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Wedding Woes

Work through it with your therapist?

Dear Prudence,

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?

—Long-Distance Longing

Re: Work through it with your therapist?

  • Talk to your therapist and continue to maintain contact with Will.   You both understand that long term this won't work so you have every right to grieve this as an unfair loss but you also have to approach this practically and know that you need to have a plan to move on from this as well.       
  • Talk about this with your therapist and, to the extent you want to, talk about it with Will. Just because it won’t work out long term/long distance doesn’t mean you have to cut off all contact.

    And you don’t have to jump right into the dating scene either. You can continue your practice dates, meet for low stakes outings (coffee, lunch, museums) rather than dinner/drinks/at night. 
  • These are great questions for the LW to bring up in therapy.  I assume he will be or has.

    I think a good perspective the LW can take from this is that he has learned what a happy and positive relationship looks like and feels like.  And where there is one romantic partner who saw his worth and provided him with this, there will be others.

    But, just like before, he shouldn't feel the pressure to "dive" into the dating scene.  If "practice" dates are still where he feels comfortable, then he should continue with that therapist's advice.  Maybe he stumbles into another great relationship that way.  Maybe not, at least not right away.  However, it's still building him up to eventually come to a place where he's ready to actively look for a more serious relationship.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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