Part IV: Ella, the End
I tried to write this part out last night. I kept going off on tangents about how I felt, what I could have done differently, etc. It was a serious navel-gazing lamefest.
I'm not sure how much I can condense it, though, or how much I can tame my reactions. Plus, this part is recent, so it's still pretty fresh. Like a car accident, it all kind of happened in slow-motion, and bits of me were pretty badly broken.
I sent Ella an email, asking her to come to coffee with me after work so we could talk about things. I sort of went about it poorly--I think it scared her, first because I didn't give her much detail (I didn't want to end up discussing about it over email, where there was no give-and-take, no body language, etc.), and second, because it was outside of our normal once-a-week date schedule. She was on the defensive the minute I walked in the door.
I didn't get much out. I told her that I missed Ben, but didn't define my feelings beyond that. I told her that I wasn't able to support her as much as I wanted to as she came to terms with his relationship with Keri. I told her I just couldn't at that point.
She became very, very angry, and that kinda halted the discussion. Like I said, she was on the defensive already--I think I could have read the phonebook to her and she still would have lost it. I didn't get much else out, though.
We also didn't discuss what to do about it, though I expressed a commitment to working through it. I knew Ella needed a longer "cooling down" period than most people--usually a couple days. So we made our usual weekend date plans, and that was it.
Things changed, but only a little. Ben started having a couple drinks with us, and Ella didn't shoo him away as quickly. I felt more comfortable at their house, but in a way it made it worse, because I realized how much I loved being around both of them together. They're both philosophy nerds, and they think themselves in circles, and I'm more practical. It was fun to watch them spiral into esoteric clouds of reasoning, and then playfully throw them off balance with an unexpectedly down-to-earth question or comment.
I had a mad couple crush.
Ella stopped asking for support in the Ben and Keri thing, but she didn't stop talking about it (Ben never discussed it around me at all). She was making a sincere effort to come to terms with it--really trying to see understand what they saw in each other, and why Ben was interested in both of them. She wasn't having an easy time, but she was trying.
Maybe I got selfish. I couldn't understand why she was putting out the effort to be okay with Keri, but had never done the same for me--not when Ben and I were first attracted to each other two and a half years before, and not now. I started to think that maybe she respected Keri more, or related to her more (Keri also has a lot of male partners, though they tend to be less frequent, and more selective). Again, I thought, there was something wrong with me.
So I thought it would be a good idea to just ask Ella why things had played out that way. I drafted a very careful, non-accusatory email.
She responded well, and with equal care. She explained that, the way she understood it, Ben's feelings for Keri were more "friends with benefits"--they had a lot in common, and they wanted to hook up. Also, Ben had been very honest about his feelings for Keri the entire time. With me, he had apparently been squirrelly about it early on, not directly answering Ella's questions about whether he liked me or not, and had only become more avoidant since Ella and I got involved. Ella said she was afraid he had deeper feelings for me, some kind of "passion," and that he might see her as "vanilla." She explained that, in part because she wasn't attracted to Keri, she didn't feel like Keri was the type that someone would lose themselves over.
I was flattered, of course, and for a while that made me feel better.
Then I got it into my head that the problem was that I fell for people too easily, or that I hadn't had enough casual partners. If I was more emotionally detached, or if I had had many no-strings-attached sexual relationships (I've had exactly none, for the record), Ella might have been more okay with the situation. So there was a problem with me--I was too emotional, too invested, too naive. I hated myself even more for being the type that gets passed over--if I'd been more attractive, if I'd taken better care of myself, if I hadn't been such a fat, ugly loser for most of my life, this wouldn't have happened. I felt like Ella and Keri were doing things the right way, and I--with years of monogamy and lousy self-image--was just a complete failure.
Okay. Writing this out is much more painful than I thought it would be. I'm going to break here and finish tomorrow, once I've had a chance to wallow, eat too much chocolate, and bounce back.