Dr. Nerdlove—all I can say is “Help, please!”
I’m a 25-year-old geek girl who just left a very toxic (your tales of your college girlfriend are sort of the story of my life) and very long (10 years, beginning in 10th grade and ending one year after I got my Master’s degree) relationship and I need some help figuring out where to go from here. Getting out of and over the toxic relationship, it turns out, was the easy part (and I’ve felt amazing every day since I left)—the complication comes from the other guy involved. This other guy (let’s call him Rhys—25 y.o.) was my friend before I met my Toxic Ex (28 y.o.)—in fact, I met the TX chatting with him through Rhys’s AIM chat (very popular 10 years ago!) We all remained friends as I dated the TX, even spent some time as roommates and had some threesomes (yes—I know, sexual deep end). Anyway, at some point Rhys backed off from hanging out with us, and I later learned it was because he no longer enjoyed spending time with the TX (and seeing me in such bad sh ape probably didn’t help).
So…down the road a little ways, Rhys joins the army and although I haven’t seen much of him for a few years, I try to meet up with him before he leaves for training and get a hold of him on the day he is leaving a few hours too late to actually see him before he goes. We stay in touch over e-mail, and I regale him with tales of the downward spiral of my life (damn near bought a house not just for me and TX, but his father and father’s gf too, got engaged—“sort of,” all the while extremely unhappy and unsure exactly why). 6 months go by and Rhys is back in town for a week, and I make it a point to go see him without the TX, end up hanging out with him and a few of his friends, getting drunk, and staying until pretty late. At this drunken hang out, I get to hear for the first time how Rhys really feels about me (you’re amazing, you deserve to be happy, you could be doing so much more with your life) and how he really feels about the TX (dead weight bum), I talk to other friends who largely agree and realize I HAVE TO GET OUT—NOW! Toxic relationship over, I decide to go see Rhys before he leaves for his duty station in another country 6,000 miles away. We hang out, have AMAZING sex, I leave, he leaves the country.
Since he’s been gone, we’ve talked via e-mail and g-chat and we agree that we want to be together, but we don’t want this to be a rebound relationship that ends and ends our friendship as well. And, neither of us wants to see any of my old habits from my toxic relationship surface in this one (although, I think the people involved are so different that it won’t be likely to play out that way as long as long as we communicate and make sure to maintain our own independent lives).
Our best solution to that problem right now is to take some time before we decide that we are “committed” (which makes sense since we can’t see each other in person anyway), but I’m so into him that it’s not likely I’ll go out with other guys, and I think he feels the same way about me. Are we just putting off something we want for no good reason? Should we both try to see other people to avoid getting Oneitis and see how we feel when we have an opportunity to see each other again (a little under a year from now)? Any other suggestions for preventing this from being a temporary rebound situation?
Sorry about the lengthy e-mail, but, like I said—“It’s complicated” doesn’t quite cover it!
–Trying to Avoiding the Dreaded “Rebound”
So you really have two different problems here.
The first is that you’re worried about rebound relationships and fucking up the friendship.
That’s understandable – From the sound of it, he’s been an emotional rock to cling to when you needed it, a great friend, an amazing lay and someone who you can just relax around and enjoy his companionship absent everything else. Small wonder that you’d worry about potentially losing him, he sounds like a great guy and losing a friend like that would be awful.
I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you, however.
The problem with rebounds is that they’re what happens when you try to get into a relationship before you’re fully recovered from the last one. We all have different reasons for wanting to get back in the game before we’re ready; it may be because we’re trying to prove something to our ex, because we just want A RelationshipTM without much regard for the person we wedge into the role or because we’re in love with being in love and don’t stop to realize that we need to absorb how much things have changed in our lives. Regardless of the reasons, we go rushing in, fuck things up and end up hurting ourselves and our partners.
Thing is though: you already have a pre-existing relationship with Rhys. He’s been your friend lo these many years now. Presumably – considering you had enough attraction and trust to include him in a threesome on occasion – he’s seen you at your worst as well as your best and has a pretty good idea of all of your deepest, darkest personality flaws.
The two of you have clearly cared for one another for a long time as friends. I suspect that slipping into a romantic relationship will be about as difficult as sinking into a warm bath.
It’s understandable that you might want to take a little time to get used to the idea and to really let your newfound freedom sink in a bit before rushing into a committed relationship, and I support that idea. But I wouldn’t spend too much time or brain cycles worrying about whether or not this is a rebound relationship or what’s going to happen if you don’t work as lovers.
No, the real issue is the distance.
Long distance relationships are difficult under the best of circumstances and life in the military is notoriously rough on relationships. It’s hard enough to keep a regular communication schedule under normal circumstances. It’s another when you’re doing so half a world a way on an irregular time-schedule and when privacy and access to a phone and/or the Internet is at a premium. Right now his life isn’t his own; the Army owns his ass for the foreseeable future so any relationship you have with him is going to be a default threesome: you, him and the military. I’m not saying it can’t be done – clearly there are plenty of relationships and marriages that survive overseas deployment – but trying to start a relationship that way… well, you’re jumping straight to a New Game+ on Insane difficulty.
So my advice: don’t stress the idea of a rebound. Don’t worry about Oneitis; you’re not really in a situation that lends itself to that condition. Keep in contact and keep the flame going; send flirty emails back and forth, talk about all the hot hot hot things you’re planning to do to each other when he’s back in town (I’d advise being careful sending any sexy pictures; those have a way of getting loose despite best intentions) and continue to share your days and conversations together. But don’t call it a relationship juuuust yet. You’re a relationship in potentia. Go out and be social. Date casually if you feel the urge, but with the awareness that your soldier boy is coming home and as soon as he does…
Well, after the two of you come up for air, THAT’S when you can start talking seriously about being in a committed relationship and figuring out the logistics of how you’re going to make this work.
READERS: Are you in the military? Did you have a relationship to maintain while deployed overseas? If you have advice for Rebound, share your thoughts and stories about how you made it work in the comments section.