Monday, November 17, 2008

Email from a guy with a relationship dilemma

Last week, I received an email from a gay guy who's got a boyfriend who lives in the UK. The email was as follows:

Dear GB,
Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I only recently found your blog and have found it a very interesting read.

I am currently facing a relationship-related dilemma for which I hope clarity could be achieved from unbiased, objective third-party views.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am in my late 20s and have recently returned to my native country after a long stint in the UK as a student. For 2 years preceding my return, I lived with the guy I am currently in a relationship with. Barring the odd drama, our relationship is otherwise stable, and uncomplicated, which is how we both prefer it. As clichéd as it may sound, we "get" each other, share a fairly identical sense of humour and are at complete ease in each other's company. He absolutely adores me and I do him. As a partner, he complements my cynical, non-trusting, and at times glass-half-empty nature. The understanding at this point is that I will return to join him.

The current state of economy of the UK, in which I am sure you are far more well-versed than myself, does however make me question the arrangement of my plans and priorities. I have professional ambitions that are more easily fulfilled in my native country, compared to as an alien in the UK. While the qualifications I have under my belt are reasonable, they are by no means outstanding. The current graduate glut (and the apparent record levels of unemployment) that I keep reading about in the English press has only made the difficult task appear impossible. That said, the situation does not seem as dire where I am now, which leads me to believe that I could go much further here professionally.

On the other hand, if I were to discard this perfectly functioning relationship, I suspect finding another one will not be easy. I have no complexes about my sexuality, but nor do I wear it on my sleeve. There exists a gay scene here, but there is a complete lack of variety apart from the stereotypical campy merriment which, while I fully support an individual's right to enjoy himself, does not sit well with me. I doubt I would be willing to immerse myself in all that in the hopes of a happy accident. Besides, my overwhelmingly heterosexual-male circle of friends here are marrying off one by one (even a few gay acquaintances!), and I do not doubt very soon the pressure will be on me to do the same. It is extremely unlikely I will go down the route of scamming a poor girl into sham matrimony but I wonder how it feels to be "that old guy who has never married who lives by himself". I also wonder how my traditionally-minded parents are going to handle queries about me from nosy friends and relatives. I wonder how I will handle them.

I know the answer is ultimately mine but I really could use the benefits of the opinions of those who have been there and done that, or simply have been in the game for longer than I have. Thank you.


Although the reader doesn't say where his native country is, my guess is that he comes from one of what bankers call the "emerging markets", perhaps somewhere like the Indian sub-continent. Exactly where he comes from isn't relevant, however given that there isn't much gay life where he now lives, it seems highly likely to me that he'd find it a lot easier being gay in the UK. Gay people in the UK can now enter into civil partnership, the law protects us from discrimination, and it's easy to meet other gay people either online or on the gay scene in the major cities. For these reasons alone, even if he didn't have a boyfriend in the UK, I would suggest that he should consider moving over here if possible.

These days, the UK seems to welcome English speaking graduates, wherever they come from. There's a points based system for qualifying for a work visa, which takes account of age, qualifications and previous earnings, although there's also a requirement to have had the equivalent of £2,800 savings for three months prior to the application. Then, once someone has lived legitimately in the UK for 5 years, they can apply for "indefinite leave to remain" which means they can stay forever. By comparison it's much harder to reach the same point in the USA for example. In today's global knowledge-based economy, I think it's a smart move by the UK government to make it possible for graduates to move to the UK like this.

At the moment though, it's true that the UK is entering a recession. However now that the UK government has moved to support the banks, and with a pledge to restore growth from the G20 group of nations, my best guess is that all the right ingredients are in place for an eventual recovery. Inside and out logoA week ago I went to an event which aims to recruit gay graduates into banking. Like last year, my role was simply to talk to the students and to recommend banking as a career to them. But while I was there I also spoke to a few of the bank's human resources representatives, and in spite of the recession it's clear that they're all still hiring graduates.

In terms of career versus personal life, I think personal life should always come first. It can be hard to prioritise because without an income (presumably from a career) it's hard to have a fulfilling personal life, however I think a person who derives all his satisfaction in life from career success is likely to end up sad and lonely. So although the reader may be able to focus on a career in his home country for a few years, he won't be able to ignore the fact that he's gay forever. Given that it'll be hard to find a new boyfriend where is is, he may well find himself trapped in a loveless life after a few years with mounting pressures from his family to get married. It was Fran from Strictly Ballroom who said "A life lived in fear is a life half lived", and they're wise words!

For all these reasons, I would lean towards suggesting that the reader should move back to the UK if possible. Unlike where he's currently living, the UK is a good place to be gay, because he won't to be able to ignore that side of his personality forever. Since he already has a boyfriend here, it'll be much easier for him to move than it would be for anyone who's never lived over here before.

Until recently, the reader who sent me the email was in a different country from where he grew up, which is exactly the same situation that boyfriend P still finds himself. Similarly, boyfriend P also has a boyfriend who lives in the UK :-). So since boyfriend P has known about my blog for a while now, I asked him for his thoughts on this reader's email and he had the following things to say:

There are so many issues that this reader has raised that I think I need to tackle them methodically.

Firstly, the way I see it from the email there's the professional ambition issue. Then there's the underlying relationship dynamic between him and his partner and the fear of not being able to find another relationship. The third is the issue of societal/parental pressure to get married.

So let me tackle the first. Career-wise, it's always important to not put all your eggs in one basket. I reckon he is about to graduate and will be looking for a job. Instead of just focusing on one market, why not put a word out to prospective employers in different markets, different countries. Whoever offers the best prospects and remunerations is worth considering seriously. Until that happens, it's too early to tell. I don't really know where this reader is originally from and what kind of environment that country of origin is in so it is hard to assess. Also, be practical about long-term prospects. It may be easier to get a job in his native country, but a stint in the UK may be far highly valuable in the longer run. But again, don't count your chicks before your eggs are hatched. The reader should send his resume out and gauge the responses of employers. The decision will be more pragmatic then.

The second issue I am surmising is that he is not 100 per cent happy in the current relationship. He seems to suggest that they are coasting along. But coasting along in a relationship is never good enough. There has to be passion. One important question he needs to ask himself: "Am I in love with him?" The fear of not being able to find another boyfriend shouldn't even be a subject. Life's too short, and he's too young to be feeling trapped in a loveless relationship. At my age, and I'm no spring chicken, I still believe in great loves and The One. Yet there are many The Ones coming into our lives, of course. But I honestly think if one relationship doesn't work out, another one will present itself over time.

The third issue: parental/societal pressures. I suspect that the reader is originally from a conservative country in Asia with strong Confucianist influence. If that's the case, the pressure to conform with the rest of society and marry and provide offsprings is highly intense. That pressure is real, especially if the reader is not out to his family and friends. Having lived in the UK, it will be especially hard for him to adjust to life back at home. Again, I think life is too short to be feeling unhappy and trapped. Think about the option of coming out to family. Assess the possibility of being upfront and truthful to his parents and siblings. If telling a parent is hard or impossible, tell a closer sibling. And get his or her perspective. I don't know what his family dynamic is, but all I know is that it is not healthy for him to pretend to be someone he is not.

So those are my thoughts. Plenty of things for him to think about. The final decision should be based on having thought through all these issues carefully. We can only provide perspectives, but the reader has to come his own decisions because he knows the full story, the intricacies and complexities in his life. The question of him being in love with his partner should be central in the decision-making process, but shouldn't be the only one that he based his final decision on.

I wish him all the best. It will be an exciting time no matter. Whatever his decision is, he needs to be happy with it. When that happens, everything else falls into place.

Now, GB. I hope this is not your way of asking me to think about OUR own issues....

And as an aside note to GB's readers, some of his postings recently have put some of his and my conversations a little out of context. Certain things were omitted for artistic and dramatic purposes. I'm not the mean-spirited person some readers have made me out to be. Like many of you, I'm looking for true love too.

Boyfriend P

Do any other readers have any further thoughts?


Jay said...

Wow, dating advice, relationship advice, career advice. Is there anything you can't do? ;)


Anonymous said...

What is boyfriend P's blog link? hehehe...

Anonymous said...


I must say that soliciting Boyfriend P's response and posting it is classic. Somewhat sweet too. You are excellent.

As for that person's "dilema", he is so long winded. My advice is "Blah blah boring. Deal with it". But then again he never asked my opinion. =)


Anonymous said...

I was at Inside&Out aswell the other week, but as a student- if you were on the panel or spoke to me at my table then I would like to say thank you for inspiring me to pursue a career in Investment Banking. The opportunity was invaluable and greatly appreciated, thank you for giving up your time for it. xx

Anonymous said...

Does P have a blog?

P sounds exactly like you GB!


GB said...

I'm just trying to be helpful Jay. I never claim that my advice is any good either, I just try and do my best :-).

Boyfriend P doesn't have his own blog as far as I'm aware, first Anonymous commenter, whoever you are.

Thanks very much for your support PM :-), aka second Anonymous commenter. But please try and be a bit more constructive, as I've said before, all these 'Dear GB' emails are from genuine people who're seeking advice!

I'm glad you got something out of the graduate recruiting event Alex W :-). So see you at the gay interbank drinks event if you end up working in the City too!

Actually Jay, I think that boyfriend P's writing has quite a different feel to mine. Anyway, as I said above, he doesn't keep a blog as far as I'm aware.

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

Boyfriend P sounds quite a sensible guy.

Monty said...

I think P's advice is good...and I particularly relate to the advice regarding the family situation. I felt I couldn't out myself to my family for a very long time and so consequently, had a "half-lived life". Although it was painful to tell my parents (for both them and me), I have not looked back since! Being honest and open about who you are really does free you up to live your life - and to find true love.

And P, I wouldn't take GB's blog and maybe comments of readers to heart too much. The thing is, GB's blog is written from his perspective and us readers realize that what he may say about your relationship with him is probably a little subjective. Maybe you should start your own blog and give us a chance to get to know you! :-) And all the best for your search for true love! xxx

Humming Bird in Hyde said...

I think GB and boyfriend's P response were both excellent. They have covered exactly what I would have liked to convey. All that's left for me is to add some extras for the reader to think about.

Like the fact that he lived with his boyfriend for a period of two years. This means he could potentially apply to stay in the UK based on his relationship with his boyfriend. He would need to present proof of living together, i.e bills, joint bank account etc. The reader would need to be the one making the application to the Home Office. Details of this type of relationship visa can be obtained on their website.

I suspect he does in fact also love his boyfriend. They have both survived the honeymoon period of living together and that speaks tones.

While the UK as the rest of the world is on the cusp of a recession most millennials like yourself are still looking for work but notching it down. For instance MBAers are getting into consultancy as opposed to investment banking (see I believe if you moved to the UK it would be difficult to get a job but it will happen eventually and while it would not be the one you want it's a start. Either have some cash to tide you over or maybe your boyfriend could help you to cover some of your expenses until you can cope financially.

To summarize. Look for avenues to return to the UK to be with your boyfriend and start a process of heavy networking to find a job.

On a totally different note it's refreshing to finally hear the voice behind boyfriend P :-)

I speak for the other commentors when I say we hope to hear more from and of him :-)

Jay said...

GB, i didn't mean to sound sarcastic or anything. I think it's really cool :)


Sir Wobin said...

Interesting post all round!

Your reader doesn't seem very sentimental about his relationship but I don't think we can infer too much about love from that. Like the other commentators said, making ones career a priority can lead to loneliness but relying too heavily on a relationship can kill the passion. Where will you have the best chance of both? Don't exclude the possibility of being out in your native country; someone has to lead the way and show your compatriots that gay men are more than just a stereotype. Fulfillment is something inside, it's not a geographic feature.

How far you've come GB. From "Things I Can't Tell Boyfriend Number 1" to having postings from one of your nearest and dearest. :-) What a journey!

Welcome to the blog P. It's nice to hear your thoughts too and I for one hope you both find the love you're looking for. Gay men enhancing a story for drama??! Who'd ever believe it? You are a main character in one of our favourite stories. Sometimes a paramour, sometimes the distant desire. No way to escape your importance to this tale though.

GB said...

Yes, recent Anonymous commenter, whoever you are, I think Boyfriend P is a sensible guy too. Apart from the fact that he's involved with me of course, that's more than enough to let anyone question his sanity LOL.

I've been trying to get boyfriend P to start his own blog for ages without success, Monty. Although for all I know, he's done so secretly and not told me!

I hope you don't mean that you're getting bored of my voice, HBH. Just kidding!

Thanks very much for the clarification Jay, actually I did think that your original comment sounded slightly sarcastic, although I know it was possible to read it as genuine too.

You've got a good memory LWW, but I guess you're right, it's been a long journey. And it's not over yet either!

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

There are lots of comments on email guys dilemma which all have relevence, however I am a great believer in fate. If it's as easy to get a job in his native country as he suggests why not come back to England and his boyfriend to see what happens. If their relationship and his desire to work here are meant to be then it will all fit into place. Maybe he could give himself a time limit of six months and see where he is at that time. If the relationship is strong and the boyfriend wants it to work then i am sure he will be supportive during this time.
Over to you GB i think it shows a alot of love and trust that you can include P in your blogg, Even if he did find it by chance! Leads me to the question though, would you have told him about it if he had not found out, and does it inhibit what you write knowing he reads it..I suspect not.. I feel that it could bring you even closer as it may include things that you are not comfortable to say face to face. I don't know!
I read bloggs with my boyfriend which can be like watching a film as creates interesting discussion with both our perspectives on them and issues brought they say two minds blah blah
anyhow keep going ol boy it's always FUN.

Ken Skinner said...

First things first, strip off other people's perceptions, be they family, friends etc, and think about what you know is true for yourself. You make your own fate.

Whether to move to the UK is actually a really tough question. My husband and I were an 'international' couple for quite some time whilst we worked together an Unmarried Partners visa. We lived together in the UK then relocated to the US for 18 months before moving back. I would say on that front not to necessarily kid yourself. Even if you set out at the start of the required 2 year cohabitation period knowing all the hoops you have to jump through then it's not easy. Doing it as an afterthought is likely to be very messy. Not impossible, but definitely messy. Better to be in the UK on a working visa or a fiance visa.

As to whether or not to do it, only you know. My husband basically had to throw away his career so that we could be together as I was more flexible about moving around and so he had to 'follow' me to wherever we could live.

After 8 years of struggling he's just starting to get back to where he was. Unlike me he's also very career oriented, so it was a huge step for him to take.

I'd say that if you have the chance and you really want to keep the relationship going then test the water. See how the job market is here and see how it goes. Always be aware, though, that this is *your* decision.

Anonymous said...

I am the guy who sent GB the email. Thank you GB, boyfriend P and all of you who tried to help.

With regards to passion, as correctly raised by boyfriend P, yes I suppose we as a couple have lost some of the fiery passion we used to have when we first met years ago. But is that not natural after two years of living together?Despite that, we are very much in love with each other and are still excited by each other, if you know what I mean.

As for me not sentimental enough about my relationship in my email, I conciously avoided gushing too much about him as it might nauseate some readers :)

I have to say, after reading all the helpful replies which have given me plenty to think about, I feel there is a stronger case for giving this relationship a chance. Again, GB, boyfriend P and the rest who took the time to write helpful replies, thanks.

Ken Skinner said...

I think all relationships go through patches of passion, simple comfort and even detatchment on occasion. People are funny animals and respond badly to work stress, family issues etc. There's a lot to be said for getting it 80% right most of the time and 100% right during passion-patches.

Anonymous said...

i have same problem as this guy. Most of friends finished 1 or 2 years earlier than me found very nice jobs, some work for bank as well. However, i manage to finish my study at very bad time, i am struggling to find a 30k job now! And i gave up about the idea of being a banker, after i waste quite a lot of spare time on studying it.

If i back to my home country, i am sure i can easily find a decent job, and much better chance for future career. However, i face the same pressure of marriage. As i am still in closet, and i do not think i will be comfortable to face my sexuality there as well.

to be or not to be?

Anonymous said...

You're blogging for years now. Do you never get older? It seems that a gay life only takes place between teen age and about 35 years! I'm approaching mid fities and am still alive... but it is hard to get older as a gay guy and loneliness is a big problem. There's not much you can do if you donot have a boyfriend than stoically try to get over the years. I do not beleive in the so called gay community. Most gays are extremely selfish and egocentrical. It's actually a waste, as I'm (like some others my life) are very sophisticated, mature, kind hearted and have fascinating personalities. But who cares...? Maybe some young guys who look for a sugar daddy!? Yes life is hard for aging gay guys!!

MadeInScotland said...

Boyfriend P

How nice to hear your voice. Even though I never thought you were "mean-spirited", we can judge for ourselve-hopefully we'll be hearing more from you?

Xfe isn't really interested in contributing to my blog.


GB said...

Thanks for your thoughts, 4th Anonymous commenter. Indeed, I certainly do love boyfriend P, and he's definitely the only guy that I'd let cast aspersions on the integrity of my previous postings!

Thanks for your thoughts in both comments Kenski, and for sharing your experiences.

Glad you found it all useful mate, and thanks for leaving the 5th anonymous comment here to let us all know :-).

Sorry to hear about your situation 6th anonymous commenter. I only hope that the ideas in this post might have been of some use.

I think I have a different outlook on life to you, 7th anonymous commenter. Of course I get older! And as far as I'm concerned, gay life goes on as long as I'm alive.

Thanks for your kind thoughts for boyfriend P czechOUT. However, I'm not sure how often I'll be able to coax him into writing something here!

GB xxx

David said...

I really like boyfriend P! Your right GB there is a different feel to his writing. Actually there is more feel to his writing lol - im not sure I like that though :P
great post as always!

Anonymous said...

Hey GB,

I've been a bit behind in checking my email and getting updated with your blog.

Think P's very sensible in approaching the issue! Definitely very methodical as he said he would. Looks like you can entrust some of your many Dear GB emails to him now! :)

A-Philosophical said...

I am Spanish citizen married in Canada to a US citizen. I know that for immigration purposes our marriage entitles him to get Spanish residency. What about UK residency being a spouse or partner of a EU national?

He has IT mastership positions in banks like Goldman Sacks, WaMu not J.P. Morgan Chase as an Architect II or software engineer, and worked for IBM. Are there good jobs prospects for him in the UK?
The job market here in Spain sucks and lack of Spanish language makes it harder for him to get a position.

I am Spanish-English bilingual (a TOEFL exam of 99 points (iBT) and hold a BA in Philosophy. Any prospect?
Thank you for answering.

GB said...

Thanks for your thoughts David and DL, I'm sure that boyfriend P will appreciate your comments :-).

Regarding your immigration query A-Philosophical, I think it's highly likely that your partner would be allowed to work in the UK. However I'm not an immigration expert so please seek advice from someone who is. Alternatively try searching with google specifying which restricts the results to UK government web sites. Regarding the job market, there's definitely a recession developing here, although your partner's skills sound marketable. I'm sure you would have prospects too, but since you're not close to my area of expertise I don't know what to suggest. However I'm sure the jobs that you've had since graduating would be relevant in terms of finding a position over here. Hope that helps.

GB xxx

GAN said...

I am so impressed by this letter and I guess he is from my country China because I experience just the same about this conservative social circumstances about gay people.And this is my first time leaving a message to GB, I want to express my admiration to you.I always dream to have this free and prospective life as you.At your age and have everything you wanted.
Errrr, I think I should strive for my goal and I wish oneday I can meet you in UK as a student or whatever.That would be so interesting.:-)