Based on where we left off, things seem great. Jon and I had The Talk: We’re falling in love. We want to live together. Lora is excited for us. She wants to spend more time with me so she and I can get to know each other better. Jon is thrilled to have two awesome people in his life.
So how did Lora and Jon nearly break up only two months later and then get right back to that bad place again two months after that?
Insecurity. Insecurity that lead to a desire to control, in order to make these relationship changes feel safer.
I will be the first to admit that I must have some biases, given my part in these relationships. I heard much of this information second-hand. I will specify what I heard first hand, and what I heard from Jon. I will also do my best to stick to the overall facts, and relay my feelings about how the situation progressed, as well as what I knew (first hand) of Jon’s feelings and (mostly second hand) of Lora’s feelings.
On the surface, things were good. I emailed Lora semi-regularly. We share a number of interests, so if I saw something I thought she’d be interested in, I emailed it to her. We became facebook friends. We exchanged some personal emails, and I invited her out for drinks, or a movie, or even if she just wanted to hang out together with each of us doing a separate activity – me playing computer games and her reading. We talked a bit about her social anxieties and her fears about me not liking her. I let her know that I had the same fears, but from what Jon said about her, and from what she’d said about herself, it sounded like we had a lot in common beyond Jon, and I looked forward to learning about her and spending time with her. Despite the positive emails, all communications ended every time I suggested hanging out. We got into a pattern. One of us (usually me, but sometimes her) would email the other a link to a photo or interesting article or cool website. We’d email back and forth about what we’d been up to, funny/interesting things that had happened lately, and how our cats were doing (many, many cat photos were exchanged). But whenever I suggested getting together, the emails stopped. When the next exchange started, it followed the same pattern.
I mentioned this to Jon, and he said that Lora just felt shy, and to give it time. So I kept emailing and hoping to meet up. Meanwhile, there seemed to be some uncomfortable developments happening between Jon and Lora which were taking up more of his attention.
It started innocuously enough (I think a lot of experienced poly folks are going to start nodding along shortly). When Jon and I were together, calls and texts that came from Lora got very frequent. They followed a bit of a pattern. Lora would call to ask about something. Jon would answer. Lora would ask what he was up to (Lora has a loud voice, so if I was sitting next to Jon, I could hear the conversation pretty clearly). Jon would say “spending time with Liz”. Lora would ask “Well, what are you doing”. Jon would say “We’re just hanging out”. Lora would persist “Doing what?”. Jon would say “Sitting on the couch, relaxing. I need to get back to her. I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a good night”
At this point, Lora would often say something like “Oh, really? That’s what you have to say to me? ‘Good night’? Really? You don’t have anything else to say to me?”. Jon would get up, and continue the conversation in another room. I wouldn’t hear much of what was being said (I usually pulled out a book and started reading, or put music on at this point, to try to give them added privacy), but I would hear Jon’s voice raising.
Ten or twenty minutes later, Jon would come back and apologize. Lora had a bad day. She was feeling lonely, and it got the better of her.
Then Jon’s phone would ring again.
If Jon didn’t answer his phone, Lora would call…I think the most times I counted was eleven. Eleven calls in a row, and when Jon picked up, she went straight into screaming at him that she knew that he was trying to replace her with me, and it wasn’t fair. I assume what followed next was a lot of Jon reassuring Lora that this wasn’t the case, but I’m not 100% sure, as Jon left the room to continue the conversation.
I know there was some yelling. I know there was a lot of anger and frustration and fear on all sides. I know that I didn’t have plans to replace Lora and I believed Jon when he said he didn’t have plans to replace Lora. I know that being privy at all to their fights (not to mention having the evenings that I spent with Jon broken up three, four, six, eight times for him and Lora to fight) started to make it hard to keep with that “email and be friendly to Lora and get to know her better” thing, though I did keep trying for another month.
I know that two months later, Jon broke down in tears while he and I were having lunch. He’d spent the night before at my place. He’d told Lora that he’d be back in the afternoon to spend most of the day with her. He and I got up around ten and decided to grab a bite to eat before he headed back to be with Lora. At around five after twelve, Lora called Jon screaming, because it was after noon, and Jon said he’d be back in the afternoon, so the fact that it was five after noon and Jon wasn’t there yet meant that he had lied to her, that he had had no intention of spending the afternoon with her, and that she knew that he was just stringing her along while planning on replacing her with me, and she was sick of it. Sick. Of. It.
This is when Jon tearfully told me that he just couldn’t do this anymore. He felt terrible, because he loved Lora, but he couldn’t handle the screaming, the accusing, the constant fighting anymore. He was done.
So he went home, and he told her that he was done, and why.
I’m not entirely sure what happened during that time. I do know that Jon requested to spend a week staying with Lora (and not seeing me/spending the night with me), for them to have some serious talks about their relationship, and his relationship with me, and to work out some new boundaries. While I felt like this could possible be a red flag (specifically one called “if this is a thing that happens more than every great once-in-a-while, this is a sign that this isn’t a good situation), I thought it could also be a reasonable request, given that it sounded like Jon & Lora’s relationship needed a lot of work. And I realized that I needed a week to think about things too. This is when the first small, worried niggles that I voiced in February about Lora being abusive towards Jon started to make themselves known. Although I had overheard (with my own ears) Lora saying shitty, manipulative things to Jon, I was hesitant to label them as “abuse” – especially since Lora and I were supposed to be working on getting to know each other better, and were hoping to like each other (at the least, I know I was hoping to like her, and liking a person who regularly screamed at someone I loved dearly sounded…unhealthy, not to mention extremely difficult!). In the end, though I didn’t ignore or forget those concerns, I made the decision to wait and see how things went, and if there were improvements and positive changes after Lora and Jon took a week to talk things out between the two of them.
And as it turned out, yes, I can say that some positive things came out of that time. Jon made it clear to Lora that phone calls from her while he was spending time with me needed to be about things that were truly emergencies or really couldn’t wait until he checked his phone for texts (So a call because the kitchen sink knob broke off and water was gushing out of the sink and Lora couldn’t find the super’s phone number would warrant a call, but wanting to know if Jon needed laundry done would not warrant a call). He let her know that he would check his texts semi-regularly, but that if he didn’t respond for a few hours, that was not grounds to call panicked or demand a response – a movie or just a regular evening of hanging out together could mean there were gaps of several hours while he and I spent time together (not to mention sex, which we’re presumably having, dating for months & all) – exactly the same as how there were when he and Lora spent time together. He also promised to call her and say good night to her every night.
I’d like to say that whatever they worked out over that week fixed everything, but it didn’t. It did absolutely improve it. There did continue to be some times when Lora tried to call with emergencies that Jon sternly told her weren’t emergencies (for instance, the lightbulb burning out in the bathroom wasn’t an emergency, if Lora could use the bathroom with the bathroom door open. Jon wasn’t going to come home to fix it, and the super wouldn’t come at ten at night to fix it either). There did continue to be some over-the-phone fights, but they were far less frequent.
Between Lora and I, this subject was never broached. I continued to email her things I thought she’d like, and invites to spend some time together, but as Thanksgiving got closer, she responded less and less. As one of the most stressful times of the year was coming up, I decided to give it a rest for a while. I was feeling really disheartened by the lack of response, and my work was also getting busier, so I was cutting down on a lot of personal communication, as I didn’t have the time for it.
Going into Thanksgiving and Christmas, Lora and I were theoretically trying to get to know each other, Lora was theoretically more confident that my relationship with Jon was not meant to replace her relationship with Jon, and Jon was theoretically happy that things had gotten smoother.
Is “theoretically” just a fancy word for delusionally? Maaaaaaaybe. What do you think? The answer is in part three – where it all comes to a head.