A couple of months ago, one of my closest friends (a male coworker) and I went out on a Saturday night. There was nothing particularly unusual about this. R was working, I wanted to go out, so my friend and I caught an art exhibit and then went to a gay bar. I don’t drink, but he had a few beers. As the night progressed, he occasionally put his hand on the small of my back. I was a bit surprised by this, as physical touching had never been part of our friendship. Eventually, we left the bar, went back to his house, and I was about to get into my car to make the long drive to my home. We both stood there rather awkwardly. There was something new that had been introduced to our relationship that night, and I didn’t know how to handle it. It felt like he wanted to kiss me. We exchanged a few words and I basically got into my car as quickly as I could. The whole thing made me unsure of how to act, or what to say.
A day or two later, he sent a text and basically apologized for being “handsy.” This spurred many texts back and forth, as well as face-to-face discussions about it. R and I were at one of our lowest points yet. We essentially went a month without really talking to each other. Sure, we’d exchange comments regarding the kids, but aside from that we were living separate lives. So much anger and resentment had built up since I discovered his cheating that our relationship had pretty much eroded. We had our ups and downs throughout the entire 5 year relationship, but never had we gone that long without truly speaking. We were roommates and co-parents and nothing more. So, the stage was set for my relationship with my dear friend to transform. Previously, I only saw him as one of my best (if not my BEST) friend. We took daily walks together on our breaks at work, we told each other our deepest secrets, and most importantly we accepted each other without judgment. I had never had anyone in my life who understood me on such a deep level before. I don’t know…maybe Rich did/does, but at that point in time, it sure did not seem that way. It was wonderful feeling so unconditionally appreciated and accepted. All my life, I’ve felt like an outsider looking in. Deeply connecting with people is a rarity, so when it happens, I cherish it.
My coworker was in my office one day, and there was a lot of sexual tension in the air, and he made a comment about never before having been so nervous to kiss someone. I asked him to do it, and he did and it was wonderful. How I viewed him had changed so much in such a relatively short period of time. We had always been platonic. My love for R had been so all-consuming that I really didn’t notice other men. He was all I wanted, so there was no need for anyone else. However, during this particular time, I had never felt farther away from him. I could tell that he didn’t like the person I was, and I returned those sentiments. We had reached such a low spot there it seemed a given that our relationship would soon end. I had even contacted DSHS to look into getting assistance paying for daycare for the kids if R and I split.
Fast forward to a week or so later, and my coworker and I left work early to go to his house. We kissed and explored one another, but we did not take it all the way. I just couldn’t. So, I can’t say that I had much guilt over what had transpired. Given the years of R’s cheating and even more years of lying about it, the fact that I made out with another man didn’t eat at me. As the weeks wore on, my friend and I grew even closer. See, we had been best friends, so love was already there between us. We understood each other, had great communication and enjoyed each other’s company. The foundation had been laid long ago. It was just taken to another level with the physical intimacy. One weekend, I decided that I needed to focus on my relationship with R and stop what was going on between my friend and me. We would continue the friendship, but that was it. That didn’t last long. Almost a couple of weeks ago now, he and I met at a hotel near my house and made love. It was beautiful and meaningful and everything I hoped it would be. Along with that, there was deep sadness. He told me he loved me, but I couldn’t say those words aloud. Crazy as it seems, that felt to me like the ultimate betrayal to R. He and I had made an agreement beforehand that this would be the only time. It felt like that itch that you just have to scratch, you know? We wanted to experience and share that together. After that, we would resume our friendship and I would make my decision about what to do with my relationship with R. Whether or not he and I would have a future together was totally up in the air. I had to get my life sorted out one way or another.
One Sunday, I commented about how my coworker was at an electronics store and there was a sale on laptops, so he was going to front the money for me and buy one. One of my boys needed one, so I was interested in buying one for him for Christmas. The fact that this other man was going to do that for me really irritated R. He said that I hadn’t even shared with him that I wanted to buy a laptop. He immediately went online to try to find better deals. This behavior was uncharacteristic of R, but it set everything in motion. Over the next day, R wasn’t himself. One night right after I went to bed, he came in and asked if I loved him. I said “of course, I always have.” The next day, R texted me about having an “emotional affair” with my coworker. I didn’t deny it. Throughout that day, his emails and texts (while I was at work) were panicked in nature. When I got home from work, he hugged me and told me that we could make this work. He had been crying and even took an extended break from his work (sportswriting) because he could not focus. His attitude and behavior completely changed that night as the reality sunk in. He came in twice once I was in bed (asleep) and awakened me. He told me I could not remain friends with my coworker, that I had to face the consequences of my actions. I would not answer him and promise to do that (at 2 in the morning), and he became enraged and slammed the door. I fell asleep and awoke the next morning to find him sleeping on the couch.
Within a day or so, he took the kids (since we have no daycare because he works from home) and went to his parents’ house for a cooling off period. This time away gave him many insights into his behavior, why he had kept me at a distance, insecurities he’d always had but never shared with me, and on and on. He has opened up in ways I never anticipated. It has even shown me that I never realized truly how closed off he has been the entire time. At the time of this writing, he’s still feeling pretty vulnerable although not as raw emotionally. If he is feeling this way, he tells me about it (which he never did before). He has asked me to not speak to my coworker, and this has been the most difficult part of the whole thing. I understand where R is coming from, but what he is not understanding is how much I need that friendship. Yes, we became far more than friends. However, I believe that in time and with clear guidelines in place, we can return to platonic friends. There may be an underlying sexual tension, but we wouldn’t act on it. Maybe I’m being unrealistic, but I think most things are possible if all the players agree to the rules. I do not want to hurt or betray R again, but at the same time, I can’t see losing my friendship-it’s that important and meaningful to me. If R and I weren’t together, then I could see a permanent romantic relationship with him. However, I’ve committed to trying to make it work with R, so I won’t allow myself to stray again.
So-what to do? My hope would be that after a month or two “cooling off period” from my friend, R would be okay with our talking at work. I wouldn’t ask to go out and do anything socially with my friend. It would just be nice to be able to talk to him as my dear friend and share our stories and just be present for each other. I’ve given R all of myself for so long now, and I’ve fought so hard to stay with him. I’ve tried rebuilding myself after having been broken so many times. I need my friends now more than ever. Especially this friend. He’s become a part of me. Maybe it’s an awful thing to ask for or expect or hope for. All I know is that I feel like a part of me is missing now that I can’t have my friendship. I know Rich sees the hurt in my eyes. He’ll ask me what I’m thinking about, and I’ll say “nothing” because I don’t want to hurt him or bring it up right now while everything is still so fresh. Time will tell how this plays out. I’m no victim here-I made my choices. I honestly have no clue what’s in store.
I have felt a depth of love for R that has literally made me crazy at times (more often than I’d like to admit)! We’ve gone through struggle after struggle and have remained together through the years. This last year has by far been the hardest, though and I cannot help but wonder how much pain one has to endure before finally saying I give up. He says he will show me for the rest of our lives how much he loves me. He’s even talked about getting married at some point; that he wants to show me and the world the permanence of his love for me. That’s a bold step for someone previously opposed to marriage. Will these changes stand the test of time, though? And if they can, does this mean we will be able to leave our pain in the past? Maybe some wounds are simply too deep to heal.