I need some clarity on some judgmental comments a friend said to me. She in essence called me out for being selfish and manipulative after I told her about a weird falling out I had with two friends months ago. My question is: Am I selfish and manipulative just because I chose to ignore their relationship drama, even if I knew it was related to me?
First, some context and background: For the last year or so, my relationships keep ending abruptly, with the whole unfollowing and unliking on social media and then no contact ever again. I’m bi, and I was dating a girl and a guy at the same time last summer. I was openly dating, but was hoping the guy would turn into a relationship. The girl told me she was frustrated when I was not responsive to texts even though I usually text back within a day or two. She eventually said she ran out of energy trying to maintain a connection and moved on. The guy and I did a back and forth thing. His father died, and I worried it would kill any chance of a relationship with him. It did.
Then I met another guy through a dating app, and his whole life fit with mine in all the right, weird, wonderful ways. But after several months together and saying “I love you” and going Instagram official, that ended abruptly too. He still lived with his ex, and I guess my protests bothered him enough to tell me that it was over and not to come over anymore.
In between all of this, my friendship with a couple kept growing. I still worked with the guy, and his girlfriend had left the same company the year before. His girlfriend and I hit it off after he brought me around them and their friend circle. We planned to work on some independent creative projects together. He and I had a more intimate friendship. I cried in front of him more than once about my relationship issues. He was always very affirming and a good listener, so I liked being around him, especially given how difficult my dating life was at that moment. He made me feel like my opinions and issues were valid, no matter how much I was crying or felt like I was saying something crazy. I do admit that I thought he had romantic feelings for me, but it felt good to be welcome and maybe even wanted in someone else’s regard. I figured I didn’t want anything besides the attention, didn’t really see any value in pursuing anything more with him than conversations and good feelings, so I wasn’t encouraging an affair or looking for trouble.
One night, we were all out at a bar with several friends, and it was clear when the night was almost over that the girlfriend was upset about something. She was quiet, weird, shifty-eyed. I went home and didn’t think much about it until a few days later, when he asked to get lunch and talk about something. He said we couldn’t flirt anymore like we had that night, and that it was inappropriate because we were both seeing other people. I asked if his girlfriend was upset about something, and he said no, he just felt weird about our interactions that night and wanted to draw some boundaries.
I didn’t really buy it, but I tried to be respectful. I talked to her and said I told him nothing would ever happen between us. Things seemed fine. She and I kept working on our projects, and he and I settled back into a comfortable routine. But, after she got frustrated with me for what she said was my lack of effort and responsiveness on those projects, she said that I needed to be more aware of how I impact other people and to be more honest about my intentions and bandwidth. I got frustrated and responded to that with something like, “It’s not my fault your boyfriend likes me”. So she and I stopped talking after that, but I tried to maintain a friendship with him, including a few texts asking him about where I should solo camp, if we could get lunch together soon and whether or not I deserved to feel wanted by the men I was dating.
I liked the way he made me feel, and I liked feeling heard when I was around him. I never said anything overtly flirtatious or said that I wanted anything more than to be friends. My friend (the one who said I was being selfish and manipulative) said that I didn’t have to say it. She said that the things I told his girlfriend were clearly a power play because I didn’t like being told I wasn’t living up to my promises (really, I think it was because I didn’t want her to threaten my friendship with her partner, even if I shouldn’t have said it). My friend also said that me continuing to try to continue the same level of intimacy and friendship I had with him before I had that blowup with his girlfriend, and after I made it clear I knew she was insecure about how he felt about me, showed a clear disregard for the damage I might be doing to their relationship. She also said it seemed like I felt entitled to his attention and affirmations. My thing is that they are both adults, that he could have told me to back off if he really didn’t want to talk to me, that I only said what I said to his girlfriend because I earned my friendship with her boyfriend and that it really ISN’T my fault if her boyfriend liked me that way. I didn’t ask for the attention, even if I enjoyed it.
I usually think of myself as a good person, even if I can be a bit cat-like. But my friend’s comments really bothered me, and I don’t want to believe it’s true. So I’m hoping for your outside perspective. So, am I selfish and manipulative? Or just someone who doesn’t like giving up things that make me feel good?