Each one of us, man and woman alike, is driven by the power of romantic love. These infatuations gain their power from the unconscious drive to become a complete human being. In heterosexuals, it is the drive to bring together the male-female polarity through the longing for the other-than-me. But in homosexuals, it is the attempt to fulfill a deficit in wholeness of one’s original gender.
Two men can never take in each other, in the full and open way. Not only is there a natural anatomical well. Both partners are coming together with the same deficit. Each is symbolically and sexually attempting to find fulfillment of gender in the other person. But the other person is not whole in that way either, so the relationship ends in disillusionment.
The inherent unsuitability of same-sex relationships is seen in the form of fault-finding, irritability, feeling smothered; power struggles, possessiveness, and dominance; boredom, disillusionment, emotional withdrawal, and unfaithfulness. Although he desires men, the homosexual is afraid of them. As a result of this binding ambivalence, his same-sex relationships lack authentic intimacy.
Gay couplings are characteristically brief and very volatile, with much fighting, arguing, making-up again, and continual disappointments. They may take the form of intense romances, where the attraction remains primarily sexual, characterized by infatuation and never evolving into mature love; or else they settle into long-term friendships while maintaining outside affairs. Research, however, reveals that they almost never possess the mature elements of quiet consistency, trust, mutual dependency, and sexual fidelity characteristic of highly functioning heterosexual marriages.
This is not to dismiss same-sex friendships. To the extent that there is friendship, there is love; but it is love limited to friendship.
A Look At Male Couples
Most people, regardless of sexual orientation, hope for a permanent relationship. Lifelong relationships offer most people a higher level of self-esteem, emotional security, health, and happiness.
Homosexuals, too, report the desire to share their lives with a partner. They see stable relationships as the solution to many personal problems. When in a relationship, the gay man is less worried about public intolerance, and he feels less depressed and guilty
In 1984, McWhirter and Mattison published The Male Couple, an in-depth study designed to evaluate the quality and stability of long-term homosexual couplings. Their study was undertaken to disprove the reputation that gay male relationships do not last. The authors themselves are a homosexual couple, one a psychiatrist, the other a psychologist. After much searching they were able to locate 156 male couples in relationships that had lasted from 1 to 37 years. Two-thirds of the respondents had entered the relationship with either the implicit or the explicit expectation of sexual fidelity.
The results show that of those 156 couples, only seven had been able to maintain sexual fidelity. Furthermore, of those seven couples, none had been together more than five years. In other words, the researchers were unable to find a single male couple that was able to maintain sexual fidelity for more than five years.
McWhirter and Mattison admit that sexual activity outside the relationship often raises issues of trust, self- esteem, and dependency. However, they believe that the single most important factor that keeps couples together past the ten-year mark is the lack of possessiveness they feel. Many couples learn very early in their relationship that ownership of each other sexually can become the greatest internal threat to their staying together. [p. 256]
In a study of thirty couples, Hooker (1965, p. 46) found that all but three expressed “an intense longing for relationships with stability, sexual continuity, intimacy, love and affection”–but only one couple had been able to maintain a 10-year monogamous relationship. Hooker concluded, “For many homosexuals, one-night stands or short-term relationships are typical (p. 49).
The desire for sexual fidelity in relationship and the benefits of such a commitment are universal. In the long history of man, infidelity has never been associated with maturity. Even in cultures where it is relatively common, it is no more than discreetly tolerated.
Faced with the undeniable fact that gay relationships are promiscuous, gay literature has no choice but to promote the message that faithful relationships are unrealistic. McWhirter and Mattison go further to say that we must redefine fidelity to mean “emotional dependability.” That is to say, while it is understood that they will have outside sexual relations, there is an agreement that the partners will nevertheless manage to be faithful to each other emotionally.
Yet how can a relationship without sexual fidelity remain emotionally faithful? Fidelity as such is only an abstraction, divorced from the body. In fact, the agreement to have outside affairs precludes the possibility of trust and intimacy.
Disillusionment and the Choice to Love
The homosexual relationship is doubly burdened with both defensive detachment and the motivation to compensate for personal deficit. Therefore it will usually take the form of an unrealistic idealization of the person as an “image.” The pursuit of this image often means developing a self-denigrating dependency on the other man. This unrealistic perspective is based on the superficial aspects of the other person and leads to disappointment. Because of these unrealistic projections, the homosexual couple has difficulty moving beyond this “disillusionment” stage in a relationship.
As he did with his father, the homosexual fails to fully and accurately perceive his lover. His same-sex ambivalence and defensive detachment mitigate against trust and intimacy. Easily disillusioned in relationship, he often renews his hope by seeking another partner. Yet it is this disillusionment stage that offers the opening into a mature relationship. Here we are required to make a realistic, honest perception of the other person, including his faults. Based on that honest perception, we may then choose to love. It is this choice to love that marks the beginning of a mature relationship.
In seeking out and sexualizing relationships with other males, the homosexual is attempting to integrate a lost part of himself. Because this attraction emerges out of deficit, he is not completely free to love. He often perceives other men in terms of what they can do for him. Thus a giving of the self may seem like more of a diminishment than a self-enhancement. The person who brings into a relationship a deep sense of deficit may fail to weather the disillusionment stage because by choosing one person, he cannot have it all. To commit to one person is to give up future options. There is the fear — actual anxiety — at the possibility of doing with-out. Thus the homosexual person is inclined to place his hope in possible future relations.
Choosing to love is having to accept the limits of the relationship. It may never have this, or that, or the other thing. The loved one will never be such and such, and so on. Yet maturity means to accept these limitations and create out of them. The creativity to see new options in the relationship comes from a flexibility found within. For in reality, there will always be options-perhaps not externally, but in our expanded repertoire of response.
The moral of this story is: do not expect a monogamous homosexual relationship, for recreational affairs are a part of the gay life-style.
The Search For The Masculine Ideal
In spite of gay rhetoric about androgyny, masculinity remains the gay ideal. It is one’s own deficient masculinity that is sought out in sexual partners. Hooker (1965) observes the particular valuing of masculinity; Hoffman (1968) describes masculinity as “the single most desirable feature” (p. 17) and says that “effeminate men are held in much lower esteem than are masculine-looking homosexuals” (p. 145). The following was observed by Barry Dank (1974):
In the gay world masculinity is a valued commodity, an asset in the sexual marketplace …. If there is a consensus on any subject in the gay world, it is that masculinity is better than femininity. The norm in the gay world is that one should be masculine. One should “be a man” and not “a sissy.” Statements such as, “Those nellie queens make me sick” are typical. This preference for the masculine involves not only the area of sexual attraction …. in the friendship groupings and homophile organizations I have studied status differentiation … is highly related to masculinity-femininity, with the most masculine being nearest the top of the status hierarchy. [p. 191]
As one client explained:
This week I made a list of all the guys I’ve ever had sex with. I wondered, what was I attracted to? I realized it had to do with exterior traits of masculinity and an appearance of self-assuredness. Some of the guys had this hypermasculinity–they were bodybuilders and so on. Looking back, I realize this attraction to masculinity had to do with my not being confident in myself. I also realize now that most of them were actually as insecure as I was…
The heterosexual, on the other hand, is not as psychologically dependent upon finding the feminine ideal for gratification, since he has no unconscious need to fulfill a deficit in original gender…
The Missing Feminine Element
Women bring stability and complementarity into a love relationship. Without the stabilizing element of the feminine, and the stimulation of her complementary physical and emotional makeup, men are generally unable to sustain sexual intimacy and closeness. When romantic passions wane and same-sex familiarity sets in, one person will usually fall out of love. Typically, an event or situation will serve as a catalyst-something unexpected or uncharacteristic that disappoints one partner. Suddenly the other is seen as failing to live up to the ideal he was originally thought to be. There is deep hurt and a mutual sense of betrayal. There may follow an increasing number of petty quarrels, after which one or both partners decides that they are not as compatible as they first believed, or there may be a single violent and destructive showdown.
With the first experience of boredom in the relationship, male couples often resort to narcissistic maneuvers to regenerate interest. And so there is cheating, teasing, a show of disinterest, and fights, followed by romantic makeup gestures. Homosexual relationships are “often bedeviled from the start by dramas, anguish and infidelities” with a particular intensity of dependency, jealousy, and rage. The most volatile domestic relationships I have worked with have been those of male couples. There are typically complaints of intense ambivalence, violent conflicts, and sometimes physical injuries. Because the relationship is forced to bear the burden of unmet childhood dependency needs, there is a great deal of jealousy and suspicion. The homosexual partner is often preoccupied with such questions as “Where is he now?” “Who is he with?” “If he is masturbating, who is he thinking about?” There may be sexual impotence or a deliberate sexual frustration of the other person as a form of control. The partners frequently become demanding or envious and complain that personal boundaries have been intruded upon. When the couple splits up, they often become cynical about relationships.
Later, a new romance will often bring romantic love with another twinning stage, characterized by excitement with the discovery of each shared trait. However, because these discoveries are often projections of nonexistent similarities, the stage is set for disillusionment. Soon again such a man feels smothered and overwhelmed, and restlessness and disappointment spark the desire for yet another lover
The Problem of Boundary Setting
Every couple committed to a relationship is challenged to surrender to the partner, yet paradoxically, to establish boundaries for their intimacy. The relationship can simultaneously enhance and threaten individual identity. Consequently, in all relationships there is an unavoidable approach-avoidance conflict. This approach-avoidance conflict is particularly evident in homosexual relationships. Many clients who have been in long-term relationships describe them as possessive, controlling, and smothering. When threatened by what seems to be a fusion of identity into someone else, a person usually attempts to establish new boundaries, and in the gay world, this typically involves an outside affair.
Having an outside sexual experience can be a devastating way to recoup the weak sense of boundary. Contrary to the popular gay dictum about its recreational nature, sexual relations remain a profound interpersonal exchange. An outside affair violates trust and creates a new separateness between the partners. To move from one person to another and from one relationship to another is like wandering about in a hail of mirrors. Everywhere a man turns, he comes face-to-face with himself. When he stops and looks at his life, he is faced with the pattern of his disappointments: while each of his partners looked like the problem, he in fact remains the constant.
Nicolosi, J. (1991). Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach, Aronson Press, Northvale NJ