TLA isn’t my boyfriend. We call each other friends, which is just fine with me (I don’t do titles well.) And we’ve talked about (and agreed to) not seeing other people, which is all I really care about.
This weekend we had our first tiff. We’ve been friends past the three month mark of dating, which is when everyone’s on their best behavior, and we’ve started getting real (but still respectful). Admittedly, there’s not much difference, but there is some. I guess once a personâ€™s in your life consistently, you start have expectations. And it’s frustrating when people fall short. And youâ€”that being himâ€” become a little more vulnerable too as your trust and comfort levels increase, which the other personâ€”that being meâ€” might not be used to.
TLA’s been having a rough time. I won’t lay out of his details, but it’s typical ish when the bullshit piles so high that you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been there a few times. (And I’ll likely be there a few more.) I point that out here not to trivialize it, but to say it’s a part of life, like the sun rising in the East. And I’m not handling it well. TLA’s been calling more than usual, running through his list of woes each time. I’ve tried to listen patiently and be a supportive ear, but after several days… Well, I wanted to talk to him, but I was tired of listening to his problems. I have some of my own that need handling too. What happened to our carefree, talk about nothing of significance conversations? I used to call and ask how his day was and he’d have some good news.
But I listen anyway, sometimes because he needs an ear, sometimes because he needs help and isn’t afraid to ask. This is what people in relationships of even the platonic sort do, right? Support each other? Plus, I figure the sooner his woes let up or get solved, we can get back to the business of being happy and aloof. After a week of bad news, he calls with more Friday night while I’m at dinner with Patent, chatting it up. I listen patiently (again), offer a few what to do suggestions and make sure he’s covered his ass.
He launches into something else, another problem, and I cut him off sweetly, asking if I can call him back as soon as dinner’s done.
I re-explain gently. What I don’t say is I’m happy right now, thinking about nothing with no worries enjoying the uncharacteristically nice weather and I just want to be in my bubble right now.
“Whatever. Bye.” Click.
Huh? I stare at my phone. Is TLA mad at me?
An hour later, Patent heads to the bathroom and I take a moment to call TLA. The phone rings until it goes to voicemail so I leave a message. “Hey babe, just calling to make sure everything’s ok. You sounded upset earlier, wanted to make sure everything’s good. Call me back.”
He usually contacts me right back when he misses my call, even if it’s just to say he’s busy. He doesn’t call this time.
Three hours later, I go to bed.
I have this insane dream about dating an asshole guy (I’ll write about it someday). It freaks me out and I wake up with a start. I look at the clock. It’s one AM. TLA’s up. I call him and tell him about my dream, adding that I would never take him for granted. And how I’m so used to great now that I forget some of the bullshit I used to deal with. And I’m so happy that he’s not that dude.
Maybe I woke him up? He tells me I didn’t. “Um, is everything okay with XXXX?
“Yeah, it’s great,” he says sarcastically.
“Why don’t you go back to sleep for awhile?” he says.
It’s clear he doesn’t want to talk to me, so I don’t argue. I don’t know what I did wrong, but no matter how bad I want to talk, I’m not going to beg anyone to stay on the phone with me.
“Ok. (Pause) Bye.”
I don’t hear from him most of Saturday. He calls me most mornings. He didn’t that day. I figure he needs his space because he’s upset about something. I finally call him around 4 PM to shoot the shit and more or less he tells me he’s busy and can’t talk. No explanation.
I decide to fall back further. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He sounds agitated when I call and has nothing to say. He’s not returning my calls. This is the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other and I’ve been missing him and calling and texting a lot lately too. I can be needy sometimes. Maybe I’m crowding him when he needs his space?
I don’t hear from him the rest of the day. He has to work Saturday night and still in fallback mode, I don’t send him his customary text before he heads out. Around 2AM, I wake up to my phone vibrating in my bed. It’s a one word text from TLA. “Wow.”
I’m trying to figure out what the hell he’s amazed by when he calls as I type back asking for an explanation.
I answer and get an ear-full from an angry Black man.
My first instinct, to blow up and break on him. (I don’t take kindly to being broke on.) But I stop myself, remembering some email The Elder sent about choosing to be patient and kind even when you feel neither patient or kind. I’m slowly steaming anyway.
I stay on the phone for the next 2 hours hashing it out until the situation was completely resolved. He was mad that I blew him off (his words) on Friday.
At 4 AM, he was finally tired and got off the phone. I was wide awake by then (and although calmer, still far from calm) so I stared at the ceiling and thought.
Unintentionally or not, I realize I’ve avoided relationships for the better part of my 20s. There are a few reasons that I rotate dudes on such a regular and predictable basis that as one friend pointed out “you can set crops by it.” (He was flabbergasted when TLA hit the 90 day mark.) And I get why. I don’t think I’m built for this relationship shit. At the first sign of real conflict, somewhere around day 91, I bail.
I keep thinking about what a healthy relationship entails. I have to not only figure out what I feel about something and why, but figure out what he’s feeling too? And I have to care when I don’t feel like it and listen too? I have to be patient and kind even when I don’t feel like it? I have to hold my tongue from saying reckless shit to keep the peace? I have to forgive and pretend I forgot? I have to work through a conflict and move on when it’s resolved? I have to deal with his problems and my own too? And I still have to sleep horizontal instead of diagonal in the bed?!
TLA’s a really good dude, a great man. I like him a lot, probably more than anyone I’ve dated in a long, long time… but I think I’ve been single too long, too used to thinking about just me. And as selfish as it sounds, there’s a part of me that likes not having to be the primary person who’s concerned about another person’s problems.
Can I do this TLA thing? Can I keep building with him to see where this goes?
I don’t know. I really don’t.
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