summed up one of the most terrifying parts of dating; realising (or, worse, being told) that you like someone more than they like you.

It’s scary because it makes you doubt your own powers of insight, observation and intuition (even though it’s never, ever your fault if you’re in a form of relationship that meant more to you than it did to the other person).

It’s scary because it means you’ve opened yourself up to someone and offered them a gift in the form of a precious part of yourself, thinking they were treating that gift with respect and care, but then you realise they actually held it with a sense of bewilderment, not knowing what to do with it; or, worse, that they chucked it away without a second thought, like tossing a teabag in the bin. It feels like a tiny part of your soul has been shredded into pieces. You want to ask for the gift back, but it’s not the sort of thing you can get refunded. Once it’s been given, that’s that.

And it’s scary because it leaves you with a unique feeling of rejection. Rejection always stings; but when that person is someone you not only have feelings for, but who also gave you the impression that they shared those feelings, the weight of rejection can feel like too much to carry. You held that pen together as you tentatively started to write the first, hesitant chapter of your relationship, but to the other person that story was only ever fiction.

When it came to last night’s explosively dramatic Casa Amor recoupling, Jacques opted to stay with Paige; but it soon transpired that he’d spent the past couple of days getting intimate with Cheyanne Kerr. He continued to insist, as he has for days, that he couldn’t know if his connection with Paige was “real” unless he “tested” himself by getting to know (and kissing, and sharing a bed with) other people, even though Paige didn’t need any sort of test to know that her feelings for Jacques were real.

Liking someone more than they like me is something I’m perpetually worried about whenever I’m dating someone new. Last night, Paige said “I look like the biggest f***ing idiot in the entire world right now”; and although I wholeheartedly agree with Gemma Owen that Paige looks only like a good person here, it’s this fear of humiliation that makes me close myself up when I’m dating.

With the person I’m dating, I’ll keep my cards close to my chest. I’ll hesitate to initiate anything unless I’m absolutely positive my words or actions will be reciprocated (and even then, I’ll feel like I’m stepping off the shore onto a boat that could bob away at any second; because you can never be completely positive, can you?). I’ll delete sentences from WhatsApp messages that I think are too long in case I look like I’m “too keen”.

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I’m aware this means I stop being fully myself; but if the alternative is giving my all to someone who might want to give me only a fraction of himself, I’ll hold back until I’m sure (or more sure). I asked one boyfriend to “just tell me” straight away if he wasn’t feeling our relationship any more, because I couldn’t bear to go through what Paige is going through right now, with other people having to force the reality of the situation to the surface.

With my friends, I’ll insist that it’s “early days” and “it could end at any point”. I’ll say this because I’m always worried I’m misreading something and that this person doesn’t like me anywhere near as much as I like them. Like Paige in Casa Amor, I’ll be worried that, while I’m telling my friends how much I like this person and that I could potentially see a future with them, they’re telling their friends the total opposite.

It shouldn’t be this way, of course. We should be able to state joyfully that we like someone; the early stages of a relationship should be an opportunity to tell your friends how excited you are about it, rather than folding yourself up into tiny pieces before showing people a corner of how you’re really feeling. I shouldn’t be working to make sure that I don’t come across as “too keen”; the onus is on the other person to be honest about how they feel.

I tell my friends that, if someone doesn’t reciprocate their feelings, that person is missing out; and I’m working on developing this mindset for myself. Sometimes I believe it, and sometimes I struggle; but it’s something that I’m starting to fervently believe is true.

Ultimately, of course, the right person shouldn’t make you cry in those early stages. They shouldn’t make you agonise over the messages you’re sending or feel as though you have to put a lid on your real feelings. The right person should make you feel wholeheartedly, unapologetically yourself – and I hope Paige ends up with the right person in the end, whoever that might be.

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