Thanks for Being Awful.
In 2014, I went to San Francisco to visit some friends I had met through running the podcast I was doing at the time, Jimmy & Eden. I flew down with one of my co-hosts and spent the week meeting people with whom I had only interacted with online. The week was filled with drinks and dinners, exploring the city, and I had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends.
I met someone down there on the first night of my visit. Let’s call him Steve. We hit it off, and while I was seeing someone at the time, I felt an instant connection with him. I saw him a few times throughout the week. Things didn’t work out with the person I was seeing. After I was home for a while, Steve and I started texting every day and getting to know each other. We’d call each other every so often and talk for a few hours before we went to bed. It was pretty intimate, pretty quickly.
By New Years 2015, Steve and I had decided that we wanted to spend some time together in person. I planned another trip to San Francisco, booked an Airbnb, and went down. We spent the entire week together, mostly. It was a wonderful collection of dates. He showed me around the city, we ate a lot of great food, and went to a lot of cool bars. I really, really, liked Steve. He was funny, talented, and great to talk to. We had great sex. He also lived very far away (about a 7 hour flight, at the time). We agreed that we’d never be anything more than friends that smooch from time-to-time. But, he became a very important friend to me. I’d like to think that I was the same for him, too.
When I returned to my home in Regina, Steve began to get harder to reach. When he did respond, things were strained. Eventually he stopped responding at all. I became incredibly insecure. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of mental health issues and getting out of a 5-year relationship, and it was pretty bewildering to have someone that I held so close completely disappear. I got angry, and maybe somewhat obsessive. Why did Steve stop taking interest in me immediately after we had spent a pretty wonderful week together? What had I done? Why didn’t he like me?
The summer passed, my mental health had (unrelatedly) bottomed-out, I lost my job, but I was starting to try and build a new life. I started freelancing and started dating again. I was trying to be happy. I planned another trip to San Francisco for work. A couple weeks before my arrival, Steve texted me apologizing for disappearing. He wanted to see me while I was in town.
We spent a lot of time together on that trip. He had apologized, so I tried to let things go. We explored the city, again. Talk a lot, again. Drank a lot, again. Things seemed to pick up where they left off. When I got home, Steve kept texting me. Everything was fine. We worked things out and our friendship was growing. We talked about our creative projects, what was going on in our lives. It was flirtatious, but incredibly familiar and comfortable.
I had to go back to San Francisco to visit a client that November. Steve invited me to stay with him for part of the trip, so I did. We got back into the same patterns that always came about when I visited. We explored the city, we talked, we drank, we had sex. It was lovely. Then, when I returned to Regina, he disappeared again.
At first, I was angry again. I was obsessive again. I tried to get him to text me. I felt used and awful and gross. Steve was such a great friend to so many of our mutual friends, why was he doing this? I tried to let it go, but I had let him into my life to such a degree that the entire situation just made me feel incredibly small and vulnerable. I’d text him every now and then (mostly when I had been drinking) to see if things had changed, and he wouldn’t respond.
After almost a year, he texted me on the anniversary of my suicide attempt. I was throwing an anti-funeral party, a morbidly hilarious affair that made sure I was surrounded by friends on a day that is legitimately very hard for me. While sitting in my backyard with my friends, I received a text from him apologizing for his repetitive disappearances. He wanted to try to be friends again.
We texted for a little while, and then he’d disappear again. He’d apologize, I’d let him back into my life, and we’d text for a bit, and then he’d disappear again. This continued over the course of a year. During that time, we didn’t see each other at all. But, every single time he’d apologize he’d reassure me that I was an important part of his life. Then he’d disappear again.
I wasn’t completely innocent in this. I definitely started to even annoy myself by how much this bothered me, and my behaviour as a result. Steve has been going through a fair amount of weird life stuff, and I admittedly require a certain amount of attention in order to feel secure within a friendship. To be fair to myself, though, the reason that I need that attention is that his pattern of disappearing left me feeling incredibly insecure and worried that people would simply abandon me once I’d had sex with them. Having someone do that to you over and over again doesn’t feel great. The more it happened, the more affirmation I’d need to feel okay. I kept letting him back into my life because it felt like it validated me. Unquestionably, however, it would just end up making me feel more and more horrible in the end.
I let this keep happening until the end of last month, May 2017. Steve has been in my life for almost 3 years now. I haven’t seen him face-to-face in over a year. He had to come visit Montreal (where I now live) for work and told me he wanted to spend time together. I hesitantly said that I’d like the same. He sent me messages saying that he was excited to “just be in a room with me” and “hold me in his arms”. Real, corny, gushy stuff. He continuously affirmed that he wasn’t going to disappear again.
Then, once he arrived in Montreal, he stopped texting me back. I didn’t end up seeing him. He still hasn’t texted me.
A week later, I messaged him telling him to not text me, to not try to apologize again, and that we couldn’t be friends. This was hard to do. As I said, Steve has been a very important part of my life when he’s been in my life. But, I had hit a point where I could no longer accept this kind of behaviour.
You see, in between everything that was happening with Steve, I was forming other relationships with some stunningly amazing people. But, the insecurities I had developed with Steve carried with me. I needed a lot of attention in all of these new relationships to feel okay. I needed people to communicate. I needed emotional responsibility. I felt needy because of this.
Eventually I realized that this wasn’t me being needy. A certain level of communication, emotional responsibility and attention is required for any friendship to thrive. If the friendship becomes romantic in any capacity, these needs become greater. This isn’t weird or needy or awkward, it’s human. As I was realizing these things, I started writing about it and started reflecting on the type of people I want to have in my life, romantic or otherwise.
It wasn’t recent that I had this realization, and I came to expect these things when getting involved with new people. I became much more communicative myself, and I feel like I’m starting to be able to understand my relationships better. But, I had kept letting Steve treat me poorly because of these longstanding insecurities. He was grandfathered in, I suppose.
For context, I primarily date people casually and I tend to date people that live in other cities than I do. I am not sure why I do the latter, but it generally works for me. Now, when I start to see someone, there’s a flurry of questions and things needing to be communicated. Figuring out how communication will work between me and these people is important to me. I don’t need to be talked to every day, but I kind of like to know what’s normal for them in advance. I let them know about my habits and tendencies, too. Having this knowledge, in my experience, has made both parties feel more secure. If our needs don’t align in a way that could destroy our friendship (which, to me, is usually more important than smooching someone), we don’t smooch. Most of the time, feelings aren’t hurt and it ends up being a great experience overall.
Everyone comes across great people with trash behaviour patterns in their lives. It’s inevitable. It took me three years to truly understand that I didn’t want to be treated that way. Gosh, being in your early twenties is so fun. Picking apart these behaviours in an analytical way to understand what went wrong has helped me treat others better. Sometimes things take time.
The situation with Steve was hard and at times devastating. I still miss him, but it will be a long time before I feel comfortable having him in my life again. To be honest, I’m incredibly angry at him. Fuck you, Steve. Despite everything that is great about you, you treated me like a giant pile of dog turds. Still, this 3-year-long, nauseatingly ridiculous experience taught me a lot about what I want in my friendships and relationships.
So, thanks Steve, for being really fucking awful. My future relationships will benefit from it, greatly.