Last night, I unexpectedly received a text from the man with whom I had the most tumultuous relationship in my dating history. “Please help me,” he wrote, asking for my work expertise. I had deleted his contact information out of my phone after our last blow out around Superbowl 2012, yet I knew it had to be him.
Tentatively, I asked:
What can I do for you?
Now I know some of you may be thinking about my theory about old flames coming in threes. And this point in time is no exception. The man from Albany, with whom I had a short-lived yet intense relationship last fall, called last week, alerting me that he’d be in the area over the weekend, asking me to see him (and even inviting himself to stay with me for a week.) The cop from Rhode Island I began dating early last year before his ex tempted him away, sent me a long email about the messy state of his life right now. I’d noticed recently on Facebook that he was no longer posting photos every other day of him and his latest supermodel-like girlfriend, and our last phone call had hinted he was feeling less certain about their future. In this latest email, he said he started to call me the other day but didn’t know why he didn’t. And then came the text from the rollercoaster relationship ex.
When he called shortly afterward, I was immediately sucked into his latest drama. The details aren’t so important. Basically he got into a nasty situation where he’s completely broke again, can’t pay the mortgage and barely has enough money to feed his daughter, and sometimes not enough to feed himself. There’s someone to blame, against whom to seek revenge in a very public and humiliating way. At the same time, he’s still in the midst of a nasty custody battle with the ex-fiancée after me, and he’s keenly aware that the odds are highly stacked against him there.
I know I owe him nothing, but a part of me feels compelled to help if and when I can—after all, this is a man that I came closest to marrying. He was there for me through some of my most challenging days (and months), and long after he had any obligation to do so he was there for me last year on my first days of chemo. I agreed to do what I could to work my contacts to see if we could get his story out.
He expressed deep gratitude, vaguely promising if there was anything he could do to help me, he would. And then he proceeded to ream me out for the argument we had in February. That we both were supposed to have forgiven and let go of weeks before. Typical. Nothing I said was going to assuage his desire to vent so I just listened to the accusations.
I finally got off the phone exhausted, even after just the brief head trip I had just been through—feeling like I’d just be tossed around by a mini-tornado in the form of a blonde bulldog of a man. And then I thought to myself:
Thank God! I no longer have to ride that crazy train every day of my life anymore.
It’s funny because this past weekend the Warrior Poet and I went to a party where we witnessed two major instances of couples blowing up at each other. “Thank God that will never be us,” he said, wrapping his arms around me.
In one case, a girl thoroughly chewed out her boyfriend for “play” fighting and accidentally getting a black eye. After threatening to give him another black eye if he wouldn’t leave with her, she angrily drove away in her car. Two minutes later, she was back, yanking him up to have another fight—this time away from the crowd. For several minutes, he appeared to stand his ground, we were all cheered to see, but suddenly, his body language changed and he slunk off into the car with her.
In the other case, a drunk and ridiculous guy accidentally called the girlfriend of our friend The Whiz by another girl’s name—a platonic friend with whom he’d gone away to some music festival the weekend before. The girlfriend is just coming out of a 6-year relationship where she found out the fiancé and father of her son had been cheating on her for a long period of time. She bugged out a little bit, but eventually came around to seeing she was making much ado about nothing.
A drunken Whiz, on the other hand, who has been feeling frustrated by some cracks he’s seeing in their otherwise fairy tale relationship thus far, was not appeased by her halfhearted apology. He, eventually, angrily drove off from the party, but he never came back. The Warrior Poet and I had to calmly talk to the girlfriend about how to properly address the miscommunications with the passionate Whiz when neither was drunk the next day, while reassuring her things would work out the way they were supposed to.
Afterward, The Warrior Poet and I breathed a collective sigh of relief. Not only have we as individuals each grown in maturity past those highly explosive, emotional outbursts, but together we enjoy such two-way honesty, transparency and easy communication that I’ve never experienced with anyone else in a romantic relationship before. “I can’t see us getting in major arguments like that even after 20 years together,” he said.
Uncharacteristically, I didn’t roll my eyes. Because on some level, as idealistic as it sounded, I knew that it was true. No, I’m not so naïve that I pretend we won’t eventually come out of the dusty rose-colored glasses phase. Yet I’ve already been able to maturely express to him where I’ve had my concerns about already self-identified differences before I felt comfortable more fully committing. We were able to have real conversations where I didn’t come across as if I was attacking him personally, and he didn’t have to get defensive at all. This is unfamiliar ground for me in a relationship with two strong and passionate personalities.
For one, I can be strong and passionate, fully in my skin at all times. Neither of us is walking on eggshells—each of us is secure enough with the other not to take offense. There have been no passive-aggressive, silent tensions building, no gibes, no over-the-top heated moments where things are taken out of context. There’s just mutual respect and affection, even when I think he’s crossed the line with his humor or gone so far over the top with his imagination that I’m literally rolling my eyes. We can laugh together and then listen. And talk for literally hours and hours on end.
Fun, passion, surprise and excitement ensues, but the drama is finally over.