I recently moved to a new state in an attempt to start a new life in grad school. In August, my four year relationship came to a long, slow, smoldering halt when I realized my then-boyfriend and I had been struggling with some serious relationship issues for well over half of our relationship and not one of them had been solved. I decided with the move I wanted a clean break. Mostly, I wanted him to figure out what his goals and dreams were instead of always bending over backward to make mine work. It never felt fair.
The move the following month was distracting and exciting and by the time I settled into my new place, my mind wanted nothing more than to move on. Living alone for the first time, nights alone at my apartment affected me. It was a struggle not to self-medicate or sleep sideways curled up to the white noise of the TV in the living room. When the loneliness got to be too much, I didn’t know what to do. Having been out of the dating pool for so long, I joined OK Cupid for the first time. I learned that it’s a terrible idea in a small town, you’ll see the guys from there everywhere. Eventually, I disabled my account and started going out with cute classmates for happy hour and making friends, including Adam (not his real name).
If it seems to good to be true it probably is not true at all. The first night we hung out we ended up both black out drunk at the back of the local happy hour bar making out. He asked me to dinner a few days later, and by the following weekend was putting his arm around me at a tailgate and holding my hand on the walk over to the game, kissing me goodbye at the end of the night, all in front of mutual friends. It felt really comfortable and good. That night was followed up by a drunk text at one in the morning to come over. I told him another time, I had a friend in from out of town.
By Halloween, we were hanging out pretty regularly in groups with friends, and we went to a couple more parties together and shortly after established a second real date — hiking. When he dropped me off after the hike and didn’t kiss me, I shrugged it off as nerves since we rarely saw each other sober.
He still texted me and we still hung out in groups, but the mood shifted. There was a show I invited him to out of town of a band I knew he liked, but he declined — his parents were going to be in town. I decided after that I was going to let him come to me.
At this point, I was pretty sure I was friend zoned. Despite his random texts and still very flirty behavior, something felt off. I was dying to know what happened, where we stood. He still stood way too close to me when we talked and his hugs good bye were still a little too long. His non-add-back on Facebook meant he was probably seeing someone else. I chalked it up to casually dating someone else he liked better, and being a small town, quietly cut the ties with me.
It wasn’t until a study date with a mutual friend did I find out otherwise. “Yeah, the night you went to that show I went to the football game with Adam and his girlfriend,” our mutual friend said nonchalantly. The look on my face and mouthing of the word “girlfriend?” must have been a giveaway of my ignorance because he then said, “Oh, you didn’t know? She lives about an hour from here. A couple of us were wondering what was going on with you two…” “WE’VE GONE ON DATES! HE TEXTS ME ALL THE TIME. WE KISS. HE’S DRUNK BOOTY CALLED ME,” I explained, freaking out and sort of staring into space.
I was livid. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. I don’t know what about me expresses that I’m fine with being a home wrecker, but I’m most definitely not. I suspected there was another girl, but not a girlfriend. Girlfriend implies exclusivity. I don’t mess with guys with girlfriends.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this angry in my life. Not only has this been a time of vulnerability and extreme loneliness, these feelings have lead to a blindness against the obvious and subsequent poor decision making. Walking home half drunk on white wine, I smoked a cigarette and called a friend and started crying. She was 900 miles away, also upset, also half drunk. Some guy booked it after fucking her and we both felt like shit.
I wanted nothing more than to curb stomp his balls when I walked into class the next day. Two of my classmates took me out for beers before hand, to take the edge off and loosen me up. I sat through a torturous two hour lecture, his desk next to mine, trying not to even look at him. He took off after class, when he usually walks me to my classroom where I teach. I think he figured I found out. I shouted after him, scurrying down the hall, “Hey, Adam! I need to talk to you.” He waits, plays it cool, holding the door open for me. “What was with lecture today?” He says, teasing me. I turn to him and for the first time in my life, stood up for myself, and said exactly what I wanted to say.
“I think you’re an asshole, a liar and a coward,” and started to walk away, afraid I was going to hit him or burst into tears.
“Jackie! Wait up! Please, you’re making assumptions,” he shouted, annoyed. “You know about her, huh?”
“Yeah, I’m not fucking stupid.” I’m staring at the ground.
“We were together, we broke up, I started seeing you…we got back together, recently,” he reasoned.
“Why should I believe you? You’ve lied to me all this time.”
“When did I lie to you?”
“When your ‘parents were in town.’ As if I wasn’t going to find out she was HERE.”
“My parents were in town –”
“Oh so you just failed to mention she was also coming then?”
“I’m sorry, look I’m sorry.”
“I knew something was going on when you essentially friend zoned me, but why didn’t you tell me? Am I suppose to be on the back burner when shit falls apart with her?”
He continued to apologize. I continued to tell him I needed more time.
Finally, reaching the building I teach in, I said, “You know what? Fuck you.” and slammed the door behind me and burst into the tears I knew were coming.
I haven’t spoken with him since. You see, it doesn’t matter that I technically didn’t do anything wrong. Being someone’s emotional hostage when they don’t know what they want is heart breaking enough. Just enough to keep you interested, but not enough to really respect you. Knowing that you’ll be the source of strife for some poor girl if she ever finds out, and if she doesn’t, how long is she going to stay with someone who will likely do this again? The guilt I carry from being the other woman, now on numerous occasions, is absolutely crushing. I became someone’s nightmare of something I didn’t even know I was doing wrong. It’s unfair to both unsuspecting parties and probably the most selfish and desperate act of wanting to be loved. I read the Perks of Being a Wallflower over and over again growing up, and recently came back to the line, “You accept the love you think you deserve.” For so long I accepted the love I thought I deserved, but have finally come to a point where I am sick of thinking I deserve so little.