February 2, 2021 at 11:02 am #373924
“I am hopeful that we can really communicate after dinner… I am curious if she sees anything beyond just a casual friendship… 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…I’d like to know if she saw and read my email to her last week. I’d like to get to know her on a deeper level, and have a real and genuine friendship, but I don’t know if she truly wants that”-
– I suggest the following: (1) don’t ask her over dinner or after dinner about the email you sent her last week because it was too long and too elaborate to discuss in the context of dinner or after dinner. (To adequately respond to your email, it would take a couple of hours of uninterrupted work, at the least).
(2) Tell her that you would appreciate her giving you simple, honest answers even if the answers will not flatter you, because you need her honesty and will appreciate it. Then (3) ask her questions that are easier to address over dinner, bite-size questions, so to speak, one question at a time, take time in between:
-ask her if she thinks of your friendship as a casual friendship, if she would like to have a deeper level friendship, ask her if the age difference was a factor in her not seeing the relationship with you as a romantic long-term relationship, and if she felt that there “was something there” between the two of you.
“I hate to toss that away when there is an opportunity for a genuine relationship that can enhance our lives”- be bold: ask her simple, bite-size questions, and do so gently, in a way that is likely to make her comfortable answering. A drink or two, in moderation, will help.
anitaFebruary 2, 2021 at 12:43 pm #373925
Thank you again for your feedback and counsel…
I will refrain from asking about the email–unless she brings it up during the informal Q&A. I will be “bold” and ask “simple, bite-sized questions” in a gentle manner. I think last week’s revelation at the date—combined with a few too many drinks—made the idea of a coherent, sensible conversation null and void. I feel better equipped this week to ask the questions I’d need answers for.
I would rather know now if this is just a benign, casual friendship, as I don’t think I am cable of just that type of relationship with her. And I don’t want to enter that mindset only for the lines to possibly be blurred again in the future.
I will let post here on Friday about the conversation. And, yes, with her, drinks will certainly be involved.
RyanFebruary 2, 2021 at 1:08 pm #373928
You are welcome. Your strategy regarding Friday reads reasonable and promising. Key is to get the answers that you need. Some people tolerate ambiguity more than others, I am in the others category: I do not tolerate ambiguity and vagueness well, I need concrete, clear understanding whenever possible.
If you ask her if she thinks that your friendship is casual- the two of you may need to come to an understanding of what casual friendship means, so that she will be clear and so that you will not misconstrue her answer.
If you are not sure what an answer means, you can ask a clarifying question or repeat her answer to her and ask if you understood correctly. If there is a particular difficulty with a question, abandon it for the night and let me know what the difficulty was, if you want to, and we can figure out how to proceed in regard to the question.
Looking forward to your update regarding Friday. You are welcome to post before Friday if you need to.
anitaFebruary 3, 2021 at 8:17 am #373965
Yes, I too do not tolerate grey areas. This relationship has seemed to exist in that realm from the beginning and that has certainly caused me some anxiety.
It occurred to me why I had such a gut-wrenching reaction when she said that she didn’t see a long-term potential for us over dinner last week. I had a relationship with someone years ago when I was stationed in Texas, and my relationship with her closely mirrored the one with my coworker. She too was very attractive, young, and seemingly an old soul. She was a neighbor at my apartment, and we’d met at the pool (I believe) when myself and a few friends were enjoying a summer day. The group ended up in my apartment to watch a movie, and she and I held hands under the blanket. Like my coworkers, she too held some traumas close and never really let me in. Then, like now, I wanted a relationship, but we existed more as friends with benefits. And like my coworker, she also tended to drink more than I thought was normal. While we would have moments of intimacy–both sexual and non-sexual–she always kept those walls up and never really let me in. She would disappear for days at a time, only to resurface like it was no big deal.
Then, like now, I thought that I could be a good influence in her life. (I worked a bit on my “savior complex” in counseling last year. Or the “Superman” complex as a former my ex-girlfriend called it. “You don’t have to fix everything; just listen to me and let me vent,” she’d say.) She also had friends there and her family was close by, whom she was very close to. We would often hang out at their parents liked us. (I think her mom appreciated that she had friends who were in the military and seemed like genuine, good guys.) It was one of the better times in my life: I had a few close friends, and we had a largely carefree time outside of work.
Then, I met someone else and decided it was best to distance myself from her. While I love her, I grew weary of the relationship. The up and down and back and forth. She had moved out of the apartment complex and down the road to another by then, and we grew more distant as she grew more reclusive. I was out with the new girl one night, and when I returned I had a message from the other girl on my answering machine. I do not remember exactly what she said, but essentially she said that she missed me and wished she could talk to me. I didn’t call her back and figured I’d call her in a day or two.
The details are fuzzy and I’m not sure how I heard, but I received a call the next day that she was dead. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A suicide on her 20th birthday. I was gutted to say the least and wracked with guilt. “What if I called her back that night?” I thought. I kind of shut down after that. My new girlfriend was understanding and let me grieve. Unfortunately, the new girlfriend battled her own traumas, and I stayed with her for much long than I should have. (I, again, thought that I played a complimentary role in her life, and the sex exploratory and I experienced things I had not before.)
I think these experiences helped me to fortify my own walls. While I realized that loving someone isn’t enough if they do/will not let you in, I would not apply that knowledge in relationships. While I would love my partner, I never would truly let them know the real me. This somewhat explains why I am still without a long-term partner as I move towards my mid-40s.
While I stated that I see parallels to my coworker friend and the ex who committed suicide, I feel less like being her “Superman” than I would have in the past (thanks to counseling). She is quite accomplished and largely independent, and I feel that she fears entering a relationship with someone after emerging from two long-term relationship herself. (She was married for a few years until last year, and I believe dated her previous boyfriend for a few years before. Perhaps between was when she dated the guy who was recently arrested for drugs, but I am not certain.) I think she was looking after her own heart when she sent me that message before our second date, which I had previously posted I believe:
I have a lot of fun with you and I really enjoy the time I spend with you. Don’t get me wrong we definitely get along great and I do enjoy talking to you, but I’m just dipping my toes back into dating, and I’m just not really sure that dating a coworker is the best choice for me right now. I’m new to my career and if things don’t work out that never seems to go well when you have to work together after. I just wanted to tell you up front before feelings got more involved and too much time went by. I like you and I’d be happy to keep hanging out. It’ll just have to be as friends.
I am certainly curious to see if she felt that connection I feel towards her. I believe that she felt something but fear and logic won over her heart–to include the fear of telling her parents she was dating someone close in age to them. I’d like to have her define a causal friendship. While I certainly would not turn down a friends with benefits-type relationship, that is not truly a goal with her. While I enjoy our dinner dates and the time we spend together, I am certainly prepared to have this transition to a friendly coworker-type relationship. That would be a bit more difficult for me, as we never really had that from the start. I will just have to get some grey areas colored and accept them for what they may be. This will not be easy as I will pine for more but I’ll have to accept things as they are, or push back if things move back into the grey area again. And I also need to continue to work to find another job and relocate.
We have dinner here tomorrow night, so I will post here on Friday.
Again, thank you, Anita.
RyanFebruary 3, 2021 at 10:08 am #373971
You are welcome. So dinner is Thursday night and you will post Friday to share about it. I am looking forward to that.
You shared in your recent post about a relationship you had many years ago, with a very attractive, young woman who was a tenant at the apartment complex where lived in Texas, who had family and friends close by, “whom she was very close to”, a “seemingly old soul”. While the two of you shared “moments of intimacy- both sexual and non-sexual- she always kept those walls up and never really let me in. She would disappear for days at a time, only to resurface like it was no big deal”. You “grew weary of the relationship. The up and down and back and forth”, she moved out of your apartment complex and “grew more reclusive”, and the two of you grew more distant.
One night, when you returned home from a date, you found a message from her saying that she missed you and wished she could talk to you. You figured that you would call her back “in a day or two”, but the next day, “she was dead. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A suicide on her 20th birthday”. You were gutted and racked with guilt, “What if I called her back that night?”. That and other experiences caused you to shut down, to fortify your own walls, “This somewhat explains why I am still without a long-term partner as I move towards my mid-40s”-
– if you would like to discuss that relationship and experience further, now or later, let me know.
Regarding the woman we’ve been discussing, you wrote: “I too do not tolerate grey areas. This relationship has seemed to exist in that realm from the beginning and that has certainly caused me some anxiety.. I will just have to get some grey areas colored and accept them for what they may be”-
– If you (1) let her know that you need color in your grey areas so to feel better/ to lessen your anxiety/ to experience more peace of mind, and you (2) gently ask her to color your grey areas best she can, then as a friend, she owes you to do her best in this regard.
anitaFebruary 3, 2021 at 2:59 pm #374001
I don’t want to interrupt the communication between you and Anita so I’ll be quick. Why not decide to postpone the questions you have and instead focus on simply having a fantastic dinner with her? Take a break from the difficult emotions and just relax, have some fun together?
You’ve already expressed in your email to her that “maybe, in time, we can develop something deeper and more meaningful, as friends” and then added “You need not reply. I’ll be here if you’d like to spend time together”, but you’re curious to know where she stands. Ryan, your email to her was excellent; let it stand on it’s own! Give her some time to process it all.
You told her “I have tried to be the least stressful piece of your life…”. With the recent devastating news she’s received about her ex, now’s the time to be the friend she may need you to be. No need to define it. Just do it.
I hope you have a nice dinner tomorrow, Ryan! 🙂
BFebruary 4, 2021 at 8:13 am #374035
Thank you for chiming in, Brandy. I appreciate it.
Yes, I’ve thought a a great deal about what to say to her–based on Anita’s feedback and my own ruminations. I like your approach as well and will probably take a mixed approach that integrated both you and Anita’s points.
I’ve grown more accustomed to the fact that there is not a romantic future for us. While the lines have blurred on occasion, which led to making out and holding each other, the fact is that she does not see me as a potential romantic partner. And, honestly, that is probably for the best. You’ve seen my conversation here with Anita: My coworker friend battled an eating disorder, has quite the nicotine addition and vapes often, tends to drink more than she should (and has a recovered alcoholic father), and recently became divorced through a mutual understanding that they were merely good friends. The smoking and drinking would have worn on me as time went on, and I would have grown frustrated (and felt guilty) in my attempts to change her. We may have had a lovely few months/years together, but there likely would not have been a lifelong love affair.
I know she is excited about dinner tonight, as she already messaged me, “I’m ready to be dazzled. Are you ready, master chef?” I would like to have a lovely, relaxing night with her, as I’m sure she is anticipating the same. However, the only burning question I have is what kind of casual friendship will we have? I have mentioned that I felt we really connected/clicked, and I’m curious if she felt the same. While I have enjoyed, and would continue to enjoy, our hanging out and dinner “dates,” I would like to know her better than just a work friend that I hang out with. Not in a romantic sense, but I’d hope she’d drop her walls a bit so I can know her better. Obviously, being coworkers adds a risky layer because feelings could/would get involved; however, I’m not seeking a romance. I feel that I am a positive and calming influence in her life and I would like to continue to be. I’m just not comfortable doing without knowing her better.
And I realize things are in flux. She is a coworkers and is single and attractive, and she will inevitably meet suitors, date, and possibly enter into a relationship. And I may do the same as well. Also, I am working to find another job that takes me away from here, so I am hopeful that I land something soon.
I want to me more than just some work friend she occasionally hangs out with, but I don’t know if she’s willing to take that leap. The unknowing, and knowing what I think she may say, certainly added to my anxiety. Yet, as Anita said, I need those grey areas colored.February 4, 2021 at 10:04 am #374036
Sounds good. You’ve really thought it through and I believe you know what’s best. I hope you two have a beautiful evening and that she leaves your place thinking That was a perfect night, just what I needed.
Good luck, Ryan!
BFebruary 5, 2021 at 11:29 am #374104
Hello Anita and Brandy,
Well, last night went rather flawlessly. And I didn’t want to cause her any more stress with the day she had…
Yesterday afternoon, she had blood work and what I assume would be called a “Pap screen” to detect any cervical cancer. While she has had the HPV vaccine, her doctor has found evidence of precancerous cells in the past during her yearly exam, which necessitated more regular screenings. The had recently found some precancerous cells, and not they had to do what she called the “scrape” yesterday. Needless to say, it was a stressful day for her and I’m glad she did not have to be alone—and told her such.
She finished her appointment around 3:30 yesterday but went home since I wasn’t off until 4:30. She tried to put a positive spin on it by saying something like, “At least I won’t have to worry about periods if they have to take my uterus,” but I knew she was hiding her fears. We talked for a few and she said that she just wanted to have a drink and sit with her cat for a bit. I did not want her to sit and stew in her own mind for too long, so I texted her at 4:30 to say I was starting dinner. She replied that she was ready to head out.
She offered to help with dinner, but I put her to work tweaking a job application I’d been working on. She was a literature major and I knew that would keep her mind focused on a task while I cooked. After a bit, she finished up and she helped me finish up cooking dinner as we chatted. It was then that I asked as she stirred a sauce that we were awaiting to thicken.
“I’m not sure if you saw my email but I wanted to talk to you about last week,” I opened with. She teased me a bit about letting her know when I send an email because she has “500 unread emails,” but that she did see it and “knew I spoke from my soul.” I explained that I wasn’t upset that she didn’t see us as long-term partners, as I truly didn’t it, but that I wanted her to know that she was not just a casual work friend that I hang out with on occasion. That I definitely feel a connection and she is special to me. She agreed and said that the cabin was a relaxing getaway that provided a “type of intimacy” that did not need to involve sex. I also mentioned that with all the work I did in counseling last year, that it was luck (or something bigger) that I met someone so receptive to me being open and vulnerable. It was a quick conversation, but it felt good to clear things up a bit. I felt it was important that she knows that she is not just a causal work friend.
After dinner, we rinsed off the pans and dishes and retired to the sofa. She was full and sleepy and I said she could stay here if she dozed off. I put on the Star Trek movie and she perked up as she anticipated the plot and critiqued the plot holes. However, she did enjoy it and I think it kept her mind focused on something other than her own body.
After the movie, we chatted for a bit, before I walked her down to her car. We hugged goodbye, but it wasn’t her usual hug of a few seconds, but she embraced me for a bit. I kissed the top of her head and held on until she was ready to let go. It was unexpected and I don’t know if she feels a deeper connection to me after my email letter, or if it was nice to have a night away where she felt safe and peaceful. Either way, it does not matter. I’m happy that she was.
She works her second job tonight and tomorrow night, so I’m going to reach out on Sunday morning to see if she is doing okay or if she wants me to pull her out of her place for a bit. She will be anxiously awaiting the results of the test, and I hate to think of her sitting alone in her apartment all day hyper analyzing.
After I wrote this, I logged into Facebook to see she has posted a few pictures of the dinner I made last night and these two poems from L.E. Bowman:
When she softens against you for the first time,
don’t pull her closer.
Don’t wrap your arms around her like you
feel it too.
When she is high on your skin and ready to open,
don’t help her unfold.
Don’t pull back her petals like you intend to watch
When the walls feel too restricting and you
don’t say that you’re busy.
Don’t tell her she’s crazy when her instincts tell her
When the night is long and your body is lonely,
don’t wake her.
Don’t give her another piece of false hope to
“More to Life”
You’ll find someone better, they’ll tell you.
An earth-shattering lover.
A so-good-the-rest-don’t-matter kind of love.
And maybe you will, or maybe you won’t,
but I want you to know
that there is more to live than lovers.
All your hope, all your betters
don’t have to exist around love.
There’s so much pain inside her that she has worked on in counseling and on her own through journaling. She has walled up her heart and worked to better her life on her own. Think my fascination with her lay in the mysteries?
February 5, 2021 at 12:22 pm #374108
- This reply was modified 4 weeks, 1 day ago by Ry.
Your last sentence Thursday was: “I need those grey areas colored”. A day later, after spending the evening with her, you wrote: “I don’t know if she feels a deeper connection to me after my email letter, or if it was nice to have a night away where she felt safe and peaceful. Either way, it does not matter”-
– I am glad it doesn’t matter, at least for a short while, because sometimes we can’t color certain areas, or they cannot be colored for us. Sometimes emotional events cannot be defined, or colored, they can only be felt. And later, if you ask her, let’s say: what did you feel when you hugged me.. she may not remember or she may remember wrong, or she may get confused trying to remember.
Like you, I like concrete/ solid over fluid, color over grey… but we can’t have that all the time.
Reading your account, the connection between the two of you seems very special to me, on your part and hers. If I was you, I wouldn’t ask her if the two of you have a special connection because that could make her think: if Ryan doesn’t know that I feel that our connection is special (if he can’t see it in my face, can’t hear it in my voice, can’t feel it in my embrace), then maybe it is not that special after all.
anitaFebruary 5, 2021 at 12:34 pm #374109
Yes, I think you’re right. For now, I am comfortable with things as they are. I said what I needed to say in my email to her, and her response of knowing that I “spoke from my soul” meant as lot. I think she has been hurt a few times in her life and she is cautiously working on a friendship with me. While I tried not to overanalyze our hug goodbye last night, the fact that she did not let go of the embrace for some time spoke volumes. I feel that my email, the easy conversation, a home cooked dinner, and time out of her own mind last night was what she truly needed.
As I’ve written, I truly enjoy her company and would like to continue earning her trust and building the friendship. While a part of me wants “concrete,” a piece of me takes comfort in the fluidity of our relationship. We can be “friends” or “close friends” without having to define it or label it. It is more important that she know that she is not simply a friend from work, and my actions during our time together have demonstrated that I may be someone she can trust not to hurt her.
Thank you, Anita.
RyanFebruary 5, 2021 at 12:49 pm #374112
You are welcome. I think that she knows that she is not “simply a friend from work” for you because your actions have demonstrated that you are kind to her, respectful and considerate of her, and all that.. makes you a very special person. I hope that her health scare resolves soon and that the two of you can celebrate good news!
anitaFebruary 5, 2021 at 1:50 pm #374116
I’m so glad the evening went well and that you are comfortable with the way things are.
While a part of me wants “concrete,” a piece of me takes comfort in the fluidity of our relationship.
Ryan, I have three very close long-term friendships and none of them started off as “concrete” but slowly became that way over a long period of time (many years). You’ve known her for a relatively short time (3 or 4 mos, I think?), so “concrete” at this point may create unnecessary pressure on you both. I like that there’s a part of you that is just fine with the uncertainty of what’s to come.
BFebruary 5, 2021 at 2:26 pm #374124
Thank you for replying and thank you for taking the time to write…
Yes, as I wrote before, I think the combination of being largely alone and isolated in 2020–combined with the counseling and work I did there and on my own–meeting her and instantly feeling comfortable and vulnerable with her pushing me to put the cart before the horse. I was willing to ignore some probable red flags for me (e.g., excessive drinking and vaping), and jump into wanting to have a serious relationship with her.
While I probably was ready, she certainly was not. We tended to act on our primal needs (to an extent) while ignoring that we may not be compatible in the long term. However, I feel we both are working to keep things light as they have usually been and enjoy the ride.
P.S. I completely forgot about this when I wrote about the evening’s events. First, while she had spent 2020 separated from her husband, her divorced was not finalized until the week before we went to the cabin for the weekend in mid-January 2021. It’s no wonder she wasn’t wanting to jump into anything serious. Second, she revealed that she and a girlfriend had gotten a hotel room together a few days before Christmas and spent a day and night drinking and doing coke. I kept my physical reaction to a minimum, but this was certainly a shock. I am not sure why they felt the need to get that crazy, but thought that whatever stressors she was/is dealing could be mitigated by a alcohol and drug binge with her girlfriend. 😐 As I said before, I see so many parallels between here and my friend who committed suicide years ago. Not that my current friend has suicidal tendencies but there is a battle raging inside her.
February 5, 2021 at 8:42 pm #374179
- This reply was modified 4 weeks, 1 day ago by Ry.
You’re welcome, and yes, she may be using alcohol/drugs to help her manage the stress, which isn’t the healthiest option. I hope her test results bring some good news.