Sunday, September 13, 2020

Email from a reader who's single again

How many times a year, does a blogger need to blog so that they can call themselves a blogger? I still like to think of myself as a blogger, but at present I'm only managing one or two a year, which probably isn't enough!

In any case, last month I got a "Dear GB" email from a reader who had emailed me three times previously. The new email was as follows:

Dear GB,

I hope you're well. How's retirement? And boyfriend K?

I can't believe it has been 9 years since my first email to you (here) and a couple of years since the subsequent ones (here and here). I recently saw you post a reply to an email and figured I'd share this on the off chance that you might see it and respond.

Interestingly, a couple of months after my last email to you (in 2014), I got into a relationship that would last 5 years. We broke up late last year and I've found myself dating again. Much of the behaviour that I mentioned to you in 2014 (i.e. pushing people away, finding faults in them, and mistrust) is re-appearing. Notably, during the 5 year relationship, my ex mentioned multiple times that he felt as if he was a placeholder and I was always looking for someone better.

What I've learnt since then (which was the focus 2014 email) is that I have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style. I've traced it to childhood experiences, moving around often and being raised by a single parent (who was often travelling for work) which resulted in me taking care of myself and avoiding close emotional attachments. Toxic masculinity and being a bookish misfit may have contributed to repressing my emotional needs. It goes without saying that I should be seeing a therapist (which I'll likely do once the pandemic is over).

Anyway, 6 years since we last spoke and newly single, I'm curious about the following (considering your vast experience with long-term committed relationships and as an agony uncle for gay men):
  1. What made you decide that Boyfriend K was the one? How have you stuck by that belief?;
  2. What do you look for in a long term partner? Were those expectations ever fully met?;
  3. Any tips pertaining to my situation? :)
It may be noteworthy that I currently live in a country that criminalizes homosexuality (and has no anti-discrimination provisions), which means that most men are seeking instant gratification and see relationships as liabilities. Then there's the prevalence of transactional relationships in both gay and straight dating scenes, which does nothing to ease my mistrust. I've considered moving to a more liberal environment. However, part of me wonders whether that's a form of self-sabotage in itself (by chasing an arguably less attainable goal that simply finding someone nice where I am; plus I've spent years in the gay scenes of European cities while I was studying, it's not particularly easy to get into a relationship there either).

Your advice is (as always) very much appreciated. Regards.

It's always nice to get emails like this, and looking at the email in detail, the reader asks a lot of questions. The first question he asks is "How's retirement?". My blog post two years ago said that I was happily retired from banking, however I'm still not retired from work in general. Otherwise I'd probably find time to blog more! In any case, without doubt, life after banking is good :-).

The second question that the reader asks is "And boyfriend K?". I'm happy to report that we're still together after almost 7 years :-). So the answer to that question is "Still wonderful :-)".

The other questions that the reader asks are a bit more serious. He asks "What made you decide that Boyfriend K was the one?", "How have you stuck by that belief?", "What do you look for in a long term partner?" and "Were those expectations ever fully met?". However, I think those questions imply an inappropriate selfishness, because the questions are all about whether the needs of the questioner are fulfilled or not. I think good long term relationships happen when a couple work well together, compensating for each other's weaknesses as well as fulfilling each other's needs. I don't have a set of criteria against which I evaluated potential boyfriends, or against which I now evaluate boyfriend K.

I really hate the expression "follow your heart" because it's so glib, but perhaps it does describe the way I ended up with all of my boyfriends. More concretely, I think what I was always looking for was mutual empathy, but I never sat back and thought about it in those terms. When I meet any guy for the first time, after a short while I usually know whether we're on the same wavelength or not. If so, I'd wonder whether we can become friends, and when I was single I'd also wonder whether we might become boyfriends. Of course, after just one meeting I'd never know whether a relationship could possibly work. But if I felt we were on the same wavelength then it would be worth trying getting to know them better, and trying to work out how they felt about me. Ultimately one never knows whether a relationship will work until one tries. However, I'm the sort of guy who likes having a boyfriend, so I'd always like to give it a try instead of overthinking it.

I won't pretend that I never quarrel with boyfriend K because sometimes we do. However, when we've resolved the situation after a big disagreement, I usually look back and feel that the final outcome is better that what would have happened to either of us on our own. In most situations, two heads are better than one.

After a big quarrel with boyfriend K last year, I remember him asking me why I wanted to stay with him. My answer was that whoever my boyfriend is, we're bound to quarrel from time to time. When there are so many good things in a relationship, it's pointless ending the relationship just because there are occasional bad things. A different boyfriend would just mean that the occasional bad things would be different. It's important to accept that none of us are perfect, and that perfect boyfriends don't exist.

Regarding the reader's situation, I was curious about his comment that he lives in a country that criminalizes homosexuality, so I sent him an email to ask him which country he lives in. Eventually the reader replied, and it turns out that a gay male friend of mine married a man from that country and the two of them now live in Europe. They were married in Europe too, and without thinking about it, some of their friends who were at the wedding posted some wedding photographs on Facebook. Those photographs were then accidentally seen by some of the man's friends back in his home country, and the photographs attracted a huge amount of homophobic abuse :-( . So I am tempted to suggest that, if at all possible, the reader should try and move to a different country where homosexuality is legal and tolerated. I find myself wondering, how many happy gay couples does the reader know who live in the country? If the answer is very few, and if the reader wants a long term boyfriend or husband, it suggests to me that he won't find one in the country where he's living at the moment.

Apart from that, based on my own approach to relationships, I would just suggest one thing. When he's interested in a guy as a potential boyfriend, he shouldn't just think about himself. Try thinking about what would make the other guy happy as well :-).

Do any other readers have any thoughts about this reader's situation?

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The unexpected ladyboy

"No GB," says boyfriend K, "it's the woman over there that is O's brother!"

We're at a large house in a small village to the west of Bangkok in Thailand. It's the 60th birthday party of O's father, and all of O's family are here. Judging from how busy it, everyone from the village are probably here too. O is the eldest and only daughter and I'd been told that she has two brothers, so I'd been trying to work out who they are.

"Umm, brothers are normally male," I say looking confused, "or am I missing something?"

"He's transgender," says boyfriend K laughing, "and that's his twin brother over there, the guy with the white shirt with the purple collar."

Looking at the beefy guy that boyfriend K is indicating, it seems completely implausible that he's any kind of twin with the woman on the stage.

"Born 5 minutes apart," says O, joining the conversation.

Both boyfriend K and O nod at me, so I have to accept the truth about what they're saying.

"But not identical twins, surely?" I ask.

"Actually yes, they're identical twins," answers O calmly, "although they don't look much like each other now. When they were growing up, only family members could tell them apart!"

Over the years I've met several transgender people, including a male colleague who eventually became female. Nonetheless, I feel slightly stupid that I had no idea the woman on the stage had been a man.

"So was he a ladyboy before he became a woman :-)?" I ask, trying to sound knowledgeable about ladyboys and transgender people.

"He still is a ladyboy," says O laughing, and she holds her hands in front of her, palms facing each other about 8 inches apart. "It is this big!" She says grinning at me.

I burst out laughing, amazed that O knows such an intimate fact about her brother. I want to know how she can be so confident about her brother's size, but I decide not to ask. I've had enough surprises for one night!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Another enjoyable night in Bangkok

"Dream Boys, Hot Males, Fresh Boys, New Boys … " I say to my friend C as we wander down a road in central Bangkok, "if one wanted a guy from a place like that, how on earth would one decide?"

"I mean, 'dream boys' sound good," I continue, "presumably they're the kind of perfect guy from one's dreams, but do you want a guy that's new or has been used before? So perhaps 'fresh boys' are better, because 'fresh' presumably means 'unused' :-)?"

I'm with my friend C, who's also known as the blogger Close Encounters, and we're walking down an alley in central Bangkok. The alley is full of bars where scantily clad young men work, often putting on X-rated shows for the bar's customers. And of course, I'm quite aware that the guys inside all the different bars here will be much the same, in spite of the different bar names!

"The guys standing on the stage in side that bar didn't look that happy," says C.

"Indeed :-(," I say, agreeing with C, "and the drinks in these places will probably be quite expensive. Let's go somewhere else!"

Soon we're sitting down outside Telephone Pub, in Silom Road Soi 4. We order some beers, and looking around, we can't avoid noticing some of the other customers.

"This tourist in front of us is definitely being chatted up by a money boy," I say quietly to C.

Close Encounters surveys the situation and nods his head.

"But I think it's actually the other way round," replies C, "it's the tourist who's making most of the effort, not the money boy!"

This bar is possibly exactly the same bar that I visited when I went to Bangkok ten years ago. Back then, my Thai Friend B thought it was OK for tourists like me to hook up with money boys. On that occasion, I did end up with a lovely Thai guy in bed with me :-), but whether he was actually a money boy or not was unclear!

Back to today and the tourist in front of us reaches out and touches the object of his desire gently on the arm. I have to agree with C that the money boy isn't trying to sell himself, instead the client is hoping to buy. I can't help wondering how much money will change hands, but whatever the amount, it doesn't matter. Just as B recommended me ten years ago, both sides will get what they're looking for.

Part of the fun of being in bars like this is watching the other customers, so we decide to move to another table where we'll have a better view.

"That could be another tourist with a money boy over there," says C before he takes a sip of his beer, "can you see them? They're opposite us, immediately to the right of the table with three guys on it."

"Oh yes, very probably :-)," I reply grinning. "They haven't reached the touching each other stage yet, but the money boy has got his legs wide open. Perhaps he's hoping that his knee will make contact with the tourist's knee!"

We start chatting about other things and a little later, when we look back at the table opposite, we see that the money boy's knee has indeed made contact with the tourist's knee.

"Where is boyfriend K tonight?" asks C, losing interest in money boy seduction techniques.

"He didn't want to come out tonight in case he drinks too much!" I answer truthfully, "We've flying out tomorrow, and he doesn’t need a hangover. Boyfriend K can be a bit of a party animal, sometimes he doesn't know when to stop!"

The conversation moves on, and when I glance over at the table opposite, they seem to be touching each other more and more. Just friendly pats on the forearm or shoulder, but exactly the kind of thing that one does when getting to know another person, as a prelude to more intimate activities.

"So what are you planning to do tomorrow?" I ask C.

"Not sure yet," he replies, "but this is Bangkok, I'm sure I'll find something interesting to do :-)"

"Actually you've never been to Babylon, have you?" I say, "As far as I'm aware, it's still the best gay Sauna complex in the world :-), so if you have nothing else to do I'd certainly recommend it!"

But before C can answer, he indicates with his eyes over to the table opposite where the money boy and tourist were talking and touching each other. The tourist is standing behind the money boy now, and massaging his shoulders. And then suddenly, with a smile and a kiss, the tourist takes his backpack and wanders away towards the main road. The money boy looks slightly upset.

"He looks quite cute, don't you think GB?" asks C.

"Yeah, I guess, but with money boys you can ever be sure where they've been!"

"But you can't be absolutely sure that he's a money boy, can you?"

"Well no," I admit, "but it seems quite likely to me."

"Actually, he's occasionally glancing over at us now :-)."

"Well if you want a money boy experience, we could invite him over to join us :-)," I suggest, "As far as I'm concerned, what happens in Bangkok stays in Bangkok!"

"Indeed GB," agrees C, "but one of my friends back in London likes to remind me that that's only true if you don't have to visit the clap clinic!"

We continue chatting, looking at the various other customers of the bars in the alley, but I also notice the money boy glancing at us.

"You're right," I admit to C, "he is looking at us now and then. If you're interested in him, then we should invite him to join us."

"No! Then we'd have to make small talk. I'd rather just take him back to my hotel and fuck him :-)! I've got a better idea."

And with that, C pulls out his phone and starts looking at his gay dating apps.

"Look at him checking his phone all the time," explains C, "I bet he's looking at his apps, I wonder which one he's on …"

C, bless him, is on ALL the gay dating apps. Long term readers of this blog will know that I've used some of them in the past, but having been with boyfriend K for 6 years now, I'm quite out of touch with that world.

"Wow," says C, "this is such a target rich environment, one of the best places I've ever been for finding a guy online. There are loads of men within only a few meters :-). Hey, look at this pic GB, that's not him is it?"

"Yes it is!" I answer, looking at a photo of a slim young topless Asian guy on a beach somewhere, "that's definitely him."

Soon C is chatting to the money boy on Hornet.

"Since he's been looking at us a lot," says C, "I'm going to ask him which of us he fancies."

"OK," I say, "and what's the answer?"

There's a short pause while C waits for the money boy to answer.

"He says he likes the look of both of us!"

"Well what else was he going to say?" I reply, "A money boy isn't going to offend a potential customer, or rule out the possibility of a threesome! I wonder if money boys charge more for threesomes?"

Ignoring my question, C continues chatting online with the money boy. Although I used to chat to guys online a lot, I always preferred chatting face to face. So it seems mildly bizarre to me that at this point both C and the money boy know exactly who each other are, but still prefer to chat on an app even though they're within only a few metres of each other.

"Now he says that it looks like you and me are boyfriends!" says C, updating me on the conversation.

I laugh at the suggestion that me and C are boyfriends, but I'm not surprised that we look very comfortable in each other's company. I've read C's blog, and he's read this one, so we know all each other's secrets!

"I've got a flight tomorrow, and I don't want to be a gooseberry," I tell C, "so I'll go home if you promise to let me know how much money he asks for, even if he says it's for his sick mother?"

"Ha! But I don't think he's a money boy GB," protests C. "Anyway, of course I'll tell you what happens :-)."

As I walk up the alley towards the main road, I smile at the money boy and blow him a quick kiss. He smiles back at me with a big grin on his face.

I get back and go to bed with boyfriend K as usual, and when I wake up there are some messages on WhatsApp from C timed at just before 1am.

C: Just said goodbye to the guy. He wasn't even Thai, he's a tourist too!

C: And he didn’t ask for money for his mother :)

C: Thank you for a fun evening

I send a quick reply

GB: Poor guy, he didn't even get to sleep in a comfortable bed for the night!

A little later I get a reply

C: Ha ha - I’m sure he had a comfortable bed at his own hotel.

A couple of days later, I get an email from C to tell me that he's done a post on his blog about the evening. I find it fascinating to read the same events described from C's point of view. Surely it wasn't me who first suggested that we visit the erotic gay bars?

Thinking about the night now, I realise that when I used to use the gay dating apps, I was usually hoping for more than what C looks for. Perhaps C sometimes looks for more, but on this occasion C clearly just wanted sex. He didn't want to chat to the guy in the bar beforehand, and they parted company soon after the activities finished. But I was always interested to get to know the guy much more. I did enjoy starting out by meeting up face to face to chat about whatever, during which time the body language would help me work out what kind of guy he was. After any activities, if the activities had been enjoyable and were at night then I'd love to fall sleep with the guy so that we could wake up the next day together. I love feeling the warmth of a naked man, lying in bed next to me, and to this day it's still true that I sleep less well when I'm in a bed on my own.

Ever since I first met C, he's been happy as a single guy, whereas I've usually had one (or more!) boyfriends. So my conclusion is that our different approach to hooking up with strangers is directly related to our desire, or lack of desire in C's case, to have boyfriends.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Email from a guy who doesn't have sex with his boyfriend anymore

I've only written two posts for this blog since 2016, so imagine my surprise last week when I get an email from a reader. The email is as follows:

Dear GB,

First I must confess I love reading your blog! ;) I'm a fan! I always wanted to know how you look like ... hahaha.

OK, so basically I would like to seek some advice from you on matters related to the heart. I'm a gay male living in Hong Kong. I have been with my boyfriend for many years now, maybe 20 years +.

We stopped having sex for many years now. I'm not sure why but somehow it just didn’t happen. And we didn't talk about it too.

I can't resist the temptation when guys come up to me, like in gym etc. Nothing much, just touching etc. I feel bad, but I don’t have any intimacy with my boyfriend anymore, and I have needs also.

I know this is a bad excuse but what can I do? Do you have any advice for me? Thank you!

Hear from you soon. Regards

As soon as I see the email, I send a reply to say that I will do a post for him. Within a day I get a response in which he admits that he wasn't expecting me to reply. Smart guy, because let's face it, these days my blog looks pretty dead!

In some ways his story is very familiar because it's hard for all couples, gay or straight, to keep the passion going forever. However, not having blogged for the last few years, I'm not sure whether I've answered exactly the same question before so I decide to look through my Dear GB "back catalogue". There are, of course, a few stories with some similar characteristics.

For example, I find the Email from a guy with a long-term boyfriend. In that case, the reader who sent me the email had also been having much less sex with his boyfriend, but then he suddenly found out that his boyfriend had been having lots of sex with other men. The email was sent 6 years after that discovery, when the reader had started seeing an erotic masseur regularly.

I also find the Email from a gay guy with long-term relationship issues. In that case, the reader who sent me the email had stopped having sex with his boyfriend many years before he emailed me, because the boyfriend had rejected the reader's physical advances. The email asks whether he should finally move on, after having being together for 25 years.

There are also a couple of emails from guys who found the sex lives with their boyfriends declining after only 6-7 years. There is an Email from a gay American guy with relationship problems and then just 3 weeks after I posted that there was another Email from a gay guy with relationship issues.

However, perhaps the closest and most relevant email in my Dear GB "back catalogue" is the one titled Difficult conversations from ten years ago. That post contains an email from a reader who had been with his boyfriend for almost 10 years, and it had got to the point where they only had sex maybe once a month, even though the reader says that his boyfriend used to have a crazy sex drive.

In any relationship, it's quite common for one person to be more dominant than the other, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's research that suggests that straight marriages are more stable when one spouse is more dominant, and I would suggest that a stable relationships means more long term happiness for both of the people involved. The reason that I mention this is because when I read the reader's email carefully, it seems likely to me that his boyfriend is more dominant in their relationship than he is. The reader says that the current situation just happened. However, it seems more likely to me that his boyfriend, as the more dominant person, started finding satisfaction elsewhere and consequently lost interest in having sex with the reader. By no means is this meant to be a criticism of the reader, who has managed something that has so far eluded me, namely a 20+ year gay relationship that will hopefully last many many more years. But the reader said that he has needs and the same will be true of his boyfriend because all healthy men need to ejaculate regularly, so what does he think has been going on?

The question is what to do about the situation, if anything. The reader's needs won't go away, so if he agrees that his boyfriend must have been finding satisfaction elsewhere then one thing he could try and do immediately is to stop feeling guilty about doing the same :-). However, unless they find a way to start talking about the situation then there'll still be an elephant in the room, which is presumably why the reader emailed me in the first place.

So I do think that the reader should try and talk to his boyfriend about the situation, and there are some useful tips in my Difficult conversations post. However, before the reader tried to broach the subject he should think carefully about what might be in his boyfriend's mind, and what all the possible responses might be. I have no idea what relevant discussions they might have had over the years, whether there's anything suspicions about the boyfriend's behaviour that might suggest he's been getting satisfaction elsewhere, whether they've ever discussed having an open relationship etc.

It's been almost 3 years since I last did a Dear GB post, and my old readers probably don't check my blog anymore. However, if anyone does read this, please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for the reader who sent me this email :-).

Saturday, June 09, 2018

People in crisis

Over the years I've seen lots of friends, acquaintances and colleagues in various kinds of emotional turmoil and crises. I'm talking about the kinds of things that happen to all of us, but only very rarely. Relationship turmoil would be one example, where one needs to break up with one's boyfriend/girlfriend, or where they break up with you. Another example would be being made redundant from one's job, or some kind of work crisis that means that one has to change jobs. Other examples include serious illness such as cancer, or the death of a very close relative or friend.

Talking to people as they go through these crises, all of which are completely different, I've noticed one common thread. Most people in these difficult situations won't listen to any fresh ideas on possible courses of action. I don't know what causes that attitude, perhaps it the shock of the situation that they find themselves in, but I'm always amazed at how closed people's minds will be when anyone makes a suggestion. It seems like people in a crisis somehow instantly decided what they need to do when the crisis first hits, and the only role of everyone else is just to listen to what's happening, and listen to the explanation of why the course of action that's been chosen is the right one.

One recent concrete example was a close friend called T who had been diagnosed with cancer.

"Actually I've been very lucky," says T, "it was caught very early. And the operation to remove it was a complete success :-)."

"Wonderful news :-)," I say, "so presumably you won't need chemotherapy after all."

"Actually I'm still going to have chemo," replies T, "and after chemo there'll be a course of radiotherapy too. For people in my situation, I've been told that the long term survival rate is 72% if I don't have the treatment, but 82% if I do."

"Really, you're still going to have chemo?" I ask. "Chemo has some terrible side effects".

"And regarding those statistics," I continue, "do they take account of the fact that you're a diabetic? It may be that for diabetics, the stress that all the treatment puts on your body actually ends up lowering your survival rate."

"But I'll cope," says T affirmatively, "I'll be starting the treatment before the end of the month."

The tone of voice made it was clear to me that the merits or risks of the chosen course of action were not up for discussion, which seemed odd to me. This was a real life or death situation, so surely one would want to consider everything. However, it became clear to me in subsequent conversation that the idea that the statistics might be different for diabetics was actually unwelcome, even though if true it would be very relevant.

Luckily, I'm not posting this because I'm in any kind of crisis at the moment. I'm still happily coupled with boyfriend K :-), and these days I'm happily retired from banking too. But the older I get, the more of these situations I've seen, and tonight I suddenly realized that there was a common thread.

P.S. Even though I'm now a retired banker, I'm not going to change the name of this blog!