Monday, October 12, 2009

Email from a guy with a couple of difficult friendships

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

Dear GB,

I was the Cambridge guy who wrote to you earlier this year about playing hard to get. Since then I have had little success in finding someone and have been through an emotional roller-coaster involving a slightly younger guy. Thanks for replying to my earlier email.

I went for a date with a guy, A, from Uni and we had some fun. We met up the next day and he didn't want to take things further, which I thought was a shame, so I was a little upset. But I pretended I wasn't upset and that I wasn't really interested in him anyway, and apologised to him, on the (false) pretext that I could have been exploiting any feelings he may have had for me should we have taken it much further, since I thought he may have liked me. He thought I had little feelings for him and we became extremely good friends.

Little did he know, I've been besotted with him since, and that throughout my exam period I needed to see him every day, and we did. I was always talking about him to my close friends. They told me that he must be stupid if he couldn't tell that I liked him, and so I always thought he had some idea about my feelings.

I spent a good month at his place in the summer and we developed a very strange relationship which was semi-sexual. We would lie next to one another on the bed and embrace, and he would tease me. I had thought at the time that this was cruel behaviour if he knew that I liked him, because it would be exploiting my feelings for him. This behaviour, and the loving way he treated me, made me feel uncomfortable, since I knew it wouldn't be able to result in a relationship. During that holiday I nursed him through illness and was always willing to talk to him about his concerns. He sometimes got angry with me at the time, which upset me considering I had tried to help him. To make things worse, once when drunk he did seem to want to do stuff, and I did not know if it was sensible to involve myself with him.

I invited him to an event at which a friend of mine in his mid/late 20's, friend B, was present. I was to stay the night at B's. A asks B if he could stay, since it was convenient. I notice that B starts to flirt with A, which A never noticed at the time. I felt worried they would get together, since there was nowhere else I could stay that night, and nowhere else they could feasibly go other than the room we were sleeping in. As time went on, and we went back to B's, I noticed he wanted A and me, both younger guys, to share one bed, and have fun. I tried to occupy the middle of the bed but B, who is older, and has more authority, easily got me to move. I didn't want to do anything because I'm not attracted to B. So the whole night was spent listening to them, literally touching me. And I couldn't sleep and felt like crying. The guy I was besotted with was being messed around with in my presence.

It all reached a head when I had my party at A's. A brought a boy with him. A had been showing interest in my ex, but I told him that it would really upset me if he got together with him, as I was still attached to my ex. In reality I was more attached to A, but A didn't seem to know that. I would just be jealous if A and my ex got together, if not slightly turned on by the idea. A agreed not to do anything with my ex and didn't. I got very drunk and was rude to A's new boy and to A behind his back, since I thought that he had known for months that I had liked him, and so I thought that his semi sexual behaviour towards me and his behaviour towards B, had been cruel and exploitative of my feelings. A was enraged as the boy he was with was so angry with me that they had slept back to back. In the morning he told me he never wanted to see me again. Naturally, I was devastated, and he still didn't know I liked him, unbeknownst to me. I spoke to B and asked for his advice and it was sorted out. I told A that one of the reasons I behaved so strangely was that I liked him and thought he was exploiting my feelings. I told him that I had never been able to express some of my feelings to people, even though on the surface I seem quite intense. A had said that I was extremely self-centred and never helped him, which really upset me, since I had nursed him and helped him for a month.

Since then, A became more involved with B, and this has upset me, since I valued B's friendship in part for it's independence from entanglement with my other friends and I was jealous of B. I am still jealous of B, even though A and B are just friends now. My first question is can I continue being friends with B the way I was before?
Another problem is that I continued to hide my feelings for A from A, saying that they had subsided. I met A's dad when drunk and told him everything I feel for A and he told A. I just don't want A to know, since A gets arrogant when other people like him, and I fear he will tell others. My second question is, should I avoid A for some time?

GB, I hope you can help this sad, sad under-confident boy!

P.S, The fact that A didn't like me made me have signs of an eating disorder and severe worry about my appearance, which is a shame, my ex thinks, since I'm not ugly. (I attach a few pictures of myself for you to look at)

Looking at the pics that this reader sent me, I thought that he's a great looking guy, and a very very very long way from ugly. I also hope that he doesn't develop any eating disorders because he's quite thin enough! Thinking about the situation with his friend A, I felt that it would be best if stops seeing him, so given that it would be a while until I'd be able to do this posting I sent him an encouraging email with that suggestion. However I wasn't ready for the reply that he sent me:

Hi GB,

Thanks for your reply. The problem with not seeing A for a long time is that he is one of my best friends. We have a very close friendship. I think it may be strong enough to withstand the strength of my attraction to him. He's going back to Uni soon though, whereas I've just graduated and am planning to live abroad for a while soon, so I suppose that might help!

The weirdest thing about it was talking to his dad about him, and the fact that I think his dad is hot (at least in a few of his pictures) and A told him so. I told his dad a lot of things that perhaps embarrassed A, but I also told him all about how I like older, dominating guys, and he seemed interested in me. Would it be unacceptable if I got with A's dad? I imagine this as a hypothetical since I don't find him nearly as attractive as his son, in fact I don't think I would do anything with him, since it is really pictures of him a few years back that I think are hot. The question is, then, is it unacceptable as a matter of principle to sleep with the father (or immediate family member excluding partner) of someone you have a romantic connection to?

Best, and sorry if I sound perverse,

I was still trying to work out what I thought about the question at the end of that email when another email arrived:

Dear GB,

I must clarify some things I said. A's dad, whose photo I thought quite hot, is not married or, I think, in a relationship.

Also, I didn't make clear that all the time I've known A (until after the party) I constantly gave the impression of not fancying him because I was scared how he would react if he knew I did, as we spent so much time together, and I didn't want things to change. I tried so hard to give the impression I didn't fancy him that it often resulted in me seeming rather cold towards him, which caused tensions. So it is plausible that he didn't know that I fancied him, although, hearing my story, it may well seem to others that he probably knew.

Another problem I failed to mention was as follows. My ex and A both look after me, as I'm highly sensitive and behave like a little boy! Now, I have recently been arranging to meet with people from gaydar, mostly dominating men. I feel the need to give the number of the contacts I have made to A and my ex (in case something goes wrong), but this puts me in a dilemma. They want to know exactly who I'm meeting and see their gaydar page, as they're very protective of me. I can't tell anyone else the number of the people I meet, etc. So I have to tell A and my ex. But I'm afraid they'll see my taste for extreme kinkiness as evidence of some deficiency in me, whether moral or otherwise, and if they saw the profiles of those involved then they might well. They do know I'm into that stuff. I just don't want them to look down on me. But they are my best friends, and I'm a compulsive and paranoid worrier, so perhaps I'm being silly.

The problem is, with all the stories I've told you, the masochist in me loves this worrying situation, and loves the drama, but, at the same time I dislike the bad things that happen. And so I'm perennially caught between being hurt and upset and liking it and being hurt and upset and not liking it, which causes...more pain.

I hope this email doesn't make you look down on me, the same way that I fear my friends may look down on me.


I replied to this email immediately to say that it's never my intention to look down on anyone. I'm certainly far from perfect myself, so to quote a well known religious text, it really is a question of "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone". I also replied to say that I thought that he'd probably benefit from some professional counselling, even though I'm sure that he's quite capable of having normal and healthy relationships. In any case, I don't like to turn away any request for advice, so I'll now do my best to say things that hopefully he'll find helpful.

It seems clear to me that this reader has had a crush on his friend A, and that his feelings aren't going to be reciprocated. It even seems likely to me that A has been taking advantage of the reader, for example by getting him to look after him when he was ill. Because of the reader's crush on A, he's always been there for him, so much so that A probably got to the stage where he took the reader's help and attention for granted. Although the reader writes that he thinks his friendship with A may be strong enough to withstand the strength of his attraction to A, I don't think that the reader himself is strong enough. So to emphasise what I said in my first recent email to the reader, for his own good I think he needs to stop seeing or even communicating with A. I'd suggest that it would be safe for the reader to start meeting A again when the reader has a new romantic interest in his life, preferably when they're at the stage where they're calling each other 'boyfriends' :-).

Regarding the reader's concern that his friends might look down upon him if they see the gaydar profiles of the guys that he wants to meet, I'd suggest that perhaps he could take more responsibility for his own life and not tell them in future. One thing he could do if he's concerned for his safety is to find an email system which does delayed delivery, so that when he gets back from an encounter with one of these dominating guys he could then prevent an email containing contact and gaydar profile details from being sent to them. The email system that I use at work has that feature, so I suspect that it can be found elsewhere too. In any case, given that his friends know about the kind of stuff that he's into, they won't look down on him if they're proper friends, so it's a good test of whether they're good friends or not. However I think that he should stop using his friend A, and should just rely on his ex, assuming that his ex is happy to carry on playing that role.

In his first email, the first question that this reader asks is whether he can continue being friends with B the way it was before? I'd think the answer is 'no', because he must take account of the way that B behaved in connection with A. Surely it was a bit rude of B to want a threesome with both A and the reader, without discussing with the reader in advance? So I think that their friendship has evolved, although it's up to the guys themselves to work out what kind of friendship they'll have in future.

Finally, the reader also asks is whether it's unacceptable as a matter of principle to sleep with the father (or immediate family member) of someone that one has a romantic connection to? I reckon that it always depends on the precise circumstances and what the motives are, so I don't think that it's wrong as a matter of principle. However, there are lots of situations where I reckon that it would be wrong. For example, I think it would be wrong if the motive is simply to try and upset the person with whom one's had a romantic connection. It would also be wrong if the other family member is simply a substitute for the person with whom one's had a romantic connection. In both those case it's wrong not least because it's not fair on the other family member. So one criteria for it not to be wrong is that the intentions of both people should be 'honourable', and that they'd have been keen to sleep with each other if the other person didn't exist.

Do any other readers have any thoughts relating to these questions?


John F said...

Your reader in my opinion suffers from low self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth.

However, it could be worse - at least he's aware of it. But like many people in his situation, he appears at times to be driven by a force beyond his control and likely feels powerless to do anything about it.

Thankfully, this sort of situation is not unheard of; there are many younger men and women (and plenty of older ones) who are in the same boat as well.

First, the people described (A and B) are not the kind of people your reader wants to spend time with. They hurt him and they use him and his welfare is not in their best interest, despite what they might think or what the reader might wish to believe - although I suspect that deep down, he knows this.

The reader's attraction for his friend's dad is a little more complicated and difficult to get to the bottom of without some more information - what's the history, what's the dad's sexuality, is the reader using the dad as a substitute for the son, etc. Your reader strikes me as the type who is plenty sharp enough to work this out with a little bit of thought - hell, he probably has done so already.

Ultimately, my advice to the reader is this: these people (A and B) are doing you no good. Please try, for your own mental health, to spend your time with others who are more worthy of your time. Respect yourself and treat the gift of your presence with the value it holds. Best wishes to you.

Was Once said...

John has it right, but with low self esteem he might also just be obsessing. People are not like video games, just when you think you have figured them out they change their minds... that is those that are really not worth being a friend with.
The main thing is try not to look for others to make you happy, it is fraught with difficulties. The sooner you develop you own path to happiness, instead of jumping on to a new person(like Dad) it will help all relationships you are involved in.
I feel reading his emails he will spin like this for a number of years until he pulls back and looks hard at himself.
GB if this doesn't help.. please feel free to dump this comment

John F said...

Yes. And 'A' and 'B' are feeding off of the reader's insecurities and attention. It is abusive and the reader needs to call it off. Unfortunately (and take it from someone who's been there before) people who get a lot out of you are very very resistant to being dropped. They will keep finding excuses to come back and will no go easily. But go they must. This is going to take some work.

I completely agree with you, Was Once. Happiness needs to come from within. Reader, you cannot depend on anyone else to validate you or to approve of your behaviour. Keep on repeating all of all of the good things about yourself to yourself - don't be shy or afraid to admit them - and then accept the fact that you deserve better than some parasite who feeds off of your attention to boost their own ego. Let these undesirable people become a distant memory.

Best wishes to you.

Superchilled said...

You need to be open with people about your feelings and not ever assume they know what's happening inside your head.

I had a friend once who declared he didn't have any interest in the guy he was in fact interested in, and then got upset when another friend made advances towards the guy, after which everything went pear-shaped.

If someone can't handle the truth about your feelings then they aren't the right one for you in the first place.

Your reader sounds like he's too worried about what other people think of him. Life is too short for that.

Anonymous said...

I suppose it comes down to how much the reader values his friendship with A.

I agree with GB that a temporary separation from A might be well-advised if the reader wants to maintain the sort of closeness he has with him.

Nonetheless, it's very interesting that the reader is going to absurd lengths to conceal his true feelings for A. Apparently it's because A gets arrogant when someone fancies him, which strikes me as rather a childish reason. I think it's worth initiating a romantic connection if that's what the reader desires. In the case of a rejection, A should be mature enough to move past it without damaging the friendship too much. Time heals afterall. But if A takes it as a cue for severing a friendship, perhaps he's never much of one to beign with.

Otherwise the reader will forever wonder.

Anonymous said...

I am the guy who wrote the letters. A knew that the reader liked him, after the party mentioned. I tried to take things further with A after first dating him, but A just wanted to be friends. Part of the problem is that I could not acknowledge to myself that A rejected me, as I felt it reflected badly on my own looks (hence beginning to devlop an eating disorder). I thought my self better looking than A and, already having low-self esteem about looks, I thought I must have mis-estimated my looks and must therefore be not that appealing in that respect.

Unknown said...

Please do not assume you are not good looking when others are not willing to take relationship further. Look might be important for immediate hookup, but after that it is more on personality match. A might think you are more suitable as a friend. YOU WILL BE FINE ;)