Pat is well educated, intelligent and interesting. He listens well, paying close attention, never distracted by the game on the TV over the bar. He asks all the right questions showing that he has been listening and paying attention all along, not just today but the last time you talked, even if it was months ago. He is just the right level of vulnerable, talking about struggles and fears and dreams and life. He laughs when he should laugh, invites you in, makes you coffee, introduces you to his friends, smiles when he sees you and happily picks up the tab.
Pat has an alternate personality, though. One that is non-committal, hates being alone, and doesn’t follow through.
Over the past few years I have seen the shoddy end of this spectrum more times than I should have, always forgetting or forgiving after a quick days rant and setting myself up for another round on the roller coaster.
I’d find out he was in town, but didn’t call like he said he would. I would still take his call next time.
We would make plans to meet up, I would be the only one that showed, and I wouldn’t even call him an ass to his face next time we saw each other.
We would talk about the fun we would have on some great adventure, and he would cancel last minute, leaving me hanging with barely a sorry in a text message. I would still make plans with him for next time…
Pat is the only man that has ever made me feel stupid.
I don’t necessarily believe it is intentional on his part (naïveté on my part?), but it happens just often enough to make me doubt my own sanity and his.
It takes two to fall into this pattern. It takes his phone call as well as me answering it. It takes his plans as well as my plan to meet him. The pattern started early and hasn’t changed in four years. I was strung inside and the chords are easily played.
Pat and I spent a lot of time together when we first met four years ago. His long-distance relationship and my refusal to date anyone made it easy for us to be friends. We went to movies, had drinks, meet up in the early morning for hikes and coffee. We ranted about our working environment, and at one point even went on a weekend trip with his friends.
From the outside it actually looked more like a relationship than a friendship. At one point I even had a woman predict that he would break up with his girlfriend for me . . .
Pat is still with his girlfriend and I am still filling in space for when she is gone.
Pat represents men that a lot of woman have milling around. I easily see how a woman can forgive, forget, be tangled inside and allow herself to be a manipulated little puppet. Just like a bad addiction, my friends and family don’t approve of my friendship with Pat. They don’t even like him.
And, yet, my pattern isn’t broken. Even as I write this I know if I received a call or text right now I would respond. I would make plans. I would show up. I would sit and laugh and listen just like I had never been disappointed or hurt or stood up and it has been only 24 hours since the last time he cancelled on me.
What gives some men the ability to draw us in, despite repeated maltreatment? Why do some patterns fold and loop on each other positioning us to repeat a story that ends poorly? Pat is my bad pattern – a pattern of forgetfulness, forgiveness, disappointment and refusing to learn anything from the scenario.
He has somehow shown me what I like in a man and what would drive me batty; what it feels like to be taken care of and forever let-down; what steadiness and a loneliness look like intertwined. He is at once promising and painful.