Hi Alex, I’d like to pick your brains, if I may?

I was with my partner for 20 years, we split up 2 years ago. I haven’t dated or been with another guy since. Not because I want to meet another guy like my ex and haven’t found one yet, but I really don’t think I can trust someone after being betrayed. Is 2 years too soon after such a long relationship? He was my one and only partner – ever, we met in college when I was 19.

— Sent via my website.

I’m sorry about your breakup. I assume he lied about something big. Trust takes a long time to build and moments to break. Lying usually does it. 

I know good men who supported their partners through hard times — drug addiction, HIV diagnoses — only to be abandoned when they needed support. There’s more than one way to betray someone.

My friend Josh has his own formula for breakup healing time. Take the time you were with him (in your case, 20 years) and divide by 2. The sum, he says, is how long you will need to heal and move on — for you, 10 years.

I don’t necessarily think that’s true, and that is just one breakup recovery theory. There are as many recovery theories as there are breakups. We all find our own private lessons and tricks to make ourselves strong.

Many people will tell you something different — that two years is enough time, that someone better is waiting just around the corner, that you never know when lightning will strike.

Those who’ve been through heartbreak say the process is slow — and potentially very rewarding. Those who haven’t may say, “Don’t let him ruin your life. Move on, honey!”

Both perspectives are valid. Heartbreak is a slow process — and potentially very rewarding. You learn a lot about yourself. Sometimes heartbreak reveals deep problems, like a heavy rainstorm revealing a dinosaur skeleton. In my last breakup, which lasted across three cities and two years, I found a drug problem, an unhealthy need for sexual validation, and some self-isolating tendencies that needed addressing. It was long and hard, but like most painful times, I came out of it a healthier, better me.

I’ve never been in a twenty-year relationship, so I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I can say that there’s no one tapping their foot for you to feel “ready” to date again, no one watching the clock. You’re allowed some time. 

That said, don’t let him ruin your life. You’re not bound by him or the heartache he caused any more than you’re bound by bad weather. It happens, it pours, but you’re still here. I’m going to avoid cliché “dance in the rain” motivational aphorisms you’ll read on inspirational posters, but it’s important to find beauty when life is hard. We get hurt because we get love. One doesn’t come without the other.

Put simply: don’t give someone the power to make you miserable. Move on, honey!

Breakups are miserable, but they are also the inevitable endings of our loves, which are things we remember when we don’t have much time left. When you’re dying, you don’t remember the arguments with your boss, your various fights and cruelties. You remember how it felt walking home burning with fear and delight after a first date. As bad as you’re feeling now, remember that our minds have a habit of sloughing off memories that hurt. With enough time, we tend to forget the bad. That’s not optimism — that’s biology.

Since there are so many different answers to your question, provided by different people with different opinions (formed from countless different breakup stories), here’s the take-home truth: there’s no theory, no formula, no allotted time that works. There’s no way to know when it’s “too soon.” You just have to test the water and see how it feels.

You don’t know how you’ll feel in six months. Pretend, for instance, that you decide it’s wise to give it another year before asking someone on a date. You may think that’s true, but you can’t control the possibility of meeting someone next Tuesday who becomes a casual sex partner, helps you beat the loneliness for a rough few months, and makes you ready for a more serious relationship with a guy you meet in a year. (Sometimes people are stepping stones and lessons, not partners.)

Whatever timeline you think is right, you could be wrong. You don’t know until you try.

I know it hurts, but remember this: life is meant to be lived with others. This doesn’t mean you have to jump back into another serious relationship. “Others” can include casual sex partners, fuck buds, best friends, and bar buddies. It includes the people who haven’t come into your life yet — who are, as they say, waiting just around the corner. You don’t have to put everyone you meet and connect with into a classification or slap a label on them — most of the time we don’t know what role, exactly, we want special people in our lives to occupy — but you do need them. I believe this from the bottom of my heart: heartbreak is only healed with others’ involvement. We don’t find happiness alone.

There are many single gay men in the world with one heavy relationship behind them who are unsure what to do next. They need you just as much as you need them.

Yes, betrayal happens, and people can be very cruel. But people are also the reason we live. We live for them and love them and get hurt by them over and over. They pull us through time. Empires will crumble and fall, technologies will blossom and wither, and we will still be crusading blind into that impossible darkness called love. We are mysteries to each other. Never forget that.

The miracle of meeting someone and falling in love with him happened twenty years ago. It can happen again. You never know when lightning will strike.

— Beastly

Have a sex/love question? Shoot me a message

Writer, blogger, illustrator, kinkster.

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