“You’ve always enjoyed the chase,” I say to my partner while we’re getting ready for work this morning. “but then again, so have I.”
“You’re right,” he confirms, “That’s part of what I worried about when we started dating. That the chase would be over. We would no longer be keeping our relationship secret and you would lose interest”
“I get that, I panicked about that too. What I think works with us is that we’re able to get the best of both worlds. We have relationships outside of each other where the chase is still relevant, but the comfort of a long term partnership.”
“But I still feel like the chase is happening with you,” he counters.
“Yes I agree,” I follow up, “and I’m wondering if that’s because subconsciously we’re trying to… assert our dominance in the relationship? Like there’s enough comfort in our relationship being solid, but not too much comfort where we just kick our feet up and say ‘whelp, this is it’.”
“Exactly, and in past relationships, once we hit the point of comfort, it was ‘here are your rules, you can’t talk to these people, you can’t do these things, you have to spend a certain amount of time with me’. With you, there’s no hidden agenda. You don’t stop me from living my life.” he explains.
This conversation played over and over again in the forefront of my mind when my partner tells me that his best friend from high school was planning to come and visit. They had a friendship that was more than platonic but they never dated. Whenever he spoke of her, my mind drew the conclusion that she was the one that got away. The ultimate chase that could lead to a far superior happily ever after for him.
The jealousy with her was always there, but never enough for me to let that anxiety get too overwhelming. She lives across the country and the last time they had seen each other was when they went to Japan two years ago, a year before we started dating. They would speak on a somewhat regular basis via Facebook and he would never hide that fact.
I would express the jealousy and envy I had in regards to his relationship with her, here and there, but assured him that I respected the friendship and supported it, which wasn’t a lie. I would ask questions about her and listen intently to stories about high school, their trip to Japan as well as the dynamic they had, and found solace in the fact that she lived further away.
In an effort to show my support for their friendship, a few months ago I had inquired to him about whether or not she would be interested in coming to visit, allowing them to catch up as well as giving me the peace of mind of getting to know her. As I had mentioned in my article about where my jealousy comes from, I felt that if I had that opportunity to meet her, and she was able to acknowledge the relationship I had with my partner, the lingering jealousy would dissipate and allow me to put more energy into supporting this friendship that made him happy. I would be able to experience compersion instead of inadequacy.
The experience with his recent intimate friendship, the woman that didn’t acknowledge my presence in his life, still festered when he told me recently that his long time friend was interested in coming to visit in the next month or so. On top of all that, I was sick for the first time this year, and hormones were running rampant from PMS. The feelings of inferiority lingered and snowballed, thinking about the past they had, the ‘firsts’ they shared and my inability to compare to this woman who I had only heard stories about. I formulated a picture of her in my head of someone who had no interest in meeting me, and my partner taking off for the whole weekend to make up for lost time with the high school crush he spoke so fondly of.
It was a perfect storm of nagging anxiety and hormones that caused me to break down. I very rarely allow feelings of jealousy to cause me to lose my cool, but this day was an exception. When he would bring up that he had conversations with her, I never heard any discussions involving me, and I had it in my head that he didn’t discuss me out of fear of pushing her away. That his life outside of his friendship with her would hinder their dynamic and I was only an obstacle. That there was a chase, and I was the hurdle that could bring the whole thing down. I pictured her as someone who would come to visit and lay claim to my partner; that their history would trump anything I had with him. I would be a 3rd wheel to the stories they shared and I would be ‘the new partner’ who didn’t know him anywhere close to the level she did.
I lost it. I was passive aggressive and angry. I pushed him away because that was my defense mechanism out of fear of getting hurt. I had been rejected so many times by family and past relationships that I couldn’t handle the idea of being rejected by my partner, or his best friend. His defenses rose because of his experience with past relationships that had rules in place claiming that he wasn’t able to speak to her, as well as other important women in his life. It was a difficult few days of poor communication (thanks Mercury) and us having our guard up from our own past trauma.
We came to a potential solution where he would speak to her about his boundaries as well as mine. I was still slightly on edge, expecting him to put it off out of the fears I assumed he had. He assured me that, if she did respond poorly to boundaries being laid out, that it would be on her, although he knew that it wouldn’t come to that.
I know I can be stubborn sometimes but, I’ll admit, he was right. He was right about the whole thing. He laid out the boundaries and she explained her fears and anxieties which, low and behold, they were the same as mine. She didn’t want to be a 3rd wheel to our stories about his more recent life. She didn’t want to insert herself into our relationship, just as I didn’t want to do the same to their friendship, which caused us to never reach out to each other. In fact, she was worried that if she maintained the extent of intimacy with my partner that she had in the past, or attempted to become too involved in our relationship, I wouldn’t allow him to maintain that dynamic with her.
My partner was right about another thing too: her and I get along great. This shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did thanks to the fantasy of her I had created in my brain. I felt as though she was far more his type than I was and that, with their history, I would never be able to match her. However, much like any relationship, we offer different things that simultaneously meet my partner’s needs. At the same time, we share a lot of similarities that allowed us to form a friendship of our own in a matter of days. Similarities that, as my partner has pointed out, all the important women in his life share.
We have been able to communicate boundaries with each other as well as boundaries in terms of my relationship with my partner. The anxiety I felt towards her has dissolved completely and, while a healthy amount of jealousy is still present, I know that I’m able to discuss these feelings with her and she will acknowledge and understand them. The tension that was present in her relationship with my partner seemed to have also dissolved, allowing them to pick up where they left off before him and I started dating.
As I’ve discussed before, jealousy happens. How we handle those feelings is the deciding factor in whether its healthy or toxic. Sometimes, we handle jealousy in a very unhealthy way and it can be hard to control when other factors are involved. I’ve spent the last few days beating myself up over it but the more I write, the more I realize that this ‘perfect storm’ needed to happen to fix a friendship while also creating a new one.
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