Recently I became fascinated with the website/social experiment 40 Days of Dating. I started reading it because it was fun but it was also interesting to be an outsider looking in on a relationship.
The blog documents two friends that decide, after failed relationships, to try to date each other for forty days and see if anything sparks. They set forth six rules to guide them through the forty day journey. The rules include seeing each other every day, go on three dates each week and they must be romantically exclusive. Both of them walk into the experiment with relationship baggage. Jessica loves love and wants to rush into every relationship so she can enjoy the good stuff. Tim is a commitment-phobe and bounces around from woman to woman without allowing any deep connection. At the end of each day they have to answer a series of questions:
- Did you see each other today?
- What did y’all do?
- Did anything interesting happen?
- Did you learn anything about Jessica?
- Did you learn anything about Tim?
- How do you feel about this relationship/project right now?
- Is there anything that you want to do differently?
- Additional comments?
These questions seem so simple yet this experiment became a journey of self-discovery for each of them. As I read through their journey I began to identify the underlying issues in their relationship as it moved out of the friend-zone. I started to see patterns in their relationship that were red flags and I wondered if they would see them or sweep them under the carpet. I started to see how red flags can become camouflaged by the best of intentions, especially between friends.
I remember my husband told me after the discovery that his affair began as a friendship and he didn’t know how it became an affair. It was easy to bitch-slap him (joking!!) and tell him a friend doesn’t disrespect your marriage and ask you to have sex with her when you tell her you don’t want it. Rewind that story and start with something that appears like a friendship: no sexual attraction but some mutual interests in common. Then one person in the friendship wants more and the other person feels ashamed or like they will lose the friendship if they tell the other person the attraction is not mutual. Instead of speaking up the uninterested friend goes along with and allows the physical part of the relationship because they don’t want their friend to feel rejected. They don’t want to reinforce all the insecurities they know reside within their friend, so they put themself aside and hope the other person will realize the relationship is not meant to be (aka “run its course”). The problem is that it’s harder to break up with someone who started out as your friend than someone you were instantly attracted to when you first met. If there isn’t a love match with someone who began as a romantic partner you don’t feel inclined to sit back and continue the relationship. But when someone is a friend and you cross the line physically, you worry you may ruin the friendship if you tell your friend it’s over. Breaking up is an insult to someone and you are telling someone who has strong feelings for you there is not a connection.
Why does any of that matter and why is this new? I guess it’s nothing new but removing myself from the equation helped me to see this is common human behavior. Not necessarily healthy behavior but it can happen to anyone. The lessons we learn from our decisions define our character, not our mistakes.
Beyond the relationship the questions Jessica and Tim ask themselves at the end of each day tell a story about character. Character is the sum of our life experiences. I feel like this past year has been a series of questions I’ve had to ask myself daily. I’ve had to ask myself uncomfortable questions that made me vulnerable.
Sometimes I am vulnerable to myself. Maybe I always knew that but this past year I really looked at myself—the good and the bad. I evaluated my behavior—why am I upset? What are my expectations? Why didn’t I say anything? Should I say that right now? I almost wish my blog had a series of questions that I forced myself to answer throughout my healing. Sometimes the truth is in the answers and maybe the answers show us our true character.
In my next blog entry I will answer a series of questions about my journey post-affair. I will ask my husband to answer the same questions. Let’s see what happens…