He's gay but he won't come clean

He offers and then withholds; he appears and disappears; I'm caught in his web and can't pin him down

Cary Tennis
September 21, 2011 4:01AM (UTC)

Dear Reader,

What follows is a super-long letter. I could have edited it, but am running it at length for a reason. You don't have to read the whole thing, but if you follow the contour of it, you sort of get, in a visceral way, the outrage of what is occurring. At least, that's my thinking on it.-- ct


Dear Cary,

I'm a gay man who spent many years denying my sexuality. I finally got over myself, and have had a few relationships.

I'm one of those people who always hears, "I don't know why nobody's snapped you up yet!" Actually, several people have tried, but usually one of two things happens -- they are looking for sex only, or they want more but we just don't have enough things in common to have a good relationship. My last relationship was with a really decent, sweet guy; it was drama-free, and lasted a year; but it basically turned into a "weekend-in-bed" relationship with not much happening during the week.


So I guess I'm fairly typical in that my problem hasn't generally been finding people who want to be involved with me, or who share common interests and values, but the combination of the two.

I live in a mostly Muslim country where attitudes toward homosexuality are mostly negative, and that also makes it a bit more difficult as many men are unwilling to go beyond sex.

I wouldn't say I "attract" such types more than anyone else. But maybe because I went through my own period of denial, I'm perhaps a bit too tolerant at times. Still, I'm very aware that trying to force someone in this situation will only push them farther into the closet.


Almost three years ago, I met someone online, and there seemed to be an instant click. The conversation flowed very easily, and we enjoyed many of the same things. Fairly early on, he told me that when he was 9 or 10 years old, he had been sexually abused. Well, raped, to be honest. He had also told (warned?) me that he tended to become interested in people and then cut them off. He said he wasn't sure if he was actually gay or not, and had brought up the issue with a psychologist at his university. The psychologist had told him that the reason he sought out men was to exact his "revenge" against his rapist by getting them interested in him, and then withholding what they wanted. Unfortunately, there are still many psychologists here who are unable to see homosexuality as anything other than a pathology.

He had had some experiences with men as an adult (he's in his 30s) but it seemed they had all started when they had forced themselves on him (but then again, he had gone along with it).


That seemed to be dangerous territory, but I enjoyed the friendship immensely. At that point, my feelings only went as far as "well, too bad he's not available." We'd talk for hours, sometimes late into the night, and really seemed to be soul mates. A few weeks went by, and one day he told me his feelings for me were going beyond the bounds of mere friendship. For my own part, I'd been careful at first but since there hadn't been any sort of "come-on," I'd let my defenses down. He lives in a town about five hours from here, so I said that if things were going to move in this direction, then we shouldn't waste any time in meeting in person. His reaction was a "noncommittal agreement." A few days later I said the same thing, and I heard some discomfort in his voice. During this time, the romantic telephone messages were coming hard and fast.

And then, suddenly, no contact. No answers to calls, messages, emails. This went on for three or four days, then I got an email telling me that he felt he wasn't gay, and felt like he'd been giving me the wrong impression. (Writing messages like "I want to give myself to you spiritually and physically," well yes, I'd say so.) He said what he was really after was love, and I'd given him that, but he could never, ever go into a gay relationship.

That was very hard to hear, and I said quite clearly that I thought he was lying to himself. A few days later, he sent a messages saying in effect, "What are you, I've never cried for someone like this before," so obviously he was more conflicted than he'd let on at first. But we'd started out in a friendship that had been fine before the romantic/sexual element came into it, so I said I'd respect his wishes and we could see where it would go from there. A week later, he came to my city and stayed with me for almost 10 days. We had a great time; but in retrospect I should have waited. I was still reeling and trying to get over my feelings. Once or twice I tried to talk about what had happened, and he avoided getting into the conversation; but the trust -- and physical, though not outwardly sexual contact -- grew. On the last day, he got a phone call from a woman who, according to him, had been really after him but he wasn't interested at all, and he'd "done something dumb" and slept with her anyway. I kind of lost it at that point and said, "What the hell are you doing? You don't want her but you sleep with her; you 'aren't gay' but you fall in love with me, then deny it meant anything ..." I really did push him into a corner. He admitted that he had been very happy before he started feeling wrong about our "virtual" relationship, but he then got quite defensive, brought up another unrelated issue to argue about, and then left. The next day we talked online and he said he regretted that he'd ever met me, and was so uncomfortable during the time he was with me that he felt physically sick. (B.S., he could have left any time of course, and we were up every night till 3 and 4 a.m. talking). My housemate said, "I give him six months; he won't be able to stand it and he'll make contact again. I've watched how he looks at you, how he interacts with you. He's head over heels in love with you but he's from a conservative background, and he can't deal with it now. It's typical for here, you need to give him time."


And almost exactly six months later, he sent a message, just asking how I was, nothing else. For the next year and a half, our "correspondence" was like that; a hello here, a "how are you" there, he'd share a piece of music or a bit of writing with me. Then last November, out of the blue he friended me on Facebook, and we started talking like old friends. He even invited me to go up and stay with him at a place in the mountains. I didn't go, of course; he was planning to come to the city and I thought it would be better to meet in person here and see how that went.

During our talks, he mentioned homosexuality several times, wondering aloud why people had such an issue with it. It seemed he was trying in various ways to let me know he didn't have a problem anymore, and also made reference to "how difficult women were to relate to." He was also going to come visit, we'd go out on a photo trip, take in some concerts, catch up. I carefully avoided any talk of romance because I didn't want another virtual affair. But something always seemed to come up and he kept postponing his trip. Finally, in May, he did come; but when he came he seemed uncomfortable, and said he was going to leave the next day. He did end up staying a few days (not with me), and we finally had a short visit one afternoon. And then he went silent again; no answers to phone calls, and when we'd meet online, the conversation would be short and he'd leave, sometimes without saying goodbye. We had been talking five or six days a week before then. Finally after two weeks, I asked what was going on, and if I'd done anything to make him uncomfortable. He was defensive, and said that was a question that only a wife might ask a husband; that I had no reason to be "checking up on him" like that. I responded that if I didn't answer any friend's phone calls for two weeks, they'd naturally wonder what was going on. The next day he "unfriended" me. I wrote to him and said in essence, "I give up. You've been my friend and written me off twice, and there won't be a third time, because I can't take it. If you want to act like a real friend, then my door's open; but if not, then don't friend me, don't call me, don't send me messages -- don't contact me at all. Because I'm not interested in a virtual friendship, or one that is turned on and off on a whim." I also made it clear that I still did have some feelings for him; if that bothered him then he should know it and he could stay away for good. That was in June.

Come August, guess who was back wanting to friend me? I talked with another friend about it and debated whether I should or not. The friend had spoken with him after he cut me off, and he'd told him, "I keep running away from life." He thought I should add him, but be careful.


I did add him, but not without trepidation. The fact is that I accepted a long time ago that he was "messy" when it came to relationships and his ability to participate in them, and even had a year-long relationship during his absence. But there was still a dormant seed of attachment to him in me, and when he reappeared last fall -- thankfully, after I'd ended the other relationship -- it didn't take much for it to take root and grow into hope against hope that maybe he was "ready" this time. He knows very well who I am, and broke off our friendship over it before, but still invited me to go stay with him in a remote cabin in the mountains with a single bed, and made it "clear" (if with no direct references to his own sexuality) that he had no problem with gayness. But the fact that he pulled away after planning his trip for so long, and then cut off contact after seeing me, convinces me that he still does have issues with it. And yet he also seems unable to stay away. This is what makes me doubt his psychologist's appraisal; it feels a lot more like someone who is simply gay and attached but unable to follow through, perhaps because he hasn't dealt with the trauma of his abuse.

The other weekend I went on a trip with some friends to a town near where he lives, and I let him know we would be there. He came down and spent the day with us, and it was great. No discomfort, and afterward he didn't cut me off, though our contact is not as intense as it was before.

So what's my problem now? I'm not so smitten as I was before, but I still sometimes catch myself thinking that "maybe he'll get over himself." I also know that it can take a long time and that nobody can do it for him. And though I have helped people deal with issues about their sexuality, I'm just too close in this case. So leaving sexuality/relationships out of it and simply making the condition that he treat me decently and consistently seemed the best "middle road." I suppose that only time will show if he's able to respect my conditions for our friendship.

I've had a couple of infatuations before, both of which went a lot further than this one, but even the more intense one (a classic "yes ... but no ... but yes ... but no" situation) didn't last more than six months. I'm still friends with one of them now, and if either one of them were to come on to me, I would be completely "immune." But that's the thing, they don't; and I know they won't. I'd love to have that easy comfort with this man too because we do share so much. But I'm not sure how to do that, because his manner, his looks, his subtext always seems to hint at something more beneath the surface and it resonates in me. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just seeing what I want/hope to see, but I don't think I'm quite that delusional. How do I set this boundary in my own mind? Is it possible to set it, when I'm holding onto even a bit of hope that one day things might be different?


No Boundaries

Dear No Boundaries,

In your first conversation, this man told you who he was and what he was going to do. And then he did it.

He keeps doing it.

I ran your letter at full length so readers could grasp the contours of this repetitive and potentially harmful saga.


In contrast, my advice to you is going to be very short and to the point: Stop doing this.

Get out of this man's life. That's my advice to you in a nutshell. Cut him off. Be done with this. End it.

Can you do that?

If you can, then you will have improved your life. If you cannot do this, then I suggest you begin a course of psychotherapy in order to examine and ultimately change whatever it is that is driving you to remain in this man's orbit.


You say in your last paragraph, "Sometimes I wonder if I'm just seeing what I want/hope to see, but I don't think I'm quite that delusional."

You don't have to be delusional. It doesn't matter what you call it. What matters is that you stop. If you can stop on your own, great. If not, get help.

Creative Getaway

Citizens of the Dream

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

MORE FROM Cary TennisFOLLOW @carytennisLIKE Cary Tennis

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Since You Asked

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •