Saturday, October 17, 2009

My "Best Friend" and Realistic Male Friendships

I posted a lot of this in response to another post on one of the North Star discussion groups.
I have thought a lot about this in my life and felt like I should post this here as well.

A while back I was consumed with a desire to find a "Best friend." Some other guy who I could do everything with. Some guy who understood me completely and who I would always call to talk with or go hang out with. I never found that someone. That sort of relationship has eluded me. I used to be very discouraged that I didn't have a "Best Friend."

I think that I've come to the conclusion that it really isn't a realistic or even desirable thing. I will admit that marriage can be a relationship where you're the most important person to your spouse, a "Best Friend" relationship, but the relationship I have with my wife doesn't fill that desire completely. She is the most important person in the world to me and I know that I am to her. I also feel completely safe with her. I know that she'll never leave me or try to hurt me. She really is my best friend.

Still, there has been a similar desire to find that sort of a relationship with a guy as well. I know for sure that no man is supposed to be completely consumed in his relationship with his wife to the point where he doesn't need other male friends--deeply fulfilling, intimate friendships. A man who believes that is going to find that he is never quite happy. However, I've come to the conclusion that the more I think about finding a deep and permanent soul mate in another guy, the more disappointed I am going to be. I don't think that is how God created us to relate to other men.

Over time, I've been able to change the way I think about my relationships with other men. I've come to find that more important than being someone else's best friend, is being a true friend to someone else. The more honest and authentic I am with other men and the more open and vulnerable I am with them, the more they reciprocate. Even more, when I am completely authentic, I feel a deep connection with other men, that truly nourishes my soul. I have friends that I only see a few times a year, if that. Still when I interact with those friends I feel as loved and accepted as I can imagine. I don't necessarily feel that way about guys in my elder's quorum who I see every week, because I am not as open and authentic with them.

I know for sure that it is possible to develop friendships that are deep and meaningful enough to fill the void we feel. It can take a some time, but most of all it takes trust and risk to be completely authentic and real. The best way to go about filling that void is to find as many sources of love as possible. When I was trying to get everything I needed from a single source (even my wife!) I would end up draining the relationship and still feeling empty. But by getting my quota of love from a lot of different relationships, I am not only filled with joy, but those relationships can go on forever without wearing out. And the longer they go, the deeper and more fulfilling they get. I can't wait for eternity with my wife and my beloved brothers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marriage, Dating, and SSA Men

So, I've been thinking about the topic of marriage as it relates to men with
SSA for a while now. I tend to feel a surge of emotion when I've heard so
many men express the idea that they are sure that they won't be married in
this life. I fear that will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy that isn't
necessarily meant to be true.

The key culprit in this issue is the idea that "I don't date girls because
I'm not attracted to them." Let me explain a bit more. Guys who I hear say
this usually have a follow-up explanation that basically says: "If at some
point, by some miracle, I develop attractions for women I'm totally open to
the idea of getting married, but since I don't feel any attraction to them,
it isn't fair for me to date them, and frankly, I don't have any desire to."

I strongly believe that this attitude is motivated by the enemy of our
souls. He would like nothing more than for us to put off courting and
dating until we are "attracted to women." This is because he knows that if
we do, the attractions to women will most likely never come.

I'm a firm believer that one of the most effective way to develop sexual
attractions to women is to develop a deep emotional bond with that woman.
One of the most effective ways to develop a deep emotional bond with a woman
is to spend time with and to serve that woman. Dating provides an excellent
opportunity to spend time with and to serve a woman.

I wonder if the Church-School Culture isn't at least partly to blame here.
Dating is not about going on a date with a woman who you can imagine
yourself marrying. I think dating is more about the process of getting to
know someone and figuring out if there is any possibility that you might be
able to find joy in a marriage with that someone. That process not only
takes time, it requires actually going through the process.

I kind of got sucked into dating my wife. We were totally not dating for
the first 2 months we were hanging out. She started it all. She asked me
to go walking with her one night, because no one else would go with her. I
had barely met her three nights before at our Singles' Branch Family Home
Evening. I felt bad for her needing to get out and walk, but not feeling
safe that late at night. I grudgingly left my interesting and extremely
isolated evening routine to go walk with this girl from the branch. I found
out I kinda enjoyed spending time with her and talking to her. So when she
said she wanted to get together again, I just blurted out that there was a
Multi-Stake dance that weekend. For the next couple of months we spent a
lot of time together. Then one night we were in my parent's basement
watching a movie. She told me about her week (one in which she had spent
some time with some other guys). I started to experience this
uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when she told me that she was
considering dating one of them. I liked spending time with her and, after
all, she was my only friend. It's not like I wanted to marry her or even
kiss her. I just wanted to have to to myself so I could spend time with
her.

For the next 2 months, I thought up every way I could possibly come up with
to break up with her without breaking her heart. I made numerous plans just
to break it off, only to lose my nerve when the moment came. Finally, I
settled on what seemed like a fool-proof strategy. I committed to an
Internship 14 hours away. I would move away and the distance would simply
be too much for the relationship. She wouldn't take it personally and I
would avoid having to tell her that I wasn't interested in marrying her.
Everything was going perfectly, until the night that I realized I loved
her. I was totally unprepared for that 2x4 to the head. I mean I knew I
really like her and cared about her and enjoyed spending time with her. But
that wasn't love. There sure as hell wasn't any sexual attraction. At
least that's what I had been telling myself. After that, I was really
confused. I loved her but I wasn't sexually attracted to her. I couldn't
picture having sex with her. I had no idea what to do.

However, once I realized that I loved her, the craziest things started
happening. My body started having physiological responses. When we cuddled
or kissed, my pulse quickened and I started breathing funny. Blood started
flowing to new places. Over time, I found myself thinking about her in ways
that I'd not previously thought about her, and much to my dismay, I wasn't
repulsed at the thought.

Before I knew it I had asked her to marry me and move to Nebraska with me
while I did my internship. There's a lot of other crap that came from me
being stupid and not addressing my SSA before my marriage. I was dumb and
naive enough to think that once I had an appropriate outlet for my sexual
energy, the SSA would just fade away. Oh, boy was I ever wrong! Things got
a lot worse before they got better. However, I know that the process of my
falling in love with my wife was real.

I know a couple of friends who say that the process of sexual/emotional
attraction tends to happen backwards for men with SSA. I agree with this.
For a large number of straight men, the reason they date a woman in the
first place is because they think she's hot and they want to find out if
there is any way they can get along with her emotionally. So the sexual
attraction comes first and then as they spend time with her, an emotional
attraction develops. We don't get the same hormonal jump start to dating.
We spend time with her, develop that emotional attractions and then
eventually develop a sexual attraction. But the dating part is still
essential to developing the necessary emotional attraction.

I know this has been incredibly long and maybe it's too much, but the bottom
line is that if SSA men have any interest in someday getting married, they've gotta
date now regardless of the level of sexual attraction that they currently feel
toward women.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Call to Arms

I heard this song yesterday and immediately thought of my last post. It's like the perfect soundtrack.


video

Friday, October 9, 2009

"I Had a Dream" and now I have one

So, lately I've been pondering the direction my life should go. Not in a way that would allow for any major changes. My chosen career path is pretty well set in stone. It has been confirmed too many times to change now. Getting through the rest of my schooling is one of my top priorities. But a couple of weeks ago, I lost my job. I had been planning on staying with that job for at least another three years. I found a temporary job, but it really wasn't working out, so I resigned yesterday. I have a bunch of applications in and I'm very optimistic about the probability of finding a job. Still, such a major shake to my world has caused a me to think quite a bit about what the Lord wants from me.

Also this last week, we've added two new members to our support group. That feels really good. I love knowing that something I've done actually benefits another person. But at the same time I'm discouraged when I think about all those individuals who are still struggling in quiet desperation; when I think of the parents and friends who don't know what to do when their son or daughter tells them that he or she is gay; when I think of the church leaders who don't know how to help members who come to them with issues of same-sex attraction.

I want to yell with the voice of an angel to tell everyone how it is. I want be able to reach every ear and penetrate every heart with the sword of the spirit. At the same time, I tell myself that I'm a nobody. I'm not a psychologist yet. I'm not in any position of authority in the church. I'm not even perfect. How can I make much difference? There are so many deeply entrenched beliefs about same-sex attraction that simply are not true and those beliefs are wide-spread. What can I possibly do to change anything?

Last night I had an interesting dream. I was waiting outside of a building for a group of men to come out of a meeting. It was the committee in charge of the LDS Family Services response to same-sex attraction. As the committee came out, I saw a number of men who are very prominent in the LDS Same-sex attraction community. Most of them have not experienced the effects of same-sex attraction in their lives. Most of them are still influenced by thoughts and ideas that are, quite frankly, ridiculous and out-dated. Yet these men were the ones deciding how the members of the church were going to respond to same-sex attraction. I remember expressing the thought "But you don't understand the issue!"

Their reply was immediate, "How dare you question us? We are the one's the Lord has chosen to make these decisions."

I woke up shorty after that. The response I didn't get the chance to say was still burnign in my mind and heart. "No, you're just all He has to work with right now."

Then I got an email from a friend and role-model of mine. He quoted President Monson as saying:

"In professional business, scientific work, and technological life, there is a rule which can be a very good one for ambitious young persons. The rule is this: Find a vacuum and expand into it. Ask yourself, 'What is there that needs doing and is not being done?' Then assess you capacity for doing things, and let it be your ambition to do the work that you can do best, in an area where it’s needed most, and then put all of your mind to it."

This quote really struck me with power.

It seems to me that the Lord is calling each one of us to step up and do what needs to be done. He doesn't want us to expect others to do it and then criticize their perceived lack of action while we wait lazily on the sidelines. It is up to each of us to many things of our own free will and bring to pass much good.

This understanding me has given me the power and motivation to undertake tasks that once seemed daunting. The Lord wants me to expand into the void that currently exists regarding education about same-sex attraction. He wants me to grow and stretch.

I only hope that I am not the only one attempting to fill this massive void, though even if I am, I know that I can anything the Lord desires as long as I have His help.