Okay, finishing this off already, now that I'm feeling less misanthropic...
After the failed trip and awkward talk, Ella pretty much withdrew. We stopped having sex. She had never been open with affection, but what little there had been evaporated. I started wondering again why she was seeing me--if it had just become habit.
In the meanwhile, she was still making efforts to come to terms with Ben and Keri. She and Keri frequently exchanged witty banter on FB (the source of all relationship evil), and inevitably these popped up on my FB news feed.
I was worried about my relationship with Ella, and I was still attracted to Ben, and I was very, very aware that Ella would never come to terms with a triad relationship. But I started to worry--what if she and Ben and Keri and Jason ended up in a happy little quad? Where would I fit in? The answer seemed obvious: I wouldn't.
Ella and I had made plans for a Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, Vino and I went out. I emailed texted Ella that morning about when we were leaving, so I could plan my day. She texted back that she might have to cancel. Her reason: she had a hangover. I was bummed (and a little annoyed), but mostly okay with it. Vino and I had a good time.
Then, when I got home, I logged onto FB, and Ella and Keri had been exchanging comments again. It hit me pretty hard; I felt really excluded.
I sank into a puddle of hopelessness. I really felt like no one liked me, like I was sexually and personally repulsive, and nothing more than an obstacle to everyone else's happiness.
And in that mindset, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to send Ella an email explaining how I felt. Yeah, bad call.
The focus of the email was this: love may not be a zero-sum game, but risk is. There's only so much risk that human mind can handle. If it feels too threatened, it draws a line. Ella always insisted love wasn't a zero-sum game, but still got intensely jealous when Ben was interested in other women. She's a low-risk person. Ben didn't get openly jealous when Ella went home with other men; he's capable of handling greater risk. I pointed out that, on Ella's side, there was no risk being with me. I was with Vino and her and no one else. On my side, though, the risk was endless--I never knew who she'd be with next. I explained that I was being asked to accept her sexual choices, but she didn't seem capable to accept any parallel risk from me (e.g., my interest in Ben).
My tone was not intended to be accusatory, but I didn't draft it as attentively as I usually would. She took the letter as a personal affront, and told me I needed therapy. She did tell me she would support me as much as she could while I worked on developing some self-esteem, but the gist was that she thought there was something wrong with me.
She also withdrew into her "cooling off" period, but a couple weeks went by, and I didn't hear from her.
The Last Meeting
I talked with Vino about it, and about how I felt. It came down to this: I loved her very much, but I had never understood or accepted why she was so averse to Ben and I being involved--she wasn't even okay with us being friends, without her in the room. This was making me resentful toward her, even while I had strong feelings for her. I was afraid to tell her that directly, because her she had had such a powerful reaction to other conversations.
Vino felt I should tell her this.
So, I formulated what I was going to ask for: to redevelop my friendship with Ben, and, if there was still attraction between us, to pursue it--very slowly, of course. Vino was okay with the plan, provided it went slowly, and he helped me rehearse how to ask Ella for this.
I sent Ella an email asking her out for coffee, to talk. Her response was cold, but she agreed.
I explained everything to her as carefully and delicately as possible. My hands were shaking. But...she stayed calm the whole time. I was thrilled! At the end, she said that was fine, that she didn't know how she'd react later, but she'd do her best to come to terms with it. She also pointed out that she wasn't sure if Ben was still attracted to me--he avoided conversations about me, apparently--and I told her that was fine, that I still wanted to know for sure one way or the other, and I definitely still wanted to be friends with him. In the end, she said that sounded like a fair plan. Incredible, I thought! I didn't screw it up!!
So, I asked her if she and I were going to make plans sometime soon, or if she needed more time.
And she said she didn't think she wanted to see me anymore. She said she needed a couple more weeks to decide for sure.
She explained that she wasn't comfortable seeing someone who didn't approve of her sexual choices. She said I had incredibly low self-esteem, and that I was taking it out on people who care about me. She pointed out that she could find lots of other relationships with people who would have no problem with her sexuality.
I didn't know what to say. I had thought out the worst-case scenarios, of course, but they involved her getting very angry. This was sudden, and she was icy cold about it.
She apologized and left.
Things Fall Apart
I panicked. I cried all over Vino. I emailed Ben--now, that seems like such a random thing to do, but I had helped him years before when he and Ella had gotten in fights. I asked him what I should say, and if there was anything I could do, and if he could help me at all.
Ben emailed me back, and asked me to come to coffee the next day to talk.
We spent three hours talking about me and Ella. It helped. He told me she felt pushed, and that she was pushing back. He said that, if she still wanted to be with me in a couple weeks, that meant her feelings for me were very strong, and I could feel more secure talking to her about stuff.
We didn't talk about him and me. He asked, at one point, what I had said that had upset her, but I told him I wasn't comfortable talking about it. It just felt stupid and irrelevant.
He did give me plenty of context for her feelings, and I felt better having talked to him about it.
I waited two weeks, and still hadn't heard from Ella. A few days later, Ben sent me an email, asking if I wanted to have lunch the next day. I agreed.
I showed up the next day, at noon, as agreed. At 12:15, he still hadn't shown, and I realized I'd forgotten my wallet. I live a couple blocks from the restaurant, so I drove home to get it. I was gone eight minutes. I waited until 12:45, when I texted him to ask what was up. He said he'd shown up and I wasn't there, so he'd left.
I got the sense that he didn't want to have lunch with me, but I was confused--after all, he
had asked me
. So, I asked him, point blank, if he actually wanted to have lunch with me.
He sent back a very roundabout, vague email explaining that maybe it would be better if we didn't see each other in person for a while. He said emails, etc., would be fine, but under the circumstances, we should put a hold on face-to-face interactions.
It was weird, and sudden. He had invited me out, less than 24 hours before.
He also said I had a habit of "creating drama" in relationships. In explaining this, he used a couple phrases that were identical to the email Ella had sent me telling me I needed therapy. It was obvious they had talked about it, and had come to the mutual conclusion that there was something wrong with me.
So, I sent Ella an email asking if she'd decided yet. She responded that she'd been thinking about it, but didn't offer a conclusion. So, I called it off. I told her that I'd like to be friends eventually. Her reply was vague: "the relationship wasn't working" but she "wouldn't be against repairing things later on."
Finally, she told me she was going to try to stay out of things between me and Ben. She said she may not always be successful, but that was trying.
I wanted to believe she was sincere about that, but with things over between me and her, there was really no way anything would work between me and Ben--even an email-only friendship would be awkward.
So that was that. The End
, except that I still think about it far too often, I still miss both of them, and I frequently wonder if there is indeed something very wrong with me.