Oh Captain, my Captain–
I was in a serious relationship with a man, let’s call him Ethan, a few years ago while we were both in college. We met through our ROTC program. He was a very good guy, and a great boyfriend. I broke up with him around our one-year anniversary, because we rarely had sex, and it was killing me. He’d told me he didn’t have much of a sex drive, and it had gotten to the point where, despite caring about him deeply, and being happy with our relationship in every other way, I was starting to think about cheating on him. I didn’t want to break his heart (or mine) by doing that, so I thought the best thing to do would be to separate.
We remained good friends, and after a short period of separation for healing purposes, we kept spending time together, talking, being there for one another, etc. Eventually he told me that he’d lied about his sex drive–he actually had a libido much like mine! Flabbergasted, I asked him why he’d convinced me otherwise. He’d done it, he said, because I’d been very much hurt by a friends-with-benefits relationship I’d had previous to our relationship–I cared deeply about FWB Dude, and he didn’t return the feeling. Ethan didn’t want me to think he was using me for sex.
Fast forward to last summer–Ethan and I had graduated from college, and he came to visit me while he was on leave. He was to be deploying to Afghanistan soon. We had a very nice visit. Then he asked if I might like to get back together. I wanted to say yes. But I was also very worried about him going to Afghanistan, and I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t screaming “yes! yes! yes!” inside my head because I was mistaking my anxiety for his safety for a desire for a relationship with him. So I told him I needed to think about it. We cuddled in my bed that night. He returned to his home base, and less than two weeks later, I log on to facebook to discover he’s “in a relationship” with a woman there!
I felt a flurry of emotions that could basically be summarized as “hurt.” After a period, I deleted him off my friends list because seeing his statuses about his progressing relationship with this lady hurt too much. Recently, I added him again–I still care about him and want to know how he’s doing, and I feel like I should set aside my feelings of betrayal. He’s engaged to her now, however, and that hurts, too. We haven’t spoken since this relationship became “facebook official.” I suspect he interpreted my “I need to think about it” for a “no” but I could be rationalizing, because his jumping into another relationship without knowing my answer is so unlike him. I really want to know for sure, but I feel like it’s far too late to talk to him. I should’ve sent him a “WTF” the day I saw his relationship status, but Flurry Of Emotions kept me from feeling able to confront it.
What should I do, Captain? Not knowing “WTF” is killing me, but I rather doubt it’s going to change anything. I have no ambitions to attend the wedding. I still care about him. I miss him in my life–I catch myself thinking “Ethan would love this book!” or “Ethan would know exactly what to do in this situation. I should ask him.” Then I remember. I feel like I should just let him go–but in my heart, I really don’t want to do that.
–Lost and Late
I’m sorry, Lost and Late.
I strongly dislike this Ethan guy as a partner for you.
How messed up to be do you have to be to lie about your sex drive to your partner? What was he doing that entire year you were together and he pretended to have no drive – masturbating furiously? Cheating on you? And how messed up do you have to be to then claim that lie was for your partner’s good, the way he claimed that it was all about your past relationship and him wanting to take care of you? You know how he could have taken WAY better care of you when you were together? Regular awesome fucking, that’s how.
I think he is your Darth Vader boyfriend; all wounded and complicated and sexy and trying to manipulate your emotions so that you will always see him in a positive light even when he does massively fucked up things.
And!!!! I think that his request to get back into a relationship with you on the eve of deployment was more about him than it was about you, and that you judged that one exactly correctly in asking for some time to think. While you took time to think, he went and got into a relationship with someone else, and that action is your answer. They are engaged. That is your answer. If you were to write to him and put your feelings on the line, the best possible outcome is that you get all tangled up in their relationship drama.
I’ll be a little kinder to Ethan for a moment. In stressful times, people get nostalgic and reach out to people from their past. Being deployed is a big deal, right? It’s not completely irrational that he would want to go to love’s last known address and snuggle up there for a bit. Every now and then I get an email or Facebook message from an old…friend….with a very late-night timestamp and the words “I was just thinking about you” somewhere in the message. Oh, WERE you? I guess it’s nice to be part of someone’s Greatest Hits reel? I receive the messages with amusement and affection and I write back asking about jobs and kids, but I don’t assume that the messages are deeply meaningful.
Now it’s time to write him a long letter of everything you want to say and feel….and set that letter on fire.
Your feelings are real! Your history is real. The hologram of Ideal Ethan Who Has So Much Potential To Be A Great Boyfriend in your head that you want to recommend books to is real! I’m sure he is a very charismatic dude with very fine qualities, and your desire to have someone with those qualities in your life is real! Give yourself a lot of time and love and self-care to grieve that very real loss of someone you loved deeply from your life. Listen to this on repeat for a while:
And then set about forgetting (or at least distracting yourself in the hopes of forgetting). There’s a plan for that in this thread. Trust to time and to distance.
Love does not have to be this complicated. Your next love will be honest and straightforward with you. He’ll give you time when you need time and not go running into the arms of someone else. And he’ll want to bone you all the time.
Much love to you from someone who’s been there,