Monday, January 13, 2014

Request for Advice from Another Reader

Here's another request for advice I received from a reader, this one male, in late December:

So a bit of background.  I'm 23, and he's 30.  Both of us have good jobs.  We started going out three months ago.  After seeing each other since March of this year, we've had some obstacles, but nothing too major.  He is wild with a drink, enjoys a good night out and the odd party pick me up (takes the odd recreational drug, nothing that I worry about at the moment).  We are happy together.  In fact, I'm the happiest I've ever been.

We were out last Saturday with his friends, had a great time, both of us got very drunk.  We then moved to the scene area of the city.  We went into this pub.  I went to get some drinks.  I looked around to see where he was.  I saw him chatting with this other young gay guy (his age close to mine, I think).  When I paid and turned around with the drinks, I saw him head to the toilets with this guy. I went down to the men's toilets, and no one was there.  I then went to the women's toilets, suspecting the worst.  One of the cubicals was locked.  I burst it open to find him and the guy in the cubical (I never caught anything going on).

I punched the other guy and slapped my partner before heading out of the place.  He then followed me home, pleading that he was only about to take a little cocaine. 

I finished that night by talking to my friends in an absolute state of hurt.  They all told me it was a bit of cocaine only and not cheating, but said they would have reacted the same way I did.

So that's the story.  Now we're back together, and I'm struggling to come to terms with what happened.  I just can't get my head around it.

So given the benefit of the doubt here that this was just a bit of cocaine, have I done something wrong?  Should I have concerns?  Why can't I come to terms with it?  I'm happy to hear everything and anything you guys have to say, good and bad.

The only thing I would say is that I am a good person.  I never want to hurt anyone, I just want to happy.  I understand life isn't a bed a roses, but come on…

Help me out, guys.

Thanks for reading.

Here was my response:

Since I read what you wrote a few days ago, I’ve given some thought to how best to answer it.

As you may or may not know, Chris, my partner, and I met in June 1992.  He was twenty-three, the same age you are, and I was thirty-two, nearly the same age as the fellow you’re seeing.  So we’re similar in that way.

I also want to get this out of the way.  I don’t drink alcohol at all, and Chris likes only the occasional glass of wine.  We’ve never been drunk in front of each other, and we’ve never taken recreational drugs.  I don’t drink because my late father was an alcoholic, and I’ve never taken drugs because I've always believed it’s important to be in control of myself at all times and not act out in a way that’s inconsistent with my usual behavior.  Alcohol and drugs add a whole other dimension to a relationship that is often challenging enough without people potentially conducting themselves in an unpredictable and inappropriate way.  That said, I understand people wanting to have a good time.

Okay.  I think the best thing to do is to tell you how Chris and I would have handled the situation you found yourself in.  I’m sure you’ll probably find the answers you’re looking for in that.

Even from the beginning of our relationship, I think Chris and I knew we were “together” and exclusive of each other.  That made a difference in how we conducted ourselves.  It meant we were accountable to each other for what we did.

So let’s say Chris had gone to the bar to get a couple of drinks (like you did), and someone neither of us knew had approached me (like what happened to your partner).  If I had had any intention of following the fellow into the bathroom for whatever reason, I would have let Chris know what I was doing, with whom, and where.  That would have just shown my respect and consideration for him.  I would never have disappeared into the washroom without Chris knowing what was going on.  And if he had said to me he didn’t want me to go, I wouldn’t have gone.  End of story.

If there’s the understanding between you and your partner that you’re coupled, then neither of you is a free agent anymore.  You can’t come and go as you please, especially when you’re out together.  Again, respect and consideration.  What I’m trying to say is, Chris and I would never have found ourselves in the situation you and your partner were in.

Did you react in the best way you could have when you found your partner in the washroom with another guy?  No, of course not, and you know that.  Part of your response was about jealousy and anger.  The other part was about being drunk.  I would never, under any circumstances, hit another guy or slap Chris.  EVER! That’s not the way I roll.  Physical violence never solves anything.  I suspect your response would have been very different if you hadn’t had so much to drink.  But it’s done now.  Chalk this up to a learning experience and never do it again.

At the time Chris and I first got together, we had THE conversation–the one about cheating, having an open relationship, etc.  And both Chris and I said we would never cheat on each other–EVER!–and neither of us would tolerate an open relationship–EVER!  So our relationship was built on a foundation of trust and honesty from the beginning.  Had either Chris or I not been in complete agreement on this point, we wouldn’t be together today.

These were heavy-duty, deal-breaker issues for both of us.  If we didn’t agree, then our relationship would have gone downhill from there.  You can’t go into a relationship expecting to change the other person, because it won’t happen.  Know what you’re getting into from the beginning, and make your decision to stay together or to separate accordingly.

 If you and your partner haven’t had this discussion yet, you should, and right away.  And, if you haven’t talked about what happened in the bar, you should talk about that too.  In detail.  As honestly and openly as possible.  Both of you need to understand what happened, from the other person’s perspective.  And, most importantly, how what happened made you feel.  You need to respect the other person for what he says, even if you don’t agree.  And, based on what you say to each other, you need to decide if what you share can recover from it and go the distance.

Listen, relationships are tested all the time.  Each test is an opportunity to grow closer together or further apart, based on how each of you deals with it.  I can’t tell you if your relationship will last a lifetime.  Only you and your partner can make that decision, based on how you relate to each other after an incident like the one in the bar.

I hope this helps.  I'm happy to talk about it further, if you wish. 

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