How a controlling boyfriend left me picking up the pieces of my self-esteem

Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs – Control By Patrick Cash I thought I’d found the perfect boyfriend. He was cute and funny, but also gentle and kind. He’d get up early in the morning to make me breakfast. When I had pieces in the print issue of Attitude he’d buy the magazine and display it proudly on his coffee table. He’d come to see my shows and sometimes when he couldn’t make it, he’d surprise me after anyway. It’d make me feel an unfamiliar, nice warmth to see him smiling there, in his suit straight from work. When he told me on our first date that he was always right, I’d dismissed it out of hand: Nobody in their right mind has seriously believed they’re always right since they were a child, surely? He hadn’t met all of my friends and so was coming with me to a birthday. We were meeting on a Saturday afternoon, 3pm, and I’d text him the night before to confirm. When he wasn’t there at 3, I wasn’t fussed: he was often late. By 3.30pm I sent a quick text. No reply. Nearing 4 and now my friends were beginning to ask me where he was. I felt embarrassed and humiliated, and sought solace in alcohol. The weekend became a blur. When he contacted me the next week he was grovelling. “I fucked up,” he said. “Chems.” I couldn’t understand why he hadn’t just communicated with me. Sure, I wouldn’t have been ecstatic but it was better than having no idea what had happened to him. I didn’t realise at the time that he used communication, or his withholding of it, as a form of power. When his beautiful charmer version took me out for dinner and apologised, I forgave him. For a time all was great, though it began to niggle that we only ever stayed at his. He told me he wanted everything to be ‘perfect’ when he stayed at mine. We balanced our heavy-drinking weekends by sleeping together sober during the week, which felt enjoyably healthy. But then we had our first ever shouting match argument when drunk; weirdly enough about human nature. Though we made up, went home to his, had sex and fell asleep. gay-sex-and-drugs-1-jpeg In the morning he wasn’t in bed. I thought he might have run to the shop for milk. An hour later I left his place feeling confused, with my text unanswered. Yet this time I didn’t annihilate myself, but instead devoted the rest of the weekend to thinking about this situation. I had few illusions about where he was: obviously a chill-out. And I began to work out that this was probably my punishment for having argued with him. I wrote him a long email explaining that I liked him – that his arm around me at night felt right – but that he had severe issues with control. He wrote an equally long reply, expressing his own feelings for me, and agreeing he needed to address his psyche. We gave it one more go, which lasted until New Year’s Eve. He brought me to a party where I knew no one, and proceeded to repeatedly abandon me throughout the night. I left depressed, but enlightened. Though we split up that night, he’d climbed wholly into my head. In the clarity of Dry January I could keep a cap on these feelings, but when I began drinking again emotions began rocking and lashing like a wild, dark storm at sea. On Valentine’s Day, I messaged him saying I’d made a mistake. That’s when I learnt the hardest lesson I ever have in love: how easy it is for somebody to tell you you’re an “amazing person” when they’re leaving you behind. I wasn’t ready for the aftermath of being in a controlling relationship. It triggered a great traction of self-hate, where I blamed myself for not being good enough to make him satisfied. In fact these very soul-searching articles have been a direct result of that: trying to work out what about me is unlovable. And the past six months will go down as some of the most mentally fragile of my life. Yet there’s a light. There’s always a light, or I wouldn’t write. I can feel my mental health strengthening, and my confidence returning. And now when I think of him I remember how, on our first date, he claimed I’d told him the film started at 7.30. But the next day I’d looked back at our messages, and I had said 7. A petty point, perhaps, but emblematic of the fact that for all my poor man thought he was always right, he was almost always wrong. 'Let's Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs - Control' is at Ku Klub, 30 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BA tonight (June 9) from 6.30pm. Free entry, all welcome. Featured speakers at the night will include: Professor Rusi Jaspalimage

Dr Rusi Jaspal is Professor of Sexual Health at De Montfort University Leicester. He is also Deputy Director of the Mary Seacole Research Centre, where he leads several research projects on HIV. His current work focuses on sexual identity, sexual behaviour and sexual health among gay/bisexual men, and attitudes towards novel approaches to HIV prevention (especially PrEP). A chartered psychologist and chartered scientist, Dr Jaspal is also a member of the medical board of NAZ (a BME sexual health charity in London), a member of the British HIV Association, and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health.

The Fems 4 THE FEMS is a riotous, vicious, silly choral performance exploring gender identity and masc vs fem culture through medium of a bouffon chorus (bouffon are basically evil clowns): a gaggle of glittering, garish, lipstick smeared flamingo monsters. THE FEMS come to beguile and bewitch you, push you out of your comfort zone and into the cold, then they dump you there, making their escape with a chilling chuckle and evil glint in their eyes.   Charly Flyte, The Chemsex Monologues 3 Charly Flyte presents an excerpt of her monologue 'Fag Hag Cath' from recent sold-out show The Chemsex Monologues before it comes to the RVT (372 Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, London) for a GMFA fundraiser on Saturday 11th June at 2pm.    

Vanity Von Glow


Internationally ignored superstar Vanity von Glow is known for her TV appearances in 'Adele at the BBC,' 'Gogglebox' and 'Drag Queens of London.' A live singing, piano playing funny-woman, she plays at the Phoenix Artist Club every Sunday and this month launched her own YouTube channel featuring vlogs, music and celebrity interviews.

Richard Aldridge, Wandsworth Oasis


Richard Aldridge 54, diagnosed and since 1987, has been a Volunteer Director/ Trustee, for the past 10 years for Wandsworth Oasis. Running a popular chain of charity shops in Wandsworth, raising Money for People living with HIV. Last year alone we gave away £140,000 to important projects and services throughout London. Have been involved with Wandsworth LGBT Forum for over 2 years and was made secretary last year, working within the community,  for all LGBT issues that arise.

Words: Patrick Cash

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