The Price of Friendship…

For lack of a better title I have been in a “relationship” with a man I consider one of my closest friends for about 9 months now. As of right now we have decided to step back and take some time to figure things out. (I refer to it as a “Ross and Rachel”).  Something I had pushed for a few times but now that he has stated that this is what he wants…I’m wondering did I make the right choice.

This all started almost a year ago with a comment about the type of “friendship” we have and I, like any time feelings become a part of the conversation, went into panic. In my defense, I have ruined a couple of friendships trying to turn them into more and I immediately went to that space. He may have been joking…but neither one of us are laughing about it now.  I’ve always believed that if I had to choose between love and friendship that friendship would win every time. But that is so easy to say when it’s not actually in your face.

As he knows from the friendship that we have had for several years before, I am very opinionated and a tad bit overbearing. I don’t like being told what to do and I kind of move to my own rhythm. I do anger mixed with a little sarcasm exceedingly well and I also think I have mastered the “pretend I don’t give a damn” approach to things. But in truth I am extremely thin-skinned. (shhhh! Tell NO ONE!) But the emotions that come with falling in love …are all foreign to me. Now that alone can be a lot to deal with. But most importantly, I’m damaged. I don’t like to be touched in certain ways, I hate to be yelled at, and I can’t stand to be backed in a corner or for a man to approach me in an aggressive manner. And I am completely emotionally void at times. I struggle with my feelings because I feel they make me weak. And that is something I cannot afford…

I think we are both in denial or maybe disgusted by the fact that one of your “closest friends”, the one that you told ALL your relationship war stories too. The person that helped you worked out your best game and laughed with about the hearts you broke. May be the one you want to be with…at least for now. Or so I thought.

I always thought I had a type, and by my own definition he wasn’t it. And from what I have known of him, I damn sure am not his. But I’d be lying if I never acknowledged that I always thought of him fondly. He is smart, funny, he’s tall, which is nice because I prefer to look up at love instead of straight ahead or down. And the icing on the cake is that he is the biggest sarcastic asshole I have ever met. We can carry on a conversation and I don’t want to rip my ears off half way through because of gibberish. He’s caring and giving almost to a fault and most importantly he is a man. And I don’t think I’ve seen one of those in a long time. But what matters the most to me is that he’s been there when I needed him. He’s been able to listen to my nonsense and give me solid advice and respect when I do the same.  We do argue like an old married couple but we always have. That’s just our thing.

I know what you may be thinking…so what the hell is the problem? EVERYTHING! We work, as friends and we both know that. What we don’t know is what the hell we are doing now. I’ve always cared for him, I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t. I love him, we have known each other for a few years and I love all my friends. But now I love him in a different and more meaningful way. I love how he treats my sons. When I see them interact I think I love him a little bit more. How he is as a father is something I respect and admire about him. the fustration and love he expresses about his child, melts my heart.

I have become so use to the routine of us that I feel like I need him and that is something I swore I would never do. I don’t want to be let down and have to live with the disappointment. He has his own past issues and fears and at times I have allowed that to be what keeps me safe. I’ve kind of just hung in there and been present. Never demanding too much or asking for a lot because I haven’t wanted to be told no. Deep inside I’ve been fearing what has been echoing in the back of my mind. “Dont fall hard, dont fall too fast. He’s not ready”, so I’ve been playing it safe with him. So I thought.

The problem with playing it safe is that your heart has no way of knowing what exactly safe is. So I have been fighting with myself, I get mad at myself when I start to wonder the “what if’s” of our life together. Things like how our kids will get along, sleeping arrangements, work schedules and closest space….stop.

I’m scared that I will want it more and before he does. Or that maybe he won’t want it at all. That one day he will see me for who I am and decide that it’s not what he wants and he will no longer welcome me in his heart. And I don’t know if I can take that.

He already struggles to accept me as I am, I see him feeding his fear that I will be the same as the women in his past. I’m constantly wondering if when he looks at me, regret is all that comes to mind. That he just want to turn time back before all this.

I feel like my actions are second guessed. He does things that I know are purposeful, to push me away. He says things that are confusing to me emotionally and I am to prideful to ask him to explain it. “You love me too much”, is something that has been stuck in my head for months now. It drives me bonkers when he speaks of our relationship and the one that we will have after we are apart. It kills me slowly, because I just want him to fight sometimes. So I know that we’re worth it to him. That I matter or even that he feels something…anything.

It’s hard for me to accept that at 37 years old this is my first adult relationship. We have taken things slow which at times leaves me frustrated because the evil self esteem demons whisper how he’s not that in to me or that he’s not attracted to me or there is something wrong with me and that is so hard to fight off at times. And of course there are the not so friendly “friends” that I thought would be happy for me who have no problem suggesting that I am being used and played, constant and repetitiously.

But what scares me the most is how I feel different when he is around me. They way my body reacts when he is too close or how my heart skips when I look at him makes me want to vomit. I just wasn’t prepared for what this would do to me psychologically. It hurts…it feeds my insecurities at times but then he looks through me and I swear he can see my soul.

He cares about my heart. He holds me, even when I don’t think I need it. We cuddle something I haven’t done since I was a teenager. And he KNOWS me. He pays attention to my moods, he knows if I’m upset by my tone and he asks me what’s wrong and listens when I try to explain it… I’m going to just sit that right there for you. Cause I’ve NEVER had that!

Our biggest struggle is trust. As a friend I have trusted him with my car, my life and my money. But as something more I am stuck looking at him sideways questioning everything he says. Because now he has so much power. He is capable of so much destruction and an excruciating amount of pain. He knows about my past experiences and I am so terrified that he’ll use it against me, which is exactly what he’s worried I’ll do to him. I am a person who needs to know facts and details but I shouldn’t have to ask for them. He keeps his cards close to his chest only giving what is necessary to function and the option to ask for more. I just won’t. I wonder if he’s done playing the field. And if it doesn’t work and we move on from each other I can’t say that I’ll be able to do it gracefully.

It’s hard for me to not compare myself to the women in his past. I often think about our disagreements and how quickly he shuts down or dismisses my feelings at times and then I think about when he was with “___________” and how hard he fought for her forgiveness. How he went out of his way to make declarations of love for women who in my own mind couldn’t hold a candle to me. So then I start to wonder if he feels the same. Am I filling in for the one he really wants? What if the girl that he really wants decides she wants another try? Would he walk away? Could I just let go? Smile and be that supportive friend I have always been? Maybe with time and more healing I can look at him without wondering “what if?” ….Probably not.

We are both very sensitive and when I’m hurt I lash out, he shuts down, sometimes for days and it makes me insane because my thoughts are always “it’s over” where he just needed his space. I don’t stay mad and he can hold a grudge that can last a whole season of Love and hip hop!

So what are two damaged and healing hearts do?  I am stuck in a state of confusion here. I love him; there is doubt about it for me. And in my heart I know he cares deeply. But trying to navigate through our past pains and still maintain a healthy friendship is such a challenge. If I walk away I may miss something great. If it ends badly, I am losing a great friend. In my heart I know we can’t go back because I don’t know how. I mean at least how to be genuine about it. Or if I even want to. I know deep down I’ll always be thinking “yeah she cool…but it would have been better with me!”

So I’m trying to just live in this moment. Not over think it or drive myself crazy with questions that do not need answers. I’m just trying to live in my truth. I know he loves me, to what degree…I’m not sure. I love him, at times maybe too much but it’s the way my heart works, I can’t half ass it. So even if this moment is a permanent one and we move in different directions I’ll still love him. Still see the greatness in him. I’ll fight to hide my feelings until I choke on them. And I’ll murder anyone who tries to sell me out. But that is the price of friendship.