Ask Dr. Jayby Dr. Jay Nagdimon
Dear Dr. Jay,
I hardly know where to start. I have been dating a truly wonderful guy. He is a freshman in college, and I am a junior. He has been out since his sophomore year of high school. I, on the other hand, am just starting to come out to my friends despite being out at school.
The problems lies in the fact that he seems to have a lot of unresolved issues regarding coming out. For the longest time he had himself convinced that "I'm out. I'm proud, and nothing's gonna stop me now!" He carried it like a badge. If anyone probes too deeply he'll "flame-up," and I just know that it's an act to protect his identity that he has created.
I really think that he is having a hard time watching me come out to my family (my brothers first, and I'll soon be coming out to my folks). I have had a truly great experience in coming out to both of my brothers. They've been great! My boyfriend's family is much less supportive. They don't directly put him down, but they do criticize. His relationship with his mother is especially bad. I guess I can't help but feel that I'm causing him anguish by having such an "easy" time coming out to my family.
Just tonight he has decided that we need to take a time-out in our 7 month relationship so he can figure some "things" out. He made this announcement after I told that I have decided to come out to my parents soon. I am almost 21, yet this is my very first relationship with anyone, man or woman. It has lasted 7 beautiful months. I love him dearly, but I just don't know what to do!
Signed, Confused, upset, heartsick Chris
It sounds as though you have a real relationship on your hands. A romantic relationship with all of it's woes, confusion and uncertainties. Your question of how to respond to your boyfriend is the same kind of question I get from people (gay and straight alike) in my private practice.
Perhaps the greatest foundation of any relationship is healthy communication. I have noticed that you said, "I guess I can't help but feel that I'm causing him anguish by having such an easy time coming out to my family." Chris, you may very well be right about your guess. The important thing to realize is that it is just a guess. You need to open up the lines of communication and find out if you are right.
Your boyfriend referred to figuring "things" (plural) out. Could there be other things in the relationship that aren't going well? How is your friendship? How comfortable does he feel confiding in you, and you in him?
You suggest that your boyfriend covers his insecurity about his identity with a kind of gay rights bravado. It sounds as though he can get defensive when people question. Perhaps it's difficult for him to experience feelings of vulnerability. Sometimes it is hardest to be vulnerable around the people you care about, especially when you feel that relationship isn't on solid ground.
My advice to you is to get him talking. One of the best ways to do this is to reaffirm both your feelings for him and to reaffirm your good attitude toward the relationship. It's an important thing to say "I love you." It is also important to specifically express your attitude of wanting to make things work. Your willingness to try can be very reassuring.
There is the possibility that your boyfriend is losing interest in the relationship. It might be too early to jump to that conclusion. You might want to start out with the assumption that both of you want to stay together and that both of you love each other. Then go on from there.
You can e-mail Dr. Jay at DrJay@oasismag.com. He will try his best to respond to everyone, depending upon the volume of mail received.