In just one hour, Mr. Etiquette will be meeting with his ex-girlfriend to hopefully, finally, get closure on the ending of their relationship. After thirteen months of her stringing him along with empty promises that filled him with hope that one day she would re-kindle the magic they’d shared for six months, she finally told him last Wednesday that she was not in love with him. This, completely surprising to me, broke his heart. Realizing that the man I was starting to fall hard for was in fact also still in love with the memory of another woman has been breaking my heart too.
For three weeks, I thought Mr. Etiquette and I were happily dancing along in the wonderful promise of a new relationship. We got along so easily and effortlessly, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He spoke of how I scared him because of how strong his feelings for me were becoming. More frequently, he spoke of a fantasy future for us, “If we continue along this path, and we get married then…” I found the words comforting and exciting, not stifling and scary.
Because of his painful divorce, he had mentioned an old promise he made to himself about dating eight women before he could be sure about finding the right partner for him. I was girl number four, so I was aware he might need to do a little more dating. I told him I could be patient if he pursued this sooner rather than later.
Then last Wednesday came along. I found out not only that he still has love for this woman, Sara, who was the first relationship after his divorce, but that he still was actively trying to date her and had in fact asked her to the Memorial Day picnic he was going to, the day after spending a full weekend with me. She bailed on him, like she has done regularly over the last 13 months.
First, I was hurt. Then, I was angry. He’d been lying to me for three weeks! He had actually used the words, “there’s no one else I want to be dating right now,” to my face, while in his heart he was just waiting for the next time Sara would call. He defended himself by saying, “I told you I would be dating other people.” I yelled back, “Dating some unknown strangers in the future is completely different than still trying to woo this woman you are still in love with.” He refused to accept accountability for that deceit or for the hurt it caused me.
For six months, things were pretty darn great with Mr. Etiquette and Sara, until her lifelong anxiety began to get the better of her. Meeting Mr. Etiquette’s children scared her. Talking about the future scared her. His neediness scared her. Hearing about his ex-wife all the time felt like a burden (hey, Sara and I have more in common than not, don’t we?) All this on top of increased responsibilities at work caused her to pull back and tell him she needed distance. Yet she kept saying, “I can’t have you now, but later…”
I told Mr. Etiquette, if I had known all this, I would never have gotten so involved with him. I would not have closed off my other options when I did. His selfish response was that he was glad he didn’t tell me because we wouldn’t have gotten as close as we have. He told me his burgeoning feelings for me is what gives him strength to finally accept things are over with Sara. He sees that someone can give him the love he so desperately seeks and deserves, someone can love him unconditionally too. He said, in the last month, we’ve done more meaningful and special things together than he did with her for those six months. I said, so what’s the big problem then?
Denial. He never could accept that she stopped wanting him. I can’t help feeling extremely uneasy that one, he thinks mental illness is the only reason why Sara isn’t with him anymore. Two, the thirteen months of her kicking him in the head was still met with unwarranted, unconditional love from him. And three, he lied to me, by omission and by doing what he claims Sara did to him, give empty promises.
So when he talks about the future with me now or reaches out to hold me, I put my hand up to stop him. Not now. You have got to straighten this stuff out with Sara. He kept hemming and hawing, saying he’d do it when he was strong enough. I asked, when was that? Another thirteen months from now?
His beloved friend from Germany who’d been visiting the last two and half weeks and with whom I’d spent a lot of time bonding said, “I love him, but you need to protect yourself here. This isn’t the [Mr. Etiquette] I know.” This was a weak and desperate man who didn’t know how to let go of something unhealthy and move forward with something that would only bring happiness and peace.
So at least, he resigned himself to the fact that if he didn’t want to lose me, the thought of which, he said, scared him tremendously, he was going to have to figure out some way to find closure with Sara. He began writing his thoughts down and scheduled a time. She canceled the first time, yesterday, and she’s already angrily threatened to bail on today, but I hope she allows him this opportunity for closure.
Honestly, I don’t even know if this man is who I want in my life anymore. He is not who I thought he was. His own friends are afraid of the changes they see in him. I was looking to get out of drama not drown in the biggest drama of all. And yet, I find myself empathetic and at least wanting to be a friend to him. Is that part of my own sickness, or is there something more really here?
And then I can’t help but wonder, as the V-Man calls for yet another day together, if I need my own moments of closure with an ex as well. I need us to discuss if we are in fact completely over and why before I can fully and completely move forward myself. I hate all these flaws of being human, but so it is. Why does everything gotta be so complicated?