WHAT WE SHOULD LOOK FOR IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
When you are getting to know a potential friend or lover, pay particular attention to how he or she:
- reacts to stressful or unexpected circumstances
- interacts with family members
- expresses affection, anger, and other emotions
- responds when you express your feelings.
- Am I capable of loving, trusting, and sharing myself with this individual?
- Can I accept this person as he is now, without trying to change him or expecting him to change himself?
- Am I willing to tolerate his imperfections and respect his thoughts and feelings even when they are different from my own?
- Can I give to or be in a relationship with this person without going against my own values or sacrificing my own needs?
- Do I respect him?
- Do I feel safe with him?
- Do I trust him?
- Do I enjoy his company?
- Do I have the freedom with him to be who I am and to change.
- Do we share any common interests or goals?
- Can I be an equal partner with him in this relationship?
- Can you reveal and share your innermost thoughts and feelings with him (including your deep dark secrets, your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your beliefs, and significant events from your childhood or past)?
- Can I share and be intimate with him on an Emotional level, on a Spiritual level, an Intellectual level, a Physical level, and on a Social level?
- Do you both agree about wanting or not wanting children? And YES this is true of GAY relationships too.
Ideally, a good requirement would be feeling more than just lust for a guy. You would ideally feel some sense of "soul attraction," for want of a better phrase, and love for him. You should feel safe and secure with him.
Whoever said, "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE" was an Idiot. For your Relationship to Survive, Grow, & Thrive, both of you need to want the relationship to work bad enough to be willing to:
- Work hard and diligently to make your relationship work, as the years go by.
- Keep your partner and your relationship the number one priority in your life, always.
- TRUST your partner, something that should grow with time.
- Be willing to Sacrifice, Compromise and Adapt when necessary.
- Love and Accept each other Unconditionally.
- Be Open and Honest with each other, sharing your life at all levelsNo Secrets.
- Be diligent in Communicating with each other, especially around needs, feelings and emotionsyour partner is not a mind reader.
- Treat each other with Respect, and Respect each other's knowledge, skills, beliefs, views and opinions.
- Support each other's growth and dreams.
- Be faithful to whatever promises you have made to each other.
- Work to keep yourself healthy reasonably fit (cardiovascular, pulmonary, endurance, muscle tone, etc).
- Recognize each other's sexual needs, and work to compromise between them if necessary.
- Work to keep sex fulfilling for both of you, through imagination, exploration and experimentation.
- Be there when your partner needs you, physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and financially.
- Negotiate, argue, and fight with each other in good faith.
- Work to forgive each other and have compassion for each other.
- Make responsible decisions that take your partner into consideration, since the consequences to your partner could be profound.
- Make no major decisions without at least discussing it with your partner, out of respect.
- Share the household upkeep, chores, and cooking so that both of you have an equal burden.
- Be sure to give each other enough time TOGETHER, but also give each other the Space and Time-Alone you each NEED.
- Be willing to go to Marriage/Couples Counseling if your partner asks you to.
- Not give up on the relationship without first trying everything reasonable to salvage it.
Remember Unconditional Love & Acceptance? There is NO BETTER FEELING in life, than to be unconditionally Loved and Accepted for who you are. It cannot happen if you lie to each other. This is about knowing all of the good, the bad, and the ugly about each other, and knowing all of that, still loving each other, unconditionally.
If you say, "I love him except for...but I will break him of the habit," then this is not unconditional love. You take him or her, "AS IS". Change is welcome, and it is really important to support each other through change, but not to force change, or demand it. If your partner smokes and you hate that, you can choose to:
- Do Nothing
- Buy a Case of Mouthwash and your partner to smoke outside or at an open window
Never Value Each Other Based On Age, Beauty, Wealth, Power, Fame, Intelligence, Skills, Or Physical Strength You should both be valued EQUALLY, based on the Content Of Your Character.
ARGUING & FIGHTING
My partner and I almost never argue and seldom ever have. We NEGOTIATE, we DISCUSS, but almost never argue, bicker, or fight. If voices get raised, it is typically due to passion for the subject, or being emotionally distraught. Arguing and fighting is actually not that normal. It might be normal in your family system, which often acts as your role model for your relationships.
Couples tend to fight over Sex, Money, Power/Control, Time/Attention, Perceived Disrespect, Lack of Joint Decision Making, Children, and Disagreements in Philosophy, Beliefs, Views, and Opinions.
Never let anything sit and stew. If something is bothering you, if he or she said something or did something, then bring it up and talk about it. At first, this seems to be a pain in the ass, talk, talk, talk, but as time goes by, you learn and understand each other so much better, that less is required.
Never end the day mad or angry with your partner or with each other. Settle it first, even if you have to stay up all night to do it.
HINT: Your partner IS NOT A MIND READER. DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING in relationships. If you say, "I Love You," then say exactly what you mean when you say it. Do romantic things. Use your imagination.
Young love has a low survivability for one major reason. You are both changing, maturing, and growing as people, at a rapid rate, and sometimes at different rates. The challenge is to stay connected while this is happening, and you do this through constant sharing. It is a lot of work. Even as adults the changes keep going. I am a very different person now, compared to 30, 20, and even 10 years ago.
Arguments over sex are almost always over how much sex, quality of the sex, unwillingness to experiment or lack of variety or spontaneity. Arguments about time are almost always about not getting enough time or attention for each other, or stress over lack of time.
In loving relationships, we share on many levels, Socially, Physically, Spiritually, Emotionally, Intellectually, Sharing of the Heart, and the Sharing of Space and Time. But this does not mean you have to agree with each other. You can have very different outlooks, different spirituality, etc. The idea is to share these things, SUPPORT them in each other, support growth in each other, even if you disagree with it. If your partner wants to change careers and you disagree, you need to supper his or her decision.
If you are fighting over disagreements in philosophy, beliefs, views, opinions, etc, then you are not respecting each other. A lot of fighting is over perceived put-downs, not feeling respected, not being listened to, not being taken seriously, etc.
Some couples snipe at each other with sharp verbal barbs, use small put-downs, or use innuendo and backhanded insults, often in public and in front of friends. They may not even consciously know they are doing it, but it is destructive. It is important to recognize it is happening, then call him or her on it each and every time until the habit is broken. Some of the attacks can be very subtle, and they add up. Then one day you suddenly find yourself very angry with your partner, or feeling worse about yourself, and perhaps not knowing why.
BUTTON PUSHING: When you get to know someone, you learn their buttons, things you can say or do to upset him or her. Some people use these buttons to attack, especially during fights and arguing, or to ambush. I have seen people who play their partner's buttons like a grand piano. This is obviously destructive. Stop doing it or start calling your partner on it if he or she is doing it. It has to stop or it will help tear you apart. This is bad behavior. You should also work on getting rid of your buttons, not letting things trigger your anger or get you emotionally upset.
USING SHARED SECRETS AS A WEAPON: I once opened up to my first partner about something I was ashamed of in the past, and when we argued he would throw it back at me, and it was extremely painful and I felt betrayed each and every time he did it. We share things with a lot of trust. It is possible he or she may not be aware of how badly you are being hurt, so be sure to point it out.
If you are Arguing, Fighting and Bickering, then I suggest you take action to make it stop. Marriage or Couple's Counseling can help a lot by teaching you negotiating techniques, and better communication tools, like better listening, discussing problems, etc.
CHANGE is a major DANGER point to relationships, because it is easy to drift apart if you become complacent. Relationships need regular maintenance. It is also real easy to start taking each other for granted, which is a really big mistake. SUPPORT change in your partner, instead of knocking his or her ideas down and resisting change. You do nor need to fear change in your partner if you participate in it.
CAREER VS RELATIONSHIP: For some people, career is more important than their relationship, and if the situation comes down to choosing between them, some choose their career. It can be a matter of choosing to spend more time with your partner instead of being a complete stranger, or it may be a matter of not being able to move to anew location to get a big promotion. My personal opinion is that this is folly. The LOVE you have in a healthy relationship will give you much more happiness and fulfillment than a particular career path. I have seen this throughout my life. Unfortunately, it is hard for many to see, and they learn the hard way. There is no way to even know if the new move and promotion would actually be better for your career in the long run.
HOW WE VALUE OURSELVES & EACH OTHER: Never Value Yourself or Each Other Based On Age, Beauty, Wealth, Power, Fame, Intelligence, Skills, Or Physical Strength. You should both be valued EQUALLY, based on the Content Of Your Character. This creates a lot of problems in relationships. Self-worth for one of you can suffer. Resentment can build. Yet, how often do you see one partner with most of the power and control in the relationships you have seen? It happens that way too often.
WALKING AWAY: It is so easy for guys to walk away at the first sign of difficulty. My partner and I have sworn to each other that no matter how bad it gets, we will at least TRY EVERYTHING POSSIBLE before giving up. At one point, we even went to couples counseling. Women tend to bond faster and stronger.
HURTING EACH OTHER: It is a given that at some point your partner will hurt you intentionally, as well as unintentionally. People are fallible. It is foolish to believe that love will prevent you from hurting the one you love, given certain circumstances. DON'T EXPECT OR DEMAND PERFECTION FROM YOUR PARTNER. Be ready to FORGIVE, IF the circumstances warrant it.
FORGIVENESS: Neither one of you is perfect, and it is guaranteed that you will hurt each other at times, even intentionally. Forgiveness in a relationship is a necessity, as is Forgetting. It does no good to keep bringing up past mistakes, using them as a weapons against your partner. It will only make him resent you. Forgiveness is NOT about exonerating wring doing. Forgiveness is about LETTING GO of the negative emotions resulting from what was done to you. Negative emotions like rage, anger, hate, desire for revenge & retribution are seductive, because they can actually feel good in a way, but they will also destroy relationships and harm YOU in the long term.
COMMUNICATION: The real secret to long-term relationships is in being able to and willing to COMMUNICATE. If you cannot talk things through, you have little chance of making it. He or she is not a mind reader. There is too much ASSUMING in relationships. If you are feeling afraid or jealous, it MUST be talked about, or it will eventually sabotage the relationship. There is NO HOPE for a relationship if you cannot talk through problems. There are all kinds of ways to avoid talking, like Walking Away, like crying and then refusing to talk, like Accusing (You don't love me). You may disagree with each other, but talk it through and look for middle ground. My partner and I sometimes went in circles for hours, but eventually we made progress. He was willing to keep going as long as it took, even if it meant getting no sleep before work the next morning.
It is very important that partners feel safe and free to talk to each other about ANYTHING, especially when it has to do with sex. You should be able to ask your partner to do anything sexual, with the understanding that the answer may be NO. You should be able to talk about sexual fantasies and desires, sexual positions, or even to request bringing in a third person for three-way sex, or to ask for an Open relationship or a Polyamorous relationship. Some people will respond to sexual requests with offense, outrage, derision, put-downs, disgust, etc, whenever a partner suggests or asks for anything unusual. Others get immediately defensive, like you don't love me anymore if you are asking me for this. It feels great to know you have the freedom to talk about anything you want to with your partner, and to be able to explore new things.
LISTEN carefully to what he is saying. Try to understand what is being said, without assumptions. Ask questions for clarification. Make sure you understand. This is not easy when talking about feelings, like not being happy in the relationship. Notice his body language, which may say more than his mouth. We all listen with filters, listening for key words and phrases that mean different things to different people, based on our culture, life experiences, etc. I once gave a compliment to my ex-partner and he threw a shoe at me. He did not know the word and just assumed it must be a bad word. Sometimes he felt I was being condescending to him because I used words he did not know. It was not intentional, I spoke like I always speak, but we came from different backgrounds. They were not 'big words' to me. We eventually came to understand each other better, but it took a lot of checking-in with each other
TALK 'WHEN' AN ISSUE COMES-UP, as quickly as possible. DON'T LET ANYTHING FESTER.
EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS & SHARE the important things going on in your live. You will be surprised at how fast you two can drift apart, and once you drift apart, it is harder to pull back together. Staying connected takes effort. For men, it can be so much easier just not to say anything, especially if things have not gone well at work, or you are feeling tired or in a depressed mood. But if you make the effort, it is probably going to help you feel better. It is like investing into the relationship, like you invest money for a later gain.
DON'T BE GLORIFIED ROOMMATES with benefits, just two guys sharing the same the same living space.
CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER every single day, in some meaningful way.
MAKE TIME TO BE TOGETHER, but also MAKE ALONE-TIME & SPACE for yourself. We all need our own space, but everyone has different needs. Some people need much more Alone-Time and Space, and if they do not get it, it will drive them away.
STRIFE in relationships is almost always about SEX, MONEY, & POWER. What if one of you wants and needs more sex than the other? The right thing to do is to compromise. If you need a lot more, get porn and jerk-off. If you want a lot less, be willing to be seduced at least some. Typically you will get in the mood once things get moving.
MONEY: It is a huge mistake to ever equate money with Worth in a relationship, like he makes more money than me so he gets more say in the relationship, or the other way around. Money and wealth has nothing to do with your value as a person, OR your value in a relationship. However, you should both be carrying part of the load. If you don't work and he does, than take care of the house or apartment, the cooking, etc. My Ex-partner did not work and was a house-husband. I valued his role.
My current partner and I maintain separate finances, investments, and retirement accounts, plus we have a shared checking account. All bills for utilities, etc are split evenly. Groceries and toiletries are split by shared, his alone, and mine alone. All big purchases are discussed, even if it is going to be just his, or just mine. I have never said NO, but will give my opinion. It is out of RESPECT that we always discuss such things.
LEGALITIES: We created Trusts, Wills, Powers of Attorneys for Health and Financial, in the event one of us become incapacitated or dies. Because of the Trust, it will escape probate and cannot be contested by anyone. When you are in a relationship, you should be responsible about each other. We are now DOMESTIC PARTNERS in the State of Washington.
WARNING: Once you travel outside of your State, most of your Domestic Partner rights go away, so if something happens to one of you, the other will have no say in your care. This is because of the federal Law DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act), where Same Sex Marriages and Domestic Partnerships are not recognized by any other State or the Federal Government. Therefore, it is still very important for you and your partner to be protected by deferred Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney.
DEATH: It is a horrible mess when a gay partner dies and there is no legal paperwork done. The survivor may get nothing and may even lose what he or she has in the house or apartment. I have seen it all. You can make a Last will on a napkin if you want, and it will keep you from dying intestate. You can buy cheap fill in the blank Wills and Powers of Attorney forms at Stationary stores, or on-line.
CHORES should be shared. Resentment will build if one has to do all the cleaning, cooking, repairs, paying bills, etc. It is very easy to fall into roles where one partner is being badly used by the other. It may seem Ok if the person is willing to be used, but in the end, it will end in disaster, because it will erode his sense of self-worth, and resentments will build.
EQUAL PARTNERSHIP: In my experience, the relationships that survive are the ones that are a true partnership of EQUAL PARTNERS. That does NOT mean making the same amount of money. It has to do with both sharing as equally as possible, respecting each other AS EQUALS. Daddy/Son relationships, Master/Slave, Dominant/Submissive, these things don't tend to have lasting power.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND, always. Be willing to try new things to work around problems. We are Gay, so don't get caught up in GENDER ROLES, male and female roles, dominate and submissive roles, or other such things. Define your own relationship in whatever way works.
SEX needs to be flexible. Don't get in a rut doing the exact same things every time. For me, change came natural. We tried many things and experimented a lot (some things never to be repeated lol), and likes and dislikes changed naturally with time.
There is a big difference between Having Sex and Making Love.
- HAVING SEX is when the primary focus is on your own pleasure and gratification.
- MAKING LOVE is when the primary focus in on giving pleasure to your partner, which in turn, gives you pleasure and gratification. Making Love is all about expressing your love through sexuality.
In both heterosexual and homosexual sexuality, being a Bottom (vaginal or anal receptive) does not mean being submissive, and in fact, the bottom can be in complete control. Being a Top does not mean you are dominate or in control. Being submissive or dominant, at any given time, should be a choice, and is separate from what sexual position you take. Rigid Sexual Roles, where one partner is always being submissive or always being dominate, tends to have less staying power for long-term relationships,as it severely limits sexual variety. Variety is the spice of life, if you prefer being a bottom, at least some of the time be a top, it helps keep sexuality from getting stuck in a dull rut as the years go by.
What if your partner says no Anal sex forever, or no Oral sex forever? Such limitations are difficult, but I have lived with it. IF it is important to you, it is like giving up part of your sexuality. This becomes a big choice about staying or leaving. If you stay, don't harp on it all the time, because it was your choice staying with such a limited person.
It seems like a very selfish thing to do, to deliberately be so limiting and tell your partner you are not going to do a number of things. It is like marrying a woman and then having her say, "There will be no vaginal intercourse, only oral sex." In my view, I want to please my partner any way I can, as long as it is not degrading or harmful. But some gay men will say they will not do anal sex, or only be a "top" or only be a "bottom," no matter how distressful and limiting that is to their partner's sexual needs. It is like saying, "I don't give a damn about your sexual desires or needs."
Some people will ONLY do FROTTAGE, which is sex by rubbing against each other, and no oral or anal sex. This can be fear induced.
Personally, I never understood why anyone would want to voluntarily LIMIT their sexuality.
What if there is no sex? Is it by choice? If your partner has no libido, no desire, and refuses to do anything about it, like seeing the doctor, checking testosterone, etc, or if it is simply his or her choice not to have sex, it is Ok to talk about an open relationship, because it is asking too much to ask you to give up sex.
If there is no choice, like it will eventually be with me, as I get closer to dying, I have already given permission for my partner to get sex elsewhere. I do not want to be selfish, and I want him to be happy. There is a risk of him falling in love with someone else, but I TRUST him not to leave me even if that happens.
There can be PHYSICAL INTIMACY without sex. This can sometimes be enough, getting lots of skin contact, kissing, and caressing.
MASTURBATION & PORNOGRAPHY:
In cases when one partner has a higher libido (sex-drive) than the other, he or she should be allowed to use Masturbation and Pornography for sexual gratification. Just because you don't want more sex should not mean your partner should do without. It would be bad for the relationship to demand he not satisfy himself, or she not satisfy herself. Yet I have seen a number of cases where this was made into a huge issue, like, "If you love me, then you wouldn't need Porn and Masturbation." That is just a selfish statement. The idea is to WANT your partner to be happy and fulfilled, short of getting it from other men.
SUBMISSIVE VS DEGRADING
In my observation, relationships that include degrading treatment, even when desired by both parties, is a recipe for disaster. In both sexual and non-sexual situations, behavior can be either submissive or degrading, depending not only on how the person is treating you, but more importantly, how you are desiring to be treated, and the difference can be either subtle, or glaring. It is extremely unhealthy to degrade someone or to desire to be degraded, even if it heightens sexual enjoyment, because it will erode the recipients self-worth over time.
Being called degrading names, being treated in a degrading manner, or as a "slave" or subservient person, can greatly harm a person psychologically, and I have seen what it can do to people. So I highly suggest not even role playing such things on a regular basis. Words have power. Daddy/Son relationships, Master/Slave, Dominant/Submissive, these things don't tend to have lasting power, although some do last. Typically, the roles have to become more and more extreme to be able to get-off on it.
Codependency is viewed as a Bad thing, but it is actually present in ALL Healthy Relationships. We need water to live, but we can drown in a puddle of water. Good and bad are relative terms.
Codependency needs to be IN BALANCE to be heathy. Imagine a seesaw with a pivot in the middle. On one end is "NEEDING to Take Care of Others," and on the other end is "NEEDING to be taken care of." The ideal balance is to be in the middle and not NEED either one, but to participate in both.
BAD CODEPENDENCY is all about being on the extreme end of the seesaw, "Out Of Balance." I am an expert on it because I lived it with my second X-Partner. I defined myself by taking care of people. I was a Chameleon who adapted myself to whoever needed to be taken care, defining myself accordingly. When my partner left me, the floor dropped out from under me. I didn't know what to do. I was lost. I had no purpose. My life had be defined by taking care of him. He was the other side of the seesaw, and needed to be taken care of. I also lived to make him happy, like it became the primary goal of my life. I had too little sense of self. I later found myself unable to find happiness in my own company, because I came to depend on him for my happiness. I lost myself in taking care of him, sacrificing everything for him. I was rather pathetic.
Who was the Villain? He looks like the Villain because he USED me badly, but it takes two to Tango, and I ALLOWED myself to be used. I cannot blame him alone. We both share blame. What about him? His self-worth eroded over time as he was completely kept (taken care of). He did contribute to the care of the home, but he refused to recognize it, since it was against his upbringing. He felt worse and worse about himself. I began to resent always having to do everything, decide everything, make all the money, worry about paying the bills, fill all of his prima-dona needs, etc, and he spent vast sums of money on drugs, alcohol, and a lot more. I felt helpless because I was incapable of saying NO. We were both became very unhappy, but had no idea why.
In a HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP, we take care of each other, and allow ourselves to be taken care of, in a balanced way.
I have an aggressive form of Arthritis, a disease which has slowly but surely crippled me, and Greg now cares for me a lot, taking me to appointments, does more chores, supplies a shoulder to cry on, etc. It is a big burden of time and energy, which he freely gives. Sometimes he enjoys taking care of me, as a way of expressing his love for me, and sometimes he gets frustrated, tired, and even resentful. I never fault this because I Understand how much STRESS he is under.
But despite my being crippled, I take care of him in ways too. Because I love him so much, I am also frightened at what may become of him when I die. After so many years, can he survive? He is not sure. It is not a given. I have offered him a FREE PASS out of the relationship, GUILT-FREE, but he says he WANTS to be with me to the very end, no matter how bad it gets. I want him to find new love, a replacement for me, but he has to survive grief and loss first.
If he were to find a new love now, I would want him to take the opportunity, because I love him so much, and I would rather see him happy, than suffer through my end. It would be devastating to me, but I am a goner anyway, why drag him down too. Part of LOVE is being SELFLESS. We willingly sacrifice for each other. I have made a GREAT sacrifice for him, and it took me years to reconcile myself to it. But it was my choice to make the sacrifice for the sake of having him in my life.
ABOUT MY RELATIONSHIP
We have been together 20 years. Our relationship has needed a lot more than Love to survive adversity, our differences, a changing environment, my illness, the death of others, and much more. It requires unconditional love, commitment, trust, being honest and open (even if it hurts), always being willing talk through problems, not giving into temptation (being faithful), and being there for your partner, even at the very worst of times.
I developed arthritis when I was around 12 years old, but it did not have a major impact on my life until the latter end of 30. Only a few years after meeting my husband, it started to get worse. In the last 10 years, it became more and more crippling. He has staid with me and helped me through all of it, and I know, without doubt that he will be with me to the end. This is what love is about.
Promises should be well thought though. Greg knew about how my previous two partners had used me, how they had promised, "UNTIL DEATH DO US PART" and then used that promise like toilet paper. He suggested a different approach. We would promise each other, "TO NOT BREAK-UP UNTIL WE HAD TRIED AND EXHAUSTED ALL POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS FIRST."
Next, we decided that it was stupid to throw away a good relationship over one mistake. A relationship needs Forgiveness. We promised that if one of us were to make a mistake and have sex with another man, it would be immediately confessed, and immediately forgiven. Then we would use safe-sex through a six month testing cycle. After 20 years, it has not been needed yet. This will not work if your partner is having a long-term affair or keeps making "mistakes."
We have had some rough patches, almost breaking-up, but the two of us were always willing to keep talking and trying, not willing to give-up until we had tried everything. It is in the very process of trying so hard to stay together that became the glue to bind us together. We were looking for a specific solution and never really found one. Just trying hard to stay together and work through problems became the solution.
We also promised not to let problems or negative feelings fester, to not go to bed mad. This is not that easy to do in practice, but if you stick with it, it becomes habit.
BEING OPPOSITES IS OK:
We are very different people, which made getting along difficult at first. Love really helped then. We went through a difficult time, but it was adversity, caring for a dying friend, which made our love stronger and cemented our relationship.
Yes, we are very different, but I bring things to his life he would not otherwise have had, and brought him a view of the world and life different from his. I brought him to a place of peace, and he brought me out more in the open, and exposed me to things I never dreamed of. He brought me his own vision and spiritual sense. We are better people for it.
Together, we are a good team. Where I am weak, he is strong, and likewise for him. He is a man of integrity, I trust him with my life. We make a strong team by being different from each other, and we have had a great deal of Personal Growth because we are so different.
NOT ALL IS ROSY:
But please know this of all long-term relationships, it is not all rosy. There will always be areas of difficulty, like one wanting a lot more sex than the other one wants, or money issues, or control issues, so you have to be willing to compromise, and sacrifice, which can sometimes can be very difficult to do.
We were both came to the relationship badly damaged by childhood abuse, relationships, and death. Most guys bring their own baggage to a relationship. So being emotionally supportive is crucial. Remember a golden rule, NEVER EVER try to change your partner. He will change for sure, but if you try to force a change, it will end in disaster.
SHARING OF THE SELF
In the early days of our relationship, I was still in counseling. My counselor asked me to write the emotional story of my life. This took a very long time to do. Just like in a 12 step program, he suggested that I pick a safe person to tell it to out-loud. I chose Greg. I had no idea how raw and how powerful it would be. Actually saying it to someone was like ripping open my heart to be seen fully. I told of the autism, the abuse, the depression and loneliness, the suicide, the rape, and all the rest, and kept breaking down in tears throughout the telling. I had not expected it and neither did Greg, who was almost in shock. He had never seen this kind of openness and vulnerability, and I could see him withdraw.
I thought I had made a terrible mistake in picking him to be the one to hear my story. It changed his view of who I was and who I had been. I tried to explain that I became a strong person because of all of that stuff. Greg just needed time to process it all. In the end, when he said he loved me, it meant he loved the true me, the one he saw that day, the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly, and he accepted and loved me unconditionally.
I would rather he love the real me, than the me he thought I was when we met, the self-made man of strength, success, and leadership was just the OUTSIDE of me. I felt very free having someone know, love and accept me for the things I had kept secret and ashamed of for so long.
Shame looses much of its power, once it is shared with another.
HOW WE META LESSON LEARNED
One night, I was looking for a partner for a dance lesson at a gay C&W bar and dance hall. I didn't even like C&W music that much, but dancing allowed me instant intimacy, a social life, and a fun activity. All I had to do was ask, "Do you want to dance?" and I had a man in my arms.
Anyway, I saw a guy who was alone and thought, "He's not much to look at (I know, how shallow), but he'll do," and he said yes to being my partner for the lesson. As we chatted and goofed-off, I was struck by how much fun I had with him and how interesting he seemed.
Despite being 35, I had never actually asked a man for his phone number, for friendship or a date (I always got asked by other guysI was shy), but I got the courage to ask him for his phone number, which he reluctantly gave to me. I explained that it was to explore a possible friendship. When I later called him to set up a day and time, he went through the dance of, "My calendar is really full," so I asked him when the next opening was and he told me, "in six weeks." I was disappointed but asked him to pencil me in. Then I got pushy and asked, "As long as you have your appointment book out, let's set-up a second time," and he was amenable to that.
We got together a few times, mostly to dance and share dinner, and then spent a Saturday together doing some canoeing. When we got back to his place, he went to clean-up and when he walked back into the room, I was suddenly struck by how good looking he was, and then realized that I was as hard as a rock, totally turned-on. I figured it must be love.
Remember, I WAS NOT EVEN PHYSICALLY ATTRACTED TO HIM WHEN WE MET. The moral of the story is that I fell in love with him, and when that happened, he became TOTALLY HOT looking and gorgeous to me, and he still is after all of these years. That is the power of love, and I have seen it happen in other straight and gay couples. You could be passing over the love of your life, time and again, by filtering-out everyone except for the best looking people to date.
Love is what keeps sex interesting and alive with the same person, as the decades fly by. Love is what makes your partner look great, as the decades fly by. Without love, sex with the same person gets boring fairly quickly. There are people who have serious Intimacy Issues. For some, Love and Sex become separated. A person like this can fall deeply in love, but as soon as sexual intimacy starts, it is not long before sex for that person becomes boring. It is very tragic.
When Greg and I met, we dated, then spent weekends together and went on day trips together. But we decided to do something rather novel in the Gay community, we chose not to be sexually intimate until, or if, we fell in love. It took four and a half months to the BIG day. I would periodically ask him, "Do you love me yet?" and he would say, "No, not yet, but please don't go way, I need more time." So, I gave him time.
The point is that sexual energy is so potent that it can interfere with getting to know each other and finding trust. It can make it feel like you are in love, when you might not be. It is harder to tell if you are feeling infatuation or love when you are also being sexually intimate.
We made a big deal out of consummating our love. We took a Ferry from Seattle to Victoria, Canada, where we checked into a nice hotel, dressed-up and went to the Queen Elizabeth Theater to see Phantom Of The Opera. We went to supper and the String Quartet came over and serenaded us. We must have been obvious. No one else got the treatment while we were there. Then back to the Hotel to make love for the first time.
I can tell you this with absolute certainty, MAKING-LOVE WITH SOMEONE YOU ACTUALLY LOVE AND FEEL CONNECTED TO, IS IMMENSELY MORE FULFILLING AND PLEASURABLE, THAN MERE SEX.
There is a huge difference between having sex and in making love. In SEX, the primary focus is on your own pleasure and gratification, while in MAKING-LOVE, the primary focus in on giving pleasure to your partner, which in turn, gives you pleasure and gratification. Add love to the mix
In an Open Relationship, both of you agree that it was Ok to have sex with whoever, whenever and wherever you please, but of course couples can set limits as they desire, especially around Safe-sex. These relationships, in my observation, do not last long. They depend entirely on everyone trusting each other that their hearts will never go to anyone outside the relationship, and outside sex will basically be indiscriminate, with no emotional connections.
Greg and I once opened our relationship for a little while. But I warned Greg that I am incapable of anonymous or indiscriminate sex. I HAVE to have an emotional connection with my sexual partner. This was bound to doom the experiment. Open relationships depend entirely on Trust, trust that your heart will not stray from your partner/spouse.
I was just forming a new friendship and he jumped at the chance to date me, and I agreed. I told him upfront that Greg is my Husband and I will not leave him. We had a great time doing things together and dancing, and we did things together with my partner Greg, including dining out, dancing, clubs, etc. I felt very Cosmopolitan. Oddly enough, there almost no sex, since he had a serious Intimacy Issue, and basically needed danger and anonymous sex. I was willing to work with him to overcome it.
Then he gave me an ultimatum to leave Greg or loose him. I told him I did love him, but I made it clear from the very beginning that I was NOT going to leave Greg, so why can't you share me? He said he did not want to share me. I told him I had plenty of love to go around It turned out that Greg had felt Jealous after-all, and he closed the Relationship.
What I learned is that I am very capable of loving more than one man at the same time. I have a lot of love give. This IS NOT A SEXUAL THING I am talking about, it is LOVE. Hey, I could easily keep up with both of them sexually too, given the chance, LOL. I would be open to a Polyfidelity relationship, but Greg and I are so different from each other, it would be difficult to find someone we were both into, plus Greg is not so keen on the idea.
I like to exist in the world of ALL POSSIBILITIES, with an open mind and heart, and with compassion. It can be easy to Judge the relationships of other people, but I say it is good and healthy for Couples to explore and find whatever RELATIONSHIP DYNAMICS work best for them, and the heck with what other people think. If you can make a 3 or 4 person relationship work, or a Master/Slave relationship work, all the more power to you.
POLYAMOROUS & POLYFIDELITY RELATIONSHIPS
Polyamorous Relationships are relationships where there are 3 or more members in the group. They can all be the same gender or mixed gender. The relationship can be sexually open or closed.
Polyfidelty is when all member of the group agree to be sexually exclusive with each other onlyNo sex outside the relationship.
It would be a mistake to judge these relationships as wrong or bad. I have seen some work very well. The higher the number of people in a group, the lower the odds of long-term success. Three or four in a group is the most typical.
JEALOUSY is the enemy. Survival of the relationship depends on all members pretty much equally loving each other. If one member is there because he or she only loves one of the Group, it will not work. This kind of relationship requires more work to maintain, because all 3 or 4 people have to stay connected, try to spend roughly equal time with each other, meet each others needs, etc.
There are different ways to handle sex in these relationships. In one relationship I know of, a group of three agree to only ever make love with all three present, and then make an effort to make sure no one is excluded in the three-way sex. This arrangement kind of depends on all member of the group having similar libidos.
In another group relationship, everyone agreed they could have sex in pairs, but they stayed well in contact with each other to be sure each in the group was happy. This works if one group member has a lower libido or a higher libido. The one receiving less sexual intimacy has to have that deficiency made up with other forms of physical or social intimacy, depending on what is desired.
In another group relationship, everyone agreed that it was Ok to have sex with whoever, whenever and wherever they pleased. These relationships, in my observation, do not last long. They depend entirely only everyone trusting each other that their hearts will never go to anyone outside the relationship, and outside sex will be basically indiscriminate, with no emotional connections.
BREAKING-UP AND FAILING RELATIONSHIPS
It is hard enough to leave those we dislike, let a lone those we love. Deciding to love, or to stop loving is also extremely difficult. I think that there is a big problem in assigning value judgments of "right" and "wrong," or doing the "right thing" or the "wrong thing," to something that is much more complex than that.
There is an underlying assumption that staying in the relationship would be bad and an unhealthy thing to do if the other guy did certain bad things, but that is an unknown. With a crystal ball, it might turn out that staying is the best thing to do.
How good or how bad the choice is, depends on many things, concerning both individuals, the dynamics of the relationship, prior history of bad and good things, the social-political atmosphere, the environment you are in, and on-and-on.
Human beings like to quantify, categorize, and have fixed rules, like they are trying to find order out of chaos. But real life does not adapt well to what humans try to constrain it to.
I have seen relationships break up over a single case of one partner cheating on the other, which could be a huge waste and tragedy, depending the circumstances. Some of that is based on the notion that if a person loves you deeply, they would not ever hurt you or betray you. But human nature proves this not be true. All people are capable of making terrible choices and mistakes. Sometimes forgiveness and working on reestablishing trust is the right thing to do.
*** It is a given that at some point your partner will hurt you intentionally, as well as unintentionally. People are fallible. It is foolish to believe that love will prevent you from hurting the one you love, given the certain circumstances. DON'T EXPECT OR DEMAND PERFECTION FROM YOUR PARTNER. Be ready to FORGIVE, If the circumstances warrant it.
For example, if it turns out your partner is cheating on a regular basis, then you have to choose between an open relationship or a break-up, because it is STUPID to believe he will change. But what if it was a one-time thing and you believe he has it out of his system and will be faithful in the future? Then, what if you find out he has been in a "relationship" with another man for years?
Some situations may be salvageable, while others are not. If your partner is a pathological lier and cheater, then looking the other way, or forgiving him again and again would all be an exercise in futility.
Love is found in many ways, and love can go away or turn into hate and disgust very quickly.
I am getting more and more disabled, being more of a burden on my partner. It is going to get much worse. If he were to leave now, would it be the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?
If he left it would be devastating and might very well kill me. However, we have already talked about it, and I have been very clear, he can choose to leave and it will not be "the right or wrong thing," it is to be his choice, free of stupid value judgments. I have also told him that when the time comes, to feel free to get sexual intimacy elsewhere. To do anything else would be selfish.
He, in turn, has made it clear that he will not stay out of obligation, and that he will only stay because he wants toI call it love.
My love for him wants him to leave me and find new love, and not have his life dragged down by me. His love for me wants me to hang on for as long as I can, no matter what, and he wants to be dragged down with me.
But that could change. I do not know. I do know that I do NOT want him here if he is here out of feeling of obligation or duty, even if that marks the end for me. Mutual respect must rule.
Chronic illness, addictions, mental illness, are all things that can put a tremendous strain on a relationship. There may be a point, like with addiction problems, when you have done everything humanly possible, and you don't feel you can go on doing it anymore. Is it the right thing, or the wrong thing to do, to leave, to abandon your partner? Not so black and white, is it?
SEXUAL POSITIONS & ROLES IN HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS
I think Gay relationships are really great because they are not tied to gender at all, as happens in mixed gender relationships. Even in those, the traditional gender roles are decreasing with time. Gay men do not need to take on gender roles. Gay relationships do not need to conform to any gender standards. They can be formed to suite the individual needs of the couple themselves. In my current partner, I have found an Equal Partner, a relationship based in equality and mutual respect that has lasted over 20 years.
There are some Gay Men who form relationships around Gender roles based on sexual position, basically mimicking heterosexual relationships. What concerns me so much about this is that so many new Gay boys and young men seem to think this is the default Gay Relationship, when it is actually a minor player. Some are using their parents as a relationship role model, and some are manipulated into it, or intimidated into it.
Since certain kinds of role-based relationships are so sexually limiting and limiting of personal growth, I feel they should be entered into with open eyes and by active choice, not by falling into it by default, or being manipulated or intimidated into it.
However, all of that being said, anyone wanting to form such role-based relationships have every right to do so, and I would absolutely defend that right.
PASSIVE/ACTIVE ROLES or DOMINANT/SUBMISSIVE ROLES
Some gay boys and men have a silly notion that the "Anal Receptive" position is a passive or submissive role, when actually it can be the active or dominant role. If I am in the Anal Receptive position, I typically take control at times during love making. You can be in the Anal Receptive position and be in total control.
The person who is the "Anal Inserter" can actually be in a passive/submissive POSITION, like when he is lying on his back with his partner is riding him, putting the Anal Receptive partner in control and doing all of the work. But even in the missionary position, the Anal receptive partner can be in control.
When making love, who takes the active role, who takes the passive role, who is in control at any given moment, and if there is any dominance and submission present, all work best when they are FLUID during love making, not pre-planned, just letting things happen dynamically. It is a more natural and organic way of making love, free of constraints and roles. Just like when I danced, sometimes I wanted to lead, and sometimes I wanted to follow, and sometimes we switched back and forth during a dance. It is more fun when there are MORE things you can BOTH do. If I have a partner who can only follow, when I enjoy both leading and following, it really limits how much fun I can have.
NOTE: There is also DOMINANCE & SUBMISSION of a more extreme level in BDSM play, which is about BONDAGE, DOMINANCE & SUBMISSION, SADISM & MASOCHISM, COCK & BALL TORTURE, SCARIFICATION, COCK SOUNDING (this is when large Catheters and Stainless Steel Sounding Rods are inserted into the penis and run up and into the bladder), etc.
Even more IDIOTIC is the notion of attaching GENDER ROLES to Homosexual SEXUAL POSITIONS. GENDER ROLES ARE FOR STRAIGHT PEOPLE. HELLO, two guys together are the same gender, and two women together are the same gender. Why pretend you are a straight couple? Why should one gay man take the woman's traditional role and the other gay man take the traditional male role? The same is true of Lesbian couples where one woman takes the male traditional role and the other the female traditional role. Why pretend to be something you are not? Ok, different strokes for different folks, but it is so very limiting. The traditional roles are even being abandoned by heterosexual couples in this modern age.
Some homosexual couples like to pretend that they are heterosexual couples, and if that is what they want, it is their right and I would defend their right to do that. But I have also found that these Gender-role homosexual relationships to be very sexually limiting and limiting of personal growth. I personally feel they should be entered into with open eyes and by active choice, not by falling into it by default, or being manipulated or intimidated into it.
There are Gay or Lesbian couples who take on gender roles to match their Exclusive Sexual Positions. For men, being an Exclusive Top (Anal/Oral Insertive) means you are the Man of the house, the decision maker, the one in charge who's word is law. While being an Exclusive Bottom (Anal/Oral Receptive) means you are the subservient wife doing the bidding of you dominant husband.
Gender Roles can be MASCULINE & FEMININE, or DOMINANT & SUBMISSIVE. I do not include the case where one partner works for a living and one partner works to care for the home and perhaps children, because this does not necessarily have to be a gender role, as long as it is seen as each man supporting the other EQUALLY, but in different ways. However, if the salary earner become dominant and the homemaker submissive, it becomes a gender role.
My point is simply that connecting your preferred sexual position to your masculinity or gender role is ridiculous. A Man can be a rough-trade beefy-looking Truck Driver who loves to be screwed. His preferred sexual position has nothing to do with his masculinity, his personality, or that he would somehow take a feminine role in the relationship.
EXCLUSIVE TOPS & BOTTOMS
When you are sexually versatile, and you end up with a sexually Exclusive Top or Bottom, he just eliminated half of your sexuality, half of the ways you can express your love through sexuality, half of the ways you can sexually enjoy yourself, severely limiting your own sexuality. I think it exceedingly selfish of any man to do that to another. It takes advantage of your love, forcing you to choose between loosing half of your sexuality, or loosing the man you love.
Why would Gay men want to limit their sexuality by half, for life, something many men do? This is my observation after some 32 years in the Gay community (not all exclusive Tops & Bottoms fit this description, just most):
EXCLUSIVE TOPS are typically guys who are full of themselves, like to dominate and control others, believe that taking the receptive position would rob them of their manhood, and/or are afraid it will hurt to be anally receptive. Some are too cowardly to even try, and some had a bad experience and are unwilling to trust anyone to try again. It does not have to hurt at all, but some men who Top could care less if they hurt the other guy, and some want to hurt the other guy.
EXCLUSIVE BOTTOMS are typically guys who want to take a submissive role with all men, enjoying being dominated, some wanting to be used, not having to make decisions, they like being taken care of, and often taking a feminine role.
If it is just a matter of preferring one position over the other, then you can do that without becoming 100% exclusive. Exclusive Tops and Bottoms have a lot more issues at stake than what sexual position they prefer.
Relationships stuck in roles with guys who are only Submissive Bottoms and Dominant Tops are just limiting their sexual experience, and as the years go by, it has to get boring.
© Matthew Barry 1985, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014 All Rights Reserved.