The Vine: February 15, 2012
Eight years ago, during college, I became very close friends with a co-worker. She had just graduated from high school and her boyfriend was at boot camp. A few months after we met, they became engaged while he was serving in Iraq.
We quickly became inseparable. We were young and both needed company, and I supported her throughout much of his deployment. When he returned, they decided to get married 6 weeks later (during his leave) and she rushed to plan the wedding. I picked out her invitations, my mom made the gifts for their guests…friend ended up dropping out of school with a staph infection in her kidneys and was basically a wreck (hence my doing all the work). I met said fiancé twice during this time. After said wedding (of which I was not a part, she asked me, an then un-asked me to be a bridesmaid) she and now-husband stopped by my house, she gave me a hug and said I'd hear from her.
I got four or five emails from her, which were all about her husband, and never heard from her again. I figured it was okay to not hear from her, she had a new husband, she moved a few states away, she was finding work…but I did feel hurt and confused. Why didn't she want to maintain our close friendship?
Well, husband got deployed again, and she moved back…without telling me. I ran into her a couple months after she moved back, and we resumed our friendship, although it was awkward. When husband returned home again, she left without ever saying goodbye to me or anyone. Although over time I gained perspective on the friendship and realized it was the kind that is created out of necessity and I wasn't sure how much she had been able to be a friend to me, I still missed her at times and wanted closure on the situation.
Six years later, she moved back to our town and I ran into her while I was buying dog food. We decide the past is the past and rekindle our friendship again. I don't have very many friends, especially not ones that I have very much in common with, so it was nice to have people to spend time with, as now her husband is out of the army so we are no longer just hanging out one-on-one.
Over time, she starts to become flaky about hanging out and acting erratic and strange. Her husband tries help her by getting her out of the house and sometimes makes plans for her to see me; otherwise I don't see her.
After a year and a half, Husband decides to leave her, and I do my best to support her because she's distraught and, as I said earlier, unstable…and potentially suicidal. I only hear her side of the story, which makes it seem like this is a big surprise. I let her stay at my house, and a few weeks later, discover she's stolen my prescription pills, and find out she has done the same to my friends, people I introduced her to. Friend is also starting to leave drunk irrational phone calls on my phone at 3 AM, gets into a car accident, drinks and takes so many pills her liver shuts down, and is becoming a wreck. She won't listen to me when I try to talk to her about it and it's clearly a safety issue, so I confront Husband, asking him if he knows about the pill problem. He tells me she's been stealing pills from everyone, for years, and he was only confronted by the people from whom she stole AFTER he left her. His reasons for leaving fall into place as soon as I find out about her behavior over the past few years.
My younger brother is a serious drug addict, and I have many family members who are alcoholics and drug addicts as well. I do not deal with addiction well, and begin to back away from my friendship with friend. She's requiring too much emotional support, she's dangerous, and it's starting to affect my happiness, my life, my job, etc. She has found other friends who are enabling her addictions and she makes it clear she's not interested in my friendship if I won't do the same.
I start trying to support Husband, because the only thing I know to do to help my friend is to get him to stop enabling her behavior. He left her, but still feels like he's required to help her and continually put her in situations to enable her use, including paying all her living expenses even though she (sort of) still has a job, which she is only sometimes capable of attending. My conversations with Husband at first only ever discuss Friend, but I find that over time we begin to become actual friends who talk about other things.
When she moves across country both of our ties with her are severed. It was always platonic, and we were always very open about the nature of our friendship. We got a few raised eyebrows a first, but eventually his friends and mine realized why we spoke/hang out and are okay. He is very much not the type of guy that I am attracted to and we flirted less than I do in other friendships.
Recently, he has admitted he has some serious feelings for me, and I think they might be deeper than he admits. I think I have some feelings for him, but I'm not sure how strong they are, and I don't know for sure how serious I am about them. I have had some rough experiences in my life, and am extremely untrusting of men. I have had two very emotionally abusive relationships and sought counseling for them.
Husband is one of the only men I've ever trusted or feel safe around. He's extremely supportive of me and is always watching out for my safety. I feel like he's one of the only men in my life I can completely be myself around, and would consider him to be one of my best friends. My best friend and another of my close friends both push me to date him because of the safety and security I feel when I'm with him. They both notice that around him I let go and be myself, that I'm more fun and outgoing…that I'm the person I was before the abusive relationships. I worry that he is not my type and is too nice — obviously given my history, guys who are bad for me are a pattern.
I can't get over the fact he was married to someone who, previously, I considered a best friend, even though she was a drain on me.
Do I date him or not?
He's said he will give me all the time I need, and he understands how I feel about the current situation, but I know he isn't going to wait around forever while I decide if I can see him outside the context of his previous marriage
His ex-wife and I are no longer friends, we don't speak, and I don't plan on ever having any sort of friendship with her again.
Is it okay to date a friend's ex-husband?!
He did have a rebound fling with someone a few months after leaving his wife, and I know his feelings for me are not rebound feelings. His friends all really like me and seem to be very supportive of us. I think I'm the only one who can't get past the fact that his ex-wife used to be one of my best friends. Since their divorce is final, he and ex-wife also do not have contact, although they do have distant mutual friends. Is it really wrong to do this in every situation?
Yes, it's okay, sometimes, and no, it's not wrong in every situation, but I think you're asking the wrong question — or asking it from the wrong place.
To my mind, there is a Friend Code that dictates that you stay out of friends' sandboxes, romance-wise. Sometimes it can't be helped, if it's a guy a friend dated for three weeks five years ago and she's now married it's probably kosher, blah blah…everyone has different guidelines. My rule of thumb is, don't, but if you do, hey, it happens; just know that this may end the friendship as you once knew it, and live with the decision, good or bad.
The friendship in question is already over, but what concerns me isn't the ethics of dating Friend's ex. It's how much those ethics concern you — and in a larger sense, how far over backwards you bent to keep knowing this cow after you organized her wedding, shanghaied your mother into doing work for said wedding, and then got disinvited from bridesmaid duty. That's the point at which most people would dry-wash their hands all, "Okay then — good luck to you." But you stay friends with her, and she…disappears on you. Comes back into your life; disappears on you again. Starts blowing up your phone and stealing and all this other shit. Yes, that's the addiction talking (I…guess; I think there's an underlying personality disorder, or she's…just a twunt), but still, again, you jump back into it: "I start trying to support Husband, because the only thing I know to do to help my friend is to get him to stop enabling her behavior."
This is the sentence that makes me think you shouldn't date Husband. The one where you admit that you aren't even sure you return his feelings is also telling, obvs, but this one speaks to bigger issues that I think you need to address before you date anyone, much less this guy, and here's why: 1) Friend was not your friend at that point, and likely never had been, but even if she were, 2) the best way to help her is to give her a bottom line and hold it. Coaching Husband on doing it is not giving her a bottom line; it's enmeshing yourself in Friend's drug drama. A part of you needed to be in this aggro, because it's familiar, or because it gives you the illusion of control over addict behavior, or something.
This is not a judgment. You mention a long history with addicted family members, and we all have our ways of coping with those situations to get us through. But I think this is why you put up with Friend's bullshit for so long, and I think it's why you embroiled yourself with Husband — not that he isn't a good, sweet man and not that his feelings for you aren't sincere, but this is not about him or Friend at the end of the day. This is about you, and how you relate to people around you along this addiction/enabling axis without being aware of it. As nice as Husband is, as much as he might love you, your take on the prospective relationship is almost entirely about what other people think about it; you mention that you don't feel that attracted to him — but, like, in passing, like that doesn't matter.
What do you want? Forget his friends, forget thinking you should go against your usual pattern with guys — forget Friend. Do you have the tingles for Husband? Do you think about him when you're…"in your bunk"? It doesn't sound like you do. It sounds to me like it's about more addict drama for you, and again, I do not judge you. It is extremely hard to get out of these patterns we develop to protect ourselves, and you don't repeat them because you're a bad person — just the opposite, and it's unconscious anyway. Don't beat yourself up about it. But do see a counselor (or, if you're already with a therapist, talk to her about these specific concerns) and untangle yourself — your self — from the addicts in your family, from the abusive exes, from all of it. Recognize the patterns and interrupt them. You will probably need some help with that, and that is okay, and you deserve it.
But…I gotta tell you, I think Husband is a part of a larger co-dependent pattern for you, and as such: bad call. I mean…yeah, as far as Friend goes, she gave up her claim, in my opinion, so that's fine. But making decisions about your own emotional life based on what others think you think about her…yeah, no. Life's too short, lady. Find a counselor or take in a few Al-Anon meetings, and see how you feel in a few weeks' time.
Tags: boys (and girls) friendships