Friday, June 18, 2010

Email from a guy whose boyfriend cheated on him

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

Dear GB,

I've been following your blog for about three years now - I started reading it when I was 20, just before I began to 'come out' to friends, families, and started to date guys. It has been a big help, especially since I am from what you might consider to be a small, conservative Northern town. Fortunately, my line of work is academia, so it was a lot easier to be completely open in the university city I live in now. I started by dating a very cute slightly older (26) American guy, who was studying at the same university as me. I became incredibly infatuated - this was the first man I even kissed, never mind the rest of the activities ;). Anyway, after a couple of months, I found out that he was also in a relationship with a woman. I knew he was bisexual, but it was devastating nonetheless. I pined, and tried to keep in contact, but eventually he moved away, and we no longer speak.

A few months after that, I met a great guy a similar age to me, and we quickly began an incredibly intense relationship, before moving in with each other 10 months later. Frequently, following the advice of your blog and your opinions on monogamy (which, in the main, I agree with), I asked him if he was happy being in an exclusive relationship. He was always adamant that he was, and that he did not want to share me with others. I was fairly happy with this, and behaved myself, apart from a couple of drunken kisses in nightclubs. After about 18 months (only last week) I discovered, rather naughtily by seeing his gaydar profile messages when he left his PC on, that he has been sleeping around from almost the start of our relationship, and that he has slept with at least 5 other people (that he will admit to!). Obviously, my trust is completely destroyed, and I have told him I no longer want to be in a relationship with him. I am completely devastated, and have moved out. I know that I can't be with somebody who has treated me with so little respect, whether intentionally or through poor willpower.

But I worry terribly about him - he is very aware he has destroyed the only constant thing in his life, and what he (allegedly!) considers to be the most important also. We have such a similar friend group, and unfortunately most people are insisting on taking sides against him, even though I have stressed this is not what I want. He will always be one of the most important people in my life. My question has two parts. Firstly, how did you manage to reconcile your emotions when you split up with S after not being monogamous without him knowing? Did you feel guilty, and, if so, did you eventually manage to overcome your guilt and move on easily? I love him so much that it kills me to see him like this, especially since it's his own fault. This leads to my second question: am I strange? Should I simply not care about how he feels because he has treated me so poorly, and try and move on without caring what he thinks? I know he's bad for me, and I am of course young enough to enjoy singledom again when I start to feel a little bit less down!

Any advice much appreciated,

I was glad to hear that this reader had followed the advice on my blog, by which I presume he means my advice to keep discussing monogamy with one's boyfriend and be open to changes. However, given frequent opportunities to opt for a more open relationship, it's appalling that this reader's boyfriend started having sex with other guys behind the reader's back. The only explanation that I can think of is that the reader's boyfriend is very immature and unable to connect his words with his actions, and hence take responsibility for the way he behaves.

My situation with ex-boyfriend S was a bit different. We'd been together for much much longer, and consequently ex-boyfriend S had become somewhat dependent on me. So when I finally told him that I'd been meeting other guys for fun, I also made it clear that I had no intention of leaving him. That continued to be my intention up until I realised how ill he had become, and that the only way that he'd get better would be if we were to split up :-(. Of course I should have discussed my desire for a more open relationship with him much earlier, however once I'd tried to put things right, I feel that ended up looking after ex-boyfriend S as well as I could have done. I bought him a house to live in, and I continue to look after him in various ways from a distance. Although I now have another boyfriend, we still see ex-boyfriend S socially, and I still have an emotional bond with him. So the answer to the reader's question is that I haven't moved on easily, because I'm still connected with ex-boyfriend S! I probably should have felt guilty, so perhaps it's one of my personality flaws that looking back, I don't think I did.

The reader's other question is a bit more interesting, about whether he's strange for still caring about his ex-boyfriend. I don't think it's strange, I just think that it means that he's still emotionally involved with his ex-boyfriend. There's nothing wrong with that, indeed, as I said in the previous paragraph I still have an emotionally bond with ex-boyfriend S. The post that I did a couple of months ago with the title What's the opposite of love is relevant here. That post discussed how some people think that the furthest from love is indifference and that hate lies somewhere in between indifference and love. However, the reader doesn't seem to hate his ex-boyfriend at all. The fact that he still "worries terribly about him" and that his ex-boyfriend will "always be one of the most important people in [the reader's] life", means that the reader's emotions are much closer to love!

So given that the reader still has feelings for his ex-boyfriend, the key question is should he consider trying to repair their broken relationship? My advice would be, not yet, and not ever unless the reader is comfortable with some kind of open relationship. Given that the reader's relationship with his ex-boyfriend was quite intense, it could be that the reader is suffering from some version of Stockholm Syndrome, because he's feeling love for the person who captured his emotions while abusing his trust! So for now, I think the reader should try dating a few other guys, to try and get his ex-boyfriend out of his system. After a couple of months, his feelings for his ex-boyfriend will probably subside, leaving him free to try and find a new boyfriend :-).

Do any other readers have thoughts on this situation?


Misiu said...

why cant you just be happy and have fun with ur bf?

If sex is so important why risking everything and have a bf when u are still sexing others?

is it possible to give this reader my contact details?


a European guy in Asia said...

I am having an open relationship with my boyfriend, and I talked and agreed with him on this even before we really started our relationship (which was many years back). But even though we therefore seemed to have a "picture book" open relationship, we still fell into a strange trap: I felt that he struggles/feels bad if I tell him about having sex with other guys (e.g., he made fun of me if I spoke about it in a way that made me feel uncomfortable), and that I therefore would make it easier for my bf if I didn't tell him about my occasional sex encounters. (I also found that he chatted on gaydar but when using my computer for chatting, he always deleted all traces afterwards; that also suggested to me that "don't ask, don't tell" was his preferred mode for an open relationship.) Well, 1.5 years ago that all came to a boil when it turned out that he felt I was breaking his trust by hiding my sex encounters, and we almost broke up. I am infinitely glad and happy and thankful that we finally sorted things out and we now both love each other as much and intensively as before. But it showed that having a really open "open" relationship where you talk about sex with other guys as casually as about what you had for dinner last night is quite difficult. I think most of us have too much internalized traditional heterosexual teachings about what is right and wrong and that you must be monogamous.

The bottomline is that I think the reader's bf may be "normal" in the sense that he can't resist his urge to sleep around (like most men maybe ;-) ) but that when asked, he also didn't feel comfortable to agree on an open relationship - e.g., maybe he thought it is a "test" or that the reader would feel angry if he accepted the concept. If I was in the reader's position, I therefore would ask myself: how does the bf behave in other situations? Do I see a lot of evidence of him really caring for me, respecting me, and being reliable and trustworthy in all other aspects of life, or is there a consistent pattern of him giving me less than what I am giving him? If it really just was this open relationship issue, and I otherwise believe that he loves me as much as I still love him, I would give him another chance and continue my relationship.

an "Asian" guy living in Europe, if we're gonna label ourselves that way. said...

"I think most of us have too much internalized traditional heterosexual teachings about what is right and wrong and that you must be monogamous."

Firstly, I strongly disagree with the reader above. I don't believe that there is a distinction between the rules that govern straight & gay relationships - it's what you want out our YOUR relationship, and what you're willing to work towards at the end of the day.

I think the reader doubts himself too much - it's reflected in the tone of his writing, and his questioning of how he should be feeling towards his bf, whether it's "normal".

Each relationship and case is different. Only you will know the particular details and dynamics of your relationship that can't be captured by any of us anonymous readers - so trust your instincts. I believe that you probably already have a *hunch* what you should do w/ your bf.

Good luck and I wish you a happy resolution!