My question is about boundaries and rights, I think. Or maybe it’s about anger.
The problem is Basil. That isn’t his name. The other problem is Maddy. Also not her name. Basil and I have been friends since college, and have held mutual attraction for each other for some time. About four years ago we made out a couple of times, and cut it off because a.) I was cheating on my husband with him (who never found out and whom I’ve since divorced for different reasons), and b.) Basil was seriously considering starting a relationship with Maddy. A few months ago she broke up with him. That is the back story.
Basil and I began “a thing.” I don’t know what else to call it. It wasn’t an affair, really (I have a serious boyfriend in an open relationship), and we weren’t really dating. We were hanging out and watching movies and having a lot of sex. Really wonderful sex. I had backed off from him for years, even enough to seriously erode our friendship (not that we fought—just that we didn’t really hang out at all), to avoid even the implication that I might be moving in on Maddy’s territory, given our history. And now I could be close to him again, platonically and otherwise. I was ecstatic.
He desperately wants to get back together with her. This wasn’t an issue for us because my boyfriend and I are moving out of the state soon. If and when she came around, he wouldn’t have to worry about me. We kept our thing generally quiet. He felt that she would be hurt by it, and wanted to be the one to tell her about it, if telling her became necessary. She asked him about it last night. I think our friend Michael had picked up on the fact that Basil and I had been spending a lot of time together, and mentioned it to her. I don’t know if he did it maliciously (the Basil/Maddy/Michael love triangle is a whole different story). Anyway, she blew up. We hadn’t expected her to love the idea, but we agreed that it wasn’t really any of her business, as he was the one dumped. Also, Basil felt that he could adequately reassure her. Anyhow, the fallout turned out to be much greater than we expected.
My history with Maddy is weird. She and I were friends, but we met when she was in the process of deciding whether to date Basil or another of our friends, which led to several months of the two of them not speaking. This, I understand, is how she has moved from and to every romantic relationship she’s had until now. A couple of years ago Michael decided he was in love with her, at which point he went from being my best friend (he basically carried me through my divorce) to spending time with me occasionally, but only when he wasn’t already doing something exclusive with her and never working very hard to accommodate me. When I did spend time with them, I was consistently the third wheel. She continued to let him believe that MAYBE she would break up with Basil (things have been on the rocks for a while), and if she did, MAYBE she would get together with Michael.
Now she is telling Basil and everybody else that MAYBE they’ll get back together someday. She still has feelings for him, you see, and is in therapy now. He’s clinging to that as desperately as Michael clung to the things she told him, and once again I lose. He’s cut off our physical relationship, even though it’s a very short time before I’m going to leave, anyway.
It hurts. A lot. I feel like I’ve been thrown under the bus for the sake of something that probably isn’t going to happen (it’s very clear to me and a lot of other people that in her lexicon, “maybe” means “No”) and certainly won’t happen before I’m out of the picture. I feel like he’s appeasing her, which he had at least implied to me that he wouldn’t do. I’m worried it’s going to make things between Basil and I awkward, at best, even when Maddy isn’t around, and even if I never touch him again, I want him to be a good friend.
I’m afraid to be angry. I’m afraid that if I get angry at Basil I’ll lose him, and if I get angry at Maddy I’ll be a soap-opera stereotype. But I’m jealous of her. I’m jealous that her needyness and willingness to say whatever she thinks people want to hear make her so attractive to some of the most important people in my life, to my detriment and theirs. I’m jealous that she’s okay with this, or oblivious to it, while I try to do my best to respect people’s time and desires, and my unwillingness to be (or fear of being perceived as) a manipulator means I get walked on. Nice girls finish last?
Do I have a right to be angry? Do I have an obligation to be angry? I don’t think Basil or I have done anything wrong, and he didn’t hook up with me until a while after their relationship had ended, which is more than she’s done for a lot of people. I hate how bitter I feel towards her, because I know it’s just as much his fault for being spineless. But come on. “You can’t have me but I’m going to get angry if you want anybody else” is bullshit, right?
How hard do I fight? Not necessarily for the sex: I asked Basil once to change his mind and give me this last little bit of time, and he said no. I’m not going to ask him again. But what about respect? What about my feelings? What about our friendship? Where is the line between being wronged and being a bitch?
—He’s Under My Skin
You have the “right” to be angry at this turn of events. Be angry that Maddy seems to treat people like old toys that you might donate to the Salvation Army but you might pick back up and play with at any time. Be angry that Michael ran his mouth (probably in hopes of cocking things up between Maddy & Basil so he could get back in there….OOPS!) Be annoyed that Basil likes Maddy better than you and will accept the outside chance of a relationship with her rather than continue his sexy arrangement with you. Maybe it’s less painful to think of it this way: You have a primary partner and you’re leaving town soon, so Basil is choosing a chance of having the whole enchilada with someone vs. being a side thing. That’s understandable. But it still is a breakup, and it’s also understandable that you would grieve over that.
So yeah, it’s futile to try to not feel angry, or jealous. It’s what you do about those feelings that matters.
This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but your ummfriendship and your actual friendship with Basil is going to be in the toilet for the forseeable future. He sent you a strong message that you are not as important to him as he is to you. Maddy’s not really your friend. Just admit now that she sucks and you don’t like her and free yourself of the need to like her. Michael….I’m “meh” on Michael. He likes being monkey-in-the-middle too much. You can’t prevent any of their terrible decisionmaking, and sharing your feelings of hurt and anger with them is just going to deepen the drama and the conflict. Turn them into people you say a polite hello at before scurrying away to somewhere else.
My suggestion is that you focus your time on your primary partner (and not to vent to him about these failing relationships even if you guys are open, we just covered that!) and your upcoming move. And if you’re feeling a gap in your social life (this is likely, Basil was taking up a lot of space), fill that with spending time with your other friends, coworkers, family, long walks, novels, whatever.
There is like 100% chance that Basil is going to want to “clear the air” with you in some way, and by clear the air I mean sit you down for a beer and talk to you endlessly about his feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings….for Maddy…and justify why he had to leeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaave you….for Maddy. And here is where I can help you: SHUT IT DOWN. “Oh Basil, that does sound like a lot to handle, so sorry, I just can’t talk about that with you. You should talk to Maddy directly about that. So, about the Daniel Craig-Rachel Weisz marriage – do you think it’s part of a government plot to produce genetically perfect children?”