What do you do when your boyfriend calls you by his ex's name?
Welcome to A Millennial's Dating Diary series, where we explore real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series will feature the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.
So, here's the thing, while I'm no expert, I believe I'm fairly experienced when it comes to relationships. Having been in a relationship that spanned 10 years with the same person to casually dating others for several more, I actually think I've got some level of experience when it comes to dealing with relationship issues.
Still, nothing prepared me for the sort of hurt I felt when my partner, *Mark, 31, accidentally introduced me as his ex to a friend of his that we were meant to have dinner with.
Here's how the 30-second cringefest took place: As Mark got up to introduce me the way he always did when I was meeting one of his friends, he said, "This is [insert ex's name here]." Noticing his mistake, Mark immediately apologised.
To make matters worse, though, his friend casually said that he and I had met before — assuming I was indeed, Mark's ex.
He, too, apologised when Mark corrected him.
Still, the damage was done.
I was furious, and my mind essentially went into overdrive, wondering how that brain fart of a moment manifested in the way it did during such an unfortunate time.
I wondered if Mark had spent the day thinking of his ex or if something he saw on the streets or in the restaurant had triggered a memory of her. More importantly, I wondered if he still had some feelings for her. After all, we had just started dating. I also wondered if, in some ways, I looked like her since his friend somehow assumed we were the same person. Perhaps it was because we are both Asian.
Knowing that we were about to have dinner with his friend and his friend's wife, I tried to keep my unhappiness in, but I just wasn't able to.
Feigning illness, I left dinner early because I needed some space. Then, on the train ride back to my flat, I thought hard about how the situation came to be. I know it seems childish, but I just wasn't able to pretend that I was happy. I was definitely in no mood to make small talk about what I did for a living or how terrible it is that Singapore's VTLs had closed temporarily when my brain was fighting intrusive thoughts.
Let me preface this by saying that I have no bad feelings towards Mark's ex. While it sucks that he had called me by her name, I understand that she was someone important in his life, and everything he's learned while being with her has made him a better partner for me.
Back to the issue: I had no prior experience with a situation like this one, so it wasn't easy to process exactly what to feel, think, and more importantly, how to react. Drawing up blanks, I resorted to Googling my issues and seeing what the people of r/Relationships on Reddit had to say.
Sure enough, other people, too, have been wrongly called upon by their partners.
In one post, a commenter compared the situation to the occasional brain farts he gets when he tries to name one of his six kids. "If you have children, you'll know exactly what I mean. I accidentally blurt out wrong names all the time, but it's not intentional."
You see, though, while I completely get this — I have several nephews and constantly mix up their names — it still doesn't explain why he called me by her name, specifically.
Others on Reddit went on to say that something I did at that moment could have possibly reminded him of her as well, and that's not necessarily a big deal.
"At least it wasn't the name of some girl he was casually seeing!" said my best friend Natalie, trying to cheer me up over text. "It'll be worse if he mixed you up with some girl he was seeing only a couple of times."
Unfortunately, my research didn't lead me to any sort of scientific findings or studies, so it's difficult to pinpoint why things like these happen.
The truth is, I still haven't quite found a way to deal with the situation. While Mark and I have made up — that same night, we talked trying to figure out why it happened — I'm still a little bit raw from it. I try and tell myself that it could have been a lot worse: he could have said her name out while we were having sex.
Frankly, I think that if he had done that, I would have been a lot more upset.
For now, I just hope it doesn't happen again.