Things You Only Know If Your Boyfriend Turns Out To Be Gay
The Debrief: He's hurting as much as you, and it's totally not your fault (obviously)
If you open a new tab on your computer and type the words ‘is my boyfriend’ into Google, the next word that appears in that sentence will be ‘gay’. Most of the time, this search term ranks above ‘is my boyfriend cheating on me’, which was oddly comforting when my relationship with my gay ex-boyfriend ended. I wasn't the only one.
Like most twentysomethings, we met through friends at university and bonded over a mutual love of all the usual things: good TV shows, sad songs, and dancing into the early hours. After bumping into each other and occasionally flirting for the best part of a year, we started working at the same pub and consequently spent a lot of time together.
One thing led to another. Christmas break led to a New Year’s Eve party, where we had our first kiss. We spent the first few months hanging out, swapping stories and getting to know each other like any other couple, regardless of gender or sexual preference.
We shared a bed most nights but didn’t sleep together for a long time, and not through a lack of me trying. ‘Perhaps he wants to take it slow,’ I told myself; after all, we had both had our fair share of heartache.
The break up was eventful. Rumours were flying around that he’d been sleeping with someone else – a guy – just before we started dating, and that he was still in love with him. I asked him about it on several occasions, but he brushed it off and insisted it was just malicious gossip.
I tried to forget about the whole thing, but a few weeks later the rumours reared up again while we were at a party and we stumbled out into the street screaming at each other. We put the entire cast of EastEnders to shame. I didn’t want to yell at him, but it was all falling out of my mouth faster than I could stop it. I didn’t know that he was struggling with his sexual identity.
Fast forward to today. We’re friends, we’re happy and we still like the same dumb things. The only difference is that I’m straight and he’s gay.
If he doesn’t want you to know, you won’t know
I want to clear this one up first, because it’s often the first thing people ask me when I tell them that I have a gay ex-boyfriend. It’s also a narrow-minded observation because unfortunately stereotypes run deep in our society. He didn’t walk around swaddled in a rainbow flag. I never walked in on him with another man. He didn’t have a penchant for gay bars. Even if all of the above applied to our relationship, I still wouldn’t assume he was gay unless he told me otherwise.
I knew he’d had previous relationships – to my knowledge all of those relationships had been with women, and that was that, no questions asked. To the outside world we had a ‘normal’ relationship; we listened to Dylan in the kitchen, watched Frasier in bed, developed in-jokes (option 3 *wink*), texted each other when we were apart and all the other little things that couples do.
It’s not you, it’s him
It’s an age-old excuse but, in this scenario, no truer words apply. If you’re reading this and suspect your partner might be gay, the last thing you should be doing is blaming yourself, but unfortunately it’s a natural reaction. Years down the line, you might laugh about it as we do now (‘OF COURSE you didn’t want to sleep with me!’), but at the time, the confusion will hurt both of you.
I doubted myself during and after the relationship because my ex didn’t come out until much later. I spent a long time blaming myself because it wasn’t a clean cut ‘OK, he’s gay and I can’t change that’ scenario – it was complicated and I thought it was my fault, which of course, it wasn’t. You obviously can’t ‘turn’ somebody’s sexual preference any more than you can willingly change your own, it just is what it is.
He will be suffering more than you know
Insecurities, religion, family, circumstance, prejudice at work… there are so many reasons why people don’t come out of the closet, and why people deny to themselves that they’re gay. Some people know who they are from birth; others need a little more time to figure it out.
At the time, he was going through something huge. He didn’t know who he was, and when he did, he wasn’t ready for everyone else to know. I tried to be as understanding as possible, but in the process, I was being pulled along through the pain of it, too.
He’d be the first to admit that he should have called time on our relationship before the rumours surfaced, but once they emerged, I think he felt relief – it was an easier way to end it without having to come out when he wasn’t ready.
It’s OK to not be OK
I wasn’t angry when we broke up because, even though he didn’t come out immediately, I knew. That doesn’t mean I skipped away unharmed; I was never going to hold his sexual identity against him, but the lies combined with feeling de-sexualised took time to get over.
Ego bruised, I actively sought out someone who’d expressed an interest in some late night fooling around because I needed to firmly re-establish my own sexuality. Probably not the best idea I’ve ever had, but certainly not the worst either.
You can totally be friends
It took months to build back the trust to a point that we could be friends again, but I’ve always believed that if you think you can salvage a friendship, you should at least give it a chance. Looking back on our relationship now, I can’t believe we were ever anything other than friends.
My ex gets on like a house on fire with my boyfriend, we talk about our aspirations over drinks, and although we don’t dance into the early hours as often as we used to, we still like the same sad songs. Without feeling sexually attracted to someone, that connection is what friendships are built on.
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