Tell Me About It

Two years ago, a gorgeous, witty co-worker changed my world. Now he is leaving

Tell Me About It: He’s moving to be with a boyfriend he’s only just met. It’s the worst pain I have ever felt

PROBLEM: I am a man in my early 30s and have been working in a small company in the countryside for the past five years. Two years ago, a gorgeous, witty guy with a really interesting background joined the organisation, and my whole world changed.

Before he started working with me, my career was dull, boring and unexciting to say the least. I established very early on that he was also gay and we became very close friends. I began to look forward to going to work.

Over the past year, I have thought a lot about asking him out and got a lot of encouragement from my sister and friends. We regularly went on platonic dates. We would spend every lunch time together, go for dinner, the pub and cinema regularly. I was reluctant to take it any further as I didn’t want to scare him off and maybe naively thought true love would prevail.

He went home to Poland at Christmas for two weeks and met a guy. Last week at work he announced to the office that his Polish boyfriend was coming to live in Ireland and that they were going to make a go of things together in Dublin, where it would be easier for this new man to get work.

We spent an evening together. He said that he would miss having me so close, that he valued my friendship and that he was even aware I had feelings for him. This is the worst pain I have ever felt, and I am suffering miserably.

I feel ashamed and embarrassed as I have spent many nights in the pub telling my sister and close friend how much I love this man and how great and wonderful he is. How could he have fallen in love so quickly with someone he barely knows who is not even in this country, while spending so much time with me?

I am lying awake at night thinking about what to do.

ADVICE: The pain of unrequited love is intense and carries with it many of the symptoms of bereavement and loss. That you are suffering so much is a testament to how much you cared for your beloved and to the unrealised potential that you saw for your relationship.

You must allow yourself all the time and support that all human beings need to recover from a great loss but there are some things you can do immediately.

Firstly, acknowledge that you were not wrong: this relationship could have been the one and your ability to recognise this is to your credit and it was not a mistake. You know that many of the relationship requirements worked: you both liked spending time together, you had shared experiences, you were kind and considerate to each other and your friendship blossomed.

The difficulty is that while attraction was clear on your part, it does not seem to have been present on his side, and the cause of this is multifaceted and unknown to you.

Our attraction patterns involve chemistry, family of origin heritage, past experiences, self-esteem issues and many other hidden components. Any of these could be influencing his inability to respond to you in a romantic manner but you must not see this as a fault in you.

The reason you feel shame is that you exposed your desire to your sister and to him (if not overtly). Without taking the risk of opening up our interest to a potential partner, we would never have a relationship. You were courageous and, for a while, you allowed vulnerability to exist so that a greater possibility might be realised.

Do not shut this down or cower with shame – it is one of your greatest achievements that your aim of enduring love was given attention and substance.

It seems that you got very close to your ideal partner and if you could keep this possibility open you might just succeed next time. You now know what characteristics suit you and what really attracts you.

When you have healed somewhat, you might put some effort into seeking what your heart desires – a life partner. This will involve effort (they are unlikely to turn up at work again), vulnerability (it is a pre-requisite for deep connection) and fore-fronting your own sense of being an attractive person.

Do not stop talking to your sister as she loves you unconditionally and is one of the few people you might allow to push you beyond your fears into seeking more connection in your life.

If you are going to set up a profile for romantic connection, and this is a necessary action, you will need guidance and support. She is perfectly placed to offer this. This experience has taken you beyond your previous boundaries and it opened thrilling possibilities. Honour this and be brave enough to insist that you will have a great relationship in your life.