It began like most pivotal things do, slowly at first then gaining traction, moving forward with intention, a freight train slowly but surely losing control. Two colleagues having conversations over coffee. Initially innocent; mutual friends, common interests, our must-read lists. As time went on, deeper conversations about our own failing relationships, and a quiet mutual understanding that we filled for each other the gaps where our own love had been lacking. Conversation turned to text and phone calls, lunches turned into dinners out, coffee breaks became drinks after work; just friends we said, just nice to be able talk to someone.
One night, after a few too many drinks, came the kiss, and finally the mutual acceptance and admission that it was more than friends, more than friendly, more than just my imagination.
What followed was a year’s worth of the highest of highs scattered amongst the lowest of lows; the end of long-term relationships, the beginning of strained friendships, promises made, and promises broken, and finally an engagement ring. This is my story; and what it actually feels like to be the other woman.
Exciting Exhausting: Every day each moment was spent wondering, over-analyzing, hoping, waiting, for something –any indication that yes, things were still moving forward with us. I took his stony silence for quiet determination. “We will get through this,” his careful avoidance said. “He just doesn’t have the right words,” whispered my unanswered texts. A good or bad day was based solely on my interactions with him. If I didn’t hear from him, I could have curled up and died. If we made contact – physical or otherwise, I was dizzy, giddy, awake. I spent so much time running around in my own head that I ended each day feeling tired, anxious, waiting to see if the next day would be different.
Sexy Stupid: Suddenly, I was the cliché. I had ended things with my significant other, shortly after the kiss. If I could speak for both of us, I’d say it was mutual, and to this day he will always be someone I care about. The same wasn’t true on the other side — he lived with his girlfriend, they owned a house together, two dogs. It was complicated. I was every girl who’s ever said: “Don’t worry, he’s moving out” “They’re breaking up”. “Soon,” he promised. “Soon,” I’d tell them.
Alive Alone: When you’re with someone, who’s already with someone, the moments you have together are fleeting and most often, they are private. No one can know, so nobody knows. They won’t be your date for that summer wedding. Instead you don’t go. They’re not coming to your birthday dinner, in fact they’re not even getting you a card. Saying you love someone and showing the world you love someone are two different things but from where I stand you need both for it to be real. After all, if a tree falls in the woods…
After eight tumultuous months of empty promises he finally did move out. But what followed wasn’t the romantic epilogue we’d planned; instead crushing radio silence. Naturally I did what every heartbroken 20-something dreams of; I took to the open road. Finally on a life changing trip across the country, it hit me: I wasn’t this anxious, sad, lonely person. I deserved more than half of someone’s heart, and a fraction of their time. This time I let his email invitation for a coffee be answered solely by my out of office notification.
And as for the engagement ring it’s hers. They got back together; I think we all know how that story goes.
As for me, I found someone who makes me feel excited, sexy and alive. And that someone is me.