Letting go of the dream lover

I know he's not available; I know he didn't treat me well; but still I keep thinking of him

By Cary Tennis
December 10, 2012 6:00AM (UTC)
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(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

Compared to some of your letters, this one will no doubt sound very lightweight and a bit high school and I'm sure that some people will greet it with some serious eye-rolling/sighing/head-shaking. Good luck to them! We are all entitled to our opinion.


I am a 30-year-old gay man and I would describe myself as artistic, loyal, creative, intelligent, prone to bouts of daydreaming and romantic notions, as well as the occasional dark mood. In the summer, I went on a date with a man without the slightest notion that by the time we went our separate ways at the end of the evening, I would have the clear sense that this was the man I would spend the rest of my life with. I always thought that stuff was Hollywood and fairy tales and though I wanted to feel it, I didn't really imagine it would happen. Anyway, it did.

For about three weeks we saw each other and every time we met, it was amazing. Everything I put out he reciprocated. I told my friends about him. I told my mum. I showed everyone his picture. This was it. And then one night, after we'd been out we walked to the station together. I kissed him. He pulled back. And it felt strange. I got on the train and had a sudden flash of insight. By the time I got home, I knew it was over. The feeling was that strong.

When I went to his flat for dinner two days later, I asked him why he pulled back. He said he just doesn't like kissing in crowded stations. We had kissed in public before so I didn't really understand this but I accepted it and said that this was fine. We had a nice meal. And then I had the feeling come back, the feeling that something wasn't right. It made me anxious and I asked him to reassure me. He did, but I could see he was uncomfortable. I was a little irrational and I asked if it was over. I asked him more than once. He said it wasn't, but after that night he stopped calling. I called him and he didn't answer. Finally I texted him and asked him if he wanted to see me again or if he just wanted to be friends or if he didn't want anything. He said he wanted to be friends.


We met a couple of times as friends. It was hard. I felt like I was pretending it was OK when I knew I had fallen in love with this man and he had rejected me. He said he was dating again. I dated again. I slept with someone I'd never met before, I went out with anyone who was interested, anything to distract me. None of it worked.

One day I went on a date with a man, expecting not to feel anything, expecting to to see another man's face when I looked at him. But that didn't happen. I was honest with him. I told him that I had fallen in love with someone who had walked away. It turned out that this man was also in love with someone who had walked away. So we spent the night drinking and eating chicken noodle soup and walking through the city, talking, two lost souls keeping each other afloat.

We kept seeing each other, started sleeping together, formed a bond. Now we are together, in some way or another. We listen to music and watch films and hold each other. It's nice. Several weeks ago, I arranged to see the man I fell in love with, to tell him the truth; that I'd been in love with him when he walked away and how hurt I felt afterward, to end the situation once and for all. In the end, he couldn't come because he got called away to the Middle East with his job and he said he would't be back until the end of the year. I didn't want to wait any longer so I put it all down in a long text and told him that I didn't need any reply, that it was probably better not to reply. I didn't want to make him feel like he had to say something back to me.


After that, I relaxed a little. I carried on seeing the new guy. He contacted the guy who had left him and went out for a drink with him. He wanted to be friends with him. They see each other every week now. I trust that he won't do anything with this guy. He is very open and honest. I ask if he is still in love with him. He says he hopes not. I'm not sure what this means. He tells me I'm beautiful, that he loves being with me. He is a good man.

Last weekend, I had the sudden impulse that I couldn't bear not to see the man I fell in love with again and I felt compelled to contact him. So I texted him and said that there was no pressure on him but if he wanted to hang out when he came home, I'd like that. He replied saying he appreciated this.


Oddly, since we split, I have had this recurring instinctive feeling that he is the one I will spend my life with. It's the same feeling I had when I first started seeing him. It comes to me in flashes, usually when I have started to relax and stop thinking about him. My friends tell me to move on, that he is not interested. I don't know if I can trust this "intuition." Rationally, I feel like my friends are right. He left. It's clear. He doesn't want me. So why do I keep having these sudden insights that he is the one for me? Is it my mind playing tricks? I don't know what I should do now. All I know is that every time I stop thinking about him and draw a line under the situation and start to move on, I have the overriding sense that I should not give up on this man. It's something I can't explain. I don't want to be one of those people who chases after people who have no interest in them. I don't want to be a crazy man.

I feel secure and safe with the man I am with. He is tender and honest and charming. I think we are both still in love with other people and we are keeping each other warm. Maybe it's more than that. I don't know. I just know that despite everything, I still feel inextricably tied to a man I only knew for a matter of weeks, a man who left me and is currently on the other side of the world. It still hurts. When I met him, it felt like coming home. Maybe I should never have relied on someone else for that feeling. Should I give up on him? I would appreciate the benefit of your wisdom.

Cupid Shot Me


Dear Cupid Shot Me,

This guy is not available nor is he appropriate for you. He did not treat you well. He was not honest.

He is no more available to you than a movie star or a character in a work of fiction. So as you suggest in your letter, it is time to find what that quality is that he awakened in you, and nurture it in yourself, so that you can journey toward completion without being beholden to outward symbols of that completeness.


My intuition is that this man touched something in you that you do not know well enough; he found a weakness. Perhaps he even preyed on your weakness. People who discover our weaknesses are dangerous, because they use our own power against us. They awaken longings that we do not even know we have, and we think that what has awakened is love for them but it is really more like a hunger for something in ourselves, which they supply just long enough to alter our relations to ourselves, which is analogous to awakening an addiction.

So, take a tip from yourself. When you say, "Maybe I should never have relied on someone else for that feeling," you are on to something. This man is neither available nor appropriate as a mate. There is something else going on.

A clue comes when you mention how you are "prone to bouts of daydreaming and romantic notions, as well as the occasional dark mood."

This may well be what has got you in trouble. You let the daydreamer, the romantic, get into this situation where it seemed that a fantasy was about to come true; now you have to call upon your adult, caring, protective side to protect that romantic dreamer from his unrealistic dreams. That doesn't mean to shut the dreamer down, but shield the dreamer from his pitfalls, his weaknesses; keep him from walking off the cliff. You have a strong, realistic side. That's the side that has to say, OK, this guy is not available or appropriate as a mate. That's the side that needs to be in charge. Your realistic side needs to step in to protect the vulnerable, romantic side. That's how you'll get out of this trouble. That doesn't mean the romantic side can't express itself. It just means it shouldn't be in charge.


Nevertheless, it will be hard at first to let him go because he seems to be a soul mate in some way. A soul mate is not always a good thing; we can have soul mates who are bad for us. We can fall for people who seem to complete, like a perfect puzzle piece, a side of us that is not healthy, who answer some call in us for sweet rescue or some fantasy of self-abandonment, some fantasy of giving up our autonomy, of reversion or return, of regression. Some people ring a bell in us that is best not rung. He may have rung that bell in you.

So I suggest you say no. Let him go. It may be hard. It may feel like you're giving up something dear. But you're not. Rather, you are gaining something dear: your true, balanced self, and the luxury of choice.

Cary Tennis

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