Sunday, April 26, 2009

Email from an Asian guy with a relationship dilemma

A couple of weeks ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I have been viewing your blog off and on over the last couple of years. This has been quite therapeutic in times of boredom and I often find it useful to read your advice to other blog-users. Anyway, I needed a sounding board today of course, and thought that instead of being a silent recipient of your invaluable resource, I'd write to you for a change.

Here's my dilemma:

I am an academic, originally from S E Asia, and have been living in the UK for the past 12 years. To be honest, I have dedicated most of my time to work and progressing in my career (though not necessarily by personal choice I must admit). Anyway, I've never really worn my gay label on my sleeve, and being from a country where homosexuality is apparently illegal and given my staunch Roman Catholic (and assertive mother's) upbringing, I never really actively pursued a proper gay relationship. At the same time, I have a high sex drive and have often desired physical contact. Consequently, there were many times I had confused my sexual encounters with a 'proper' loving relationship (a figment of my imagination at times). Needless to say, most of my relationships never go past the one-year mark.

I was reading your advice to the Swiss 'Jewish' guy regarding trying out in numbers. And I consider myself to be fairly open-minded in terms of the shape, size and age of my potential partners. I hasten to add though that my ideal partner should really be around my age... of course, there is a legacy that my first encounter in the UK was with someone who claimed to be much younger than he was, and I found out years later he became a convicted paedophile (I was of legal age at that time of course). Anyway, all this is relevant as it will transpire.

So, during last Summer, as I ended a relationship with an American study abroad student, I went back to my home country and aimlessly cruised on gaydar. To my surprise, I received a message from this rather dishy guy from London (in his 30s). We chatted for a bit, and he knew I was abroad then and that I lived in the North of England. Anyway, my work takes me to the capital city quite frequently and we suggested that meeting for a drink would be a good idea. We didn't do so until the Autumn when I returned to the UK and we ended up having a meal, a few drinks, and bed! I had actually vocalised the invite to my hotel bed for a change (being the passive one, I am surprised... though my heart was pounding heavily yet again with the notion that this could lead to something more). Anyway, we got on fine, and it was soon after this that he confessed his real age (mid 40s), though he (and a lot of my friends) say he doesn't look it hahaha.

Anyway, we've carried on having a relationship. He is by far the best person I've dated so far: mature, thoughtful, loving, gently, understanding of my circumstance, supportive and not to mention a hard top lol! Though we only meet on-and-off, we do communicate virtually (emails, msn and to a lesser extent on the phone) almost everyday. The worrying thing now is that we haven't physically met for 2 months, due to a number of work-related reasons on my part (busy time of the year for academics). At the moment, I am having a mixed bag of feelings. In January, I inadvertently noticed that he was also chatting with other guys. Despite making promises that he will not do so again (though he assured me that this was just harmless chatting and no exchange of body fluids involved), I can't help but feel he is still doing so. At the same time, I am also guilty of the occasional chat with other blokes. Anyway, it is a mixed bag of feeling sexually frustrated, insecure and the fear of losing him. I know this is just silly, as we have now planned for a few trips away together.

Anyway, I thought that the sage in you might be able to advise. Nonetheless, this articulation has made me feel a little better. Hope to hear from you if you reply...

Many thanks.

An unsure gay guy undergoing mid-life (30s) crisis

In spite of the way this reader signed the email, it strikes me that this is more of a dilemma than a crisis. He's looking for a boyfriend and has found a good candidate, but the catch is that they live in different cities. It reminds me very much of the situation that I was in with ex-boyfriend P, because we went on lots of trips together, and we didn't live in the same city either. At least in this reader's case they live in the same country, because ex-boyfriend P was a long-haul air flight away!

This reader's situation also reminds me of an email that I got almost 2 years ago about handling hope in a long distance relationship. Looking back now at my response to that email, I'm not sure that I gave a very good reply. One of the key questions there was how can a couple survive in a long distance relationship without a clear plan for living together one day. I think a better answer to that question would be to say that long distance relationships like that are better described as long distance friendships (with benefits), and for that friendship to evolve into a relationship there does need to be a plan to live together at some point. However I still think I was right to say that there's no point killing off such friendships, as long as both people in the friendship continue to derive some benefit from it.

In terms of the reader who sent me the email a couple of weeks ago, I'm wondering whether they've thought about any plan for living together one day. Presumably not, otherwise the reader would have mentioned it, so I'd suggest that the situation would be better categorised at the moment as a close friendship rather than a boy-friendship. Certainly without even a vague intention of living together at some point, I think it's inappropriate to expect any kind of monogamy commitment.

But even if they plan to live apart so that it's not a fully-fledged relationship at the moment, there's every possibility that eventually the friendship could evolve in that direction. To achieve that, effective communication between the two guys involved will be vitally important. If they're already talking about monogamous relationships then I think it should be fine to talk about what kind of future they have together. If discussions about their future together seem premature, then so are any expectations of monogamy. But whatever stage they're at, they need to keep communicating and to be wary of making assumptions about what each other is thinking.

Nowhere is that more important than when it comes to the question of monogamy. Long time readers of this blog will know that monogamous versus open relationships is a favourite topic of mine. I think that too often guys just assume that if they go into a relationship with another guy then it has to be monogamous, because that's the relationship model that most people are most familiar with. My advice, however, is not to assume that a new relationship needs to be a monogamous one, and instead to discuss the issue and go on discussing the issue as the relationship matures. So if their friendship is evolving towards a boy-friendship and they haven't already had a good discussion on this subject, then it's getting a bit overdue!

Lastly, the reader needs to relax and chill out a bit. If he's worrying about losing this guy then it sounds like he's a bit desperate, and desperation is never attractive in a potential boyfriend.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on these matters?


pojaya said...

I believe your analysis of the situation is spot on, GB!

Absolutely cannot argue with it.

Godfrey said...

I don't know if worrying about losing this guy makes him desperate. I think he has a right to be interested in what this guy is doing when he's not around. Actually, that assumes that they've determined that it is a monogamous relationship. I also think that the "boyfriend" is right. If it's just meaningless conversations, there really isn't too much harm. Especially if they are both doing it.

Anonymous said...

One side question that comes out from the email is the matter of trust, mixed with 'it's okay if I do it, but not if you do'.

This isn't uncommon but it is something to be aware of.

The guy mentions online chatting. It could be that, or it could be partners going out to bars on their own, or looking at other guys, keeping ex's as friends etc.

It's easy to get angry or suspicious when a partner do something like the above, but then you do find yourself doing the same thing and it's 'okay' because you know your own motivations and that it doesn't actually mean anything.

The question is, how much faith do you have in the other person.

Shawn LI said...

Totally agree with OMN
Ultimately it's your faith and trust in the other half
Constant communication is important as well, but just don't overdo it.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the GB that the matter at hand ought to be described as a (long-distance) friendship with benefits. At least for the time being...

So, the academic reader and his friend "clicked" as in 'talk, drinks, dinner, sex'. They are also keeping in touch via the web...

There is very little in his letter to indicate that the reader is emotionally interested in his newly found friend, albeit slightly older friend. The reader is busy with his career; the friend is busy with (possibly his career, too); and both of them are busy with chatting up other guys on the net.

Life is full of all kinds of priorities but none of the parties involved indicated that they would walk an extra mile, to spend the quality time with his 'friend'.

Over and over again, readers are projecting the relationship issue as if it were a job application to be received by a highly skilled HR manager, who is then to decide, who gets the hghly coveted position of a BF. This very well may be a result of a broader cultural condiitioning, but remains a huge turn off.

It would be both great and very uplifting to read about someone who has had the guts to say, "I dig this guy a lot. I also hope that he feels the same way towards me. So, I offered to host/travel, get together. I cut off on my sleep, empty socializing, shop browsing, etc., and saved up my time to spend with him and see, where this takes us, too..."

Emotional availability begins at home...


Anonymous said...

I personally think it's ok for him to call the guy he has been dating for a few months his boyfriend. Boyfriend, as I understand the word, unlike partner or husband, is a very loose term normally used when genuine romantic interest is involved in a nascent relationship.

I can see where GB is coming from with regards to the expectation of a monogamy. That expectation clearly exists here and it is even acknowledged and implicitly accepted by the boyfriend as indicated by his assurance that nothing physical has been going on between him other men. So we wouldn't have this problem if the sender's boyfriend had chosen to exercise his right to non-monogamy by making it clear that he prefers to be in a relationship where he can continue to have sexual contact with other men. But by giving the sender that assurance, he has effectively waived that right and submitted to the sender's expectation of a monogamous relationship.

Although to be frank, his boyfriend lying about his age does not augur well for this couple.

The important question is how much does the sender want to be in this relationship? Does he see himself being with him in the long term? If the answer is yes, then it is imperative for him to have that discussion that GB has mentioned. Otherwise, it's best to spare to spare himself the grief of worrying about a relationship, stop be boyfriends and just enjoy each other's company whilst he keep looking for someone physically closer.