Let Me Tell You a Story
I have been crazy about the same woman for the past five years. That has not necessarily been wise, but it’s the case.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her. I’ve written love poems for her. I’ve cried about her. I’ve had lengthy conversations with all of my good friends about her. I haven’t always been wise in my interactions with her: I have been too vulnerable and sensitive, and I’ve often been needy for her affection and attention. But through it all, I’ve been true to myself and to her: my heart has always been on my sleeve.
As recently as a month and a half ago, I woke up at 3 AM and, between then and 6 AM, carefully crafted an e-mail to express how I felt about her and how I didn’t think I’d been engaging with her properly. As recently as two and a half weeks ago, I had a heart-to- heart with her, discussing her sadness and fears regarding her mother’s health. As recently as two days ago, somewhere, in the back of my mind, I thought that maybe, someday, she would be my wife – unlikely, but the thought calmed me.
I had always, for whatever reason, believed I was inevitably connected with her. Maybe that doesn’t make complete rational sense, but it’s what I felt in my heart. I intuited (or so I thought) a sense of love and a sustained possibility for higher connection.
Two nights ago, I was walking back from getting coffee. Up ahead, I saw a good friend of mine that I’ve known for six years – someone I would count among my greatest friends and confidants, someone who I respected and admired for his goodness and childlike spirit – crossing at the intersection. He was walking alongside the woman. It looked kind of like a date. At first, I kept walking home, thinking it was strange but not feeling an immediate need to understand it.
But while walking the next block, I realized I had to know what was going on – that whatever it was potentially made me extremely uncomfortable. I circled the block and couldn’t see them but made a reasonable guess at which direction they had headed. I started in that direction, with the thought that I would simply say hi to them and gauge the situation. In other words, I was not jumping to any conclusions or wanting to “confront” them in any way. It was concerned curiosity because of my level of personal investment in both these people. I cared about both of them, and I thought they cared about me. I felt like I might be witnessing something deceptive and, frankly, unbelievable.
I moved quickly, but they were quite a distance in front of me at that point. By the time I caught up, they had entered a pub, where they had just sat down at a table. On cue, no more than five steps prior to my arrival at their side, they kissed on the lips.
“Hey, how you guys doing?” I said.
My question was followed immediately by an incredible expression of awkwardness from both my friend and the woman, perhaps a sense of guilt and shame at the wrongness of what they were doing. We know, deep down, when we are doing something wrong – no matter how much we justify it to make ourselves feel better. We know, deep down, when we are being sloppy with other people’s lives because we have to have what we want, no matter the consequences.
We know, deep down, when we’re making decisions at present that will negatively affect our lives in the long run. Romance is notorious for this. When the sexual hormones start coursing through our systems, and the concept of possible budding love rears its undependable head, it can trick us with its false supremacy. It can override our higher senses of friendship, courtesy, honesty, and respect.
“[He’s] been trying to call you,” said the woman.
Right or wrong, this comment reminded me of a line from the movie As Good as It Gets that is extremely misogynistic but might help to illuminate what caricature roles we sometimes play to avoid personal responsibility. Jack Nicholson’s character is a romance novelist and is explaining how he writes women: (to paraphrase) “I take a man, and I remove reason and accountability.” I love the accountability of this woman, knowing how attached I am to her, detaching herself from the situation and entrusting another person to slowly and haltingly take forward steps to make sure that the situation is not founded in part on a tone of dishonor and carelessness toward the feelings of others.
“I’ll talk to you guys later,” I said.
I stepped outside and start quickly crossing the street. My friend burst out of the pub.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” said my friend, quickly approaching me.
My friend perhaps wanted to make the situation better but knew he had gone too far – to the level of the inexcusable and unforgivable. He perhaps suspected he had, by failing to respect boundaries, thrown away his friendship with me. Perhaps he was beginning to regret it, despite how fun and seemingly meaningful it was being intimate, conversationally and physically, with the woman.
But real meaning is interwoven with personal integrity, and situations that arise out of gross inattention to other people’s hearts seem, by and large, destined to failure. Maybe, in the back of his mind, he was aware of that too – that no matter how much he wanted to white-knuckle life, life, in the end, is king.
“Get away from me. Get the fuck away from me,” I said.
At this point I was so filled with rage that I was concerned for both our safety. I started moving forward, suddenly realizing I wanted to throw my coffee cup on the ground. I did so, and in the process, somehow spilled the entire contents all over my back. I was wet, forlorn, and ashamed.
The aftermath is not as central to this article, but I will review it to give you a basic sense of how everything resolved: I sent some stupid text messages, two of which were incredibly harsh. I went back and forth for over 24 hours, useless during that period, trying to figure out how to fit this incredibly painful interaction into my brain and into my heart.
Finally, I sent a text message to both my friend and the woman, stating the same basic message to each. Here is what I sent to my friend – whom I texted earlier in the day about discussion (a misguided attempt to salvage our relationship): “Nevermind man. Sorry. I don’t want to talk. Your actions said you don’t give a shit about me, & I need to trust that message, not your words. Good luck with everything.”
Now, 36 hours later, I’m grieving my relationship with both of them – especially with him, because friendship is about trust. I no longer feel that I could speak openly with him, because he has taken comments I’ve made to him in private and used them – certainly not wholly, but in part – to build his personal picture of the woman. Though he did have a personal relationship with her himself, he knows her much better through his interactions with me. I feel data-mined. I feel exploited for my highly sensitive information. I feel like he took something that was not his to use to benefit his own agenda.
Even the initial foray into a relationship must have been partially inspired by my reports to him that she was incredibly sexual and fun in bed. I picture him in bed with her, enjoying what I once enjoyed, and thinking,
“Wow, Kent was right! Thanks for the tip, loser!”
Now, 36 hours after the encounter, I have decided not just to tell my story but to explain exactly why I think my friend and the woman made an incredibly poor decision. I thought that analyzing the situation and arguing my perspective might make more sense than just rolling it around in my mind emotionally. Without further ado, here are …
5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Date a Woman Your Friend is Crazy About
1. Because you know your friend. You choose your friend over a woman – and that’s really what this is about is prioritization of romance over friendship – because you know your friend well. You have had lengthy conversations with your friend, you know where his heart is, and you know how he ticks.
No matter how much you think you know the woman, you don’t really know her because you don’t have as much of a track record with her. Even if you have known the woman for some time, the depth of mutuality is just not there.
2. Because we live in a throwaway culture. In this culture, we love to throw things away. That applies not just to products but to relationships as well. Friendships never need to be thrown away. All they require is basic respect.
If you want to live your life holistically and sustainably, to devote yourself to growth, to continually strive toward a higher state of being, you cannot prefer situations that are more likely to result in a resolution of consumption and disposal. Both men and women consume each other in romantic relationships because they are afraid, passions are involved, and monogamy requires that our eyes are always being diverted to other options, to make sure we have the best mate.
3. Because friendship is the essence of romance. Choosing romance over friendship doesn’t say much about your ability to be a good friend. If you can’t be true to your friendship to your long-term friend, you’re not going to be able to be true to your friendship to the woman. If you can’t prove yourself to be capable of devotion to pure human interaction, your relationships will be guided too heavily by the pleasure principle.
The good life is not about pleasure. It’s about giving oneself over to a shared sense of commitment and responsibility to higher values, the values that you believe should be held in service to the creation of a better world.
4. Because being a good friend is about sacrifice. Choosing your friend over a woman validates your friendship. It strengthens your friendship. Making the choice, in your general relationship with humanity, to give romantic situations greater significance than friendships is a statement to yourself and others that you can’t control yourself and you have to get what you want.
Deciding, instead, to forgo what you want because you know that it will damage your relationship to a friend places you on a path to further developing your ideals and allowing your friends the right to their own dreams. It means deciding not to trespass on your friends’ dreams because you believe it’s a free world, you can do what you want, and your friend will “never have her anyway, so who cares.” Regardless whether or not your friend will eventually succeed, you choose to care for him and to respect the language of his heart, regardless if it is speaking primarily in gibberish.
5. Because you want to be a good person. Morality doesn’t shift. It is as true as gravity. No matter how much we want to escape it, it will always have the upper hand. When we step outside of a moralistic perspective to justify actions that we know in our hearts threaten the emotional welfare of others, we are dedicating ourselves to human patterns that proliferate disease and dissatisfaction.
We can’t be our own friends if we are not good to other people. When we hurt others strongly and in avoidable ways, it doesn’t matter if we convince ourselves that we have the right to do what we’re doing. We end up hurting ourselves – because energy, whether good or bad, surrounds human interaction and in the end defines it.
People make mistakes. I know that neither the woman nor my friend was being insidious or despicable, despite how much I want to paint the situation in that way in order to fit my experience into an easily understandable category. I know that he and she are not evil. They just did something stupid. Hopefully they will stop doing stupid things, so that no one else gets hurt, including them.
If you have any thoughts on this piece, please comment below. I am open to any ideas moving forward. Who knows … Much of what I say above could be wrong-headed. Let me know what you think.
by Kent Roberts