A local guy got in touch on Facebook and asked if I would like to have coffee.
A mutual friend told me that although he wasn’t married, she was pretty sure Bernie had a girlfriend.
“Maybe they broke up?” she suggested.
So I met Bernie for coffee. After a perfectly delightful getting-to-know you conversation, he asked if he could see me again.
“Are you single?” I asked.
“It’s complicated,” he said.
“No, it’s not,” I said. “Is there a woman in your life who believes she’s in a committed monogamous relationship with you? And if so, would seeing sitting us here together and listening to the conversation we just had make her sad?”
He admitted that it would.
See? Not so complicated after all!
Why did I cross-examine him like that?
Four years ago, I stumbled upon evidence that the man I had loved and trusted for 20 years had a secret girlfriend on the side for over a decade. It was devastating. But with the help of family and friends (and a dang good therapist) I was able to kick that ratfink to the curb, put the whole thing behind me and get on with my life.
But the experience definitely changed me. For one thing, it has affected my own dating behavior.
After what I’ve been through, I refuse to ever be anything even resembling the Other Woman.
Once I made it clear to Bernie that exploring a romantic relationship with me while still partnered to his sweetie was off the table, he asked if we could be friends.
“Sure,” I said. “But not behind your girlfriend's back.”
Because, I’ve learned, this is how it often gets started. You’re just friends. And then you’re more than just friends. And before long, you’re in “We didn’t mean for this to happen” territory.
“I don’t want to be your sneaky secret confidant,” I told him. “But if your girlfriend knows all about me and is welcome to join us when we meet for coffee? I’d be happy to be your friend.”
Guess what? He wasn’t interested.
A few months later, when our mutual friend told me that Bernie and his girlfriend had broken up, did I pick up the phone and get back in touch? After all, he actually was single now.
What do you think?