Thursday, August 28, 2008

Email from a broken-hearted gay guy

A couple of weeks ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I'm trying to get over a relationship I had with a guy that started in March this year. It will soon have been four months since we broke off, and while I've willed my flesh to move on, my spirit is still broken.

I've dated, watched movies and had meals with perfectly respectable men whom I find savagely attractive... only to find that beneath the physique there isn't anything that comes even close to the level of affinity I felt for him. I've went to 4 saunas in Hong Kong, 1 in Shanghai, 3 in Taipei and messed around in mass orgies in steamrooms, in hot water tubs and in open view in front of tons of other men... yet I still picture him over me and inside me when I'm getting fucked.

I've come to the realization of just how messed up I am right now. I'm still in love with a man who unceremoniously ended communication when his on-again-off-again ex called. I'm still in love with the man who swept me off my feet after two months of intense dating, phone calls and lovey dovey nicknames. I'm still imagining falling asleep in his arms when I am alone in bed. At night, I end up listening to sad Jay Chou songs over and over... the moment I hear Josh Groban sing "You Raise Me Up" I tear uncontrollably if I'm in private.

I've grown impatient and can't be bothered with others. I have friends in church, from school, from work. But when I'm out with them I find it so strange that I feel as if it's such hard work being friends and such a chore to make conversation. In some sick way I miss the effortlessness that we had, I miss the fluid flow of offhand remarks that just came out of thin air. The cheeky humor, the sarcastic one liners, the words that were dense with playful loaded meanings. It was a living sitcom and I relished it. I actually felt alive.

With him, everything changed. For the first time I felt a clear direction in finding what to do after graduation. For the first time I found the endurance to outperform my peers. For the first time I found myself being more detailed, being able to see things in multiple perspectives. For the first time I could wing presentations and still do well. For the first time I didn't care if strangers discovered our covert displays of affection. For the first time, I could lift more at the gym and actually upped my bear quotient. For the first time my relationship with my parents improved... and for the first time I could see real goals for myself five years down the road.

Suddenly the standards of which I used to judge if I clicked with people just changed, and in the absence of his presence in my life I have started to fling about wildly, unrealistically expecting to find the same level of synchronization with my friends. Bless them for their patience.

What do I do now? It's been nearly four months since he removed himself from my life. I've hardly seen him since, and he never calls. We say we'll meet up, yet it's always me calling him. I just want to move on now. I just want to forget and go back to being that guy I was. Yet I can never bring myself to delete him from my life. I'd never forgive myself if I did.

I guess I wish I could just find a way to see the world the way I used to see it before he came into my life. I feel as if I had on a veil of innocence that is now torn away.


This email arrived with the title "How do I go back seeing the world as it was?", and having thought about it a bit, I ended up sending a reply which included the following paragraph:

As a brief thought which you may find helpful, I think your desire to go back seeing the world as it was is misjudged. Your email describes lots of good things that happened to you while you were briefly with your boyfriend, in terms of your confidence, outlook, your relationship with your family etc. So I'm sure there are lots of valuable things you can learn from the experience, and perhaps even recapture some of the positive things even though you don't have that boyfriend any more, now that you know you have it in you to feel and behave that way.

A day later, I received his reply:

Thanks for taking the time to read through my email, I appreciate it that you take the effort to think through some of the issues that a random person like myself just emailed you out of the blue.

Certainly when we were together many good things happened in my life. Can I attribute these things to him being in my life at that point? No. Can I be sure that those good things happened because of my own efforts? No. Do I have it in me to behave and think in that same manner? Yes, I think I discovered untapped energies when we were together.

But am I happier? No. I want to just go back to being happy. Even though I didn't outperform my peers, I did well enough to sail through. Even though I didn't lift as much in the gym, I didn't feel any frustration. I'd give it up to be that happy goer again.

I'm kinda confused and frustrated at myself. Maybe I'm just too used to being miserable now. I want to move on, but I forcing myself to be positive is just so tiring and I'm honestly worn out after several months. I thought I'd slowly accept it and be able to move on naturally, but now it's soon going to be half a year that I've mellowed and cried over a two month relationship that just frankly makes me seem like an utter emotional wreck and basket case.

Please let me know what you think.

The passage of time is usually the cure for a broken heart. However I've heard of a rule of thumb that suggests that it typically takes about half the amount of time that you're involved with someone to get over the end of the relationship. This poor reader is clearly way past that amount of time, so he must have been very deeply in love with the guy, even though they were only together for a couple of months.

Apparently it was Nietzsche who said "That which does not kill us makes us stronger", and as I said in my original reply, it's important for the reader to learn from this experience and to build on the positive things that happened while he was together with this guy. The reader clearly has an amazing capacity to love, so it will be a lucky guy who ends up being this reader's boyfriend.

My guess is that when he met the guy, for some reason the reader was particularly susceptible to the situation that he now finds himself in. Perhaps he'd been looking for a boyfriend for a long time and had almost given up hope of ever finding one, perhaps he'd recently lost someone important in his life and subconsciously saw the guy as a replacement for whoever it was? It's hard to guess, but since his reaction to the end of the short relationship has been so severe, it might be a symptom of something else. If so, it would be worth trying to work out what that 'something else' is. A better understanding of why he feels like he does would be a big help for the reader in terms of moving forward in his life.

Whatever the cause, the reader must try and focus on the future rather than the past. Given the way he currently feels, I don't think he's ready to go looking for another boyfriend just yet. Instead, I reckon he should find other personal development goals to focus on, and work at appreciating himself as an individual.

However, when he is ready for a relationship he needs to proceed carefully. Fellow London blogger Kenski left an exceptionally useful comment on a recent post of mine, when he said:
Simple old truth: if you go out looking for love you'll never find it. The number of times I've seen people go out to 'find a boyfriend'... (almost) always ends in disaster. That kind of search is basically egocentric and selfish. You're out there looking because it's something *you* want to have or because you have so much love that *you* want to give to someone. It's rarely about the other person. It's all about you.
Given that the reader feels a big hole in his life without his ex-boyfriend, it strikes me that the reader might well be the kind of guy that this applies to. So he'll need to be careful to take any new relationship slowly, not to expect everything from the start, and not to be too clingy which is very unattractive.

One last thought is that it's the journey through life which needs to be enjoyable rather than the destination. When someone has reached their destination, i.e. fulfilled all their goals, then what next? So when the reader starts focusing on the future, he should understand that the path to achieving the goals that he sets himself is just as important as reaching them. The example that I'm thinking of here is the goal to find a boyfriend.

Perhaps some other readers have also had problems recovering from past relationships, in which case it would be good if they could leave comments describing what worked for them. But as usual, all comments and advice welcome :-).


David said...

I think it is ironic how all/many of us are searching for someone here and are having a hard time finding him. You would think that gays have it much easier to find someone than straight people, but do we really?
My straight girl friend remains fascinated by the fact that I can sleep with someone without knowing there name and whenever she brings it up I always have the same answer: Men know what they want.

The heartbreak situation sounds terrible though. I would suggest ice cream but you probably already tried that. Hope you find a solution reader!

Anonymous said...

This reader's situation is eerily similar to mine. I totally understand what he's going through. Mine ended 6 months ago, lasted 9 months. I sometimes still wish I never met him cause I haven't been able to be as happy/nonchalant as I used to be. I can't say it's all ok now, but for that reader out there, it does get better with time. Albeit slowly! H

Charlie said...

Goodness, this email chain makes the World feel so small and intimate. I've just recently been battling the same thoughts with a guy that I'd been seeing, I got panicky and lost sleep. What was the answer for me? I decided to start a blog and since doing so, I've found clarity in my head and I've actually slept solid nights through. My blog now holds my pent up stress and disappointment leaving me to live life. I make it sound like a horror but it really isn't :)

I think GB has provided some excellent advice above so allow yourself the freedom to belt your thoughts into cyberspace.

Ken Skinner said...

Hey, I've never been accused of making a useful comment before! Careful, it might go to my head!

Okay, risking life and limb in attempting another useful social observation...

I'm seeing:

Bear movement
Emotionally naive

Now, let me channel Dionne Warwick and her Psychic Friends Network...

Okay, I can relate! Gosh. I've been on both sides of the fence at one time or another.

Okay, the long version, or the short one? Erm... let's find out.

You're growing up emotionally. It happens to us all. Some of us have a smooth ride (and hence often remain quite immature) whilst others get punched in the gut at every turn. Eventually you learn to read the punches early and roll with them, most of the time.

Trust me when I say that in the long run it's better that this stuff happens to you than not. You will end up a much wiser, happier, more fulfilled person.

Throughout our lives we often meet people who we immediately trust or fall for and who we basically get screwed over by.

At times like these we experience huge growth spurts in our psyche, but they're traumatic and they often temporarily damage the ego. The 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger' adage is 100% correct. You will have subconsiously learned from this experience which will equip you better for the future.

What you're going to see later on is that you may well do the same thing to other people. It's not because you're a bad person - it's because circumstances often dictate your actions. Maybe it's a twisted version of karma. Most bad things someone does to you, you end up doing to someone else. That gives you perspective on why the other person treated you a certain way and allows you to let go of the anger.

I very much doubt that this guy you fell for was a bad guy. Had circumstances been different then maybe you two stood a chance. It sounds like he was *meant* to be with his ex-, though, or even if he wasn't meant to be with him that they had unfinished business together. You just have to accept that and move on. It will take time, though. The chances are that if you ever meet this guy in the future you'll wonder why you felt so much for him as you'll be in a different emotional place.

Erm... what else... ah, passive and bear movement! Okay, so there's something about the bear movement that breeds a certain exaggerated dynamic between some couples... the whole bear vs cub thing. When I was younger I guess I bought into that somewhat, though I'd never have admitted it. Not these days, though. You have to be responsible for yourself, otherwise you'll never fully stand on your own two feet. The bear/cub thing always seemed to me to be an exaggerated fur-filled version of the old Greek way of life where young men would be reared (ooh-er missus) by older, more experienced fellows. I think maybe that's why there's quite a strong S&M following amongst bearish folk... something to do with the desire to be loved whilst dominated.

Gosh, this is setting me up for the weekend! Must break out the handcuffs!

That wasn't helpful, was it?

One last adage: time heals all wounds. Give it time and for god's sake be careful/safe along the way. It doesn't sound like a smart idea to be going to saunas while you're in the state you are. Just my 2c... though I did... Ach, go along, have fun, but make sure whatever you do there is something *you* want to do.

Anonymous said...

I guess what the writer has gone thru, well we all have gone thru in our live, one way or the other, its a sad human exp. - but the past can not be your future, as some once said - look ahead, live is a road you should travel!

Anonymous said...

Time wounds all heals.

This was a moving and thoughtful post. The writer sounds like the guy I just walked away from but a whole lot more sincere. Has the writer told the guy he's in love with how he feels? Has he told him what he wants? That might be a good place to start. It might even help him get to a place where he can move on if need be.