‘He said he’d stopped having feelings for men’

Sarah Johns’ dream boyfriend gave every impression of being up for marriage, but his diary told a very different story …

I was 19 years old when my boyfriend proposed marriage and told me he was gay in the same breath. It was a beautiful day and Oliver had taken me sightseeing on one of his rare days off from his work as a lawyer. We were walking in Central Park in New York enjoying the sunshine, holding hands. A ring flashed in the sunlight. ‘Marry me,’ he said. I almost whooped with joy.

Oliver was everything I’d ever imagined I wanted in a man, and a lawyer! I was so carried away that I almost didn’t hear him talking. Almost. ‘You’re the only woman I’ve ever thought of that way,’ he said. As he pushed the ring on to my finger he smiled at me.

‘I used to think I might be gay. But I can stop.’ He went on to tell me that he’d had relationships with men, but that he’d never cheat on me, with anyone. He said he’d stopped having feelings for men. My 19-year-old self believed that was possible. I pushed all the fears into my stomach and locked them there.

We had met the year previously when I was 18 and had just started at university. I fell in love with him almost immediately. He became my boyfriend and my best friend and we quickly began spending all our time together. When Oliver was offered a job in New York I didn’t want him to leave. I begged him to look for something closer to home but he had a better idea.

When I returned from a class he was waving an American flag. ‘Come with me,’ he said. I didn’t think about my career, or the course I’d just started that I’d worked so hard for. I didn’t consider for a minute that things wouldn’t work out. I left my university, friends, family. I would have followed him anywhere.

In the weeks after Oliver proposed I walked around New York and all I could think about was being his wife. I looked at my flashy ring all day and he showed me off at parties and dinners, but he seemed distant. We didn’t mention what he had told me. I didn’t once ask him about it, as if I could ignore it away.

But Oliver stayed out late and didn’t answer his phone. He slept on the sofa. I told myself that he was busy at work, but when he stayed out all night, I began to worry. Could he be having an affair?

I searched his apartment and there it was in his top drawer, not well hidden at all, as if he almost wanted me to find it. His journal. As I opened the pages my stomach churned. Page after page described Oliver sleeping with men – strangers.

He’d meet them in clubs, parks, anywhere. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Then I noticed the dates. It had all happened since I’d been staying with him. In the last few weeks! And worse. He wrote about how he hadn’t used any protection.

I left New York without waiting for Oliver to explain. There was no explanation. He had cheated on me, but I was angry with myself. How could I be so stupid? It was New York and it was the 1990s, and he was having sex with strangers without using condoms. I was convinced that he’d given me HIV or another infection.

Going for an HIV test was one of the scariest times of my life. It was negative. I managed to get back into university. My friends were still my friends. I was very lucky. But I didn’t feel lucky. Despite everything I missed Oliver desperately.

Over the years I’ve realised that I was the one in denial. I wanted something so badly that I glossed over the fact that Oliver was gay. I’ll never understand why he felt that he had to pretend; I’m just glad I found his journal that day.

Now happily in a committed relationship, I’m no longer a silly girl who thinks being a lawyer’s wife will bring me happiness no matter what. There is no flashy ring. I have my own career. We have to work at our relationship and value trust above all things. As much as my heart was broken, it mended and grew stronger and much, much healthier.

I never heard from Oliver again and I never tried to contact him. I’ve made many mistakes over the years, but marrying Oliver would have been the biggest mistake of all, for both of us.

[Source: Telegraph.co.uk]