Author (original Greek version): George Brekoulakis
Psychologist – Psychotherapist
Translator-Editor: Sofia Poimenidou
Philologist – Text editor
“It’s a unique experience of falling in love and loving your partner more than you’ve been loved in your own life”
In the book of Hendrix (2001), the writer refers to the social journey we all need to do in order to develop our sense of self and our emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2006). At the moment of an infant’s birth, the limbic system of the brain (the centre of emotions) is perfectly shaped. In a mentally healthy family (Cozolino, 2002, 2006) the parents send the message that it is ok to be yourself, to have feelings and to express them in a regulated way, to solve problems and to be assertive(Schore, 1994). Many times, though, people grow up in families in which they develop a bogus self who functions under secrecy in order to earn the love of their parents. However, the love they get doesn’t solve the emotional short-circuit of childhood (Damasio, 2006). To be able for gay men to find their genuine self, they spend energy in a false way, which is expressed by panic attacks, depressive disorders, erectile dysfunctional problems, sexual dependence and impulsivity, sexual anorexia as well as use of alcohol and drugs.
Let’s look at some factors of emotional and erotic growth of homosexual men by living in and out of a gay community:
- Emotional responsibility for trust and safety in homosexual love relationships
As is the case with straight and bisexual men, for gay men the sexual culture of alternating erotic comrades is quite widespread (“one night stand”, “sex buddies”) without this necessarily reflecting a genuine love desire for a gay love long-term relationship, but possibly for a relief in stress, other painful emotions or erotic conflicts. Many gay men might suffer from sexual dependence, sexual impulse and sexual forced activation (Carnes, 1983) or shutdown of libido (Carnes, 1997), without realising it. Maybe it’s not a man’s real erotic desire for another man but an impulsive or a forced sexual behaviour that shows a false need to combat internal psychological conflicts and painful emotions. The emotional understanding of these inner conflicts, minimise the stress and fear and increases the emotional responsibility for trust and security in the relationship of the gay love couple.
- Coming out of the closet (visibility) with empathy in the wider environment
The process of coming out (visibility) is not related with the informing of others about what a gay man likes sexually and what he likes sexually in bed but with the admittance of who the gay man is romantically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically (Cass, 1979). Also, there is social bias that gay men are interested erotically for all men and that they don’t choose men who love them. Coming out of the closet (process of visibility) might be a long-lasting procedure and it needs to be done in a context that the person’s psychic, physical, family and working safety isn’t at stake. The fear of social stigma and marginalisation constitute good reasons for gay men to remain closeted. The psychological process “coming out of the closet” can trigger painful emotions (pain, anger, stress, shame, guilt) of childhood which are “hidden under the carpet” and prevent a gay man of finding his truth and his genuine self. The painful emotions of childhood may prevent a gay man from creating his own long-term gay couple love relationship and subsequently from raising children with his love partner (Hanley-Hackenbruck, 1989).
- Dealing with emotional issues with families of origins in a caring way towards the self
From all of the affective relationships in a man’s life, the emotional relationships in the family of origin are of the most important educational schools of life. Coming out of the closet (visibility) to parents may designate the strong emotional loyalty to the family of origin, not the emotional differentiation and autonomy from the family of origin. Before gay adolescents and adults reveal their sexual orientation to their parents, a mutual ambiance of affection, warmth, openness and secureness must be established. When a gay adolescent or a gay man is coming out regarding his sexual orientation, he declares deep faith in family relationships. In that way, declares the deep value the family has for him. Usually, when gay men open painful subjects, they open more painful subjects from the other members of the family, for who is a good opportunity to negotiate so that they can be differentiated and follow an autonomous life path, to wit adulthood. In the popular book Being Homosexual: Gay men and their development, Richard Isay (1994) denotes: “If the fathers of gay boys accepted and loved their kids, gay boys would have a pattern of love and interest for other men”. Dads who support their gay sons by devoting time in their relationship and who don’t reject and censor their boys, help their kids for making substantial relationships in adult life (Gottlieb, 2000). An emotionally warm dad can help his gay son to have adult friendly or love relationships, regardless of sexual orientation (Siegel & Bryson, 2011). To be able for gay men to have adult, love affairs, emotionally negotiable either they have grown in emotionally healthy families either they need to process emotionally the issues of the family of origin. The case of emotional processing can happen only in a therapeutic context, which offers a high level of emotional input. If gay men are emotionally empowered from a therapist or from a therapeutic team, they can develop a long-lasting love relationship of emotional negotiation.
- Dealing with internalized homophobia
Many gay men are masculine in terms of their gender expression and one cannot easily perceive if they are emotionally gay, bisexual or straight. Masculinity may be a great camouflage in order for a gay man not to live his true self, not to have gay friends and not to be able to claim another man’s love. Zorn & Kleinberg (1998) introduce some examples of internalized homophobia of gay men: 1.They try to introduce themselves as straight when it is safe to be out. 2. They don’t identify themselves as gay though they are committed to long-term gay love relationships. 3. They never announce their anniversaries related to their relationships to straight people because they think that it’s not important. 4. They avoid expressing their affection for their love partner in public context, even if they are safe to do so. 5. They criticize their love partner if they have female sex expression. Many straight, bisexual as well as gay men avoid hanging out with openly gay men because they fear that they will be misjudged, that their narcissistic image will be spoiled and that they may, eventually, fall in love with a gay man. In addition, many gay men with masculine sex expression underestimate other gay men because they are not closeted.
- Graduation from eternal adolescence
Gay men who are trapped in eternal adolescence believe that when difficulties arise, someone else is going to save them and not themselves with their own abilities. Gay men who emotionally remain in a teenage age, prefer short love, long distance and sexually dependent relationships and when the conditions for them are difficult, they move to a more “gay friendly” country, because they can’t cope with the painful emotions of their childhood and they can’t negotiate them in a long-term relationship, in a relationship of high-degree of emotional and erotic closeness as well as of a healthy dependent one at their own country. Tantrums are allowed to children, but adults need to behave in the most emotionally regulated way. The road to graduation from eternal adolescence is the confrontation of the painful emotions of childhood (Siegel & Bryson, 2015).
- Tips for homosexual men dates
Gay men are diverse in terms of what they like in other gay men (hunks, six-pack abs, bears, twinks, smooth-chested gym bunnies, hairy, latinos etc) and in many cases they are rigid as to what they like on sexual level (top, bottom, versatile, missionary position, doggy style etc). Likewise, it may be difficult for them to flirt or to get in an emotional bonding process.
- Take your pride inside, because dates are not for hypersensitive people. Even if you are blown out because your partner doesn’t like you as you are or for what you are interested in bed, this has nothing to do with you but with the other’s desires and tastes. Nothing is personal. It becomes a personal issue when the painful emotions of childhood are involved.
- Listen to your partner’s convictions at the date, knowing that the 90% is about him and not you.
- Don’t play any games. Ask directly for the intentions of the other: “I like you and I would like to see you more. When two men go on a date, it’s hard to know if it’s really a date. I would like this to be a date. Would you like it, too?”
- Be vulnerable. When you protect your feelings, you don’t help yourself to claim a potential mate.
- Be as visible as possible. Self-confident gay men are moving in (gay organization, visibility festival) and out of the gay community. They are not in segregation in the gay community.
- Observe yourself at every date experience “Were you open, honest and straightforward? Did you move quickly?”
- Don’t wait from other men to approach you. You need to mobilize, too. How do you know if someone else is interested in you?
- Many long-lasting love relationships start from chatting on the internet and in different applications (romeo, gaydar, grindr etc), in gay bars, in workplaces, in prides and mixed environments (with straight and gay).
- Laugh off the difficulty of communication and of the boob in different dates. When someone turns you down, it is not related to your value as a person. By 90 percent, negative judgments stand for the person who makes them.
- Sexual commitment to the love partner
Carnes and Weiss (1997) developed the Gay & Bi-Sexual Addiction Screening Test (G-SAST) to help gay men explore the sexual impulsivity and the sexual dependencies (Carnes, 2001). Sexually dependent gay men usually repeat the genuine emotional neglect, lack of emotional sync or also the abuse of childhood. Many gay men believe wrong that the mutual sexual dedication in the couple’s relationship is a myth, while polygamous gay men may believe that the sexual dedication in gay men is an attempt to imitate a heterogeneous (straight) development model which wishes for the heterosexual couples to be monogamous. Sexual dedication might be a conscious, emotional and mutual choice for a gay men couple, not a compulsive choice of dependency.
- Participation in psychotherapeutic procedures
The journey of enduring psychotherapy can be a painful procedure for gay men who are emotionally traumatized in childhood, because it activates emotions related to emotional neglect (when the primary caretakers such as parents don’t pay attention to the feelings of their children) or abuse. During this long-lasting psychotherapy an effort is made to adjust painful emotions so that they can be emotionally negotiable (negotiation of sadness, outrage, stress etc). Also, the feelings of guilt and shame which undermine the genuine self and the genuine love relationships are confronted.
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