Posted: 24 Aug 2010 09:48 PM PDT
It started off well. He was so sincere, open and interested. Or at least he seemed that way. He swept you off your feet. He could be so romantic, and his attention was always focused on…you. Maybe you thought, “At last. Someone who really appreciates me and isn’t playing games.” You started to lower your guard and let yourself feel hopeful. Had you found Mr. Right?
Predictably, that’s about the time the game playing was just starting. He’d confess his love for you one weekend, then you wouldn’t hear from him for two weeks. Or after what seemed like a great weekend, you’d find an email in your inbox , breaking up with you. What’s up with all that?
Some men have a problem really getting close to another human being. That sort of intimate encounter requires lowering the guard, and that’s not easy if you’ve spent your entire life keeping your guard up. The best definition of intimacy I’ve ever encountered is that it’s an unarmed encounter between two vulnerable individuals. That’s counter-intuitive for guys who have learned that vulnerability is a bad thing, to be avoided whenever possible.
If genuine intimacy is tough, the cheap imitation version is much easier to manage. It keeps people at a safe distance while providing the illusion of closeness. Call it “faux intimacy,” like the faux finishes sometimes applied to walls or furniture to fool the eye. There are at least a couple of types of simulated, not-quite-the-real-thing intimacy, depending on whose eye it is that’s being fooled.
Unfortunately, internet dating seems to promote artificial intimacy. Chat rooms, email and IM conversations all look like the real contact. Alas, in cyberspace it’s all too easy to say things you don’t mean or can’t actually make yourself do. Even more unfortunately, almost everyone who’s looking for a guy to date is looking for love online. The result is a lot of disappointment and heartache.
Guys who need the illusion of a boyfriend without all that complicating commitment can be really good at delivering the trappings of romance, though their timing may be off a bit. They seem to see themselves playing the lead in a romantic movie role. The words “I love you” can come easily to their lips, but there isn’t much behind it. They may even be overly demonstrative about their love and affection early in the relationship because they’ve learned that’s what’s expected of them. Only over time does it become clearer that they have no sense that relationships require commitment and openness, or they’ve never learned how to do the work that intimacy requires of them.
Imitation intimacy often involves fooling the self even more than involving others. And for men straight or gay, sex is a great way to engage in self-deception because they learned early on to think of sex as a performance, not something involving their hearts. Gay men face an additional problem because they can be secretly sexual and avoid the anxiety that comes from openly acknowledging their love for another man. Sexual contact makes them feel less isolated, at least for a time. But they don’t have to deal with their internalized homophobia and acknowledge the truth that their same-sex attraction is more than just sex.
Whether it’s romance or sex, at some point most men can no longer settle for less than genuine connection with another human being. When that happens they must face the reality of their loneliness.
That’s when the game-playing ends. Acknowledging loneliness and anxiety is hard. But doing it means men can begin making their relationships more genuine and satisfying – the real thing.
John R. Ballew, M.S.an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. - www.bodymindsoul.org.
``````thanks to Michael at gaytwogether.com