It was a bad idea, the kind that comes with certain desperation and selfishness. While I was in a manic phase of my bipolar disorder, it seemed like the only solution to my problem. I was barely aware that I was experiencing mania and thought it would be fine. Nobody would get hurt.
My husband had left me for another woman, and my self-esteem afterward was nonexistent. I’d been on a few dates since the divorce but ran like hell whenever anyone wanted to get close to me. I simply wasn’t ready, and I didn’t know if I would ever be. The thought of being intimate with another man after sixteen years of marriage scared me to death.
Before I knew it, a year had passed without me having sex. I blamed myself for being too broken for anyone to want me. Even if someone was attracted to me, I knew I couldn’t go through with it. That’s when I thought of Scott.
Scott and I became best friends in high school where we spent all our time at each other’s houses. We told each other our deepest secrets that we could never tell another living soul. He made me laugh harder than anybody else, and when I cried he did his best to console me. Despite being so close, nothing romantic had ever happened between us. We were just happy to be friends.
Scott and I were still in touch as adults. I considered him one of my greatest friends, somebody who knew everything about me and didn’t judge for a second. He called several times after my divorce to check on me. Talking to him helped with the disappointment of my failed marriage. He usually had something wise to say, which I took as gospel.
I’ll admit I still felt jealous when I thought about my ex-husband. Not only did he leave me for somebody else, but he was also still living with her. I felt like even more of a loser knowing he had someone to love. It just didn’t seem fair.
My idea on that manic day popped suddenly into my mind. If I had sex with Scott, he would be somebody I could trust. I thought maybe it would be easier to move on with my life if I did something to “break the ice” regarding my intimacy problem.
Scott seemed like the perfect candidate. It wouldn’t even need to happen more than once, and I felt sure that neither one of us would get hurt. We were such good friends that I thought it would be easy. We could just have sex and then resume our friendship like nothing ever happened.
My first mistake was not telling Scott about my plan when I called him and asked if he’d be home that night. I told him I might stop by to see him and talk, but kept my real plan a secret. Scott said he was going out earlier in the evening, but that he would be home by midnight. He was divorced from his first wife, so he’d been going out more and dating. I didn’t want to interrupt any of that, but I still said I’d meet him at his house when he got there.
I made the two-hour drive to where he lived while ignoring the feeling that I was about to do something wrong. Of course, Scott wouldn’t be mad at me and would completely understand when I explained it to him. That’s what I hoped for, anyway.
When Scott got home, he invited me in to sit on his couch. He sat next to me, and we made small talk for a while. When I touched his arm gently, the feelings surprised both of us. He kissed me passionately, and I kissed him right back. Suddenly, he pulled away.
“I don’t want any kind of relationship,” he said.
“Neither do I,” I responded before kissing him again.
It felt almost natural to me, much more than with the few men I’d dated. I felt comfortable and relaxed with Scott even after taking our friendship to the next level. When he led me into his bedroom, I wasn’t thinking about what would happen after that. The act itself was awkward, and he seemed distant as if we should both know better.
“Why did you do that?” Scott asked me when we were finished, as though it was something I’d done all by myself.
I blushed with embarrassment as I finally admitted my plan. I honestly thought Scott would understand. Maybe we’d even laugh about it later. Saying my plans out loud for the first time made me feel selfish and trashy. I was still manic, but now I was anxious and shaky.
“Well,” Scott finally said, “I wish you would have told me.”
I realized then what an awful thing I had done. I’d taken advantage of my best friend and used him to make myself feel better. It was foolish of me to think it wouldn’t change things between us.
“I’m going to sleep in the other bedroom,” I announced in complete shame.
Scott didn’t argue with that. In fact, I suspected he was happy about getting rid of me. I wondered if that was how things were going to be, Scott avoiding me and feeling shameful over what we did. My crazy idea was not worth sacrificing my oldest and dearest friend.
The next morning, Scott and I exchanged pleasantries that were nothing like the conversations we used to have. I made a hasty exit and drove the two hours back home. My brilliant idea had blown up in my face. Instead of Scott making me feel better, he seemed to want nothing to do with me. He broke my heart, but I broke his heart first by putting him in such an unpleasant situation. Friends aren’t supposed to do that to each other.
Scott and I are still friends today, but we’re not best friends anymore. We both have remarried other people. When I think of him now, it’s with a mountain of regret over what I did to him. I shouldn’t have treated our friendship like it was expendable.
While this was one of my biggest mistakes ever, I did learn a lot from the experience. I learned the value of friendship and not to take it for granted. I also learned that I can’t use sex to solve my problems. After getting on the right medication and with a good therapist, I’m able to manage my bipolar disorder and its volatile moods. I don’t make snap decisions anymore, even when I’m manic.
Sadly, there’s probably nothing I can say to Scott except for the apology I offered him. I changed our friendship forever, and the consequences weren’t worth it for even a second. I realize how precious my friends are and would never want to lose another one, especially someone so special. These days, I am protective of those I love and wouldn’t do anything to hurt them. I just wish I’d learned that sooner.
This essay was originally published on PS I Love You. Relationships Now.