Reader’s Question:
I’m 23 and have recently come out of the closet (although not completely yet!). I met a great guy and we’ve been in a relationship now for almost a year and a half. Unfortunately, it seems like we’ve lost the spark we had before and we can’t go a week without fighting. It’s really started to take a toll on us. I love him so much, but I’m not sure if it’s worth it anymore…what do I do?
― Ian

Dear Ian:
Thank you for writing and I’m sorry to hear that things have started to go sour with you and your boyfriend. Your dating relationship is still very young in its development and the two of you are still in the process of getting to know each other. This is a time for the two of you to have fun and experience each other in a variety of different contexts to determine if you are compatible with your interests, values, and vision for the future. The tension you’re feeling is likely occurring in response to clashes in the differences you share. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not a good fit for each other; it’s a signal for the two of you to examine what’s underneath the conflict. Why are you fighting and what about? What’s the purpose behind the arguments? What unmet needs are being expressed through your feuds?

It could be that you each share different value systems and priorities that oppose each other. It’s possible that one or both of you have intimacy issues that prevent the ability to get close and conflict becomes a way to keep a degree of distance. It’s also common for men who are newly “out” to lack knowledge of man-to-man relationship skills or are still struggling with their sexual identity and this can sabotage their efforts in maintaining relationship because of their lack of experience. The reasons for the conflict are endless, but your job is to pinpoint exactly what is at play with the dynamics between you and your boyfriend.
Make it a rule to discontinue discussions with each other when things get heated. When dialogues turn into yelling matches, nothing good can come from that. When either of you see things going in an unproductive direction, call a “Time Out” and leave the situation before your anger gets the best of you. Return at a later time to talk things out when you’re both calmer and able to converse with calmness and understanding. Make an appointment with each other to do this, otherwise you run the risk of not addressing your feelings and concerns and these will then convert to resentment.

It would be helpful for each of you to identify what your needs are in a partner and in a relationship. Take the focus off of what your guy is or isn’t doing and instead do a self-examination of who you are and what you stand for. What’s negotiable and what’s non-negotiable with your needs? The two of you then need to discuss with each other these needs. A non-negotiable need is something that you absolutely must have or cannot have in a relationship for you to be able to be with that person. If your boyfriend has any characteristics that are reminiscent of a non-negotiable need for you, it is unlikely that you will be fulfilled with him. Your values are core to who you are and relationship success is predicated on both partners sharing common values and philosophies of life. If your boyfriend is unwilling to work with you on meeting your needs, and vice versa, it’s important not to invest any more emotional energy into trying to make something work that isn’t a good fit. If both of you are willing to try, I’d recommend enlisting the help of a trained therapist who specializes in gay relationships to help you guys learn how to be in relationship with each other.

So just remember that conflicts in relationships are normal and not necessarily a sign that you shouldn’t be together. Communication is critical if the two of you are going to overcome this rough patch. Make sure to have fun with each other and focus on the positives. I wish you the best with your situation! Good luck!

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