“Why we Broke up”

The ebbs and flows of life can be such a whirlwind at times. Adventure and massive success in relationships, while exciting and inspiring, can threaten the connection; the spark that started it all.

Mark and Ethan are a couple that has found huge success with both their YouTube channels. The energy that flows between the two of them is infectious and they shoot absolutely amazing content for their channels.

We’ve followed them on numerous explorations around the world, family visits to the lake house, and my personal favorite, a little town called Bloomington – Go Hoosiers!

I wanted to write a little note about one of Mark and Ethan’s more recent videos, “Why we Broke up.” The title alone shook me. I quaked, honey. These two can’t possibly be separating!

False alarm. There’d be no breakup, but the two did share why Ethan had recently moved into his own apartment, five minutes away from Mark in LA. Some words the two shared hit me like a speeding truck:

Ethan: “We need to re-evaluate how we’re doing individually, because everything was just so habitually together.”

Mark: “Something that you had said, and that will always stick with me is that ‘you want to appreciate my love.’ There are days that I don’t appreciate him, and I don’t want that to be a thing. I just don’t want that to happen.”

This couple has shared so many good times through their lenses and YouTube channels with us. What we as the viewers forget is that these are real people, in real relationships.

It’s amazing that these two have been able to build their platforms together, but what happens when your relationship and business blends too well? Mark and Ethan explained how they need to focus back in on how they’re doing individually, and what a word this is.

Ethan goes on to quote RuPaul.. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Obviously, I don’t know these guys from Adam, but I get what they’re saying. You need time to focus on you; to take care of you. Without a strong sense of self-love in place, you won’t be able share that with the ones you love.  

I’ve talked before on Gays in the Life about making time for each other and not forgetting to take care of the relationship. A big part of that is taking care of number one so you can continue to be that support system for whoever it is on the receiving end of your love.

I want to thank Mark and Ethan for taking a moment to share these thoughts with us, and to remind us that relationships are work. The highs can be really high, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be low lows.

Put in the work, people! And don’t be afraid to face and enter the shadows – It’s the only way you’ll find that light in the end.

 

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Weekly Audit 2: What Do You Love Most About Yourself?

This week’s audit question is… “What do you love most about yourself?” Let’s see.

Something I find most interesting in society are the amount of stories there are to be told. My story is what I love, as it’s produced countless gems that have morphed me into the individual l am today.

The writing’s on my wall are what keep me driven and what give me the capacity to learn from any hiccups life may conjure. Through all of the tough times I’ve experienced in life, I’ve learned to welcome failure.

You see, with each mistake comes a lesson learned; another gem.

I’ve had plenty a lesson in my thirty-one years in the land of the living. Those lessons, and the evolution that comes along with them, are what keep me on track.

 

Now it’s your turn! Answer the question with your partner or friends, and share your responses in the comments. Off you go!

30

A great work friend of mine asked me if I had any anxiety about turning thirty. The answer is no. I’ve always been okay with aging – look forward to it most of the time – but I’m sure there will be moments when I’m not. Today is my thirtieth birthday.

I see making it to thirty as a cue to begin the next phase of my evolution. My student loans are almost completely gone – my closest friends know how much of a nightmare that has been over the years – I have a solid life and marriage with S, my work life and creative projects are going extremely well, and my closet is growing into the GQ dream I’ve always wanted.

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I foresee a good amount of travel for S and I. We’ve earned some vacations beyond just a week off at home. Through my twenties I’ve learned a great deal about finances. Because we’ve been so smart and plan realistically, I know travel around the world is something we could easily do; sooner rather than later and before kids enter the picture.  

<ponder> We never did have a reception for our marriage and plan on having a big anniversary party at this point. I will have a french bulldog, named Biscuit Habanero. I will find a way to become my own boss and escape the corporate world, but in the meantime, I’ll gladly collect the experience. I will add a Burberry blanket to my list of favorite personal items and brew my own kombucha. </ponder>

All of those facts, wants, and wishes? I believe them to be possible because I’ve grown into someone who puts in the work and gets what they want. Earlier this week, I was journaling in my notes app when this life breakdown came to mind:

  • I always did really well in school – K through 12, taking advanced placement classes early in high school and performing with an award-winning band (shoutout to BARTLETT HIGH SCHOOL!)
  • In college I realized I didn’t know how to study and began to learn – the hard way – about hardship and the struggle to pay out-of-state tuition for college. I also made some of the best friends I could ever ask for and traveled with some of the best groups and people I share the honor of being called an Indiana University Alumni with.
  • Living a low-carb, ketogenic lifestyle has helped me feel what living a healthy life should be. I’m sharp, never sluggish, and want to be active most days – lifting or yoga. I was over 300 lbs at one point. Battling weight-loss has without a doubt conditioned my perseverance in life.
  • As I leave my twenties, I’ve discovered balance. All of my past experiences have pushed me and helped me flourish as a human being. So thank you all for helping me get here.

I’m excited to be thirty and ready to see what levels I can reach before forty. Now, back to listening to Beyonce, watching S play video games, and chilling with my friend Mary Jane. I have a birthday to get ready for!

Have fabulously zen day, everyone.

Hang in There

Fear does reside, however, in the form of exhaustion. The impact of a full workday and homework leaves most nights quiet and longing. The memory of warm contact seduces resentment of easier days – before ambition took over and forced a pause on all things intimacy and one-on-one time.

The looming prospect of where our careers are going frightens me because the last thing I want is to be the career man who doesn’t have time for his family or husband. Exhaustion scares me – I believe it scares us – because are we ready to grow into disconnection? That will never be an option.

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Last weekend’s staycation was glorious, but we could have used more time. The workweek so far has been challenging, prickly, and full of curveballs. I fear if we feed exhaustion too much, our brakes will go out – leading us over an unpredictable cliff. No salary or corporate chess match is worth our sanity.

December can’t come soon enough. S will be wrapping up his Masters and there’ll be plenty more time for date nights and shared zen.

Acknowledging the shady and dark corners of growth within a relationship can be a positive power if you allow it to be. I so wish we were back in our corner room on the twenty-first floor of Indy’s JW Marriott, but alas, full relaxation will come when we have the time.

Our Father’s Anger, Our Lessons.

The men in our lives can shape us in ways we never realize. The recognition, and understanding, of the lessons their most honest energy projects, can strike as sharp as a burn to the finger. As a child you’re too young to recognize any damage adulthood has inflicted upon your father. As a teenager, you’re not allowed to comment on anything that is said between two adults. “Be seen, and not heard… Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to…” were regular instructions throughout my upbringing, and little did I know the effects of these instructions would only sharpen my understanding of my father’s unshared emotions.

In the world of adulthood, you tend to catch comments, expressions, and reactions of older members within the family; especially those of fathers.  My dad was an Army man with a tough exterior, social superpowers, and a strict confidence that ruled our household. He knew how to have fun, and we felt his love, even though we never really used the “love” word growing up. At the age of sixteen I watched him morph into another being. Divorce had blackened his insides, and bitterness flowed infinitely. Not knowing how to fully process this new man – a poisoned shadow that danced inside my father’s body – or his reasoning, I was forced to grow up and assumed that he was just setting a negative example for my siblings and I. We’re on good terms now, but it took us a while to get back to a settled place where we could begin to understand each other; although I still don’t get him all the time.

S’s father is a warm, honest, and gentle soul. I tried to offer him some of my hippy-dippy zen advice – after hearing enough complaints about something he and my mother-in-law had been left out of by his family – only to receive a sharp, and deeply planted response. “I don’t care to get over it.” My advice was to find a way to get over the issues he had with the family, for his own health. “Well, everyone handles things differently, I suppose. It definitely doesn’t help if no one is communicating” was my exit from the conversation. I know my boundaries, respect my S’s parents, and realize that you can’t help everyone, so I stopped responding to any opportunity to share my little bit of wisdom.  I still don’t have full details about what happened, but what was it that was causing him to hold on to that dark energy?

My dad is fifty years old, and S’s father is in his sixties. What I’ve learned from these two, completely different men, is more than I can fit into any closing paragraph. I’m only twenty-eight years old, and I know there are people out there that will say that I’m too young, and that I haven’t truly experienced life. Everyone has dark days, grey moments, and pitch-black thoughts in life at some point, and in mine, I’ve learned to let go. I search for the lesson in all of life’s curveballs and strikes, and try to move forward as positive as possible. Harnessing anger only turned me into someone I didn’t want to accept lived inside of me. The feeling was that of being stuck in quicksand with a speeding semi truck seconds away from barreling right through me; fear, uncertainty, and uncomfortable welcome. These gentlemen are a reminder to try. Try to accept, grow, and move forward. If happiness is faint, reward yourself in that happiness, and challenge yourself to gain more.

You Take Out the Trash, and I’ll Do the Dishes.

“Who’s the girl in the relationship?” is a popular inquiry among curious heterosexuals I’ve met in the past. Like a gust of wind, the gender roles within my marriage lean towards societal normativity, but depending on the day will quickly whip in another direction. Society has programmed most of us to think that men and women have specific roles when it comes to households, jobs, and various other avenues of life. I always have to laugh when the questioning of roles within my relationship comes up in conversation, because you’d think that here in the year 2015, that there would be a better sense of freedom within any relationship. Relationships and marriage are both partnerships, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who did what chores. Views of how a relationship should work will vary, and not everyone will agree. I believe this disagreement is important because not only does it encourage learning, it promotes individual growth that could can potentially be shared with other relationships and marriages.

I’ve always joked that – stereotypically speaking – I’m the woman within my marriage. Pinterest is one of my most used apps on my iPhone, and I’ve known how to crochet since I was twelve. I’ve never liked getting dirty, I enjoy a good outfit, and I absolutely love a good bag. My mouth waters over a good-looking messenger or weekender-styled bag, and sports have never been my thing ever since I could remember. I only learned how football truly worked when I joined marching band at Indiana University – Did I mention I played football one year in high school? Yep, now read back those last couple sentences, and collect that laugh.  Over half of my work experience was spent in retail stores, so I’m cursed with the ability to organize any closet, and I actually enjoy it. Every outfit and accessory has a place, and when things get cluttered my mind nearly explodes; there’s instant stress when I come across clutter in my home. When we moved into our condo, I told my husband not to touch anything that was going to a closet. All the traits I’ve mentioned above – things I love about myself – would typically be matched with the gender labeled “female.”

My husband does not mind getting dirty, and this is a result of growing up on a horse farm.  He had real chores: cleaning horse stalls, moving haystacks, breaking horses – the act of socializing a horse to the point of being able to ride it – and various other farm chores that would make most city kids cry. I believe my husband to be the most handsome man in the world, but his wardrobe can be pretty plain – nothing against the plain and simple types.  It’s easy and refreshing most of the time. He’s a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy, and I love any opportunity to play dress-up with him before going out with friends, or heading out to a dinner. I watched him change the oil on his own car some months back. I ended up retreating to the house, and probably ended up playing on Pinterest, but returned to the garage to find quite the mess. Outside of the dirt and simple manliness that makes up my husband, is his love for Indiana basketball. He can talk college basketball like no one I’ve ever heard before, and gets completely into the games. He’s most emotional during an IU basketball game, and when players from the team make the news because of some coach drama, or team scandal.

While most of these gender role stereotypes are entertaining and fun to identify within any relationship, they’re not the norm anymore.  Sure, back in the day women had their roles, and men had theirs, but in today’s world, you can identify ALL gender roles within a single gay relationship. So what does this say about gender roles in general? Like sexuality, these roles within a relationship are fluid and ever-changing. One person doesn’t have to do one specific chore, or act a certain way because of their sex. For S and I, all that matters is that our condo – and life – isn’t burning down. I imagine this to be a similar and common thought when it comes to other relationships and marriages across the globe. There are plenty of straight, uber-masculine men that can sew, cook, and clean, and a great deal of women who enjoy getting their hands dirty, and who could teach any man a thing or two inside a garage. The traditional views of the inner-workings of a relationship are slowly fading, and my hope is that by acknowledging the fluidity of gender roles – across any type of relationship – we can stop answering a question like “So, who’s the girl in the relationship?”

Workout for What?

When one is single, working out and staying in shape is important for the wrong reasons. Most will say that it’s for their health and wellness, and mask the fact that they’re sweating it out to better their chances of hooking up come time to play the field.  I recognize that there are people who take their health and fitness seriously, but during the partying years?..  Let’s be real, everyone has ass on the mind.  If not for health and wellness, does the reason for exercise change when you land that special someone?

Something happens when you become one with another; at least it did for me. Before S, I was a heavier guy, and legitimately began working out and dieting to add years to my life. Now that I’m married, I find myself working harder than I had before on my health and overall fitness.  My reason for working out, in addition to general health, is to maintain my attractiveness for my husband. I get off knowing that I look good, and even more so when I know it’s for him and our relationship. Hey now, I work out for me too! I love working out in the morning, and gain so much energy going into my day. I even workout on weekends to keep my energy on the up and up.

I’ve come a long way from refusing to run in gym class back in high school, to doing cardio, yoga, and strength training five to six times a week. S has gone through his own fitness transformation as well, but doesn’t possess the cocky confidence that I do. Even when I was a bigger guy – pushing three hundred pounds – I could work with what I had and still pursued guys without hesitation.  I love when I catch guys eyeing my husband, and how he doesn’t even notice. What I love more is when other, thirsty, guys realize what they have to get through before they can get to S.

I find it entertaining that even after you’ve entered a serious relationship, you still have to maintain what you had once worked so hard to obtain, to keep your prize. By no means am I saying that you need to be in shape to keep a partner. We share numerous cheat days and battle the scale together now – after falling off our low carb wagon here and there – and gain great pleasure when we notice changes in each other physically.  Earlier I said that working out, as a single partier type, was done for the wrong reasons. When it comes down to it, maybe working out (then) for the approval and validation of others is just practice… We say we do it for ourselves, to make ourselves feel better, but eventually all that nonsense, worry, and stress turns into the very elixir that provides us the power to keep a comfortable grip on what we’ve achieved.

STRAIGHT

Forbidden fruit comes in the form of the heterosexual male.  During my time in the closet – from eighth grade until about three weeks into my college career – I had plenty of secret crushes on straight friends that I knew I could not have.  I strongly believe that it’s this time in the closet that causes the craving for a straight guy to brew and reach extremely potent levels.  I remember when guys would ask me “what I was looking for” in a guy – in various gay dating chat rooms – and I would simply respond with the descriptor: “straight-acting.”  What does that even mean?! That description is still frequently tossed around in regular conversation amongst gay friends. Stereotypically speaking, the term “straight-acting” represents a heterosexual guy who is macho, strong, and handy, is into sports, and doesn’t mind getting dirty; someone that can wrestle in a godly fashion. The picture next to my interpretation of the definition would be an image of thick, burly, muscular lumberjacks; complete with tight denim and a big axes.  He would be a bearded, gloriously-sweaty – Gaston from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” – or a Gerard Butler type of guy.

Little did I know then, that I would end up with my “straight-acting” guy.  It’s always an adventure with S, especially now that we live under one roof.  My daily interests revolve around the performing arts – having played music from a young age – Pinterest boards, organizing our closet, and stressing about the growing bald spot at the back of my head.  S will spend the entire college basketball off-season counting down to the first game of the next season. He grew up on a farm with real chores – raising horses and cleaning stalls – and can change the oil on his own car.  You’d think that being from Alaska I would be a better outdoors person, but he takes the cake in that area too.  We went hiking once with friends, and I spent the entire time running from ticks. Occasionally I’ll get in his car and he’ll have it tuned to a sports radio show. “What’s this?” was the question I would ask with the look of instant boredom smeared across my face. He would then proceed to laugh and let me plug in Spotify; set to the “Radiohead Radio” station most likely. I imagine S probably has the same look on his face when I turn on an episode of ABC’s “Scandal.”   Since our beginning, I have joked with friends and family about S being my “straight curse.”  Every day I gain life from the gifts my curse provides… for this I will be forever thankful.

Blue balls and the Brain

Sexual appetites are something that need to be fed in order to keep a relationship flowing.  People can get along fine within a relationship without sex, but for how long? Being realistic, what is a long-term relationship without regular sex? Some argue that sex is not the most important factor when it comes to making a long-term relationship last, and others say the opposite and argue that it is the most important factor.  When it came to my relationship – before I had any relationship, really – I knew that sex would be big factor.  Being a big astrology and zodiac enthusiast, I fully embrace my Scorpio identity, and carry a great amount of sexual energy; Scorpios are said to be the most sexually dominant of the astrological circle. When S and I were living apart from one another, I could confidently expect to get some action at least once a week; during weekend visits. Now that we lived together, I wondered how often sex would come.

Most guys – even us gays – welcome the idea of being drowned by sex once living with a partner commences.  Dan Savage’s “Savage Lovecast” is a weekly sex and relationship podcast S and I both listen to regularly.  Savage’s sharp, honest, and enduringly blunt tone has a way of getting one’s mind to open up regarding everything sex; not to mention all the stories and experiences shared by listeners, both gay and straight, of the show. We took our relationship one day at a time. There were never any specific talks regarding how much sex either one of us expected, so I would do my best to close the deal any time I was in the mood; and I was in the mood pretty often.  Much to my dismay, I found that I would have more adjusting to do when it came to our shared life.

Adjusting sexually to one another isn’t a bad thing. Internalizing any rejection during dry spells, I would feel pretty down – even paranoid or worried – when more than a couple weeks would pass without any intimate, nighttime action.  I’d become accustomed to sex at least once a week, so anything less than that forced feelings of insecurity and visions of red flags on the horizon. What I came to learn was that my sex drive was way higher than his.  Being the paranoid individual that I am, I would ask questions: “is it me? What’s wrong? Did you get off today?” I wasn’t looking for signs of cheating, but I was looking for a way to make him want sex as much as I did.

I found the answer wasn’t to make him want sex more, but to adapt and have fun whenever play-time did come around.  Sexually I am satisfied. My feelings of insecurity were completely natural, because sadly, we humans pay attention to the negative more than the positive of a situation.  When it comes to us, the good continues to outweigh the bad. There are weeks where I am more than happy in the sex department, and plenty of times where I am caught off guard – in the best and most appetizing ways – by him.  Sexually starved is definitely something we are not, and having lived together for going on a year and a half now, we are more than pleased with each other in every aspect of the subject.  Patience is an ongoing lesson, but one thing I will continue to harass him about? Is a lap dance. If I can get a lap dance out of S, I would probably pass out from shock and/or excitement (lol).

Dirty Distance

Actions speak louder than words.  I found this to be the case when it came to my experience with a long distance relationship.  Bloomington and Indianapolis are an hour apart, and by the end of our first date back in Indianapolis, I knew I had to see him again; let’s call him S.  Some reservation set in because I had never been in a relationship before, and was not confident with my feelings about dating a guy that was an hour up the interstate.  Long distance is relative to those in a relationship where the majority of time spent is apart; i.e. different towns, hours of driving, or in some cases plane rides away.  Luckily for S and I, we only had an hour separating us, and spent most weekends together.  I considered this hour to be long distance, and a challenge over the nearly twenty-two months we were in different zip codes.

Traveling one hour may not seem like much to most, but there were factors in my life at the time that made the distance between us – 48 miles to be exact – seem greater.  I did not have a car, and I didn’t want him to feel like he had to make the drive for me.  Was I worth it to him? What if he found someone in Indy that he could spend every night with… someone he didn’t have to pick up from the airport because they had to take a shuttle from another town… Insecurity would eat me alive when we were apart. The state of my life – a struggling student who was barely making ends meet working two retail jobs – had me intimidated by the success he had already reached.  This self-induced inadequacy lingered in the early stages of our courtship, and would visit frequently while we remained in two different locales.

Adding to my insecurities was the presence of social media, and its ability to monitor activity.  Grindr is a popular hook-up app that displays guys based on GPS location, and allows you to chat and trade pictures.  I set S’s profile as a favorite early on, and as a result I could now see when he was online; even when he was back in Indy. This would drive me insane because we had talked about the end of our bachelor lifestyles, and being serious about building a future.  Seeing the little green dot in the corner of his Grindr profile picture, after saying goodnight, would cause my blood to boil.  I was more curious than I was jealous, yet I never brought any of this up to him. Something anchored me inside, and told me to ride the wave; see where this thing goes.

Distance has the power to breathe life into any piece of negativity your mind will allow. Each month I would grow more confident with myself; realizing we were both making sacrifices to make this relationship work.  There was strength found in the many grey areas of mixed thoughts and emotions that clouded my mind Monday through Friday.  The biggest lesson from my experience with a long distance relationship was to not over-think little things, and to take one day at a time.  All the dark emotions in the beginning were a result of the new (love) feelings I was experiencing, and trying to apply these updates to oneself absolutely cannot be done over any short period.  It’s a scary thing to let the universe bring what is meant onto oneself. Had I not yielded to this – let go and let love – realization, where would I be?  Where would he be?