Schroedinger's ex: I'm over him. I'm not over him.
August 21, 2011 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm having a difficult time trying to mentally process an ex's recent wedding because I'm hung up on the sex/religion aspect of it all. I need advice on how to stop thinking about him.

I've known "Tony" since we were kids. We were friends in high school and ended up dating for several months. We had a really fun relationship--very physical, lots of joking around and enjoying each other's company without getting too serious. When university started (we went to different areas of the country), we parted ways on good terms.

College changed him. Instead of being the fun-loving irreverent guy I had known all those years, Tony was now a born-again christian and had joined the military. Our communication became very tense after that. He apologized profusely for all of the ways he had sexually "violated" me and begged my forgiveness. He was concerned about my soul and kept trying to get me to “turn my life over to christ” (he knew/knows I am a hardcore atheist). Most unsettlingly, he had fallen in love with me. He wrote me letters and poems, left me long phone messages, etc, professing his undying love for me. He asked me to marry him several times. Our relationship (which had been, from my point of view, one strictly of friendship save for those several months in high school) was getting strained and awkward, I told him we couldn’t be friends anymore, and we stopped contacting each other.

That was several years ago now. It's been nearly ten years since the last time we saw each other. However, we have a lot of mutual friends and our moms are friends, so we know a lot about what’s going on in each other’s lives. (A peril of coming from a small town.) Friends and family don’t know that our relationship took such a turn for the weird (and assume we’re not friends solely because he’s religious and I’m not) so don’t hold back on any stories for fear of some “don’t talk about the ex” taboo. In short: I hear about him all the time, whether I want to or not.

Anyway, fast forward to a month ago: Tony gets engaged! This is excellent news (he hadn't, as far as I am aware, had a girlfriend since me and people were getting concerned). I don't know "Kathy", but by all appearances and anecdotes she's kind, shares his values (e.g. is also extremely religious), and is absolutely crazy about him. This is all very good. They got married two weeks ago.

Now here are the things I keep getting hung up on:

1. Kathy and Tony have known each other for one year...a year that Tony has spent all but one month of stationed overseas. Kathy lives back in the states. They spent, prior to their wedding, one "life-month" together. (Since the wedding, Kathy has moved overseas to live with Tony.) That, alone, does not bother me.

2. Kathy and Tony have had a completely chaste courtship. The first time they kissed was on their wedding day.

3. When Tony and I were together-together, our relationship was anything but chaste. We were young and full of hormones, and had a lot of happyfun sextimes together. Tony is (was? does a kink ever truly go away?) also into some BDSM stuff, and I spent some (thoroghly enjoyed and consensual) time tied up, smacked around, and playing the slave. Suffice it to say, we had a good time.

Tony's engagement/marriage has profoundly affected me in ways I can't fully grok. I am happily living my life, have a wonderful partner with whom I get on splendidly, and I have no reason to dwell on Tony's personal life. But my brain cannot reconcile points 2 and 3.

Every time a thought about Tony pops into my head (I'm at the age where all of my friends are getting married and engaged, so there are a lot of "triggers" around me), it is immediately followed by a chorus of "IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG NOW." I don’t want to think about him. I want to go be happy with my life while he goes and is happy with his. I keep fixating on this, though!

I keep having thoughts like: "but they hardly even know each other!" (which has nothing to do with sex), and "what if she doesn't know about his kinky side? will she be ok with it? what if she's not?" and "what if he's suppressing his kinky side for "godliness", won't he be unsatisfied?" and all sorts of other things that I know are NONE OF MY BUSINESS and that deep down inside are things that I'm not truly concerned about.

I want to stop thinking these things. I can't help it. Other exes of mine have gone on to other relationships/marriages without me even batting my eye. Tony's got me all befuddled and it's all because his current religious lifestyle is so different from the Tony I used to know so well. It’s especially frustrating because I’m not a nosy person and I’m not used to thinking about other peoples’ personal lives. Tony’s situation has got me all screwed up though.

Please give me your tips and advice on how I can just. get. over. this. Is there any good way to halt these thoughts? My guess is that in time the thoughts will become less and less, but I'm obsessing NOW. (FWIW, I have no history of any sort of obsessive compulsive or anxiety disorders, no depression, no history of any mental--anything--that could be gumming up the works, so to speak.) What do I need to do to enable myself to move on?

I am looking for tips, techniques, anecdotes, and maybe articles if there are good ones on how to 1) figure out why I’m having these thoughts, 2) figure out how to stop obsessing, and 3) perhaps start a dialog with mutual contacts to say “don’t tell me about Tony” in a way that doesn’t make it sound like I’m jealous of him or something equally petty.

Thank you for your help, and thanks for reading.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Here's the thing about thoughts. The more you fight with them, the more you argue with yourself about them, the more you HAAAAAAAATE the fact that you are having them -- the more they stick around.

In other words, what you resist, persists.

Instead of fighting these intrusive and unwelcome thoughts, just breathe. Sit with them, but don't engage with them. Loosen your attachment. Relax. See them as clouds, floating overhead. Let them pass.

Before you know it, you'll be thinking about something else. Because that's how thoughts are: they always change.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:27 PM on August 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

You don't sound not over him, you sound, for lack of a better word, nosy. I don't mean that harshly, there's nothing wrong with wondering what people from your past are up to, especially people you were close with and who appear to have changed a good deal. But you sound like you're looking for reasons to judge him for how he's changed.

Why don't you call him? You're already hearing about him and thinking about him. He's presumably over you, so the old discomfort may well no longer matter. And regardless of whether or not you end up staying in touch, you might get a perspective on the person he's become during the time you've been out of touch, at least enough of a perspective to stop thinking of him as the 18-year-old you once knew, who may not be much like the adult he is now.

Otherwise, yeah, time.
posted by orangejenny at 12:27 PM on August 21, 2011

Christian (Reformed Presbyterian) here, and I'll try to give you my thoughts from that perspective.

I'll assume Tony is a true Christian, meaning he has been changed inside, and his motives and actions are matching up more and more with what the Bible teaches about how life should be lived. His professing his love for you was a mistake and was unfair to you. I'd guess he might have been looking back at his previous life. Since then, it sounds like he's matured spiritually, turned from his previous lifestyle, and has found someone who shares the same convictions. In other words, he's become a completely different person on the inside. He's moved on and you need to do the same (which is easier said than done). Counseling can help.
posted by davcoo at 12:28 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Something else is bothering you. This is what an obession does, distract. Find out what else is bothering you and this obsession will go away.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:30 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

We tend to believe that there is such a thing as a 'true self.' You believe that pre-Christian, BDSM-loving Tony is the true Tony and you are simultaneously incredibly curious and totally freaked out at the idea of someone denying their 'true self' so completely. I think this is what you're ultimately hung up on and you can't stop thinking about it because you can't resolve the 'be one thing, behave like another' problem. I also think there's some jealousy in the mix and you're probably battling a certain sense of superiority that you'd rather not be feeling ('I knew Tony better. He was his real self with me.' and 'I know who I am; how can he not know who he is?'). Anyhow, maybe you can reexamine your ideas of selfhood in some other arena and leave Tony out of it? With all possible kindness, it really is none of your business.
posted by kitcat at 12:31 PM on August 21, 2011 [17 favorites]

I could be very very wrong about this, and if I'm totally off base, I apologize. To me, it sounds like Tony has changed . . . a lot. Do you feel insecure in the fact that he has changed so drastically and that perhaps you do not perceive that you have changed all that much? I get the same feelings when I run across friends from high school on facebook - like the pot-head trouble maker who is now happily stable and a kindergarten teacher with a brand new baby. That's NOT the person I knew and it's hard to see them differently than when I knew them. I also tend to feel insecure knowing that they went ahead and did all this changing and I don't feel like I changed much at all. I feel like I'm the same person I've always been. And for some reason that makes me feel . . . less. Like, I haven't progressed at all.

I knew a kid in highschool - jock, total goofball who now constantly spouts Christian stuff. Or how about the quiet die-hard Baptist girl who always had her nose in a book who is now a very very verbal atheist, with a baby out of wedlock (gasp!) and tattoos?

I'd chalk it up to the fact that he's changed and you just don't know him anymore. People do change and it's hard to realize that people change without us and that people we once knew so intimately, we no longer know.

Now, please don't discount the good times you had together. He wasn't pretending to be someone else, he was who he was and he is now who he is. Perhaps life experiences changed him and he is at a point in his life that his spiritual convictions fit with who he is now.

Think fondly of your good memories of past Tony and don't give allowance to the thoughts you have of current Tony - because you don't know him.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:32 PM on August 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

well, from my militantly irreligious perspective, the born-again chaste marriage, man is the head, etc. thing is a hardcore BDSM fantasy: maybe his new wife get's off on this... even if she would never admit it.

I mean, if she is playing the role of the good christian woman, totally subservient to her husband, he hardly needs to tie her up. It's the idea that counts.

So, maybe Tony hasn't changed a whole lot.
posted by at 12:35 PM on August 21, 2011 [20 favorites]

One way to resolve tension with unwanted thoughts is to write them all out in detail, including everything you feel about them. I have issues with agonizing over very, very, very old mistakes (like, I was 8 years old and accidentally spit gum down a radiator grate mistakes) and writing out exactly what happened and how it made me feel at the time, without being all "and feeling that way is stupid," has led to remarkable decrease in the amount of a) time I spend thinking about them and b) level of distress I feel when I do think about them.
posted by SMPA at 12:38 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

It almost sounds like you just really want him to be happy. You imagine him rejecting a part of himself -- a part you knew, cared for, and had great fun with -- and feel sad for him. (I also wondered if his possible rejection of his own kinkiness feels like a judgment or rejection of your own. But I didn't hear that.)

Maybe you could address this fear that he's not getting what he needs by imagining that she is compatible with his sexuality (if he is still kinky). Maybe what sparked his desire was that he picked up on submissiveness in her. People can sense that fairly easily. And religiosity can be pretty kinky. I mean, they dated for a year and never even kissed!? Think of all that burning desire they put themselves through. Maybe insisting that they do that expresses the same drive for control as tying you up (or maybe he has his own submissive side). One stereotypical Christian female ideal that some people hold to (as I understand it) is to be meek and submissive, acknowledge her husband as the head of the household, obey him, and even know God via him. He's not necessarily signing up for a marriage in which he is not dominant. And my impression is that Christians have few rules about what kind of sex you can have within marriage.

Separately, you could consider that he's on a very different journey from yours and may have changed. It doesn't sound like you understand his dive into religion (?). What is he getting from that? Is there an explanation for his religiosity other than rejecting his own kinkiness? Maybe he is driven by a sense of allegiance and duty to his family, for instance. If so, you might think about the happiness he's getting from that. Also, he may have ultimately decided that, while he enjoyed his time with you, he also felt some uncomfortable about it and did not want to keep doing that. Without really knowing what's going on, you might just imagine him happily pursuing his own path of self-development.

On your last question, maybe say "let's not talk about it. He's so different now from who he was in high school that I worry he's denying or suppressing his true self, and I miss the old Tony. It makes me worry and feel sad."
posted by salvia at 12:38 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have similar thoughts about a few of my very religious friends and acquaintances. I think it stems at least partly from the fact that born again Christians are often really vocal about when having sex is ok or not (especially when it's not and why it's not and let's talk some more about not having sex) and what types of sex are ok or not (with plenty of details on what's not ok, and with whom, and what body parts), and they can seem obsessed with virginity. So, when they get married, you can't help but think back to all of their sex talk, and then it's easy to think about the now God-approved sex they're having.

I pretty much do the same, "Oh, wedding photos of so-and-so up on facebook now, I guess she lost her virginity last Saturday, I wonder how that went---OH GOD NONE OF MY BUSINESS." I think the solution is not so much to forbid people from mentioning his name, but rather to train yourself to think of him as a whole person. Yeah, he's a born again Christian. But he's not a robot or a cartoon character. He's still a complex individual who lives in reality, even if he's adopted a set of very specific and strict beliefs.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:40 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Is it possible that deep inside you felt like somehow he was yours or that you're the one who knows his true self? His frequent proposals and overtures and no subsequent girlfriends somehow meant you were the primary woman in his life, even if he wasn't the main guy in yours?

It sounds like you have very fond, romantic memories of your high school fling, and this marriage is finally forcing you to confront the end of it, and perhaps even confront just how long ago it was. It's also forcing you to accept he has moved on from you and that he really is a different person now.

Maybe you are grieving for the love and fun you had then. Maybe only now are you realizing he's not going to snap out of it and become the old lover you once enjoyed.

Also, it's not so strange to be happily partnered and yet still have a few raw spots where old flames are concerned. Time will help. I also wonder if it might do you good to let him invade your brain for a few days. Instead of resisting, let your mind go where it wants and perhaps fantasize. You might dream about him some.

The other thing that can help: give your brain something new and interesting to obsess over. Watch some new, addictive TV show, read a super compelling book, take a day trip someplace you've never been.

I suspect in a month you'll realize this has passed.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:40 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, obviously "Tony" is a bit of a freakshow, as is this sort of fundamentalist christianity (IMHO); I don't think it's weird or particularly nosey that you find yourself thinking about him/it. It might keep me up too... but eventually you'll get tired of it and move on to other weird things in life. It doesn't say to me that you secretly wish he was still putting you in bondage, instead of his wife.
posted by at 12:44 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

You had a lot of intimate and positive and passionate connection with this person during an intense and plastic time in your life. There's always something a bit more real than reality in late adolescence.

This was followed by his continued connection to you, which was equally intense, but in a different way that marked the placed where you would face the rest of your lives very differently. Regardless of your discomfort with his change, it was as notable a period of your life as your first times with him. Perhaps some part of you felt his love for you, at that point, was him trying to reconnect with what you believed was a healthier time in his life and so your hurt in moving on from his advances was also hurt that he was rejecting what was so positive and loving and fun for you--it diminished it.

It seems that his approach to life, however and regardless of the details, continues to be pretty intense and passionate. He meets someone, they're both full of some heady faith, they make sacrifices to that faith in the name of their love, they consummate that love with a whirlwind marriage.

Kink, as far as I understand it, is rooted in emotional intensity and a way to express mutual experiences in a way that marks (sometimes literally) the partners. I'm not sure that what he has decided about the living of his life is that much different--he's deeply connecting to gestures and careers that express big ideas and feelings for him and mark him symbolically--just like he did with you.

Maybe what is compelling your thoughts is your feeling that the same kind of depth you shared with him only belongs to you, now. He's reframed it as something different, you haven't, so you imagine that he must be denying some important part of himself. But really, he may just be expressing his same self differently.

Protect what it was you shared with him, maybe resolve, at least symbolically, to incorporate some of what made your time with him joyful and fun to any new partnerships you make in the future--because those times and values are meaningful and especially meaningful to you, and his new life can't change that.

There's a way in which this kind of thing happens again and again through adulthood--connections are made that are somehow rejected in a manner that for a little while, seems to create a lot of doubt and longing and obsessive thinking about the person. But it seems that I always figure out that these are the connections that create the most meaning for my own identity, though I first I could only think about them. It's kind of amazing, really.
posted by rumposinc at 12:49 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Of course you're thinking about him! You knew him as one person, now he seems another (completely different) person so it's perfectly natural to me you'd spend some time mulling over the changes. Besides, people are interesting, their motivations are fascinating and it's entertaining to a greater or lesser degree to try and understand them. I see it as the equivalent of people watching at the mall ... "why are they making the choices they make, that isn't what I would say, do, etc., people are weird". Soon enough you'll move on to think of other things so don't beat yourself up over this.
posted by Allee Katze at 12:52 PM on August 21, 2011

Maybe you would feel less like you're crazily obsessing over your ex if you thought of it like this: you're wondering about some very interesting questions about human nature. "Can people really change," "what's it like to live a lie," "what are the secrets of other people's marriages that I will never find out about," "why do weird religious people do those weird religious things," etc. - those are sort of huge questions, they're topics that people write novels and plays about. Of course you're intrigued by them. The fact that your ex's situation put them in your mind not, say, some political scandal or reality show, might make it feel weird and inappropriate. But pretty much everyone wonders about these things.

You said this was a recent wedding, so I think the obsession will wear off naturally. Either you'll hear nothing for a while and get bored thinking about him, or you'll hear that he's divorced and say, a-ha!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think it would wig anyone in your situation out.

- Plenty of folks suppress their kinks for their relationships. Would you or I recommend it to a friend? No. But lots of folks do.

- That kink was enjoyable to him, but likely the source of much guilt. It may also have been a phase that he truly isn't suppressing, but rather something he's "over" as a sexual need as he's older

- Whether you admit it or not, the whole "I love you! I can't get over you!" is an ego stroke, even if it was creepy as hell. It's sad and a little ego deflating to think that perhaps that weird love/intensity once he converted was all about his need to try to reconcile what the two of you did together and his faith -- the only was having sex (especially kinky sex) would be "ok" is if it somehow lead to marriage and him "saving you".

- You know all this tension and worry and bundle of nerves you have for him right now? That's what he had for you when he "realized" that profound belief in Christianity was the only way to heaven and he cared about you and wanted to save you -- by marrying you and making a righteous woman out of you. (I am an agnostic, but completely empathetic that the way you feel about Christianity he feels about your atheism.) You're doing the same thing, luckily, not expressing it in the same way.

- While I like the fact my husband and I knew each other for a decade before marriage and we lived together while we were engaged, I can totally see how chaste courtship can be really hot -- from that tease factor and the endorsement of the church that you can totally get it on in a few months if you jump through those steps. Appreciate that it's a different form of kink

- I have a theory that we sleep with the people we wish we could be like, but we're most happy marrying/coupling/long-terming with the people who make us/allow us to be the people we wish we could be. Marrying a woman like this in this kind of situation forces him to be a traditional, masculine, Christian husband in the most predictable sense. If that's what he aspires to be now, she may be able to make him happy in ways that no one else can....

- ...including you. Which is weird and sad and a bit ego-deflating, even if you didn't want him, it's totally natural to appreciate being in control of his emotional life and be put off your game to believe that someone else -- totally different than you, in a totally different situation, with a totally different belief system that's opposed to yours.

Telling yourself to stop thinking about it won't stop you thinking about it.

If it were me, I'd sit down with my typewriter and freewrite about it with a timer set at 60 minutes every day and get it all out, all at once, indulge everything I'm feeling, without using the whiteout button, to let me get on with the rest of my day, until I no longer had the compulsion to do it. You probably have a similar emergency valve on your brain -- therapy, meditation, talking to a friend you trust, drawing, whatever. Do that and let yourself feel it fully during that so it doesn't linger.

And then, once it's genuine, I'd sit down and fill out a lovely congratulations card, keeping the note short but sincere and write something like, "I cannot tell you how glad I am that one of my oldest friends has found happiness. GUY and NEWWIFE, I wish you all the love, peace and joy in the world. Sincerely, Anonymous." And because I'd feel guilty, I'd probably throw a gift card or something in there, but that part's my issue, not yours.

All in all, just cut yourself some slack. Stop telling yourself what you "should" feel and just feel stuff.

Good luck.
posted by Gucky at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think you're just having an existential crisis which has been merely initiated by this turn of events. The questions you might really be asking have nothing to do with Tony, per se, but rather are questions about if and how we can change our identities. If you think of Tony not as an individual but as an abstracted human with an interesting psychology, then that might help to detach from the personal aspect of the problem.

Maybe read some Jung. Allow yourself to be curious about the nature of identity, sexuality, and religion. This is probably getting you worked up because you know so intimately what Tony was like before. But really, you might just be interested in the psychology and philosophy of it all. Think of him as a case study. Study. Write about it. Come up with some interesting thoughts of your own about the nature of identity. It might help.

Just a theory.
posted by madred at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me that because he is so different from the person you knew, you are hung up in all the mysteries about it. This is perfectly normal. I'd say establish a light form of communication with him. Something as simple as a note in a wedding card. Start to get to know who he is now so you can deal with the difference from who he was then -- but just enough that you're not strangled in the great big mystery.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:06 PM on August 21, 2011

I have no idea if the accounts I've heard are representative or not, but ISTM a lot of people experience the embracing of kink as a born-again experience in itself: a throwing off of the false self imposed by society, and an embracing of the true self and one's own true desires. Enlightenment.

It's pretty clear that from your point of view, Tony's conversion was a step backwards, that once enlightened he is now benighted. An apostate. Given the deep connection you once had, this is bound to freak you out.

You also make it sound like he married on the rebound - from you. Although initially you parted ways on good terms, when he converted there was a sense in which he "dumped" you. There's a part of us which always longs to see those who've rejected us get their comeuppance, and I suspect that that part of you may be waiting to see his sham of a marriage, rushed into impulsively as a desperate attempt to blot out the memory of his One True Love, explode into dust. Usually, fantasies like this come to nothing. The company that wrongfully fired you doesn't go bankrupt. The two-timing boyfriend doesn't get a fatwa declared on him by women the world over, and end up permanently single. And so on.

I'll tell you this: I don't think your suspicions are irrational. You may in fact understand something about him that he is denying. On the other hand, maybe he isn't denying these things and he really has found his true partner and his true path in life. You can't know. Your suspicions could be completely nail-on-the-head and in all likelihood you will never ever find out. Unless you asked him. Which you can't. And he would probably not give you a straight answer. How frustrating. Enough to drive anyone to obsession.

One more thing: amusing that people think Christians live out BDSM only through male headship. There are plenty of kink-loving Christians out there who are not in the closet about it at all. In fact, I'm starting to wonder if I'm the only person in the world, Christian or not, who is neither a masochist seeking a sadist who will be terribly nice to them, nor vice versa. Makes for a rather lonely life, but I gotta be me.
posted by tel3path at 2:07 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) I think, despite your sexual past with him, you have a maternal thing going on with Tony. He acted like a lovestruck boy after you broke up, and you are still seeing him as this young, vulnerable, confused boy.

It's kinda like when your friends have a child, and you see that child when he's 3, and years go by but in your mind, that kid is still 3 years old.

When you see that child again, it's hard to reconcile the Goth teenager dressed all-in-black with that toddler you remember, hugging his blanky (or whatever. I'm reverting to stereotypes, but you get the idea).

I'm also going to assume something here, which I normally don't like to do on AskMe, but I'm thinking that maybe you are the kind of atheist who feels that Christians are mistaken at best and gullible sheeple at the worst. So you have a little superiority complex added to the image of childish Tony to make you even more maternal and protective of him.

So you have decided that the BDSM, fun-loving Tony is the "real" Tony, and this is the little lost boy who doesn't know any better Tony, who rushed into an impulsive marriage and needs you, the Only Woman Who Really Ever Knew Him, to come in and fix everything.

That's incredibly insulting to Tony and Kathy. You see them both as delusional children and not the adults they presumably are. You are blinded by preconceptions from a time that no longer exists.

2) You're assuming that what might have been exploration on Tony's part is a fundamental part of his sexuality. You're also assuming that Kathy not only doesn't know about the BDSM but would be scandalized by it if she did.

How about instead, you assume that Tony told her all about that. Imagine it is a mutual kink and now the two of them have an entire trousseau made up of whips, collars and restraints.

Assume, too, that he told Kathy all about you, and she had her own baggage, and they worked it out like a mature couple. They rushed into this wedding because they are so hot for each other, they couldn't be chaste another day.

Whatever it takes to get you to maybe not take yourself so seriously is what we are going for here.

The religion, the chastity beforehand, the rush to the altar might not work for you, but that doesn't mean it won't work for THEM. Assume it does instead of the opposite.

That's one way to stop obsessing.

Here's another: play your version through to the logical conclusion. You contact Tony somehow and he admits that the whole marriage is a mistake. He is even still obsessed with you.

And? Then what?

They're already married. They're overseas. If this marriage is doomed, they will discover that on their own.

And if this marriage has a chance of succeeding, any interference from you certainly won't help.

By letting it all go, you are actually helping Tony in the best way you can.

3) I honestly think that the mature thing to do is write Tony and Kathy a letter of congratulations, change the subject when anyone brings them up, and talk to your partner about all these conflicted feelings you are having so that you can get them out of your system.

The next best thing would be to tell your Mom about you and Tony and ask her to run interference for you when the topic comes up.
posted by misha at 2:10 PM on August 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

It reads to me like you were the dominant, not Tony. There was a few months of experimental sexual submission (and I wonder who was really in charge here - you may have been physically bound but emotionally superior, ie 'topping from the bottom').

Then you broke it off and undeniably became his master.

Tony's been your slave for a decade, and now you've lost him. Lots to think about here: your true nature, your impact on Tony's life, and how you find a new (and healthy) source to feed your need for submission.
posted by bookie at 2:16 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

If Tony was working 12 step and made amends to you, would you also freak out? He's not the same guy. Your "Tony" probably never existed--you made him up inside your head and now, reality strikes.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:36 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks everyone for your comments so far. They've been really helpful. As soon as I read's comment about the religion thing just being another kind of kink **regardless of whether or not it's true for Tony** it made instant sense. It was like a weight was pulled off my shoulders, as silly as that might sound. Even if that's not what's going on in Tony's head, it helps reconcile the experience for ME, and I find that whatever concern I was feeling about his relationship is no longer there. Or at least greatly diminished. So thank you. I didn't realize how much of this must be wrapped up in me just wanting to know that Tony is ok.

I also want to address what Ideefixe said, because I find it really offensive. I knew Tony for over ten years--this is ten years BEFORE we dated, and not counting the time since I last saw him. Tony is a completely different person now from the Tony I grew up with, but that doesn't mean that I "made him up" or that my knowing him previously was false in some way. He would have had to put up quite a show, starting all the way back in elementary school, for that to be the case.

But again, to the rest of you: thank you so, so much for your answers. A lot of things you have said have made a lot of sense.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:32 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

This sounds a little like the experience of having an opposite-sex ex come out as queer — or maybe having a same-sex ex "go straight."

I wonder if you're feeling some of that same sort of insecurity here. "Gee, I thought we'd had a pretty good time together. Was it really such a bad experience for him, that now he's swearing it off entirely? What does that say about me?" Etcetera.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:08 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Former Domme, here.'s comment totally nailed it.

Also, it sounds like he had some kind of breakdown or trauma just before he changed and also got obsessed with you. Not that that matters at all, just sayin'.

Tony is on his journey now, following his own path. You go follow yours!
posted by jbenben at 4:42 PM on August 21, 2011

BTW, you are kinda triangulating with Tony via your moms, which you seem to understand. How about just saying, "That's Nice!" when your Mom brings up Tony and then change the subject??

In fact, plan you subject changes in advance. Like, if your Mom brings up Tony you immediately ask her how her tennis lessons are going. Make this a steady practice. It will help. And it may slowly help your Mom to stop bringing up Tony to you, too!
posted by jbenben at 5:19 PM on August 21, 2011

It's understandable that this bothers you- Tony has either ruined his life, or has become a person that you don't like. But you aren't friends anymore and haven't been for a decade. Tell your mom to stop giving you updates about him, and move on. You can't save him; and you probably wouldn't want to.
posted by spaltavian at 7:43 PM on August 21, 2011

Just so you know many of us Christians could have the same said about us as Tony.....I. am totally different from my former self. It's no act, totally the real deal. The Tony you knew doesn't exist. And thats ok.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:47 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I meant that the Tony you had remembered no longer existed, and indeed may not have. We all shape our memories of someone based on our perceptions of him-- and sometimes we ignore things that don't fit with our versions of the truth. I'm sorry if you were offended, but maybe you didn't know him as well as you thought.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:13 AM on August 22, 2011

Not sure what's up with all the really nastily judgemental comments but here's my thoughts:

Tony was important to you. You had a great, close relationship. And then he turned into someone you don't know. It's almost like you've lost them. I've experienced this. You question the other person, yourself, everything. Even though you don't want to be with them, you're still obsessed.

The only thing that helps is to focus on yourself and your own life. Write Tony a letter telling him how you feel, what you miss about him, your hopes for his life - and then seal it and hide it somewhere. Or burn it.

You may not ever have any answers, or closure, but you will think about it less with time.
posted by noxetlux at 11:09 AM on August 22, 2011

Anon, if you're still reading this, I had to come back to this thread because something sort of similar just happened to me. I found out (completely by random accident) that someone I knew ~10 years ago is now totally different than what I (or, I think, anyone I knew when I knew him) would have imagined he'd become. (If he was a character in a movie, the audience would laugh and say, "This script sucks, no way that guy would turn into that guy.") It's really, really, strange to me, far stranger than it has any right to be. And there's no hot-button issues like sex or religion involved in this situation, and no real personal connection between myself and this guy. I didn't know him nearly as well as you knew Tony, but still it's freaking me out!

Anyway, I think there are several reasons why it's freaking me out that might apply to your situation too, despite the lack of close friendship/romance/gossip in my experience.

1, the above-mentioned "bad narrative" quality of it. It just doesn't make sense as a plot, there's too much "but how did he get from there to here?" that I don't know, so it reads like a story full of holes. 2, he and I were, when we knew eachother, at a point in life where we had to make the same decision. He chose one way and I chose another. Part of me kind of wonders, what if I had chosen that other direction? I rarely think about it because I'm happy with what I chose, but this made me think about it. It's like an unwanted reminder that my life could be SO different now. 3, there's a lot about his life now that I want in my own life. Not the specifics, and not enough to be jealous, but still, it's a bit like what Sassyfras said above. It sort of makes me feel like we were in the same place then but he changed so much, and I stayed the same. I went and found this picture I have of us being young(ish) and looking really dumb, and it's like now he's all different and cool and doing impressive things and I still look really dumb. (Metaphorically. I'm definitely not still wearing that stupid hat.) Very possibly, people who knew me back then would think I've changed too. But I know the whole narrative of my life, there are no inexplicable holes in it for me. And 4, I wonder if I, if all of us who knew eachother then, just missed a whole side of this guy? Or if he really did change that much. Because some part of me doesn't believe people can really change that much. Of course I know that they sometimes do, it's just that I wouldn't be able to, so I don't "get" it.

And there are probably more reasons, but I just wanted to say that this kind of thing is really bizarre even without all the personal involvement that you had. Which is basically what I said above, I was just reminded of it very strongly today so wanted to reiterate!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:06 PM on August 22, 2011

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