So in light of the realizations I’d had about Jessica’s behavior, and what she was willing to do to maintain her relationships, I pulled away from her. I didn’t do it the way that I’d normally do it, with a face-to-face honest talk. At this point, I’d experienced a number times when I’d tried to have a serious talk about Jessica’s concerningly coercive or manipulative behavior and she either blew me off, minimized my feelings, took the talk as a sign to talk to me about problems that she had with my behavior (thus shifting the talk away from her and on to me), or acted like I was exaggerating/remembering incorrectly/misreading her. I knew that having an honest, open conversation simply couldn’t happen. I’d walked away from too many conversations with her feeling gas-lighted or tricked to want to try to have another serious, open conversation again.
So I eased off on seeing her. This wasn’t too difficult, as both of us were working a lot and had a lot going on in our lives. George went through some very serious, severe health problems for awhile, that finally culminated in a surgery that fixed the problem. I had (and still have, sigh) my own on-going health issues. And I think that – just as Rachel communicated to me that Jessica had also said she didn’t think she could live with me – Rachel probably also communicated to Jessica that I said the same. I don’t know for sure, but it would make sense.
As far as I could tell, for the past nine months or so, Jessica and I had been transitioning to more of an acquaintanceship, which was fine with me. I had some serious concerns about her behavior towards other people who I cared about (like Rachel and George), but in the end, the most important thing to me was getting her influence out of my life. Other people (like Rachel and George) need to make those decisions for themselves.
As of very recently though, it seems that Jessica isn’t satisfied with an acquaintanceship. I was just breathing a sigh of relief that our relationships wouldn’t go nuclear in any way when she started very deliberately either ignoring me (by which I mean, when I said “hi” to her in a public place, she looked past me as if I didn’t exist, and didn’t acknowledge my presence) or being extremely lovely and physical with Rachel if I was around both of them (much more so than the way she’d previously acted when the three of us together). It really felt like she was putting on a show for me, about how close her and Rachel were, whereas I – no longer part of the home-buying plan, no longer as close to Rachel – wasn’t. Not anymore.
One of the shitty things about this is that during these past nine months with George’s health issues, I pitched in to help Jessica out with some things around her home. She has dogs (and a roommate, and a dog walker) and needed some extra help with the dogs. So I went and walked her dogs for her when I could (they are small and well-behaved, so even with my health issues, I could manage a dog walk around the block) and slept over with them at times too, when she was spending the majority of her time at George’s or at the hospital.
Even though I didn’t care for her much at this point, I felt badly for the pain and stress that she and George were going through. When she reached out to me (as well as Rachel and a few other friends) about helping out, I was willing to, because I wanted to make that time easier for her and George. I didn’t think I expected anything from it.
I have since realized that I did expect that if someone is going to ask me for help when they are going through a stressful time, I do expect them to continue to treat me like a live, visible person, not ignore me when possible or have dramatic physical touchy-feelies with my former partner when both of them are around. It’s just a shitty, immature way to behave.
I will say, that so far, there have only been a couple of these incidences. I could absolutely be misreading them, although my gut says I’m not. That said, they’ve caused me to be a bit more aware of Jessica’s behavior. If this new set of behaviors continues the next few times I see her (either ignoring my existence if Rachel isn’t around, or being excessively touchy-feely with Rachel when she is around both of us), then I’ll call it an actual, concrete pattern.
I’m not sure where we’re going to go from there. Further away from Jessica, that’s for sure. But whether or not we’re going to be causal, civil acquaintances or if she’s going to be nasty to me, I don’t know. When I made a comment about our relationships not going nuclear a few paragraphs up, it was in reference to how I’ve noticed that when Jessica is rejected (no matter how gently), she does not take it well. It was one of the things that pushed me away from her. It seems that ending a relationship with Jessica happens one of two ways. She either decides she doesn’t want to be your friend and depending on the circumstances of that is civil and respectful or snarky and nasty to the person she’s rejecting OR you reject her (however gently) and this puts her on a character assassination binge towards the person who rejected her. I’d hoped – when I heard that she didn’t think we could live together too – that this meant it would be a mutual easing-back of the relationship, which meant we could be civil (maybe even politely friendly) acquaintances. But now it’s looking like I’m mistaken.
It occurred to me, before ending this, that it might sound a bit absurd of me help Jessica after having such a bad opinion of her. I’d like to take a moment to explain that. Jessica is a primary person in Rachel’s life. If only for that reason, I would want to have a civil acquaintanceship with Jessica, as long as Rachel is an important part of my life. I also try to draw a pretty strict line between judging someone directly off of the behavior/works that I directly experience with them, and judging them off of my conjecture. I had enough direct experiences with Jessica, hearing her say manipulative things, and being manipulative towards me that I am absolutely clear that I don’t trust her or want her in my life. However, I can’t say, with 100% certainly that she treats everybody that way, or even that what I consider manipulative some people may consider acceptable behavior.
Society at large still seems to believe that once you are seriously involved with someone, that involvement gives people a lot of “rights” over how they can dictate the behavior of their intimates. There is still a strong belief by many people that relationships are more important than the people in them, and that it is some sign of goodness to have relationships that span lifetimes, even if that relationship was toxic, abusive, or simply made many personal hopes and dreams impossible. The giving up of other hopes, dreams, and life plans for One True Love is still romanticized and considered noble, and a sign of commitment, of being “a good person”. Many people believe in, and will follow, those ways of conducting relationships. I absolutely don’t. But maybe Rachel and George do – at least in their relationships with Jessica (even if with no one else) because that is, as Dan Savage would say “the price of admission” to having a relationship with Jessica.
Much as it irks me, and much as I am concerned that Jessica’s behavior and tactics are toxic, coercive and abusive, I can only make that call for myself. I can’t make it for Rachel or George.
And that’s where I am now with things on Jessica. We’ll see where they go.