'But when we're together it's so good...then he kind of goes cold.... But he texts me and sends me emails all the time...really flirtatious... I know he likes me. He really does.' So said my good buddy, just before the
object player of her affection brought another woman to the work Xmas party and proceeded to canoodle with her in front of my friend for the entire night. Nice. yet she went back for more. Time and again she let this man reel her in and then cast her aside. I sat high up on my happily married pedestal and judged (and also worried for her). One evening at a dinner, having drunk too much wine, I told her exactly what I thought and she refused to speak to me for the night - telling me that I was harsh, and I didn't understand what it was like.
But of course I did - I remembered back on the 6 years I had been single in London and dated all kinds of undesirables. We've all been there, haven't we? Been pursued with a relentlessness that borders on obsessive, felt a sudden chemistry that jolts you into next week, tentatively reciprocated the flirting and then..... nadda. They disappear - off to find the next victim on their ego-filling hit list.
Once you are in a relationship, living with someone, or married even, you assume that the players of old - the ones that had you reaching for the vodka at 7pm, as you stared at an empty in box or a silent phone, are all in the dim and distant past. The last thing you'd expect is a new one to pitch up in your life, full of charm and chat, trying to schmooze their way into your life.
But that is exactly what happened to me a while back. Out of nowhere, I was suddenly pursued by someone (that at the time) I worked with. At first it was mild - email banter and the odd text. I was flattered, curious and surprisingly, attracted back. This was the thing that unnerved me most - how could I be married, happily and attracted to someone else? I immediately emailed player and told him it would be better to keep the whole thing professional - that whilst I had only been attracted to 2 people in my whole ten years of marriage (the other being Taylor Kitsch, and frankly, if you meet him and aren't smitten - you don't have a pulse) I didn't think it was a good idea to encourage our friendship any further. His reply was hilarious - 'Er, you know I have a girlfriend? And you are married with kids?' Then he ended 'if you ever think you could trust yourself around me to have a pint some time, give me a call.'
As we say in Ireland, if he was a chocolate bar, he'd've had himself ate.
That, you would have thought would have been that. But still he pursued and for a man who worked with words, his attempts at flirtation where surprisingly cliched and obvious. I was no angel - lapping up this attention, that at the time was lacking in my marriage. But I did tell my Husband everything - and he replied that he was often attracted to others, but as long as I didn't do anything about it - then there was no harm done.
Yet, there was. Because the Player continued and I did nothing to stop him. He asked to meet, reeled me in, even with all his dreadful tactics: staring at me in meetings, always being overtly touchy, taking an interest in various Facebook status updates I wrote... I, foolishly and embarrassingly, let myself be played. Let me be clear though - NOTHING ever happened - I did not have an affair. But emotionally, I definitely moved into a shady area.
Deep down, I knew the player was a tragic emotional vacuum who was only interested in fuelling his own ego - he had no real depth of feeling for me. I doubt he wanted anything to happen either - to him, it was all just one big game. But, something that had been a silly banter I would joke about with workmates, became larger - and they warned me to be wary - they saw right through him. Thankfully, I am not made for deceit, or webs of lies - I am as honest as the day, so I never crossed a line. But it made me see how fragile we can be, married or not, and how we are all vulnerable to flattery and attention, no matter how immune to it we think we are.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I left the job, moved on with my life, Husband changed jobs, we re-focused on us, on our family and I am in a much happier place now. We finally have weekends together and can make plans, we eat dinner together, he nightly bathes our Sproglets.
So I learnt a valuable lesson - that I wasn't sitting on some smug married perch, immune to all the nightmares that single folk have to endure in the dating wilderness. That marriage takes work - that those vows once spoken wearing a lovely white frock, are in fact, pretty damn difficult at times to adhere to. That we are all fallible, that we all can make mistakes.
I look back with shame, on that night with my friend, when she was teary and angry at my lack of empathy, my cool judgement on her yo-yo 'relationship.' If I could go back, I'd shut my mouth, fill her glass and give her a massive hug.