It has finally occurred to some of my best friends that I am dating.

The main question, as voiced by JerkFace, is “Are you just going out with them for something to do or do you actually have an interest in either one?” He’s referring to N, who I am accompanying to a thing this weekend, and to CD, who I went out with on Saturday afternoon and am seeing again tomorrow for a post-workout dinner. He is insisting upon picking me up from the workout itself, perhaps remembering that my “ex” BFD and I do it together. I offered to meet him somewhere, but he was very insistent, so fine. BFD is off at a competition and I gave myself a cushion to change and organize . . . and allow my classmates to leave.

So, why am I going out with other people? What I told JF is “I hate saying this to you because i know you will use it to torment me when I am feeling exceptionally weak and vulnerable but . . . dating [LP] helped me be a better more open person inside a relationship and affected how I treat people and what I want // so i don’t see any harm in going out on a few dates with other people. At worst, as with [N], i can develop a nice friendship.”

The truth is that I learned so much from my brief relationship with LP about who I am and what I want from a relationship. It significantly impacted me in ways I am still only beginning to understand. He reshaped parts of my heart. I treat BFD better and understand so much more about how I should treat him and what he needs and I am so much more willing to go there with him, to own parts of him and his life, to assert myself dominantly, which is what he always wanted and what he had always told me. When BFD had his issue and I rescued him, I treated him more lovingly than I had ever treated him before, though I had slept in LP’s arms just 3 days earlier. Actually, because I had slept in LP’s arms, I treated him more lovingly. I loved him more — as an action (rather than as a feeling) — than ever before.

On “that day,” I remember rubbing my hand along the base of his neck as he drove as a way of comforting him — and me, as I told him. I’d never done that for him before, but I did that every time I’ve been with LP because he always melted into my hand, relaxing from whatever tension with which he’d been dealing before I’d seen him. So, with BFD, I did the same thing and he understood I was being loving towards him.

In addition to being more physically affectionate (including hugging him whenever I feel like it), I am more open and honest and vulnerable with him. Again, all things I explored with LP and, despite the fights, I loved the reactions I received when I had no fear of rejection or shame. If BFD rejects me, which he does, that’s okay because I am being true to who I am. (Before, for large swaths of our relationship, I really failed to engage with him, reacting only to his overtures.) By being more open with BFD, I am challenging him to reject me, and more often than not, it’s okay. It’s meant that he’s become more open to say things to me he would have normally put into text. (He has always been more comfortable shooting me graphic emails than saying the same things to me on the phone or in person.)

I am convinced with each day that passes that LP and I have no future together. It’s still hard and painful, but he’s just not capable of being who I would need him to be. The thought of him makes me smile. I have a deep, visceral reaction to him that has zero connection to the length of our actual connection. He is a huge part of how I think about myself and how I express myself, in part because he is just a different part of myself. Knowing him, I know myself better.

So, I cannot be with LP, but I am okay with that. I am taking the lessons I learned from him and applying them to every other relationship in my life. I opened up to him and found him opened up to me. It’s beautiful to have that happen, especially at our ages. It has made me a better girlfriend to BFD.

Some day, I will thank him because I am more me because of him. More willing to take risks, to be open and vulnerable, I think of myself through his eyes and I feel more beautiful in every way. I am less willing to settle for less than I deserve because when I reached out, I found him there, reaching back. Taking a risk, overcoming my fear was rewarded more than I could have imagined. Now, I know I want to live inside that feeling, even if it’s not with him.

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