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Love, respect and rewards

I have a friend at work who's getting married early next year. The only thing is, he's not in love with her. So why's he doing it? Because he finds it comfortable. They don't argue too much, they get along reasonably well, and he feels comfortable. But he doesn't love her. He's constantly attracted to other women, but I don't think he sleeps around.

However, that may change in future.

As I was walking home after work tonight, I was thinking about it, and about an emailed conversation he and I were having this morning. It started when he asked how my weekend was, and ended when I suggested that unlike him, I'm looking for someone special to settle down with, who fulfils me, who satisfies me, and who, just by who they are, keeps me happy without any need to mentally or physically 'wander'. He suggested we have a beer sometime… his way of saying he wants to talk about it. (He knows how I feel about him marrying someone he doesn't love.)

Penny and I cooled it off a bit yesterday.

Like everything else in my life, things are just that little bit different to how 'normal people' live their lives. But I feel like I'm achieving a sense of 'maturity' about relationships and communication.

My relationship with Penny began some months ago, when we first met. I wasn't attracted to her at first, but there was something about her that made me interested in being friends. I also recognised that she was still hurt from her recent past, and so I kept my distance a little, feeling that I wasn't ready to be a close friend to someone who was emotionally vulnerable. People who are in that state often 'attach' themselves to anyone who gives them any attention, developing emotions that often aren't based on the reality of the situation, but more on 'need'.

Eventually she realised I was being distant, and questioned me about it. I told her the truth about my actions and my feelings, which she accepted. Soon after that, we met up for a coffee, mainly because her acceptance of my feelings, and her continued casual interest in me anyway, made me feel that she was interested in being friends only. So we met up for a coffee, and over a few weeks we became reasonably good friends, going out here and there and enjoying the occasional drive and photography together.

I was feeling quite comfortable with how things were developing, only interested in friendship, and making sure she knew exactly where I stood. Things became a little more intimate between us… It seemed to naturally develop that way, where we ended up cuddling and stuff. However, one day it became obvious that she was starting to feel stronger about me than I was about her, so we had a 'conversation'. That day wasn't a very good day, and was since called 'that day' whenever it arose in conversation.

It wasn't a good day because she tried to deny how she felt about me, which only made me feel angry and frustrated that she was keeping the truth from me, rather than admitting her feelings. Eventually, when I was about to walk out on her in frustration, she admitted how she felt about me, that she was more attached than what she wanted to be, but had kept it from me because it wasn't what I wanted; it wasn't what either of us wanted, as we both had different goals in life and knew that we were incompatible in a longterm relationship.

I accepted her, without blame or anger, and with only understanding of the conflicting emotions she was experiencing. I pointed out to her my own needs for space, and helped her understand a man's need to 'go into his cave', and that if she could 'let me go' so that I could deal with my own feelings of being needed by her, then she would be pleasantly surprised. If she couldn't, then the result would be wanting to stay away from the pressure of her feelings for me.

I recognised that Penny was pressing buttons in me that had still been left active by my experiences with Michelle, nearly 3 years ago. I recognised this as an opportunity for me to deal with these issues, and they were issues based around my reactions to being needed. Michelle's neediness of me pushed me well away from wanting to be needed by ANYONE. Being needed was something I dreaded, wanted to run from, didn't want in my life.

And as I wrote that, I realised this instant why I've been choosing women who are unavailable to me. Their emotional distance has allowed me to be comfortable in myself. They have been unavailable to me, and I've chosen them that way, because it's allowed me to feel safe in a relationship. I'm not emotionally needed by them, and I've been able to deal with that.

Back to Penny…

She gave me the space I needed. She undestood what I meant with my explanations to her, and she gave me what I wanted. In so doing, she gained a measure of confidence in herself, in her own ability to be happy without needing me or anyone else.

Her own instantaneous change of attitude brought about a change in me. Instead of wanting to run away from her, I felt comfortable being with her. Instead of not wanting intimacy with her for fear of making her feel stronger about me, I wanted more.

She didn't need me, but she loved being around me. And that made me feel safer to do the same. As a result, I loved being around her.

I knew she was inadvertently helping me with my own issues, by responding to communication effectively, understanding me and allowing me to understand her.

In the same context, we still knew that we were unsuitable for each other in a longterm relationship. I'm planning on returning to Australia, and she wants to stay here. She wants to be with a man who's keen on having children, whereas I'm not keen. She's a country girl, and I'm more interested in a city girl.

We weren't suitable for each other long-term, but we WERE suitable short-term. We recognised that we were learning things we needed to learn from each other. We were both growing because of each other, dealing with ourselves and the situation we were in with maturity.

We decided that we would give ourselves one month of being together before splitting up, remaining friends, but moving on to follow our own destinies apart rather than together. However, the month lasted just one week.

I admit that I thought that if it was going to be a month, it would likely be longer. I was happy with that. However, yesterday we discussed it, and it was her feeling that the longer it went, the harder it would be to split up. So after some discussion, we agreed to end what we had now, because we both know neither of us were planning anything 'serious', and this was much easier than allowing it to degrade in the future.

Why degrade? Because the longer it went on, the more constrained either of us might feel about being in something destined to end, but not knowing when it would end. So this was taking responsibility for ourselves and our friendship.

It felt great to manage a separation with as much love and understanding as how we managed being together.

So we'll still see each other occasionally, while moving on with our own lives, and dating other people, looking for someone we feel comfortable longterm with.

And I'm feeling like I'm still not meant to return to Australia for the time being. Every time I think I am, that there's nothing keeping me here, along comes someone else and changes my mind. I don't think I mind at all any more.

My relationship with Penny has allowed me to do what I should have done with Michelle – handled things much better than what I did. I've grown, and really learnt, and I thank Penny for coming into my life and helping me 'get over' those issues I'd had, that I didn't recognise until now.

And I suspect that I've helped her as well. We've had a very positive and rewarding relationship.

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