Personal Column: 'I left my girlfriend because of a man'

MP Greg Barker's marriage ended after an affair with a man, it emerged last week. Adam James, 29, left his girlfriend of eight years after he came to terms with being gay
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Lots of boys say they knew they were gay when they were eight, or 12, or from the day they were born. It wasn't like that for me.

I hadn't slept with anybody before university. I'd kissed a girl. I used to roll around in bed with the boy next door, but as I understand it a lot of straight boys - and girls - do that. We always pretended that it was what we would do if there was a girl.

At university, a couple of gorgeous girls fancied me, and it was the first time anyone had shown any interest. I ended up getting off with one of them and my heart went "woop", like that. I couldn't believe that the most beautiful girl had chosen me.

For some reason, I was always very awkward about it, embarrassed holding her hand. I lied about being a virgin, and the first time was so utterly embarrassing and humiliating. But she was the most amazing person, and in the beginning we would spend all day in bed. She made me feel great, she gave me confidence. I did love her, and I thought that was what I wanted. Or I tried to make myself want it, I don't know. I wanted to see myself with her; I didn't want to be one of those people on the outside of society. Whenever I thought, or dreamed, about my future, I was always this guy with some kids and a wife and a massive house and one of those long drives. Accepting real life is difficult enough. Accepting that there is something else, something wrong with that picture, was too much. If I'd had a choice, if I could have pressed a button then and made it work, I would have chosen to spend the rest of my life with her.

We rowed about everything. I'll never know if that was because we were argumentative people, or because of me. Deep down I was frustrated: I knew at some level it wasn't right. I didn't want to be with her, but I didn't want to let her go. I tried not to think about being gay. I was scared.

After we graduated we both got jobs in London. I had a really stormy time: I hated it in London. We were both miserable. We split up for six months, and I slept with a few boys - if you go about your business in some parts of London, and somebody looks at you, and you look back ... I hated myself. I used to stand on the Tube platform, crying, wondering what would happen if I threw myself under a train. The only thing I could think of to stop myself feeling like that was to get back together with her.

It sounds so selfish. And she wasn't stupid: she didn't have me back straight away. That's when I really gained respect for her, when I fell in love with her properly. She said, "You have to understand that if I do this now, this is for ever. " I knew I couldn't commit for ever - to anyone. But I didn't want to stand on that platform edge every morning wondering if I was going to throw myself off. I wasn't a good person. I cheated on her and slept with boys; I had some sort of urge in me that I had to do it.

She persuaded me that we should live together. I was going out till six every morning, going to gay clubs by myself. I was utterly terrified - of the people, who I was, what I was doing, being caught, not being caught ... I always thought that if I was going to deal with this, to tell her, that it would be because of somebody. And in a way it was. I fell in love with someone, although it didn't work out. A couple of colleagues realised something was wrong: I used to work all hours, I just didn't want to go home. One of them said very kindly, "I don't know what is going on here, but you have to talk to her."

I don't remember what I said. I hinted; I forced her into asking me if I was gay. And then I just nodded. She didn't lose it. Well, she did. She was disappointed. She had every right to be. I could have made the other decision. I could have spent the rest of my life with her and been utterly unhappy, and she would have been, too. I always thought that if I hadn't been gay I would have left her years before that. I would have had the confidence.

A few days later, I went back for some things and to talk to her. She said, "I've seen Will & Grace, why can't we live like that?" But I had to run away from her. She interpreted that as massively cruel, but it was the only way I could deal with it.

When I told my friends, I was surprised how unsurprised they were. It's almost disappointing, when you have spent your life gearing up for a fight, for someone to throw something in your face or call you a name. You go to bed and think, "Why have I wasted all those years?" But I didn't waste them: I was coming to terms with it. Some guys start doing that when they are 12 or 15. I was 27.

Ever since, I have felt the most phenomenal sense of release. Anybody who has not been themselves for a portion of their life and then is will understand. All of a sudden you find a place in the world and you fit in that place. I have never been so happy. Now, if I could press a button that would make me straight, I wouldn't.

My one regret is the way I dealt with it with her. I wish I hadn't hurt her, and I wish she didn't hate me. But I hurt her indescribably. I want to remain anonymous in this piece because I couldn't stand to think of her looking at this and being embarrassed. I wish we had just been friends when we met, because I think we would be best friends now. That's such a gay cliché, but I miss her so much. I wish she were my friend. But because of how much I hurt her, she can't be.

Adam James is a pseudonym. He was talking to Katy Guest

Comments