Friday, February 03, 2006

A Relationship Dynamic With Mr. Right

So I’ve been seeing someone.

About two months ago, I allowed myself to start “dating”. Several months before that, I had been wrestling with the concept of being both gay and Christian, and now I’m much more comfortable with the person I am - a Christ-centered gay guy who is simply trying to love God and others more properly. Part of this dynamic includes the prospect of entering into a romantic relationship.

As I’m becoming more and more familiar with the gay culture, I’m discovering that physical affection and even sexual connection is not uncommon early on in the get-to-know-you process. Is that what I’m wanting? I’ll admit that, having done my time in the closet, I do long for a certain kind of touch from another guy. But does accepting myself as a gay man mean that it’s okay for me to be a part of that gay culture that seems so liberal with physical and sexual intimacy? Do I have to redefine my values based on what is common among other gay men in “relationships”?

This is the first time I’ve allowed myself to go on dates with another guy and pursue a potential romance so I realize that I’ve got a lot to learn about dating and relationships. I’ve talked before about “Mr. Right” and the kind of guy I’m looking for. But in this process, I’m learning a lot more of what I’m wanting in a relationship . . . .

We haven’t defined anything yet between the two of us. We don’t consider ourselves “in a relationship” with each other. We’re simply “seeing each other”. We’re getting to know each other. We’re going on dates. But it’s also okay for either of us to go on dates with other people. We’re not exclusive.

Sometime during the first week of seeing each other, we had the talk about “sex”. Maybe it was a newbie mistake, breaking some kind of “Do’s and Don’ts” dating rules, but I wanted to get it out on the table right from the very beginning. I told him that I didn’t want to have sex - at least, not right now. Fortunately, that conversation went off well because the feeling was mutual. Now, don’t get me wrong. The physical attraction was definitely mutual. But we both are looking for something of substance. He’s been with guys before and he’s communicated to me that he’s not looking for a “quickie” or something “casual”. I’ve had one night stands before and I’m not looking for another connection that will just leave me feeling guilty afterwards. I’m looking for something that can last - something with a foundation - and I don’t want sex to screw that up or confuse things (or even complicate things).

It’s actually been good getting to know each other and knowing that we are both on the same page in regards to sex between the two of us. But it does get difficult at times. Temptation. Argh! There are definitely times when we are together and we get a bit “touchy”. We’ve been physically affectionate but we’ve never crossed that established boundary of sex that we both agreed upon. I don’t feel guilty about the physical affection. But I do find myself wondering if the degree of physical affection is consistent with how much we know each other thus far.

When is it okay for us to kiss? When is it okay for us to “make out”? When is it okay for us to hold hands in public? When is it okay for us to place a hand on the other’s knee? When is it okay for us to cuddle? When is it okay for us to give each other massages? When is it okay for us to share a bed (without having sex)? When is it okay for us to have sex?

A part of me wants to just allow things to develop naturally and not jinx the potential relationship with a pre-set timeline of physical milestones. But I do think that I’d like the natural progression of physical intimacy to be consistent with our “knowledge of each other”. I’m not referring to simple facts about each other’s history. But I guess I’m looking for a relationship where the other guy “knows” me. I want him to gradually get to know things about me that I may not necessarily share with him specifically - things like my idiosyncrasies, my catch phrases, my facial expressions when I’m happy or sad or mellow or excited. I want him to get to know what I value or what I’m passionate about based on his observations of my life. As we get to know each other, I want our physical intimacy to match.

Is it right for us to be familiar with certain body parts before being familiar with each other's family members?

As it is now, we are still just getting to know each other and we are still both open to allowing ourselves to get to know other people too. We are not yet at a point of commitment. So should we be non-sexually physically affectionate at this stage of our interaction with each other? If yes, then to what degree?

We’ve already had this conversation with each other - we’re both on the same page regarding these things (I hope! - he reads this blog. Am I making another newbie mistake right now? Sorry, just remember this . . . ). So while we have set a boundary in regards to sex with each other, there’s also a mutual understanding that we don’t want to allow things to get more affectionate beyond what seems to match our current state of non-physical connection.

Is this making sense? Am I rambling? Perhaps . . . .

The other thing that I was thinking about was what I am wanting in a relationship. Besides knowing the kind of guy that I want to be with, I’m learning that there’s also a certain dynamic that I’m wanting in a relationship.

I want a relationship with passion - not just that both of us have passion about life or even that both of us have things that we are passionate about. In a relationship, I want our passions to complement each other. We don’t necessarily have to have the same passions, but I want a relationship where his passions stimulate my passions. I want a relationship where we both encourage each other to live out those passions and that doing that isn’t a distraction from the relationship. Rather, encouraging each other to live out our passions is an extension of our relationship.

I want a relationship with life. I’m not so naïve to think that the “honeymoon” stage never wears off. I know that it does. But I want a relationship that is more than simply reporting in to each other what we did during our day. I want a relationship where we can naturally unpack how we felt about things that happened in our day. I want to be able to communicate with each other how life has affected us. In doing this together, I want a relationship where we are living out life together.

I want a relationship with flavor. I want us to affect one another. I want to grow and to be challenged to be better - I want this to be a fruit of our relationship. I want to be stimulated to think differently about the world. I want to be encouraged to evaluate and assess my motives and my actions without a sense of condemnation. I want to learn from his strengths and I want him to learn from mine.

Maybe saying that I want these things reveals that I actually am naïve regarding relationships. I don’t know if these things are realistic. Maybe I’ll post a year from now laughing at myself for wanting a relationship with passion, life and flavor. But for now, I think it’s okay to want a certain kind of dynamic in a relationship. I don’t want a relationship that simply goes through the motions. I want a relationship that is driven forward - I want a relationship where we are both moving somewhere, together.

I know I’m going to meet a lot of different kinds of guys - some with certain values, some with certain personalities. But as I allow myself to date and allow for the possibility of a romance to develop, I’m not so concerned about what either of us can “give” to each other in the relationship or even what either of us are “getting” from each other in the relationship. What I’m more concerned about is the person we each are “becoming” because of that relationship with each other.

My Mr. Right becomes Mr. Right (for me) when he also becomes willing to work towards a relationship dynamic like this one. That’s someone I can share the rest of my life with.

12 comments:

Rick said...

Hey Bro.:

Love your blog...nice to see that others are at a very similar place, wanting to serve God first and foremost but also to recognize that being gay does not in any way stand between us and the One who loves us beyond measure!

I think you are on the right track with your dating adventure! At times, it will make your head spin. Oh, the possiblities! Just keep thinking and asking questions of yourself (and each other!) and keep the lines of communications open. And, keep on guard as well... it's too easy take things farther than you want to. And, yes, that can mess up a good thing!

Blessings to you, my brother!

Rick
paxbearpa at aol.com

Steve Boese said...

Hey there...

So much good stuff laid out so poignantly here... thanks!

Your stuff resonates for me because I've always wanted some of the character of my grandparents' relationship. Theirs certainly had its share of dysfunctions, but it was in the context of 62 years of working on stuff for which they shared passion.

I've been out for 12 years, during which there have been 3 significant relationships. Some major ups and downs along the way (the 2nd one ended with my partner's suicide) and yet many more gifts than trauma, especially in the last 4 years with Mike.

It sounds like you're on a very thoughtful and healthy path, too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Can you be my "boyfriend".My thoughts and feelings exactly as for what you have shared .I'm a matured aged older guy not out or on any gay scene but so desirious of a "mate ".I cant say much more as you have already said it so efficiently. Cheers a and God bless in your journey.

*Christopher said...

Eric,

My advice as a fellow Christ-centered gay man for all it's worth. Your asking questions of yourself is good, and enjoy getting to know one another. Take your time, reflect, and honestly, just my two cents, wait to have sex until some kind of commitment is developing. It's tricky in gay male culture because of the quick move to the physical, but it's worth some waiting though I won't be a hypocrite and say I always have. Yet frankly, the best, most loving, hottest sex has been committed sex because the context is one of our serving Christ together, however imperfectly.

Angelina said...

Hey Eric!
OH MY GAWSH!!! remind me to get you that toaster oven! :) I love your heart! I love that you are on fire in Love with the Lord to be asking such great questions and having such great dialogue with folks on your blog!
SMOOCHES and HUGS!
Angelina

Angel said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with having dreams and expectations for a relationship. But at the same time, allow for some flexibility--and understand that even a good relationship ebbs and flows.

I'm so happy that you are dating ;)

Ryan said...

Eric,

I am really praying that the Holy Spirit will give you guidance and spiritual wisdom during this time.

I noticed in your last post that you don't mention asking the Spirit what level of physical contact God would desire for you and your date.

While other readers will no doubt back up your physical expressions of connectedness to your date, you know that I cannot. I love you Eric. It saddens me to see you dancing so near to disobedience.

I am sorry that I did not mention this to you in person the last time we were together. I should have talked with you about it then. I hope we can continue to dialogue about this.

In the meantime, I found a website that speaks truth on the matter of homosexuality and God's perspective on it. Give it an honest look and let me know what your take is on it?

www.glow.cc

Eric said...

Thanks for all of your support everyone! I appeciate all the advice.

I'll definitely remember that relationships do indeed ebb and flow - i know my expectations regarding a relationship dynamic need to keep a realistic element to it as well. Thanks!

I hope i've communicated well enough that in regards to sex, my point is that i don't want to jump into it and that i don't want to do it outside of a committed context. I hope i've communicated well enough in previous blog posts that my faith is what would drive such decisions.

Ryan - i've always appreciated your friendship and your willingness to walk with me on this journey. i do appreciate your prayers as well.

you said, "I noticed in your last post that you don't mention asking the Spirit what level of physical contact God would desire for you and your date."

The thing that saddens me is that from what you know of me so far, with my paradigm of living out my faith and Kingdom values, that me seeking the Lord and asking the Holy Spirit regarding the level of physical contact for me and my date isn't already a given. Did i really need to say it in the post? The truth is that the Holy Spirit has been an active participant in this journey of mine - the whole time. In fact, that's how I posed those questions in the first place. It wasn't simply my introspection regarding past dates and our behavior. It was my daily wrestling with the Lord about all aspects of my life (not just the dating part) that produced these questions.

The questions that i've posed in this blog post were things like "when is it okay to kiss?" "when is it okay to hold hands in public?" "when is it okay for us to have sex?". These were not rhetorical questions to the blog community (whom I love and value!). These questions were the very things that I have been bringing before the Lord. In this blog, i don't think i'm simply talking to myself. Much like David posed questions to the Lord in the Psalms, I am articulating in this blog the questions that i have been bringing before the Lord.

So, me not asking Him? It should be a given that He's involved in this process!

You also said, "I love you Eric. It saddens me to see you dancing so near to disobedience.
"


Was this entire journey of mine an act of disobedience? Was I entering this journey of mine without the Lord? Have I come to my conclusions lightly without a sincere wrestling with the Lord?

Am I dancing so near to disobedience because I heard from the Lord and rejected what He told me? or am I dancing so near to disobedience because what I have discerned from the Lord on my journey is not consistent with what you have discerned from the Lord regarding this issue?

Early on in this journey of mine, i've said that i am not simply LOST out here in the wilderness. When i started this journey, i FOLLOWED Jesus here.

I appreciate you being honest with how you feel. I do welcome continued dialogue. I'll look forward to meeting with you tomorrow!

Blessings all!
Eric

Ryan said...

Eric,

You are right to correct me in my jumping to the conclusion that because you didn't mention your prayers that they were not there. I am sorry. Please forgive me. My hasty attempt to "join the conversation" exposes my hipocricy, I was not prayerful as I wrote my post. argh. Let me be more intentionally in prayer as I respond this time.

You are right in that we have discerned differently on the issue. If we agreed I would have not said anything. This does not lessen my concern.

Your entire journey is not "the dancing" I am referring to, I agree with you that Jesus led you here. Thank you for your courage in that. That said, Jesus' leading to start the journey doesn't implicitly mean that every step of the journey will be inerrant. We are fleshly creatures, tainted by our sinful desires, God created the church to be the community that tempers the confusion that those desires can lead us to.

As I read your journey I hear questions about appropriate timing of various levels of physical intimacy. You are stepping beyond asking questions regarding the appropriateness of that intimacy in the first place.

This is the "dancing" to which I was referring. I felt the need to tell you that. If I say nothing then I am not authentically with you on the journey, I am not a responsible brother.

I too look forward to our conversation tomorrow.

Eric said...

Thanks Ryan. I appreciate you.

I know that every step i take on this journey won't be inerrant. Keep in mind, though, that i've tried to be honest in this blog regarding things i've learned from hindsight or from mistakes i've made. I refer you to "Confession of Unrestraint" and especially "Into the Shadows of Shame".

The point of my journey is not to walk the perfect and spotless road. However, the goal of my journey is not to walk the imperfect and spotted road either. I have made mistakes. But i'm not trying to make mistakes.

This particular and most recent blog post should hopefully reveal that i'm trying to be mindful of current and potential mistakes. I just think that focussing in on the fact that there has been "physical affection" taking place is missing the point of the blog post in the first place - which is my internal (and our community) discussion regarding "physical affection". This discussion shapes my values about it and thus drives my future decisions. So, i guess what i'm saying is that what I WILL do is more important than what I have or haven't done.

I know your heart for me and I thank you for your sincere concern. Keep in mind, though, that i'm approaching dating from a Side A perspective, not a Side B perspective.

A year ago, I clung to a Side X perspective so I know that the conclusions I come to today are not the end of my journey. So please know that I acknowledge your voice and place high value in your contribution to this important conversation for my life and for the Church!

Bless you my friend!
Eric

Rebecca said...

Eric,
Having recently stopped seeing this guy largely because of our different interpretations of what WAS ok, and our religious beliefs, I'm comforted by the fact that you're asking the questions. I think that by naming them, it becomes less scary and shameful somehow. At any rate, Thanks for the post and that's exciting about the guy!

Mind the Bear said...

Eric,
First, you continue to be in my prayers.
Secondly, go easy on yourself. Someone said, "The opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is certainty." Chill, you too, Ryan.

God gives us great direction, but God also gave us great minds and great freedom. Way will open, as the Quakers say.

Jesus said "be perfect" - but we forget that "perfect" does not necessarily mean "no mistakes." Perfect means more "whole and complete" than it means no mistakes. (that's why we have the perfect tense - action that is whole and complete)

Sometimes being whole means trying and not liking the decision you made. That does not always mean failure, just learning from our errors.

Most of all God has given us great forgiveness and love. Live with that.

Of couse, don't be stupid. Be safe. As always, I find *Christopher's words very wise.

Cheers, Joe.