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A date with a coworker felt like a bright spot in 2020 (and maybe it was)?

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  • #373629
    Ry
    Participant

    Morning Anita,

    I ended up emailing her last night (and borrowed a bit of your language)… Felt a bit silly about it before I sent it. I thought, “I’ve only known this girl since mid-November. We were hardly what anyone would describe as ‘dating’. Why bother?” But, I felt something–even if I misread her and she did not–and thought I’d say say what I felt. I’ve included my email below:

    I’ve written and erased this a few times. I put too much credence into your reaction rather than just getting the words out. This is going to be a stream of consciousness email, so it may not be the most coherent; however, I just wanted to say what I was not able to articulate in person…

    Firstly, thank you for being honest with me last night, and more importantly, with yourself. It was not an easy subject to broach, as I feared that I knew what your answer to be. I wish your truth was different, but it is what it is. I am grateful that you were honest with me and didn’t feel the need to dance around your truth, as I did not want to continue slipping into the unknown.

    When you pictured your life with me, you may have visualized it as a friend that you have a relationship with. A life with me could possibly tend to not be one that excites you or lends to lassitude. You may have been content with me, but I would not compliment you. I wouldn’t be that “soulmate” that gives you butterflies and makes your heart skip. It may have been good or great for a few years, but it may have ultimately been fruitless. We may have gotten caught up in our lives, our routines, and years have passed before you (or even I) may have walked away. It was better to have the realization now rather than have you compromise your heart and your months or years of your time. Life with me may not have been easy. I still battle depression and will continue to do so until my days are over. I long for a companion in life but fear the loneliness when one of us is gone. I struggle with seeing the goodness in the world and believing better days are ahead for us as a species. I am often frustrated and irritable and only want the next day to arrive to restart. We are similar in many ways as we’ve discussed, and those similarities may have doomed us regardless of any emotional ties that would have bound us.

    As much as I desired the love story, my intense work on myself last year, and our brief, rather undefined relationship, helped me grow in many ways. A year ago, I had not yet evolved into the more emotionally mature man that I am now. I was comfortable keeping those walls up, even though those walls hurt more than they helped—hurt both myself and those I let close. I mentioned last night that the pandemic and this time alone was difficult, but the loneliness forced me to confront myself and my shortcomings and to work hard on them. It was difficult emotionally (and financially), but it was necessary. When I saw you across the floor at the office back in January, yes, I was enthralled by your eyes and your beautiful smile. (Yes, I did look at your butt too but I’m trying to be respectful here.) However, had I asked you out then, and if you were truly in a place in your life to be emotionally receptive—a place you simply were not at the time—I do not think our first “date” would have gone as well as I did. I would have kept my walls up. I would have been more self-deferential and less vulnerable. You would not have known how captivated and charmed I was. I would have latched onto superficial “faults” and not allow myself to let you get close. This, as what I believe was the first date for both of us in 2020, would have led you to believe that I was just another emotionally unavailable man. Rinse and repeat.

    Last night was not my finest moment. It was me vulnerable and stripped bare. The tears were not so much the loss of you, as I never really had a relationship with you to begin with. Yes, I felt like something may be budding but it was more only wishful thinking on my part. The tears were more so the weight of 2020 melting away. The new job in the new town far away from everything. Finishing grad school. The mandatory telework in March. The loneliness and isolation. A job that was much less than I had expected. The regrets and longing. The hours of counseling and the work it entails. The incessant, cyclical grind of work without the release. Starting back to the gym last fall. Encountering the same type of people every time I ventured out. Traveling solo across Appalachia to force myself out of the apartment on long weekends. It all came to a crescendo last night. But I was grateful you were a part of it—and accepted and encouraged it. You touching my hand at the restaurant, and holding me in your arms at your apartment, in an attempt to assuage me was beautiful (if not endearing).

    And that rawness last night that simply would not have happened a year ago. I worked weekly with my counselor to be more open, more vulnerable, to practice emotional intimacy, and not be afraid to let the other person see the real me. (That is why I asked you this morning if it felt like you saw the “real me” and it caused you to flee.) A year ago, my self-esteem would have seen the loss of a potential relationship with you as a fault with me. I would have battled my ego to convince myself I was somehow not good enough for you. I would have seen myself as not handsome enough, or not masculine enough, or not smart enough, or some other silly attribute. However, our lengthy conversations these past months—and your head on my chest in the bed at the cabin, or your hand wrapped around my arm as we drove to the cabin and back—solidified that I was a strong, attractive man and someone you enjoyed your time with. Someone you enjoyed giving a part of your time to. Someone strong and handsome. I just am not the one for you.

    I recall stammering something last night about how good our sex would have been. What I mean is, in past relationships, sex was the aspect of the relationship I was best at. I had several partners tell me that sex was the only time I let my guard down and they saw the real me. The intimacy of the physical act allowed me to open up on an emotional level—which is good in a way but also detrimental. Sex allowed me to block out everything in my mind and focus solely on my partner. I allowed myself to feel unencumbered and uninhibited, and my partners fed off that and allowed themselves to be free as well. Which, of course, fed my ego as I was able to do things to my partners that others had not. While I feel, at least for myself, sex with you would have been vastly different in a positive way, it ultimately would have clouded things for the both of us. I would have felt unshackled since I was able to be emotionally intimate with you outside of the bed, but you may have attached to me on a level that veiled those feelings (or lack of feelings) that needed to be addressed.

    In you, I found someone I could be intimate with, without the need to strip off our clothes. Yes, I worked my ass off in counseling to get there, but there is just something about you I connect with on a deeper level, even though you’ve only shown me a piece of you. Since that first “date” at the cocktail bar, this brief relationship has been so cathartic for me. I know there’s much we don’t know about one another, and I hope we continue to grow closer as friends. I’m not religious, and not overly spiritual, but there is a reason that I met you when I did. I’d spent so much time on myself, that it would have been wasted on someone less compassionate or someone who too hadn’t worked so hard to better themselves. I’d like to think we both benefited from our time together. At least I’d like to think so.

    I tried to articulate this on the phone this morning but permit me to try again. As we have talked about before, we each battle our own demons—I know there are things that you do not like about yourself—but continue working to build your exquisite garden. You are a beautiful woman both on the surface and below. Physically beautiful both in a simplistic, just out of bed, messy hair, and chapped lips way, and in a dressed up, made-up, hair straightened (and maybe curled) sexy way. Emotionally beautiful in your kindness, decency, integrity, and generosity. You are fiercely independent while also longing for a companion on your journey. You are intelligent, hardworking, hilarious and quick-witted, self-deprecating, empathetic, compassionate, mysterious, and enthralling. Yes, I know there are parts of you I do not know. Pieces you feared to show me. However, I cannot believe the bad outweighs the good.

    And, yes, I began to feel those romantic sentiments. Began to feel a love story of something beautiful that continued to ripen over time. Began to visualize traveling the world together, and maybe finding a plot of land somewhere and settling down. But it was not to be, as you didn’t feel that same “spark.” And that is okay!! And while you do not feel as I did, having connected with you and spending these few months getting to know you, is an experience I would have regretted missing out on. You have been a rarity in my life, and we met at a time where I am emotionally mature enough to appreciate you beyond the cursory. Knowing we won’t have some sort of romantic love story does ache, but I will cut those strings that I began to tie to you, and those whims and feelings will fade in time. Losing them won’t change how much I care about you. It just means that I’ll care about you on a different level. And maybe, in time, we can develop something deeper, and more meaningful, as friends. You’re by no means perfect, as we are all imperfect, but you are (as you said) an old soul and I’m happy that the universe allowed me to cross paths with you. I have strived to be the least stressful piece of your life and hope that I can continue to compliment your life.

    Never forget that you are worthy of what you desire. You deserve to be loved and revered. Deserve to find a partner who is that missing puzzle piece. One you don’t have to pound into place to make fit into your life. One who doesn’t force you to lose the freedom of who you really are. One who dances with you in the kitchen as you cook. One who you believe is worth the risk.

    Okay, well, this certainly isn’t an email I’d normally write. In my head, it sounds sappy and emasculating but fuck it. This is the thinking of my old self. Thank you for being you. You were certainly unexpected and unanticipated, and life had certainly been sweeter with you in it.

    You need not reply. I’ll be here if you’d like to spend some time together.

    I do not know if she will reply, or even call/text to say anything about the email. I do now know if she indeed felt anything substantial towards me, or if she was scared of leading me on, or if she simply enjoyed the brief friendship, and when things got a bit more serious, she felt the need to pull back? As I said, I’ve only known her for a bit over 2 months, so did I really know her? Maybe I was just smitten/enthralled with someone new after being socially isolated for most of 2020? I feel that perhaps I jumped in too quickly. I went from largely isolated to meeting her for a hike, the first “date,” to calling each other often doing work hours. Granted, we only went out about once a week, so it’s not as though we were overly steady in our physical interactions. And she grew up in the area–has a strong support group of friends and family–so I was only a minor, temporary part of her life.

    We still work together–albeit remotely–so I will clearly keep things professional. We work in the same office, but hold different jobs, so our paths do not often cross (with the exception of the weekly office video meeting. I know anything longings or sadness will diminish in time. But, blah, I do despise this feeling.

    Hopefully I will find a job more fulfilling soon and that aspect of life can improve.

    Ryan

    #373636
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    I did see some of my words in the email you sent her and it made me smile.

    “my intense work on myself last year.. I worked my ass off in counseling”- and it shows, you did an excellent job in counseling. I am not surprised, because you are very intelligent and a hard-worker.

    “I wouldn’t be that ‘soulmate’ that gives you butterflies and make your heart skip”- not every woman wants those butterflies and a racing heart. I for one prefer calm and sameness. Coming to think about it, if she still struggles with an eating disorder and a tendency to over-exercise, she will benefit from calm and routine, not from a life of excitement and a heart that skips beating.

    “did I really know her?”

    When you saw her for the first time, you saw “a girl across the floor.. Slim, with beautiful eyes and a bright smile”- all you knew of her was that image.

    You later got to know more about her, the initial image growing, more dimensions added to it: she is not married, has no children, does not want children, is not clingy, has a graduate degree, and is an avid hiker- all these are desirable in a partner, making the growing image of her more appealing

    You got to know more about her: her slim figure has known a near-death anorexic liver shutdown, she tends to over-exercise, she drinks excessively, she vapes- these are not desirable in a partner, making the growing image of her less appealing.

    You were getting to know her.  You were in the process of integrating different pieces of information about her, putting them all together in a three dimensional, complex and true image of her.

    When you “visualized traveling the world together, and maybe finding a plot of land somewhere and settling down”, the woman you took with you on your mental world travel was the slim girl with beautiful eyes and a bright smile, not the anorexic, excessively drinking, vaping girl.  If you took the latter with you to travel the world, and/ or if you settled down with her on a plot of land somewhere, the love story you visualized would not be pretty.

    anita

    #373653
    Ry
    Participant

    Thank you, Anita, for your sound analysis. Yes, my initial image of her did evolve into a “complex and true image of her.”

     

    Perhaps it wasn’t so much her but my work in therapy that allowed me to feel so open and comfortable around her? She was safe and so welcoming…but only to a point. She would often text and call, and when I was with her, I did not feel like I was not wanted there. Yet, there was a distance between us. Her own “walls” she kept up in this brief relationship. There is much I did not know about her, and much that I was not permitted to know about her.

    I feel that my double-heaping of sadness comes from how nice she was, and how comfortable I felt with. I spoke often her, and to her, about the “connection” I felt to her, but she may/did not feel the same connection. Perhaps the 5-hour first “date” with the kiss as we say goodbye spoke more to her loneliness than anything she felt towards me?

    I said all that I needed to say in my lengthy email to her last night. I will leave it to her to respond if she chooses to. I don’t know if we’ll continue to hang out socially. It may take time (at least for me) if it happens at all. Fortunately, we will not likely return to the office until the summer or fall, so any in-person interaction won’t happen until then. (Unless I hopefully escape this job and find another.) Regardless, I’ll continue to treat her with respect and professionalism since we remain colleagues. Not that wouldn’t even if we were not.

    Ryan

     

    #373655
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    You are welcome. “Perhaps it wasn’t so much her but my work in therapy that allowed me to feel so open and comfortable around her? She was safe and welcoming”- it was probably both, therapy and her welcoming attitude. Therapy probably made you more receptive and reactive to her welcoming attitude.

    “…. how nice she was, and how comfortable I felt with”- the context of the nice and comfortable was sitting in nice restaurants, being served with good food and alcoholic drinks: do not underestimate the nice-and-comfortable affects of good food and alcohol.. and that of a hot tub combined with alcohol.

    I still feel sad about her answer, disappointed. I was hoping that having you in her bed all night, being close… meant something to her more than it did. Or did it, I don’t know. If it did, she has let it go, it seems.

    (I will be away from the computer for a while).

    anita

    #373683
    Ry
    Participant

    Morning Anita,

    Yes, I too feel quite sad and disappointed about things. I felt like there was possibly something there for her too, but perhaps there was not, or there was and our disparity in our ages or some other factor(s) caused her to silence any budding feelings she may have had. While she let me in to some pieces of her life, I never felt like she really wanted to let me in to see the “real” her (or her whole self). I know her father is a recovered/ing alcoholic and her mother battled–from what she said–some intense mental health issues years ago. I’ve tried to look at things as you’ve and my friends have mentioned: her battle with anorexia, the drinking, smoking/vaping. I likely dodged what could have been a painful bullet down the road for the chance of companionship or some semblance of a relationship. She too attends regular counseling, so who knows what she battles as well.

    She has messaged me at work a few times but it’s always benign. Question about a task, what she’s made for lunch, student load forgiveness by the Biden administration. She hasn’t acknowledged my email and I do not feel she will, which is fine. I needed to get all of that all. While she is in many ways an “old soul,” she is still young and not yet emotionally mature enough to talk about it. Or she simply solidified the idea of a platonic friendship in her mind after we returned from the cabin and her heart and mind is set and she has reverted back to a casual friendship: Fun and carefree without the need to dig too deep and talk about anything serious or work connect beyond the cursory.

    Ryan

    #373684
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    “I likely dodged what could have been a painful bullet down the road”- if her mother battled “some intense mental health issues” and her father was an alcoholic during the time that your coworker/ friend was a child– then she had a very rough start in life, and you may have dodged a bullet. But not every person with a rough start in life becomes a bullet to be dodged: some of us with rough starts do take on the difficult, long-term healing process in adulthood,  and become better and better people for it.

    “While she let me in to some pieces of her life, I never felt like she really wanted to let me in to see the ‘real’ her (or her whole self)”- if you want to, if you see a possible benefit in it, you can elaborate on this sentence and maybe I can help you see more of the real/ whole self.

    anita

    #373692
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    No, no. My statement about possibly “dodging a painful bullet” had nothing to do with her or her character. What is that Hemingway quote? “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” She journals and has attended therapy for some time. From the impression and the discussions we’ve had, she wants to live a long, happy, and fulfilling life, free from burden as much as is possible. Which makes the possible/probable excessive alcohol consumption a peculiar trait. It certainly seems like a crutch or something that she believes helps her through her days.

    I suppose what I meant by the “real” her was that, while she was forthcoming about her eating disorder, divorce, etc. from our first “date,” I never felt like I got to know her beyond what she wanted to share with me. She mentioned that she was dealing with something a few weeks ago late at night, and was going to call me, “but didn’t want me to see her like that.” She was a “crying, sloppy mess.” It turns that one of her ex’s–someone she tried to help with his drug addiction often but finally had to cut loose as a friend last year–had been arrested and will likely spend the rest of his life incarcerated. The had what became a contentious relationship as he slipped further into his meth addiction, and they finally ended things. (I believe this was an ex-boyfriend before she was married.) Anyway, she was handling his arrest, but she kept getting messages and calls from friends and it wore her down. So, she ended up calling an old friend and he came by to talk to her for a while.

    I wasn’t really bothered by her not contacting me, as it would have been a 1AM phone call, but it did bother me a bit that she did not want me to see this side of her. It’s likely our friendship/relationship was too new, and she was not ready to let down that wall. It was just another example of her only allowing me to see what she wanted me to. While we had chemistry and a good cursory relationship, I never truly felt as though there might be something there for her too until the cabin trip 2-weeks ago. But maybe all it was for her was the fact that I am a nice man who treats her well, and someone she feels safe with and enjoys her time with. There was a physical attraction too, but she did not feel anything deeper for me, and the weekend away permitted her to dip her toes in the water further offshore, but when we returned and reality set in, she released that we needed to stay on the shore.

    Tried to avoid the use of a metaphor but I struggled with explaining this clearly, Anita.

    Ryan

    #373695
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    I understand. About her “excessive alcohol consumption”, I wonder what about it is excessive in your understanding: does she risk her life and the lives of others, risks injury.. employability, as a result of her drinking?

    You shared that a few weeks ago, she was distressed over the news of an ex-boyfriend having been arrested in regard to his meth addiction and and likely spend the rest of his life incarcerated. She told you that she thought about calling you, but didn’t want you “to see her like that.. ‘crying, sloppy mess”. Instead, she called someone else, “an old friend and he came by to talk to her for a while”. It bothered you that she didn’t want you “to see this side of her”.

    In your writings I noticed long ago that you are very logical, cerebral, an intellectual, really, emotionally cautious, measured, controlled. Maybe at a time when she was very emotional, out of control.. she felt uncomfortable at the thought of being seen and heard by a man so in control of himself, perhaps being judged or looked down at.. or just misunderstood?

    anita

    #373697
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I do not feel that she is overtly careless in her drinking. I have spoken to her when she has had a cocktail while at work, but we work from home in an administrative capacity, so I doubt she is alone in her day drinking at work. She does typically stay to drink at her second job at the brewery after it closes. She lives about 10-minutes away from it, so I did have her text me a few times when she would arrive home, so I knew that she was home safe. Certainly drinking and driving puts her at risk for a DUI but I get the impression that she is not overly concerned about it. We live in a rural town of about 30,000 people, so the police are likely more concerned with the meth crisis here in Appalachia.

    And you may be right in your analysis, Anita. I am older than her and perhaps she would feel judged or believed I would lose whatever image she felt I had of her. In the times she did open up, I never acted in anyway less than supportive. However, based on our conversation on Tuesday night, perhaps she feared that I would react as men have before to her: With anger or the inability to have a rational conversation. Perhaps men in the past have taken advantage of her when she’s drunk and in that state of mind? I do not know.

    Ryan

    #373698
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    “perhaps she feared that I would react as men have before.. with anger or the inability to have a rational conversation”- but she had enough experience with you to know that you are calm and rational.

    “Perhaps men in the past have taken advantage of her when she’s drunk..?- ..  she had enough experience with you to know that you are not likely to do that.. and “she ended up calling an old friend and he came by to talk to her”- she called another man. Unless that man is very, very old or not of a hetero-sexual persuasion, I doubt that any other man would be less likely to take advantage of her than you!

    anita

    #373700
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Well, these are all true points. HA! Well, I don’t know. I only suggested it because she said at dinner on Tuesday how relieved she was that I responded calmly and rationally when she responded that she did not see a long-term relationship with me–as this has not been her experience in the past.

    Suppose she enjoy/s/ed my company and that’s as far as she wanted to relationship to go. It is a mystery.

    Ryan

    #373704
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    I suppose she did expect you to not be calm and rational when she (almost, kind of) broke up with you, and that’s why she felt relieved. People often project other people into the person in front of them.

    Seems to me that she did enjoy your company. I wish I knew more, and I assume you wish you could no more, so it is not a mystery..?

    anita

    #373708
    Ry
    Participant

    I agree, Anita. Yes, knowing a bit more would be helpful. We shall see. She still communicates with me, so I assume we will continue to hang out. Perhaps more info will seep out in time. However, in time, I don’t feel that I will care as much as the rawness will fade.

    Ryan

    #373711
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    Yes, more information is likely to seep as you communicate further. You can ask her questions such as what she liked about her ex-husband or the ex-boyfriend earlier, what attracted her to them, it can give you information regarding what motivates her to get into a relationship with a man.

    And yes, the rawness will fade.

    anita

    #373920
    Ry
    Participant

    Morning Anita,

    Yesterday, I invited her over for dinner this Thursday, to which she readily accepted. I am hopeful that we can really communicate after dinner. While I accept that she does not see a romantic relationship with me, I am curious if she sees anything beyond just a casual friendship. I still believe that she saw something there, but perhaps the age difference between us was something she was not comfortable explaining to her parents. I don’t know. I maintain that there was something there between us, but perhaps the reluctance on her part was because of our age difference or that I would see something in her that she wished I hadn’t.

    Part of me doesn’t feel like having a discussion with her is worth the trouble. She has done her best to withdraw and decrease/limit her contact with me outside of work since we returned from the cabin, and more so since our talk last week. When we do talk/text, it’s never strained or awkward–always fun and easy as has been the norm.

    I’d like to think that I’m a better caliber of man than she is accustomed to around here, but there is a heavy reluctance on her part to only share what she is comfortable with. I’d like to know if she saw and read my email to her last week. I’d like to get to know here on a deeper level, and have a real and genuine friendship, but I don’t know if she truly wants that. There’s an obvious physical attraction—but I’ve never pushed for sex, and she made it clear that she becomes attached when she has sex (good old oxytocin!)—and I’m not about to push for it now that she has moved on.

    I’m torn in wanting to know her more and giving up and trying to just exist as coworkers. Obviously this is one of the perils of the heart when having any sort of relationship outside of work with a coworker. The danger of feelings getting involved as she warned about before our second “date” back in early December. I’m uncertain as to how she’ll react if I push for more and am fearful that this will be the last supper for us (pardon the pun).

    I think what is frustrating is that I see in her what I used to do in relationships:  Fearful of judgement or disappointment, I was unwilling to let my partner in by maintaining or fortifying the walls, so that they never really knew the “real me.” I can see that reflect in her so clearly now. She enjoys her time with me, cares for me, and is attracted to me; however, due to her perceived flaws or fears, she keeps me at a distance, so she protects herself and controls the relationship. This, based on my experience, makes the other person anxious and walking the tightrope to either a deeper relationship or falling and being hurt.

    I dislike this feeling of longing and a piece of me regrets forming a relationship with her. While I realize danger the of longing for a romantic relationship before knowing who the other person is, I know there was something there. I hate to toss that away when there is an opportunity for a genuine relationship that can enhance our lives.

    Ryan

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