by Jimmy G. Owen, M.S., L.P.C.
Are you looking for love in all the wrong places? Jimmy Owen sifts through some potenital barriers that might be holding back your happiness.
As a psychotherapist, love is undoubtedly the most talked about, desired, obsessed over, and misunderstood topic I hear about on a daily basis. "How do I find it?" "Where is it?" "What can I do to prepare for it?" "How will I know it's real?" "What are my roadblocks?" All these questions and more assure me love is a much sought after and precious commodity.
It makes me wonder, why does our community have such a difficult time finding, keeping and trusting when it comes to love? If we look at it from a strictly numbers standpoint, the difficulty in "the finding" is obvious. Most research indicates that LGBT communities are about 10% of the general population. That means we have a much smaller pool to choose from. Not only that, but not everyone in our pool is out and ready to be coupled. Many are completely happy to surround themselves with a support system to meet many of their companionship needs. But don't let that discourage you. We also have one of the strongest support and referral communities of any subculture - so take advantage of the loyal LGBT support systems.
I also believe there is a societal norm which says we aren't "whole" unless we are coupled, so for some, there is pressure to find a mate when it may not be what your intuition tells you. If you feel ambivalence about being coupled, look at it and see where it is coming from before you involve another person. Maybe the love you have within your social and family system is enough to sustain you.
Another issue with love is the lack of healthy coupled LGBT role models. One of the things I love about our community is its diversity. This is especially evident in creating loving relationships. We have the freedom to create our map of what "love" looks like. But remember, with that freedom comes responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is chaos and a recipe for disaster. Be clear about your vision of love before you go blindly stumbling about for it.
Does Sex Get in the Way of Finding Love?
If you are having a difficult time finding the love you imagine, ask yourself these questions about your attitudes toward sex and see if they may be what's getting you stuck.
- How much time do you spend thinking about sex, doing it, talking about it, looking for it? Are you attending to the doings of your everyday life, or is sex getting in your way?
- Do you constantly look at the world through "sexual lenses" - sizing up everyone you see as a potential "yes" or "no?" Are you constantly on the prowl looking for your next conquest? Most people who identify as sexual addicts will tell you it is "the chase" that is the high, not the sex.
- Are you breaking the value you have in place regarding sex? We all have a value system (either consciously or unconsciously) in place for acceptable behavior, even regarding sex. For most, it was taught to us as children by our parents, church and society. When we become adults, one of the many things we have to do is consciously create a value system that belongs to us.
Some people are simply afraid that they can't "do it perfectly," so they throw the entire concept of coupling out the window. They would rather be lonely than make a mistake. I see this especially regarding the concept of monogamy. The reality is we don't know what tomorr ow brings for ourselves or anyone else. Monogamy is a value; not a right or a wrong. The "right or wrong" concept comes in when we say one thing and do another. The advice I have for couples who choose monogamy is this... it is your aim, your goal. You can only guarantee and keep sight of the now - today. Live each day to reflect that value. If you happen to lose sight of your aim, you can get back on course. Make sure you both are clear and honest and stay focused on your commitment to the value.
Then there is the whole "sex is love and love is sex" message... which is another ball of wax. Many of my clients talk about using sex as a way to get their emotional needs met, but in the end, they leave unfulfilled. Unfortunately, using sex as a way to feel loved and needed can be like quicksand - soft and warm as you step in, but in the end, you can drown. Learning to separate love and sex, and learning how to put the two together to create a loving relationship may be something to look at if you continue to wake up with sand in your bed.
As a subculture, we are the only children that, by and large, don't have parents that are like us (gay). Because of this, unless we have some healthy gay role models, we figure out what works for us on our own. A value system about sex can be fluid, depending on whether you are single, dating or coupled. It is something that belongs to you and you alone.
If you think you need some help sorting through these questions, plenty of resources are available. There are support groups for sexual compulsivity/addiction and numerous books on the topic directed specifically to LGBT communities.
Love is everywhere we turn. It's in our music, reading, movies... and in our hearts. Whether you are looking for love, struggling with love, deeply in love or getting in your way of finding love, my hope for you is to find a way to look inward to see the love that you already are. When you start on the inside and work your way outward, your chances of success (as you define it) magnify.