CW: romantic feelings, romantic and nonromantic uses of the word “love,” sexual relationships, mental illness, suicidal ideation, mentioned suicide attempt, swearing, guilt, anxiety, minor aphobia
Okay, I’ll try to simplify a really long story.
A girl—we’ll call her A—and I met and became best friends just before we started college together. We started dating that spring semester. I had played with the idea of being aro-spec before, but didn’t really think much of it. I loved her. I have always loved her. I think I always will. But I don’t think that love has ever been romantic.
When we’d been dating for almost 4 months, her mental health crashed. I had known she had mental health issues. I thought I knew that her therapist, other closest friend, and probably family knew about her past mental health struggles, including her past suicide attempt. I was wrong. I was the only person who knew. I found that out three days after she tried to break up with me out of the blue, when I asked her wtf happened and she said she was sorry, but she’d tried to kill herself the morning she tried to break up with me, but couldn’t bring herself to go through with it. That is how I found out I was literally the only support system she had. I was 19, and I was scared. I made sure she was safe (maybe not in the most helpful ways, to be fair, but in my defense I had no idea what I was doing and I was terrified). I told her family. Her family told her therapist. She was safe. She had a support network.
I broke up with her. I hadn’t been happy in the romantic relationship (probably because I’m aro-spec as hell, go figure). I was too scared to be her everything. I just. I couldn’t feel responsible if she hurt herself. That would have destroyed me.
Two weeks later, we decided to be friends. She came out to me as a trans woman. We rebuilt our friendship over makeup and shopping. I loved her. It wasn’t romantic for me.
The friendship we rebuilt is very romance-coded, but it isn’t romantic. We negotiated the hell out of that. I’m never sure if she’s my best friend or my QP partner, but it doesn’t matter. We’re still sexually involved. We hold hands and cuddle. We say “I love you.”
I figured out that I was never romantically in love with A because I fell romantically in love with someone else. This is the first time I’ve ever been romantically in love. We’ll call her M.
My label for myself shifted from quoiromantic to greyromantic. A asked why. I told her about M and my feelings for M. It’s been almost two years since A and broke up. I have never been even slightly alloromantic, but she is, and I didn’t know that it would hurt her so badly. I told her I was sorry for the ways I had hurt her by not knowing myself, but I thought what I’d felt for her had always been platonic love—never romantic. I don’t put types of love in a hierarchy. She does. And she puts romance at the top. But she said it was fine. I thought it was fine.
I fucked up. I fucked up so badly.
I’m currently in a creative non-fiction class, and I decided to write my first essay in part about M. I asked A today if she’d mind reading my draft, because I was worried M’s identity was too explicit. She agreed.
I sent her the wrong file. I sent her the wrong. fucking. file.
The file I accidentally sent her was something I wrote as part of a freewriting exercise for the same class. The prompt was 3 things that stopped you in your tracks. I wrote about something really shitty that my father said to me when I broke up with A. I included context about the breakup.
Here’s some highlights (by highlights, I mean literally 50% of what I wrote):
I. fucked. up.
I never wanted her to read that. I never really wanted anyone to read that. That was. Private. That was freewriting. That was not for A’s eyes ever. Because I never ever want to hurt her like that. I never want her to know how badly she hurt me. I never want her to know the way sometimes I still wake up terrified that I’m in a world where she isn’t anymore. She’s not supposed to know that because I don’t want her to get hurt.
I didn’t know what she meant when she texted me that she didn’t want to be the one to proofread things about herself anymore. I hadn’t written anything really about her that I’d asked her to read through since…before we dated. I was baffled.
I checked the email attachment. I panicked. I apologized way too much. I explained. She said it was fine.
But. She thought that that is what I'd wanted her to read. On purpose. I asked if she really thought I was capable of that kind of cruelty intentionally. She avoided the question. I asked if I’d hurt her that badly before and not known.
She said, “Hearing that you never loved me like I loved you hurt.”
I’m so tired. I’m so tired of hurting people I love because they want something from me that I’m hardly capable at all of feeling. I went on one date with a guy once and the week later he got drunk and said he was in love with me, said he wanted to marry me, and I told him I was aro-spec, I told him what it means, and he begged me not to be aro-spec anymore. And I know that was wrong of him. I don’t know if A is in the wrong here or if I am. I think maybe we both are. She gets to have her emotions. But it sucks so much that I hurt people just by not having those same emotions, because my equally important, loving, fond emotions mean less to everyone than capital-L Love would. It is not fair to be insulted by something I cannot control. It is not fair to blame me for that. And yes, I expressed it badly. And of course she was hurt when I sent her something she should never have seen.
But I feel like I hurt her by just being the way I’m wired, and I am so tired of disappointing people. Disappointing her. Disappointing Needy Drunk Guy. Disappointing my mother.
I’m so tired of it. I hate it.
I fucked up so badly.
Tonight she asked me to please stop telling her I love her, and I’ve been crying on and off ever since, because goddamnit I love her, and I’m sorry it’s not enough, I’m sorry I’m not what she needs, but I love her and I know she loves me because she’s never been shy about saying so, and we agreed that it wasn’t romantic.
I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know if anyone does. I don’t even know if I’m asking for advice. I wouldn’t turn it down. Mostly I just need someone to talk to, but I don’t want to hurt her by talking to people I know IRL who might know her too or might eventually meet her, so I’m talking here instead.
I’m so tired. And I’m so sorry. And idk if I can fix this one.