As promised, here is part 2 of the story… The Dinner from Hell. (Click here for part 1!)
When M’s secretly-but-not-so-secretly-in-love-with-him female friend moved away, I breathed a sigh of relief. One less thing to worry about! But then she came back for a weekend. It turned out that the three of us we were attending the same show on the same night. Why not meet up for dinner before?
I wasn’t happy about the plan, but I let it slide. I don’t know why—I could have said “no.” I underestimated how badly the situation would affect me. By the time the anxiety started to hit me, it was already too late to back out. Then, the dreaded moment arrived: we were out at a restaurant, surrounded by a few of M’s friends, and she was there in the mix. Suddenly, I completely lost the ability to act like a human adult. I played nice for a while, smiling, being polite, answering when spoken to… but I couldn’t even stay focused on the conversation. It was hot, I had a pounding headache, and I felt nauseous. I smiled as she told stories about dates she’s gone on (she’s single again… great…) and other details of her life. I played nice as long as I could, but having to act in opposition to the way I felt, not being able to say anything without creating a scene, was tearing me apart mentally.
If I could have, I would have excused myself and left… but there was nowhere to go. So I just sat there, feeling awkward, not interacting with anyone… just staring at my phone. M immediately realized that something was wrong, but I had no way of explaining it to him, and I was worried I would burst into tears if I tried. The whole event probably lasted only a little over an hour, but it felt like an eternity!
The dinner finished, and we filed outside to walk to the theater. As we walked, M took my hand and pulled me close. I smiled at him, a “don’t worry, I’m okay!” smile.
“Do you guys have to be so disgustingly cute all the time?” She called out behind us.
“Sorry, but yeah,” I said with a smile. “And we’re just going to get more disgusting after we’re married!” (Yeah… not so classy. But it was the best I could do at the time.)
We’re joking, but not joking. She’s nice to me. Sort of. I try to be nice to her, but really, I wish she would disappear. She won’t… and so M and I had to have a tough conversation.
Some friendships are gray areas, because what starts out innocent does not always remain that way. I trust M entirely—I trust that his intentions are good, and that he would never do anything to hurt me. However, I am not completely naïve. M is sweet, sensitive, and loyal—not just to me, but to anyone he is close to. I could see a future in which his loyalties are divided, and his good intentions toward a valued friend are at odds with his obligations toward me… and someone gets hurt. Strangely, I also believe that this friend would not intentionally do anything to hurt our relationship, even as she carves out a place in his life that is not entirely appropriate. I get the feeling that she’s just waiting on the sidelines, waiting for me and M to split so she can make her move.
People are complicated. Love is complicated. I try to be reasonable, but sometimes, you have to look down the darkest path of “what if’s” just to acknowledge that you can’t take anyone or anything for granted. But after that, you have to navigate carefully back to reality and negotiate based on what is. Love can’t survive in the draconian world of paranoia and worst case scenarios. M and I both know that unrequited love doesn’t die easily. (I think we’ve both been in that situation at some point in our lives.) And so we know to tread carefully with this friend of his.
So where do we stand? He said he’s trying to limit contact with her. I’ve asked him to let me know when she contacts him, just so I don’t have to worry. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a compromise I think I can live with. And next time she’s in town and invites us to dinner, the answer will be “NO!”