Monday, April 21, 2008

Email from a guy with a mid-life boyfriend crisis

It's been a while since anyone emailed me for any advice so I was happy to receive the following email last week from a guy who's got boyfriend problems:

Dear GB,

I am a new reader of your blog, living in London. I am really looking for some advice from you. It's difficult to discuss my dilemma with friends for reasons which will be obvious.

I am in my mid 40s and have been in a relationship with my partner for nearly nine years now. He is in his early 30s. He is bright, good looking, and treats me very well. I am his first boyfriend. Sounds like a dream come true for any gay 40 year old! The problem is we have not been having sex much at all for the last couple of years or so. We are both still interested in sex, but something seems to stop us enjoying it together. I have got through this with the occasional encounter and I assume he has too, although it's not discussed. A genuine open relationship would not be an option with him because he knows I have cheated on him before and he is too insecure to handle it. I don't mean that as a criticism. If anything it should be the other way round.

Last autumn I started chatting to a lovely guy on gaydar who lives in Brighton. Again he is bright, attractive to me, in his mid 30s, funny etc. We met for sex once and it was great. Since then we have texted and chatted on the phone a lot. He is away a lot. For a while I was making the running in terms of the texts etc and he was a bit reticent. I put that down to the fact that he had just come out of a long relationship and did not want to get involved with me given my circumstances. However, I've been around the block a few times and I like to think I know the difference between disinterest and being scared of falling for someone. I know he likes me a lot and think we could have a future together. I know it sounds mad to make such a bold assertion on the basis of texts and calls etc but sometimes you just know don't you?

I have fallen for him big time. He is on my mind 24/7. It's a bit like being 17 again. Although I live and work in London, I could move down to Brighton permanently to be with him because it's an easy commute to London on the train.

So the dilemma. Is this a mid life crisis or not? I have never felt this way about anyone during my time with my partner. I realise that when its written down in black and white it looks like madness to even think we could have a future together. The reality is we hardly really know each other and would be coming together after two LT relationships - hardly a recipe for success.

But maybe it's time to move on. I love my partner but not with the burning intensity I know I could love this guy. I think the best thing to do is to continue the connection with this new guy and see where it leads. The more we get to know each other the greater the chance we may lose interest in each other. I feel I have to find out or I could regret not taking the chance for years. Or should I "get a grip of myself" and put all my efforts into rebuilding my relationship with my partner?

I hope I have not bored you to tears. However, I would genuinely value your thoughts. It's a great blog too by the way!


I don't like the term "mid-life crisis", but since this reader is around the middle of his expected lifespan, I guess his problems falls into that category! I actually think it's healthy to assess the direction of one's life every now and then. For a lot of us, including myself, we follow the expected path from school/university to job and relationship, probably including children if one is straight, strive for seniority at work so as to earn more money, and it's only in one's late thirties or forties that the path peters out. So around that time, anyone with a brain should be questioning whether they're headed in the right direction or not!

This reader's case reminds me of the email from the gay guy with long-term relationship issues. That guy was also contemplating leaving his long-term partner for another guy, and just as in that situation, change for the sake of change is probably a bad idea. When there are problems with one's domestic situation, it's very hard to be objective about the the merits of dumping one's boyfriend for another guy, because the prospects of a life with the other guy will always look better than they really are. Given this, I doubt that this reader's love for the other guy is any stronger than his love was for his current boyfriend when they first got to know each other, and the burning intensity of his love for the other guy will gradually fade. Even so, that doesn't necessarily mean that a relationship with the other guy would be a mistake.

The bottom line is that this reader really needs to talk to his current boyfriend. Communication is vital to maintain a healthy relationship. In terms of communication it's clear that the relationship has broken down, because they're not talking about their sexual difficulties, which is causing at least one of them to look elsewhere. Whether he ends up separating from his boyfriend or staying with him, both courses of action mean that he'll have to talk to him about difficult subjects. And the fact is, if he can't bring himself to talk about difficult subjects with his current boyfriend, he's not likely to be able to do so with any other boyfriend when difficulties arise in any future relationship.

The ultimate outcome must depend on what happens when the reader starts discussing his relationship problems with his partner. Although he says that an open relationship is out of the question, that may be preferable to both parties instead of splitting up. Nine years in a gay male relationship is an achievement, and it's a shame to throw it all away without trying to fix it. The reader says that 'something' seems to stop him and his current boyfriend enjoying sex with each other. My guess is that solving their communication problem could well be an important milestone in terms of finding a solution to that, because if they love each other enough to share their most intimate thoughts with each other, loving each other physically too will seem very natural.

To make a success of any relationship over a long period of time, I think it's important that both parties to continue to work at it. It's not clear to me which of them stopped working at their relationship first, but it's probably true that both of them have let it slip over the last couple of years. At any rate, it's important that the reader enters into discussions with his current boyfriend with an open mind, without trying to pre-judge what will happen. In this way, the reader will be showing his willingness to try and make the relationship work again. If, in spite of his best efforts, the boyfriend won't properly engage in the discussions, or doesn't want to start putting any work into the relationship again, then perhaps trying for a new relationship with the other guy would be the best course of action. Since it seems that this is the course of action that the reader wants to follow, he should bear in mind that it's very easy to mis-interpret what was said and hear what one wants to hear, so to try and overcome this he really does need to listen properly to what his boyfriend has to say otherwise he's not giving it his best shot.

If the ultimate conclusion is that it's best to end their nine year relationship, I think it's less traumatic if they can do that and still somehow remain friends. Although it's not clear where my relationship is going with my boyfriend S, if we eventually decide to stop calling each other boyfriends then I think it's likely that we will remain friends. I reckon that people who break all ties in these situations usually end up being less happy in the long run, because they're effectively putting a big part of their life into the dustbin!

Do any other reader's have any thoughts on this situation?


Anonymous said...

I notice you say your current partner is younger and insecure. You also say he is “bright, good looking, and treats me very well”... this description sounds very ‘professional’, and I can’t help wondering where the ‘love’ is in this relationship?

As GB says communication is important, but I’m not sure if you can talk to your partner about your issues? Although it does sound like he has similar issues over the relationship, but probably for different reasons.

People change, want different things, don’t want other things. Seems unfair to both of you to just ‘exist’ in a relationship that no longer offers fulfilment. It might be useful to explore both of your feelings with a third party (therapist), particularly when you have invested so much in the relationship.

I always feel it’s a pity to use one relationship to end another, although it happens all the time, I feel it damages us somewhere deep down. Perhaps this is your crisis/opportunity… the chance to change, or just repeat - confirming that this is how the world is.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. The right thing to do is to work at the relationship with my partner and that's what I am going to do. Sometimes advice from people one does not know suddenly makes one see things more clearly. Thank you

Monty said...

Yeah, I agree with GB here. Simply leaving your existing partner for a new one is not the way to go. If you're having problems with your existing partner, then what's to stop the very same thing happening with the new guy? 9 years is a very long time and it seems a shame to throw that all away! Talk to your partner - it's worth working for your relationship! Good luck! :-)

Scott C said...

In these exchanges, no where do i read about any sexual attraction he still feels toward his current bf. Eventually that wanes, in most relationships at least, and if a deeper understanding of one another can take the place of a hot fuck, then congratulations, but usually when one starts to 'work' at a relationship, it's the beginning of a rather grim end. Couples' therapy is about managing a sane break up; and trying to create a friendship between two people who were never friends to begin with, but instead romantic partners, with the sort of ego and conditional love that never unnerves a platonic trust, is desperate. The two might benefit from time apart. Then they could rejoin to build a new relationship without the stress of domestic life and the pressures of maintaining romantic intimacy and sexual approval.
Once the eye starts wandering, the passion moves on. It might not be a bad thing, change can be stimulating and maybe both partners here just need a bit of time alone to re-examine their professional and personal paths. Love is powerful, passion is temporary and thrilling and I'm never sure why anyone denies themselves either for the sake of comfortable domesticity. Intimacy is what most of us are both drawn to and terrified of. Maybe that's what needs to be examined here. But again, examination can kill an erection faster than a baby's pram.