Two of my girlfriends are currently involved in a love triangle. They are enamored with men who are/were in long-term relationships and are in the process of extricating their lives from their (ex) girlfriends. The more I heard about the story of each, I saw myself in both stories and on both sides of it. I saw the 18-year-old girl who hung on to the hope of that special guy breaking up with his awful girlfriend to be with me. I also saw the 24-year-old girl crying and driving recklessly away when she found out that her boyfriend of 3 years was cheating on her.
I’ve played the part of the other girl. It never ends well.
Jason and I met at a time when he was unhappy with his girlfriend. He saw things differently with me and felt emboldened enough to break up with her. In the time that followed were a handful of half-hearted attempts at trying to start a relationship with me. I refused to be anyone’s rebound so I rejected these advances because I knew I deserved more than that. Years later when he’d moved on to other relationships, he still sought me out. To him, I was his friend. I was the only one he could really confide in and the only person who intimately understood him. While these friendly exchanges were nice and a nostalgic reminder of simpler times, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being used. Each time we had an exchange, he would feel better about life, and I was left weary with wanting. It was unfair. I somehow felt he used my friendship to fill the hole that was missing in his current relationship. What did I get out of it?
I don’t know when it happened exactly but one day I decided to stop. I didn’t want to be the other girl anymore. I wanted to be the girl. The only girl. And I knew that was never going to happen with him because he was a coward. I knew I wanted and deserved a man who’d be courageous enough to love me in the light. So I let it go.
Now in hearing my girlfriends’ stories, I also could see myself on the other side- I have also been the ‘awful’ girlfriend. Many years ago, when my relationship with John was coming to its toxic end, he found comfort in another girl. He was spending almost every weekend in Orange County because of all these real estate deals he was getting. In particular, he was spending a lot of time with a girl. One day I was at his work computer and he left his Yahoo Messenger up and I saw a very long and more than flirtatious IM exchange between him and this girl. She was talking about what kind of lingerie she was going to wear the next time she saw him. Needless to say I stormed out of his office and jumped into my truck to leave.
John breathlessly ran after me, trying to figure out what happened and I yelled at him and I told him I knew what he’d been doing. He kept the door open to keep me from going, but I revved off, nearly taking his arm with me.
A few weeks later was his birthday. I did everything I could to make it as romantic as possible to forget the awfulness of everything that had happened. I made lunch from scratch, got wine and a picnic basket and we drove out to Carmel to enjoy the day. While we lay there on the grass he got a call. He picked up and it was her. She was on vacation in the Philippines but she just wanted to call him and wish him a happy birthday. I was livid. The day was done and ruined, as was our relationship. We broke a few months later when he left for the Philippines for good.
Do I regret having broken up with John? Of course not! That was the unhealthiest relationship ever and it gave me the courage to move on and expect more from myself. Was him cheating the reason for our breakup? Not entirely, but his actions certainly didn’t help. My point is, I have been the girlfriend and the other girl in both instances. It never feels good to be either.
I’m not throwing shade at what my friends are doing. I’m no saint and I’ve done things I’m not proud of. Ultimately, I want them to be happy and I hope that I’m wrong and that these turn out to be lasting relationships for them. If I were them, I’d probably be doing the same thing. But I can’t help but have empathy for the girl, while also casting a wary eye on the other girl.