(This is a 3-part series about relationships among gay men in Singapore.)
Part 1 can be found here.
When we develop a relationship with someone without knowing him properly (as some of us would say, to ‘rush’ or ‘jump’ into a relationship), most of the time it would be because we we trying to satisfy some internal need or emotion within us. We need to understand what this is. Is it because we are lonely, have not accepted ourselves fully or do not love ourselves enough, and which is why we hope to find someone to fulfill this inner need? We need to understand this. And when we do, we need to understand how we can overcome them and how we can learn to love ourselves and be stronger.
It’s true when they say you need to love yourself before you can love someone else. If we don’t love ourselves, we will mainly seek out someone else whom we hope can love us – and replace the love that we should have learnt to love ourselves with. When we seek out a substitute for our self love, we might then not really love that person whom we seek out but make that person into someone they are not. We might imagine him to be someone else who he is not – someone else whom we hope he is – and think of this imaginary him as the person who is loving us. Eventually, when it comes to a point when we start to really get to know him, we might decide that we don’t actually love him anymore – because he isn’t the person we thought he is – or wanted him to be.
We had started on the wrong foot. We jumped the gun – we didn’t get to know a person first to find out more about the person. When we really get to know a person, only then will we stop seeing him as what we imagine him to be and see him for who he is know. At that point, we will come to a point where we will start thinking if this is someone we want to be with for the rest of our lives.
And this is why, sometimes, relationships don’t work out, and why we keep getting in and out of relationships. This is also how, because of our wrong footing, which result in relationships which didn’t work out, we thus start developing negative perceptions of the gay community and the future of our lives as a gay person. But, this doesn’t have to be – if we start off on the right footing – by learning to love ourselves.
What can we do then? This means that we need to first be aware of ourselves and our actions. We need to understand how we feel about ourselves and about us being gay, and work towards achieving acceptance and love for ourselves. If you cannot accept yourself as a gay person, then how will you be able to go into a relationship with another gay person and be able to feel comfortable with it? You might start to have doubts about not only yourself, but the relationship as well. So, we need to learn to accept and love ourselves, and believe in ourselves. We need to work on ourselves first.
I’ve heard many times about how a guy is unsure about himself and whether he is able to accept himself. Yet, he hopes to develop a relationship with someone else. I find this worrying, because, how do we hope this relationship will turn out if we do not believe in ourselves, or in whether we actually believe in a relationship? If he goes into a relationship with another person, what he does and think will necessarily affect the other person’s life path, and we do have to also be responsible for their life journey. I have also heard of – in fact, I had thought similarly in the past – that since I don’t love myself, I will look for someone else to love me, so that I can learn to love myself. In most likelihood, that won’t happen.
If we don’t learn to love ourselves, a person coming into our life might spur us into loving ourselves, if we are able to be motivated to do so because of their patient in encouraging us. But that means we need to have the willingness and belief to work towards it. But what if we attract someone who similarly is unable to love himself? What if we are both feeding off each other? Where will it head towards? Based on my personal experience, you have to work on loving yourself, before you can enrich the relationship you form with someone else. A person might come into your life to spur you on, but you cannot rely on that to be the main source of teaching for you to love yourself. You have to have the commitment and willingness to start by working on loving yourself.
When we meet someone, we should give ourselves time to get to know the person. If we want to rush into a relationship, we need to be aware that most of the time, it’s not because we truly love the person (we don’t know the person yet!), but it’s because we have a craving for our inner emotion to be filled. So, take a step back, be aware of it and slow down – stop thinking about yourself and start being aware of the person in front of you. Start getting to know him, to hear what he’s saying and start having a conversation with him. Start understanding what he is saying, what he is interested in, what his beliefs are, and really, who he is. And then you will start knowing him, and start seeing him for who he is. Then you will know if this is the guy you want to be with.
When I first started getting to know guys, I was jumping into a relationship with every guy I meet. Every time, after a week or two, or maybe a month, they would then leave and ‘disappear’. Soon, I was doing the same thing to other guys – I was jumping into relationships with them and then I would disappeared. I had learnt to do what the other guys had done to me. It was because I was afraid that these guys would leave me before I did, and so I ‘preempted’ their move by doing so first – before they had the chance to hurt me, or so I thought.
But it was also because as I started meeting more people and jumping into a relationship every time, I started to have a realisation. I might want to jump into every relationship, but I don’t actually like everyone whom I jump into a relationship with! And because I started realising that I might not actually like the people I was jumping into relationships with, I started disappearing. (And I am sorry. I wish I could go back and say sorry to the guys but I didn’t know fully what I was doing and I didn’t know how to say sorry, because I didn’t know what I was sorry about.)
But what was happening, as I understand them now, was that even though I was beginning to realise that I don’t really like some of the guys I had met, I was still looking for someone to fulfill my inner need to be loved. Gradually, I was realising that what I was doing was to create the feeling of love with each new person I meet, to satisfy my need for love, more so than develop a relationship with someone because of the genuine love I feel for him.
Yet, I should have learnt to love myself, and not look for someone else to love me. It just doesn’t work that way. And so, after one or two weeks, I would disappear from their lives. I was a jerk, in their eyes. But in mine, I was leaving someone who I didn’t like, who I was hoping can fulfill my inner need. I had dissonance with myself.
There were also some guys whom I had disappeared from whom I had actually liked, but because I didn’t believe in myself and thought lowly of myself, I left because I felt I wasn’t good enough. I had low self esteem and this was partly a result of the meetings with the guys whom I had met initially and who ‘disappeared’. I had thought that I wasn’t good enough and that something must be wrong with me, which might have explained why they had left. I might not know how to love and that’s why they had left! I was boring! It was only when I became much older, when I became of age of some of their ages, did I realise that perhaps they didn’t know what they wanted or were doing, and thus left without a word, because they didn’t know how to explain why they had wanted to leave. Only then, with this realisation, did I learn how to forgive them and then, myself.
So, back to the boy whom I had met today. He was crying from just breaking off with his ‘boyfriend’ of three weeks. They had gotten together immediately, after their first meeting. And then his ‘boyfriend’ had disappeared after three weeks. From what I had explained so far, you should know by now, why this happened, what not to do, and what to do when you face a similar situation. The boy that he had met might have been uncertain about what he wants and eventually decided to leave. They had also entered into a relationship too quickly without truly getting to know each other and one, or the other, might then realise that this relationship wasn’t what they had wanted.
But how was he to cope with the hurt? His friends had told him’, “This guy is only one guy. There are so many other guys in the ocean. He’s not worth it.” I smiled and said, “That sounds like just a bit of an angry way of looking at it.”
I asked him, “Have you done the same before? Have you disappeared from someone’s life before?” He said yes. And I asked, “Then you would remember why you had done it, and similarly why this guy had wanted to leave.” Truth is, this guy would most probably have ‘disappeared’ because he realised that this relationship might not be what he wanted, and he didn’t know how to explain to this boy, so he left quietly. See, if a guy doesn’t think that things might work out between us, he wouldn’t tell us! We wouldn’t tell someone if we think that things might not work out. We wouldn’t know how to! We would speak to our friends, wouldn’t we? And even if we had felt sorry about leaving, we would keep quiet because we just don’t know how to put it across. And we didn’t want to look like the bad guy.
So, I asked him, “Isn’t it hypocritical of us to want someone to explain to us and not ‘hurt’ us when they leave us, when we don’t do the same to someone else we leave? If we would do the same to someone else, isn’t it hypocritical for us not to understand?” Sometimes, we get upset because of our ego. We think only about ourselves and how others should meet our needs. And we get upset because we want to feel surrounded by our inner sadness, to feel that we are important, in some way. We give ourselves too much credit and we think that everything is about us, just a bit too much.
I told him not to take the ‘break-up’ personally. I told him that this is part and parcel of us getting to know people, and when it is time, we would move away from each other’s lives and meet other people. We need to be aware that people have preferences and when they realise that we might not be what they are looking for, they might decide to leave. And we have to respect that. Because we do the same to other people! So, we need to have empathy to understand others, also because we would do the same and would wish that others understand us as well.
I was quite blunt to him as I said what I said next – “What you have with him is not love. You do not know him. You got into a relationship immediately after meeting. What do you know about him? You only know him for 3 weeks. This is not love. It’s a feeling that you had created because you want the feeling of love. This isn’t love.” And if you remember what had been said so far, you would understand why I had said this.
As I learnt more about myself and my actions and behaviours to others, I learnt that if someone were to leave me, I would like to be able to know why the person did so. So, I thought to myself that if I were to have to leave someone, I would need to be responsible to explain to him why I thought I had to leave. But how should you do that? Should you tell someone that you think that he is not compatible or that he is not the person that you are looking for? That would sound hurtful, wouldn’t it? This is the main reason why many of would shy away from explaining, because we wouldn’t be able to handle the reaction of how the person would feel if we had told them that.
Eventually, I learnt to explain that I am still unsure about what I want, and so I think it might be good if I leave because that’s the responsible thing to do. I might also explain that after getting to know someone further, I might think that it might be better for us to ‘slow down’ and get to know each other first, before developing further. I had tried to frame things to be as a result of my perspective of myself, because of my uncertainty of myself, as it would be more acceptable to put the uncertainty on me than to think of the rationale as lying in someone else. Truth is, we need to know that we play a part in a relationship, and we need to admit that.
Similarly, I know that when people choose to leave me, they might not know how to explain their reason for wanting to do so, so since I would have an understanding as to why they might want to leave, I have learnt to respect that they have their reasons, and why it might feel difficult for them to have to explain to me their reasons. So, I have learnt to let it go, and accept that they have to leave. Most importantly, having an understanding and respect for their leaving allows us to move on with acceptance.
In the next part, we will look into what happens during dates and how we can manage them better.
Part 3 of can be found here.