At some point, you’ve probably fallen for a guy who just isn’t in the “right place” when you meet him. Maybe it’s obvious from his inability to communicate his feelings. Or, maybe he just flat-out tells you that he’s not ready to be in a relationship.
Do you wait for him? Do you tell yourself to be patient and let him sort through his issues?
Someone did that for me once. For five years. Would you be at all surprised to find out that it never worked out between us?
Shortly after getting dumped by a girl I was abysmally in love with, I went out swing dancing and met Stephanie.* I ran into her several times over the next few weeks, and we ended up hooking up one night.
As much fun as I had with Stephanie, being with her only reinforced how much I missed my ex-girlfriend. So, I blew her off after that night and told her that I was having drama with the ex. Since we were both in the swing dancing scene and had some mutual friends, I still ran into her on a regular basis. I knew she was disappointed, but we managed to remain friends … which is to say that I was friendly to her, but never again mentioned the night we hooked up, nor expressed interest in hanging out with her.
As it turned out, I did get back together with the ex-girlfriend (at which point she technically became my ex-ex-girlfriend). But then, we only lasted another year before she broke up with me again, thereby making her now the ex-ex-ex-girlfriend. (Here’s an easy way to keep track: odd number of “ex’s” means we’re currently together, even number of “ex’s” means we’re currently not. Remember this formula, because you’ll need it again.)
To help myself move on, I decided to throw a Valentine’s Day party for all my single friends, including Stephanie. Not surprisingly, the party devolved into a hookup-fest. At the end of the night, Stephanie told me she was too drunk to go home, so I let her spend the night. In my room. On my bed.
Two days later, Stephanie called to see if I wanted to “hang out” sometime. I agreed, but then canceled the next day, again using the all-purpose ex-girlfriend-drama excuse. At this point, it was obvious Stephanie wanted more than just casual hookups with me. And deep down, I was starting to feel the cold, judgmental finger of my conscience poking at my soul.
Two months later, my friends threw a birthday party for me, and Stephanie was there, much to the surprise of … not me. By now, my ex-ex-ex-girlfriend was in the process of becoming my ex-ex-ex-ex-girlfriend (even number = we’re back together!). At the end of the night, Stephanie mentioned that she was too drunk to go home and asked if she could stay over.
Just like last time, I thought.
Unfortunately for Stephanie, the ex-ex-ex-ex-girlfriend was currently passed out on my bed. So, without a word, I pulled a foldout mattress from my closet, dragged it out to the living room, plopped it on the floor, then told Stephanie I’d find her a pillow and a sheet.
When I came back five minutes later, pillow and sheet in hand, she said, “You know what? I think I’m okay to drive. I’m just gonna head home.”
Exactly one year later, I was once again broken up with the now-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-girlfriend (don’t worry, this was the last time). At my birthday party that year, Stephanie was, as usual, the last one remaining at the party. I noticed she’d been making a deliberate effort to “mark” me as her territory to the other girls. And this time, she did spend the night. As it turns out, my conscience may be judgmental, but it also has a pretty low tolerance for alcohol.
The next morning, she asked if I wanted to hang out the next week. I again said, “sure.” But then, I canceled a few days later. Just like before. To be perfectly harsh, I simply didn’t want to hang out with her.
I barely saw Stephanie over the next two years, since we both started to cut back on our swing dancing. She did email me every now and then, but that was the extent of our interactions. By this point, I figured that she had gotten over her crush on me and moved on. So, I decided I’d still try to be her friend. This was probably a bad move.
I moved into a new place, and when I threw my housewarming party, I invited her. At the end of the night, after everyone else had left, I found her sitting by herself in the living room. She looked up and noticed that there was another girl with me, and this girl didn’t look like she was leaving anytime soon.
After a moment of awkwardness, Stephanie realized (or pretended to realize) that everyone was gone, so she hugged me, said “nice meeting you” to the other girl, and left. I brushed off the incident, figuring this encounter could’ve been a recipe of awkward for anyone.
A few months later, I saw Stephanie for what would turn out to be the last time. I was throwing another party, and somehow, Stephanie managed to bond with the girl we shared that awkward moment with at the last party. The girl-from-the-awkward-moment and I were no longer dating by this point, so I have a sneaking suspicion their commiseration involved some amount of shit-talk about my dating habits.
I don’t know when Stephanie left the party that night. I barely talked to her because I spent the majority of the night flirting with someone else. As it turns out, that was the final straw for Stephanie.
A few days later, the girl-from-the-awkward-moment informed me that Stephanie was pretty upset. I pressed her for details and finally convinced her to forward me an email Stephanie had sent her. In it, Stephanie announced that she wasn’t going to wait for me any longer. She realized that I would never “come around,” that she would always just be a convenient hookup to me, and that she knew it was finally time to move on.
I believe girl-from-the-awkward-moment replied with something to the effect of, “You go, girl!”
I never heard from Stephanie again.
The email was actually a surprise to me. It’d been so long since Stephanie and I had hooked up—or even really seen each other—that I figured there was no way she was still crushing on me. And yet, here she was, venting to some girl she had met only twice.
Still, I felt nothing but relief after reading the email. I didn’t feel any guilt, because I honestly didn’t believe I had ever led her on. Yes, we hooked up several times over the course of several years, but not once did I ever ask her out on a date. Not once did I ever tell her that I was interested in her. Aside from the first time we got together, the extent of our relationship was a few sporadic, drunken post-party shenanigans over a number of years. As far as I could tell, my biggest sin was being friendly to her. (Okay, okay, and sleeping with her whenever she threw herself at me.)
As much as I disagreed with Stephanie’s assessment, I was glad she was upset at me. I was glad she felt played. Because the truth is, I was never interested in her. Sure, we met when I was an emotional cesspool. And at the time, I wasn’t ready to get involved with anyone. But even after I was ready … it wasn’t with her. For five years, she waited for me, not realizing that I was never going to feel a sudden burst of romantic fireworks for her.
Even today, I do feel bad if I hurt her. But ultimately, I just want to say to her:Why in the world did you wait for me for five years? Did you really think I was ever going to come around?
I’m not worth it. Trust me, no man is.
* Name has been changed.
— Dennis Hong
This post originally appeared on The Frisky.