I don’t like using the phrase ‘I’ve been seen’. No one ‘sees’ me. But I was caught up in a forum post recently about whether it’s better to be an OW or just single. There were plenty of opinions. I can’t say either way. I’ve been both. It depends a lot on your state of mind at the time and where you are in your life.
Someone wrote the following which, at the time I read it during my extended separation from Leigh, really seemed to sum me up. Things do need to change in some way and they will in their own time but it’s a process and it will only go as fast as it wants to. I need to stop treating this situation like a vague badge of honour, like I’m untouchable, as if I’m empowered. I’m not a Meg Ryan character in a romcom fending off romantic attention like it’s a dose of malaria:
‘There’s no reason to be totally alone these days. You can have any type of relationship you want. FWB, dating casually, a committed relationship etc. Fear is what drives this. Unavailable people choose other unavailable people. That means in a misguided attempt to build a wall around your heart by seeing someone married, you ironically have found the surest route to despair, heartaches and a complete loss of self-respect.’
I can’t argue with this statement. By sticking to the OW route, I am of course reaffirming to myself that men are cowards who all cheat and I’m not worth a man’s undivided commitment. They aren’t of course. Some of them are essentially decent people, but it suits my narrative and perpetuates the cycle by reaffirming my choices.
There is no validation in being an AP. You are always at someone else’s convenience. It is not empowering no matter how much you might try and convince yourself otherwise. But the alternatives? I think of why I have chosen this route, especially now, and what it is that I fear. Being the wronged partner? Tied to a less happy relationship? Losing my independence? My own identity? Always wondering when it will come – the call, the text, the realisation that there is something going on behind my back. That is my relationship history and I don’t know how to unlearn years of experience and cast from my mind the fear of being cheated on or taken advantage of yet again.
Casual or FWB dating demonstrates the same level of non-availability, but you’re never quite sure how single the other person really is. If I was choosing a casual relationship instead of an MM, it would be for the same reasons, and I don’t think any of the single men I casually dated back in 2017/2018 were emotionally or perhaps even physically available for a relationship. Within my age group, and given the reason many men are ‘back on the market’ this is a constant state of play.
I had a lot of distance from Leigh recently. I forgot what it was like to be with him. It dulled the feelings, and I found I cared less whether he was around, the longer it went on. We had one brief point where we discussed whether it was worth trying to continue. Instead of worrying I was ready for the conversation, already resigned to the inevitable end and not really that bothered either way. What will be, will be. It never came to that, but it will eventually. If he messaged me now and said it was over, it wouldn’t hit me hard.
It also re-enforced to me that being single from a celibate point of view is something I can only do at certain times, and that when I choose not to be, I throw the rulebook out of the window. I was ready, when I chose him, to have someone in my life. Briefly, the length of time apart from him made me want to consider other options and whilst I don’t think we are over yet, I know I need to feather my nest so to speak. Hence my last post.
The fact is, I got into this at a time where I would have done anything for human contact. The long pandemic had, without me realising it, affected me, in the same way it has affected many other people. And I thought I was immune from it. Leigh happened to be right time, right place, and it only happened because I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and found someone willing to engage in open, honest conversation who had no interest in playing games.
I am aware of the limitations, and how it will end.