The one demanding distance may believe it's about respect rather than coldness, or assertion and clarity rather than detachment and cruelty, righteousness rather than insecurity. The effect isn't always the intent, whether or not the intent is a mask.
The person demanding space may even recognize that ideally they should be strong enough to just deal with everything but have recognized they're not there yet. I know that when I needed space, I was damn well aware that it was most likely defensive and called my friends from whom I was requesting distance to let them know that I knew I cared about them even if my defensive feelings and self-preserving detachment wasn't allowing me to "feel" it in the moment. I told them I knew it wasn't necessarily rational but that I felt a lot of anger towards them and couldn't deal with everything I was feeling. I told them I assumed it would eventually pass, but for now, it was all too much for me to handle, and I needed space. I needed to not be constantly reminded of the differences between my beliefs and those of so many of my friends and family or connected to those who were also connected to [him]. I also wanted to leave the picture, so they'd not feel obligated to be 'loyal' to one or the other of us and so I wouldn't be constantly tempted to ask about [him]. I thanked them for their sympathy and said goodbye for now and that it probably was not permanent. Though that may offer little comfort to those who are being pushed away, I wanted them to know what was going on in me rather than filling in the blanks on their own and jumping to unnecessary conclusions.
But I believe most in the situation of guys shutting out gay associations as if they are communist conspirators in the fifties have another component. I believe the following comparison is wrong and inaccurate in the sense that I think the situations are erroneously thought of as being of the same kind, but I think it's descriptive of some people's perspectives. In the mind of many, the 'SSA' guy who is committing to a heterosexual lifestyle and who cuts off contact with a guy he dated, or friends he hung out with, before making that commitment is like the adulterer who, in a difficult time in his marriage, found comfort and connection with another woman, developed a friendship with her, and committed adultery, and is cutting off contact with her to save his marriage. However purely their interest in each other may have started, it became a temptation and distraction from what he truly needed to focus 100% of his energy on: saving his marriage. And to cut off contact is a noble sign of true, manly dedication to his true purpose. Ideally, maybe they should be able to talk things through and have some closure, but in reality, he cannot afford to think of or talk to her if he is to repair his marriage and keep his family intact because it risks opening wounds he can't afford to treat right now and must limp on or risk being overtaken and destroying all the work he's done. For the adulterous homewrecker to reach out to him for any reason would, therefore, be inappropriate and would only be proof that she prioritizes her own desires or needs over his welfare. Otherwise, she would just never speak to him again out of respect for what's best for him and would let him rebuild his life.
The reason this would be a false parallel in my case is that:
- there was no commitment he was betraying by dating me (baptismal or temple covenants don't count any more than someone's commitment to Catholicism should prevent them from becoming LDS if they convert, or a politician's commitment to a party should prevent them from crossing the aisle),
- I didn't tempt him away from something he was committed to,
- there were no spouse's or children's lives to affect,
- don't even get me started on the whole 'proof she never really loved him' thing (I'll post sometime about what a crock that is: I've heard Evergreen speakers try to claim same-sex relationships are inherently and unavoidably selfish because they prevent those involved from finding true happiness...blatantly circular logic),
- I never intended to persuade him away from his path and know many who are on it who maintain friendship with me,
- I had no reason to believe my contacting him would be destructive to anyone's progress, much less create jealousy or friction in a relationship,
Still, I think some people irrationally or casually equate the situations when they're trying to commit to a path which requires great sacrifice to both inject it with meaning and prevent any second-guessing. They cut off friendships which don't fully and completely keep their mind free of any temptation to believe anything other than what they think they should believe. The idea is that you are, at all costs, purifying your life and eliminating influences which would distract you from what you really want and believe to be true. Of course, the tragedy is that these tactics are required of all kinds of charlatans regardless of correctness, but once a particular method or path is determined to be "right", its pursuit justifies and requires obsessively singular focus.
In the rare instance where the cause actually is just and right, perhaps such tactics are justified and defensible by their ends. After all, a recovering alcoholic can't afford to chum around with old drinking buddies or go anywhere near a bar. She has a weakness which means she must be stricter or more severe than the average person would have to be regarding anything related to alcohol consumption. She must turn away from all things which trigger the temptation to drink, and anyone who doesn't respect that disregards her welfare and isn't worthy of her friendship because if they did or were, they would put her recovery first and foremost, before their own needs. If she's to avoid thinking of drinking, she's to avoid people who talk about it all the time or who see nothing wrong with getting wasted. Or, more subtly, she even needs to avoid people who don't understand the needs of an alcoholic, who don't grasp that even one drink can set her back. They might not understand why she can't just drink moderately or minimally like they do and think she's overreacting and overwrought in avoiding even walking by the bar. But she knows she needs to change her paradigms, her surroundings, and her influences, and it's not her job to make them understand: it's her job to save herself from herself at all costs.
There are many who regard same-sex dating as akin to adultery and who regard homosexuality as akin to alcoholism, and they treat it accordingly, with as much severity of tactics. They believe that anyone who ever had anything to do with them dating someone is to be excised and forgotten, that if they try to cling to any relationship, it is only a clear indication of their selfishness and disregard for that person's welfare. I believe it's sick, and it's wrong. But it's what people do, and it's understandable to me, since I used to think similarly. So I accept that to someone, I am a source of temptation, one who doesn't understand what they think is the big picture, the adulterous homewrecker selfishly focusing on my loss rather than on their efforts for happiness. So be it. Most of us have done something like that at some point, often in more adolescent years, for one cause or another. Not everyone has, and some have to prove something to themselves later in life. Maybe some of these isolators or shunners are in that boat. Maybe some are just plain mean. Maybe some are dealing with emotions they can't get a grip on. Maybe some have completely different reasons and motives. But they have their reasons.