Hi Mark- I have read your column in “Men” for awhile now and almost
always find your advice to be very sound.I am a 45 year old gay man
living here in Philadelphia.I am very fit,attractive,successful,have
great friends and family and am very comfortable with being gay (aside
from the eternal internalized homophobia which is something many of us
have to beware of).
I started standard therapy again after a long hiatus(1x/week) over a
year ago because I was getting nervous about my lack of volition in the
dating/sex department-I wanted to understand my damage better and why I
have been so closed.A lot of it is no big mystery;my last “real”
relationship was over 5 years ago and left me devastated,even though I
was the one that instigated the end of it.And I have not had a good
relationship history-I tend to choose and fall for men who have little
to give but who need me;that’s what I learned as a child (from divorced
narcissistic manic-depressive Mom)-that my only value was when I was
needed and that I wasn’t allowed to have needs of my own-if I expressed
them they went largely unanswered so I learned to keep them to myself
and mistakenly thought that this was being “strong” (wrong!).Also have
some abandonment issues.And all of this in a package that seems very
together -and feels it ,mostly.(ie. I don’t FEEL all fucked up.)
I have resolved a lot of this in terms of understanding my past
behaviour and I have worked thru with / forgiven my fucked-up family
for their role-it is my responsibility to move forward as best I can
and I know that in my soul.
The monkey-wrench in all this wonderful self-awareness is that I am
dealing now-and have been for some time-with impotence; it now makes me
so nervous(or angry?) to be close that I can’t get it up.It’s like a
self-fulfilling prophesy;I fear being alone so I keep my distance and
that is how my sneaky mind does it;no sex.At least that is what I make
of it.The other alternative is that I really do not want to be close to
anyone because of my lack of success there-which I reject
consciously.At this point I am wondering how on earth I am going to
ever move forward-I am now have this pavlovian response to sex and it
isn’t good.I really don’t want to go back into therapy- any
thoughts?Thank you-I know this is complex but any insight would be
Hey Jud, Sorry for the delay in responding to you. Since taking over the column I had quite a bit of responses and am trying to keep up with them. Your letter touched me. It seems so many people, gay and straight, wrestle with this issue of intimacy in one way or another. In your case, it seems you have done a lot of work on yourself and have sufficient insight as to the “causes” of your current dilemma. Sometimes, however, knowing your issues and being able to do something about them are two different things. Knowing why you have an issues with impotence and being able to overcome it can be worlds apart. A little behavior modification seems to be in order for you.
The jagged little pill that many people have trouble swallowing is that these “bags” we all walk around with will never truly disappear. Our best hope is to manage them in a way that feels “good enough” to us. Your best weapon is yourself and your ongoing desire to achieve intimacy with someone (a universal quest by the way). Your attempts with people must include, at some point, discussion of why you shy away from intimacy. (ie. why you can’t get it up). Some men make a point of not talking about it because they fear being embarrassed. This is another way to say “I’m afraid of someone knowing me too well”…which is to say “don’t get too close because intimacy has hurt me in the past”. All of this is a defense mechanism to protect yourself from getting hurt again. But what it does is that it leaves you unfulfilled and injured in another way.
My biggest suggestion would be that you talk to a potential partner about your concerns. Find out if he would be willing to wait until after a few dates to hop in the sack. Get to know him more. Find out what makes him tick. See his vulnerabilities. Maybe then you will be more apt to show him yours. With a trick, you are trying to achieve physical intimacy with someone that you haven’t achieved emotional intimacy with. Kind of like the horse before the carriage. Many men have no issue with this and may even prefer this method of sexual interaction. One night stands and quickies can be a lot of fun but they don’t hold a candle to truly intimate sex with someone you know and trust. It takes sex and intimacy to a whole new level.
I hope this answered at least some of your questions. Feel free to write me back with any other thoughts. Best of luck to you. Sincerely, Mark Rutherford LCSW
>>I have been in a relationship about seven years.
>>We’re monogamous, it’s great, no complaints.
>>I like to get massage every couple of months, I have been getting
>>them for years. I like massage with “release”. I happened to
>>mention this to a friend and his response was, “that’s like
>>cheating” I don’t think it is. It is part of the massage. I only
>>see the masseur for massage,I have no interest in him otherwise.
>>There is no “mutual release” and he remains clothed. Is my friend
>>right however? What do you think?
The concept of cheating is a sticky subject and one that has been hotly debated over the years. It means different things to different people. The most traditional school of thought (that probably included most of our parents) is that you should only have one sexual partner in your life. The marriage vows say together for life, better or worse, until death do you part. Even though we are gay, most of us have grown up with that philosophy as some sort of goal to achieve in our lives.
Some people say “Is it cheating if no one ever finds out?” Kind of like “if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it ever really happen” theory. I usually get that response in my office as a rationalization of something (someone) that has been done and a client is feeling some guilt about it. Usually the people that are the most okay with the concept of cheating are the people who are most likely to cheat themselves. This does not make them bad people, mind you. This is just to paint a picture of different people’s attitudes towards cheating.
Another question that is commonly asked is “Are there different degrees of cheating?” This is the category that your letter falls in. We all know that having sex with someone other than your partner constitutes cheating. But what about all those gray areas…..like massage with release? Another gray area is porn. The rationalization is that “I’m not doing it with anyone else so how can he be mad?” Trust me, if your lover finds you jerking off to porn and not wanting to have sex with him, he’ll be upset and probably pretty angry. Just like he should know if your massage therapist is giving you a release. He may not mind at all but I always believe that honesty is the best policy with your partner. Sit him down and tell him about what your friend told you about his idea that you were cheating on him. Tell him that you had not really thought of it that way before but that your friend might have a point so you wanted to tell him right away. This gives the power back to the relationship, the two of you, and allows you to make a decision about what to do together.