Monday, February 25, 2008

Email from a gay guy with long-term relationship issues

Just over a week ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

First, I would just like to say that I've been reading your blog for quite some time, and I appreciate your honesty and openness about how your life has transpired with Boyfriend S, and others.

I suspect I particularly relate to your situation, as I am in a very similar situation, and am doing my best to cope with what is right and ethical for both of us.

I met my partner 25 years ago, when I was 23 and he was 41. Today I am 48 and he is 66. We have not had a physical relationship for years.

Years ago, he had physically rejected my advances, and my needs for sexual satisfaction, and I vowed to never approach him again in a sexual way. Now he feels very guilty about that, but that definitely had to change our relationship. But that led to years of solitude, self-esteem issues, weight gain and frustration before I ventured out to others.

About 5 years ago I did begin to meet others, usually at saunas. During this time, I met a married man. He is like your Boyfriend P - I get to see him every morning for coffee, and we manage at least once per week an evening together. It has been a very intense emotional and physical time with him these past 4 years, and I would have to say I love him very much, but I know that he will never intentionally leave his wife.

Lately I have also met someone that was in a very similar situation as myself, and he has had the courage to venture out on his own, 2 years ago, after ending his 18 year relationship. We seem to be bonding very well, and also enjoying each others company.

I suppose I feel guilt and failure regarding my Boyfriend S (who also has had a Boyfriend P for 4 years - also a married man - and he went through a massive depression last year when he thought that that relationship was ending) in that I loved him, and still do, but I know it is not like it was. Also, I suppose I am like your Boyfriend S, in that I am not as financially stable as my partner, and I fear the reality of losing out in a break-up. But both of us have fears of being alone - he due to getting older and more infirm, me because I basically have been with him most of my adult life...

I suppose my question is, after all of this, what is the ethical and moral thing to do - stay together with someone that has been a pillar of your life, and both of you try to live things out, each trying to be happy in your own ways with other partners on the side, or are we not doing either of ourselves justice by not dealing with the reality that things are not what they were, and get on with it?


The reader who set this email clearly feels as though he's at a crossroads in his life, no doubt as a result of the recent meeting with this new guy who was in a similar situation and then ventured out on his own. Since the two of them are 'bonding very well' perhaps there are even relationship possibiliites there.

In any case, the fact that this reader has had a relationship with another guy for 25 years is a significant achievement. I do reckon gay relationships can be more fickle, so when comparing with heterosexual relationships I think a gay year is worth more than a straight one! But people do gradually change, and in a relationship if people change in different ways, it's possible that a compatibility can slowly change into an incompatibility. Relationships change too, again not necessarily for the better. In the case of this reader it sounds as though the change that happened in connection with their sex lives caused him a lot of problems.

As the reader says, he's been with his partner for most of adult life. However, the worst reason to stay together is just because it's comfortable. Equally, 'the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence' so change for the sake of change can also be a mistake. What he doesn't mention in his email is the quality of companionship that the relationship provides. Do they still socialise a lot together, and still enjoy each other's company? Since they both seem comfortable having other partners on the side, if the rest of the relationship is still good I see no reason to finish it. But if they mostly get on each other's nerves all the time, then a separation would be better. From the reader's email I can't judge where he is along that spectrum of possibilities.

In my case, at present it seems likely that my relationship with boyfriend S will end up being downgraded to a close friendship. I don't want to lose contact with him because we've shared to much together, and I think he feels the same way. Perhaps this reader could also downgrade his relationship with this guy to a friendship and still keep some of the benefits of the relationship? Maybe there's some way of doing that so that he doesn't lose out financially in a more absolute separation?

A couple of times, the reader mentions the ethical and moral dimension to this. When I try to think of ethics and morals in relation to this situation, I start wondering what these two guys owe each other, not in a monetary sense but in terms of the lives that they've led together. Did one of them support the other one for a long period, through a difficult time in their lives? What sacrifices have been made for the relationship? Only the guys involved know the details. But maybe the reader is referring to the fact that his partner is within striking distance of his 70th birthday and might find it hard to find a new partner if they separate. My feeling is that there's no debt in connection with that fact alone, because the older guy didn’t have to start a relationship with the reader. The older guy should have been fully aware of the age difference and what it's implications might be in later life. Furthermore, the fact that he rejected the reader's sexual advances years ago makes me think that he could have been playing around for a lot more than the 4 years that the reader mentions in his email. So the available evidence suggests a debt to the reader, rather than the other way round. The reader also shouldn't feel 'guilt and failure' in connection with his relationship problems, because making a relationship work is a joint responsibility.

Do any other readers have any other thoughts on this situation?


Anonymous said...

Its obvious he's been satisfying his needs elswhere. If you now have someone else whom you actually love why settle for less? Perhaps you are too comfortable living with your sugar daddy (albeit you two don't exchange bodily fluids anymore) and are still genuinely attracted to and love him. But if he is nothing more than a convenient 0% APR lender then for goodness sake start living a life you can afford, or progress careerwise, so that you can regain your dignity and depend on yourself financially. Also hoping that the new men in your life are 'closer to your age range', there's a reason why this pharse is so often mentioned on gaydar. I'm glad there are less age mismatched pairings these days. Its funny how young, non-ageist gays say that they like how their older partners are better in bed and more intellectually stimulating and its just a coincidence that their partners also have a fat current account. Rarely are these sexually experienced, intelligent, older men men who earn 20 grand a year after tax and who still have mortgages to pay off. If you are addicted to his wealth and he has willed part of his estate to you and you can't imagine life without him then just hold out for another 14 years or so and you should then be able to enjoy about 18 years or so of comfortable retirement.

Superchilled said...

Relationships take all kinds of forms, and you're perfectly able to make up the kind that works for you. What seems to be lacking in this case is open communication. There are a lot of issues that have been brought up, and it seems like a lot of them are unspoken elsewhere. That needs to change. Sure, talking about things may bring about change, but that seems to be what's needed in some form, so tackle it openly and honestly and see if you can find an amicable resolution. Don't hold back for fear of hurting, because that's likely to hurt even more.

Anonymous said...

Have you guys talked about it? I haven't read anything about it, other than the rejection.

I have an age gap between my other half...I am 25 and he is 33 ( i hope I got that right), age has never been an issue for both sexually and emotionally for me... I've been with guys sexually who are in their 50s, it's always been a case of their confidence, personality and experience...

anyway, the point I am making is that my other half has made it clear that if i ever find a guy that I find sexually attractive, I should go for it as long as I am honest and up front with my other half... he feels he doesn't want me to miss out and resent him for not being able to enjoy my 20s... I think this has been an acknowledgement and an acceptance there is an age gap between us and we are at different stages in life... at the same time, we are in it together. Do you get what I am trying to say? Did you guys ever address this age gap issue?

I just think for a 25 year relationship, you two must have overcome a lot to get this far and maybe it's a fantasy and of course I don't know the exact circumstances of your relationship, but surely or not the two of you should be able to overcome this. Keep it honest and open to the other partner, that's what I say. Find out what sexually turns on your partner... if it's porn, perhaps let him film you having sex with another guy... that way the two of you will get something out of it.

Also you did mention financially you are dependent, or I got that impression at least... for you self confidence at least, I'd suggest you do something even if it's voluntary... just get out there, see more people, experience life outside the relationship. Even go to the gym, that will help your confidence issues as well... although the gym makes me more horny... dunno if it will do the same for you, so perhaps addressing the sexual issue first is the best thing to do first.

If those 25 years have been special and a partner you know you couldn't live without (not in a financial sense) then I wouldn't let lack of self-confidence, hurt of rejection, the smell of green grass on the other side, and the guilt get in the way of trying fight for your other half... remember it's not the relationship, it's your other half, the person you want.

Anonymous said...

My partner is 25 years older than me. Our incomes are the same. I love older men. A lot of us do. In the 5 years we've been together, he's aged a lot. I was ver sexually inexperienced when we met. He sort of misled me into thinking our sex life would get better as we got to know eachother. In fact, it got less frequent, but I am so in love with him and with being in love. I strayed outside the relationship before but factors have made that more difficult to do now. I can't leave him as he is my soul mate and it would destroy him also. I'm in it til the end, but will still jump at the chance to hook up outside the relationship. I asked him about being in an open relationship once, but he freaked out. He's in denial about my fulfillment and thinks I'm as naive as I once was.