To recap: my on-off involvement with Pop Idolizer had entered a definite "off" phase after she decided to give me a 40-minute taste of her fear of becoming pregnant. Our "relationship", such as it had been, had hardly been an idyllic dream up to that point anyway. We had some kind of connection and enjoyed much of our interacting but there were big "red flags" around commitment and actually managing to spend much time together offline. At first I saw this latest joke/trick/self-sabotage as the final straw.
For several weeks I diverted my attention elsewhere. I went on a few first dates (I may post those stories some time, but I realised that this story is probably more interesting!) and didn't have much contact with Pop Idolizer. Ironically, it was during this time that she seemed to put more effort into pursuing me. Day after day I would get back from being out in the evening to find that she'd called. I wasn't trying to give her the cold shoulder (OK, maybe a little) but I just wasn't putting much energy into having contact with her. I knew that further involvement with her carried risks and that further sexual involvement with her would be playing with fire.
But that fire... It burns so brightly... That heat and light is quite a temptation... I can handle a momentary burn to the fingertips... If I know the risks, maybe I can mitigate them... After all, she was very much into safety - sometimes she wanted two condoms at once! No wonder I lasted longer than I'd expected.
My other dates didn't work out, the shock of the pregnancy incident faded, and I began to see her as my best option if I wanted my love/sex life not to be non-existent. Looking back, I'm not particularly proud of this bit of thinking, but there it is. I started returning her calls. I started meeting up with her again. I started trying to convince myself that all of this was a good idea.
The weeks without my attention did seem to have increased her eagerness to be involved with me. The cliché of wanting what one cannot have held some truth. I guess most clichés do. I happened to be going away on holiday for two weeks soon after we'd started to rekindle our involvement, and I think that this added to the effect. When I got back, she was the one talking about more commitment. For most of the previous time, we'd remained free to see other people, at her request. Now she wanted to be an exclusive couple. I decided to give it a try.
One week into our new official coupledom I was away again for a few days on a stag weekend (bachelor party.) This had been arranged months in advance and I think I even offered not to go if the idea made her really uncomfortable, what with strip clubs being part of the tradition and all, but she said that she was cool with it so off I went. During those three days I did nothing unbecoming of a non-single person but when I got back she didn't seem so cool with the trip any more. She kept asking if I'd kissed any strippers. I was completely honest with her: we had gone to a strip club on one of the nights but I don't think I was ever within three feet of a stripper and didn't pay for anything other than the entrance fee. I actually got bored in there and left before most of my friends. I'm not sure whether she believed any of this though.
We also had problems agreeing on the frequency with which we would meet up rather than just chatting on the phone. I wanted to meet up once or twice a week but after a month of being "together" I'd only seen her twice. The travelling time between us was about an hour but I would have been happy to have been the one to do most of that travelling, but she always insisted on coming to me or meeting halfway. In fact, looking back, I never once was invited to the area in which she lived, and never once met anyone she knew. More red flags!
I kept asking to meet up more often and was granted a third rendezvous. We spent an afternoon together in town and she was warm and lighthearted at first but then started to withdraw from me again. I asked her what was wrong and she said that she was just tired and wanted to go home. Off she went and I headed back to mine.
Soon after arriving home I got a text from her asking if I had time for a phone call. Something in the text, or something in the day, or the month, told me that this would not be good news. She called and explained that she wanted to end things again. She said that she had wanted things to work out between us but that there was still too big a part of her which feared commitment and getting hurt. Fair enough, I said. Nothing unreasonable about any of that. I'm happy to still be friends. It actually felt like one of our least messy endings.
...except that the phone call wasn't finished. There was something else that she needed to tell me. But it was really hard to tell me... But she had to do it... But she wasn't sure how to... Right, she's just going to say it... Oh, she's not sure what to say... This must have gone on for about ten minutes, giving me plenty of time to guess (in my head, not out loud) what was coming. Finally she confirmed that my guess had been correct: she had cheated on me.
While I'd been away on the stag weekend steering well clear of strippers and non-strippers alike, she had gone out for drinks with a guy she'd recently met and she'd kissed him. Then two weekends later (so three weeks into our newly-exclusive relationship) she'd booked a hotel room with him and they'd had sex. And now that she had broken up with me, she thought it would be the right time to tell me.
Ouch-ouch-ouch. Wow, that fire which I decided to play with burned rather more painfully than I'd bargained for. I was upset and very angry with her, but also struggling with the knowledge that in a way I only had myself to blame for rekindling my involvement with someone who had already side-swiped me with dishonesty before.
At first I demanded reasons, explanations, apologies. She did apologise but answered most other things with "I don't know." Over the following few weeks I phoned her several times per week still asking for answers in a misguided attempt to get understanding and closure. She didn't have the answers for me. I came to realise that the way for me to let go of the pain and the anger was to go with my own answers for what I thought had happened. I reasoned to myself that the part of her which feared getting hurt would never trust the rest of her to stop taking the risk of being close to me, so the only way to avoid this terrifying vulnerability was to push me far enough away that I would stay away on my own. The pregnancy hoax had nearly achieved that but after a few weeks I had come back, so it was necessary to push harder.
She was young and relatively inexperienced (as was I.) She'd had a few tough breaks in life. She really just wasn't ready to go down the road which we'd started down. It wasn't that this justified what she did, but I felt that I could at least understand how she had arrived at the point of doing it. And I didn't want to hold onto the anger and pain which I'd felt at first. Once I stopped wanting answers, wanting apologies, wanting anything from her, I could let it go. I could let her go.
I forgave her and wished her well for the future. Our phone contact declined to occasional and then to zero. I moved on with my life. I hope that she did too.