I’m in a rut. The most serious relationship I’ve had to date ended in late January, 2014. It lasted just shy of two and a half years. It’s now December 2014 and I can’t move on. I started the relationship as an out and proud gay man. I started the relationship the same way, but what I thought was love wasn’t – I was dating someone who was still in the closet, needed space to “find himself” and he found himself with five other men (maybe more?!) in the time we were together.
It killed me because I thought I was being supportive, understanding, nurturing, and caring. In the end, I feel like I was made the butt of a big joke. He moved on and was in a relationship less than a month later, and while it’s an immature move, they exchanged promise rings over Christmas. Now, I’m 30, my ex is 28, and his new boyfriend is mid-twenties, so I think the promise ring thing is an immature move, but it still stung in it’s own way. When we were together we had a lot of “hey, I’m not ready to share this relationship with so-and-so” moments where I stood by with support. It hurts that now someone else is getting the “out and proud” boyfriend I was asked to support and wait for.
Where I used to be “out and proud” of who I am, I’ve begun to have some serious self-doubt and question my self-worth. The fear of feeling duped again is leaving me stunted in singledom.
How do I get back on the unicorn now that I’ve fallen off?
Ouch, SDR. It really sucks when you find out that you find out the person you thought they were – especially when it leaves you feeling like it’s some how your fault that things didn’t work out. You’ve put in all this effort, all of this concern, all of this emotion… and now you’re left feeling like you were a stepping stone to your ex’s “real” relationship.
Worse: the fact that he was able to move on so quickly, so easily makes you question everything about the relationship. Where you not good enough? Was there something you could’ve done differently? Why weren’t you enough for him?
But hey, you’ve written to me because you want the answers and fortunately, I have one for you: the problem in your relationship is that your ex was an asshole. You were being used and manipulated by someone who took your honest affection and pissed all over it from the get go.
So up front: as a hetero guy, I’m not going to have the same experience and perspective as a gay man about being closeted or not. There’re nuances and realities that are outside of my lived experience, so take my opinions with suitable levels of salt… but frankly, your ex sounds like he was using his being closeted as an excuse. Maybe he wasn’t secure enough in his sexuality to be openly dating someone – hence the constant rules “hey, let’s not tell X, Y and Z that we’re dating” – but he sure as shit had no problem fucking them on the down-low. Now maybe it took time for him to finally be willing to be open and out and proud. Maybe he needed time to mature and come to terms with himself.
But that doesn’t excuse the fact he was a toxic asshole who treated you like shit. And to be perfectly honest, I think there was no small part of him that was using his being closeted as a way of having his cake and fucking it too. After all, if you’re just Schrödinger’s Boyfriend – officially together when he wants you, less so when he decides he wants someone else – there’s that level of deniability when he’s off “finding himself” in someone else. By saying “I’n not ready to share this relationship with X, Y and Z”, he was telling you that he had reasons that he didn’t want people to know you were dating… and I suspect he also used this as a reason why you shouldn’t be around when he was off with other guys. I wonder how many of his other partners might have balked if they knew that he was with someone else.
So you weren’t a joke, but you were unfairly used. The most generous interpretation I have is that you were basically his practice run at a relationship. The less kind says that he’s a shitty manipulator, a toxic user who dated you in bad faith, who took advantage of your sincere affection to fulfill his needs until he was ready to come out. Either way: you got the shitty end of the stick and it was completely unfair to you.
So what do you do now? Well, the first thing you need to do is put this guy in your rear view mirror. He’s an asshole who treated you badly and the last thing you should be doing is using him as your metric of comparison about your worth as a person. It hurts to watch someone you cared for withhold affection from you and then turn around and shower it on someone else but trust me: you dodged a bullet. Blessings in disguise aren’t fun and right now you’re in a lot of pain but in the future, you’re going to look back on this and realize how lucky you were that this relationship ended when it did and how much you learned from it.
And that’s what you need to do: take what you’ve learned about users and manipulators and apply it to your future relationships. Maintain some strong boundaries, especially in the early days when you’re just starting to get to know people and you’ll weed out the majority of users, game players and toxic people.
Meanwhile: cut this guy out of your life. You don’t need to constantly be reopening the wounds he gave you by watching him play relationship with someone else. Take the nuclear option and spend some time recovering from this relationship so that you can let your heart heal. You’ll find someone else, someone infinitely better. And when you do, you’ll be glad that you don’t have this guy in your life any more.
I could use a bit of advice. There is this girl that I had a crush on in high-school, and I am pretty sure she reciprocated it. I didn’t do anything at the time for a variety of reasons, chiefly I was being a coward. I take a bit of solace in that I would have been a crappy boyfriend at the time, and have since become a better man and better in relationships. Anyway, not doing anything is my biggest regret to date that anything can be done about. She lives a couple hours away from me now, and as far as I can tell she is single. I don’t have her number or email address anymore, but I can message her on Facebook.
I would like your advice on whether or not I should reach out to try and reconnect. I don’t want to come off as a creeper. I was thinking of reaching out to reconnect and invite her to coffee the next time she is in town (she still has family where I am). I figure I shouldn’t lay it all on the line saying that I regret not asking her out 8ish years ago. That seems kind of creepy.
Regardless of what I say, even if it doesn’t go my way, it won’t be that bad. The absolute worst that could happen is she thinks I am a huge creeper and says so to all of our old mutual friends and they have a laugh. I’ve lost touch with most of them, so no skin off my back. The best that could happen is we have coffee or whatever and things go well and they lead to a relationship.
So, I guess what I am asking is should I reach out or am I being an idiot? If I should reach out, should I avoid laying it all on the line? I could use some brutal honesty here. That is why I like you advice articles, you don’t pussy-foot around.
Second Time Around
So I have a question, STA: it’s been eight years… why are you still hung up on this woman? Eight years is a long goddamn time to hold on to a high-school crush, especially when you’ve been completely out of touch.
Don’t get me wrong, I can totally understand the feelings of frustration when you’re dealing with someone you see as The One Who Got Away but at this point, do you really even know who she is any more? You’re not the same person you were back in high-school… so why do you think she’s the same person you had a crush on? I think it might do you some good to ask yourself whether you’re still into her for herself or because of what she represents. Chasing after someone who’s more symbol than person – your unicorn, your white whale, whatever – isn’t fair to her and it’s incredibly disrespectful; she’s a person, not a fantasy, y’know? And it’s not good for your personal development to hang on to all of those missed opportunities; when you’re stuck looking back at all of those might-have-beens and woulda-coulda-shoulda moments, you end up missing out on the opportunities that you do have.
Now, does this mean that you shouldn’t send her a friend request on Facebook and see if she’s interested in reconnecting? Not necessarily. Facebook has basically become the replacement for the high-school reunion and it’s not weird to want to reconnect with people you knew. But I think you need to be careful and you need to be realistic. The odds are that you probably aren’t going to get together and in your current state of mind, it’d be a mistake to try. Some regrets are better left as regrets and allowed to fade with time. You want brutal honesty, I’m going to be brutally honest: I don’t think this is the greatest idea. But I also think you’re less asking me for advice and more for permission for something you want to do anyway. So with that in mind:
If you’re going to reconnect with her, don’t do it with the intentions of trying to correct your mistake from all those years ago. Treat this as simply trying to connect with someone new. Get to know who she is now, rather than who she used to be. Learn to see her a a person instead of the fantasy you’ve had rolling around in your head for the past eight years. Get coffee if she’s amenable to it. Do not lay out that you’ve been dying to ask her out since high-school; you’re right, dumping all of that on her would be incredibly fucking creepy. Simply play catch up. No dates. No hooking up. No even hinting at it. No being Mr. Nice Guy and trying to backdoor your way into a relationship with her. T
If – and I’m going to need you to be brutally honest with yourself – you’re able to let go of that fantasy and connect with her as a person – then you can bring up that you had a crush on her. “You know, it’s crazy and I can’t believe I’m saying this but when we were in high-school, I had the hugest crush on you and I have to admit, I’m kind of disappointed that I never managed to ask you out.” And then leave it at that; something crazy that happened in high-school. But you’re not in high-school any more and neither is she. Let the fantasy go and maybe, just maybe, you might find a genuine friendship with the person underneath.