Hi Dr Bill,
I think I may have fallen in love with a straight male work colleague who I have been socialising with for the past couple of years. We go out for beers and sometime ago started to also take cocaine, stupid I know so I stopped taking it, however, he continued. Anyway, he has a long term girlfriend and doesn't think twice about cheating on her, I am there for him constantly and listen to all of his problems, he thinks he has mental health issues and often talks jokingly of suicide, not a joking matter I know. We are both mid 30's by the way, so not kids. I am openly gay and have a mixed social life outside of work.
When I see him my heart melts, when I see him with a woman I feel as if my heart is breaking. If we are out and he does meet a woman, it's as if I am not there. However, the next day he will e-mail or text and say how low he feels. If I am not with him he will often text and say how much he misses me, he recently said in a text that he loved me. If I mention other men and dates he will not acknowledge the conversation, often making just a snide comment.
I recently had an altercation with another friend we drink with, drink-fueled stupidity which resulted in me finishing my drink and going home, informing them that I wouldn't be socializing with them again. Later that evening I received the 'Love you' text, followed by a string of abuse aimed at the other friend. I have to point out that he will often slag off other friends, so I am guessing I would be no exception.
After the 'Love you' text I didn't contact him for a week, I wasn't invited for drinks and now I feel completely isolated and lost. Although the person I had the altercation with speaks to me like nothing happened (no drink invitations though), the fella I think I have fallen for had not contacted me at all, he knows I hate the silent treatment. I contacted him with a 'How are you' kind of text, his response included 'Need a break from constant health abuse', I interpreted this as a break from me, possibly my mind working overtime!
I feel completely broken, I thought we were good friends and had a connection, he is now on my mind constantly, hence me wondering if this is some kind of stupid infatuation.
I cannot help but wonder if I have been used as his emotional punch bag. How do I get over this, why is it bothering me to this extent, I can't eat and am sleeping very badly. Should it bother me so much that he may or may not have bad mouthed me to others? Should I say anything, I don't want any confrontation at work as it's a professional environment. I feel totally gutted!
Thanks for listening
It is never easy to have strong feelings for someone while you're still trying to figure out if they're gay or straight or struggling with their own sexuality. People in this situation tend to clutch at anything they can to give them hope. Your friend's dismissal of your comments when you talk about your gay dating experiences could indicate that he has sexual identity issues, but it's just as likely that he's uncomfortable talking about your being gay in certain environments [I take it you're not going to gay bars with him]. It could also indicate that he is a little self-absorbed -- he only wants to talk about himself and his own problems.
Even if he hasn't figured out that you have such deep feelings for him, he probably senses that you care and he knows that you are willing to listen. The trouble is, as you get deeper and deeper in love with him, worrying about him, you are perfectly right in worrying that he is simply "using" you as an emotional crying towel. Once he finds someone else to listen -- someone he doesn't fear has feelings for him which he can't return -- he''ll just move on, which he may already have done. Of course, I am basing this on your suggestion that he seems to "whine" to you about many different things.
Whatever the true story of his sexuality -- and you realize this man may be genuinely and totally hetero -- it is never easy to be in love with someone who can only offer you friendship, regardless of their orientation. You were heading towards a bad place anyway you slice it -- who wants to be in love or even just infatuated with someone who can't return it? You feel as badly as you do, isolated and lost, because of how much you want to be with this guy on both an emotional and physical level, but it just may not be possible.
My advice, as difficult as it may be to take, is to think of what seems like a very negative event in your life as a positive. Chance are that you had no real future with this guy, that you were only risking getting very badly hurt, wasting your time pining for him when there are plenty of nice gay guys out there who would be much more suitable partners. I recognize that you are also mourning the loss of a friendship, but as I've said it's very sticky to be friends with someone you have unrequited feelings for.
[As a good friend of mine once put it in a novel: "When one wants friendship, and the other wants love, 'friendship' is the coldest word in the English language."]
Believe it or not you can get over this guy [of course it will be more difficult than usual because you work together]. The easiest way to get over an infatuation is to meet someone new, so get out there and have some adventures! You may find that you can once again be friends with this guy once you've gotten past the unrequited feelings you have for him.
Think positively -- there's a better guy out there for you, and hopefully you'll have a lot of fun finding him!