A few days ago, I had a 90 minute 'first date' phone conversation with a guy that rocked my world.
I contacted him first, after he visited my profile a few times. He replied right away and asked if we could set-up a phone date for the following day, which we did.
The call quickly went from being typical and light-hearted to deep and intimate. The point of no return for me was when he said, "I can tell that you are a very emotional guy whose passionate feelings are tightly controlled by a logical mind." Although that description probably applies to many men, I was impressed by how perceptive he seemed to be.
With my analytical cover blown, I quickly surrendered my emotional self to his considerable charm. What also got to me was how much we both wanted a deep, intimate, monogamous, life-long relationship. Somehow, just talking about such a relationship made it seem possible, not just in theory, but with him, then, at that moment. It was a wonderful daydream. Not the usual daydream that one experiences alone, but a shared daydream that felt real.
Eventually, reality intervened and I told him I had to go....kids to feed and homework to supervise. We made plans to meet in five days, and as I hung up the phone, I was profoundly looking forward to that moment.
The next day, he texted me and told me that he was thinking about me and how much he was looking forward to our date. I said I was too and that spawned an hour of back and forth messaging. Although the texting wasn't nearly as intense as the phone call, I still felt very emotional about him.
Soon after we finished texting, when I was still somewhat giddy and aglow, my daughter entered the room to ask about something. I don't remember what she wanted, but her physical interruption of my happy thoughts made me think about how I'd integrate my new potential boyfriend into my current life. How would I change, and how would our family dynamic change, if I fell into a mad, passionate relationship with a man? What would the kids think as I skipped off to see him? How long could I (or should I?) keep him a secret before telling them? Surely, they would be happy for me, I thought. But what about Gabbie?
Gabbie...my poor, sweet, and very dear mess of a former wife...
Her boyfriend Charlie has been working out of the area for months. We comes home every other weekend for two days. As horrible of a human being as he is, I know how much she looks forward to having him around. It's not because he's so great, or even that she's so in love with him, it's because she's desperately lonely and feels very unloved. Every night that he's not around she calls me and tells me how lonely she is, how unfulfilling her life is, and how much she wishes the kids would miss her just a little bit. It's torture listening to her, and to make matters worse, I never know how to respond. Sometimes I want to be very blunt and tell her that she created the life she has. But most of the time, I just feel bad for her. She's an outgoing, social person. She's never really lived alone. Her beloved dog recently died in a bizarre, tragic accident. How can I not be anything but sympathetic and supportive? I can't. I just can't.
Gabbie is so unhappy about her life that there are only a few things that could make it worse - really awful things like the death of her mother, or one of our kids, or being diagnosed with a terminal disease herself. But other than any of those horrible things, probably the very worst thing that could happen to her is if I fell madly in love with someone else. My profound happiness would make her misery all the more unbearable. This is because one of Gabbie's most unattractive traits is that she is a very envious person. Her feelings of self-worth are directly related to how she thinks she compares to others. So, in our post-relationship situation, nothing, absolutely nothing, would be worse to her than my euphoric happiness. In her eyes, I would have everything: the kids, a comfortable life, and a great man, while she would have nothing: a menial job, no money, kids who hate her and a loser boyfriend.
In response to this information, a reasonable person would say, "Cameron, WTF is the matter with you? You are not responsible for her feelings, especially her jealousy! And you are not responsible for whether she is happy or not. Why does it matter to you if your happiness makes her unhappy?"
Ummm....'cause I'm horribly co-dependent and from minute one of our 26 year relationship our dynamic has been based on my need to please her and her need to be pampered by me.
"Dude, you need therapy!"
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've heard that before. The problem is, I have to want to change, and for now, I don't.
One of Gabbie's biggest criticisms of me is that I am a weak person. This is true. I fundamentally lack the ability to be deliberately cruel to another person. I'd rather suffer myself than punish someone who's made bad decisions. Intellectually, I know that I should take decisive action and emotionally separate myself from Gabbie. I should file for a divorce or an annulment (can you file for an annulment if you committed the fraud???) and I should tell her that our relationship is "business cordial" and not "best friends." But I just can't do that. I know how devastating those actions would be to her and so I can't do them.
This creates a huge dilemma for me. How long do I plan on continuing my dysfunctional behavior and what am I willing to sacrifice in order to continue? For example, am I willing to give up a potentially terrific new relationship, just so Gabbie won't be overcome with hate and jealousy because of it?
In the case of the man who rocked my world, making a decision about him was relatively easy. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that he's a lot like Gabbie. He expects absolute emotional and physical loyalty and would never have tolerated my codependent need to please someone other than him. If we were to begin a relationship (which felt like something he instantly wanted to do), it wouldn't be long before he issued a "her-or-me" ultimatum and I'd be forced to either be mean to Gabbie or dump him. Well, without a doubt, my decision would be to dump him. The last thing I need is another codependent relationship. One is enough, thank you very much.
Yesterday I messaged the guy and told him that I was not emotionally ready to begin an intense relationship and therefore I shouldn't meet him. I went on to explain that I still felt too emotionally bound to my ex, and for that reason, it wouldn't be fair to him to meet. He was furious. He had a few choice words for me and ended his reply with, "Don't ever contact me again."
Um, ya...thanks for proving that you're exactly the kind of all-or-nothing person I never want to date.
Of course, I still felt bad about being a flake and for unintentionally leading him on, but as soon as I realized that we had no future, I felt the least-bad way to handle the situation was to be honest and risk his wrath. It seemed to me that it would have been much more cruel to reject him after we met.
Anyway, what's far more important than that guy is that I'm faced with a long-run, fundamental problem: what to do about my relationship with Gabbie? How long will I let my dysfunctional codependency continue? How can I possibly tell potential dates that I want a long-term, committed relationship if I know that they'll be my third priority? (Kids first, then Gabbie.)
For now I don't have good answers to those questions. Part of me wonders if I could emotionally separate from Gabbie if I had a relationship with a good guy that gradually built over time. Another part of me wonders if she is the black hole at the center of my galaxy and the only way to escape her pull is to gun my engines, attain escape velocity (faster than the speed of light) and chart a course far, far away from her.
More often than ever I find myself fantasizing about moving 2000 miles away from her and starting a new life. Doing that would seem to be so much easier than demanding freedom from our codependent relationship, but, it would also be a pretty radical solution that would affect the kids. Maybe I just need more time to man-up.
Meanwhile, I don't know if I should continue to try to date. My codependency might be the reason I'm not very motivated to try to meet someone.
Clearly, this is something I need to spend a lot more time thinking about. Any and all feedback would be appreciated.