Almost two years ago, I fell in love with a boy.
This, in and of itself, would hardly be worth noting. People are fools for love all the time.
The tricky part is that he had a girlfriend.
But that seemed to be unimportant at the time — or at least unimportant for him. It certainly didn’t stop him from pursuing me, from telling me that I was the most wonderful girl he had ever met, that he had never thought about marriage until he met me, that he wanted to introduce me to his parents, that no one had ever understood him the way I did.
“What about the girlfriend?” I would ask.
“Oh, she doesn’t matter,” he would say. She was on the way out, he would say. He had started breaking up with her, he would say. He had already broken up with her, he would say. It was just a complicated process (you know how these things are), and it would just take a little time (you know how it is), so he just needed me to be patient.
Sure. I get it. These things are complicated.
Only thing is, they aren’t.
Feelings are complicated, but breakups are remarkably simple. Divorces are complicated, but relationships can end with one sentence. You can write this down and save it for later, free of charge: “I don’t want to be with you anymore.”
The problem is that delivering that sentence takes courage. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m horrible at it. I hate ending things and closing doors and hurting people, and I will delay delivering that sentence for as long as I possibly can.
So I get it. I’m hardly on a high horse over here.
But the thing is — until you’re ready to deliver that sentence, don’t drag anyone else into your mess. It’s that whole “have your cake and eat it too” syndrome. We are all a little guilty of wanting it, if not actually doing it. Only it’s so very bad and sleazy and wrong when love and chemistry is involved.
I know it’s hard to make choices, but that’s not how romance works, unless you’ve signed up for the whole polyamory thing. And hard as it is, if you’re on the other side of the equation, you’re just enabling the squirrely behavior by letting him (or her) avoid commitment and responsibility. Because, really, why would you buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?
If you can dance merrily (and somehow guilt-free) between two lovers, why wouldn’t you? If you can avoid responsibility and commitment and the fear of choice (because what if you choose wrong? what if you hurt someone’s feelings? what if you end up all alone? what if you are consumed with regret?), why wouldn’t you? After all, regret is a terrible thing — so if you can avoid the regret of the wrong choice, go on, you!
BUT this rarely works long term. Someone is going to get hurt. Will it be you?
It takes two to tango, as they say, so if you’re doing this dance, you’re also culpable, regardless of whether you are leading or following. If you’re the one afraid to make the choice, shame on you. And if you’re the one afraid to force the choice, shame on you, too. Because you know you’re not happy. Because this dance isn’t very fun at all, as it turns out. Because you know you’re afraid to set up the necessary ultimatum since you’re afraid of not being chosen.
But is that really the choice you want to make for yourself?
To exist in limbo with some man or woman who cannot choose you, who cannot decide if you’re number one or number two and is therefore unwilling to make you number one? Who wants that? You deserve better.
If that’s the case, then you, like Olivia Pope, deserve to choose yourself. In fact, you MUST until you find someone who wants — who lives and breathes — to make you their number one.
(Postscript: I forced him to choose. I told him, I’m off limits until you end things with her. There was a lot of “just give me time” and “it’s complicated,” to which I said, fine, just let me know. Spoiler alert: he’s still with her, a year and a half later, and I wrote a book about it, Queen of Hearts. Life moves on, heartbreak notwithstanding.)