Things I liked about The Hermit:
- His proximity (only a few miles from me)
- His availability (he was always available)
- His passivity (he wasn’t pushy and didn’t ask anything of me)
- His coffee addiction (my favorite activity was his, too)
- His sensuality (I enjoy being enjoyed)
Things about The Hermit that were challenging:
- His proximity…made it hard to quit using him as back-up plan
- His availability…meant that I was it. His entire social schedule was me.
- His passivity…meant that he never once told me what he wanted when we were having sex.
- His coffee addiction…but also his addiction to routine. There was only one Starbucks, one drink, one way of ordering (mobile, so as not to interact with baristas), one favorite table on the patio.
- His sensuality…which also fell victim to his dependence upon routine. In terms of sex, this meant that almost every single time, our encounters followed a predictable progression. Deviations were rare, and he only ever had one round in him.
We met in the summer and saw each other about once a week for five months. To call him rigid would be to gloss over a host of behaviors and patterns that pointed to something more pathological. I feel pretty confident that The Hermit had high functioning autism with anxiety (diagnosed) and sensory processing disorder. I recognized pretty early on that his desire for consistency, predictability, and relative calm was a poor fit for my life of improvisation and relative chaos. I also sensed, after a few months, that he and I weren’t on the same page about “us.”
But while I was juggling a shifting rotation of men, The Hermit felt comfortable and safe. He would never reject me or demand anything of me. He wouldn’t hurt me. And in the back of my mind, I knew that the corollary truth was that I would be the one to hurt him. And so I rationalized staying the course — the status quo was enjoyable for us both, and we were consenting adults, so why not continue? Eventually, I reached a breaking point — I knew we needed to talk about where we stood, so I texted him, and we had a painful chat via iMessage. He thought we were dating. I said I saw us as friends with benefits. I asked if he thought he could consider maybe one day being friends. He was heartbroken. I felt like a monster.
I judged myself for letting things drag on when I knew I shouldn’t have. I regretted not pushing through my own discomfort to initiate a “status check” conversation much sooner. But as a general rule, I try to shift from regret to learning rather than lingering in the land of “what if?”; what did I learn that will keep me from walking down this path again? I think it is in this, the learning and growing, that I found peace in the wake of breaking things off with The Hermit. I’m faintly hopeful that after he heals, he’ll want to be friends. I don’t expect it, nor can I guess at his timeline for healing, but I do miss his steady presence in my life and hope that we can eventually re-discover what that looks through the lens of friendship.