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Monday 1 September 2014

Dear Patricia: My boyfriend is lovely but I'm secretly scared he's gay

Patricia Redlich

Published 18/04/2010 | 05:00

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PLEASE help. I am scared of ending up as one of those poor women who are married for several years only for it to emerge that her husband is actually gay.

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I am in a new relationship with a lovely guy. Both of us were looking for someone special, and appear to have found what we wanted in each other. We get on very well and the sexual spark between us is good. This is definitely the most successful relationship I have ever had. I keep praying that he is a straight metrosexual. He is from a European background, where appearance is a priority.

He has qualities or traits that are gay. He notices when I change my hairstyle. He is more interested in moisturisers than the average man. He remarks on it if a very good-looking male waiter serves us, likes girlie movies, and is interested in having anal sex with me. I caught him peeing sitting down once and he explained that his mother made him and his brother do this at home for hygiene purposes. He sometimes showers after sex but tells me this is just to get clean. And since I wash myself afterwards too, why shouldn't he?

He does have typical male characteristics too, and he is crazy about my body, can't get enough sex with me. I know that sexuality isn't black and white, and that we should be open to accepting people and not narrow-minded. I have teased him about being bisexual at opportune moments and he shrugs it off without getting upset. He admits he would like to be penetrated anally, but as part of sexual play and not by another man.

He has always told me the truth about things. I've never caught him out in a lie. I sometimes think that he is strong enough and mature enough to face up to being gay, if he were gay. And that he wouldn't hurt me by doing this to me. Or would he? I'm not sure.

Patricia replies:

IF I learned anything in all my years as a therapist, it was that words can fail us when we're trying to describe a feeling that something is wrong. And of course it doesn't just happen in therapy. Think of any argument you might have. You are trying to convey distress to a partner, or friend, or parent, and language renders you a hostage to fortune. The other person ignores the feelings, and takes you up on every word, using what you say to make you seem foolish, or just plain wrong.

I don't want to do that to you. You are not sure of the authenticity of your lover. We can talk about the details -- and I'll do that in a moment -- but I don't want you to bury your instincts, or dismiss your unease, with any discussion at a logical level. It's terribly important to remember that feelings are totally logical too. They just sometimes get lost in translation. Words are all we have, but they can sometimes prove seriously inadequate.

It sounds, on the surface, as though you're simply dealing with modern man. Lots of men notice a different hairstyle -- in fact, they would get into serious trouble if they didn't.

You only have to look at the range of self-care products on sale to realise that there is a brand-new market in men's increasing awareness of moisturisers. And a whole male generation now on the dating scene was reared by feminist mothers, who in the name of hygiene, sought to obliterate obvious male- ness by banning behaviour such as peeing standing up.

What you're really confronted with, of course, is the new openness in relationships. And I think you probably know that I'm not a huge fan. I basically believe that knowing things about which we can do nothing is a burden rather than a blessing. Constant reminders certainly don't help. To take one of your examples, it's trendy now for men to comment on how attractive some other man is, or for women to point out some stunner in a gorgeous dress. It's a sort of game couples play, trying to show that they know how their partner is thinking, making a big thing of not being old-fashioned or jealous, or insecure, or whatever. It's exhausting and unnecessary.

Too much openness -- in your case, perhaps, his fantasies about anal intercourse -- and we end up looking for reassurance. Which is what you are doing.

Basically you're asking your boyfriend to prove he's straight heterosexual. How does he do that? Because what you're really asking him is whether or not he's trustworthy. And nobody on this planet can answer that question satisfactorily. Relationships are ultimately about an act of faith. You have to believe he loves you. And only time will tell whether he does or not. Keep pushing, and you might end up making him feel uncertain about who he really is.

My advice is simple. Stop asking your boyfriend if he's straight. Stop challenging his behaviour. Stop looking for certainty. Right now you can't know anymore. Live with that. Enjoy him. Build a togetherness. Learn over time what he's like as a friend as well as a lover. See if he's kind, generous, responsible, reliable. Be less open to his sexual fantasies if they make you even remotely uncomfortable. Stop pretending to be any more "progressive" than you actually are.

Your boyfriend sounds comfortable with how things are. The point is, you're not. Bring the relationship back within your comfort zone by cutting down on "openness". And wait.

Sunday Independent

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