Affection, alone, approval, attention, authenticity, behavior, bodies, body-shaming, boundaries, brevity, comfort, commitment, communication, control, Desire, ending, friendship, honesty, integrity, intimacy, introspection, Leaving, love, pain, relationships, safety, Sexuality, Shame
I had an extremely brief love affair with a man who started as a friend. It lasted for just 4 days:
I’d been married nearly 30 years when my husband and I split. We’d been separated 6 years and preparing to divorce by the time I met this friend. Having been in a painfully difficult long-term marriage, and romantically alone since, meant I’d been without any kind of intimate contact or relationship for a very, very long time.
I was basically a nun. An atheist yoga nun.
We were friends for a while and I really enjoyed his sense of humor. He’d been questioning the seriousness of his current relationship, and decided to take a break. We became something more than playmates, for just a moment.
Our short-lived dance was wonderful, and then (for me) it was over far too soon. He went back to his girlfriend. I get it. He’d gained the clarity he needed, and I’m happy to have been helpful.
Still, when it was over, I felt stupidly tragic for about 2 days while I dealt with my own deep sense of loss and loneliness and fear—mostly stuff that predated him, but also emotions associated with this experience and its ending.
I learned a few important things about myself during this fleeting, but intense, time:
- Affection is very healing.
- I am able to find far more energy when I feel adored.
- My generally grumpy, achy body barely hurt during that time. I continued with my standard, ongoing, fucked-up-daily-migraine but WOW, I didn’t care. Just take meds, rinse, repeat. Having the diversion of romance is a surprisingly wonderful painkiller.
- I am so much happier when I feel someone cares for me in a sensual way. This is important: We need tenderness. I knew I’d lacked this my entire life, and understood it was a necessary component to thriving, but having never had it, this belief was untested.
- I got further confirmation that we can never really, truly know another person. This is a truth I have always wished wasn’t so, but just is. I know this sounds awfully sad. But I believe it’s a fact. Like facing our mortality, this too is something we work so desperately to ignore.
- I realized how very thoroughly and completely my ex-husband had fucked up my head and heart with regard to every single part of me: controlling how and when I spoke or expressed myself; how I felt about my body; contorting and muddying my sexual desire; made to feel ashamed. Conversely, the abridged time with my friend helped me feel healthy and strong, desirable and safe. The ‘relationship’ may not have lasted, but I didn’t feel unworthy or trashed by its ending.
I wish it had lasted. But I’m grateful for the experience we shared.
I wish he’d come into my life at a time when his head was clearer and his heart available.
I wish he’d been honest, and hadn’t uttered those amazingly loving and future-promising things he’d said. I could have (would have) just had fun and explored, without the promise and hope of something more. I wish he’d simply kept those thoughts/feelings to himself for a while. I believe he was trying to convince himself he felt something strong enough for me. I also think there was just a smidge of conscious manipulation on his part to say what he believed I wanted or needed to hear. I hate that. Because I believed him, and that’s why I felt stupid afterward. But it’s okay. I got past that part pretty quickly. I understand that people do what they can to feel better, and often fail to be fully honest. Honest is scary.
I think he’s a special person (geez, unless he’s a sociopath and I’m just a rube). He needed to go, and I let him. After all, what right or claim could I possibly have had after only 4 days? Besides, I don’t take hostages. It’s one of my few Big Life Rules, along with:
* Be Honest
* It’s Never Okay To Be Mean
* Never Handle Another Person In Anger
* Maintain Integrity
* Be Kind
* Be Brave
*Teeth Are Not Tools
* If You Force It, It Will Break
I know these last two are not particularly germane to this lesson, but worth noting as generally useful; metaphorically speaking, the Forcing/Breaking rule applies.
Anyway, I am still his friend, and wish him well. I want him to be happy. Isn’t that what friends do? He is a good person; smart, funny, witty, and kind. I can still enjoy those parts of him.
Initially, for my own emotional well-being, I placed him in a kind of “gay friend” box inside my head. It’s like a safe space. This way, I could feel close and love who he is; we could be funny and playful with each other without my having any hope or thought that there is or could be something more. There is such freedom and room for honesty in a good friendship with a gay friend. Think about it: There’s no sexual tension, no expectation, no manipulation, no desire. Just support and love and celebration of each other in an authentic way.
I told him about the “gay friend safety box”, and after a bit of a struggle he said he’d come to understand, and even embrace it.
In truth, did it ruffle his macho feathers a bit?
Maybe, but he survived.
And it helped me move on.