The Valentine’s Day Breakdown and My Situationship
By: Lisa M. Hayes – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
I remember years ago in another lifetime, I was “dating” this guy who lived about an hour from where I lived. He also traveled a lot for work, sometimes weeks at a time. So, it was really easy to get lost in the “I’m not sure where we are at, so I’m going to make assumptions” zone for way too long – two years too long, to be exact.
He was one of the good ones. This guy was a gentleman. He was smart. He was genuinely kind. He had a real job and made good money. That said, he was also the king of sending mixed messages. One day we’d be looking at houses together talking about the future and the next day he’d be telling me about a singles event he was thinking about going to.
I knew, even though I didn’t want to admit it, that the house shopping was a lie. There were a number of things about me he wasn’t that in to. I was a single mother and I’d heard from mutual friends he didn’t want to raise someone else’s children. He wanted to raise his own. I also knew he was a lot more conservative politically than I. He wanted to marry a woman who was more comfortable taking a supporting role to his work by being willing to give up her career.
And as I write that, I know it might not sound like he was one of the good ones. However, I can assure you, he seemed like it to me at the time.
I’m not sure how long we’d been doing what we were doing when Valentine’s Day rolled around. I’m guessing it was about six months. However, in that particular year, Vday hit in the middle of the week. Anyone who’s ever been in a less than defined situationship knows how awkward a mid-week Valentine’s Day can be.
It’s not the night you typically, “hang out”. So, even though you may routinely be sleeping with this person, it’s not a sure thing you’ll be doing anything on the big day. You know for sure if nothing gets planned, you are probably not much more than a booty call. You also know that if something does get planned, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a couple, but it might.
In the days leading up to Valentine’s, I waited for an invitation of any kind or even an acknowledgment the holiday was happening, and the waiting was uneasy. Our regular phone conversations seemed a little distant to me. Three days before the big day he quit communicating altogether and I knew what that meant. So, I told myself it didn’t matter to me, and decided to party on as if the holiday was a no-thing – you know, nothing to see here. Really.
Except it was a thing, and all of my friends, either married or dating, seemed to pick up on that, bringing me Vday gifts and inviting me to be the awkward third for their Vday date night plans. I declined all the offers. I think I knew it was coming.
The Valentine’s Day breakdown didn’t start until about 3 pm. I thought I could hold it off, but I failed and midafternoon the tears started to flow. At first, it was a manageable trickle of disappointment. However, it didn’t take long before it was a flood of regret, questioning all my life choices, mixed with the bitter sting of shame. It was a shame for being in a situationship that was nothing more than friends with benefits, and shame for still being single.
At 4:30 there was a knock on the door. I assumed it was my kiddo, just off the bus who’d probably forgotten his key, so I opened it without even checking the peephole. I was a fucking mess, mascara smeared down my face, still in my pajama’s, (I worked from home). I hadn’t showered for days.
And I’m sure you can guess who was standing there, holding a single red rose.
Here’s a clue…
It wasn’t my son.
He hadn’t made any plans and neither had I. I didn’t have a babysitter. So, all three of us ended up at a Chinese food restaurant surrounded by single people trying to avoid good date-appropriate restaurants and married people with lots of kids who couldn’t get a table elsewhere.
It was more than a year later when we parted ways for real. I’d driven the hour to his place and planned to spend the weekend. We were out for dinner when it happened. He ended the relationship that wasn’t really a thing and I’d like to say I didn’t see it coming, but of course, I did. In fact, my psychic best friend had warned me it might happen. It wasn’t really a breakup. It was more like an, “I don’t think we should hang out anymore”.
So, I finally mustered some moxie and asked him something I should have cleared up long before, “When did you know we weren’t ever going to be a couple?”
“That Valentine’s Day at the Chinese place.” He looked me straight in the eye and continued, “I realized when I was driving home that I would have done better for someone I really cared about. I would have made reservations. I would have done better than a rose from the 7/11. I would have taken you someplace nice and given you a proper invite so you could have gotten all dressed up. I knew right then I wasn’t giving it my best. In fact, I wasn’t giving it much of anything and I knew if I loved you I would have.”
Then he offered to take me to a movie and suggested that I could spend the night anyway. He said he didn’t want me driving home upset. I rallied what was left of my pride and walked out of the restaurant. I felt like it had some dramatic flair to leave him sitting there alone. Looking back, he was probably relieved.
I saw him once after that. I went to dinner with him and his new fiance. They got engaged exactly three months to the day after we quit “hanging out”. She wanted to meet me for reasons I still can’t comprehend. He, of course, did not plan it in advance. So, it ended up being four of us at dinner, him, his fiance, myself and my son. It was awkward. However, when I saw him with her, as he pulled out her chair at the table, hung on her every word, and laughed at her bad jokes, I realized, he was one of the good ones, for her.
Ironically, he never got to raise a child because they never had any. Their dog has a Facebook page. He was the one who gave up his career to support hers. But other than the fact that he got nothing I thought he wanted, they seem to be living happily-ever-after.
The good news is, so am I, with a man who pulls out my chair, hangs on my every word, and laughs at my bad jokes. I didn’t give up my career. He’s a great father.
So, you might be thinking the moral of the story is not to continue “hanging out” with a man who occasionally talks about going to singles events. That’s good advice. You probably shouldn’t do that.
However, looking back, my biggest mistake was not having the courage to just ask him how he felt about what we were doing and where we were going. He would have told me and I could have made different choices. A smart woman wouldn’t have been wondering if there was going to be a Valentine’s Day date. Not knowing is painful and the longer you don’t know the more the uncertainty starts to eat the good parts of your heart.
Probably at any point, even before that awkward Valentine’s Day date, I could have asked him one simple question, “Where do you see this going?”
And you know what? Because he was one of the good ones, he would have told me the truth. He would have told me the sex was good but he didn’t think of me as his girlfriend – and it would have sucked to hear it, but it would have been clean. I would have opted out and maybe we could have legitimately been friends. Instead, I sold myself a bill of goods for an imaginary relationship that cost me two years. Time spent that way is expensive.
Living in limbo is no way to live.
Don’t do it.
That’s the moral of the story.
It might not be easy but it’s remarkably simple. Just ask.
Not doing it makes things really, really complicated. Trust me. I know.
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