We're reposting a few questions from readers this week. If you have a question, leave a comment or send us an e-mail. Anonymous questions allowed and encouraged.
Question from a reader (June 2009):
I met a straight guy (I'll call him Mark) at a men's personal growth workshop (1 day). Of the ten men there, I was the only gay guy. We all shared on some personal issues... most were struggling with relationship with a woman or their father/mother. I shared on the loss of my partner four years ago. They were all pretty cool and wanted to see the medal that I had which depicted my partner and me together.
Anyway, Mark and I shared some stuff that just resonated with each other... parallels between his breakup with his girlfriend and his struggle with his father. After the session he passed me a note saying that he could sense that my partner was with me. I gave him a small self-growth paperback that I had with me (which I had planned to give to him before his note to me).
We have emailed each other twice over the last few months since the retreat. For a straight guy, he freely shares about his own struggle with his life and father, etc. He is always hopeful in his sharing... hopeful about changes for himself, etc. I feel very privileged for this and want to keep up this relationship.... especially since I really don't have any straight friends with whom I have shared in this manner. My challenge is that I am afraid... afraid of trying so hard to have this relationship, afraid of rejection, etc, etc. (I know that some of this is possibly trying to make up for my life loss of a deeper acceptance by straight guys.) He said in his last email that he might want to get together for lunch sometime.
Any helpful suggestions or insights would be greatly appreciated.
Hanging in there.
P.S. I am much older than him, so maybe he might see me as a person with some additional lifetime experience?? Not sure.
GAY GUY RESPONDS:
Sorry to take some time to get back to you. Both SG and I have been out of town.
I hope that in the meantime you've gone ahead and had lunch with "Mark." He sounds like a gem of a guy, and I hope you are seizing the opportunity for a new friendship in your life.
I'm not a therapist, but here is how I would talk about this issue with a friend: We are all afraid of rejection, maybe that wound and fear that lives in each of us never completely heals. But, objectively speaking, Mark is signaling that he wants more with you. He's shared some e-mails, asked you to lunch, shows that he "gets" you.
I'm interested in a phrase that you used: that you are "afraid of trying so hard to have this relationship." I don't think you have to try -- it seems to be rolling out in front of you like a red carpet. Is it trying so hard to have the relationship, or wanting so much to have it.
My advice is, not to be too blunt, to get out of your own way here, and get a lunch or an after work beer on the calendar. Just accept this positive development and welcome it into your life.
Not sure what you mean by life loss of acceptance by straight guys, but, whatever you mean, I suspect it's a hangover from childhood. I think I have some trust issues with straight men, too, but I've found real joy from letting go and moving forward. We all grow up, don't we?
Much as I, with humor, use this forum to reinforce stereotypes of straight men as beer drinking, sports watching, emotionally stunted man-childs, they aren't. Straight Guy is a real gem, so are my friends John and David. My life is better with them in it. And, they "get" me better than some of my gay guy friends do.
Jump onto the red carpet Mark is rolling over to you. Let me know how it goes.
STRAIGHT GUY RESPONDS:
I don't see any need to fear rejection, when he's the one inviting you to lunch. If two people, who have room in their lives for new friends, find and connect with each other, then great. It might be temporary, or it might be long term, who knows? The one thing that will kill it is worrying too much.
I will say that the first thing that they should have taught you in a personal growth seminar for men (never been, sorry), is that you should always be moving away from unnecessary drama. It can be a self-indulgent trap. Right now I get the sense that your friendship is based on sharing your emotional selves, and sooner or later, someone will tire of that. Find some balance between sharing your deepest thoughts and, I don't know, playing pool or building a deck or something. Find something in common other than your inner struggles.
Not to minimize your (or anyone's) grief, but the goal is to respectfully move on at some point, right? Nothing better than having a good, trustworthy, friend to help you do that. Use them as counsel and confidant, sure, but also let them be a distraction from your inner monologue, and most importantly, trust them to tell you when it's time to buck up.
Buck up, dude.