(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)
In a past relationship, I had a situation where I found out my guy was seeing another woman in addition to me. Of course when the truth came to light, all the warning signs I’d been experiencing fell into place and I knew I’d always be on the look out for similar actions in the future. One thing that experience taught me is how super-important it is that my guy likes me just as much as I like him. Although this may seem like a simple and obvious request, it’s often a lot harder to find than it sounds.
(I’m about to give a recent example, but I want to preface it with these words: This was the best-handled “we’re not seeing each other anymore” situation that ever been in. I feel no malice towards this guy at all, and I haven’t said anything negative about him or his actions to my friends — who, as we all know, are the ones who are destined to hear anything negative that we need to get off our chests.)
A few weeks ago, I stopped seeing a guy I’d been dating for over three months. I dated several other people during that time (since he never technically became my “boyfriend”), but they were mostly halfhearted attempts at distracting myself from this other person. For the record, if I don’t have a commitment from a guy that he’s not seeing anyone else, I consider it mandatory to date other people. There’s no way I want to be sitting at home, thinking about one person in particular, when he’s out on a date with someone else. Hell, no.
This is a self-protection mechanism I adopted as a result of past hurts; it’s been in place for less than a year. Sometimes certain things happen to us, and we end up adapting our future actions in an attempt to keep those scenarios from happening again — or at least keep them from having as much of an impact.
The short explanation with this most recent guy is that he likes me, but he doesn’t like me enough. For over three months, we saw each other at least once a week, and we had some form of contact pretty much every day. But when we had conversations about “us” — if we were seeing only each other or if we were also seeing other people — he wasn’t ready to say that I was it. He has a number of good reasons for not being ready to take that step, and for a while this situation was okay with me. We always have fun when we’re together, and I wasn’t ready to give that up. (Indeed, this is the same guy I referenced in the post I wrote about exclusivity — the guy I decided to keep seeing after he told me he wasn’t ready for anything more.)
When we talked about exclusivity again a few weeks ago (I’d like to note the subject was brought up by him — it’s not always the female who has to bring up such things), he told me once again that he likes me, and that I’m awesome, but he’s okay with me dating other guys and he wants to keep his options open as well. I knew as soon as he said it that this time was different — I was no longer okay with it. It’s funny how that happens. They were the same words, but hearing them at a different time just caused something to click in my brain and I knew I couldn’t continue to be his “for now” woman.
It goes back to what I said in the beginning — I need a guy to like me just as much as I like him. That’s what clicked for me. If I could see myself being happy with dating only this person, and I knew I wanted to see him more often and get to know him better…but he was telling me he wanted to keep his options open? He doesn’t feel the same way I do. And rather than give it more time and risk being hurt, I decided to move on.
I’m not mad at him in the slightest. He could have told me what I wanted to hear, just to keep me around a little bit longer. I would have believed him, at least for a while, until my intuition kicked in, or something tipped me off, that something just wasn’t right. I’ve had guys in the past tell me what they thought I wanted to hear — something they didn’t really mean — and it’s always mystified me after the fact that they would go through so much trouble.
This guy has always been honest with me about where he stands, which I respect and appreciate — truthfulness is the most important thing in the world to me. I can take any news as long as I know it’s accurate. I’ve never been mad at someone just because they don’t feel the same way I do. All I ask is that you’re honest.
And now…here’s the funny thing. He and I have been in touch several times since that conversation happened (IM and email only). I decided about a week ago that I was going to write this post, and I’ve been working on it here and there over the past few days. I was finishing it up yesterday morning when I decided to take a break and go to the gym. As I left the gym, I saw that he’d sent me a text message. He’d just ran a 10-mile race, and he was in my neighborhood, and did I want to meet up for a few minutes? Of course my immediate answer was, “Yes.”
Before I agreed to see him yesterday, part of this post was going to read: “We’re going to be friends, and stay in touch, but we agreed that if we ever see each other in person again, it’ll have to be…later. You know, sometime down the road when we can see each other without being tempted to do something we shouldn’t.” Because, you know, we’d both agreed earlier in the week that was the best way to handle things.
He picked me up, and we drove down to the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, and walked around, and talked, and shared an ice cream cone. It was comfortable, and it was friendly, and it wasn’t weird. I like being on good terms like that. And also, the only time I touched him was when our fingers met while passing the cone back and forth, and that one time I punched him lightly in the shoulder because of something he’d said, and then when I gave him a hug goodbye.
Things may not have worked out the way I thought I wanted them to work out, but in the absence of that, I feel like I’m privileged to know someone I consider a very cool person.