the four year situationship

Four years is an absurd amount of time to be fooling around with someone without any type of foreseeable commitment. Actually, we stopped fooling around at year two and put on a phony “best-friend” act until I just couldn’t bare it anymore and had to block and delete every single existence of the man whom I love.

We met at an on-campus party and had been inseparable ever since. In the early days he’d come over and force me to watch horror movies with him in my cramped dorm room on The Quad. I remember the first time I went over to his place—an apartment on our school’s campus—I packed extra clothes just in case I were to sleep over. I was a sophomore, he was a senior and I was so thrilled with myself.

The first year of us hanging out he never made a move. This was strange because as I knew it, things moved pretty quickly after the “texting stage” and because I was naive at the time, I thought something was wrong. We were going so slow. I’d prop my legs on his’ as we watched movies and he’d swiftly move them off. Was he not interested in me? Why was he spending time with me if he didn’t want to be with me intimately? 

Author’s note: Thinking back on this, I truly treasure the slowness of it all. He wanted to develop a friendship before we got intimate and I have nothing but respect for that decision, which is something I’m taking with me as I move forward. 

We would see each other across campus and my friends would sneak pictures of us together. No one else knew what was going on, and neither did I. We never talked about it, it just was what it was. One night of my junior year before I left for Italy, he slept over. I vividly remember that night: I had come back from a party and he asked if he could spend the night because he was on campus late.

“Of course!” I said.

“Bet”, he replied. 

This was the first night he “made a move” and I remember it so clearly because I was wearing my favorite flannel. I thought it was sexy that I had on this button-up flannel and nothing else. I fondly remember this night because it was the best night we had in those four years. It wasn’t astounding or super dramatic, but it was the first time that I was truly able to feel him. But now I can’t help but think if I equated us messing around to him liking or wanting to be with me? He’d visit other times but once our intimacy wore off, the visits became strictly platonic and admittedly, just plain awkward. It was almost as if we already knew each other well enough that when we hung out, we didn’t talk about much. This may have been because we also texted and emailed mostly throughout the day. One of my favorite things he did was email me his stories randomly late at night so that when I woke in the morning I could read them.

When you’re into someone for as long as four years, it’s shattering to watch the transformation of your relationship with them. What was once a genuine, beautiful friendship turned into a pit of negative emotions and envy. 

“Why wasn’t I being picked?” I thought that quite often. I knew of the other women he had been with and that sparked the envy. What did they have that I didn’t? Was it because they were affiliated and I wasn’t? 

Our relationship wasn’t entirely intimate in the way that you’re thinking. We had a different bond—one that I’ve never experienced before. He’d share his writing with me and I’d critique it and sometimes I’d picture myself as the girl he wrote about. Maybe it was about me, but he’d never tell. He was always writing, even when I was around. I’d share my deepest desires with him and he’d be a reassuring voice. He drove me home when I had my first edible and was too high to function. He surprised me on my twenty-second birthday even though he lived in a different city. When he was drunk, he’d send voice memos telling me how great I was. We’d FaceTime and talk for hours about non-sense, about life, about love... I introduced him to my parents. He introduced me to his mom. We even made a pact that if I wasn’t married at thirty, we would marry and have babies, though at the back of my mind I knew this would never happen because he wasn’t keen on marriage. 

He said he’d name his future cat Audre, after Audre Lorde, and I told him I hated cats. Maybe that’s when the drift began. 

We’d be super tight, off and on, in and out of each other’s lives for those four years. We never had direct conversations about what we were. I’d try to bring it up but it would be brushed off and sent to the “let’s talk about this next week” box. 

This past summer, I had had enough. Our relationship was tip-toeing towards toxicity. My vision of us just wasn’t happening and instead of moving forward as friends, my frustrations overcame any hope that was left. We both loved each other, sure, but his desire for me faded a long time ago. I think he became frustrated with how hot and cold we were. I’d go missing for months and come crawling back to him when I needed that reassurance again. 

I’m not entirely the reason our situation went sour. There were things he did that made me believe in us. And my friends can attest to the fact that I was undeniably led on to believing we had some sort of hope. However, I will take ownership in that I should’ve laid down boundaries at the beginning to provide clarity as to what was going on. Sometimes I think that the past four years were a waste of time, but as my friend Sydney says, it was a learning lesson to take with me as I move through other relationships. 

Do I miss him? Almost every day. Do I still love him? I’ll always have love for him. But, some people are meant to be in your life for a season, or in my case, multiple seasons. They serve their purpose and gracefully bow out. I’ve learned that you have to let them go and let it be. 

RelationshipsRania Bolton