“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.” — John Lennon
It’s not easy finding your “soul mate” or the person you’d like to spend the rest of your life with. In fact, most people don’t ever just find one person to live out their days, they find several and several of them, that ultimately let them down. This seems to be a current problem for the gay community, especially in lieu of all the talks surrounding legalizing gay marriage. More than ever, the gay community is being pressured to find that special somebody to start a life with and have children. Like their straight counterparts, there is an almost unspoken expectation for the new generation of gay men and women to get married and participate in society as active members. But there is a dilemma, gay men can’t seem to stay grounded with another. And it has a lot less to do with sexual urges and more to do with the psychology of the gay man.
Let’s Identify The Problem
In order to come up with creative solutions for the great problem that seems to be arising within the gay community, we first have to solidify the problem. We now know that the issue is not that gay men are more “sexual” or prefer to be more “promiscuous,” instead it has to do with the childhood development of being gay.
Dr. Michael LaSala of Rutgers University has been exploring the roots of gay romantic love for over thirty years and his findings are quite surprising. Over the course of those thirty years, Dr. LaSala has observed and studied thousands of gay couples in his therapy sessions — through his observations he’s come to great conclusions.
For starters, the problem is not that gay men can’t find other gay men to fall in love with — the issue lies in maintaining that relationship long term. Dr. LaSala explains that gay men often experience self-defeating thoughts that sabotage their relationships. So what are these kinds of thoughts are preventing gay men from finding love and sustaining it?
Gay Men Unknowingly Believe They’re Unlovable
British psychoanalyst John Bowlby founded the attachment theory, which explains how we as babies attach ourselves to our primary caregivers. Bowlby went further with his research and begin including romantic relationships. Bowlby found that there were incredible similarities between our needs as infants from our caregivers and two people who are deeply in love.
So how does this relate to the childhood and tabulations that gay men have to endure growing up?
Attachment Theory Applied To Gay Children
Gay men who grew up before the 2000s were born into an era where the gay community had a stigma stuck on them. So much so, that they were often forced to fake who they truly are and hide everything romantic about themselves — in order to prevent harassment and even violence in some cases. This type of fear-induced self-loathing has an effect on a child, Dr. LaSala explains. It negatively impacts their sense of self worth and their ability to trust another being wholly and unconditionally.
Attachment theory comes into play when gay men, growing up feel a lack of appreciation or love from the male figures in their life. This sets up a mindset where they often fear, most times unconsciously, losing the love of other male figures.
Through Dr.LaSala’s extensive interviews of gay couples and individuals, he found that there is indeed a type of attachment theory, called anxious-attachment that takes root in some gay men’s minds. They may not even realize that they feel they aren’t worthy of love, but their behavior typically speak otherwise. More often than not, they try to control their partner or significant other’s behavior to make sure they stay connected and faithful to them.
This is called obsessive jealousy, where one partner fears the other will leave him so they try to cling on as hard as they can. Unfortunately, this often has the opposite effect and the brain reacts to this type of behavior as an attempt to be manipulated.
Solving The Anxious Attachment
It certainly isn’t easy to overcome a childhood experience such as being kicked out of your house or being physically assaulted for something you had no choice in. But the reality is, in order to find a partner, we gay men need to understand why we fight so hard to find love. Working in tandem, there comes an understanding that the best relationships are built on trust, not clinging onto something in fear of losing it like we may have experienced as children. A healthy relationship and perfect partner start with the belief that you’re worthy of love and affection. You should never have to fight or manipulate for it.
To Learn More About Love (References)
1. LaSala, M. (June 24, 2010) Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child (Columbia University Press) http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Out-Home-Helping-Families/dp/0231143834%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAIRKJRCRZW3TANMSA%26tag%3Dpsychologytod-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D0231143834
2. Frayley, C. (June 13, 2014) Adult Attachment Theory and Research https://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm
3. Kirkpatrick, L. (March 1994) Attachment style, gender, and relationship stability. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/66/3/502/