“I’m not sure I want to be in a relationship.”
With those words my lover of three months ended our fling and I’m back to being single.
This time, however, I’m feeling much less despair and rejection than I’ve experienced with previous breakups. Aside from the possibility that I’m just getting used to relationships ending (or changing for one reason or another), I think the difference may be how I approached this particular situation and why I got into it.
When I was a younger gay, I longed to have a boyfriend. Upon coming out, my new identity grew out of my need for same-sex companionship. I fantasized about being important to somebody and finding belonging in an exclusive relationship.
All I needed to do was find the right guy.
I obsessed over any cute guy who showed even a bit of interest in me. My entire mood would hinge on whether that person was receptive to my affections and whether or not they needed me as much as I seemed to need them.
But the reality of dating men made the search for a committed relationship less than fulfilling.
Eventually I found myself in a relationship with someone with whom I felt at home. Three years later that home collapsed, unable to withstand the stresses of long distance and infidelity.
Since then, I have spent a lot of time trying to stay emotionally safe by keeping my lovers at a distance while getting what I could physically. This adjustment period, I assume, was in sync with the advice “to get over a man, get under one” (or in my case under several men).
Thus I wasn’t looking for anything in particular when I met my latest. I found him attractive and was open to getting to know him. As I did, my appreciation for his other qualities grew, and I took great pleasure in letting him get to know me.
Bearing in mind our teen-sized age gap and his inexperience, I was aware that the relationship could be doomed to fail. However, since I was no longer focused on filling in the boyfriend slot in my life, I felt that I had nothing to lose and continued seeing him based on the day-to-day rhythm of our shared chemistry.
Being aware of the challenges we faced and being careful not to expect too much from the relationship made the recent shift from being boyfriends to becoming friends not so bitter.
It seems to me that feelings of betrayal and frustration come when our expectation of another to anticipate and fulfill our needs goes unfulfilled. As the old saying goes, “Expectation is the source of all heartache.”
Although I miss the sex, I’m happy to still have this man in my life. As friends, we still share a connection of openness, acceptance and fun. When I look at the situation for what I’ve gained, it hardly seems like a loss.
I’m starting to think that the fantasies of my youth were based on my need for belonging, likely fuelled by feelings of alienation and informed by the ideals and dreams of my heterosexist upbringing.
As I continue to grow up as a gay man, I’m excited to continue to explore relationships as they are: moments of interaction that are varied, plentiful, individual and unique.
Intimacy comes in many shapes and forms that last for varying lengths of time. I’d rather learn to relate to individuals than endure the emptiness and anxiety of searching for “the one.”