The Other Woman

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?

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Can FWB Become Friends With Potential?

Recently jackfrombkln contributed to a great discussion on the subtle differences between friends with benefits, f*ck buddies, and booty calls. He said that FWB were actual friends who enjoyed doing things together, including have sex, but just weren’t relationship material for whatever reason. F*ck buddies often started out as people dating, then they started having sex, but realized something was missing, but they haven’t stopped having sex…yet. I don’t really need to explain booty calls. You’re called after 11 p.m. to come over and perform a service, there’s not a whole lot of verbal communicating going on, and there’s no relationship to speak of. jackfrombkln‘s delivery is classic, though, so you should check it out anyway, just because.

Last summer I was involved in a FWB relationship. We went out on a couple dates, and by the third date, I could sense he was just going along with the motions, so I ended things. He said something about knowing how we would never get married–to this day, I still don’t know the precise reason why not–but he wanted to continue being friends. We were practically neighbors, we had a lot in common, and there was a certain shared level of intelligence that was reassuring–neither of us felt like we had to talk down to the other. We’d go to the movies, go the beach, go to dinner.

All was beautiful, until the flirtation really started building up. I was actually at another guy’s house when my friend got randy and started texting about the slightly inappropriate thoughts he was having. Since this guy had fallen asleep on me, and my friend was starting to send me pictures, I shamelessly bailed, and headed over to his house.

This was a forty-five minute drive. We had a lot of time to second-guess and psychoanalyze this decision of taking our friendship to the FWB level. Were we prepared for the affect this could have on our friendship? Were we mature enough to handle it? The big question was I, the slightly more emotional girl, going to be able to separate sex from a relationship? A part of me was uncertain, but I was intrigued enough to try.

And so began the summer of Movie Man. I will call him that because he loves movies more than anyone else I know. Movie Man and I went to the movies with his friends, and we went to his friend’s house for MM’s birthday celebration and a hilarious tournament on the Wii.  When MM had friends from work over for a last-minute BBQ/wiffleball game, he invited me to come, and all the girls seemed to think I was his girlfriend, and if I wasn’t, I should be. Again, we went to the beach with his co-worker and her friend,. When he went up to Cape Cod for a week, half of the time he was going to be by himself, the other time with his childhood best friend. He invited me to come, and on a whim, I went and we had an amazing time. He showed me his favorite places, we took hilarious photos, we spent a crazy amount of time together, and we had the best sex.

It all had to come to an end, though, didn’t it? I had to stupidly, predictably, fall in love. He had to repeat that he would never marry me (wtf, dude!). He told me how this was all he could do. His ex had gotten frustrated with him because it took so many months for him to even accept the title of boyfriend. I thought, you’re 39 years old. Grow up, already. And so, as painful as it was, I said goodbye to my FWB, and goodbye to my friend almost completely for several months. We reunited for a movie around New Year’s but it wasn’t the same. At least we’ve picked up our email correspondence. As much he sucked as a FWB, I do miss our conversations.

Then there was Superman. I’m not exactly sure how to classify him. It was about seven years ago when we met in the open mic circuit. He was a sweet, slightly nerdy friend, or so I thought. We talked at the open mics, I cheered for him and his band when they played, but that was it. One day, I took him on his invitation to come to a party at his house after one band show. That’s when everything changed. We were sitting next to each other, and while one girl seemed to really want to get into his pants, he was slowly making moves on me. I realized there was this whole other man inside him, the incredible tiger of a lover.

So began our relationship. Except we weren’t exactly boyfriend and girlfriend. We saw each other at least once or twice a week. I was limited by my health in what activity I could do, so I couldn’t go to all the shows he invited me to. He’d call from parties and say he wished I was there. I missed out on huge aspects of his life. But when I could come over afterward, we’d play guitar for one another, talk for hours, and make love for even more. It was a peaceful little existence until I wanted more. I wanted labels and reassurance that he wasn’t sleeping with his groupies as well. He naturally freaked that I was no longer just laid back, and “letting things flow”. And then he and his cousin decided to move to Florida.

We kept in touch. When I moved to Las Vegas, he called me and told me how sick he had gotten with Crohn’s disease, how it nearly had taken his life. He spoke of how much more compassion and understanding he had for what I lived through with my autoimmune disease. In and out of my life he came. When I broke up with that boyfriend, moving back to the East Coast permanently, he would call when came back to the state and we’d spend time together. He met the new boyfriend. He came to my 30th birthday gathering.  I was there for him when he reunited with his alcoholic, drug-addicted father. When it was time for my 31th, we admitted attraction was still there, and our respective partners were not still, so we acted on it. We played music, talked for hours, and made love, admitted how long it had been but how things didn’t feel so different at all. Business was bringing him  up to the area much more frequently, so he called whenever he came home.

Suddenly friends turned into FWB into f* buddies. When my life became too busy or unpredictable, gone went the movies or concerts. Then it was texts that read: “You wanna come over. My mom goes to bed at like 9:30. You can come over at 10. We can watch movies and cuddle. I just want to hold you so bad.” I thought to myself, what are we, 17 again? It began to feel like we had transitioned from real friends into booty call, and I told him that I didn’t want that. I had matured to a place in my life where booty calls were empty and meaningless and basically a waste of my time. Superman appreciated that and hoped we could still be friends.

He texted this past Mother’s Day when he came home. We’re both dating. We’re both happy. There was no talk of getting together. My instincts were correct. Sad after seven years of friendship, but I guess every relationship has an expiration date.

I would like to posit that there is yet another category that fits in this no strings attached category. He is more than a booty call, but you don’t see him often enough to comfortably fit him into FWB. You probably used to date him quite passionately. Now he lives out of state, so you never see him. He sometimes calls or texts out of the blue and remembers odd but sweet things about you that make you think, wow, he still cares quite a bit, or has nostalgia about what we once had like I do. Right now, I think of HH, who in his grief, clung to me like a drowning man clings to a makeshift raft. He literally clung to me at the burial of his sister and later at the reception, pulling me to his side, squeezing my hand. Smiling at me as if I was the best sight he’d seen in years. It was so obvious that my cynical best friend had said, “I’d say HH was definitely very glad to see you.” Another friend joked that I would be the one to convince him to move back to town.

Well, he was glad to see me. Acting like a silly, old couple trying to reclaim our teenage years, we looked for a familiar place to park just to talk, or so I thought. It was romantic, the stars were out, the frogs and crickets were chirping, it was chilly enough to need each others heat, and the next thing I know, we’re making out in his truck like we’re 16. But we also talked for hours about life and loss, about love and loss, about what the future might hold for each of us, about our dreams and goals. We were a huge release for each other.

After a few random texts in the week afterward, I just signed it up to sympathy f* buddies. But then he sounded panicked when he heard I might be considering grad school far, far away. Then he sent a text when I changed my profile picture, “Nice picture,” he commented. Stalker, I thought, with a smile. And then today, when I wanted some reassurance, he texted, “Of course we’re friends.” Oh, “And I just bought a house three miles from you.” I swallowed, unable to comprehend the news after my three hours of sleep. What?? Apparently he’s going to rent it out while still living down South. But he’s keeping his ties up here. Is this a new category: Friends With Potential? Maybe I just need more sleep.