These five men talk about the deal-breaker issues in their relationships that are the most difficult to talk about…
By Clover Stroud
THE NEW BOYFRIEND
By Jack Revell
‘Sex with someone new is nerve-racking – there’s always a risk of failing. In the back of my mind I’m thinking, “Will I be as good as her last guy? How does she like to be touched?” Women’s bodies aren’t the same.
With Sophie I was very nervous, but excited, too. Here was this girl I fancied like mad taking off her clothes. I’ll admit that it probably helped we were both a bit drunk, but once we got going I was fine.
We moved in together only a few weeks after we met. Things were moving fast, but it felt right. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous – I got butterflies all the time. I’d see her name on my phone and have to take a couple of breaths before answering to avoid seeming too keen. If I missed a call, I’d leave it a bit before ringing back.
Sophie was the first to say, “I love you”. It sort of fell out, but it was almost a relief, like getting over a big boundary. I’d known that I loved her for ages, but I hadn’t said it. Now, well, I hardly stop telling her.
The only time we argue is when I get jealous over her ex – they’d been engaged. I worry I won’t live up to him, but that’s my own insecurities more than anything.
Recently, we were out and she asked for her “usual” drink. I couldn’t remember what it was, and I saw her face fall. I hadn’t really realized how much those things mean to women. I’ve learned to really think about her since then.
Being with Sophie has taught me that if you’re really into someone, you should tell them how you feel. I’m not sure she knows how much I love her.’
By Henry Horton
‘In my teens and early twenties I made career decisions based on my fantasy of married life. I trained as an architect, and imagined working in my study with children running in and out. My late twenties destroyed that fantasy. Friends were in turmoil, struggling with mortgages, careers and constantly funneling money into wives who were usually cross. They were trapped in roles as fathers and husbands, probably just longing to go and buy a sports car. I didn’t want that – I wanted fun, simple as that.
My thirties were wild. I wasn’t unfaithful – I didn’t have the chance to be because I was always on to the next girl. You can’t beat the rush of meeting a new and beautiful woman. I enjoyed being swept up in the thrill of it all – so, when the chance to have another fling arose, I usually took it.
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Now, I don’t get quite so heady about women. Call it age, but I need to make sure they have a personality. I prefer single mothers or divorcees – in other words, women who’ve experienced difficult stuff. Broken dreams make people see things clearly – that’s what makes life interesting, not just the idea of yet another naked body to have wild sex with.
There are, of course, problems with being single. You become a target as women like a challenge. They want to pin you down and curtail your racy life. Childless women see you as a father to their potential children, and one girl told me outright that she was only after my money.
There are also moments of loneliness. I’m sitting in the bath, scrubbing my back, wishing I had a girlfriend to come in and brush her teeth and talk. But I don’t feel envious of friends in relationships. I’m happy to wake up in the same room every day, see the same pictures on my walls, and walk my dogs. I like the simplicity, so I’ve got a lot to lose. Let’s face it: get married and chances are you’ll get divorced.
You have to be such a giver as a husband. I can’t help thinking, “What’s in it for me?” Maybe I’m missing out and life is more meaningful if it’s shared but there’s nothing actually wrong with living alone. I’ve got this far. I don’t think I’ll give it up now.’
THE NEW DAD
By Dan Jotcham
‘I’d always assumed I’d be a dad, but I was surprisingly apprehensive when Sophie said she was pregnant. Seeing her growing bump as we lay in bed together made me worry it would come between us. The physical reality of that change in her body was nerve-racking.
How would I cope if something happened to Sophie or the baby? What if I wasn’t supportive enough during the pregnancy and birth? All these things went through my mind, but it was the final days of pregnancy that were the most stressful – I wanted to get things right for Sophie.
Men never admit to the pressure they feel after having a baby, but it does affect us in quite a major way. It was only when I got a good night’s sleep after Evie was two weeks old that I had time to reflect on how I really felt. I woke up, and then broke down. I just needed to cry. Up until then, I’d been so focused on getting things right in a practical way for Sophie and Evie, I’d forgotten to fall in love with my baby.
Since then, things have got so much better. Being parents has brought us closer. Seeing Sophie as a mother makes me admire her even more, and becoming a dad has made life so much more fulfilling. Having a baby has made me feel more of a man, putting me on a par with my own dad.
Of course there have been stressful moments. Extreme fatigue is hard and makes things seem so much worse than they actually are. In terms of sex, we haven’t stopped but it’s certainly less frequent and by no means spontaneous. I was shocked by how long it decreased for, but surprisingly enjoyed the cuddle time instead. In the end, we decided to timetable our sex life, otherwise it would never happen. And that kind of thing is important in a relationship.
A few weeks ago, Sophie confided in me that she had been worried about me being at the birth in case I stopped fancying her, but she’s just the same to me now – a really sexy woman. I do miss spending time alone with her, but what we have now is so much better. We’re a team, and we’re on an incredible journey together.’
By Jason Kirkham
‘It’s easy to find the right person for a couple of years, but finding the right one for several decades? I don’t have faith in that any more. I used to love the structure and emotional security that came with marriage. There’s nothing nicer for a man than to come home to his family – it took the pressure off the rest of my life.
We had a good five years, then we over-stretched ourselves on a building project. It was like we’d hit a wall – under pressure, our hard-wiring wasn’t compatible. The split itself took about three years, but I never stopped hoping that we’d get back together – not until I came home to divorce papers. I was with my mother at the time, standing in the kitchen, and I remember her telling me to be strong. I had to hold on to the table to steady myself.
After about six months, I came out from under my rock. I had to get a girlfriend: I’d deal with my sadness later. Initially, friends went out of their way to introduce me to people, but that dried up so I started internet dating. It didn’t suit me, though, as you need to really sell yourself. Since then, I’ve become less obsessed with filling the gap left by divorce. I’m after sex more than a relationship, and although I haven’t completely ruled out marriage, I’m definitely not searching for it.
Divorce undermined my faith in relationships, but being happy on my own has made me a stronger person.
By Will Whitaker
‘I’m often asked whether I regret marrying young, and whether I get scared at the prospect of being with the same woman for the rest of my life. There was a little bit of sacrifice – I knew I was swapping freedom for responsibility – but I honestly don’t have any regrets. I’ve been married to Gabbie for seven years and she is still the person I look forward to speaking to the most. That’s what makes our marriage work – she’s my best mate, and we haven’t stopped talking since we started dating in our late teens.
Marriage, or at least a good marriage, takes work. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your career, to the extent that you get home and have nothing left for each other. Last year, Gabbie and I went through a period where we were both working in the evenings and leaving very little time for each other. We decided that Gabbie should cut back her hours so that we could do more things as a couple. We’d rather make small financial sacrifices like that than risk the relationship.
I often look at friends who are less happy in their marriages and wonder if they put their careers above their relationship. Gabbie has made me realize that you don’t need to do fancy things to be happily married. Small things matter. My favourite time of day is when we sit on the sofa and have a cup of tea. She’ll say to me, “Tell me what’s bothering you, Will,” and I know everything will be OK.
Of course, we have our ups and downs like everyone else. We bicker over little things like cleaning, but we’ve learned to accept our differences and move on. I don’t understand people who argue just to prove a point. If you love someone, you should accept their opinions.
Single friends can’t get their heads around being with the same woman for the rest of their lives, but I fancy Gabbie more now than I ever did, and I feel sick at the thought of ever cheating on her. I could never get what we share from another relationship. Marriage, if you get it right, makes everything you do not only easier, but better.’