I went out once with a high-school friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years. I also went to his house twice, and we had sex. He insulted me during our next visit but was incredibly nice before I left. He wanted to see me in two weeks but then decided he wanted time alone instead. I said I looked forward to getting together when he felt better. Two months passed. He never answered my texts. Three months later, I left a voice mail saying he owes me a reply out of respect. No response. Another old high-school friend agreed he was disrespectful for not replying. She emailed him on my behalf, and he told her I knew he was busy. She said I must have done something wrong. My counselor says I deserve respect and closure from this man to move on. She also thought I was his high-school fantasy. She thinks I should drive to his house and speak to him. What’s your advice?
Suppress the urge to plant yourself on his doorstep. Hide your car keys, if you must. Do anything to avoid confronting this man until you have soaked your brain in truth serum. That might be the only way to discover why you have given him so much power over your autonomy and self-worth. If you cannot move forward in your life without an explanation, apology or reconnection with him, your emotional center is off-kilter. Healing arrives when you accept that the connection with him is dead. The two of you hung out, had sex and he withdrew from the relationship. Game over.
If you and this man had shared a mutually satisfying, long-term committed relationship in which honest communication was the norm, and then he disappeared, your continued attempts to reach him would be more understandable. But when a man you barely know leaves you, why have tantrums? (Yes, you knew him when he was a teenage boy, but you don’t really know him as an adult.) Clinging to what you imagine the relationship should be, or what you believe it once was, is not an act of love, not for yourself and not for him.
You are correct that respect is an essential ingredient in relationships. A couple’s staying power is measured by their shared respect—an attitude of valuing the self and the other. Any expression of contempt (eye rolling, sneering, dismissive remarks, etc.) reveals the limited shelf life of a relationship. Respect is rooted in an innate sense of equality, so giving respect generates respect while strengthening trust. That’s not the kind of relationship you had with this man. It could be the kind of relationship you have with yourself if you choose to pull your focus away from him and to you.
I really liked your “Don’t be a stalker” column [SN&R Ask Joey, November 7]. I have long thought that dating is a lost art. It seems people don’t value it and don’t know how to do it. Our culture insists that couples be instantly joined at the hip and exclude all others of the opposite sex. When a couple breaks up, each person must immediately attach his or herself to someone else. The result is tension, possessiveness, insecurity and highly controlling behavior made worse by instant communication. It’s a disaster that cuts people off from getting to know themselves.
We are such a sweet species, aren’t we? Each of us moving awkwardly toward the relationship we hope will transform us from who we are to who we yearn to become. The problem is, as my friend Byron Katie says, “Egos don’t love, they want something.” But in that desire, there is always opportunity to gain self-awareness. For that, I am grateful.