After I stopped seeing him, MM and I kept in touch sporadically, exchanging emails every once in a while and occasionally chatting on Facebook. I'll be honest, even though we didn't meet up again, we did flirt a little sometimes. A girl needs to practice her sexy, you know? And even though I found myself conflicted about the nature of our relationship, over the time we'd known each other I'd come to care about him a great deal, and wanted to keep in touch. I'd read drafts of the early chapters in the book he ended up publishing...I wanted to know how he was doing, know the general outlines of his life. I wanted to know that he was happy.
In 2009, I ended the most emotionally difficult intimate relationship of my life, and I wasn't quite sure how I was feeling. Although I'd loved my partner, I'd struggled for over a year-and-a-half with the dynamics between us that made me feel deeply unhappy and unhealthy. I'd always felt a little bit controlled and restrained by the way he seemed capable of taking over my life and my affairs; he didn't do it on purpose, but I ended up feeling incapable and small. After I had behaved particularly badly, my partner told me that he would feel better and trust me more if I dropped MM from my friend list on Facebook. So I did. For the first time -- and I hope the last -- I allowed someone else to determine who I could and couldn't be friends with.
When we broke up, one of the first things I did was get back in touch with MM. Part of it was revenge, I'll admit it: I wanted to do what I hadn't been able to while I was with my ex-partner. Part of it was a feeling of expansive freedom. Part of it was wanting to feel desired and desirable after feeling sexually unworthy, unattractive, unwanted, and messed up. And part of it was just wanting to be able to talk to MM again, about all things psychological, about our lives, about the parts of ourselves that people keep hidden for fear of being judged. I wanted to be vulnerable and have someone accept me.
As it turns out, MM had recently been missing me as well, and we quickly struck up a flirtation. We ended up meeting for hot chocolate soon after getting back in contact, and I was pleasantly surprised by how things went. We talked about our lives, our recent relationships, and what I'd learned I wanted. I found myself very different with him than I used to be: I was shy and deferential, but now I found I was expressing myself with confidence and behaving more like who I really am, instead of like a student trying to impress her teacher. He remarked on the change as I, too, was noticing it. I was older. I was more sure of myself. And I knew that, if I liked him, it wasn't because I was star-struck but because I knew him and I knew myself.
I often wonder what exactly it is he saw in me. I know he liked that I was smart and we could talk about a range of topics. I know we found each other insanely attractive. But, more and more, I think it was that I simply wasn't impressed by all the crap he usually impresses people with. I didn't care that he was the equivalent of a psychology rock-star, because I'd known him before that was true. I didn't care about his house, or his cars, or his clothes, or his job, or his money, although I knew that those things all represented success to him. And he knew that I didn't give a crap. I think what he liked most about me was that I looked at him and saw him with all those things stripped away, and was interested in him anyway. I got the feeling that he was surrounded by people who focused on what he could do or what he had and was, and I was part of a smaller number of those who took him for who he was. We seemed to give each other something we were both missing, along with a lot of desire and tenderness.
I 'dated' him from late spring through to early fall, meeting up once or more a week. I invented a fake graduate student working in a psychology lab so my family would know I was seeing someone and wouldn't constantly be asking where I was going. I wasn't sure exactly what our relationship was, but we were having a lot of fun, and I was getting to know both of us a lot better. I met and had dinner with one of his friends from out of town, and actually went to a block party with him. We had a lovely and memorable day trip. I knew I had feelings for him, and him for me, but it didn't seem important to try and define what we had or where it was going. I was much happier and more fulfilled dating him this time around than I had been the first.
But, as time went on, it started to bother me. I felt like, in a way, I was letting myself get comfortable in a relationship that would, in the long run, keep me from pursuing what I really wanted. I was still young and I knew I wanted children, and that he didn't. I knew one day I wanted a life partner, but I didn't think that was in his plans. Ultimately, I started feeling like I was selling myself short and allowing myself to be less than I hoped to be by choosing to be with someone who couldn't give me the kind of commitment that I wanted. I felt like we were both settling for less than we deserved.
I knew it would hurt, but after crying it out all over a friend in Dio's basement after a Friday morning Eucharist, I decided I needed to stop seeing him and re-evaluate what it is I needed in a relationship in order to feel like I was growing, like I was a real partner, like I could be fulfilled.