I’ve often written about my first girlfriend on this blog, but I need to clarify. We were never officially GF/BF. I was her “best friend.” We carried on like this for three and a half years. We lost our V-cards to each other, presumably. She was the first girl I ever loved. I made the decision to leave because I hit a point where I knew I was never going to be her boyfriend, much less her husband. The relationship was never going to grow. So I left and chased girls for a year. As a young man ought to do. If you marry your first love and live happily ever after, then God bless you. Otherwise, break up and see what road you can follow for a while alone.
I didn’t do this.
When I was dating my ex wife, we went through the usual progressions, so I thought things were healthy. We started dating, then sleeping together, which meant we were exclusive back in those days. She was my girlfriend, then fiancee, then wife. The marriage was not healthy. There were no healthy boundaries. It was a shitshow. I was constantly afraid of setting off a prolonged argument/fight for anything. But one thing I won’t complain about is that we assumed these labels which pretty much laid out expectations.
Fast forward fifteen years, I was dating for the first time since my marriage ended. We went out, we spent time together, there was a lot of intimacy, we supported each other emotionally. It was nice. But I was never her boyfriend. The word made her cringe. Another three year stint with an on again/off again relationship and I was usually her secret. She had close friends who didn’t even know I existed. I tried so desperately to be with her, mostly because in my 40s, I realized how hard dating actually is. I was willing to turn a blind eye to a lot of bullshit because it felt nice to be with someone. Rather than feeling like another appliance in the house or a bottomless piggy bank. Se liked my kids and they liked her. Until they didn’t. I’d like to say I ended things. I tried a few times, but she always came back. Usually with more rules added to the pile and no more securities. She ended things after a three month hiatus helping take care of a sick family member. If I voiced any concerns, I risked her bolting. She used to call our relationship “Whatever the heck this is.” I was always walking on eggshells. In the interim, she clung to someone she met at a church group meetup. We broke up in January (officially) and by July they were engaged. Married the following May. Just knowing who she is, she was already dating him when I was left on hold for three months.
It didn’t matter. I met a wonderful woman after my trip to the UK. I was still healing from the last attempt at love, but she was patient and listened to all my bullshit about my breakup. Eventually I stopped telling those stories and we started making more of our own. Within three weeks of meeting, I was her boyfriend. Six weeks in, we confessed our love for each other. If you are thinking things were moving too quickly, you are right! Just a few months after that, she began to pull away. My kid situation was hard. Talks of moving in together returned to talks of her getting a place with her siblings. When the pandemic hit, we figured it would be a few weeks before we didn’t see each other. We had 100% communication though and talked a few hours every night. I’ve never experienced something like it. If we ever had questions, we were open about them. There was no walking on eggshells. God, it felt so healthy. Very few red flags. Until the quarantine hit the six week mark. The cracks began to form. She ended things. She saw the turmoil that was coming in my life with court and custody battles and decided it was in her best interest to move on. Those last two weeks were hell, because I could feel her pulling away. I cannot even blame her. It has been rough. She blocked me from all social media, which sucked, because she said she wanted to remain as friends. The last words we said to each other were “I love you.”
Honestly, if she invited me to her wedding, I would go and I would buy her the nicest gift. I hope she is happy.
It hurt to lose her. It took a long time to heal, but I did. I worked through it. I had excellent friends to support the journey. One of them I became involved with after having been friends for years. We had seen each other’s highs and lows. We comisserated on bad breakups, the insanity of dating. We knew everything about each other’s shit. It was a unique friendship. Due to our distance, it didn’t have labels. How could it? 500 miles and life always getting between us. But we shared so much. We finally met this summer. Over the last few weeks, our paths diverged. I could feel her pulling away. It wasn’t my first rodeo. It was a valid red flag based on experience. She kept her orbits of paramours too, which didn’t bother me until I felt like I had something to worry about. We never really had a label. But I loved her. She knew it, and I think it scared the hell out of her.
So, I mustered up my courage and asked her where I stood.
After all, I had just sent her a letter confessing my love. Asking for nothing in return. Just letting her know I loved her and had been in love with her for a long time. I don’t regret it. I hope one day when she is old and grey she finds that letter and knows that a man loved her very much and was ready to open his heart to her.
Sometimes you don’t want the answer to the questions you have asked. Lack of a label meant that hours of texting and flirting and putting heart emojis on things and blowing kisses in pictures and the time we shared, the battles we fought together, the promises we made…meant we were just friends to her. It hurt like hell, but I had to walk away. It was not at all the same breakup I had with the woman during quarantine. It wasn’t even a real breakup. It was losing one of my best friends. But boundaries are important, and even among friends, you need to respect your boundaries. I felt led on. Gaslighted. Disregarded. I felt that my concerns with being able to even ask about the nature of our “unique friendship” would jeopardize our relationship. That isn’t even how regular friendships work. I was right. That was the biggest red flag of all.
You should feel safe enough to ask a question without walking on eggshells. And relationships should grow. Honestly, I had watched her sabotage relationships out of fear like this before. I always knew it was a possibility, if not likely to happen. But fortune favors the bold. Maybe it would help that we were friends first.
I was uncomfortable about the orbits of former lovers that were coming in close again, and rather than recognize why I would feel uncomfortable, it was all put back on me for jealousy. I wouldn’t have felt threatened if I didn’t feel there were so many cracks in the relationship to give me concern.
I don’t get modern dating. I like exclusivity because it allows you to focus on each other and find a deeper intimacy. I think that is an extinct notion, carried on by only the most stubborn of dinosaurs like me. On TikTok so many women ask where the good men are. They got hurt. They had to compete for someone’s affection and attention and then they got to be in the “friendzone” watching someone they cared about carry on with someone who wasn’t going to love them for long. But, I wasn’t dating her apparently. It was another label-less situationship. A footnote of my own heartache. Friends. “Just hanging.”
I assumed we were something more. A couple. I was wrong.
I try with all of my being to instill in my kids a sense of self-worth. Especially Boundaries. They are hard to come by. But they are absolutely necessary. I tend to overshare here, but I’m not going to name names. This is all to help others. And to actualize what has happened. It’s okay to walk away, which is what I did. I walked away from the relationship and the friendship, as unique as it was. It was hurting me. The uncertainty. Not knowing where I stood. Just another one of her pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends. I got to tell her I loved her in my last letter. I doubt she will even read it. She stopped reading my blogs weeks ago. Stopped liking my posts on Facebook for the most part. I knew it for a while. Details…so, I listened to my gut. I asked the hard questions.
And I walked away.
I unfriended or blocked her on just about every platform I could (I took a page out of the only real Girlfriend I ever had’s book and put it in my own). I used to wonder why that one blocked me. Today I learned that it hurts too much to see what might become of someone you love. It’s fine to love whoever they were at the moment you left them–forever–and know that they will be just fine. The temptation is too great to try to get in there and fuck it up worse.
It hurts like hell. And I’ll miss this last one so much. Whatever she was. My friend. My almost lover. But I didn’t lose myself in it, trying to be someone I wasn’t. Tonight I don’t hate myself. I’m not driving myself crazy with the uncertainty of an unasked question. A simple one. “Where do I stand?”
Now we both get to focus on our futures, apart. And may she find happiness. True love. And may I find it too.