The first time, or several times, that you have a boyfriend, it can be the case that there’s an explosive release of hopes, dreams, desires and pent-up emotions. You feel you’re in love and, finally, now is your chance to join and be massively intimate with a fellow gay human being. Maybe the relationship will last a long time. Perhaps it will burn itself out in a few dizzy weeks or months. Either way, while there are no rigidly fixed rules, these are the rules.
First off, be wary of saying too soon that you are boyfriends, in a relationship and in love. Of course, you want to be and to say these things – and it might be there is an opportune time to say, “Are we boyfriends? I love you,” early on – but many people find such declarations too overpowering, constricting and even threatening, if uttered too soon.
But you need to say something? Try instead: “I love being with you.” “This is so great.” “You are sexy.” Say things, in other words, which express how great you feel and how great you think this is and he is, without seeming to be making a premature claim or demand for commitment. Then see how it goes.
The sudden outpouring of feeling is, for many people, a torrent of words – opinions, lives and personal histories shared. You’ll probably find you’ve a lot in common. After all, you’re both gay and, while that doesn’t define everything about who you are, it certainly does a great deal to set the tone of your existence, your individuality. Often you can feel quite free to proceed spontaneously: talk and talk and talk. But it helps at times to remember, just in case you’ve forgotten, to ask a few careful questions – and listen.
And then there are texts and ubiquitous mobile phones, which it is possible to use to sustain and develop a relationship or to cut it apart at first base. Resist the dreadful urge to text too much. Don’t feel you must call all the time. Relationships need space to grow. You’ll become too familiar, too ‘already had’ by him – and a bit of a bore.
Try leaving a day between calls. Take the calls and the texts in turn, rather than you being the one to contact him all the time – not least because that sets up a bad pattern. It can feel terribly hard to do this but is almost invariably the best thing to do. Perhaps it is the case that we must feel we are in control and are making an effort with the other person if we are to love – and that cuts both ways.
At risk of touting doom and gloom, it has to be said that the initial excitement of a new relationship doesn’t tend to last. The first ‘love buzz’ fades as relationships mature. One text book explanation of why this is so is that a chemical called Phenylethylamine (PEA), an amphetamine-related, naturally occurring ‘drug’, inducing a level of euphoria, together with obsession, and blinding us to the faults of our loved one, is secreted at high levels at first before production fails at the same time as the body becomes used to it. The buzz fades – and while other, ‘bonding’ hormones (endorphins) will be ready to take its place, the two partners will need to like each other as they really are at this point.
Perhaps it is also because we want and hope for – and need – so much and few real people could live up to those requirements. Perhaps it’s because the looks and the sex and the shared scene location are initially of most importance, whereas love grows slowly, with genuine affection, between two mutually known personalities. Perhaps it’s just because we’re young and there’s so much else on offer.
To give love its best chance, you’ll need to become not merely lovers but close, close friends. That takes time – and work. There is trust to be earned and care to be shown and taken over time. Think about how you share other people’s lives and how you share yours with other people. Think about what you do for him and what to let him do for you.
And finally, don’t be too upset if the relationship slips back from a ‘boyfriends’ footing. It’s the old cliché, “Well, let’s still be friends,” but it is important to say it – and then BE it. Local scenes, even in major cities, are very small places. Avoid acrimonious partings at all costs.