Oh, you think this is going to be another one of those articles about female friendships? Ha! Nope.
Today I’m here to share with you, in my usual flippant way, how easy yet dangerous it is to form friendships based on a mutual sadness/anger/pick an emotion with your individual marriages. In simpler terms, “let’s be friends because our marriages suck and we can commiserate together.”
I am NOT here to talk to you about how easy it is to bond with your girlfriends over Super Shitty Things Our Husbands Do. That’s got its own set of problems, but is not the point of today’s article.
Nope, I’m here to give you the low down about friendships formed with another unhappily married person of the opposite sex (or same sex if that’s you…all that’s important for this article is the potential for attraction).
My marriage has been hard for over three years now. I’m in no mood to stir up those feelings today so you can read about it here. And then while you’re at it, read this one too so you’re adequately prepared for later in this article. Needless to say, I had reached a point where I was just existing and trying desperately to yoga breathe my way through each day.
When you are unhappy, no matter what the cause, you look for anything to make you smile, laugh or generally feel better. Whether it’s chocolate, ice cream, alcohol, girls night, or a combination of them all. Whatever it takes to just feel better.
I had inadvertently fallen into two male friendships, and no, they didn’t know each other. Different circles, different arenas of my life. And neither of these friendships started with a “ugh, my marriage sucks dude, how about yours?”
I’m sure you see where this is headed but hey, I’m here to educate those in happy go lucky marriages. Sort of like a flu shot. Preventative medicine.
You’re welcome and you can shut your judgements down right now.
Friend One was someone I met through work, but we didn’t really work together so much as our paths crossed often and yes, sometimes projects threw us together. It was your basic, run of the mill friendship for probably about 8 months or so. We gelled in our humor and laughed often. It was truly a platonic relationship, as we were both married, and never discussed much outside of projects and work.
But oh, I did enjoy that friendship when we worked together; I could admit that if circumstances were different 15 years previous and we had actually met back then, we would have dated the hell out of each other.
Then one day, he was all pissy and bitchy and I asked “what’s wrong?” Because that’s what friends do, right? It started slow, but he began talking about how his marriage was bad and he was this close to leaving her. He talked in anger about their relationship, or lack thereof actually. He told me about the recent fights. And how unhappy he was.
And YES. YES! Yes. Finally, someone who understood! And as I began opening up a bit to him, our conversations became more frequent, via texting, as we talked about our marital problems and unhappiness. We texted a lot, and at first, it was pretty much focused on marriage.
Then it slowly began to morph into a bit of flirtiness. I couldn’t tell you when or how, but the innuendos began working their way into our texts, from both of us. It was the harmless flirting, the kind that doesn’t cross the line but edges mighty close to it, you know?
Shut up, yes you do know. The kind of conversation that could make someone question it for a moment but then be able to write it off as silliness. This probably continued for another two months or so, all while he moved out and filed divorce papers. I was his sounding board and he was mine. During this time, the flirty talk slid into crossing the line here and there, again from both of us. I do remember us acknowledging it, saying that we were indeed crossing the line a bit but we both needed the boost. As long as we knew what we were doing here, we were fine. It never got wildly inappropriate (nope, that would be Friend Two) but it definitely was not platonic.
Do I need to wipe that judgmental look off your face right now?
Friend Two wasn’t really a friend. He was a dad of three kids who sometimes hung out with my kids and I sometimes saw here and there; I saw the wife more, but I’d never say either of them were truly friends. And then I contacted him about a volunteer project (because he did some construction work) and we began texting a bit for a week or so (I was probably still in platonic stage with Friend One at this time, but maybe starting the flirting, I don’t know, I didn’t write this stuff down).
Then one day someone told me how they had split up and he had moved out. It didn’t mean much to me other than wow, they’d been a really cute Facebook family and that surprised me. When the next volunteer project arrived, we began texting again, only this time references to his divorce popped up and we began talking about that.
And once again, it was a joy to find someone to commiserate with! There is such a difference between a happily married best girlfriend saying “I understand” and someone miserable and sad saying “I understand.” Huge difference. And yes, you do know what I’m talking about.
Yes, as we texted, it devolved into innuendos and crossed the line fast. This kind of flirting wasn’t harmless at all, but if I’m trying to explain how it went so fast from “hey my marriage sucks” to what we call “sexting,” it started with conversations about the problems with sex in our marriages.
Inappropriate? Hells yes. But common ground is common ground. And from there it became blatant texting about sex. Because of course it did.
But understand something, okay?
Both of these friendships were established over the problems in our marriages. Seemed so simple.
But looking back on it, I can see so clearly how that slippery slope began.
So, is the dangerous part the commiserating with another unhappy person of the opposite sex?
Haha, if it was only that simple.
No, the dangerous part is not the commiseration or even the actual conversations.
The dangerous part is the rush you feel from that commiseration. It’s a dopamine rush, that flood of feel good vibes that washes over you as you realize you’re not alone and that someone truly understands you. And the more you commiserate with each other, the more rushes you get.
But it’s not just commiseration that fuels the rush. It’s the added attraction, whether you realize it or not, that comes with making a connection with someone you could potentially be interested in, should circumstances be different. That attraction heightens the rush and like any drug, you want more and more of it. It doesn’t matter that Friend One and I weren’t blatantly talking sex, the attraction was there.
Don’t do drugs, kiddos. Play Candy Crush if you need the rush. Same dopamine effect.
So what happened with Friend One and Friend Two? I know you’re just waiting for the trainwreck moment and I’ll probably disappoint you a bit.
When I made the decision to have a slice of pie for myself, I spent days weighing out the pros and cons of both male friends. Friend Two had pretty much told me in several different ways that he would happily help me cross that line. I wasn’t sure about Friend One, though; I mean, I was pretty sure he was an option (and I found out later down the road that yes, he had been) but in the end, there were too many cons in his column.
Friend Two became that slice of pie.
And it all started with the “hey my marriage sucks right now” conversations. Trust me, you judgy judgingtons, I know my role, I know what I did, and I have said everything you might be saying to your screen right now as you read this. So keep that to yourself.
Dangerous friendships indeed.