I was in a relationship with a woman that lasted for two years (including a year of living together until financial obstacles ended that arrangement) and then a further two years of on-again-off-again. Most of the time, I was the one who ended things, until recently. The most recent started when we had gone to meet some friends of mine at a women-only gay bar that was having an open night for guys. While I was in the bathroom, my girlfriend had kissed another woman. When I confronted her about it, gently letting her know that although we hadn’t discussed our situation properly, I considered that close to infidelity. She said she thought she might be lesbian, something I was aware had been a possibility before we got together all those years ago. I had even prided myself on “turning her”, dumb as that sounds (we had joked about it).
Now, to be honest, I felt relief, believing that what was obviously not a sustainable relationship could now be ended through circumstances beyond our control. I offered to remain friends. And we did, for a while, until I started feeling like our dynamic seemed unchanged except for the absence of intimacy. I told her that I wanted to scale back our friendship and that I could not be relied on to be her go-to source of comfort and validation. She made it clear that she wasn’t interested in meeting up once in a blue moon and hanging out superficially, so we agreed to keep our distance.
And then shit got bad. Due to both missing her, family problems and some escalating drug and alcohol use, I got what I’m pretty sure in retrospect could be classified as depressed. So when we bumped into each other in a bar a few months later and started hooking up again, I foolishly told myself that it was on again and all my problems would be solved. She did give me plenty of signs and indications that she didn’t want to keep hooking up until I finally took the hint. At the time I felt like she was ghosting me as if I was a persistent Tinder-date, and I resented her for not having “had the guts” to say it explicitly. Now, I realize I should have understood the situation (or rather, admitted to myself what was going on), and that I had no right dumping mye mental issues on her. So I stayed clear, avoided gatherings with mutual friends and cut off contact.
Then she got a boyfriend. My lesbian ex-girlfriend found a handsome, adventurous, charismatic, man’s-man boyfriend who she started a long-distance relationship with. This caused a personal crisis in masculinity on my part. Even though I knew that sexuality is a fluid and difficult thing that’s rarely black-and-white, even though I knew we had slept together after her coming out, it made me feel incredibly emasculated. Hearing hints and tidbits of information from mutual friends (who on the whole tried to not mention either of us to the other), taught me more than I probably needed to know about her sexual experiences with women and her relationship with him.
When they broke up, circumstances had changed for me and life seemed a lot better. I had a new job and was hanging out with a larger group of really great people, including our mutual friends. I felt ready to start meeting her again and catching up like old friends. However, her break-up being very recent, those conversations revolved around him, for which she apologized several times.
So here’s the rub, Doc, if you’re still with me. Cognitively, I know that her sexuality is her own business, and her experiences both sexual, romantic and otherwise have fuck-all to do with me or my own insecurities. I know that the characteristics of my “successor” do not diminish my qualities or impact on her life. I know that passing judgment (on either myself or her) after the end of our relationship is toxic bullshit.
But even though I’m not really heartbroken anymore, I can’t shake this feeling of emasculation. Of being the Best Actor in a Supporting Role, rather than the romantic lead in the movie of her life. Meeting her again, I realize that we are incompatible, and that all I really have left is a sort of muted affection – but the jealousy and insecurities and the need to prove my manhood bubble up.
So what did I miss? How do you move on from knowing that you’re projecting, that there’s this black little cloud inside you making these Madonna-Whore intrusive thoughts burst through? How do you find long-term interest in someone else when there’s this constant voice telling you to “re-conquer” your ex so you can validate your identity as a man?
How do you turn that knowledge into practical change?
A Neutered Housecat
Here’s what you’re missing: your ex’s new squeeze – no matter their gender, no matter how stereotypical they are in their presentation or not – has nothing to do with you. Your reaction, on the other hand, totally does.
The reason that this is tripping you up is that you seem really hung up on her sexuality. Yeah, you may be joking with her about how you “turned” her, but let’s be real: you were doing the “joking-but-not-really” bit. Yeah. it’s something you chuckle about but it’s also something you’re quietly proud of.
Now allow me to disabuse you of this notion.
No, you fucking didn’t turn her. You didn’t “turn” anyone. Sexuality is a spectrum and a sliding scale at that and when a person’s junk is involved, logic goes out the window. There are men and women at the far ends of the Kinsey scale who have found times that suddenly there’s this person who gives them sweaty thoughts and sticky dreams… and they’re absolutely not their preferred gender. Gay men suddenly realize they’re into a woman, straight men realize they can’t stop thinking about how soft another guy’s lips may be and lesbians realize that the person they’re fantasizing about is dude. Sometimes it’s a case of finding out that they’re more bisexual than they realized. Other times, it’s literally a single-target sexuality; that person is the exception to their sexual preference for whatever reason.
So the fact that you dated someone who was lesbian-identified or bi-curious didn’t “change” her sexuality or turn her, it just meant that there was something about you that she dug. Maybe you were an exception, maybe she was bi, who knows. But the issue is in how you made her sexual identity so front and center of things. That’s part of why Dirk Chestmeat is so challenging to you. If you were sleeping with a lesbian, it meant that you were special. But once Dirk Chestmeat was in the picture… well shit, then he must be even more special than you were. Your magic wand is clearly less potent than his blasting stick because your lesbian ex is with the butchest hunk of man-meat she could find.
This is why it’s bugging you so much. You’re wanting to plant your flag again – as it were – because you want to reaffirm that you were the one who “changed” her. It’s not her specifically, it’s what she represents. Until she banged out with another dude post-coming-out, you were ANH: The Lesbian Whisperer. And now that Crunch ButtSteak came on the scene, it diminishes you. Either you weren’t that special to begin with, or if you “turned” her, then he super-duper turned her.
But here’s the thing: you were never in the mix. I can all but guarantee you that when she started sleeping with Biff Hardcheese, you were the furthest thing from her mind. She wasn’t weighing his manliness against yours. She was with him because she wanted to be with him, specifically. Just as she wasn’t sleeping with you despite her sexuality because you’re just that manly, she was sleeping you because she liked you.
I say this with all sincerity and absolutely no sarcasm: it’s hard to process that you’re not the center of her universe, especially when she’s still the center of yours. You were a part of her life, but you weren’t her entire life. She wasn’t thinking about you when she decided to go date Slab Squatthrust, she’s thinking that there’s something about him that appeals to her. Maybe she dug his masculine energy. Perhaps he sings a beautiful tenor. Maybe he had hidden depths that you don’t see. Maybe he can lick his eyebrows and breathe through his ears. Here’s the thing: you don’t fucking know because you’re not there. Doesn’t even matter what your mutuals told you; they don’t know the full story either, and they weren’t getting the full story either.
So what do you do? You let this shit go. You stop digging into the wound that is her sleeping with other people, you stop paying attention to her sexploits and you just handle your shit. Quit treating getting up in her as “planting a flag” or otherwise validating anything about you. Make up your own closure and stop letting absurd ideas about sexuality define the strength of your masculinity. Her sexuality has nothing to do with yours and the sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be.
This is doubly true if they’re old enough to form solid memories – around 5 or 6 years . You don’t mention how old your kids are, but the younger they are, the more likely it is that they’ll be hurt if they bond with her and then she suddenly leaves. That ain’t fair to them. So setting a fairly clear line between your relationship with someone and your relationship with your kids at first is pretty good parenting over all. It may not be fair to your girlfriend, but your kids come before everything else.
After waiting 4 months for the LARPing club to act on my complaint and re-traumatising me over and over by putting me but not the creeper through flaming hoops, the committee that ran the role playing club gave the creepy guy I dated a warning and I was pretty much declared persona non grata in that circle – though they made all the right sounds like if I wanted to come back. They really don’t want me back as you’ll see.
I found out basically the creeper gets to keep my things, that he got a warning with no teeth to it so his life goes along as normal. It was after the news he got off, that I realised that I didn’t even have the girls for #squadgoals let alone a brute squad to keep me safe from him at their games and other gatherings. So I decided to burn the bridges to a bunch of people who didn’t care about my safety and wouldn’t know how to even keep the boundaries you advised me to maintain to stay safe around the creeper. I’ve held my ground but the club didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. So I walked away. Actually I ran like the Doctor.
So I burned it all down quietly – not saying a thing – a glorious bonfire that expelled the club members from my social media account (except the 2 or 3 friends I wanted to keep outside gaming) and found out that all that was left over from my bonfire, fit into a tiny metaphorical matchbox that I now refuse to carry around as excess baggage. Not one person from the club has actually tried to re-friend me on social media or just check in I’m alright while I’ve been so sick I ended up in hospital last week for a few days.
You gave me the right advice to use my friends as my backup in keeping the creepy dude away, so my instinct that they wouldn’t really have my back as friends, if he was going to be around, seems to be spot on. So I’m working on cultivating a great new group of Team Me in a new hobby who have made a huge effort to make me welcome and safe on Mars.
I’ve found by removing the creepy missing stair, a few other Nope Not in A Million Years types in the club and his enablers from my daily life, I’ve stopped being so stressed out. I do get anxious when I’m in places near where creepy dude could be (like on the tram stop near his work) and I’ve avoided a con because I’m not ready to deal with him face to face yet but I’m working on my assertiveness & confidence in therapy and queen bitch resting face. I think in the words of Picard really sum up that this situation wasn’t my fault and I did everything you suggested but, “…it is possible to commit no errors and still lose. That is not weakness, that is life.”
If I’d stayed, I may have been right but I’d always have been the drama queen on the edge of a cPTSD with the creeper around and not feeling safe even among my so called friends, taking the whole point out of playing games with friends.
Since my little Facebook bonfire last week, I can focus again on the present, I’m in the process of reducing my anxiety medication under my doctor’s supervision back to its maintenance levels pre-creeper and I’ve just finished a whole week of university for the first time in two years. I feel like I have gone back to living life – albeit as a Martian now – and focussing on my interests and priorities now now rather rating this creeper and his enablers as worth my valuable time. Not all battles and foes are worth fighting. Thank you.
Life on Mars Is Pretty Good