Love is a complicated thing – the story of us

I woke up this morning around 9:30 am after a restless night of sleep. It’s a cool day outside, cloudy, with spurts of rain. I’ve already had a disagreement with someone on Twitter when I said, “I hope it rains all weekend.” The smoke is still bad here, and I won’t be able to go out as planned. It’s really hard on the lungs. The smell has seeped inside my condo and I’m having a hard time with wheezing today.

I woke up out of a dead sleep this morning around 7:00 am from a horrible nightmare. My dreams are all starting to blend in together and I’m forgetting them more and more. Even as I started writing this post about the dream, I feel like I don’t even remember it enough to tell you what happened.

The dream started off with me at my childhood home in the garage – as they always do. This time, I was with my two older sisters. We were trying to collect some things we had forgotten at the house and trying to get out of the house without the new owners finding us. That happens in so many of my dreams but usually I’m on my own. I still have a strong connection to the house. I guess that happens when you live somewhere for nearly half of your life.

But then the dream got weird. Instead of being chased by the new owners, there were some kind of monsters all around us. I don’t know if they were zombies, or what they were. That part has faded. But I do know, that my ex partner Don, who I’m chatting with right now about the dream – pulled up to the house in his van.

“Come on,” he said. “I’ll get you out of here.”

And we all piled into his van. His daughters climbed out of the van as their mom was going to pick them up in a second vehicle. I think that’s kind of funny now. That he would ditch his daughters for us. But Don and I have a long history – we go back to the 90’s.

How it all began

To make a long story short – we met in 1996. I was 19 and he was 24. He was recently separated from his high school sweetheart. We dated for about six months. It was a nice and casual relationship. We went for long drives. We went to movies. I think we saw Contact together with Jodie Foster at one time. Maybe that’s why I like that movie so much. And we had great sexual chemistry. But mostly, we were just comfortable around each other. He was easy to talk to and we could spend hours talking. We both shared a fascination with the occult and paranormal. He’s even now, obsessed with Halloween.

Don looked like a young John Stamos. He had thick black hair, tanned skin, and piercing brown eyes. He wasn’t much taller than me, but there was something about him that just clicked for me. I liked him. A lot. Right from the start.

It was a sweet relationship. Nothing serious. Nothing really romantic. We just enjoyed each other’s friendship and company. There were no expectations. We could call each other up for a movie or dinner date, and we knew it would be a fun night.

He called me one day and broke things off. He told me his ex was pregnant and he wanted to make “things right” with her and be a good dad. They wound up getting married shortly after that. I didn’t hear from him again until 2008 when Facebook came about.

Reconnecting in 2008

Out of curiosity, I looked Don up on social media. He remembered me right away. We started chatting and reconnected. That old spark was still there and it was strong.

When we reconnected in person one night. Don stayed at my place until three in the morning. And it was purely innocent. We had a couple of glasses of wine. And talked. That’s it. We talked. He talked about his marriage. His kids. I told him about my past relationships. How I got to where I was. And we literally, just talked. It wasn’t until he looked at his watch and he was like, “Oh shit, I should get home.” He had shown up with a bottle of wine, which I was hooked on at the time. And we just talked. That was it.

The next time I saw him, he came over for drinks with his wife. And we all just chilled. Hung out. Watched movies. Listened to music. And it felt natural. Even she couldn’t deny that there was a spark between us. And she sat back, and let us enjoy it for a while.

An open relationship

Don and I got back together for a casual but sort of serious relationship. His wife and I became friends. Sort of like sister wives. We didn’t do much together – she had her own friends she could connect with. But I was invited to family events, and we had a few parties together. They even met my friends and came over for a birthday party at my condo.

Unfortunately though, during this time, I started really struggling with my hormones and anxiety. Around this time, I was diagnosed with PCOS and was on hormone medication. I was a fucking nightmare to be around. My insecurities got the best of me, and I realized I could never trust Don fully. Not only that, but I had fallen head over heels and was in denial myself about it.

They started fighting a lot and I knew it was because of me.

So, rather than being an adult and doing things the mature way, I lashed out at him on Facebook. Looking back, I have a lot of regrets on how I handled this situation. Because Don had been a good friend when I needed him at times.

His wife and I bonded more after Don and I agreed that we were better off as friends. Don would eventually find a new partner that he fell in love with. This caused a lot of strain on our friendship and we wound up drifting apart for a long while.

Then Greg came into my life. And while Greg and Don never met, let’s just say they hated each other’s guts. Greg would often threaten to “have a chat with Don” if he needed to. I knew that if that had happened, Greg would have put Don in the hospital. So, I kept the two as far apart from each other as possible.

Bringing in a third person is not a fix all for an unstable marriage

What I learned from this experience is that open relationships are hard. Someone always ends up getting hurt in the end. Whether it’s the primary partner, or the new partner coming in. There are often hurt feelings. I also realized that Don may have been a sex addict. It seemed like even when we chatted as friends, he couldn’t get his mind out of the gutter and would constantly ask about my sex life.

Towards the end of 2009, I remember Don and his wife got into a major fight. He showed up at my door at 10:00 pm with a six pack of beer. He asked if he could come in and talk. We chatted. He got drunk. I think he was already drunk at that point.

“Can I stay with you for the weekend?” he asked me. Putting me in an awkward position. “I can sleep on the couch,” he said.

I looked around and said, “Just for the weekend? This won’t be like one of those things where you stay here for six months will it?” I said. I just didn’t have the room for a roommate.

“Nah, just for the weekend,” he said.

At that precise moment, as he cracked open another beer, his wife called. She had been crying.

“Is he there with you?” she said.

I nodded, “Yeah, and he’s been drinking.”

“What did he tell you?” she asked me.

“Nothing at this point,” I said as I walked into the other room for privacy. “He’s really upset and asked to stay the weekend. I’m not okay with that. I’m going to sober him up and send him home.”

And then she asked me something that surprised me, “What did you guys do that first night? Did you have sex?” she asked.

I was honest with her and said, “Absolutely not. We talked. I’m sorry he stayed so long, but time just slipped by on us. I’ll call you when he’s able to drive. But he’s definitely not staying here.” She thanked me for being honest and I followed through with my promise. I felt I owed that much to her.

It was after that fight, that I knew Don and I had to cool things off. The fighting became too much and we went back to being friends. But as life changes, and as my relationship with Greg grew, Don and I drifted further and further apart.

We would chat every few months to check in on each other. I think we will always have that connection. I still care for him, but he mostly pisses me off. In fact, he actually defriended me from Facebook after I got mad at him and we went the longest we’ve ever gone without speaking since 2008.

Sometimes I think it’s true that men and women can’t be friends, after they’ve had sex. It’s really hard – especially when there is still a connection or spark between the two people.

We kept our distance until Halloween last year when he reached to me out of the blue. I was still mad at him and ignored him. Until he popped into a dream a few weeks later. We’ve been chatting off and on since.

Their marriage is a lot better now he claims. They seem happier together. They managed to get through COVID together – and that says a lot. But sometimes, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Don and I had gotten married instead? What life would have been like? These are thoughts that pop into my head every now and then.

And I felt like this dream – it was telling me to reach out and check on him again. Even he said to me this morning, “you link me to your dad’s house often. Perhaps a good memory keeps us there.

Love is complicated

It was this relationship, the one with Don and his wife, when I learned that love could be complicated. I feel that Don and I had always cared for each other. I think I loved him more than he loved me. Or maybe he was afraid to admit that he had feelings for me. I thought my heart was broken when we split in 2009-2010. But looking back, I think it was more so that my hormones were so out of whack that I didn’t know how to handle extreme emotions.

That’s something I’ve gotten a lot better with in the last ten years. Therapy also helped with that too.

Would I do it all over again knowing what I know now? I don’t know.

After Greg, I swore I would never date again. It’s been six years, and I don’t really miss it. But that spark that I had with James, and then Don, that spark doesn’t happen often. That spark is rare.

And sometimes it’s just hard to let go of. Even long after the relationship has ended.

Love is complicated. It’s messy. And it hurts. But it’s also wonderful. And can bring you much joy.

Perhaps one day, I’ll be ready for love again.

As for Don, sometimes people make better friends than anything else. And I’m okay with that.

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