How do you get over the one that got away, and deal with the regret?
November 20, 2012 4:33 PM   Subscribe

How do you get over the one that got away, and deal with the regret?

I am gay. Fell for a friend (who is gay). I was going through major first-time coming out issues at the time, etc, so I wasn’t ready to tell them. I was terrified. I had never been through that situation before. I was working on myself, and slowly getting up to telling him somehow. I thought I had a chance and that’s why I got so emotionally entangled, but I was so scared of showing my feelings, I had so much baggage from the coming out business and all the fears that go with that. Then the friend got into a relationship with someone else. Now I’m struggling with extreme regret and emotional distress. I can’t let go, can’t stop thinking about the situation. I still have really, really strong feelings for him. I keep looking back, thinking I should have done something and that if I had things would have gone differently. And now I’m stuck. It’s really painful right now, but the thought of killing the friendship is so upsetting. I don’t know what to do. I’m dying on the inside because I haven’t told him. It’s so awful going through this in my late twenties. I never had practice with relationships before. I’ve never been IN a relationship really, nothing but surface level dating with girls I felt nothing for. So this is a life lesson learned in the most painful way. I will never, ever let this happen again. But now I’m in this situation that I can’t seem to find my way out of. I love spending time with him, I can’t resist an invitation to hang out with him. But then after we hang out I feel just awful. Seeing him with someone else hurts like knives. My overall quality of life is suffering…I’m actually depressed, having crying spells, drinking more than I should, having anger issues, etc., so it’s really taking a toll on me.

How do I get out of this? How do I stop beating myself up over my inaction and letting the regret eat away my insides?

a) Tell him I have feelings for him and that I need some time to get over it and can’t be in contact?
b) Just abandon the friendship with no explanation? (I think this would be unsatisfying to me and would require monumental self control for no contact which I don’t think I have. When he contacts me I can’t ignore it. It’s impossible for me at the moment. Plus we have mutual friends.)
c) Wait until they break up (this seems a very bad idea but the idea is still there in my head)
d) ?

I’m stuck. I go to a therapist (started going for coming out issues but this has turned into the main topic) but it’s not helping me. Not sure if the problem is with me or my therapist.

Any insights or experiences would be appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Go with A, so that you can move on. And you will be stronger for it.

I have been in this situation myself. What I have regretted is that I never said anything. However, as all the guys that I have had these intense crushes on always turned out to be assholes or at least, assholes regarding their behavior to me, I've never regretted that we didn't end up together.

I've also had friends who have said something. They never regretted it, and sometimes it resulted in a relationship. Most of the time it didn't, but then after that, my friends were able to move on. That's the important part.

You've never been in a relationship before, so these kind of crushes feel like the end of the world. Your coming-out issues will also color this situation, so it is complicated. Examine why you have these feelings. What is it that's so great about this guy? Is the real issue that you want to be in a relationship but you might be scared to take that leap?

Crushes are a way to explore the *idea* of being in a relationship without actually having to be in one. When you're crushing, it's so easy to idealize this other person because you don't know what they are like in a relationship. Most of the time, it's because they have some kind of quality that I really admire or want for myself.

If it were meant to be, it would have happened. Since it didn't, at least at this time and stage, let yourself move on so that you'll be emotionally available for the one that WON'T get away. Trust me, that person exists out there, but you won't be able to find him if you can't let go of your unrequited crush.
posted by so much modern time at 4:57 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Option A, even if in a letter. I did it in a few months ago over a crush I've had for 2 years and we still talked on Facebook. I wanted to get over it more fully, especially since there are multiple reasons why we couldn't be together. He got a girlfriend 6 months before that, so I wanted to let him know I'm happy for him and I wanted to make it clear in my mind that it will not work out. It felt so good, I wish I would have done it 2 years ago, but I'd never been in that situation and have very little relationship experience. If I would have done it sooner, it would have made me clear that psychic energy spent wondering into accepting it and growing and healing more than I did without it. I'm lucky that he he was incredibly sweet and understanding in his response and that he at one time also had a crush on me (although maybe not as serious as I did).
posted by eq21 at 5:07 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

A has worked okay for me. It feels a LOT better to be honest about it with your friend.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:26 PM on November 20, 2012

You can do A, but do not do A thinking he will immediately fling his boyfriend aside, pack a bag, and leap into your arms just because you told him. You will get your heart broken if you get your hopes up like that.

My personal preference would be to retreat as needed and not make this someone else's drama. Because there is no way to tell someone you have a crush on them that you're not asking them to do something about it. It's super awkward when there's nothing to be done.

No matter what you do, you'll only get over it with time. That's how it works. Saying something is unlikely to make you time travel.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:32 PM on November 20, 2012

I'd start with calling him "my special friend who makes me feel giddy" and stop calling him "the one who got away". The more you build up the idea of him as an irreplaceable treasure, the harder it will be for you to feel better about the loss of opportunity. There are other people who are as equally as wonderful as he, who will be available to you. But if you persist in maintaining the belief that he is better than anyone else, you won't even notice them. Go with A, but keep the commentary about your pain to a minimum. He's your friend; he won't want you to feel bad, but he's not really able to do anything about your feelings.

Also, it is normal to have a hard time with this. There is nothing especially wrong with you because you're drinking a lot and feeling awful. Unrequited love is never easy, regardless of your age or relationship experience. Go easy on yourself and keep yourself open to new experiences and new friends. One of those might lead you to someone who makes you very happy.
posted by rhythm and booze at 6:03 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I will never, ever let this happen again.

Really? If you protect yourself that much your wish may come true, because you may never allow yourself to have strong feelings for anyone else ever again, and strong feelings for someone else, requited or not, are an affirmation and a flower and a glory and -you- are capable of them, and shutting that off is a shame and a crime.

Learn from my error, be willing to be hurt, because the highs way more than compensate.
posted by jet_silver at 8:34 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

In your place, I would go with A. I would not be in touch with the person for several months at the very least. Concentrate on meeting new people and making new friends. You certainly aren't alone in experiencing this type of thing...which is good! The vast majority of people move on from their crushes and find the right person for them.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:33 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

For sure, you should tell your friend.

Part of the problem with unrequited love is that the longer you keep silent the more you build up the person in your imagination.

The poor bastard has no clue that you're blown him up to be bigger than life.

What if you HAD taken advantage and told him when you first were attracted to him? What if he would have said:

"Oh, that's so flattering, but I'm into Bears and while you're a great guy, I don't see it happening."

Well, that would have ended it right there. But as long as you think it could be a two-way deal, you think of him as the "one who got away" instead of the "one who would never be."

Also, there's a huge difference between friends and boyfriends. You can have a perfectly awesome friendship, but he might be a complete dick in a relationship.

Or, it could be a case of the world's worst timing.

No matter what though, you need to move on. You need to put an end to this so that you can stop obsessing and start getting out there and finding folks to date and to love.

Your crush/obsession is a very safe way to stay out of the dating pool and to avoid having to deal with GAY RELATIONSHIP ISSUES™
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:30 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, sometimes the answer is: you never get over this sort of thing.

Bummer. Right?

The only thing that you can do is to protect yourself from where your brain is going to go. Option A is the best answer. But even better is to ask for his help and respect while you try to protect yourself. Let him know that you'd love to be friends, but that's just not possible right now because it is too painful for you. Let him know that if it is ever possible, you will absolutely be in touch but that until then, you'd appreciate it if he wouldn't contact you. And reserve the right to be wrong if/when you think you might be ready to try being friend again. Cause that happens... often. Be kind to yourself, and demand that others are kind to you as well.

So, yes. You need to cut it off with this person so that you can free yourself up to move on. But that's only half your question. Okay, so how do you get over what you see as a missed opportunity? Well, you need to look back at what prevented you from going for it. Have you resolved all those issues? Are you happy and healthy and out and making your way in the world? How has your coming out been since then? How's that baggage coming along? Focus on those things. Focus on becoming a person who is available and proactive when someone good comes along. Otherwise, you'll miss the next good opportunity.

You don't go into many details about what those issues were, but plenty of us have been there and done that and dealt with coming out issues and I'm sure we'd be happy to chat with you about them. Feel free to MeMail me.

And best of luck - we're rooting for you.
posted by jph at 9:20 AM on November 21, 2012

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