Building New Relationships
Connecting with Self
Most people are continuously on a journey of self-discovery, some start young and many only establish a better understanding of themselves when they are more mature. Through many conversations with mature gay men, what was striking was that their relationships with others became more enriching when they understand and accept themselves better. So whether it is physically, psychologically or emotionally, start understanding and loving yourself more.
The level of self-confidence can affect your relationships with your partner, your family members and even your friends. Self-confidence can be viewed in different ways. For some, it means knowing what you are able to achieve for yourself; for others, it is the knowledge that you are fine and you have an equal right to be here.
There are many ways to enhance your self-confidence and here are some examples:
- Keeping healthy through exercise
- Grooming that presents you at your best
- Reading on things that stimulate your thoughts
- Travelling to places that inspire you
- Having a good mix of companionship or friendship that affirms you.
For some mature men, having gone through ups and downs in life will also give them a better sense of self control and confidence in maintaining their lives. By understanding what interests you and keep you going, you can be alone but not lonely. In short, a positive mind is often translated to a healthy physical self.
Connecting with Family
Family forms the core of a support system to many and can be made up of your same sex partner, opposite sex partner, children, parents and siblings. In the case of a mature gay man, even the extended family such as nephews and nieces is important. Many receive comfort and care from family members, especially if the relationship is close. This tie is particularly crucial as you age and require further attention and care from others.
For some people, when things are not working out well with their family of origin, they have a group of close friends or family of choice whom they can turn to. Your family of choice can be made up of straight or gay friends who can provide mutual support when necessary.
Many mature gay men have the unspoken responsibility of looking after aged parents, siblings and sometimes even grandparents, especially if they are the only one who is not married. Also, they could be in a committed relationship and are playing the caregiver role to their aging partner.
It can be a draining experience to be a caregiver. If you need better understanding of your caregiver role, there are a number of resources. You could employ a domestic helper or nurse specialising in care for the elderly and arrange for day care or residential care services. You can find a directory of eldercare services on Centre for Seniors. At the same time, you can learn how to be a helpful and self-caring caregiver or get social or emotional support by joining a caregiver support network. You can also make a difference by forming a gay friendly caregiver network and share your own experience and wisdom.
No matter what your care arrangement is, it is advisable to discuss the decision with other family members or concerned persons so that it is a shared responsibility for everyone. Remember, you do not have to be alone in this.
Connecting with Friends
Many mature men who grew up in a less open and accepting society during the 1960s to 1980s may struggle to cope with their own sexuality. Many are already taking a bold but small step to find new friends, gay or gay friendly straights.
If you are only beginning to venture out to make gay friends now, it is not too late. If you don’t know where to start, begin with joining some of the informal gay groups or networks such as Blowingwind, Rainbower or TheBearProject. Oogachaga also organises workshops for mature gay men as well as discussion groups such as the Saturday Tea Sessions on a regular basis.
Whether you are currently having a close relationship with your family of origin or family of choice, being in a group of like-minded friends with similar interests can be healthy for your mental health. Whether it is singing together at the karaoke, going for movies, bowling, travelling, trekking, doing yoga, having a meal or drink together or simply going for a walk, you will find many choices for activities. It is time to take your first step and connect to someone out there.
Connecting with the Larger Society
All of us have to interact with the society and it can be a mixed experience at times on how others accept or reject you based on your sexuality. If you are coming out in the later stage of life, you may find that redefining your relationships with people around you is a new challenge. Just as you took a while to come to terms with your own sexuality, you will find some straight people only starting to understand the LGBT communities better.
Keep an open mind and remain positive. You will find getting along with most people easier when you learn to accept people as who they are. After all, you also have the wisdom and experience to cope with people who are misinformed about the LGBT communities. If you are comfortable with who you are, do keep a lookout for fellow gay men who need your support too. Share with them that the journey, especially starting out late can be tough, but it will get better.
Lastly, you have vast life experiences and these can be translated to benefit the society through charitable work in gay or ‘mainstream’ charitable organisations. If you are near retirement or semi retired, the administrative or technical skills you acquired throughout your career can still come in useful in many ways for these organisations. You can shape your mature life positively by staying connected and active.
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