I should have known from the start — this wasn’t going to work.
One Sunday night, a few drinks too many, I (mistakenly) confessed my feelings to the guy I had been friends with for the past eight years. Except I told him I didn’t want to be just friends.
Shockingly, he agreed. We decided to give it a go.
Except there was a problem that sober-me realized the next day: This would be a closet-whatever. I’m gay, and so is he. Except he’s in the closet, and I’m very much not.
He convinced me this would work. This would only be a secret for a while; it would only be a bit until he left the comfortable confines of his closet.
Shockingly, I agreed. We decided to give it a go.
We began what I thought to be a beautiful relationship. I did everything right — waited a while before making things official, talked out problem areas, respected his privacy. It was all good.
Until I went to his house for the first time. No one was home, and we seized that opportunity.
One second it was beautiful, natural. The next I was on his bedroom floor, confused.
“Get dressed,” he told me, “my sister will be home any second.”
The look on his face made me feel shame, as if we were doing something we weren’t supposed to. Just as quickly as I got dressed to leave, I made myself abandon that feeling in the depths of my psyche.
In the meantime, things started to get serious. We discussed our future plans often, both of us including the other. We talked about when he would come out. It kept getting pushed further and further back, but I didn’t mind.
I was in love.
About a month after the incident at his house, I got a text from him.
“Hey, my friend asked me if we were dating today, so we have to tone things down in public from now on,” it read. “I told him we were just working on a project together.”
I told him we were just working on a project together.
I repeated these words over and over in my head. It was one of those things that keeps you up at night in total agony, sick to your stomach. He told me one thing — that I was his everything, that I meant the world to him — but his actions told me another.
It seemed to be the peak of our relationship when he broke up with me. I told him that it hurt when I was diminished to just a project partner, that it hurt when I couldn’t even meet his family.
“At least tell them that we’re good friends,” I pleaded, “so they know I mean something to you.”
Maybe I was wrong for bringing it up. After all, I agreed that this would work, that I would wait for him to come out. I guess he didn’t believe me, and maybe I didn’t believe me.
It was over. And for a while, I thought I was over too.
Once I was out of that blind phase of love, where everything seems perfect, I was just in love. But I started to see all the problems.
Now I keep going back to that day after my drunk text to him, after I realized we wouldn’t work.
“I don’t think this is going to work,” I told him. “We’re just in two different places.”
In reality we were never in the same place, even when we were. We were in a relationship that consisted of two separate narratives: his and mine. I was his dirty little secret; he was my Prince Charming.
And when I look back, I see just how destructive that dynamic was. Love in my eyes is supposed to be beautiful and raw and expressive and open and balanced. It’s supposed to be based on compromise and common ground. He just wasn’t capable of any of that. We shared a common ground, but it was his and nothing of my own took root there.
I was his dirty little secret, and you can’t tell people about those.
As I leave the hopelessly in love stage, I latch on to the anxiety, the uncertainty, and, more broadly, the hurt that accompanied our relationship. The hurt that came from not being able to tell other people about the person I loved. The hurt that came from not being told about to others by the person I loved.
The hurt that came from being a secret.
But I won’t look back with hurt any longer. I’ll look back and see where things went wrong, where they were wrong from the start. I’ll know in my next relationship exactly what I think I need, and it’s the opposite of what I had.
Most importantly, I’ll know what love shouldn’t be. We all deserve to have someone who loves us and who shows others just how much. There should be no secrets in a relationship, especially if one of the secrets is the relationship.
I can’t say I would do it over again, but what I learned about love, about relationships, about myself, is invaluable.
So I guess I wouldn’t change a thing—except the future.