Fear and loving

I pushed away a man I love because I'm afraid of being hurt again.


Cary Tennis
January 8, 2004 1:25AM (UTC)

Dear Readers,

Hello again. As I said yesterday, I am indeed back. I'm not quite sure I have yet regained my faculties, however, as I did nothing but read by the fire and walk in the rain for nearly two weeks. Writing still feels a little strange. At any rate, I'm sure you'll let me know if it seems as strange to you as it does to me.

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Cheers,

Cary T.

Dear Cary,

I broke up with my boyfriend of three years in April and moved back to New York in September. Yes, I did the breaking up, but getting over him has been so hard. Moving back to New York helped, as we used to live here together, and dredging up memories of him on every block I walked down forced me to deal with my lost love.

I'm not sure why I left him, except I needed to be alone and work some things out for myself, about myself. And I'm still trying. But I miss him.

Enter a tall, dark, handsome, strong man who sweeps me off my feet my first month back in NYC. I fall in love fast and hard, and hold some of this back from him out of fear. Fear of being in a relationship again, fear of him hurting me, fear I'm not doing the right thing for myself, fear fear fear. Should I mention we were already talking marriage, babies and moving to Puerto Rico? That may have had something to do with the fear.

I pull away.

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He becomes angry and begins to blow me off, eventually telling me "fuck off" in an e-mail. Exactly that. Fuck off.

So now we don't speak, though because we have a mutual friend we're occasionally around each other. And I am completely tormented by the idea that, out of fear, I threw something away that could have been wonderful. The sparks between us could have reached Mount Olympus, and we each made the other feel special and comfortable and good. We took deep, dreamless naps together after work. I loved his dog. He met my mother (most significant person in my life).

I'm terrified to even try to talk to him now because maybe he'll tell me fuck you to my face or otherwise reject me again. But for me the case isn't closed until I explain why I acted the way I did, and explain that I love him.

Should I just forget the whole thing and wait for my wound to heal? Or try to talk to him and risk further abuse to my love and ego?

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Help!

Dear Help,

Why don't you write this man a letter? You needn't speak to him and risk embarrassment or abuse. If he does not understand the pressures you are under and the reasons you pulled away, he may feel that he is the one who was ill-treated. A letter may not persuade him to do anything differently. But at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that what needed to be said has been said.

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Writing a letter will also cause you to think through events. Do not do this quickly. Take your time. Take a few hours. Consider how to begin. What is your purpose in writing the letter? Is it to punish him? No. Is it to persuade him? No. It is only to set down the truth.

When writing your letter, because the true intensity of your feelings is something only you can know, try to use words that understate them rather than overstate them. Try to arrive at a state of mind in which you are truthful in every word; weigh your words so that no word seems to overstate your case. Try to arrive at the correct degree and quantity of emotion. Physical love evokes extremes that language cannot always accommodate, so it is better sometimes in writing a letter to abandon the effort to match the intensity and fire of the body.

For instance, it might not be a good idea to tell him that you love him. Pull back a few degrees and simply tell him that there are things about him that you miss. If you can make those things concrete without being mawkish or carnal, do so. Don't tell him you are terrified to talk to him. Just tell him that you wanted to make sure he understood the reasons you acted as you did. Do not accuse him of anything. Do not rehearse his rashness for him. Tell him the truth: If you think you understand why he acted as he did, tell him that. If you do not understand, tell him that. Keep your focus on telling the truth as clearly as you can; avoid writing for effect. Avoid writing in order to make your wishes come true. If your wish is that you would see him again, simply tell him that. But do not attempt to persuade him.

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When you are done writing this letter, look it over and make sure you have left nothing out, and that you have said nothing that exceeds the truth. If there are parts in it that make you feel uneasy, question them closely. Do they make you feel uneasy because they are true, or because they exaggerate the truth in quest of some imagined effect? It is usually the case that what makes one uneasy in one's own writing is exaggeration or falsehood, or passages written with unclear motives; if you cannot tell why a passage makes you uneasy, consider taking it out.

Mail the letter to his home address. It will have more effect if it is a physical letter rather than an e-mail. Then consider this chapter closed for the time being and try to go about your business in life.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read the Since You Asked directory.

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