I spoke to Tony early one morning and then sent him an email the next day. My actions and words were deliberate. The words were the right ones for me; I simply had to draw my line in the sand. I knew the risks. I also knew that an email was better than trying to get all of that out in a conversation. Tony listens, absorbs, and processes on his own.
I sent the email yesterday morning and we were supposed to have a dinner and overnight date. When I called him around lunch time to sort out plans, he said he was going to come over early afternoon to my place (I was working from home). When I asked about dinner he was cagey.
In my gut, I knew what was going to happen.
Tony didn’t let himself in as he usually does; he waited for me to come downstairs to the front door. Greeted with a quick kiss, we went upstairs and I heated up some food when I learned he’d already eaten.
I brought my bowl to my kitchen island and sat down next to him. I said “so, what’s up?”
“Ann”, he said, “I can’t be the man you need me to be.”
He started by telling me he couldn’t be the kind of guy who wants to be all over Facebook and super social with lots of couple dates and the like. I explained it wasn’t inherently what I wanted either, but in the absence of having things I needed from him, those things took on increased importance.
He said things weren’t perfect between us although couldn’t articulate exactly what the issues were; in hindsight I don’t think it’s actually what he meant, but it was easier for him to be able to pin it on the fallacy that I need a relationship blasted all over Facebook and he is private.
I told him if he didn’t think this relationship was what he wanted anyway, then there’s no point in going forward.
I suggested to him perhaps given his situation with Mary, he hasn’t ever been able to emotionally give us a real chance, that his heart was perhaps still closed. He balked at the thought; told me he was invested and emotionally committed.
I said, not unkindly, if he was still so connected to his marriage then although he could be invested, he couldn’t be fully invested. His heart couldn’t be fully open to me. We settled on that as being the right analogy and agreed the issue wasn’t about something being wrong in our relationship.
We got to the real issues.
He said we wouldn’t have been having the discussion had I not sent that email. I said I knew the risk when I sent it but had to take care of my own needs. I said I knew there was a very small possibility he would have done what I needed. He said since I told him the day before he had to tell Mary, he’d been thinking about doing so.
He’d wanted to surprise me. But he couldn’t do it. When pressed, he said he didn’t know why.
Tony decided that given my needs, until he was able to sort out his relationship with Mary and his divorce, we shouldn’t be together.
And that, my friends, is the right decision. He did the right thing. Some of you may disagree, but here’s how I see it. He’s clearly not ready. Pretending to be ready may be the path of least resistance (in that he keeps the status quo) but ultimately the weaker decision. Him being honest with me about where he’s at and being able to walk away to sort things out is actually something I hold in much higher regard.
As much as it makes me very sad.
If I doubted how he felt about me, I would frame this in a different way. If I thought I was just a Friend with Benefits to him, or if I really thought he’d been engaging with other women since Chapter 2 of our relationship began, I would feel differently.
We talked about the contents of my letter.
I was right about him not being ready. He agreed exclusivity when we were together the first time was a mistake and he did pursue others after we agreed to be exclusive. But he maintains he didn’t have sex with anyone. I’ve decided to try to just let it go; the past needs to be in the past.
There has been nobody else since he came back to me in October. I believe him.
He joked he appreciated I thought he was such a machine that he could handle anyone else physically other than me. I wear him out as it is. When I said (lightly), emotional capacity is different, he laughed and said “do you really think I have more capability to deal with emotional stuff after you and Mary?”
The man had a point.
I asked what Mary would say if he told her about me and the trip. Or whether she expects that he is coming back. he said he didn’t know; they don’t talk about their relationship. He doesn’t know where she stands and isn’t ready to know. He doesn’t want to know if she’s dating someone else.
I got no sense he’s been actively making her believe there’s more than just co-parenting and shared history. I do believe (since I’ve been in the same position with him before) it’s likely he’s just “let” her believe something that’s untrue. He promised me there has been nothing physical (or untoward) between them since he and I met.
I believe it’s really about his kid and not knowing how to move forward, for fear of a shit storm, parental guilt, and a strong sense of commitment to family.
He said he wished he could continue things as is with her – meaning being able to just go hang out in her back yard with his son since he doesn’t have one and his place is a mess. I told him I didn’t understand why he felt that settling things means that can’t continue; it’s not zero sum. But it’s how he sees it.
I’ve realized subsequently, given how he describes their conversations (“Every divorce discussion ends in a screaming match with her”), it makes sense that he avoids moving forward with her if a) there is still some emotional baggage to deal with, b) they don’t have great conflict resolution capability, and c) she’s got the house and the child and is the social convener and a closer relationship with his mother.
So really, framed that way… if the status quo is manageable, what motivation does he have to finalize his divorce? Avoidance makes a lot of sense. I’m not so egotistical to think separating from me will be a catalyst for change (although he says I am a catalyst, in many respects), but perhaps there’s some small motivation there.
This is all predicated on my believing all the things he said about me before he left my house later that afternoon.
We had been sitting in my kitchen side-by-side. We hadn’t kissed, but hands rested on each others legs and he’d rubbed my legs and arms like he often does. We’d broken up at that point. I’d rested my head on his chest to hide the tears welling up in my eyes. He lifted my head and looked at me and said “you’re the only woman I’ve ever broken up with who I still wanted to make out with.”
I said I would like to spend some time canoodling with him. He suggested I make us some gin and tonics and we can hang out on my couch for a bit.
It was a grand plan.
We went to the couch and kissed and touched and talked. We went from telling each other just how much we cared for one another, to saying how much this sucked but was the right thing for both of us, to how much we were going to miss each other, all between kisses and bites and touches and back-arching nipple sucking.
He told me I was the best thing that’s ever happened to him. He learns something new from me every day. I’m basically his best friend; he sees me more than anyone else in his life.
In my letter, I made a comment that he didn’t know how rare I was – I was actually referring only to how open I was to discussing needs and wants and my understanding of human nature – but he took it in the broader context and that was fine by me, because he used it to tell me all the ways he thought I was awesome.
He said “Ann, you are amazing. Smart, strong, kicking ass in a male dominated business. A great leader. Beautiful. Sexy as hell. Sexually open.”
He said “you’re a queen – my queen.”
He said “you fascinate me. You are so smart and so wise and so level-headed. You give me great advice.”
He said “there is so much I wanted to explore with you.”
He said “there is always going to be a piece of my heart that is yours.”
There was more. He said he knew I was going to get “snapped up” very quickly. He told me over and over again how attracted he is to me and how much I turn him on. How this is the best sex of his life. I forget so many of the things he said, but I will never forget how he made me feel.
We established neither of us wanted to say goodbye. There is so much potential between the two of us, our connection is so rare, and there is so much we can explore with each other. We both feel there are very few people in this world we could have spent 5 days with and still wanted more.
He said he would come back for round three, but next time would make sure he’s fully ready and had his shit sorted. He said he’d hurry so he could come back to me quickly.
We talked a lot about staying in contact. He said he’d love to see me even if it’s just as friends. When I asked, he said he would be able to be with me and not try to be physical – when I retorted I guess I overestimated my feminine charms he laughed and said it takes only one minute with me for him to be turned on. So we’d have to go somewhere with bright lights and a set timeline and no touching.
I told him I didn’t think it would be possible for me to see him and not want to be with him. But he could always call me for any advice, even about him and Mary, and I would never be self-serving. I asked him how there would be any motivation for him to get his shit sorted if I continued to see him and be physical with him – his response? Well the motivation is I would get to spend the time with you I’d want.
I will probably need to write a whole post on whether I think I could still see him, and under what conditions.
At some point he pulled away from me and I realized he was uncertain whether he could make any further physical moves. So I said “do you actually think I’m letting you out of my house without having you in my bed one more time?”
He visibly relaxed and said “oh, Ann…good…I mean, the thought of not making out with you again, it was awful. I debated not telling you until after we’d had sex but…”
I interrupted him, laughing, and said “well that would have made you a douchebag, so you will now be rewarded for not being one.”
And I led him upstairs to my bedroom.
It was wonderful. Tender and aggressive and a perfect bittersweet representation of our conversation and feelings for one another.
I told him I thought if there was going to be a chance that we’d have a long(er) term relationship, it had to be this way. He had to deal with his divorce on his own terms and those decisions shouldn’t have anything to do with me. If we tried to keep dating while he went through this, we’d end in a blazing ball of fire.
He joked if we got back together at some other time we may still end up in a blazing ball of fire. Of course. We agreed there are no guarantees in life and neither of us know where things will end up. Who knows what will happen with him or with me.
I know some of what we said is wishful thinking. This isn’t a fast process for someone and inertia is a powerful force with him. I know I could meet someone who is everything I’ve ever wanted, and never look back. He could go back to her or find someone else (admittedly, the latter would be crushing to me). I did say he didn’t have to have the ink dry on the papers, but at least have it in progress and ensure he and Mary are on the same page.
We lay in bed together until he had to go. I could have stayed there forever and under my duvet, by candlelight, snuggled against his chest, it was so hard to think about not having that again.
He suggested maybe we should have a follow-up conversation next week. Smiling, he added “in a public place with lots of lights”. I was non-committal, saying only it might be a good idea.
As he was leaving and my tears came heavy and I hid my face in his chest, he said he knew I would be okay. I said I knew I would be okay; I always am.
I could see the tears well up in his eyes. We didn’t want to say goodbye. But we eventually broke apart and Tony walked out my door and into the cold late afternoon air.