So when I received an email in mid-January from Nathan David, a 24-year-old young man, proposing to collaborate with me…well, I confess I was doubtful I'd be interested. It wasn't until I took a close look at his website, "Rings of Equality," that not only was I impressed with what he's doing, but also I saw the overlap between our websites. And a collaboration to help both of us achieve our common goals might just be a good idea.
The agreement Nathan and I struck was that I would provide an essay for "Rings of Equality"–which I did recently, called "Eventually Yesterday"–and he would provide one for "This Gay Relationship," titled "The Missing Piece," which you'll find below.
What Nathan's done in a few hundred words is take us from his high school years to the present, as one half of a four-year-long relationship. I was surprised by Nathan's honesty and candor, as I think you will be. Clearly, he's not afraid to share personal details about his journey as a young, gay man, in the hope of inspiring others to be better versions of themselves.
I'm sure you'll enjoy reading "The Missing Piece" as much as I've enjoyed bringing it to you. And my thanks, Nathan, for having the courage to approach me and for your contribution to "This Gay Relationship." I appreciate it.
High school was difficult for me, like I think it is for most teens. I worked hard to be popular and was continually driven to accumulate more “friends.” Regardless of what I did or how I moved up the social ladder, there was always a piece missing in my life.
Often at night, I found myself staring at the ceiling, thinking, “Why am I not happy?” After many nights of deep reflection, I realized I didn’t have any friends because I was not being honest with anyone–including myself. I had become a master of hiding the true me in an effort to gain acceptance. Armed with this knowledge, I slowly learned to accept myself. “I am gay, and there is nothing wrong with that” became my mantra.
With this newfound love for myself, I gained the confidence to share who I am with family and friends. Although not everyone’s reaction was ideal, I felt closer to finding the missing piece. Inspired by a new feeling of closeness with those who are important to me, I entered college as a fully-out gay man.
College was a clean slate. No one knew about my past, and people came to know the true me, with my sexuality forming only one aspect of my overall identity. No longer was I known as “Nathan who used to be straight.” I was just plain “Nathan,” and I liked it that way.
So why did I still feel something was missing? Although not as large, I knew it wasn’t there. And, once again, I found myself up at night, staring at the ceiling. This time, the mission became finding a boyfriend.
Unfortunately, I did not see the parallels between this and my focus in high school to collect friends. I was a man on a mission, and my criteria for prospective partners were subpar, to say the least. I found myself getting into toxic relationships, where the focus was on making out and sex rather than compatibility and intimacy. I saw every gay man as another potential partner and completely lost sight that perhaps we could just be friends.
Over time, my approach evolved, and I moved from being promiscuous to establishing monogamous relationships with little compatibility. The missing piece remained missing.
Finally, I decided to stop the hunt. In my desperation, I entered relationships that were not constructive. I replaced my external search for fulfillment with a focus on myself. I received counseling and reflected on what was important to me, including the impact I wanted to have on the world. I realized I was still putting too much stake in what others thought of me and what society expected. I believed I was well on my way to self-acceptance but quickly learned I had significantly more work to do.
As time passed and I focused on myself, an interesting thing happened. I started talking with a nice boy in one of my classes. We chatted about homework, life, goals, and values. We became friends. And, one day, I realized we truly cared about each other. I felt something I hadn’t with the other guys, something beyond attraction. It was compatibility and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of each other. Unlike with other guys, we took it slow and started dating after several months.
That was over four years ago, and our relationship has been far from perfect. On countless occasions, we’ve had disagreements, almost breaking up a couple of times.
What I’ve come to realize is no relationship is perfect; every couple has conflicts. But the true test is how you deal with this friction. Do you blow up at each other, or do you ignore the problem? (We’ve done both, and neither turned out well.) Or do you use these conflicts as catalysts for change and growth?
Believe me, this is harder than it sounds, but it’s worth the struggle. As imperfect as our relationship is, we continually work to grow our love and help each other achieve his goals.
Ultimately, I think two things have made our relationship last: our shared values and our efforts to improve communication. As time passes and we work on our relationship, the number of good times increases. Every year, we spend more time enjoying each other’s company and doing the things we both like to do.
Now, my relationship is a support system for my self-development. It feels good to be encouraged as I face the next set of challenges: health, work, faith, and social issues. At this moment, these challenges make up my missing piece. And, every day, I work on them to become whole.