textualdeviance: (trapped)
[personal profile] textualdeviance
Saw this old XKCD linked on FB. And ... it kinda creeped me out. This is kind of exactly how M and I got together.

The full story is complicated, but the gist: My marriage was dying when M and I met, and he became a good friend to me during that process. We were more or less upfront about being attracted to each other, but made a point of being just friends. But less than a month after I finally split with J, I was at a low point, and we crossed the friend line. M assumed that meant we were dating. I was shocked at the assumption, and tried to keep him at arm's length for a week. He got tired of that and dumped me, for someone who was "ready" for a relationship. I was utterly miserable for a month, and he finally let me crawl back to him.

Obviously, since we're still together 17 1/2 years later, the rather dodgy way we got together hasn't destroyed us, but it does still bug me sometimes. I kind of feel like if he really did care about my happiness and well-being, he'd have let me take all the time I needed to get my head back on right after coming out of a 7-year relationship. I feel like he pushed me into dating him by making me jealous of the other girl (and really, how unfair was that to her? He was just using her to make me realize what I was giving up by not committing to him.) I feel like he didn't have the balls to let me choose him of my own free will, and instead had to force me to make the choice, whether I was ready for it or not. He knew how desperately I needed a friend, but he wanted more than that, so he withheld his friendship until he got it. I was basically an animal he hunted down and chased into a trap. Icky. :(

These days, I chalk all of this (and a lot of the subsequent drama of our early years) up to the fact that we were both pretty seriously mentally fucked up, in a lot of ways. He wouldn't have been able to treat anyone he dated with full respect, because he wasn't mentally capable of it. And there's really no way he could have known or understood at the time exactly how important it was for me to have that breathing space, and to take some time to become my own person, instead of going from being J's wife to being M's fiancée in the space of just a few months. Hell, I was only 23 at the time, and he was only just turning 20. Neither of us would've had much idea of what the hell we were doing even if we weren't already fucked up.

I do think that part of the reason it took us so long to get so much of the rest of our lives on track (including things like finally getting around to becoming parents) is because our relationship started on such shaky, false foundations. I more or less forgive him now for what he did, because I know he didn't have the skills necessary to simply ask for what he wanted, instead of swindling me to get it, but it took me a very long time after I realized that I'd been swindled for me to fully trust him. Even now, I still wonder on rare occasion whether he truly does love me as a person, or just loves the role I play in his life, and the things I do for him. And, conversely, I also wonder sometimes whether I love him, or am just with him because I had no other choice--and still don't. If there was someone else out there who would treat me as well as he does, and who was also more capable of being emotionally honest than he is, would I leave? It's a moot question--such a person doesn't exist--but sometimes, I don't have the answer for it.

FWIW, I disagree with the underlying premise of that comic--I do think it's not only possible, but a good thing to be friends before you date someone. Otherwise, you're just hooking up because you have the hots for each other, and that's a pretty clear recipe for future relationship disaster. Long-term relationships based primarily on getting a boner for each other when you're 25 and hot never last past that first wrinkle. It's not necessarily dishonest not to be open about your attraction for someone when you're still trying to decide whether there's more to your interest in them than just that. Initial reactions of "I'd hit that" can often fade or change--or get stronger--the more you get to know someone. Hell, I have a very good friend I crushed out on the first year we knew each other, and our friendship didn't get really good until I got over it (and that required me making an idiot of myself by confessing my interest.)

But yes, when one party is counting on the emotional vulnerability of the other to increase dependency, that's not exactly a good recipe for a solid relationship. Hell, it's not a good recipe for a friendship, either. More than anything, people need to be honest with themselves and the people they're with about their motivations for being there. It's never fun to be used, no matter what it is you're being used for, and even less fun to be kept in the dark about that fact.

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