When reading stories about how situations like this start, it "didn't start out this way" is a common theme—a cliche repeated to the point of absurdity. Still, "it didn't start out this way" remains important to note because it reveals this could happen to anyone. Most people don't intentionally set out to cheat on their mates, and even less people set out to be the guy/girl on the side. But, these situations continue to happen, and they continue to happen not because of an singular impulse or a devious motive but because of a series of increasingly shaky decisions. A series of increasingly shaky decisions that anyone can make. My situation was no different.
It didn't start out this way.
We were friends first. Honestly, we weren't even friends first. We were people who knew each other in passing first, work colleagues next. and finally friends. The friendship grew after we both found ourselves joining the same community organization, and this increased contact allowed us to find compatibilities we didn't know existed. We shared the same sense of humor. The same bemusement with authority. The same obsession with making sure there was food at each of the meetings and at each of the meetings about when the next meeting would be.
Soon, seeing each other at meetings and random social events morphed into catching rides to meetings with each other and innocent text exchanges to coordinate what time we'd meet at these random social events so we'd at least have one person to talk to while there.
As our interactions became more frequent, more compatibility was discovered, and with this discovery came a growing confidence to confide in each other. She lent a non-judgmental ear as I shared details about my dating life, as we both found humor in some of the situations I'd find myself in. I listened as she spoke about her boyfriend, providing occasional "male insights" whenever she was confused by something he did or wanted to know what to get him for his birthday. Through this, we both remained completely platonic, surprised at how easy everything was.between us, and we'd take note of that whenever a typical five minute "How are you doing?" mid-day conversation stretched into 45.
I don't know exactly when it happened, but several months into our friendship, a subtle change occurred. Before, it made me happy if I happened to see her during the day or happened to see a text or email from her. This is not uncommon, especially among close friends. If you're not happy to see your friends, they're probably not your friends. What is uncommon, though, was me becoming disappointed if I didn't hear from or "happen to" see her. Not angry or upset. But, just a feeling that the experience—whatever it happened to be—just wouldn't be as enjoyable without her. I remember attending one of these community meetings, getting a text from her letting me know that she probably wouldn't be able to make it, and wanting to get up and walk out.
As with many other things, we shared this feeling. And, as with many other things, this should have been a sign for us to pull back. We didn't.
Stay tuned for Part Two…