While I'd obviously like validation and backing and cries that of course I'm thinking clearly and in the right, what I need here is a more objective opinion. All I've had so far is the thoughts of people who are personally involved, or else are biased by their relationships to people who are involved. Help in the form of friendly advice and unbiased takes on the situation would be much appreciated.
So, without further ado, looooong rambling and questions below the cut.
So let's start with a protagonist: there's me. When it comes to sex, relationships and people... I'm a bit screwed up. My parents moved into my deceased grandfather's house in 1983, and a paedophile lived next door. By 1988, my sister was too old for him, and he moved on to three year old me. As you can imagine (without imagining any specifics), this had quite an effect on my brain. I view this as regrettable: my brain was still malleable and forming, and it had some really dodgy notions put into it and reinforced for several years. Net result is I can't deal with physical intimacy at all. Unless I'm drunk - I can pretend, when I'm drunk, and stave off the mental meltdown until I can get myself somewhere else and fall apart a few hours later.
I've tried. Got my virginity out of the way at seventeen to a bloke who was persistently interested over the course of an evening, and I emphasise persistently because if he hadn't persisted I couldn't have gone there myself. Alcohol and drugs were involved, but overall I was just glad to prove to myself I could do it. Remember this occasion, because the bloke involved will reappear later in this tale.
I had a few more attempts over the next seven years, bringing me up to now: my count is eight men, all involving alcohol, none really what I wanted to do, all events that I try not to consider too closely because, when I do, I can see that the way I interacted with these men was informed in large part by the methods of interacting-sexually-with-men I learnt as a toddler. I don't know what to do with this realisation, or how to act or react differently. So I think here's my first question (and I know it may be better suited to a more specific community) - I don't know how to deal with the programming about sex that my brain got when I was abused. My sister, in similar circumstances, dealt by sleeping with a lot of people; this worked for her, but it's clearly not a method that's going to work for me. How have other people dealt? Any advice? Methods? Words of wisdom?
On with the tale. Because of my upbringing (in part, at least; I think my natural misanthropy plays a role too (though can it be called natural without any natural non-interfered-with alternative to compare against?)), I have a lot of trouble when it comes to interpersonal relationships. I can't trust people's motives, and I expect people to be trying in some ill-defined way to hurt me. I figure this is a pretty natural response, though I'm at a loss as to how to overcome it and become more trusting (again: help? Advice?). Anyroad, I've had a fair few (let's count: six, before the events that cause me to type now) fallings out with people I'm supposed to be good friends with, at least partially caused by my lack of ability to cope with the motives, the intentions, the intentional stance of other people. I take partial responsibility for all but two (and those two involved reading my locked livejournal, publicising its contents, and bitching about my mental state behind my back); I'm not averse to looking at myself and seeing my failings in how I deal with people and accepting blame. What's getting me at the moment is the seventh falling out.
Remember the bloke I mentioned earlier, that I lost my virginity to? Sleeping with him meant something to me. Not because of who he was; he was just some bloke. That sounds kind of horrible towards him, I know. He was a nice enough bloke, and we're still friends now, seven years on, but there was never any special spark, it was just a thing that happened. But it was still a thing that meant something to me, because I'd finally done it. I'd finally had sex. I'd finally proved to myself that I could do it, that I was just as worthy of this thing that everyone seemed to do and use to validate themselves as anyone else. I'd spent so long resigned to the fact that I'd never be able to do that, not only because I couldn't, but also because no one else could possibly want to with someone like me, that to actually do it, and have it be normal, moderately enjoyable, nothing amazing, nothing too screwed up, just a thing that happened with some guy who I'm still on good terms with, that meant something.
Here's where it starts to get screwy. A couple of weeks later I was out with a mate, let's call her Bob, and we bumped into this bloke. I was happy to see him, even though I knew there was nothing between him and me. My mate Bob, however, insisted there was something between us, and, in an attempt to get us together, dragged this guy out drinking with us and proceeded to flirt with him all evening. When I left that evening, I asked the bloke if, as a personal favour, he could maybe not sleep with her. He stuck to it, that night, and honoured the request briefly, and they didn't end up in bed until a couple of days later. They were together six tumultuous years, and had a child together.
We went over it so many times, over so many bottles and so many pills, we spent months talking it over and shouting about it and working through it. She knows how it hurt me, and she knows why it hurt me. She knows that it was the first time I'd ever been aware of sexual interest in me that wasn't all fucked up and screwy, and the first time I'd ever been able to reciprocate and be involved in such interest. It was the first time I did anything sexual that I agreed to. (I won't say wanted to, because I'm not sure and it's complicated and ultimately, I think whether or not we had sex was a decision that had to be made for me based on my actions because I was incapable of actively making the decision myself, but whether I overtly wanted to or not I was happy to, and I agreed to.) I was allowed to consent. I was finally granted that right. (I view it as no coincidence that it was a matter of weeks after this event that I finally managed to get together the courage to inform the police about the childhood abuse.) Firsts are kind of important anyway, I think, and this was especially important because I'd already had so many sexual firsts that I didn't choose or agree to, that being given the choice meant a lot.
And then it was taken from me. The interest that had been shown, the liking, the desire to extend me the privilege of choice, was taken away, because my friend Bob simply existed in front of this man. She didn't even do anything, she simply was, and so he wanted her. She didn't have to earn any liking, she didn't have to worry about any of it, it was handed to her on a plate and it didn't even mean anything to her, etc etc etc, I could go on in this vein but you get my point. It was a big deal to me, and then suddenly it was all about her. It hurt, that something that meant so much to me could so quickly be rescinded and converted into something that was all about my friend instead. There was jealousy, there were stupid and screwed up thought patterns. It was horrible.
It hurt like hell at the time. She's the only person who isn't my brother that I've ever struck in anger, and I'm not proud of it, but we got past it. We got over it, we never let it come between us, we both thank whatever's worthy of thanks for the son she got out of the whole thing. We moved on. We proved ourselves and our friendship better, stronger. We would not lose one another over a man.
In the preceding years, and in the intervening years between then and now, this friend of mine that I'm calling Bob was single on various occasions. And whenever she was single, it always seemed to be the case that, when introduced to a man that one of her friends liked, that man would end up liking her. We all of us, all her female friends, all bitched about this, but accepted it as simply the way things were. However, on many occasions she'd also end up sleeping with the men her friends liked. Accidentally, or drunkenly, or she didn't know what she was thinking ly - there were many reasons. It happened a lot. We all accepted it; men liked Bob, whether Bob wanted them to or not, and Bob would end up sleeping with them for whatever reason.
If anyone's still reading this now, I can guess what you're thinking: why did you maintain a friendship with someone who'd go out of her way to sleep with people her mates were after? It's a shitty thing to do, and we should none of us have to put up with it. But she was a mate, and you stick by your mates, because men may come and go but your mates are your allies to the end. She was with the father of her son for a few years, and when that ended there were only a couple of months of sleeping with anyone that showed an interest before she ended up in a long term relationship with someone else. Let's call him Sob, because it rhymes, and because it'll become appropriate. Bob and Sob were together a while, they were on and off, he wanted to marry her and have babies, she kept dumping him to sleep with people she'd had a thing for ten years ago, etc etc, but they seemed pretty solid and he kept her grounded. They worked.
So now we get to now, and what's bothering me. There's a bloke that I like. As mentioned, I'm screwed up when it comes to liking. Don't know how to deal with it. It's the know he's not interested anyway, happily indulge in fantasy, would run a mile from attempts at an actual sexual relationship, but still feel a connection and value him highly sort of liking.
Naturally, I talk to Bob about this liking.
You can see where this is going, can't you? I'll spell it out in full, because the details don't necessarily vindicate me, and because I'm after objective opinions here.
We went for a drink, my friend Bob and I, and this chap I like (we'll call him Rob, because we're in a rhyme scheme now and it's hard to break) was out. They got on awfully well. Flirtatiously well. So well that if it hadn't been for me happening to be there I suspect clothes wouldn't have stayed on any longer than it takes to rip them off with one's teeth. At last orders, she linked arms with him and invited us back to his for a cuppa, insisted on me going with, and the flirting continued.
I can excuse it. She's a natural flirt, and she was drunk, and we are better, stronger, than that; we do not let men come between us and we do not fall out over men. Next time I saw her sober, she was most insistent about The Rule. The Rule is a rule of her own invention, based on her past dealings with men her friends like, and this was the first I'd heard of it. The Rule meant that Bob had been avoiding my local pub for weeks because she didn't want to meet Rob, because if she met him, she thought, he would like her and I would view this as a her-or-me situation and blame her. Six days ago she had a massive attack of paranoia and demanded assurance that I didn't blame her or fault her for the way that all men appear to be magnetically attracted to her. This assurance I happily gave. She then followed it up with declarations of how Rob may be attractive but Sob's the only man for her, the only man she wants, the man she'll always be with.
Thursday she invites me out for a drink. Rob's out, as he always is. Bob's all over him. After a couple of pints we part ways and go to our homes. Bob then comes over to mine, and we drink a bottle of wine, and she has her paranoid thing as mentioned, and we sort things out and establish that I trust her and I'm not using her as a pawn in my twisted masochistic games, then I say "so shall we go back to the pub? I'd like to see Rob" and she's all for it - surprisingly, because after that paranoia attack I'd've expected her to avoid him like the plague. Once there, she's all over him. At last orders, she links arms with him and invites him back to mine for a cuppa, and proceeds to be all over him some more.
At this point I've a slight tangent, because I've another question. When she was all over him, I reacted badly. I was volatile, I was aggressive. I said things to him that he didn't want to hear, that he didn't need to hear, because I was angry and upset and vodka'd to the eyeballs, and I mistakenly took it out on him even though he wasn't the person who'd angered me. It's only now, a few days later, that I've got my period and realised that, then, I was doing my usual hormonal psycho bitch thing. This anger and shouting and irrationality only manifests around men, never women, and I never realise I'm doing it until after the brain chemical weirdness has passed. So one question is: does anyone else get that? The total irrationality directed solely at possessors of the Y chromosome? That seems entirely reasonable at the time, but after, when the brain chemicals have calmed down, you can't work out what the hell you were thinking to act that way? And a tangential question b) for anyone of a philosophical turn of mind: does the knowledge that your mood and your mind are so affected by a matter of mere chemistry have any bearing on your views of dualism?
Anyway. Back to the point. So I emailed Rob first thing the next morning, to apologise for going off on one at him. He's a reasonable bloke, and we sorted stuff out pretty quickly. Apologies from me, acceptance and requests of no further grief from him. No harm done. I also texted Bob. This was less amicable, because she fairly rapidly descended into pointing out my perceived failings, accusing me of not valuing my friends, accusing me of using people, of using her, of setting my friends up to fail. Apparently I should have noticed something from these many fallings out that were all apparently my fault, and she doesn't understand how I can live with my (rational, scientific) worldview, and I need to take a long hard look at myself and realise what an objectionable person I am, and this has been brewing for ages, and we need some time apart.
My reaction, needless to say, can be best summed up as wtf?
I'd call this just coincidence and odd timing (and, naturally, being needlessly horrible, especially when I was hungover and already upset about how I'd behaved and had told her I was crying and couldn't deal), but last night Bob dumped Sob. Two nights ago, when I was talking to Rob online and he kept jumping on and offline like a yoyo, I asked him if he was having connection troubles. He asked if that was a euphemism for relationships. My mind immediately jumped to the argument with Bob, in which she'd claimed that one cannot help the connections one makes, all of which must be pandered to because they're the will of the (sentient, presumably) universe. (Unless, presumably, they're connections other people are making without her being involved. Then they should be quashed at all costs lest they get in her way. Ahem. Excuse me. Slightly bitter at the hypocrisy. I'm paranoid that they've been talking about their special sparkly connection and how wonderful it is and how I'm getting in the way of it.) The word, being used in the same way, and so defensively... it jumped out at me. Next question: do I have serious paranoia issues?
Saw Rob tonight, all good and normal and talkative. Only weirdness was when we'd returned to our respective homes, and were talking online, and he started asking about my falling out with Bob. So far as I can work out he was either asking for blessing to pursue her, or else suggesting that I've no right to be angry at anyone if he pursues her. I'm not sure which.
So we get to the crux of my questioning at last. First: I don't hold Rob to be hugely at fault. He's a free agent at liberty to pursue whom he wishes; he considers me a friend of sorts and so could be expected to show some consideration, but this perhaps only extends so far as not rubbing my face in it. Agreed? Disagreed? Only I don't know if I'm laying too much blame and anger on Bob here, and less than is warranted on Rob, because my brain's still a bit screwed about Rob. Thoughts?
Second: Bob. Way I see it, it looks awfully like she's just dumped a decent bloke and destroyed a ten year friendship to facilitate her pursuing a whim, but I'm fairly sure I'm being paranoid and not giving her enough credit. I'm absolutely sure, however, that if she does end up bedding Rob then I'll never forgive her. Because this won't be the first time, and because she'll be doing something she knows will deeply hurt me and mess with my mind and screw up my perception of people and relationships even more than it already is. And this is my biggest question, because Rob's been asking me tonight about the whole thing, and making me feel as though I'm on trial for feeling betrayed by Bob. So I ask you all now, any of you who've read this massive post right through: am I justified in being angry at Bob? Am I justified in not being angry at Rob? Am I right to feel betrayed if she pursues a relationship with him, or ought I step back and allow them to explore this connection they apparently feel no matter how much it hurts me, and no matter how much they know it hurts me? Should I say to hell with the pair of them, or is it me and my blinkered ideas that are at fault here? I cannot see this clearly, and I've no friends to ask who can see it objectively either. I need guidance in how to parse all of this.
tl;dr version: he's at liberty to do what he wants, but if she chooses to pursue him then she chooses to hurt me. Or so I'm currently seeing it. What to think?
(If nothing else, at least I feel calmer for having written all this down.)