Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Free to Stay or Go

Over the years, I've known, or heard of, a number of gay male couples who broke up because of jealousy.  Both men in each couple may have been completely faithful, but, because one was jealous of the other--and, let's face it, no one does jealous better than a spurned gay man--the couple was propelled along the treacherous path of no longer trusting each other.

And, where there may have been no infidelity before, there certainly was soon after.  Part of that, I think, is little more than some believing monogamy is impossible between gay men.  But, also, part of it is many of us are filled with shame because we're gay  (read: aren't comfortable with ourselves), and feel insecure or unworthy of the partner we have.

I'm sure you've heard the expression, "He doesn't have a jealous bone in his body."  Well, no truer words could describe Chris, my partner of the past nineteen years.  Early in our relationship, I hoped to make Chris a little jealous, not by fooling around with another man, but by ogling a cute specimen on the street or at the club.

Yes, I was insecure, and, as a means of getting the reassurance I needed Chris was genuinely interested in me, I made like I was attracted to someone else, just to get a reaction.  Please let him be just a little jealous, I thought. Please let me know it's me you really want to be with, and that you have haven't just defaulted to me because no one else is interested in you right now.

My attempts failed.  Miserably.  Because, to my surprise, Chris doesn't get jealous.  He really doesn't.  When he noticed me looking at someone else, I'd ask him, "Aren't you even a little bit jealous?"  And his answer was always the same:  "If you don't want to be with me, then there's no point trying to keep you."  Which I hated at first.

It made Chris sound like he didn't care one way or the other that he was with me.  It made it sound like he'd make no effort whatsoever to fight for me, that he'd failed to see how much we had together, and he could just as easily let me go as not buy a cup of coffee.  In effect, my little test backfired.  I didn't get the reassurance I wanted at all.

But, over time, I saw what Chris's response really meant.  It didn't mean he had no feelings for me, or he no longer wanted to be with me, or he'd failed to see how good we were together and how much potential we had as a couple.  Rather, it meant, "I love you and I want you, but, if you don't want to be with me, then what can I do?  I can't force you to love me and be with me if you don't want to.  Our relationship isn't a prison.  If you want to be with me, great.  If you don't--if you see something else you like--then follow your heart and do what you have to do.  I'll be hurt, of course, but I'll accept your choice.  I'll trust your judgment.  And I'll wish you well."

When I finally got the message, I realized how much Chris really did love me after all--enough to let me go if that's what I really wanted.  Enough to set me free to love, and live my life with, someone else.  Enough to accept that I no longer loved him or wanted to be with him.  If that didn't demonstrate the full extent of his love, nothing else could.

And, frankly, it made me want him even more, because--as if I didn't know what a quality person he was already--it meant there'd be no jealousy drama in our life together, which is so characteristic of many gay male relationships.  It meant he would never try to hang on to me if there was no point.  And it meant I was free to stay or go.  The decision was mine.

I made the best damn decision of my life.                      


  1. As I read your post, I could hear Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes singing "If You Don't Know Me by Now". (The Simply Red version works, too.) In fact, that's the song my first partner played for me as my omnipresent jealousy began to extinguish our relationship.

    To the person receiving the signs of jealousy, it's often misconstrued, taken personally, a character flaw. "You don't trust me." I always said it wasn't about him. It was my own insecurity, my need to feel safe, comforted and loved.

    I'm guessing your partner is a very secure and responsive man. While saying something like, "If you need to go, go", I'll bet he clearly showed you he loved you and continued to help you discover your own sense of security in the relationship.

    As for my first partner? He did cheat on me and then bowed out of the relationship. (It wouldn't have lasted anyway.) My other two partners also cheated on me, but I wasn't jealous. In my view, fidelity and security are often quite separate.


  2. Great insights on the very real challenges of jealousy, Rural Gay, in both gay and straight relationships. How many of us crush the very people we love with all our hearts because of our own insecurities?
    Yes, Chris is nothing if not secure. Even when I was an insecure thirty-two year old, and he was only twenty-three. I learned a lot from him, as you can see from this post. And, yes, in every little thing he did, and continues to do, I knew he loved me. I've been so fortunate that way. I'm truly blessed.
    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share and leave a comment. I really appreciate it.

  3. Hey, Rick. My latest post stems from one of yours. I do link directly back to yours so I hope you don't mind. Lots of trippy links to photos from times gone by because I haven't figured out how to paste in several shots in one posting. (I have so many challenges!)


  4. I don't mind at all, Rural Gay. I've already read the post and enjoyed it, especially the links. I'm sure you'll see my two comments.

  5. I really love the way you write, Rick. You're so honest and exposed. It's because of that, that so many of us will learn and grow in our own relationships. THANK YOU!

    I love this story and though I haven't met either of you in person, I can completely envision these interactions.

    Also, I more and more realize how much you-n-Chris have in common with me-n-Skip. Chris is nine years younger than you and was 23 when you met him. I am eight years younger than Skip and was just 22 when we met. (so, either Chris and I chose older, wiser men... or you and Skip robbed the cradle!) (smile)

    We love not because of what we'll get in return, but simply because we love.

    "To Love!!"

  6. I come from a generation raised on talk shows, Donna, (especially Oprah, who I LOVE), so I believe strongly in using my experience to help other people. To do that, I have to write honestly and put myself out there. Some of my family members asked what the hell I was doing, and why I share so much, but I didn't see any point having a blog on the realities of being gay without bringing in people close.

    For many years, I wondered, why me? Why am I gay? Why did I have to go through all this pain? What does it all mean? And, slowly, I began to realize I must use my experiences for the good of others. I must make something good come out of what I believed in my heart was a bad situation. I no longer think that way. I'm gay. So what? Who cares? And I love that I can play a part in helping other gay people see that, too.

    By the way, I think we robbed the cradle. LOL. Actually, Chris told me early on he always saw himself with an older man, because the young men he knew were too flighty. Yup, I agree with that. And I always knew I needed to meet a young man, someone who hadn't been around the block, someone who wasn't cynical and jaded. We're perfect for each other, believe me.

    Your messages about love are both astounding and refreshing. I love what you're about, I really do. It's a pleasure to get to know you.

    Thanks for stopping by.