Was I a dupe?

Why did he dump me? And why does it still hurt so much?

By Cary Tennis
Published August 6, 2004 7:42PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I'm a 35-year-old gay man who recently got dumped out of an eight-month relationship that I can't seem to get over. Here's the skinny: He was six weeks out of a three-year relationship when we met through a mutual friend. Instant chemistry, instantly spending all of our time together and enjoying every minute. I opened up to him in ways that I hadn't with anyone else. Knowing that he was just out of a relationship, I made it clear to him that I didn't want to be rebound guy and that he needed to think about his intentions. I hadn't been in a relationship for about three years and was excited at the prospect of building one again. He gave the all-clear and -- presto -- we're boyfriends. I met and liked his family. Everyone around us was very supportive of the relationship and took clear notice of the spring in my step.

This all started in September. Right around February my life started to get much busier than usual (competitive sport, plus coaching, working full time, and buying my own house for the first time). The physical side of the relationship started to slip. I was getting stressed, letting myself get pulled in too many directions. He'd already told me that he loved me and I sang the refrain. I'm not sure that in my whole heart I believed myself when I told him that I loved him. I've been wary of love -- total, unrequited love -- not sure that it would ever be possible for me, not sure that I could give my whole heart to another, but I wanted to try. My parents divorced when I was 10 and neither of my parents was overly affectionate with my brother and me, both during and after the marriage. I don't think I ever learned from them what a good, healthy relationship could be.

Back to the story. He told me I wasn't being physical enough with him. I explained that I was feeling the heat of things and that I tend to retreat into myself when that happens, sleeping more than usual (my escape hatch, as it were). I told him that I wanted to work on things but I needed some time (couple of months or so) to get through this hectic period. I told him again that I loved him and wanted to work it out; I just needed time.

Did I take on too much to subconsciously push him away? Was I testing him to see how much he could take? Was he only in it for a physical relationship from the start and deceiving me as to his true intentions? Was I rebound guy? The end result is that he's walked away, and shortly after that walk he went back to his old boyfriend, who's about 18 years his senior. This guy provides things to him (trips, clothes, etc.) that I cannot. We all live in the same small neighborhood and although I haven't run into him in the last couple of months, I see reminders of him consistently. It hurts. I've called a couple of times in an attempt to patch things up and be friendly. The calls have gone unreturned. Did I just go into this thing blind and stupid, and now I'm so mad at myself for not seeing the signs that I'm punishing myself? I know time will help, but I don't think I should be feeling this burned.

What's your take?

Duped or Dolt?

Dear Duped or Dolt,

I don't think you went into this thing blind and stupid at all. I don't see what you could have done differently. The fact is that you lost him and it hurts and it's going to take some time to get over it. And it might take you more time or less time than it might take someone else, but everyone needs time to get over such things. You need as much time as you need. Who can tell how much time that is?

The lack of demonstrative love in your family and your parents' divorce may have left you a little more fragile than others, and this incident may have rekindled an old sense of loneliness and longing, but you'll eventually get over this just like anyone else. It is very common, when you are getting over something, to say, "I don't think it should hurt this much and I don't think it should take this long to get over." It's natural to feel that way. The truth is, it's going to hurt for a while and it's going to take some time to get over.

Meanwhile, while you're getting over it, treat yourself kindly. Don't punish yourself. Think of yourself as having been in an accident and needing a little convalescence. Give yourself permission to stay home from school. It sounds like you're quite an athlete and very busy; you may need to set aside some time just for this. That's OK. You didn't do anything wrong, and you didn't miss any signals. You just got injured, and now you have to recuperate.

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Cary Tennis

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