I don’t do drugs. I don’t smoke cigarettes. I haven’t drunk alcohol for over six months, and even when I did, I never drank often or lots. But I do use men.
I’ve been using flirtation, sex and romance for years to feel better about myself, to distract myself, to escape myself. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to acknowledge this is something I need to spend some time gently examining.
Last month, a conversation with a male friend forced me to reflect upon how I behave around men and my destructive tendencies. This friend expressed an interest in me beyond friendship, and I was flattered. I momentarily fantasized about how it would be if we took things further. But the thing is, unlike me, he is not single. He asked his girlfriend to become his wife a year or so ago, and they own a house together.
I know from first-hand experience that the moment my friend said what he did to me, it was less about me and more about where he and his relationship was at. My last long-term relationship was killed by infidelity (or more significantly, chronic deception), but it was already dying a long, slow death because we were both too scared to be really honest with each other and, most importantly, ourselves.
Because I am his friend first and foremost, I tried to encourage him to look at why he would want to sabotage his relationship with the woman he wants to spend his life with. I know the hurt that spreads far and wide as a result of cheating, and I didn’t want any part of it.
But here’s where I have to be honest: despite of my own experience and my love and respect for my friend and his partner, the darkest part of me wanted to encourage our flirtation. It wanted to see how big the fire could get. I don’t have very strong willpower when it comes to avoiding drama – instead I more often resemble the moth gravitating to the flame – so I really had to take conscious control of myself to be able to walk away.
Before I discovered what it felt like to have someone you love betray you and your trust in them, I had been the other woman in a couple of previous relationships. One was a physical affair, where his girlfriend was living in another city. One was an emotional affair, and his girlfriend was someone I used to go to school with. I know how easy it is to rationalise what you are doing, to pretend that what they don’t know won’t hurt them. At the time I found out my partner was having an affair, one of my closest friends was having an affair of her own with another married man. Weirdly I judged my own partner harshly, but I did not judge her the same way.
My point is, it alarmed me that I had experienced/witnessed the suffering in those situations and still some part of me thought going down that road again sounded like a good idea. Am I really that desperate for an ego boost? Am I really that easily satisfied with a false love?
Rom-coms and dramedies have explored the question ‘can a heterosexual man and woman really be just friends?’ since the beginning of Hollywood. When I look at my own life, I have no close friendships with men that have always been purely platonic. Whether from my side or theirs, sex has been considered at one point or another, regardless of whether it was acted upon or not.
I have no answers. I just know that for the first time, this doesn’t feel healthy to me. And I want to be well.