A few months ago, I (a 23-year-old guy) reconnected with “Will,” an old friend from high school. We fell out of touch after graduating, but five years later, we are briefly back in our hometown. I found out he liked men and asked him out for a lunch date. This was partly motivated by work I’ve done in therapy over trust issues and sexual abuse I experienced as a child; my therapist had encouraged me to go on some low-stakes “practice dates” so I could learn how to open up to people. This was one of several casual lunch dates with different people, but Will and I have both realized we have pretty intense feelings for each other. He even said he had pined after me for years.
But in a few weeks, we’re both moving to different parts of the country for grad school. We mutually ruled out long-distance. I’m moving to my dream city, but I don’t know how I can dive into the gay scene there when I’m still healing from sexual trauma and processing these newly acknowledged feelings. I find myself daydreaming that someday we’ll reconnect again and be together. But I know harping on these emotions will hold me back. I just don’t know how to let this go. Most of the guys I’ve dated in the past either mistreated me, or I didn’t really care for them. Will is the only romantic partner I’ve had who has treated my insecurities with kindness and warmth. How do I let go of these emotions and let go of Will without diminishing how much this relationship has meant to me and how much it has helped me grow?