Disclaimer: This is a user submission. It is edited for grammar and clarity only. The opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily affiliated with In Real Life Malaysia. Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
I have had only two guys confess to me in my quiet life.
The first guy is history, but as for guy number two — let’s call him Gordon — I knew for a year and a half.
Strap in, for this will be a long roller coaster ride.
Getting to Know Him
Gordon and I met online on Facebook and worked together as admins of a now-defunct confession page.
We never really talked until one day, there was some severe infighting between our admins.
We played no part in the drama, but had to clean it up anyway. He offered me his number when I was frustrated and needed an ear to vent to, and I gladly accepted.
The team was disbanded, but we kept in touch. As we got to know each other better, he began to pour out all his personal issues to me.
It was shortly after the dust settled that Gordon admitted to me that he didn’t have many friends, not even within our page team.
Among his issues were his divorced parents, who left him in his formative years, with mentally and physically abusive guardians.
Another was that he was made to study a course he wasn’t passionate about. He struggled with depression and ADHD, which his parents disregarded.
Gordon had many interests which he changed and dropped often, a side effect of his ADHD.
At this point, he’d given up pursuing any more hobbies. He confided in me that he felt like the failure his guardians told him he was.
I shared that I felt some of the same issues as well.
Things Started Moving Fast — Too Fast.
Before he met me, Gordon had dated 7 girls, all of which ended badly.
His relationships would last between a few months to two years. He gave his all to his exes, he said, who never reciprocated.
He told me he was angry about the way his exes relied on him to solve all their problems, despite failing to tell him their issues.
He admitted that sometimes, his depression ‘caused’ him to impulsively lash out.
For example, he’d ask to break up with his girlfriend when he didn’t mean to. He would also isolate himself from his girlfriends.
They’d then get upset when he told them he’d changed and that they had failed to understand him. Some of the relationships he ended voluntarily; one girl dumped him
Despite all that, Gordon confessed to me that: “The only thing keeping me going in life is being in a relationship.”
While I was trying to make sense of what that meant, he then told me he found himself drawn to broken people/those in the same boat.
Previously, I shared with him about some chronic health problems of mine, which led to me having to live with my parents.
They had to be there in case I collapsed, but I preferred to live on my own, like anyone above 21 would.
Gordon then asked, “Do you think only your parents can support you?” and how to handle my illnesses.
I thought, “Where’s he going with this??”
The 3 and a Half Hour long Call for Help
Gordon had previously written about self-harm online, which I speedily responded to. He’d helped me earlier as I mentioned; now was the time to return the favour.
I thought I made him feel better after talking with him, but he called the next weeknight in distress after I did not immediately reply to his texts.
In my defense, I was trying to complete work with a short deadline and it was 10 p.m.
He’d implied through text that he was staring down a high ledge.
I didn’t know what and how to say the right thing as he was in tears except for, “Don’t do anything rash.”
His “best friend” had left his messages on read, and Gordon had said he’d only be happy by “Living for others who may not care about (him)”.
All I could do was be a listening ear again as he filled the dead silence with his voice, venting about pretty much the same issues he’d told me.
Then, out of the blue, he asked me what I looked for in a man.
I answered with things like loyalty, the ability to discuss things maturely; basically healthy traits anyone should have, regardless of gender or relationship status.
He insinuated that he did show those traits, since we did talk about controversial, current issues.
Now for the part about faith. I’d hinted that I wasn’t too keen on my family’s conservative Christian beliefs before, to him.
Gordon asked me: “Why don’t you just move out? I can save you from them, since I have a car.”
[Right after that, he said I had Stockholm Syndrome and that ‘save you’ comment — red flag much?]
He even offered to help me financially (I work with just enough pay to get by) despite still pursuing his studies.
He promised to take things slowly and invited me to go church-hopping with him. That was after asking me provocative questions which implied my parents were toxic.
His need to be protective was him trying not to be his negligent father, or so he said.
Then, out of the blue, Gordon then confessed that he was interested in me for my personality and proceeded to ask me out as something more.
I Said No, Again and Again.
At the same time, I tried to be tacit about it. His main argument was, “If you’re unwilling to give it a try, when will you be ready?”
Mind you, I was thinking pragmatically of why we would not work out. I was already burnt out as I had no rest for over half a day and his problems were too complicated for me to solve.
If I didn’t know how to help with his depression, how could I manage if I entered a long-term relationship with him?
I found no sense in leaving my family for someone I’d only met online. Also, cutting off ties over faith when they weren’t abusive seemed rather petty.
Moreover, if that happened, news would spread to my close-knit extended family, who were also staunch Christians.
Gordon even declared that he would face them, despite the high chance of being rejected due to his turbulent family background.
Like Asian culture dictates, you marry into the spouses’ family besides them, right?
Plus, I did feel put-off by the fact that Gordon thought I needed ‘saving’ like a damsel in distress, even health-wise.
I then told him he had to love himself before he loved others, which he had no answer for.
I didn’t directly tell him to seek help, as that would’ve pushed him over the edge.
In the end, Gordon caved in with utter disappointment, saying that remaining friends was just a facade.
But frankly, confessing feelings after feeling suicidal is way too soon, isn’t it?
I doubt I’d be able to talk the same way again with him, despite us chatting some time ago.
To get some closure, I asked an online safe space whether this was a wasted opportunity since I’d never dated before.
Unanimously, respondents answered that it was a bullet dodged. Some had endured the same situation I nearly threw myself into and they regretted hard.
After reading their feedback, I realised that there should be boundaries between being a therapist and significant other, both of which I’m unqualified to be for him.
Gordon needed help, which only professionals would be able to give.
Ultimately, it was up to him to find happiness within himself and resolve his internal trauma. Otherwise, we’d both be dragged down together.
The most I can do now is to guide Gordon into helping himself.
At least now, my conscience is clear that turning him down was for the best — for both of us.
For more stories like this, read: I Was In A Situationship – Why I Stayed Till The End and The Modern Dating Struggles Every Introvert Can Relate To.