(This is a 3-part series about relationships among gay men in Singapore.)
Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
As I grew older, I realised that if someone with whom I have a relationship with decides to leave, I shouldn’t take things personally when they do so. People have preferences about what they look for in a partner and we have to respect that. Sometimes they might take a bit longer to realise that we are not the person that they are looking for – and so they might initially develop a relationship with us, and when they do eventually decide to leave, we have to respect that. Because, we do the same to other people and that means we would be in a position to understand why another person would do the same. It’s what empathy is about.
Over the past few years, I’ve met guys and go on ‘dates’. We might hug and kiss at the first meeting. And sometimes, after the first meeting, these guys would disappear. They might do so because they might have realised that perhaps I might not be the guy that was what they were looking for. Or, they might have met someone else whom they might feel is more compatible. And that’s fine. I’ve learnt to respect that and not to take it personally. Them not wanting to see me anymore doesn’t say anything about me. It does mean that they simply have their preferences, and you have to look beyond yourself to respect their preferences.
Over the past few years, I’ve similarly met some guys and became the person who did the same thing to them. We would kiss and/or hug on the first meeting but I would stop contacting them after that. To the guys whom I might have done this to, I’m sorry for what I did. I had done so because sometimes, after the meeting, I had thought that we might have shown physical affection for one another, but on hindsight, I hadn’t know enough about them, and might feel that they could be unsuitable. Though sometimes, it could be because I might not have gotten over myself and might be worried that I would be hurt somehow if I had gotten involved, for whatever reason – something I’m still trying to understand – and so I refrain from being involved. And for the most part, I might have withdrawn because in a way, I was tired of the process of meeting people and having nothing turned out, so I left before I had to come face to face with the situation. So, I understand what I was doing to others, and similarly, I understood what others were doing to me – which helped me to understand why they did what they did, and to forgive them for doing so.
But it doesn’t mean that just because I knew what I did and because I did them, it would make what I did more right and which is thus why I would accept what others did. What it means is that I am still learning and that I’m trying to learn to find ways to act in responsibly a way as I can, so that I do not allow someone else, or myself to get hurt. And as I meet more people, I try to refine my thoughts, actions and behaviours with each new thing that I am able to learn and understand, so that I can treat others with respect as well.
For example, I would refrain from going for movie dates with someone for the first time, as I would prefer to get to know them first. A movie date would have made it easier for affectionate actions to take place. In the event that I do meet someone for a movie date for the first time, I would refrain from being affectionate with them. The reason why I refrain from being affectionate is because being affectionate similarly fast tracks the feelings that we have for one another, either from one party or both. When we do not know each other, the physical intimacy gives the illusion that you are closer than you actually are, when in fact, you don’t actually know each other. But because you had been intimate, you think it gives you reason for you to move the relationship faster than you should. Then, similarly, this fast tracking will necessarily result in the same issues, as described in the previous parts of the story – that when you truly get to know someone on an emotional and psychological level, once the physical intimacy wears off, you might take a second look at whether this is something you want.
I’ve learnt too that sometimes, when we go on dates, we might show physical affection for someone else because we might be ‘lonely’, for example. So when we meet someone for the first time, for an activity which might occur in a potentially intimate setting, such as at the movies or karaoke room, because of the setting, it might make it easier for us to become intimate. Even though logically, we know that we do not actually have anything more to do with the person, except to be meeting for the first time and are basically strangers, but because of the ‘conducive’ environment, it caters to the ease of physical intimacy.
It is important for us to realise that when we show physical intimacy with this new person, for most of the time, it’s not because we actually like him, but because we might start romanticising about the situation that we are in, as well as about the person, and this thus leads us to imagining a temporal romance with the person – we might thus hug or kiss this new person whom we had just met. It is important for us to understand that this isn’t love, neither is it a liking that we have for that person, or that he had for us. Most of the time, it’s because of this temporal romance that we have created.
So, if we understand this, we would know not to feel hurt or be upset if the person might stop contact. Our temporal dream romance fades away as soon as the meeting or ‘date’ is over, and when that happens, we wake up, realise what we have done and with a clearer understanding, we might think that actually, we might not actually be interested in the person – and this works both ways. So, if someone ‘disappears’ after the first date, even with the physical intimacy involved, we would need to have the understanding to respect why they might do so.
Of course, in some instances, some people might be uncomfortable with us being intimate with them but they might not have known how to let us know and have allowed us to continue to be intimate, then if they decide not to keep in touch thereafter, hopefully, we have to awareness to realise that. There was this one time when I had met a guy to watch a movie. I had hugged him inside the cinema. I had assumed that he liked me because he had allowed me to hug him. But on hindsight, I realised that he didn’t. In fact, thereafter, as I started thinking through, I realised that he hadn’t actually hugged me back. In fact, he was shifting in his seat as he was quite uncomfortable! With that understanding, I realised then that I had created my own dream scenario. Naturally, my immediate reaction was – but when didn’t he stop me! Why didn’t he let me know? Naturally as well, how rude would it have been if he had told me to stop hugging him, when we were not even halfway through the movie? It would have been awkward, wouldn’t it? It would have also been embarrassing for the both of us (especially for me!), and I would actually have to thank him for simply doing what he did – nothing. He had made the best decision he thought he should, weighing all factors. And if I can understand and not allow myself to be personally upset, I would know that I should respect what he had done.
For some guys, when they meet each other for the first time, and decide to get ‘attached’, sometimes they also have sex with each other on that first ‘date’. As described, this fast tracks the ‘relationship’. It makes you think that you are closer to the person, because of the sex, when in actuality, you guys might be physically more open now, but mentally and emotionally, those growth haven’t taken place. But we don’t see the closeness that we develop with someone separately – in physical, emotional and psychological components – we have the idea that just because we are physically close, somehow we are also emotionally and psychologically close, or at least we create the idea that it is. So we assume that just by having sex, we have become closer with someone. But as we get to know each other, the gap in our emotional and psychological understanding, with the physical closeness, is narrowed, and this new understanding might either strengthen the relationship or make us have doubts in the relationship – which is why now, I try to refrain from physical intimacy.
There are also times when I have chatted with a person and thought that this person might be someone whom a relationship can be developed with, if we get to know each other further. Sometimes, when we meet, we end up having sex. When that happens, I would usually rationalise that things might not progress further. Firstly, depending on the interaction, I might realise that the guy could have been mainly looking for sex. There is, of course, the possibility that I might have cut short further potential interaction, because of my assumption that a person who has sex with you at the first instance aren’t serious about developing a further relationship. See, sometimes, I wonder – if someone is seriously interested to know me further, he would want to get to know me by having a conversation with me first, of all things, wouldn’t he? He wouldn’t allow sex to influence our understanding of each other. This is also one reason my expectations of the possibility of developing anything with someone is much lowered if we have sex at the first meeting – any further understanding of each other would be compromised by our assumptions about each other, because of the sexual interaction. But this is by no means, illustrative of all first meetings where sex occurred.
However, for younger guys or guys who are less experienced, the following is something to be taken note of. Recently, my friend met a guy who asked him out for dinner. Later into the date, the guy started to ask him for sex. My friend is interested in a relationship and wasn’t looking for sex, so he declined. Having heard that, the guy suggested that they could have sex first and develop it into a relationship from there. I was considerably irate when I heard that. When I was younger, many guys had used the same tactic on me as well. For my first anal sex experience, the guy had told me that he loved me – we had only met for the first time – and he told me that he loved me and that I should let him do it. I did. That wasn’t the last time I allowed myself to believe when someone used this tactic. I’m a person who continues to believe, even if something has happened which I should have learnt from, but when faced with the same situation time after time, I would allow the same thing to happen. Some people might call this gullible. Some would be harsher and said I was stupid – though I am no longer as slow to learning! In any case, many guys whom I had met had said the same thing – if you love me, you would do it – that was the case for the first oral sex that I had given; or let’s have sex first, and we can develop from there. From my experience, most of the time, this means that it would be sex first and then it would be lead to – nothing.
So, for you guys out there, if this is a tactic that you use – “let’s have sex first and then we can start a relationship” – and if you jolly well know that you would most probably not take it further, then please, stop it. It’s disgusting. It’s not a nice thing to do. There are many young guys who will believe you though ironically, these are the boys whom you want to ‘trick’ anyway. And because of you and other similar experiences that they might subsequently undergo, you are the reason why they eventually stop believing in relationships and start becoming like you.
If you no longer believe in relationships because of your own bad experience, please do not get someone else stuck in the same rut as you. If you had a bad experience, you learn from it, and you learn to move out and on from it. Please do not let someone else go through the same hurt that you had gone through. This is especially so for our young gay guys. You have a responsibility as an older guy person to protect them, or to impart knowledge to them. As it is, many gay men are ‘jaded’ with the gay community. And if we have any decency, we will help protect the younger boys and guide them on a path which they can recreate to being one that we had hoped for but did not get to achieve in our generation. This is the least we could do. So, we should at least have the decency to do that.
I am sharing this story because I hope that you would be able to have an awareness and understanding as to how you enter relationships and develop them. I hope that you would understand that it is important for you to learn to love yourself first, and be able to accept yourself, so that you can develop fulfilling relationships with someone else. I also hope that you would be able to understand the judgments that we sometimes have when someone decides to leave us, and if we have an awareness of why we have them, especially when we understand why we might behave in the same way as they would if in their shoes, we would be better able not to allow these judgments to take place by accepting others as they are, and respecting their preferences and decisions.
Finally, older gay men have a responsibility to the younger generation and the gay community. You have a responsibility to be aware and learn from your experiences. And you have a responsibility to use your experience to guide the younger gay guys and to guide then along. You also have a responsibility to protect them from behaviours or actions that might cause them to feel hurt, as you had in the past. And you have a responsibility to not be the one to cause this hurt to them. We have a responsibility to the gay community, because as we were growing up, we had hoped that someone else could be there for us. We didn’t have that opportunity. The least we could do is to give the younger generation this opportunity.
Indeed, for many young gay guys, when we had first started looking for love, we didn’t know of anyone else to look to or to learn from. We didn’t know of other gay guys with satisfying relationships with which we could learn from. And so, we become influenced in ways which are less than favorable – by people who didn’t know better themselves. Recently, I had met younger guys who had to go through relationships like this. But they don’t have to. I took more than 10 years to learn, and as you can see, I am still learning. So I hope that for those younger than me, they don’t have to take as long a time as I did, that they could learn to love themselves sooner, so that they can have the opportunity to find the guy who would care for them sooner, and continue to have hope for the gay community, and to guide their next generation along. I hope that by sharing with you what I had been through and the experiences that I had to learn from, you won’t have to make the same mistakes that I had, and be able to find fulfillment and joy in your life at an earlier stage than I had in my life.
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