There is this man I met while in college (I am a man, by the way). He is two years younger than I. We met my senior year when he approached me in a crowded night club and tried to convince me that we had met before, which we had not. He chatted with me a bit and then, offered to buy me a drink. After returning with the drink, he simply walked off. It was fucking strange. Soon after, I learned that he was flirting with me.
Let me give you a little background about him.
His name is Patrick and he is from a town of about two hundred people, if not smaller. He is country, comes from a religious and small-minded family. Ever since meeting him, my encounters with him would go on to get more and more strange. He would approach me at parties and make small talk, compliment my looks and then go on to ask me, "Who are you going home with?", standing close to me, grabbing my ass, and sometimes pressing the front of his body against mine. All while pretending to be "straight" to others.
I never paid Patrick too much attention; instead, I ignored his advances because I knew traveling down that road was the wrong thing to do. I often have "straight" men interested in me due to looks, but, want everything to be kept a secret. He has slept with most of the women on our university campus and probably the community college, too. Yet and still, somehow, after running into him at bars and conversing in the years since we first met, and with us having mutual friends and being connected via many social media accounts, I found myself interested in him.
He's masculine, tall, handsome, but not as evolved as I am and is ashamed of this aspect of his sexuality. Almost in denial. While texting one night last fall, his "friends" somehow got ahold of his phone and saw the texts between us––the news spread like wildfire. Patrick did not talk to me or respond for weeks as he was "embarrassed." However, when I would see him in person, he would show interest and apologize and blame his neglect on the fact that everyone knows.
With him, I never know what I'm going to get, sometimes he's apologetic and in sync and other times, he's distant, rude and in denial of any feelings he may have for me. He has admitted his feelings but then, a month later, will proclaim he is straight and insist I need to, "Go and find a guy who actually cares about you." When he's angry, he will also make comments on the plenty of women he can get and how much he loves it.
I know I deserve better, and it was never my intention to go down this road. How do I accept this situation for what it is and stop making excuses for him and his behavior? I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt––even when they don't deserve it. I think of him and his situation and make excuses and justifications for his behavior. What should I do?
I Should Have Listened to My Gut
Dear I Should Have Listened,
Oftentimes, when people write in to ask a question, they answer it for themselves. What I mean by this is that your answer is literally in your question! You are in no way confused about what is going on here and you know exactly what needs to happen. The problem here isn't Patrick; the problem is that you don't trust yourself.
What Do You Know?
Your letter is filled with facts. You have very articulately listed a number of truths, but then, very perplexingly, questioned everything you wrote! You said it yourself, I know I deserve better. So then, why are you asking me what you should do? Even the name you have chosen speaks to the fact that you already know the answer to the equation. You know you should have listened to your gut and walked away from Patrick the minute you realized he is confused about and afraid of who he is. But you didn't.
After everything you have proclaimed to know about him, what exactly do you know about yourself?
Who Do You Trust?
Patrick is still struggling with his sexuality and that is okay. It is normal to be confused and afraid and to not know what to do about it. Millions of men and women deal with this very same issue everyday of their lives for years! Patrick may want to be with men and he may want to be with women. He doesn't have to choose one over the other and he doesn't have to choose right this minute to please you or anyone. This confusion and any pressure he feels from either side, compounded by the pressure he puts on himself, will make him angry and volatile. This is natural and it is completely okay. Patrick doesn't trust himself just yet but, one day, he will. And when he becomes more secure about who he is and what he wants and realizes that what other people think, feel, and say has no bearing on who he is or how he chooses to live his life, he will be capable of having healthier relationships. Until then, he is just not ready.
You, on the other hand, are completely okay with your sexuality and with who and what you want in that regard. You trust your body and the feelings you have and, though there may have been a struggle for you in the past, you have come into your own as a proud gay man. This, of course, is speculation based on your letter to me but, based on what you have told me, you're comfortable in your skin and with your sexuality––completely opposite of Patrick. And just as it is okay for Patrick to be struggling with himself, it is equally as okay for you not to be! You two are in different stages and all of that is perfectly fine. What's not okay is that you don't trust yourself enough to walk away from someone who hurts you.
This Is About You:
Patrick is finding himself and that process can be painful and long, arduous, and embarrassing. All he needs is time. But you are feeling pangs in the pit of your stomach that are telling you this person isn't suited for you, yet, you ignore them. Patrick is telling you everything you need to know and you are receiving the information well enough to realize you deserve something better and more. Yet, you keep going around and around.
My dear, you don't love or trust yourself and herewith lies the real issue.
You want someone who can't want you and you allow this person to use and abuse you over and over again. You say you make excuses for him but what you are doing is making excuses for you. You are talking yourself into being with or being around someone who has no control or power in his life, therefore, he exacts control and power in yours. He draws you in, then pushes you away. He shows you no mercy when he is angry and feels his power when you still stay. When someone can't control their life, they will seek to control a piece of yours.
He knows you don't care enough about yourself enough to stop it. Weakness seeks weakness and he can smell it a mile away. As confident as you may be in your sexuality, there is something about you that makes you ashamed. There is something about you that you're not proud of or that you want to change. You have a serious insecurity lurking and this is why you have accepted the abuse and torment Patrick has doled. Only you know what that insecurity is and only you can speak to it and heal it.
Here's Your Homework:
As for Patrick, offer your friendship and your friendship, only. But, be prepared for him to reject it. Once he sees he has lost his power over you, he may begin to act out. He may get angry, but he will most likely play the sad/hurt card. Don't fall for it. Listen to your gut. Your first thought is always God telling you what is right; every thought after that is the devil trying to talk you out of doing the right thing.
Patrick doesn't need the benefit of the doubt because there is no doubt here. He is struggling. What he may need now, more than ever, is a friend. In his "straight" life, there is probably no one he can talk to and that will only fuel his frustrations. As much as I would love to tell you to just walk away from this situation, you seem to be addicted to pain and I know how that can be. So, I am going to remain realistic and give you a series of baby steps to follow. Most importantly, quit trying to get something out of him. Instead, give. Remove yourself from being a sexual object for someone who is sexually confused and, instead, present yourself as a sounding board. Be a friend to someone who needs it and stop lending yourself to his problem. Become part of the solution, but do so with boundaries in place.
- Block him from your social media accounts and your phone
- Refrain from seeing him in private or in public
- Only allow contact via email for a minimum of six months
As for you, it's time to deal with your insecurity. Somewhere along the way, you learned it was okay to be abused. Someone taught you it was okay to be treated poorly and that just because someone is having a hard time, that gives them the right to take it out on you. Someone taught you this and they were wrong. To combat your insecurities, I want you to make two lists:
- Make a list of all the things you don't like about yourself
- Make a list of all the people who made you feel bad about yourself and describe how they did so
The list of things you don't like about yourself is a list of things you can change. You can either change those things or how you feel about those things. Some items on that list may need to just be accepted. For instance, if you hate the size of your feet, there will be nothing that can be done about it and you will have to simply accept it. But, if you hate your weight, that is something that can be changed. Put an asterisk next to the things you have the power to change and begin to devise a plan to change each.
The list of people who made you feel bad about yourself is a list of people who need to be confronted, forgiven, and set free. Write a letter or send an email to everyone you can on that list. Tell them what they did or said that hurt you and made you feel you weren't worthy of love and goodness. I don't care if it's your mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother, kindergarten teacher, the mailman. I don't care. Write it. Tell them everything and, at the end, forgive them. Give them the opportunity to call or email and discuss it with you. Always allow people a chance to make their amends; there is a blessing in it for you both. Leave that line of communication open and then, wait. The people who really love you will walk through that open door and embrace you. Those who never cared will not respond or will not respond in kind and those are the people you never speak to again.
Here's What Will Happen Next:
Once you deal with your insecurities and begin to heal your personal wounds, people like Patrick won't be able to come into your life and begin chiseling away at it. You will be fortified by your strength and secure enough in who you are and what you deserve to never settle for less. You will trust your gut and know that you are right. You will begin to trust yourself, to know that how you feel is the right way to feel and that it's okay to do what's right for you.
Distancing yourself from Patrick will begin the detoxification and healing process. You need time away from toxic people in order to deal with your issues. Putting him on email status will give the both of you much needed boundaries and honestly, I believe you will be able to remove him from your life completely, after a while. I do understand that quitting a bad habit cold-turkey can be difficult, so I suggest putting him on email status as a good way to ween yourself from him over time. This is a technique that has always worked for me. But, in the interim, you can try to remain friends at a safe distance.
Take some time to be with yourself and to deal with your issues. Confront your personal demons and you will begin to start making better choices in men. When you love yourself more, you begin to learn to trust yourself to make the right decisions for your life. I promise you.
Have you ever been stuck in a relationship you know isn't good for you, but you just can't seem to hop off the merry-go-round of abuse? Do you even recognize what is happening as abuse? Do you ignore your gut feelings and stay in a situation waiting for something or someone to change? Sound off if the comment section below and let us know if this post has been helpful to you.
New York Times best selling author, keynote speaker and workshop leader, founder of The Gorgeous Girl's Guide, Steffans Publishing Enterprises, and Karrine & Co.