Do you feel like you’ve never had enough close friends? Or solid boyfriends? A lot of gay men feel that way. How come? Does the following experience sound like you?
As a young boy you had a vague feeling that you were different. You weren’t like other boys. You didn’t want to play the same games. And yet you knew it wasn’t okay to play with the girls.
As this sense of difference grew, you realized you weren’t like your father, either. In fact, you sensed that if he really knew what you were like, your relationship could end.
All little boys crave validation from their fathers. “Watch me, daddy,” they demand. But our fathers couldn’t validate us. So we felt dropped from the first man we loved. Then maybe you distanced yourself to avoid the pain of disappointing him and ultimately being rejected.
Fearing being all alone, you tried to hide your differences. You stopped being yourself, and tried to act like other guys. Hungry for love and safety, you tried to win the attention of your mother. If you were lucky and she responded, that helped.
Sometimes we could hide, and sometimes we couldn’t. The other kids sensed our difference and kept their distance. Or worse, teased us for being too feminine.
This early separation from our peers, coupled with our fear of rejection from our parents, led us to believe that at a core level we were gross and unlovable.
How could we love ourselves in this environment? We couldn’t.
So we tried other strategies to cope. Many of us chased approval by doing well in our classes. Some got very good at hiding in groups and being invisible. Others looked for attention through sex with men. Some tried to be perfect in grooming, taste, body, or work.
The avoidance of shame became our primary motivator.
Those are all good survival strategies, but not necessarily good relationship strategies. We get better at relationships when we learn to self-validate. And so we feel lonely at times.
In therapy, gay men learn to recover from an abusive relationship with their self.:
It takes time to develop trust in yourself especially when you are used to feeling good only when you get approval from others.
As we learn to support ourselves from the inside, we get better at understanding and expressing who we really are.
That expression gives other people something real to attach to, respond to, and connect with. It is from that place that great friendships and boyfriends are established.
Maybe it’s time for you, and everyone else, to see who you really are.