Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Love Bear on How to Be a Good Man

I think relationships are important to our lives. As gay men we rarely get the support and advice we need to have successful partnerships. Sometimes when I read the advice given to us, it can come off as arrogant or judgmental. It reads as if we're doing something wrong if we can't keep a man. A lot of times we have been through a series of bad relationships and the whole idea of being coupled can feel uninviting. I understand this inclination and I don't want to tell you what to do. I don't prescribe what is best for anyone. I would, however, like to share my experiences in the hopes that lessons I learned can help someone avoid my mistakes.

Though I have had some serious relationships, with a few lasting for years, only recently have I matured enough to reflect on the things that I have learned. I thought I was an adult in those relationships. I thought I knew how to be a good boyfriend, but when I look back now I think I had it all wrong. Meeting my current partner, a man I have a serious connection with, has taught me that nothing I have experienced before really prepared me for a committed relationship. Mind you,  I loved them all. My past relationships were not mistakes, they were rather successful for where I was in my life at the time. But love feels different when you're right for each other. Even though some of those relationships lasted for years, they were mostly with men I later discovered were incompatible with me. We didn't connect on deeper levels, and there was nothing wrong with that. We were there for each other, we learned from each other, we grew as people and moved on.

When you’re compatible with someone who deeply loves you and you're in love with them in return, you learn a few things. It's still not a walk in the park, but the sacrifices you make for each other are on a whole other level. You act differently, you think as part of a team, you learn how to forgive, you compromise, you support each other in ways you'd never do for a friend. You’re more understanding and accepting of yourself and your man, because your self interests are tied up in his. Instead of just getting frustrated with the way things are, you do something about it.

Male Media Mind grew out of a strong relationship that I shared with it's co-founder James Butler. We had separate blogs that we combined into this one. We still have our individual personal blogs, but clearly M3 is a testament to the synergy that can grow out of a relationship. While we are no longer together romantically, I'm extremely grateful for the lessons I learned from him and we still remain good friends today. I feel that the both of us have grown as individuals because of that relationship and M3 has connected us to more people and expanded our life opportunities in ways we could have never imagined. And while we still continue to grow, I think many of the things that I've learned from my current relationship have opened my eyes to what a relationship should look like, at least for me. I'm hopeful that some of the things I've learned will be helpful to you. 

Misunderstandings are Inevitable
Misunderstandings are going to happen. It can be a shock to the system when someone you so deeply connect with misunderstands you when you believe you're being clear. Learn from that experience and move on. If you take your partner’s words one way, then learn that they meant something totally different, don’t punish them. Let it go. Bringing it up in conversation, or even in your mind, over and over is only going to damage the relationship. Sometimes what you say or do will be taken the wrong way. You’ll get frustrated that he doesn’t understand you. Take a step back and realize that this is an opportunity to grow your relationship. He may never see things the way you do and ultimately it's not a big deal. Misunderstandings are proof that you're being honest with each other. Usually, they are minor. Make sure to keep it that way. 

Trust is Key
You have to trust your partner. Not everyone deserves your trust. This is something that builds over time. Don't let your fears get the better of you. Once he has shown you who he is, trust your observations. Why would you share a life with someone you don't trust? Why would you be with a man who doesn't trust you? If you don’t trust him to be faithful, honest, caring, or anything else, then you’re in the wrong relationship. The best relationships start with a deep trust in each other that allows them to be honest and open with each other. It's a deeply humbling experience to have someone in your life who knows who you are and believes in you. When misunderstandings arise, this deeper understanding of each other will be what gets you through.

Let Yourselves Miss Each Other
I have a tendency to be clingy. When I'm in love with someone I want to spend all my waking hours with him. I want to cuddle all day and watch movies together all night. To me this makes perfect sense, but what about giving each other some space to grow? He is still an autonomous human being with his own needs, likes, and desires. Those are the things that made you fall in love with him in the first place. Let him be alone and spend time doing the things he loves without you. When you're together let him do the things he wants or needs to do without always interrupting him. When you let each other grow while still in a relationship, there are more things you can continue to bring to the table. It keeps your interest in each other alive. 

Encourage Growth and Change
In a good relationship, both partners encourage each other to grow and change. You have one life to live and you should explore it to the fullest. You grow to resent someone who holds you back from fulfilling your potential. Your love for someone grows when they support you in your life's ambition. If you want to quit your job and go back to school, your partner should support you. If you want to try a new career or start a small business, you should find support in your relationship. You should give this support in return, not because you feel like you owe him, but because you want to. Encourage him to explore his hobbies and interests. Don't keep him from meeting new people and trying new things. If you want your partner to stay the same, you’re going to have a boring life together.

Compromise Does Not Mean You’re Weak
Compromising doesn’t mean you're a pushover. It doesn’t mean that you’ve lost a fight. In fact, it’s the opposite. Do you know how hard it is to compromise? Very few people are good at accepting culpability for their faults or accepting not getting their way. You want your way because you're an individual, but if you want your relationship to work you're going to have to learn to fight your solitary instincts. You may know deep in your heart that you're right and it makes sense to you no matter how you look at it. Your partner is way off base with his suggestions and you know he's wrong. Take a step back and look at the argument diplomatically. What’s the real goal here? Are you trying to be right or do you want to be happy? If your partner is right, don’t be afraid to say so. If he is wrong accept that their point of view is as valid as your own. You can work on ways to modify both of your perspectives to try to meet in the middle. You have to remember how happy this person makes you and let it go. The important thing is not necessarily getting your way all the time, but staying in your relationship and helping it grow. 

Admit Your Weaknesses
Your partner doesn’t expect you to be a superhero, and hopefully you don’t expect that from him. Allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of him. We want to be loved for who we are, and we all have flaws. It’s more than acceptable to let these show to your partner. In fact, to have a stable, serious relationship, you have to let your weaknesses be known. One of the most gratifying aspects of a relationship is truly being honest. Within reason, you should tell him things about yourself you'd never tell anyone else. You should show him your flaws and ask for his acceptance of them. Your partner will be more sensitive to things that bother you and can help build you up in areas where you need some help. You should do the same for him and feel honored when he opens up to you.

You Can't Fix Everything
We all have baggage. Some of it is harder to let go than others. Some of it is so much a part of our identity that it feels like it will kill us if we try. Can you go back and erase all of the pain of your past relationships? It would be foolish to think that you could. It is part of who you are now and you’re stuck with it. We have to learn to deal with the things we cannot change in ourselves and in our partner. Some things are easier to get over than others, but the reality is that sometimes you can’t fix things. You can’t make problems go away. You have to accept them and get over them and move on or else your relationship will suffer.

Forgive Quickly and Completely
Whenever you have a fight, and you will fight, don’t worry about who wins or loses. Learn from the experience, learn about what set him or yourself off. Figure out what was so threatening to you or him and try to understand why. Figure out how the argument was resolved and try to repeat that solution for future arguments. Once you learn from a fight, you can apply that lesson to your relationship not only to avoid trouble later, but also to grow closer to one another. Even after all the problems are resolved and you're back to getting along, your work isn't over. He hurt you. He made you feel like shit. He made you mad or feel worthless or stupid and sometimes even after the issue is resolved you can still feel the lingering emotions deep inside. Forgive him. Now! You may not realize it but those lingering emotions after the conflict is resolved will only create more problems in the future. Forgive yourself for being vulnerable. The fight is over, you’re past it, you've both worked through the issue together, now is the time to let the pain go. Never hold anything against your partner because the resentment will build until you don’t want to be with him anymore.

Don't expect anything
The fastest way to kill your relationship is to let other people tell you want your man should be doing for you. He is his own person. Take him for who he is and don't let anyone else tell you who he "should" be. On the flip side, don’t expect your man to read your mind. You need to let him know what you need and want out of your relationship. If you need to get spanked or tied up, then you better not be ashamed to ask for it. Do you want him to bring you breakfast in bed on your birthday, or to make the coffee when he gets up before you? Do you need him to offer to wash the dishes when you are too tired? It’s not going to happen unless you ask for it. You can’t expect anything from him, you can only ask for it. And remember he's an autonomous human being who has the right to say no. Try to understand who he is. You chose to be with him because of who he is rather than who you want him to be. Communicate effectively. Make sure your partner knows what you expect from the relationship, as well as your opinions on a wide variety of issues. This will help them act considerate towards you, but still don’t expect him to be or do anything that isn't a part of his unique innate character.

Show your feelings
The worst thing you can do in a relationship is play games. Don’t tease your partner; don’t “reward” him with love and affection, don't belittle him for being upset at something that doesn't bother you. You have to make sure your partner always feels loved even when you disagree or are upset with him. You can be happy or mad, it makes no difference, he needs to feel loved. He needs to know you support him in the moment as well as for the long haul. Don’t get me wrong, you have to let him know when he's done wrong and work on overcoming disagreements, but don't try to punish him. He's not a dog, never rub his face in his mistakes. He isn't a child, even when he acts like one, you give him the respect he deserves. You aren't training him. Make sure you’re showing your feelings in a way that doesn't feel like a threat to the relationship, but don't hide your anger either. Be clear about the times he upsets you and tell him why.

Male Media Mind