Sunday, January 06, 2008

Email from a successful gay guy with relationship problems

Late on Christmas day, I received a short email from a gay guy with the title "How did he cope?". The email was as follows:

My bf number 1, we've been together for 19 years, is cheating on me - he has been for years. I've pretended it was a mistake etc but now he's having a mid life crisis as well and keeps saying he doesn't know what he wants! I'm left hurt and angry and crying and he's making his mind up about what he wants.

I always said the first time would be the last but then I wasn't thinking of love, and I do love him, very much. How did this happen? I don't know apart from the fact that I want to grow old with him and I think he's frightened to death of the idea!

Cheating is just cowardice, I think he's glad I found out and now I think he would be only too happy to let me dump him - it takes the responsibility away from him and puts it square on my shoulders.

Looking at the email in more detail, I was surprised to see that the guy had sent it from his work email address, because most 'Dear GB' emails get sent from personal email addresses. The company in question is a well known international firm, so I tried googling the guy's name in conjunction with the company's name to see what I could find out. Although I'd never heard of the guy who sent me the email, it was clear from the google results that he's one of the company's best known employees, a guy who's right at the top of his creative profession.

The fact that the email contained the phrase "bf number 1" led me to think that the guy might be a bit like me, with a good job and more than one boyfriend. I also wondered whether the main boyfriend might feel in the shadow of the guy who sent me the email, given that the guy is extremely successful in his professional life.

So modelling the situation on my own circumstances, on Boxing Day I sent the guy a reply where I suggested that his boyfriend needed his support to re-establish his self-esteem and find a purpose in life. I also sent him the web site address of the counselling service that myself and boyfriend number 1 had used. But later that day when the reply arrived, it suddenly became clear that I'd made some bad assumptions:

I'm going to try and be my own best friend in all this - and no I have never had any other bfriends not even kisses he really was my first. Thanks for being understanding, I don't think I will be in touch again but I will be fine.

Unlike me, this successful guy has been 100%+ faithful to his boyfriend. Furthermore, given the length of their relationship, they probably met when they were both students so they've been together throughout the time that this guy has been building his career. Until now, the guy has simply been turning a blind eye to his boyfriend's behaviour because he loves him. And of course, the answer to the guy's original question as to how my boyfriend number 1 coped isn't very helpful, because as it turned out he didn't cope very well at all :-(.

Having had a couple of weeks to think about this situation, I think the two key points are that the guy's boyfriend is now having a mid-life crisis of some sort, but in spite of all the problems the guy still loves him. Also, although it's not clear what effect the guy's professional success has had on the relationship, I'd be surprised if there's been no effect at all. One possibility is that the guy has had to put so much energy into his career to get where he is today that his relationship has had to take second place.

Since they've been together 19 years, and since the guy still loves his boyfriend, I reckon it's definitely worth trying to save their relationship. But if the boyfriend is having a crisis of some sort, he's not really in a position to be in a relationship with anyone. So I think part of the original advice that I emailed on Boxing Day is valid, because I can't see how the relationship can survive unless the guy helps his boyfriend through his crisis, even though the boyfriend has been unfaithful. Furthermore, the relationship will emerge much stronger if the guy can somehow provide his boyfriend with the help and support he needs.

The situation echos one of my standard themes, namely that love and companionship are hard to find, but in a modern urban environment gay sex is just a commodity. So if the love and companionship are there, my advice to the guy who sent me the email is not to worry so much about infidelity. Having reached a crisis point, they'll have to negotiate with each other regarding what their relationship will look like in the future, so it should be possible to set rules for how everything will work.

The two guys here probably reached this point because of the history of their relationship. In their youth, guys who become boyfriends often set themselves up with the traditional heterosexual model of monogamous relationships, but then as they grow older it can be hard to discuss changing the rules if one of them feels that they don't want to be monogamous any more. More likely, an opportunity for infidelity presents itself, and the additional thrill of breaking the rules makes it impossible to refuse. I was certainly guilty of going down this path, but of course I now know that I should have found a way to discuss with my boyfriend number 1 beforehand. It's like the guy said in his email "Cheating is just cowardice" because the brave thing to do is to be honest and discuss things with one's partner!

It would be very convenient if the relationships that we start when we're in our twenties are the right ones to last us through our entire lives. But just because something is convenient doesn't make it true. Each year we all change a little bit, sometimes we change a lot, and it's quite likely that two people in a relationship will change in different ways. And if people change too much in different ways, after a decade or two what was the perfect relationship at the start can be the nightmare relationship instead. Recognising this is tough, and although the couple here haven't yet reached that point, it is a possibility that the guy must bear in mind.

Do any other readers have any advice for this guy?


MadeInScotland said...

ahoj GB

My experience of sending/receiving email is that it is essentially a private, personal space sort of thing. I mean, that when at home I have to go off to the PC and access my personal account. In a relationship it's exclusionary.

Christmas Day is a time for sharing with our loved ones. I can't imagine breaking away from my partner on Christmas Day to check my email account. Unless our relationship was broken in a bad way.

I remember some 7 or 8 years ago when I was in a relationship of 7 years that was broken, on Boxing Day I went off to do my stuff on the PC. My partner never forgot abandoning him.

Of course we need our space and in that sense I am lucky because with Xfe have time together, and time apart.

So, aside from the rest of what's going on in this post, the thing that leaps out for me is that someone needed their private space on Christmas Day.

In terms of relationship that must mean something.

As to what has happened here, the other wanted some exciting and different sex probably. The fact he had sex elsewhere had probably very little to do with love. In fact nothing at all.

I know the polyamory prognosis, but some people are content to love only one person at a time, or forever. All they need is the physical release of sex with another from time to time, that for them probably means fuck all, other than the guilt that goes with it.

Sounds like this is what the 19 year relationship "other" is all about, rather than having mid-life crise.

Just a thought.


Masturbedroom said...

GB, this guy will definitely need more advice and counselling and it's difficult for us to advise appropriately given it's a 19 year relationship and so little has been divulged. Your advice is not unexpected though, given we know the personal values you apply to (and your experience in) such situations.

Good point czechOUT. But did GB mean the email was timestamped Christmas day, he was checking his email on Christmas day, or both?

GB said...

In fact guys, the email was timed just after midnight on Christmas day (i.e. technically Boxing day), so I didn't pick it up until the morning.

Indeed Masturbedroom, I had exactly the same thought when replying to his original email, so little has been divulged. I think that's probably partly because this guy isn't used to telling strangers about such personal matters, and perhaps more because of the trauma of the situation. So in fact, in an email yesterday I advised the guy to see a professional counsellor face to face. I like to think that this 'Dear GB' column can help, especially with all you guys commenting too, but there's only so much we can do.

Love and kisses, GB xxx