Q. The relationship I’m writing about was never official. He and I began hanging out the summer after high school — after he came out on social media. I remember seeing this and being completely rattled because I was honestly coming out to myself at the time. Immediately, I began fantasizing about having my first relationship with him. I soon texted him, letting him know how inspiring he was to do something so brave, and later that week we met for lunch. We talked for hours, and this only made me become even more infatuated with him. When I came out to my family later that summer, he was the first one I called. We agreed to always stay in touch.
By the end of the summer, I noticed he was becoming distant as we began getting ready to go off to different colleges. We stopped talking at the beginning of our freshman year. I assumed he was busy meeting new people and adjusting to his new school, so I stopped reaching out too. But when we came back for winter break that year, he asked if we could catch up over lunch. I excitedly replied “yes,” and on that meetup, I told him how much I liked him. Turns out he’d started dating someone else at his college. I was heartbroken.
We both agreed that we could still remain friends, but we haven’t reached out to each other since that moment. I feel like I’ve done a lot of work to move on from this, and it’s been two years since that day. Despite all this time and work, I still think about him more often than I’d like — to the point where I want to reach out again. I feel like I’ve lost a good friend, and I’m left with a whole book (my journal) written about him. I’m trying to discern if the person is meaningful to me or if he just happened to be present at a meaningful time in my life. I guess I tied him to my coming out hoping it would somehow add permanence to our relationship.
I tell myself that since things ended cordially, it’s not a big deal to reach out to him. He’s even been single for the last year. But a part of me knows I could be reopening a wound if he doesn’t actually want to be with me.
Do you think I need to let this go or should I go for it one more time?
A. “I’m trying to discern if the person is meaningful to me or if he just happened to be present at a meaningful time in my life.”
Both. A person can be meaningful without sticking around forever. Sometimes the most important people in our lives shouldn’t stick around for the long haul.
I don’t see a reason to reach out to him right now. He was so wonderful, so supportive in the moment, but he couldn’t give you a romantic partnership or even a long-term friendship. He knows where you are and he hasn’t reached out.
Better to spend your time and emotional energy on finding a person/people who can give you those things now. You got to a place where he seemed like the only person who could be there for you — because he was the first person to make you feel potential. But there are others, I promise.
If I believed you were reaching out for a low-key friendship, my answer would be different, by the way. But it sounds like you still want to be together.
Seek out other people for support. When you journal about possibilities, consider what you want now and in the future, as opposed to what you had.
You want someone who shows up. Remember that.
Let. Him. Go. He has matured/evolved/aged mentally since high school. You’re no longer what you once might have been to him. In your first sentence, you stated this was never a relationship. And it still isn’t. It’s just a fantasy you built up over time apart.
Maybe writing about him in a journal is helpful, but it doesn’t warrant calling this situation a relationship. It’s a friendship, and once again it seems one-sided with you carrying more of the weight. Look at 2021 as a fresh start to focus your energy on new things, new people. You still have several more years of school, continue developing your life there, in the present. Let go of the past.
The problem with firsts is that there can only be one first. It’s not clear to me what exactly this relationship ever was with this man. (It feels like it was always just a friendship where you wanted more.) Regardless, he was the person there when you came out. I don’t have any comparable experience in my life, but I can imagine that coming out, and announcing to the world who you really are, is a pretty powerful thing.
Your journal sounds obsessive so work on letting go of that, take him off the pedestal and focus on your life. He will become less important to you when you realize the version of him you have created in your journal is totally made up by you.
He was there during an important time in your life. That’s it. There’s nothing more.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.