In some ways, the break-up was not a surprise. In early September I was having some serious doubts about his interest in me, and in fact, prophetically wrote:
A forgotten birthday and living in a work bubble, in my eyes, imply that Dean just isn't that into me. But maybe I'm wrong to think that. Maybe I'm being unfair and I expect him to be more thoughtful than he's capable of being. I don't know.Despite my doubts, when the break-up happened two weeks later I felt like I'd been sucker-punched - only days before Dean had done something that made me feel like we were destined to be together for a very long time.
I do know that either he needs to be trained to be more thoughtful, or I need to be less needy, or I need to make peace with the fact that I like him far more than he likes me. One of those outcomes, or some combination thereof, is the solution, I'm just not sure what the right answer is yet.
One of my frustrations with Dean was that we couldn't spend much time together. All he did was work and when he wasn't working, he was with his kids. In September I floated a trial balloon with him and asked if it would be ok if I hung out with him and his kids one or two nights a month. He shot down the idea forcefully and immediately: "My kids would NEVER want to share me!"
His reaction was the first concrete proof I had that he wasn't very interested in me. For all his talk about the two of us getting married someday, I knew he couldn't be serious if I was never going to be allowed to meet his kids.
Then, just three days later, he completely changed his attitude and invited me to meet his ex-wife and kids at a dance performance of hers. Wow! After keeping me and his family apart, he'd taken the first step toward integrating me into his 'real' life. I was thrilled. Really, really thrilled.
Meeting his ex-wife and kids went well. The only hiccup was that he seemed a little detached the whole night. Although I noticed this, I didn't read too much into it. Looking back now, however, I believe he wanted to break-up with me as soon as I accepted his invitation to meet his kids.
The actual break-up happened a week later. Dean began the conversation by saying, "Do you remember when we first met and you said I didn't have enough experience with men and I'd eventually want to date other people?" As soon as he asked that question I knew I was fucked - and not in a good way. Still, I decided not to make any assumptions. If he wanted to break-up with me, he was going to have be a "good communicator" and say the magic words. It turned out he couldn't get there in one conversation. It took three.
Our final conversation was a really good one; the best we'd ever had. I give myself a lot of credit for that because I'd already made peace with breaking-up and that gave us a lot of time to talk about him. All I can say is that for an intelligent, hard-working, social, introspective and successful guy, he's got a lot of work to do.
Dean admitted that he's often paralyzed by fear. However, I think his bigger problem is that, deep down, he's very ashamed of his sexuality. That makes him an amazing contradiction because while he's very comfortable being "out" (much more than me), he's not at all comfortable dating a man. The walls and insecurities of the closet continue to dominate him - to such a degree that I can't imagine him having a successful relationship with anyone for at least several more years. That's really going to suck for him because by the time he gets his shit together he'll be 50...and we all know how ancient that is in gay years.
As I said, our last conversation was a really good one. At the end, however, I had the feeling that he wanted to cut off all contact with me and run away as fast as he could, just as he had done with the two friends he had messed around with while in high school. To see if my suspicions were correct, I said to him, "I have this feeling that I'm not going to hear from you anytime soon."
He replied, "Probably not."
It took a second or two for me to recover but I think I handled it very well. My parting words were, "Dean...you're a great guy and I like you a lot. I agree that you need to see other people and I'm not angry or hurt that you want to do that. On the other hand, I don't understand why you'd want to avoid me. As far as I'm concerned, our friendship is rock-solid and I'd like it to continue. With that said, it's up to you to decide when we speak again. You're an awesome person and I wish you nothing but the best."
As I hung up the phone, I felt like I'd been as positive and reassuring as I could have been. I knew he wouldn't call the next day, as usual, but I was pretty confident that I'd hear from him sooner rather than later.
The first week of not hearing from him wasn't so bad. I definitely missed him but there was NO WAY I was going to contact him first.
By the middle of the second week, I was beginning to struggle: WTF?! How could anyone go from having an important relationship where you talk every day, to no contact at all for weeks?? We split-up on very good terms! Why can't he at least email a short hello?
By the end of the fourth week, I couldn't take his silence any longer. My original plan was to wait two months before contacting him, but as my misery grew I knew I couldn't hold out that long. I finally caved on Halloween night. I knew what his Halloween plans were so that served as my excuse to contact him. I carefully crafted a short, happy and carefree message. Then, as I hit "send" I thought to myself, "That fucker had better answer me."
Thankfully, he did, and relatively quickly too. He even gushed in the first sentence, "As always, I love hearing from you." Ah, the same old Dean....nice words but no action to back them up.
Hearing from him was a huge relief. Honestly, I would have been far, far, far more hurt if he continued to avoid me than I was by the break-up itself.
What a weird thought. Why would I feel that way?
As a rule, I am not a needy person. I love and care about many people in my life, even business clients that I've never met in person, but there are only a small number of people whose complete absence from my life would be devastatingly painful. In fact, there may only be three: my kids. Gabbie might be in that group, but I wouldn't know for certain unless we didn't speak for a month. Her mother might be up there as well; my own parents would not. What's dumbfounding is that Dean might make the list. Why the fuck should a guy I dated for only four months be one of the most important people in my life?
The answer is a four-letter word.
Trust me on this...when you realize for the first time that you're in love with someone, and they've already broken up with you, it's not a good thing.
Since the first Halloween contact, Dean and I have continued to periodically exchange emails. Mostly we've talked about dating. As expected, he's made no effort to date anyone. Recently he deleted his dating profile entirely. He says he's going to start again in January but knowing him, he'll "get busy with work!" and suddenly it will be May. Also, his version of 'trying to date' consists of posting a profile (with bad pictures) on one dating site and waiting for Mr. Perfect to contact him. "It's so discouraging," he says, "when no one I'm attracted to ever messages me."
Deep, very deep, in my gut, I feel something for Dean that I've never felt before, something I never thought I would feel. He's hurt and disappointed me. His fear of intimacy ended our relationship. And yet...I can't escape the conviction that he's The One.
Trust me, I don't want to feel this way.
Because of my affection for Dean, I have very little enthusiasm for dating anyone else. I have big doubts that I'll ever find someone who is better match for me than him.
I know that's a terrible attitude to have, so I have some work to do to overcome it. Fortunately, just writing this post has helped a little.
I also plan to start dating again in January. I hope to either meet someone who makes Dean a pleasant memory, or, I hope to eliminate every potential prospect and be finished with dating forever.
Either way, wish me luck.