I guess I might as well share my list, huh? Ok. In no particular order:
- My friend paying for stuff
- Seeing each other dress and undress
- Asking the other person what they would prefer we wear
- Being sexual
- Sharing the same bed
- Touching in everyday situation (for example: holding hands to get through a crowd, put your hands on the other person's hips to move them out of your way, walking arm in arm when I am wearing heels and need some stabilization)
- Sharing food and drink
After the general sadness and depression, my first feeling was willfulness. "I might make this list, but I'm not stopping this shit." *pout*
Then, I tried to think through why I am so resistant. (Yes, I know that, on the one hand, that helps me to justify it. But I also thought that a better understanding of why I was resistant might help me stop. I'm sure you can guess which it did.) In general, all of the above behaviors are ones that I also engage in with other people who I am friends with and don't want to push for any kind of long-term situation with, so it seems counter-intuitive to me that I should stop doing any of them with my bestfriend. During therapy today, my therapist called me on how limiting the definition in my head of "just friends" was. I brought up that these were things that we would probably stop doing if/when my friend gets into a LTRMR (long-term romantic monogamous relationship.) For all her vanilla-ness, she said that things like one person paying for things if they make more money and feel comfortable with it as well as the touching in everyday situations are not outside of the boundaries for most "just friends." She said that she does that kind of stuff with her husband's best friend, holding hands to get through crowds and the like. It's about intention and how everyone feels.
The next reason I felt resistant to stopping the above behavior is because those physical things are such tangible, immediate ways to feel cared for. Despite all of my friend's reassurances, I still feel very unsure of this relationship and how they feel for me. Though I don't feel this with everyone, when we are sexual or physical in any way, I do feel cared for. I also hope that my friend realizes that I don't sleep in the same bed with very many people, so that is something special for me, a way to show how much I care and how much I do trust (or try to.) Also, though I know everyone else things I'm deluding myself and using this as a way to justify continuing the physical relationship, I don't think that it was the physical that pushed my feelings from "we're friends with benefits right now while we're single" to "we should be in a LTRR." I think that it was the way that our attempts to rebuild the trust in the relationship triggered my long-time prejudices about friendships and romantic relationships.
Let me try to explain. Growing up, I didn't have very good close friendships with other girls. It took me a long time to develop any friendships after I moved from the suburbs of the mid-sized Midwestern city to just outside of the large Midwestern city. It took years for me to make more than one female friend at any one time. Even when I did, whenever I would have an argument with a female friend, she'd use something that I told her in confidence against me. To be honest, I'm sure I did the same thing too. My friendships with guys, while complicated by possible romantic feelings, were more solid, more loyal, simpler. As I became a teenager, with one exception, all my close friends were male, and, with one exception to that, all my close male friends were my boyfriends. I always felt like your romantic relationships were supposed to be deep and trusting, more so than I felt most of my "just friend"ships could be.
So when my friend and I, who are already each other's closest relationship, started to do all these things to deepen the trust, which eliminated things that had always bugged me, from the time we were dating on, all my previous attempts to "get over" my friend seemed to evaporate. We'll never be "just friends" even if we're monogamous with other people for decades. But making the relationship more trusting and deeper and closer and then getting along for two weekends in a row... well, it was to much for the 18 year old in me who had planned our wedding. She still believes that things will work out if you just love someone enough and do whatever you think they need to be happy with you. She is stupid.
When my meltdown happened, weekend before last, my friend asked me how what we had been doing was different from what TyRoy and I do, thinking that we'd just change that, since I don't have these problems with my feeling for TyRoy. At this time what's different is being sexual and sleeping together, but it hasn't always been that way and I don't ..... FUCK....as I'm writing I realized something... Ok. So that weekend, I said that there wasn't much difference. As I was about to write, at this time, because of what TyRoy feels comfortable with while he's with the lady he loves, we aren't sexual, cuddly, or sleepy, but that hasn't always been the case. There was a period of time before he fell for his lady love where we did all that and more but it wasn't a big issue. I didn't feel like we should be working towards a LTRR, while I will always be open to that if things change for him. What I realized while writing this is that the difference is in the people. I already knew that it probably had a great deal to do with how our relationships started and the person that I was when the relationship started. But what hadn't hit me until I was typing this was something very different about them. Way back, when my friend and I were dating, his feelings on things would change and he wouldn't tell me, he'd just start acting weird. We were together for years after he knew he wasn't going to take the relationship further. He'd changed his mind, but he never told me. On the other hand, I remember during an argument with TyRoy where I was questioning if he still felt the same way about something. "Did I tell you that it had changed? Well if I didn't, then it hasn't." I feel really comfortable in the knowledge that, unless he's single and he has expressed that he'd like to give it a chance again because the previous impediments are no longer there, that TyRoy still doesn't want to pursue a LTRR with me. Things are the same, status quo. In a good way. Though my friend has recently said, "I'm a guy. We can go a week, a month, a year, and then pick things back up like it was yesterday," I have a hard time believing that. Can I be sure he hasn't changed his mind? If there isn't something physical to show me that he cares, how do I know he still does? If we don't talk for several days, maybe he doesn't want to be friends anymore and he's gone again? On the other hand, if we're getting along and things have been going well, how do I know that he hasn't changed his mind and wants to give it another go? That maybe he's just waiting for me to express my feeling, say that I'll take that leap with him first. (Yes, I know it seems ridiculous, but I'm sure that inside of your head would seem ridiculous to me. Let's try not to judge.)
So where does this leave me and those pesky boundaries?
Yesterday, it occurred to me that it would be easier if I assumed the same things about my relationship with my friend as I do about my relationship with TyRoy: It's ok if it's romantic or date-like when we are together. Whether anything physical or sexual happens will be gauged by our respective primary romantic relationship, if we have one, and what that partner is ok with. Nothing happens that we couldn't bluntly tell that primary partner about, kinda like a secondary or tertiary romantic relationship for open or poly couples. I will assume that my friend does not want to pursue a LTRR with me for the reasons previously stated and that those haven't changed as it hasn't been stated. I will work on radically accepting that we won't pursue a LTRR. But I also need to radically accept that I'm not going to put those boundaries up, at least not right, especially as we aren't seeing other people. Trying to force myself to do something that my heart isn't in won't work. I'll just end up breaking the resolutions that I've made and feeling bad about it. This is who we are. This is how we interact, especially when we don't have someone else who will get hurt by our actions. It might not fit into the "just friends" box that I envision other people have with their friends, but, as my therapist pointed out and my own friendships attest to, that box probably doesn't exist anyway. The more important boundaries I need to work on are internal. Between the girl I was who thought that a relationship would work if I just loved someone enough and the woman I am who knows that I love several people who it won't work with, not now, probably not ever. Between the failed romance we had and the deep, increasing-in-trust, not "just friend"ship but friendship we have now.
I'm reminded of a scene on the tv show Bones.
Special Agent Seeley Booth: Yeah, well, you've always been strong.
Bones: You know the difference between stength and imperviousness, right?
Booth: Well, not if you're going to get all scientific on me.
Bones: Well, a substance that is impervious to damage doesn't need to be strong.
Bones: When you and I met. I was an impervious substance. Now I'm a strong substance.
Booth: I think I know what you mean.
Bones: A time could come when you aren't angry any more and I'm strong enough to risk losing the last of my imperviosness. Maybe then we could try to be together.
Though I have never been impervious, I'm not sure I've ever been very strong, at least not in this respect. But I'm trying. Not so we can be together romantically. Not really for the sole purpose of me being with anyone. But as a side effect, me being strong might make it possible to stick with this friendship, help make us strong as well. I just need to reframe the question and make a new box to fit what we already have.