Relationships are a strange thing. I see relationships as something beyond a friendship. It’s hard to describe it, but a friendship is lower on the ladder. You’ll help a friend out of a sticky situation. Help them move in a hurry, lend them money, etc. But a person you have a relationship with has greater value. The sacrifices you’re willing to make for them can be nearly without limit. They are, or should be, very important to you.

Like everyone, I’ve had a few in my lifetime. Both good ones and bad ones. Some have lasted years, decades even. Some have been much shorter. Sometimes the bad ones last too long and the good ones don’t last long enough. You never really know which ones will turn out good and which will end in a train wreck . Once in a while, you have one that surprises you. One of mine surprised me in the good way. Or at least in the positive way.

I got divorced a few years ago for… reasons. Some of which still escape me. I’d been married for somewhere around 15 years. We’d bought our second house and things were tight, but not impossible. Anyway, it blindsided me.

Being single again after 15 years was difficult. So rather than becoming a man-whore, I worked and took care of my boys. I changed positions in my job to make more money and things got better. Since then I’ve gotten pay increases and I’m making more money than I ever have in my life. My job isn’t too bad. I’ve done way more for way less. Generally, I’m pretty happy with that part of my life right now.

So, after the separation, the divorce, and all the rest of it, I was lonely. I threw myself into work and tried to keep busy. Avoidance becomes a way of life. There’s really no way to be a single parent and not have at least half of your life on the verge of a full-blown dumpster fire at any given moment. But as I said, I was lonely.

Because of the kids, cutting things off with my ex wasn’t an option and the more we talked, the more I missed her. I found myself focusing on the good times with her more and more and forgetting the less good stuff. As I said before, I was blindsided by the divorce and was still not 100% positive of the cause even 5 years later. Long story short(er), The ex moved back in after making a go of it on her own. I didn’t have a lot of positive feedback from those I told about the situation. Opinions ranged from “You’re crazy.” to “You’re stupid.” Even the positive opinions felt only “politely” positive. As in, they didn’t feel comfortable telling me I was crazy or stupid.

So, right after I made the decision to make another go of things with the ex, something unexpected happened. Almost like magic, women I knew became available or finally expressed interested in yours truly. Maybe they were there all along and I wasn’t paying attention (a distinct possibility). There were four, to be exact. All from different parts of my life, and all pretty unexpected.

One I had went to school with. I would have likely gotten into a lot of very enjoyable trouble with her, but distance was a big factor. The next was a long time acquaintance and would have definitely been awkward due to previous family interactions. Also, some distance issues there as well. After that was a lady from work. Someone I wasn’t even really friends with at the time.

All through this, there was the fourth. Or a first, depending on how you’re counting. She was someone who had become a very dear friend by necessity. And by necessity, I mean it was a situation that Karma didn’t want to let happen. As it turned out, our individual relationship statuses changed within about six months of each other. So there’s that, and a bit of an age difference. Well, not significant now, but early on it would have been problematic.

Anyway, she’s the relationship I was referring to at the beginning. The surprise. Although I thought she was attractive mentally and physically, I never seriously pursued her. I’d flirt, but in what I hoped was a silly and self-deprecating way. What started off as a casual “Hey, how ya doing?” friendship became an important and close relationship. One that is based on trust and respect.

In my life, I’ve had very few relationships with women like this one. Thinking about it, this is the only one, to include my marriage. So to say it was unexpected is an understatement. As I said, I was married so that’s a relationship. I’ve had girlfriends, so again, relationships. But this one was different and it’s hard to put my finger on exactly how.

She had a job where I saw her on a pretty regular basis and when that ended, so did the friendship for a while. We would IM on occasion, but nothing more than seeing what the other was up to. She briefly moved away and I had an opportunity to visit once, but other than the messaging back and forth, nothing really changed.

When I deployed to Iraq, I was pointed to social media and again was able to chat with her and keep in touch that way. After catching up with each other, our friendship grew beyond what it was originally. We became sounding boards for each other. Giving each other advice and opinions on current situations we found ourselves in. Having someone I am able to truly open up with is something I’ve come to treasure. I can count on her to give an honest opinion on whatever we’re discussing. She’s also very good at letting her silence be an answer as well.

I’m not sure when my feelings toward her shifted, or if they ever really did. It was more of an epiphany of sorts. It took years to recognize it. I don’t know if it developed or just was. It almost felt like it had been there the whole time and I finally found a name for it. It took years more to ever verbalize those feelings out of fear of damaging the amazing friendship we have.

I truly found myself in new territory. I’d never had a relationship with a woman that I didn’t want to be sexual. And then this. Let me clarify… It’s not that I don’t want it to be sexual, it’s that I cherish the relationship to a degree that I would not want to sacrifice what we have for a possibly short-lived physical relationship.

So, maturity rears it’s ugly head. Wanting what you can’t have and moving on with life. Or, being happy with the current situation even though it’s not what you believe you really want. There are lots of reasons to leave things as they are, and I’d say they’re all mature, valid reasons. Conversely, the reasons for pursuing things are mostly selfish. I suppose that’s how you know when you’re making the right decision.

If things ever change, I will celebrate it. But if they stay the same, it’s definitely not a loss. It’s the relationship I need. Even if it’s not the one I necessarily want.