Love doesn’t always happen when or how we’d like it to be — including when it comes to Tiger and Lea, whose 11-year flirtation has tugged them back and forth between divorces, difficult marriages and less-than-perfect timing.
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Flirtatious friendship. Tiger and I met at our mutual place of work shortly after I returned from giving birth to my only child. It didn’t make sense to me then, but I realize now that his interest in me was quite evident by his frequent visits to my work area each day to chat. I thought nothing of it since we were both married, hence, the easy breeze to our friendly conversations.
I’ll never forget the early instance when he sat on my desk and I thought to myself, “Who does this guy think he is – acting so casually as to actually sit on my desk. The nerve of him!” In that same instance, I remember looking into his eyes and thinking “But there’s something about this guy and I don’t know what it is.” Eventually, I found myself having reasons to visit his work area from time to time and on many occasions, I found him waiting for me at my car after work. Despite my confusion concerning his actions, I still took walks during lunch with him. They were welcomed afternoon breaks during the days of beautiful weather. We carried on that way for almost three years.
Courting. Tiger and I learned much about each other during our work-day friendship. He shared some very traumatic experiences he’d endured and I shared much about my unhappy marriage. We also found common interests and laughed a lot. During one of my visits to his workplace, I matter-of-factly mentioned that I had separated from my husband. At that time, he revealed that he had separated from his wife two weeks prior. I think that was the moment the door of possibilities opened.
For a few months, nothing really changed until I sent an instant message to him revealing a dream I had with him in it. From that time, we chatted throughout the day via instant message on the computer. We were becoming closer friends helping each other manage the heartache and disappointment of failed relationships. Neither of us was yet divorced, but in his mind, his marriage was already over (and unbeknownst to me, he was in pursuit of me).
However, I was still thinking reconciliation was possible for mine.
He started calling me in the morning on his way to work and in the evening on his way home from work – almost every day! I was happy to have someone to talk to. He became my emotional crutch, letting me vent and complain on any occasion. Eventually, we started seeing each other on the weekends for meals, movies, and just hanging out. During that time, I never questioned his intentions. He was just a good friend that I enjoyed sharing time and space with.
That was, until my feelings started to run more deeply for him.
Guilt began to set in since I was still married, so I initiated a hiatus in our regular communications with the noble statement, “I really want to explore a deeper relationship with you, but I can’t until I’m divorced. After that, I’ll be ready and willing to go to the next level with you.”
I could tell he was hurt, but he showed no emotion and simply agreed to cease and desist contact with one another. I was a bit hurt by his seemingly uncaring reaction.
For approximately the next 2.5 years, we were in a limbo status between no contact, sporadic texting, brief phone calls, occasional email, and spontaneous weekend romps. It seemed we could never go more than about a month and a half before one of us would make contact – even after he changed jobs and we were no longer working in the same building.
Finally, I filed for divorce and two weeks after it was official, I told him I was ready to take our relationship to the next level. That’s when he revealed that he was not ready yet and was getting back together with his wife for one last chance to see if it could work. I was devastated; so much so that I sought sanctuary in writing a poem to him about letting him go. To this day, I don’t know if he still has it nor can I believe I actually cried about it. Anyway, I valued our friendship so I agreed to stay in contact while he worked on his marriage.
Loosely dating. That was roughly four years ago when my declaration to end our so-called hiatus failed in its attempt to usher in bliss with my Tiger. Since then, we’ve been on separate, but parallel roller coasters catching glimpses of each other at the peaks and valleys through the grey mist called friends with benefits/lovers. He’s been adamant about not admitting how he truly feels about me stating, “We’re not on that level yet, so what’s the point of saying it?” For that reason, I’ve learned to keep my emotions in check (although he does appease my heart from time to time when he knows it’s hurting). I’ve also had a very serious internal conflict regarding whether he’s stringing me along or seriously and patiently planning and waiting for the opportune time to end things with his wife so we can finally start our journey on the same coaster.
My internal conflict led me to reading more about Chinese culture and men. It was easy since I’ve always had a keen interest in Eastern Asian culture. Tiger’s interest in me took me completely by surprise since I’ve never been attracted to Asian men, nor did I think they were attracted to me. However, I’ve since learned that they are very discreet, which explains why I never noticed if any were attracted to me. Now, I can easily tell and, to my delight, I’ve discovered that I indeed turn some Asian heads – but I digress.
Two years ago, Tiger fathered another child with his wife. He insisted he was drunk and she took advantage of his altered state. He also continues to declare abstinence from sex since that fateful night of conception. I have reason to believe what he says may be true. Even so, I still can’t seem to let him go. I know he thought for sure he’d hear me say, “Oh, you have a kid now? Okay, have a nice a life”, but I didn’t. Again, I valued our friendship more than my desire to have him for myself. By American culture standards, he’d be deemed a liar and a cheat because he’s still “there” and, to add insult to injury, he had a child too. But, I believe him to be honorable and loyal.
He continues to show his feelings with subtlety. For instance, he planned and paid for a weekend getaway for us on my birthday this year. Of course, he was nonchalant about it so as not to seemingly make a big deal of my birthday, but he made it a point to let me know beforehand that our status had upgraded to “loosely dating”. According to him, it was for my benefit of course, since I’ve always said he’s not mine yet. I was overwhelmed and I wanted to believe it was his way of letting me know how much he cared.
Three months later, I’m still adjusting to our new status because in my heart, nothing’s really changed. I can’t help but wonder if his declaration of this new status is a milestone more for him than for me. He’s a man of few words when it comes to matters of the heart; and as a Westerner who enjoys free expression at will, and considering the circumstances around our relationship over the years, it’s been a challenge for me.
What now? Well, our daily calls/texts/weekend romps continue. In fact, just this past weekend Tiger warmed my heart once again by accompanying me to an outdoor festival despite his obvious fatigue. He also acknowledged and validated my efforts to refrain from pressuring him and to provide sanctuary for him. Again, to the typical American, I probably sound like a fool for accepting such circumstances. But in my Tiger’s case, I hope I’m not wrong so I continue to pray that I’m not wasting time. After all, it’s been eleven years already. My daughter will be on her own in a mere seven years, and we’re not getting any younger. I’m not sure how much longer I can go on this way wondering if he is saving his heart for me. Only time will tell – if I allow it, I suppose.
To be continued…hopefully with a happy ending.
Lea is a biracial American woman who is still waiting for her Tiger to love her fully.