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    Learners and Relationships

    By Scott Tsui–

    In my previous article I discussed a couple who navigated their ongoing 40-year relationship with ease, describing them as “Naturals.” Now I would like to discuss a different couple whom I consider to be in the learner category.

    As it happened when returning home one evening, I engaged in a lighthearted conversation with the Lyft driver, Brent, a gay man in his mid-forties. When Brent mentioned that there is a 20-year age difference between him and his younger partner Jim, I was interested to learn more about them.       

    Brent told me that he met Jim four years ago while traveling in Ohio. They hit it off immediately. Jim confided in Brent how he’d grown up in a homophobic family with an abusive and alcoholic father. He had spent his life in the closet, had low self-esteem and hadn’t experienced love. They kept in touch and continued their talks about life and relationships. It was not long before Jim moved to San Francisco to be with Brent. 

    Brent clearly considers their relationship to be solid and stable. To me, they are an excellent example of an intergenerational couple where the older is the mentor and the younger is the learner. As many can attest, this is something frequently encountered in the gay community.

    This then prompts the question: What are the important areas where Learners can invest time and energy to improve their relationship success? 

    Self-awareness

    Self-awareness is the art of being present and in tune with feelings, motives, desires and driving forces. To increase self-awareness, pay attention to your internal feelings and external triggers. Think about how and why you react the way you do to various circumstances.    

    When it comes to intimate relationships, many people live their lives day in and day out hoping for change, but without making an effort to effect a change. This is unrealistic. You’re in charge of your own life and you can change. Make a conscious effort to achieve your relationship goals. 

    When you invite others into your world, you’re sharing your life. To build on and sustain intimate connections, know who you are, where you stand, what you need and desire, and understand that your level of emotional maturity is crucial. Without self-awareness, there’s little chance of relationship success.

    Motivation

    I often hear single gay men say, “I’m alone, but I’m not lonely. It’d be nice to have that special person.”

    Take inventory: How motivated are you? Are you willing to make the effort, or are you just complacent? If someone special has appeared, do your best to make them feel special. We each get only one life to live, and it’s largely your choice as to how it evolves. If you’re not prepared to make the effort to get what you want, then you probably already know the likely outcome! 

    If past experiences have included rejections, abandonment, intimidation and even fear, one can feel unmotivated. That’s understandable. But fears need to be put to one side if you want to find love. Be bold and put time and energy into developing new relationships. You’ll find that making new friendships brings excitement and energy.
    Dan Savage, relationships and sex advice columnist said, “to have a long-term relationship, we have to ‘pay the price of admission.'” Successful Learners are those who have paid that price.

    Authenticity

    Being genuine and honest, to yourself and to others. 

    Unless lucky and with supportive parents, many unfortunately grow up hiding their true same sex feelings and emotions. Wearing a mask becomes a way to avoid getting emotionally and physically hurt, but in turn, can lead to many other problems.

    Indeed, we all have an instinct to protect ourselves, and removing the mask becomes important. For some, learning to trust others can be more difficult in the dating and relationship world because there are people out there who play games, lie, cheat, manipulate and break hearts. It is important to learn to recognize people that engage in these games (more on this in a later column) and it is equally important not to perpetuate the cycle.

    Be real and don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Rather, be true to yourself and others. Realistically, the only way to get to know a person is through time. Take the time and build trust and intimacy slowly.  

    Lastly, if you have problems such as addictions or other personal issues, seek help to resolve them. Being honest, willing to show vulnerabilities and revealing your true self are attractive qualities. They’re also required in building long-term relationships.

    Continuing Education

    Understand that living a good life involves continuous learning, and that includes learning about relationships. Never stop learning from the different challenges that occur throughout life. 

    What differentiates Learners from others in regard to learning? Some have been Learners all of their lives, perhaps driven by a natural curiosity. But many others evolve and develop self-awareness. They appreciate the importance of learning as they go through life. Learners realize that when something doesn’t work in developing relationships, they change their approach.

    Smart learners do not hesitate to seek mentors or role models and to learn from them. They put their pride aside and are not afraid to ask questions.

    Love

    Not everyone is fortunate enough to come from a loving, nurturing environment. This may result due to childhood trauma, experiencing a broken heart or suffering other loss. For some, love becomes associated with pain rather than joy. If you believe that love exists, as most do, and that everyone deserves love, you are ready to move forward. There may be pitfalls (more about these in a later column) along the way, but learners quickly figure out how to recognize and avoid them. 

    Learners also understand that with deep love, pain can also follow. But experiencing that level of love is vital to living a complete and full life. Relationships can easily collapse when challenges arise. Love gets us through bad times and brings us closer. Learners learn to love and appreciate people, and can also teach others how to be loved. 

    The next time, we’ll discuss the Blamers category, and how they often sabotage their dating and relationship opportunities. In the meantime, you might pause to reflect upon which areas you could improve on to better your relationships.

    Scott Tsui is the Relationship Results Coach, author of “Lonely No More – 8 Steps to Find Your Gay Husband” and the creator of the world’s first online gay relationship training: Gay Men Relationship Blueprint. Tsui works to help gay men find, attract and sustain meaningful relationships. For more information: http://scotttsui.com/