I had no reason to expect our date to go well, or even to happen.

Once before, we planned to meet. She stood me up. Well, not exactly. My schedule changed too, so maybe it was mutual. (Though she started standing me up first.)

Our distant-buddy relationship was volatile. She was easily upset. She was hot and cold. She wouldn’t speak to me for weeks, and then would resurface. Her behavior felt driven, unrelated to me. “I’m horny,” she’d message after being out of touch for weeks.

She sent pictures that looked almost desperate: harsh light, crude shots, public bathrooms, toilets in the frame. She never tried to appeal, to be sexy. She was meeting a need that was fulfilled the moment she pressed send.

Recently, we were in the same town at the same time. We made plans. She stood me up, extendedly, elaborately, trying to pass off what was happening as my inflexibility. (It wasn’t.)

The next morning, she messaged me again, suggested plans for that night. “Go fuck yourself!” shouted my brain. “What time?” said my cock. And my e-mail.

And the whole thing repeated itself. At length.

Two nights in a row, we planned to meet. Two nights in a row, at the last moment, she blew me off. And two nights in a row, I subjected myself to her extended, sadistic toying even after having been initially stood up.

I’m not complaining about her. She is who she is. She had given me no reason to expect her to be otherwise.

This is an observation about me.

I seek this particular form of punishment. I seem to enjoy putting myself in this position. This is just one small side of me. I also like being the dominant, strong male. But this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.

The difference between the last time this happened and this time was instructive.

Last time, I was subsumed in the pain. I was torn apart, miserable. I experienced a pain, a rejection, as intense as any I’ve ever experienced.

This time, I was detached, removed. I watched my pain as much as I felt it. More than I felt it.

In meditation, I sit cross-legged for long stretches of time. Often, it hurts. When I began, the pain was intolerable, and I would stop. But over time, two things happened: the pain diminished and I developed the ability to sit through the discomfort, to tolerate it, to watch it.

This was a huge aid in my reining in my compulsive sexual behavior. Learning that one need not respond to discomfort by immediately removing the source of distress.

So I’m accustomed to that pain in my knees. I’ve learned about it, become intimate with it. And as a result, I’ve developed a somewhat different relationship to pain in general. I don’t court it, but I do see it for what it is when it comes. This pain was as benign as one could hope. I’m a happily married guy who has lots of sex, both with my wife and with others, and all that was at stake was one night. With a woman with whom I already had a somewhat contentious, adversarial relationship. Truly, no biggie.

And honestly, wasn’t the whole thing interesting? I mean, this was entirely voluntary. I chose this.

She messaged me the other day. It wasn’t an apology. I’m not sure what it was. But I’m done drinking at that particular well. Maybe not all such wells. But that one, yes.

I wish her well. But I’m through.


  1. It is so freeing to get to that place of acknowledgement, then release of harmful behavior. I have always struggled with self-control, so learning it was a hard-learned lesson.

  2. i know a lot of relationships like this. it seems the parties are kind of addicted to the dysfunction. i guess at some point it ends… when either you or her are really serious and over it.

  3. ouch. seems harsh. maybe the thought of being with you scares her? maybe she’s only crude via the camera? good for you for being through.

  4. I’m really drawn to this post, N. It’s the idea of sitting through the pain/discomfort of something. We often have this strange expectation that discomfort is bad at all times. It makes it worse. I’m interested in learning more of your meditation practices.

  5. It wouldn’t have gone this far either. It was meaningless and selfish on both ends. Hers, more so, because she wasn’t even cordial about it and stood up the dates multiple times. It’s just how we are built. What’s wrong and we know it’s wrong seems uncannily attractive. Your extensive analysis of pain is very interesting and true. Pain is not to be courted, it’s to be confronted and loved with with. I remember a line from a book – The thing about pain is that…it demands to be felt.

    It was a good, thoughtful post.

  6. This was thought provoking. Self examination and self awareness really are helpful in riding out the pain.

    1. I’m not sure I sit through it TO get past it. Rather, discomfort takes some time to pass, and then there’s the question of what we do during that time. Sitting is one option. Another? Resisting, fighting the discomfort. It’s not clear to me that the latter actually helps.

  7. This has so many really well-written and beautiful moments in it. I really love it and love how you describe what you’re going through and how you are watching and learning to be outside. My favorite description: “toilet in the frame.” You SHOW so much there, so much. Nicely done.

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