Friday, June 27, 2014

GB featured in Evening Standard Magazine :-)

A few years ago, I did a phone interview for a journalist who worked for London's Time Out Magazine. The result was that I was one of the bloggers who was featured in an article called "The Sex Diaries".

History has now repeated itself, but this time it's the turn of London's Evening Standard Magazine! Today's issue contains an article called "Sex on file" and one of the bloggers who gets a mention is me :-). They've taken an extract from quite an old article (Black tie), and although it might have been better if they'd used something a bit more recent, it's nice to get a mention :-).

Email about relationships and fear of intimacy

Last month, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

We've communicated a few times, and I appreciate your insights in relationships, gay male interactions, and other issues.

Anyway, so I've been out to friends since I was 15, and I'm now 20. Throughout this period, I haven't come out to my family, and I'm not likely to do so anytime soon since I come from a very conservative Muslim family. I've dated a few guys, and slept around a lot, but never really had a relationship. There were 2 attempts lasting more than a month, both of which failed dismally because I never invested in them so I ended up cheating, not caring about the other party, and leaving the first chance I got. I suspect that those 'relationships' even lasted longer than a month, 4 months with one and slightly over a month for the other, because I knew they wouldn't lead to anything. In the instances that I've actually connected with a guy, I've managed to push him away much much faster, and with such skill :). There's usually a lot of pressure and, simultaneously, I end up feeling inadequate, plus feeling that I'm being conned somehow, and setting out to ruin his opinion of me, besides finding fault with everything about him (too short, too tall, too smart, too good-looking, too considerate, etc.). I've been told that this constitutes a fear of intimacy, the causes of which I'm not sure of. Thing is, I actually do want to be in a relationship. I'm not desperate or anything; I do quite well alone cause of less drama and insecurities to confront, but I also realize that my current situation may be unhealthy and detrimental to future happiness. I know you're not a mental health specialist so I'm not asking for a diagnosis and a prescription, but I would greatly appreciate your opinion and suggestions, including how to handle future cases with potentials, and maybe a few anecdotes of how you've dealt with such issues.

Kind regards,

I didn't recognise the name that he put at the bottom of the email, or the email address, so I sent him a reply in which I asked him when we'd communicated in the past. In the email, I also included the following thoughts about his problem:

In terms of mental health specialists, one thing that occurs to me is that you've made your own diagnosis. I think that's a very good sign for you :-). I can tell from your email that you're a smart guy, and in these situations working out where the problem lies is more than half of the battle to sorting yourself out.

Another thought is that you should try and build your self-esteem. The fact that you say that you feel inadequate suggests that your self-esteem could be better. I know that some guys with low self-esteem sabotage their relationships because they don't feel worthy of having a nice boyfriend.

Within a day the reader had sent me his response, in which he told me that I'd done a couple of "Dear GB" posts for him in the past. The first post was in 2011 with the title Email from a frustrated young gay guy. Looking back at that email confirmed to me what I thought from reading his latest email, namely that he's a smart guy, because that old email was very well written and entertaining. The second "Dear GB" post, with the title Email about Asian-discrimination and penis size was also very well written, and in terms of the number of comments it received, it was a very successful post for this blog.

Once cause for concern is the change of tone that's evident between this reader's first email and the email that he sent me last month. The first email had a happy-go-lucky feel about it, the second email contained some disillusionment, whereas his last email is saying that things aren't really working out for him.

My second boyfriend (ex-boyfriend P, a.k.a. boyfriend number 2) was a Muslim, so I know something about the problems that the reader must face. It could well be that family pressure has a lot to do with the way he feels about his life. The fact that he's not Out to his family is the first important thing that he mentions in the email here, and now that he's grown up a bit, there must be some (or more) family pressure to conform and lead a straight life. It's hard for anyone to develop lasting relationships in that environment, so the amateur psychologist in me does wonder whether that is the source of his fear of intimacy.

However, the reader's behaviour with friends and on the gay scene suggests that in private he doesn't have a problem accepting the fact that he's gay, and that's obviously a good thing. I think he's right that his "current situation may be unhealthy and detrimental to future happiness", because having a life partner is a very natural for most people. My own experience suggests that that in the long term people are much happier if they end up in a good relationship. But how can he achieve that given his Muslim background and (perhaps) unsupportive family?

He hasn't told us anything about what he studied (or is still studying) as a student, whether his work life might end up being related to his family in some way, or whether he's going to try and follow his own career. Obviously in his situation it would probably be better to try and follow his own career if possible. Beyond that, it seems to me that the best course of action for him is to do what I suggested in my recent email to him, namely to build up his self-esteem. That simply means trying to make a success of all the different projects and activities that he's involved with. Success in one area of life naturally flows in other areas because successes help to build confidence.

In my response to the reader's first email, I already told him to take any potential relationship slowly, and that's certainly always good advice. Apart from that, I'd simply suggest being open about the issues that he has at the appropriate time as any relationship develops. For example, whenever I find myself dating, eventually the subject of past boyfriends comes up and why those relationships failed. The next time that happens to this reader, he might consider opening up about the kind of things that he put in the email here. Honesty and trust are two of the most valuable commodities in any relationship so he certainly shouldn't try to hide anything.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on these matters?