Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture Film & TV

Simon Amstell opens up about failed relationships: ‘I kept trying to save the 18 year-old in me who wasn’t saved’

The comedian and filmmaker delves into his romantic past in the Attitude Body Issue, out now.

By Will Stroude

Words: Will Stroude

Simon Amstell has opened up about his turbulent romantic past, admitting his relationships were previously doomed to fail because he was looking for someone to “fix”.

The comedian and filmmaker, 39, says unresolved issues surrounding his sexuality led to him being drawn to men he thought “needed to be saved”.

Amstell, whose semi-autobiographocial film Benjamin charts the blossoming romance between a self-doubting flmmaker (played by Colin Morgan) and a young French musician (Phénix Brossard), explains in the Attitude Body Issue – available to download and to order globally now – that the story was partly-inspired by a relationship that left him with heartbroken.

“It only lasted six months but it really broke my heart,” he recalls. “It works out better for Benjamin than it did for me, although I did learn a lot about myself.

“I think you end up being drawn to people who will either bring you a lot of joy and peace — a relationship that lasts — or you’re drawn to someone who will show you who you are. That’s what he did.

“I thought what was going on was that I was the mature one who would save this young, vulnerable person but it turned out [to be the other way around]. He dumped me and wouldn’t say why at the time.

“We met six months later and he said two things. One, ‘You’re not at ease with yourself’, and two, ‘You’re really vulnerable’. I knew I wasn’t at ease with myself but I thought that was my personality. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was vulnerable.”

Simon, who came out as gay at 21 after years of struggling to accept his sexuality, says that going to therapy helped him uncover the root of his issues surrounding relationships.

“I got why I kept going for the same kind of person,” Simon reveals. “I kept trying to save the 18 year-old in me who wasn’t saved.”

He goes on: “The boyfriend I have now – is that the way to say it? – the person I’m with now doesn’t need to be fixed. There was no point where I thought, ‘I better go and help that guy’.

“He is fine. He had a happy childhood and is a highly educated, brilliant, handsome human being. There was a moment where I thought, ‘This guy doesn’t need me, what am I doing, I’ve got nothing to do here, no advice to give, I’ve got nothing’.

“But when I got over that anxiety, there was this ease. I could breathe. We could just have a lovely time together without this panic that something needed to be fixed, that someone needed to be saved.”

Read the full interview in the Attitude Body Issue, out now.

Buy now and take advantage of our best-ever subscription offers: three issues for £3 in print, 13 issues for £19.99 to download to any device.