Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Email from a gay American guy with relationship problems

Last week, I received the following email from one of my readers:

Dear GB,

I am a Los Angeles transplant living in New York and I am a fairly long time reader of your blog. I have to say that you are thoroughly engaging in your stories and information.

I have an issue. I have a boyfriend of about 6 years and the sexual passion between us (from me really) has waned. I sometimes have to imagine others guys to stay excited enough to finish our love making. Unfortunately, due to this, I have begun having extra matrimonial encounters to stave off my appetite, which as I get older, seems to have increased.

I think the problem has something to do with his current physical state (doesn't exactly have that gymnast type body any longer) and general complacency. I don't really find him all to physically appealing any more and our lovemaking had become a little routine. We used to do things to spice it up a bit, but I am afraid that desire had fallen short also.

He still seemed very attracted to me, but has also recently admitted to some extra matrimonial encounters himself. That was a little troubling and a bit of a wake up call because while I use protection with others, I did not with him. I assumed he was monogamous. We have broken up numerous times during the course of our relationship. The most recent time, a few months ago, seemed permanent. I opened myself up to the possibility of seeing other people - one person in particular. We had an emotionally wrenching blowout recently and he revealed that he still loved me, did not want to lose me and wanted to give it another go. I told him about the other guy and that opened another can of worms. I told him that I would break it off with the other guy. I had a decision to make. I could either just remain friends with my "ex" and continue to develop a connection to this other person (who lives long distance, but as luck would have it, was contemplating a move to NYC before we met) or we could try another go of it. I opted for my "ex" because of longevity and comfortability. I did form a connection with the other guy and am finding it hard to let go. I don't really want to. He has all the attributes that I want and he has shown that he wants to be in it for the long haul if I am willing. I am in the midst of challenging my decision to try again with my "ex".

I am not sure if the same sexual issues I had with my "ex" in the past will plague me again. If it does then I will most assuredly have to just make a clean break and be friends right? The other guy has been incredibly patient and I feel horrible for dragging him into my drama. I think, to my dismay, I might have pushed him away. What do I do? Do I continue to try with my "ex"? We are only on day 2 as of this writing and I don't feel any sexual energy. That is not a problem with the "other". I don't mean to be so crass, but sex is essential for me to have a fulfilling relationship. I actually think that I could make a real go of it with the "other".

I know you are a busy man, but I would really appreciate an answer. You can post this if you like, excluding my contact information. Thank you very much in advance.


I replied immediately, suggesting that very long term gay relationships are more about companionship than sex, and telling him that I'd do a proper 'Dear GB' posting about his situation. Within a day I received another brief email from him:

Hello GB, thank you for getting back to me so soon. I am currently contemplating taking your partial advice about taking the sex out of the equation and figuring out if that factors in. It is really difficult no matter how I look at it. I love my boyfriend and love his positive qualities, but abhor the negative aspects. We were in the process of attempting some things outside of the personal. Business related things and such. Given what I know about the new guy, he seems as if he would be supportive in any endeavour I choose to pursue. Actually, he would have more knowledge in that than my boyfriend. Arrghh! Why does love have to be so hard? LOL. In any case, I await your advice.

Having thought about this reader's situation, it seems to me that he should aim for some kind of open relationship. Most guys find it impossible to sustain high passion with a single guy forever, and for this reason I reckon that open relationships are more realistic.

The first email that the reader sent me seems to imply that he's thinking about his short-term sexual needs, but with life expectancy in first world countries around 80 years or so, he should also be thinking about his long term happiness. Who does he want to be living with when he's 50, 60, 70 or more, when sex may be less important? In urban centres like NYC, sex is very much a commodity, but love and companionship are much harder to find. An open relationship with his "ex" would take some pressure out of the relationship, and hopefully allow the companionship aspects to develop further. But if he opts to leave his "ex" and go with the "other", I still think he should aim for an open relationship, otherwise I suspect that he'll find himself in the same situation after a few years.

Given that his "ex" has also had some encounters with other guys, hopefully the "ex" will be happy to contemplate an open relationship. But there should still be rules. Some couples insist on "emotional monogamy", which often translates as only being allowed to have sex once with any other guy. If a couple lives together, there's also the issue of whether sex is allowed with another guy in the home they share. Threesomes (or more!) are of course another possibility. Sensible guys should be able to discuss all these issues, and agree on what works for them.

Another thought is that it's a common mistake to think that "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence". In this reader's current situation, this simply means that he hasn't yet found out what the faults of the "other" guy are yet. It may well be that this "other" guy is a better match for him, but none of us are perfect, so in time he should expect faults to emerge in any new relationship.

Some of the my thoughts here might be interpreted as implying that the reader should stay with his "ex", but that is not my intention. That decision he has to make himself. I'm just trying to think of things that he needs to take into account in making that decision. Six years in a gay relationship is an achievement, so the reader is right to pause and question whether the best thing is to throw all that away or not. No doubt that's what the "ex" is focussing on when he says that he doesn't want to lose the reader as a boyfriend.

One further thought relates to fact that he's contemplating business related endeavours with his boyfriends. This can work well for guys in settled relationships, open or otherwise, but I'm not sure that it's a good idea while the situation is uncertain. The problem would be that if the relationship does end, then that might mean big changes are needed in one's work life too, and the result is even more upheaval than would otherwise be the case.

Although another possibility is polyamory and multiple boyfriends, I hesitate to recommend that at present. The comments on my recent posting about my weekend away with boyfriend number 2 makes me wonder whether I'm being selfish.

In his second email, the reader asks why love has to be so hard. Although it's obviously a rhetorical question, I also think it's easy to answer. In my experience, the benefit that one derives from any activity in life is usually proportional to the effort that one has to put into it. So love has to be hard, because the benefits that one derives are enormous :-).

Do any readers have any other thoughts on the dilemma that faces the reader who sent me the above emails?

Update received 3-Jul-2007: I've just received an e-mail from the reader who sent me the above emails and it looks like his relationship is back on track now :-). The email was as follows:

Hey GB,

How are you? Hope well. It is slightly sweltering here in NYC, but other than that, everything's cool. Just wanted to thank you again for advising, posting, and opening up my problem for public comments. It was a great help.

The situation has changed dramatically since that post. My "ex" is no longer my "ex". The "other" is no longer in the picture and I have gone and hurt 3 people while trying to make everyone happy. I learned a lot from all parties concerned as well as from myself. The "other" developed real feelings for me. I felt something for him also, but it was not as strong as the love and bond that I have with my partner. In the end, I had to look at the big picture at hand. The "other" came along at a time when my partner and I decided that it was over. The words were said by him, and the feeling I got was that it was final. That opened the window for me to attempt to move on. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but of course, that's when things come your way. The "other" appeared and everything was new, unencumbered and easy. Nothing is easy. I didn't anticipate forming a connection to this person. We both didn't. Before I knew it, I wasn't trying to gage if my partner had come to his senses and wanted to work things out. He was showing me that he didn't care. After the "breakthrough" event that made me realize that he did truly love me, and the revelations that surfaced (blew up really) from that situation, I realized that although I still loved my partner, I still had to contend with these burgeoning feelings for this shiny, new "other". I was still swept up in the newness and turnt a slight blind eye to the man that, despite all of his shortcomings, had been there for me when I needed him.

He recently found out that I had still been talking to my "other" long distance friend even though I promised not to communicate with him any longer. He found out that before the "other" visited. He found out details. Even when all of that drama (and revelations of his own dalliance's) surfaced (again - blew up), he still said he loved me. He accepted that the "other" didn't just appear; he had a reason and purpose. That wake-up call made him realize there was a real possibility of him losing me and that made him forgive, but definitely not forget my indiscretion. I agreed to stop all communications with the "other" and concentrate on our healing. I felt extremely bad that I hurt everyone (including myself) and turned into a person that I never anticipated being. I don't like that person.

The "other" has now said that he does not want to be involved in our drama and has taken himself out of contention. I have come to the conclusion that he shouldn't have been there to begin with. In hind sight, I shouldn't have filled in certain blanks that were not my right to fill. I should have been persistant and tried to work on my relationship one last time before just throwing in the towel. My partner needed to learn that his words do have holding power and I did take them to heart despite my better judgment. I forced myself to move on, even though I wasn't really ready because I thought he had done the same. In the interim I hurt 2 people that cared for and loved me respectively.

We both have sought therapy to deal with our individual issues and perhaps will do a couple's type thing. Everything is far from being roses, but we are finally making a positive effort to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship.

PS - the sexual aspect of our relationship is back on track.

1 comment:

Trevor said...

Great post - as we have come to expect.
It seems your reader has a few things to consider and I think you have addressed this well. What seems reasonably clear is that he and his 'ex' have some communication issues. Sometimes after a prolonged time in a relationship you can exist together without really talking about things that are important - often incorrectly assuming you know what the other person is thinking. It's important to be specific about your feelings and thoughts and communicate those. It's a good time now for him to talk openly, and encourage the same from his 'ex'. Sometimes taking yourself back to the times when you first started dating - and looking for that person and treating them like you would have then, can bring back the power of the emotions, and the rest (eg sex)can follow. They need to be secure in their own relationship firstly before embarking on an open relationship though - or it is destined to fail.