Father Tony

Is this Good Thing a Good Thing?

Filed By Father Tony | January 22, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay advice, relationship advice, relationship troubles, sex outside a relationship, threeways

The letter and my response, after the jump.

Dear Father Tony,

I've been in a relationship for three and a half years, with a wonderful man.

When we met I'd had a series of disastrous relationships. I'd been with a man who both physically and mentally abused me over a period of 7 years. Finally I mustered the strength the leave him, but after that I dated all the wrong types of guy, until I met my current boyfriend.

My initial reaction was that I didn't find him particularly attractive, which isn't to say he isn't very good looking, quite the opposite. But physically he's just not really my type. However, his personality outweighed any misgivings I had, and when he finally asked me to be his boyfriend I accepted, more because I just wanted to be with someone stable and loving than anything else.

To be honest I didn't think it would last, but here we are 3-odd years down the line and living together, and we have a great life. We get along famously, never argue, and go everywhere together.

So, I have a wonderful boyfriend and a great life - am I here simply to gloat?

No, I'm here because the longer it goes on the less it feels like a romantic relationship. The fact that I don't really find him attractive has become more of an issue now we're a few years in. Sex has all but died between us - unless a third person is involved (ahem) - and it's feeling more and more like I'm living with a best friend than a lover.

So, my question is this; do I go on living with this man, knowing that I'll be utterly contented for the rest of my life, or do I strike out on my own, and hope that I meet someone who makes my world tremble? Do I stay, knowing that in the long-term the sex dies anyway and I'm better off with someone I find companionable and trustworthy, or do I look for passion and be happy that if it doesn't last at least I felt it for a short time?

Thank you, Father.


Dear B.,

If I were to ask "Are you a person who makes good choices?" what would you say?

I would say that you seem to be a mixed bag of bad and good choices. You lived with an abusive man for 7 years (bad choice). You ended that relationship (good choice). Because of your desire for stability and love, you began a relationship with someone for whom you felt no passion (bad choice) but you stuck it out and now say you have a wonderful life with a wonderful guy (good choice).

Why would you now wish to pencil another bad choice into your life calendar?

I think there is a way for you to get what you want without making another bad choice, but before I disclose it, I'd like to mention two outside perspectives.

A few nights ago, I was discussing your letter with a psychologist friend who told me that initial sexual chemistry is statistically a very strong indicator that a relationship will last. Because you didn't have that, the odds were against you, and yet, you made it work. Or, someone made it work. And that brings me to that other outside perspective: your boyfriend.

I'm describing him as "outside" because I'm picking up a vibe in your letter that seems to tell me that you have never really and intimately mingled your lives. You share a satisfying life of respect and friendship but it seems to be a contract built on his supplying what you need. Unfortunately, he cannot supply your sexual cup of tea, and you may not understand this, but I am guessing that, no matter what he looked like, he'd never be sexually attractive to you for reasons that are much deeper than skin.

I kept looking for his face in your letter. I am thinking he may be a very kind man, a very understanding man, a very generous man, and most of all, a very perceptive man who probably is completely aware of your feelings about him. He chooses to love you anyway, even though it probably pains him secretly to know that you do not desire him. I can't spot the problem with him. Too old, too short, too fat or just too whatever? Are the occasional threeways his idea? If so, I am guessing that they are his way of supplying you with the sexual thrills that he alone cannot give you. If they are your idea, I am guessing that he defers to you in the selection of the third. He seems like a really nice guy, your boyfriend, or, a really big chump for having invested so much in someone who would consider trading him for the kind of hot sex that soon grows cold.

I would advise you against ditching him, but if you do, I'm guessing you'll come crawling back in short order.

Instead, bare your soul to him. You say the two of you never argue. Well maybe it's time to start. In your case, not arguing seems like sweeping stuff under the rug. Stability ought not to be based on denial. Tell him how strongly you are missing a certain type of passion. Make sure you do this in the context of expressing your positive feelings about him. Make sure you tell him that the size of the good thing you two share is huge compared to the small size of the good thing you are missing. Many couples go through this process (usually with a lot of stumbling) and come to a variety of solutions. Threeways, secret affairs, un-secret affairs, regularly scheduled outside sex partners, or, that most difficult of all solutions, a willingness to begin the work needed to build sexual passion into a relationship that never had it. Do not discard that option as impossible just because you think he's not your type. What you are missing is good friction, not love, and good friction can be learned.

Sex outside your relationship is a minefield. I am thinking about a man in Provincetown who recently told me his fascinating story. As an extremely handsome young man, he caught the eye of a fabulously wealthy older man who kept him in his twelve room apartment in a posh neighborhood in Manhattan. After a few years, they moved to Morocco where they enjoyed a jetsetters' life of wild sex and drugs. The older man never minded that the younger one slept around as long as no romance with any other man was involved. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened, causing the older man to send the pretty boy packing. He returned to the states HIV+, penniless and blaming no one but himself. He is older and wiser now, but if he had it to do all over again....

In this crazy world, none of us gets everything he wants, but some of us, you included, are lucky enough to get a whole lot of what we want. Don't be stupid.

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Very nicely written. Sensitive, but plain spoken. There are all the old aphorisms e.g. relationships change every 3-5-7 years...take your pick.
But I think you hit it right on here. If you have forged a passionless friendship relationship that mean by definition you are not intimate, verbally or psychologically or physically. This is exactly what a good sex therapist can teach you, or if you are intelligent you can search out a text and get to it. Remmember practice, practice practice....and keep it FUN!
Straight for Equality
Retired MD

What bugs me is the assumption I'm reading here that being in a romantic relationship is necessary in order to live a happy, fulfilled life.

What about the option of him living his life as a single man? Shouldn't he re-evaluate whether his wants must necessarily be met through a romantic relationship? Perhaps companionship and support can be had from his friends or even a close roommate. Good sex can certainly be had in a variety of different forms, and with less complications when one is single. With a fuck buddy it need not be anonymous and random. Wouldn't it be more honest for him to create those kinds of relationships, rather than a romantic relationship which is lacking in key ingredients?

I think this guy should consider spending some time discovering who he is as a queer individual. That self-awareness will be the best possible tool for one day creating a broadly satisfying romantic relationship, if that's really what he wants.

I had actually written more in my response about exactly that option, but as always, this format never allows for a lengthy examination of all the possibilities. That is why the "comments" are so valuable.

Get a goddamned color avatar. Those eyes are mesmerizing!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 23, 2009 3:45 AM

You beat me to it. Tony those eyes! Those deep sea blue eyes! What were you saying again?

yeah.... life is full of difficult decisions.

I agree with the others that the relationship might not be the best place for this person. Without some form of affection, the relationship is platonic - not romantic. I think he'd be better off finding someone he thinks is sexy and he gets along fabulously with.

As one person commented above, perhaps that means he should be single for a while and play the field.

I'm also curious if Father Tony will expand on these two seemingly at-odds clips:

Unfortunately, he cannot supply your sexual cup of tea, and you may not understand this, but I am guessing that, no matter what he looked like, he'd never be sexually attractive to you for reasons that are much deeper than skin.


...that most difficult of all solutions, a willingness to begin the work needed to build sexual passion into a relationship that never had it. Do not discard that option as impossible just because you think he's not your type. What you are missing is good friction, not love, and good friction can be learned.

Regarding the first of two lines from my response that you quote, I had to keep in mind that the writer lived with abuse for seven years. I don't know if he has resolved the issues involved in mixing sex with affection or abuse. Maybe he can't detach sex from abuse? Maybe a nice guy would never turn him on? The letter gives us only a glimpse.

Regarding the second line, I believe that we should all learn to detach sex from love, learn how to be good at both separately and then recouple them in the context of a relationship if we should be lucky enough to have one. How many times do we need to remind ourselves that when we are slamming away at each other while having sex, we are not thinking "I love you I love you I love you". We are thinking "I want to cum I want to cum I want to cum". The writer has love and could build sex into it.