Father Tony

Unplugging and Rebooting Your Partner

Filed By Father Tony | August 13, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: racquetball, sports

Dear Father Tony,

Got any tricks to turn an old dog into a young pup again? (I'm not talking about sex. We are great with that.) But he seems to have lost interest in other stuff. He wants to stay home more and more and more. I am interested and involved in community theater and boating, hiking and fishing. He used to share these interests but it's like he's dropping out of everything and just wants to stay home and watch TV. When I mention it, he gets mad and says "Aren't I enough for you? Am I boring you?"

Suffield 37, partner of Jack 47 going on 147

Dear Suffield,

Hmmm. Now I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a call from a customer to a cable company who says "My internet connection is not working!" There could be so many reasons for your problem. Here are some possibilities:

1) He's feeling old and he's not dealing well with it. Growing old in the gay community is something for which few of us have any real skills. You'll need to discuss this possibility with him in a non-hostile way. Do it after sex, when you are both relaxed and close. He needs to see that 47 is not old. Believe me.
2) He may be suffering from depression. Have there been changes in his life that might be causing him to retreat and disconnect?
3) There may some physical/health issue causing his lack of interest in activities he used to enjoy with you. A trip to the doctor for a check up might be worthwhile
4) There may be some specific insecurity at work that would make him ask you if he is enough for you or if he is boring you? (Is he? Have you given him indications that he isn't?)
5) He may be feeling restless with the relationship and using this new behavior as a way out of it. Maybe he feels badly about his desire for a new life and his way of dealing with the guilt is to point the finger at you and to make it seem as if you are the problem. This has been known to happen and it is a sure fire way to ignite some ridiculous arguments in which nothing said actually gets to the root of what is really going on.

Are you two generally honest and open with each other, or is there a regular level of either deceit or denial in the relationship?

It is possible that he has simply gotten bored with some activities and is pulling away from them. Unfortunately, in the process, he is also creating distance between the two of you. If that is the case, I would suggest that you both find some new shared interests. Sometimes when an undertow pulls one half of a couple in a solitary direction it takes some energetic swimming on the part of both partners to stay close.

I remember when I stopped playing racquetball because that enjoyable but treacherous sport had injured my back one time too many. At the time, we played twice a week. My partner was not about to give it up just because I was of a mind to do so. I remember taking inventory of the physical activities and interests that we continued to share, and we amplified the time we spent together enjoying the ones that were not ruinous to my vertebrae such as biking and skating. I also made sure that we both continued to share the same regular trips to the gym even if we were using different parts of the facilities for some of the time spent there. Over time, the need for this diminished, but initially, I did not want to feel distanced or restricted by a decision that would mean a difference in our shared recreation.

So, to put my cable-guy hat back on, maybe all your partner needs is an unplug-and-reboot with a prescription for some vitamins or a session with a head doctor, but if there are other deeper things going on with him, be sure that when you talk it through, you frame your comments with assurance that you don't like your recreations as much without him, and that you either want him back in those saddles with you, or willing to find some new shared interests.

I hope this problem is only temporary and that you'll be able to work it out. You really mustn't ignore the problem because we all end up resenting payment for those premium channels that we've stopped watching.

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John Shields John Shields | August 13, 2009 10:57 AM

As always, you are spot-on. Thanks for the wonderful words of advice.

A trip to a couples counselor might be helpful. But also a realization that a couple does not have to do everything together...each partner needs space to do some things on his own. As long as the partner is OK with his other half doing some things separately, the relationship should survive and evolve. If the sex part is still strong, that's a good sign.

You covered a lot of possibilities for causes in Jack's change in behavior. I have to admit one really jumped out at me: depression. It is commonly overlooked in men, who see it as a weakness and not an illness. Hormonal changes are a possible culprit. Depression paralyzes motivation, and avoidance only delays treatment and deepens the problem. Ultimately, even sex becomes a burden.

That behavior change just shouts to be dealt with, whatever the cause.