Some men are pretty good at dating, but seem mysteriously unable to close the deal and form a lasting and committed relationship. There are plenty of reasons why this might be the case; one reason is that we often have unfinished business elsewhere in our lives that keeps us distracted or unavailable for the sort of intimacy that demands our fullest attention. Unfinished business comes in many forms.
For some men there are issues left over from their growing-up years that haven’t been resolved – issues like abuse within the family of origin, or stuff that created feelings of abandonment. We know that how we experience our family life during our early years influences the issues we bring to relationships as adults. It’s often necessary to make progress in dealing with this material before we can be truly ready for a satisfying adult relationship.
A guy who hasn’t completed the work of coming out is also going to find it tough to create a healthy relationship. If a relationship must be kept secret from family members, for instance, the partner of the man with the secret is likely to feel discounted – especially at times like the holidays. Coming out is good for an individual’s mental health and for healthy partnerships.
Remember the first time you fell in love? It would be nice if that relationship “took” and the guy involved became your one and only for the rest of your life, but that’s not usually the case. We usually date any number of men before we find the right qualities and mutual attraction that let us know we’ve found the guy to settle down with.
That means that dating can also leave us with incomplete stuff. Maybe we’ve never quite gotten over that guy who called it quits a year ago. Or perhaps we ended a connection with someone else and have always felt incomplete about the way it happened. If the relationship was of longer duration (say, a lover of several years with whom we parted company), the feelings of attachment to the former relationship can be even stronger. Maybe we continue to have business or emotional attachments. Maybe we’re still grieving, especially if the relationship ended with the previous partner’s death.
This sort of unfinished business will get in the way of establishing a new relationship if we are secretly carrying a torch for someone else, or if we feel we left such a mess behind that we find ourselves feeling guilty. It’s like part of our attention is elsewhere, not on the new guy in our lives. Cleaning up these messy situations one way or another clears away obstacles to opening our heart with someone new.
That cleaning up may or may not involve actual contact with the our ex. What may be most important is to determine if there is something left to unsaid or unspoken. If there are amends that need to be made and if the ex is willing to have allow that to happen, cleaning things up can be a healthy step forward for both you and the other person. If that’s not possible, there are other ways to bring a degree of closure to the situation. Talking things over with a friend or a therapist can help us figure out what, if anything needs to be done.
Relationships often touch us in deep places and make a lasting effect on us. Taking care of business old and new is one way we allow healthy intimate connections to flourish in our lives.
John R. Ballew, M.S. an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. - www.bodymindsoul.org.