Many decades ago I ended my relationship with Jilly and experienced a full year of her intense angst dealing with unrequited love. It was terribly painful, especially for her, but taught me some valuable lessons about love. Jilly told me, “Oh well! perhaps you should use what you learned with me to make your future relationships better. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it?” This story honours her and her impact upon my life.
“I don’t want to throw away this relationship I don’t think it is dead or even dying. I actively enjoy your company and doing things with you. I keep writing you letters to get it all out of my system. I just can’t accept the way you acted towards me. I can’t imagine how you conceived your notion of disinvolvement could go smoothly after the intensity of our prior relationship. There must be kinder ways to end a relationship. What was wrong with you wanting to be with me or me wanting to be with you? I want to live with you or at least carry-on going out with you. I think that there are still lots of things we can do together and lots of ways we can develop our relationship. Have we really gone over the point of no return? I haven’t yet. There were even moments when I was completely and utterly happy. Please think.” Letter from Jilly – June 1974
The pain and agony of an unrequited love comes from an intense longing that spans a significant timeframe and involves little or no reciprocation from the love interest. This was not how my relationship with Jilly began nor was it how I imagined it would end. We first became acquainted at a dinner party in the house I shared, with my friend Anita and four other young people, while I was a student reading for a Business Studies degree.
Our feet met under the table and a salacious flirtation ignited. She was blonde and ravishingly beautiful with a razor sharp wit and intellect to match. In no time at all we engaged in the carnal pleasures prevalent in swinging London at that time. She occupied my bed and I visited hers – sometimes they were still warm from lovemaking with a prior amour. We asked no questions about other lovers – which led me to believe our relationship was open and free – but I was soon to learn otherwise.
I loved travelling and had the dream to return to work again on a Kibbutz. Jilly was Jewish, had relatives in Israel and asked to join me on the trip. In August 1973 we arrived at Ruhama Kibbutz in the Negev desert and lived an idyllic life in the community. We worked a few hours in the mornings, had lunch, took a walk and then made love for the rest of the day. Jilly had wisely brought along a copy of “the Art of Sensual Massage” and we practised passionately and exuberantly. We were totally and blissfully satiated with our simple sexually indulgent lifestyle for several months. But as life teaches us………….. ‘all good things must pass’.
The Yom Kippur War rudely interrupted our ecstasy. In October Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal to reclaim their occupied territory in the Sinai Desert and the Israeli Army was fully deployed. News reports and military propaganda occupied our days. There was a shortage of labor in essential industries and, when a call went out hiring dockers for the Port of Eilat, I signed up. I left Jilly at the kibbutz for about ten weeks and, while she managed to visit me a few times, we were mostly apart. Her flow of letters to me was the start of my realisation that she had become severely dependent upon our relationship.
She was an articulate and prolific writer and could easily have had a career creating erotic short stories like Anaïs Nin. Seemingly lacking any inhibitions she opened her letters with Dear fucker, sexpot Ellis, twinkling lecherous eyes, beautiful sexy chunk of man, lovely sexy sensuous lips, beautiful sexy lover, sexy he-man, bestest most nicest fucker. She described herself as the ‘blonde bombshell’, constantly repeating, “I’m feeling very randy, I need a lower body massage, I keep thinking of your body, I’d like to feel you inside of me, your pelvis pressing mine, your chest squeezed against my breasts and your tongue in my mouth, I’ve been thinking of your strong thighs and beautiful legs and the way you open your lips when making love to me, I’d like to wrap myself around you till you were almost part of me. – I could eat you all up.”
Then there was the teasing, “I think it is very selfish of you depriving me of your body. Yesterday I was asked how does it feel to be single on the kibbutz, how indeed! If there was even half a fanciable male here………..last night I had a very freudian dream.. a black man was about to attack me and rape me…… how will I survive? I’m very miserable without you, I need affection and sex. I want to make love to you so much! I’m beginning to feel very frustrated. Jakov came with me to Tel Aviv and is showing more than a friendly interest in me but I stay pure! You’ve no idea how hard it is! When I masturbate I imagine you’re making love to me with your tongue between your sexy red lips and that hungry glint in your eye! Think of all the time we are missing……all the fucking. Have another penis ping on me.!”
Jilly grew weary of kibbutz life and intolerant of Israel. We had experienced the propaganda of the government plus the growth of their apartheid state with the inhumane and unjust treatment of Palestinians. She pleaded with me, “Graham Take me away, I hate everything; I’m suffering from an over exposure to Israel, I’ve had enough. I hate everything here except you. I think Israelis are the rudest, most ugliest most unpleasant people I’ve ever met. All jews are fundamentally anti-gentile, you should know that by now.” By February 12th her intensity had grown, “God! I can’t wait to leave. I still feel dreadfully depressed and have decided to leave the kibbutz now. I just can’t bear it anymore. I’m going to Tel Aviv in two days and if there’s a flight I will take it. I have no desire to see anything more of this rotten country. Staying here is quite masochisitic in my state of mind. I love you but I love me too! “
Jilly feely admitted her outspoken intolerance. This included the State of Israel, ‘bloody Jews,’ her family, my family, her friends and also me. She wrote about her best friend Lorraine saying she had, “so little talent, a tiny intellect, no sensitivity and she belittles herself by seeking to criticise someone like me. Like you, she is also illiterate. Her mind is very small and conventional as is her experience. She’s narrow, doesn’t like Tolstoy because she found the descriptions and philosophy boring. She would happily live in South Africa with no thought of politics. She’s among the majority in this world. I’ve accepted that people like me are very few and far between.”
There was often an element of truth behind her views but they were always very extreme and dramatised. Her disdain for “bloody Jews” for example was a result of three or more incidents when she was accosted on the beach. She told me, “As I lie with my eyes closed one guy crept right up and whispered – you want to fuck, nice girl? I told him to ‘piss off’ then threw sand in his face. Ten minutes later two more guys came up asking what’s your name? I threw sand again. If I had a gun I would have happily shot them – I get so angry. Within minutes another guy did the same thing. I threw more sand in his face, I went to hit him, stopped and grabbed my things and left. I could definitely kill if I had a weapon, without any hesitation or remorse. I find the average Israeli no better than the Arab. They’re no better than animals, I’d like to bash their heads in with a rock.” I witnessed this behaviour myself when walking with Jilly in Tel Aviv as she suffered repeated lustful glares and twice had men shout, “hey wanna fuck.” My adorable blonde beauty was a magnet for blatantly sexual approaches which she hated vehemently.
Her letters starting expressing some ambivalence about our relationship. “Let’s go home, I could work for a couple of months and we could go around England in one of those caravans. Far be it for me to tell you what to do. I’ve decided that I won’t go to England and leave you here, it’s too far. I need you by my side.” Then later, “I’m not coming down to Eilat now. I’m going home, I want to leave the sooner the better, I really would like to be with you but c’est la vie, I think we knew this would happen, I’m not going to wait to fit into your plans, I’ve had enough. You can do what you want and I can do what I want which is inevitable because neither is going to give in to the other. You can go travelling. It will be very beneficial being away from you. I quite enjoy the feeling of freedom. I think that in a relationship as well as separate rooms one should have separate holidays . I think that what this separation will show us is that we can get by without one another and we’ll have to see where that takes us. We’ll have to find other lovers to keep us warm.”
Jilly was actually dead set against me becoming an independent traveller later claiming, “I think you are suffering from some kind of travel neurosis, Europe will not disappear if you don’t see it all at once. You’re deliberately trying to upset me. And if you think you’re going to outselfish me you won’t. I’ll beat you to it. I might just come to Italy but not Spain – I hate Spanish men, it’s a dreadful place to hitch and I like to travel in comfort.” When I suggested we travel directly to Italy together she said, “Would you really give up Spain for me ? Don’t if you really want to go! I have no wish to stop you doing what you want, other than purely selfish ones! I mean it go if you want to. I think I’ll see Rome then fly home and we can see where we go from there when you return home. O.K. my intrepid traveller. I do not wish to handicap you with my presence. I’d only annoy and upset you.”
When she realised I was trying to accommodate her wishes she flipped again with, “Graham I do feel that Israel has not brought out the best aspects of my character. I’m quite prepared for you to do what you like in Europe now. I shall regard my return to England as a new beginning. ” Eventually I compromised and left Israel with her and she told me, “I’m glad you will come back with me, Mummy’s got a terribly bad back, I had a dream about Daddy dying and received news that he’s now quite ill with some disease.”
Jilly never shirked expressing very heavy judgements, “You’re right when you say you have this urge to ‘run-off.’ You want to run from responsibility or any sort of ties don’t you. It’s immature. You can’t go through life as a child, youth doesn’t last forever. You’re wasting your abilities and potential, and I fail to see you’ll have any happiness or fulfilment in the long run by travel. As for your travel bug it’s your neurosis not mine. Where it leads you is your problem.” I’ve often wondered if Jilly’s threat influenced my decision to leave the U.K. the following year to travel and then live abroad. It led me to forty-two years of happiness and fulfilment beyond anything I could have imagined in 1974. But it did have it’s problems too!
When we eventually returned to the UK Jilly wanted to live with her parents to save money and asked me to move in with her. It was a huge mistake. I discovered that Jilly’s intolerance and sense of superiority had been inherited from her parents and I decided to move out after three months. Three other factors led to my decision to end our relationship; her total disdain for my own family, my own insecurity and Cathy. Jilly worked in television and was offered a job by a producer who told her it involved long hours, maybe overnight and he would probably end up having sex with her. She was honest and told me, she wanted to take the job despite his blatant warning of sexual harassment. I got very very, very jealous, much to my surprise. I had an opportunity to pursue a relationship with Cathy whom I’d fancied for a couple of years and decided to move into a house with her.
Jilly never ever accepted my decision to leave her. At first I failed to see how attached she had become to me. Then, as the almost daily phone calls and frequent letters continued for a year, the extent of her unrequited love eventually dawned on me and felt I like it was drowning me. Life got very complicated when Cathy travelled to India for several months and Jilly came round to my house – and I succumbed to my basic sexual instincts. She wrote, “Graham I do still like you as much and I enjoy being with you as much. Do we have to set limits on our relationship? Do you really want me to start going out with someone else? Can’t we still get more out of each other? Is our relationship really that dead or is that just the way you want it to be? How would you feel if I had done it to you? I am interested in you not just you in relation to me. Why does it have to be the relationship you want? Are my opinions not to be considered at all or my feelings? It’s obvious you are predominantly thinking about you. Well what about how it suits me? I can look at it indifferently now and I still think we do have something. I don’t know why we have to throw it away. When are we going to see each other again? Can I have no involvement at all or am I just a complete outsider ? Graham I still like you, why finish it or squeeze it slowly to death? Somewhere under all your thoughts and reasoning you must still have feelings for what we once shared. Can’t I tickle it?”
I realised I had made a mistake and refused to see her but the calls continued for a while but she finally stopped writing. Just before Cathy returned from India, she came to my house when I was out. She got into my room and took all her letters but left me with a new 32 page epiphany. It was deeply profound and extremely emotional. It left me grieving about the pain she was suffering but also taught me many lessons about life, who I was and the way I affected others.
Jilly was extremely bitter about me leaving her saying she sincerely doubted she could ever find anyone else like me to do anything with. She flattered me saying, “you’re a very magical person to live with and love and you really have some very rare qualities.” Evidently articulating my feelings for her was not one of my qualities. I tried, but relative to Jilly I grew up in an emotionally repressed household, I felt intellectually insecure, I had a poor vocabulary for intimate communications and on top of all this I was male! Realising I had difficulties expressing myself with words she rightly claimed that our best communication was in bed. She accused me of not allowing her to know me, of being ‘cagey’ and fencing her out of my life. I admit she was right about this and my efforts to explain how I felt were pretty pathetic.
She thought that we should have continued to go deeper in our connection and that I would only experience similar compromises and problems in future relationships. She was also right on this and it has taken me many different relationships and four marriages, over four decades, to get to the point where I have finally found a partner and developed the skills to go really deep emotionally.
When Jilly claimed that I didn’t really love her but was merely obsessed with winning her I did some serious thinking because I knew it had some elements of truth. However, it wasn’t the whole truth, apart from my addiction to her body there were aspects of Jilly’s character that I adored but over time her air of superiority, her intolerance, her total disdain for my family and her parents rejection of me severely impacted my interest in continuing our relationship. Whatever the case, I didn’t agree with her accusation that I was paying women back for being dumped by my first love. I had been emotionally hurt from that first deep cut and swore I was going to avoid the risk of attachment. I believed that a commitment to polyamory would protect me from interdependence dangers and was never consciously out to get revenge for the pain I suffered from my own unrequited first love.
Jilly continued to guilt trip me for months after our breakup insinuating that I had just used her and that I had the ability to pass through life taking what I wanted and tasting it’s different fruits without getting injured along the way like she had. I felt even worse when she told me she hoped that I would be happy because she couldn’t bear for me to be as unhappy as her. She accused me of resenting her but hoped I still felt as much affection for her as she did for me, in spite of everything. This was agonising and I felt a lot of remorse so it was some relief when she finally admitted that I had given her “love and romance and a brief period of escape.” and that, “sublimeness was fully and totally reached repeatedly.” She admitted that she had pondered long on the question that all who suffer the angst of unrequited love ask, “is it better to have loved deeply for a short while than never to have loved at all?”
Jilly recognised that the love we had shared had gone for me and wanted to know why does it go for one person and not another? To minimise her distress she wanted it to fade equally? But life isn’t always kind to lovers and she tried to explain it by believing she wasn’t perfect enough. I realised how jealous she had become of my new lover when she wrote, “I know you now have Cathy and what I’m writing doesn’t really touch you anymore. I never realised myself how passionate and emotional I could be when aroused and how demanding.” She asked me why my rejection was so total and kept suggesting that I should keep both relationships going asking “Couldn’t you love both of us?” She wasn’t referring to platonic love insisting that having sex with me was a fundamental necessity for her. I was sorely tempted but resisted because it seem certain to cause even greater torment and complexity.
Jilly was constantly aware of how much I valued my independence and supported it by encouraging me to discuss our intimate affairs with friends saying, “they are so much more valuable than lovers and tend to last longer.” But then she regretted it and wished she had forced more out of me herself. There was simply a lot that we had trouble discussing like my new passion for education. But I freely acknowledged that by being the one who first suggested that I would make a good teacher she had diverted the new course my life took. Of course, Cathy was a teacher and Jilly hated that.
Jilly always seemed so confident that I never expected her to slip into the neurotic anxiety state she described herself suffering – fortunately she eventually said she got over it and felt much more aware of her separate identity as a person again which had done her good. She professed that, “one must retain the ability to be self-sufficient.” She had wisdom and I agreed with her in this and other ways.
JILLY’S PHILOSOPHY OF LOVE. – “Ultimately it seems to me that life in its most basic terms is a giving, creative force that must involve some sort of fusion of body and mind and one’s total awareness with another being. Some people fuse with God, a spiritual idea or through some form of artistic achievement but the most basic and fundamental force must surely be the fusion between two people if only momentarily. It’s not when one is alone but when one comes together with another human being that we learn what being a part of humanity is all about.”
POSTSCRIPT – After living abroad and losing contact for many years I then learned Jilly had sadly contracted multiple sclerosis. Louise Hay, in her book ‘You Can Heal Your Life,’ says that M.S. is caused by mental hardness, hard-heartedness, iron will and inflexibility which definitely applied to Jilly. When I visited the U.K. in 1992 I met her at her TV studio. She was using a walking stick in the office and a wheelchair elsewhere. We went back to her house where she told me she had a policeman boyfriend and acted quite coldly towards me. In 1999 her carer wrote to me on behalf of Jilly saying that I was the love of her life and would I please visit so we could look over her Israel photo album together. I went to see her. She was living in her mum’s house, confined to bed, we talked and reminisced, I held her hand, told her how special she was and left flowers. In December, 2001 Jilly passed away, another renegade on another journey.
Jilly remains in my heart forever and her passion for our relationship lives on in her words, “Shalom my dearest, most beautiful lover, I wish it could have gone on forever.”
One thought on “A Case of Unrequited Love – Jilly”
Ellis, this a sad but lovely story. A few years ago I have written a poem about unrequited love… Your post reminded me to find it and share.. thats what I will do this weekends.
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