In the last episode of this season, my friend Alan joins me and shares with us many gems from his journey of healing, recovery and overcoming same-sex attractions, attachments and codependency. Alan shares with us how support systems have helped him in his journey of healing, and he shares lots of advice on relationships, marriage and intimacy from his 40+ years of marriage.
*Trigger warning: this episode covers topics that are emotional and sexual in nature, and it has been flagged for explicit content*
Links to resources mentioned in the episode:
- Brothers Road webpage
- Journey Into Manhood
- Joel 2:25 webpage
- "Developing Heterosexual Desire" by Jeffrey W. Robinson, Ph.D.
- Conscious Dating: Finding the Love of Your Life & the Life That You Love by David Steele
- No More Mr Nice Guy: A Proven Plan for Getting What You Want in Love, Sex, and Life by Robert Glover
In the last episode of this season, my friend Alan joins me and shares with us many gems from his journey of healing, recovery and overcoming same-sex attractions, attachments and codependency. Alan shares with us how support systems have helped him in his journey of healing, and he shares lots of advice on relationships, marriage and intimacy from his 40+ years of marriage.
*Trigger warning: this episode covers topics that are emotional and sexual in nature, and it has been flagged for explicit content*
Links to resources mentioned in the episode:
- Brothers Road webpage
- Journey Into Manhood
- Joel 2:25 webpage
- "Developing Heterosexual Desire" by Jeffrey W. Robinson, Ph.D.
- Conscious Dating: Finding the Love of Your Life & the Life That You Love by David Steele
- No More Mr Nice Guy: A Proven Plan for Getting What You Want in Love, Sex, and Life by Robert Glover
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta'ala wa barakatuh, and welcome to a brand new episode of "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and Islam. I'm your host, Waheed Jensen. Thank you for joining me in this episode, which is the last episode of season three, inshaAllah, and joining me today is my friend Alan, who is going to be sharing with us his story and lots of insights from his 40+ years of marriage, including how he told his wife about his same-sex attractions before marriage, his struggles before and during marriage, his journey of recovery and healing and how he got to where he is at the moment. This interview is a long one, but it's worth every moment, so don't miss out on any part of it. In the first half of the episode, Alan shares with us his story growing up and dealing with SSA, and in the second half of the episode, he shares with us many gems related to healing, recovery, overcoming attachments and codependency, being part of many support systems and how they helped him in his journey, as well as lots of advice on relationships, marriage and intimacy. I believe this is the perfect ending to this season, as it ties together all of the themes that we spoke about in the season, including support groups, as well as marriage and intimacy. A general trigger warning before we start, as some of the topics are quite emotional and sexual in nature, and this episode has been flagged for explicit content given advice on intimate relations in marriage.
I've asked Alan to send me an introduction about himself, I'm going to read part of the introduction that he sent me, and the rest is going to be shared throughout his story. Alan is a 64 year-old man, he is a husband and a father of two adult children. He is the third and youngest child of his parents. He has another brother and another sister. By profession, he is currently a teacher of English as a foreign language in an Eastern European country, and before that, he used to work in a family business. In many ways, as he describes his life, it's rather ordinary, but he survived a terrorist attack at the Istanbul International Airport in 2016, and he was also diagnosed with cancer that same year. Today, alhamdulillah, he is as a cancer survivor, and after radiation treatment, he has been cancer free for the past four years, congratulations! As a child, he thought he was an introvert, because he was scared of people and lacked confidence in himself. Only recently in the past five years did he change his understanding and recognize that he is actually an extrovert. He enjoys journaling daily for over 35 years and enjoys writing. He processes a lot of his thoughts and feelings through his writing. He writes that, while he is not proud of his past, he is no longer ashamed of it. God has taken away his shame. He is a man of faith, and his faith has played a central part in the story of his life. Welcome to "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", Alan!
Thank you for for having me here. I guess, for me, it's sort of an honor, because I really like what you're doing here, Waheed, and I really think it's useful and very helpful for people.
Thank you so much, the honor is all mine, and I'm very, very grateful and happy to have you on board. I'm so excited to be doing this interview with you and hearing what you have to say. I have to say that Alan and I got in touch with each other when he started emailing me after listening to the podcast back in season one. And I realized that we have a lot of mutual friends who are scattered across the world. And then I got to know that Alan is involved in the recovery community and has been helping so many people all across the world from different backgrounds, different religions, you know, kind of lead a life that is true to their religion, true to their value system. I am so excited to be doing this interview with you, so thank you for being here. So, the floor is yours. Let's do this!
Okay. Well, you know my name is Alan because Waheed introduced me, I want to share now about my journey of life. I would never say that this journey of self is an easy one. There are plenty of struggles in life, and my same-sex attraction is only one of them. Some people with same-sex attraction make peace with their attractions and some don't. Some alcoholics recover and some don't, same with drug addicts. Some marriages survive and some don't. I think that we only fail when we give up. I personally have struggled to overcome two addictive behaviors: viewing gay pornography and using food for comfort. Both seem to offer an easy solution to my problems and my pain. Steve Cervantes, from a recovery Ministry, says, "Addictions always start out as solutions to our problems, but end up being bad solutions." In the same way, I think that my SSA started out as an attempted solution to my trauma related to my gender. It was an attempt to self-correct, and provide a solution to my shame and lack of attachment to my masculinity, and my failure to make healthy attachment to my male community. But, like addictions, same-sex attraction ended up being a bad solution that didn't really work for me. It didn't bring me peace or happiness, it only made me miserable. And then, in the same way as my addictions, my same-sex attraction added problems to the original trauma, it never fixed the original problems. If one is willing to accept the harder path and do the work to get to the root causes of addictive behaviors, or their same-sex attraction, their codependency, their marriage struggles, I believe that they will find peace, personal growth, how to give generously to others. I believe that they will know satisfying relationships, and become the person God intends them to be. I'm doing all these things now, and this is my story. I hope that my story will encourage men and women with similar life stories. We all face choices when we come to the fork in the road, and I encourage you to choose well and find your authentic self. That is better than choosing poorly and facing a lifetime of regrets and disappointment. Following your feelings and choosing to live a "homosexual" lifestyle might seem like an easier path to follow, but in the end, I doubt that you will find the fulfillment that you want in your life. And I want to encourage men not to be distracted by those who gave up on their journeys, to find their authentic manhood, or women to give up on their journeys to find their authentic womanhood. Focus on your own journey. Find those people who are successful, people who are still married to their original spouses, those who overcame their addictions, their disabilities, their poverty, their illnesses, their unwanted sexual attractions. These are your mentors and your traveling companions. They may be fewer than the crowds who choose the easy pass. But they are the ones who will truly care for you as a person and help you achieve the best person that you can be.
I'm going to share my story and talk about some of my pains and my triumphs. I want to share some of the things that were most helpful to me along my journey. So let's get started, this is my story. I've had same-sex attraction for most of my adult life. I've found healing in recent years from the emotional pain that this attraction has caused. I'm a man who is committed to follow God's will for my life, and I'm thankful for what God has done and is doing in my life. I believe that part of my healing process includes sharing my story, so that my journey can help and inspire others. Sharing with you, listeners to this podcast on "A Way Beyond the Rainbow" is really a privilege for me. I'm a Christian man who became friends with Waheed after listening to Episode Five, and I'm thankful for all that he's doing to help the Muslim community to understand and respond to their unwanted same-sex attraction. Many people listening struggle with same-sex attraction, and there are also many people who don't struggle with same-sex attraction, but they need to know how to help and care for members of their communities who do struggle. So, I am now 64 years-old in the year 2020, and I'm aware of having a same-sex attraction since puberty. My feelings of same-sex attraction probably started around the age of 12. However, I realize that the emotional difficulties that led to the same-sex attraction started much earlier in my childhood. As a child, I missed forming good and affirming relationships with other males in my life, and I began to feel inadequate or incomplete as a man. In other words, I didn't have a strong foundation to build a healthy male identity. I did not have a close relationship to my own father growing up. In some ways, I knew that my dad loved me, he was not absent from my life, and he did many things with me and my brother and sister. But I knew, unconsciously, that I never met his expectations as a son. His acceptance of me was conditional, and I knew that while he loved me, because I was his biological son, he really didn't like me as a person. We all need affirmation, affection and attention to develop a healthy self-esteem. My dad really only gave me his attention, i.e. one out of three. So, I think my dad had his own struggles with his own masculine development, because his own father, who is my grandfather, never learned how to express his love for my dad or for my uncle. I never observed my grandfather use words of affirmation or give healthy physical affection. In a way, I guess, my father may have been handicapped as a parent as far as helping his sons to grow into well-adjusted men. I don't have memories of my father saying, "I'm proud of you, you did a good job. This is great." And I don't have memories of my father touching me in an affectionate way, on the shoulder, on the head, or giving me a hug. I don't have those memories. As I understand it, my dad found his own masculine identity through sports, in high school and college, where he was a good athlete and found his acceptance as a man through his peers, and he found popularity through his athletic abilities. So, my dad, rather naturally, wanted both my brother and me to be good athletes like he had been. Neither my brother nor I were athletic, and I believe that we both knew and felt that we were disappointments to my father.
I did not form a close relationship with my brother, either. My brother had a difficult birth, and, as a result, he had some physical and learning disabilities that had made his life difficult. In particular, school was a challenge for my brother. My dad pushed my brother to do things my brother couldn't do. This created constant tension between my brother and father. As a consequence, my brother was often angry and expressed his anger in aggressive and violent behavior. So, he was abusive to me and my sister. Because of this, he was not "safe" for me. So, from childhood, I often avoided my brother and spent time with my sister instead. In his teen years, my brother's violent outbursts continued and intensified. So, my brother became more and more alienated from his family, and particularly from my father. His unresolved anger issues eventually resulted in mental health issues, and he became more isolated from friends and family. He was very antisocial in his later life, and he lived many years like a homeless person and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. It's very sad for me to admit that my father's insecurities and his own desires to be accepted and find approval led to some of the dysfunctional behaviors that affected both, my brother and me. My father always hid his weaknesses and problems from everyone outside the family, and my dad really didn't know how to give us love and approval that we needed to grow into healthy men. So, as a child and a teenager, I was not connected to my father or my brother. Essentially, I felt rejection by the closest males in my life, and, on the other hand, I became closer to my sister and my mother. I felt loved by both of these female family members, but I had a real emotional need to be accepted into the masculine community, and this need was not met in my family, nor met fully in my extended male community, or in my other experiences with men in general. I was much closer to my sister and my mother, and so I was often in the feminine world. I prefered to play with the girls rather than the boys, I wanted to dress up in girls clothes, not play kickball with the boys, and I did. There was one holiday that children celebrate by putting on costumes and going around the neighborhood collecting candy and bags from their neighbors (that's Halloween). Most boys dress like superheroes, pirates or vampires, astronauts, something like that. I always wanted to dress in women's clothes, and I often did. I have no idea now why one or both of my parents didn't stop me from doing this. Now, I wouldn't say that I was a transvestite, there was certainly no sexual fetish associated with cross-dressing. I would also not say that I was transgender in any way. I never felt like I was a woman trapped in a man's body. I do remember thinking that I wish I could have been a woman, because it seemed to me that it was easier to be a woman, and I struggled to feel like a man. I had a couple of very cruel physical education teachers in elementary school who ridiculed me, because I wasn't good in their gym classes. I wasn't athletic, and I wasn't really interested in sports or competitions. I was an obedient child, and I did what I was told to do, but I just wasn't athletic. While these two male PE (physical education) teachers repeatedly shamed me in front of the other children in school, and I hated my physical education classes, these experiences left me with emotional scars. It was another incident that damaged my self-image as a male, convinced me that I wasn't male enough to make it in the world of men. Later in my childhood, my father forced my brother and me to play softball, the children's version of baseball. I didn't want to play softball, but my father forced me to do it anyway. I'm sure I asked to quit, but my father wouldn't let me, and I had to play softball for the entire summer. I think I was probably the worst player on the team. I couldn't hit the ball with the bat very well, I couldn't catch the ball, and I certainly couldn't throw it well. The experience was nothing but humiliation for me, that I spent most of the time in the outfield. The outfield is where the coaches stick the unskilled players. I spent my time praying that none of the kids on the other team would hit a ball in my direction. If a boy hit a ball to me, then every boy and all of their parents would see what a bad player I was. Every practice and every game were humiliating for me, the summer shamed me again and again. It didn't seem that I had what it took to be a male. Needless to say, with these experiences of sports failures as a guy, I didn't want to practice to improve my skills at softball, basketball, football or any other sport. By the time I got to junior high school, I was a complete washout in all the sports. The cruel comments from my peers was another source for my poor self-image as a young man. I was bullied by many young men. gym class was torture for me, because of the macho students who picked on me. They made me feel inadequate, and they called me a "fag", a "queer" or a "fairy". Gosh.. I did have some good PE teachers in junior and senior high school who were supportive and kind, but, overall, I just hated my gym classes. The need to be loved and accepted by males in my life was really huge, but it seemed like an impossibility for me. Acceptance as a male seemed to be linked to something that I was not and did not want to be. I was not athletic, I was overweight, and I was not macho in my behavior. At one point, I resolved to try to act more macho to avoid the bullying, but this was not authentic to me, and I didn't feel equipped to put on this act, even if it would have helped me to alleviate some of the negative self-image and the pain of being bullied. I had other interests, I was good at art. I began painting lessons as a young teenager and have continued to paint all my life. But this didn't help very much with my need to be accepted by other men. In adolescence, I began to have same-sex fantasies. My healthy and normal need to be accepted by the other guys had turned into an unhealthy erotic attraction to them.
In 2014, I found the website "People Can Change", and I read an article that explained how I felt as a teenager. This information is from that website: Males who lack a healthy connection to other males often find that they're attracted to men, because they lack a sense of their own masculinity and feel like other men are more masculine. Those men seem to be the opposite of who they feel they are. So, men, and not women, seem like the opposite sex to me. Men who struggle with same-sex attraction can often relate well enough with females, but males are like the "mysterious other", and, so, they desire to be like or to have an emotional connection to males. This healthy need for emotional connection becomes hijacked by the sexual hormones at puberty and turns into a sexual lust. As one person puts it, "The exotic becomes erotic." So, I was a teenager in the late 1960s, so this was long before there was internet pornography. I had no access to gay pornography or men posting nude selfies on social media.
Yeah. Oh, not so lucky! However, I began to look at male nudes and classical Greek and Roman art as well as in Renaissance art, and this became erotic stimulation for me, as the art was readily available, even though internet pornography wasn't. So, I have to be honest, I was also a voyeur. I looked for opportunities to watch males in the locker rooms, the showers, or the bathrooms. Just watching shirtless guys play sports was triggering for me. I didn't seek sexual experiences with real young men around me. I often observed them, and I admired those who had muscular physiques and who had handsome features. They had everything which I felt I lacked, and I fantasized having close relationship with guys that I had crushes on, and I began to have sexual fantasies about some of them. I learned about masturbation at the age of 12 from secretly observing my older brother masturbate. Needless to say, I've had a lot of "self sex" over the last 50 years. My adolescence and teenage years were troubled but not without some positive things as well. My Christian faith began when I was 12. I became active in the Boy Scouts, and I enjoyed many positive benefits that come from this character-developing program. I had many healthy platonic friendships with other young men and similarly positive adult mentors through the scouting program. As an older teenager, I also became active with the drama group at my high school, I was in many school plays, and I found acceptance with both male and female friends there. I dated girls during my high school years and enjoyed having a few girlfriends. At the same time, because I had an unmet need to be loved and accepted by males, I experienced same-sex attraction. During high school, I met my future wife, and we begin a wonderful close friendship that has continued in my adult life. In my late teen years, I realized that there was more to spirituality and my Christian faith than I've experienced in the very liberal church I attended. I really had not grown spiritually; however, as an older teen, I recognized clearly that others around me had a deeper relationship to God, and I hungered for that in my life. At that time, I began a spiritual search to find a real relationship with God, and God met me as I sought Him. At this time, I really started to grow in my Christian faith, and I went to a Christian university after high school. I met some homosexual men in university, and I was good friends with some of them. Three homosexual men expressed desires to have me for their sexual partner, and, fortunately, God spared me from getting involved in homosexual sex with any of these men. I can tell you about one of these men. There was one guy whom I will call Keith. My girlfriend introduced me to Keith, and when I met him, I immediately felt connected to him, and our friendship began very easily. In time, I learned that he was gay. We never had any sexual relationship. One time, we cuddled on my bed in a dorm room. And one other time, Keith needed a place to stay for the weekend and asked to stay with me, I agreed and he came. I was in an apartment and only had one double bed, so we slept in the same bed. Keith began to kiss me and to embrace me, but when I didn't respond to him, he stopped, and he respected me. So, that didn't lead to anything. All through my university years, I've continued to have a close and special relationship with my future wife. We had not made any promises to each other, but we shared a special emotional intimacy while maintaining our platonic friendship. I dated a few other women in university but never really had the connection with any of them like the one I have with my future wife. I proposed to my wife when she and I were 21 years-old. We were chaste in our relationship, but after our engagement, our physical intimacy began growing. We began holding hands, kissing, hugging, and she would give me back rubs, so we had more touch. My romantic and sexual feelings at her at that time were just opening up. And then, something happened that I have regretted all my adult life. At a time when my sexual desires were being awakened, one of my university friends, whom I will call Sam, seduced me in a same-sex relationship. Two factors were involved: I was beginning to open up to my sexual feelings with my fiance, and thus my guard concerning sexual boundaries was coming down. And secondly, I had unmet emotional needs for the acceptance of men. Those needs had developed into my latent same-sex attraction. I am sure that if my same-sex attraction had not been present, that I would not have been vulnerable to the seduction. But I had this secret emotional need for close connection to another male. I wanted the affirmation, affection and attention from a man that I had never experienced. I'd secretly fantasized about a same-sex relationship for years, so I was vulnerable at that point. Sam's and my relationship lasted for a period of eight or nine months and included maybe nine or ten sexual encounters that amounted to mutual masturbating ending in orgasm.
And how old were you back then?
I was about 21.
Okay, and you were engaged to who is right now your wife?
Yes, I was. Good clarification. While there was an excitement, a sexual awakening that felt enjoyable and pleasurable in the beginning of this relationship, I found that, after some time, our sexual encounters left me feeling disappointed and unfulfilled. I really came to understand that Sam was using me to fulfill his sexual lust, but he really didn't love me or care for me in a way that I really wanted. I wanted an emotional intimacy and an acceptance from another man, I needed to feel affirmed by another man, but the sexual relationship wasn't meeting those needs. I also felt guilt and shame over the sexual relationship, because I was engaged to be married. So, this sexual relationship was a real emotional roller coaster for me, and, in the end, we both agreed to end the relationship. That was the beginning and the end of my active homosexual experiences with another man, and I have not had sex with another male for 43 years, up to the present time. Some might question if this blip on the radar screen was really a same-sex attraction, and I have no doubt that it came about because of my same-sex attraction and that the emotional causes responsible for the development of my same-sex attraction were still not completely resolved.
So if I were to ask you at this point, you told us about Keith before, and that you didn't reciprocate. And he stopped, obviously. And then, with Sam, it was different, because it was mutual. So what prevented you from going ahead with Keith? Was it, as you described it, because you were being more vulnerable and being more open and your guard was let down? Or because things became more intense with time? Maybe because you desired Sam more than you did with Keith? How would you explain the difference?
Well, I think, you know, for me, basically, I was a moral person. I wouldn't have had sex with a girl, I wouldn't have had sex with a man. I just felt like sex before marriage was wrong. So, I think, with Keith, a lot of it was simply - even though I had this desire for the closeness, it was like, the one time we cuddled on the bed, that was pleasant for me, because it was an affectionate kind of thing without being sexual. When it came to the other situation, I really think it had to do with the fact that my wife and I had started - we certainly were not having a sexual relationship, but we had started to become more intimate and more affectionate. So, basically, the boundaries that I had set in my life had started to come down, and, with that, I was just more susceptible to the sexual touch from another person, and it caught me at a moment when I just wasn't prepared to say no.
I see, it kind of awakened those latent desires that you already had but they were kind of dormant. Okay, that makes sense.
So, after university, my life took a different course. I found some healing from my emotional wounds experienced in childhood. I begin to grow in my love for my own father. My growing Christian faith helped me to forgive the hurt and pain in my childhood and forgive the conditional way that he had loved me, and for the rejection that I felt from him. And as I began to forgive him and began to show my love for him - and I showed my love affectionately, I began to hug my father and show him affection. We grew in our love, and we became very good friends as adults. So this reconciliation with my father is such a great blessing. I can barely describe it in words that I had this reconciliation with my dad.
Can you walk us through how you were able to go from a place of being completely detached from your father, not liking him, you know, wanting to seek his affection, but he, in turn, not reciprocating that, to the point of healing and forgiveness and being close to your father? Because I know a lot of the listeners are already struggling with this, they feel like they can't forgive their parents, or they feel like they're stuck, they want to build that connection, but that's not happening. So, in those years, how things changed and how things evolved for you, and your father, can you walk us through how that ended up happening?
Well, I can try, I guess!
It's a huge question, I know, but as much as you can.
Yeah. Like I said a little bit earlier, you know, three things that we need - we need affection, we need affirmation, which are words that are spoken really, and attention, to develop a healthy self-esteem. And men need to get most of that from their father, although some of it comes from their mother as well. My father, I would say, loved me the best way he knew how, and he gave me his attention. We did a lot of things together, my father, my brother and I. My father took us camping, I would say probably 10 months out of the year, we would spend a weekend going camping with my father. He'd show us how to do things, how to fish, how to build fires, you know, other kinds of things. We did do a lot of Boy Scouts, that was really good. So, there was a sense I had of connection to my dad, and there was a sense, I had the feeling that he loved me. What I didn't sense was that he liked me as a person, because I disappointed him, I was not the kind of person he wanted me to be. I was a highly sensitive person. I wasn't athletic. I was artistic. So, I guess, for me, it was just, it was the kind of case that my father and I never spoke the same language. It's almost like we were speaking two different languages, and we simply couldn't understand each other. I had the sense that my dad loved me, but he didn't like me. For me, I guess, as a kid, trying to understand it, it was the feeling more like something was wrong with me. I'm not what I ought to be. I guess, for me, more change happened, because, in my later teenage years, as I started to grow in my Christian faith, I came to see God in a different way, I began to see God as a "loving father", Who cared for us, His love wasn't conditional like my father's love had been. There was a lot of criticism with my father, and, instead, in my Christian faith, I found a lot of affirmation from my Heavenly Father. So, this was a place where my self-esteem, the start of my growing self-esteem, understanding that "I'm a son of God, a child of God, and the God loves me." And I think that, just being in a community of other Christian people was helping me to understand more what walking in faith meant. And so part of it was, my understanding about forgiveness was growing, my understanding about loving people, love them the way that you want them to love you, all that was growing. So, I guess, for me, it was mostly an internal change. As my faith grew, I began to understand God differently, I began to understand God as the "good father", the "perfect father", the One that would not disappoint me, the One that would not reject me, not turn me away. So, I just came to a point where I wanted to forgive my father. I never spoke words to him. I mean, I didn't come to him one day and say, "You know, you really hurt me and trashed my childhood", or something like that. I simply forgave him in my spirit, and I began to treat him more like I loved him. And, like I said, I basically was the one who started the physical touch with him, I began to affirm him with hugs, I began to speak words and say, "I love you, Dad!", those kinds of things. I did that, I wasn't sure how my dad would respond to this, because he was not a touchy person, he was certainly not a person to give, you know, words of affirmation. My father loved it. He responded very well to me, he began to hug me back, he began to, you know, respond with his own affection, he began to speak words of affirmation and the like. I'm an adult now, acting as an adult, I changed the way I thought about my dad, and I changed the way I responded to my dad. And I was able, you know, to treat him differently, and he was able to respond to me. It would be a fairy tale ending if every person listening to this podcast could do the same with their father or could do the same with their mother, that I was able to do, and I know that's not possible. But forgiving your father if you're a man, or forgiving your mother if you're a woman, that is something that, I think, every one of us needs to work through, because there are wounds that are there, there is pain, there are traumas and memories that are really critical for us to forgive. In this case, you know, this may help them, but the forgiveness, for us, absolutely sets us free. And if we don't do it, we just stay in bondage to the old memories, the old wounds and the old traumas that are there.
Beautifully said, beautifully said. I couldn't agree more. And, actually, that's very, very sweet of you. And it's so pure and heartwarming to see you taking the first step towards your father, to forgive him and to reach out to him and to give him touch and affection and attention and to say words of love. And the fact that he reciprocated that, it just shows you that he also needed that, because as you said, you know, he didn't have that close relationship with his father, so he probably had his own father wounds in a way, so to speak. But you were able to kind of, in a way, fill that gap and reestablish that connection, which is so amazing. This is so beautiful to hear. So, if I were to summarize this, I would say that your faith has contributed so much to seeing God in a different way, a God of compassion and love, you know, a "fatherly figure" that takes care of you, who loves you unconditionally, and that kind of transformed you from the inside, and you were able to forgive your father. And, as a result, you were able to reach out to him and re-establish that father-son relationship, correct?
Yes. That's pretty good. I still have a very good relationship with my father today. My dad is now 91 years-old. It's been a blessing to me. I have never told my dad about my same-sex attraction, and, at this point, I don't want to. If I felt it was necessary to tell him, because of some need for me to heal a wound or something like that, I would do that. But, at this point, I don't think I need that. I don't need to tell him. And I think it would only hurt him, and because I love him, I would spare him from giving him that information. So my father doesn't know.
Of course. God bless you and God bless him. I'm very happy to hear that.
In later years, this is also as an adult, after my brother started taking medication for his mental illness, I was also able to reconnect with him. And I was able to share my love with him through both physical affection and spoken words. He died from cancer in 2014. I feel that I have peace in my heart, because God allowed us to reconnect in brotherly love, after many years of being alienated from him. So, this was also healing to me, as a man, to have that reconciliation with my brother. However, though I didn't understand it, my unresolved same-sex attraction still had a huge impact on my marriage. I got married to my wife when I was 23 years-old. That was 41 years ago. So, I've been married a long time. And, in most ways, we've had a very good marriage and continued the lifelong friendship that we started seven years before we got married. So, we have enjoyed doing many things together, we have two adult children that we are very proud of, and we have shared common values and common faith. We've worked together in the same schools as English teachers, and we have shared homeschooling our children. Unfortunately, sex was not one of the really good things in our marriage. I brought guilt and shame from the homosexual relationship I'd had before we got married, and I came to marriage with an extremely poor self-image as a man. Most of my life, I'd felt inadequate as a man, and I had fears that I would be a failure as a sexual partner. Furthermore, I still had a strong same-sex attraction that was not really resolved at that time, and I want to explain that a little bit more. When I say that I had a strong same-sex attraction, I was not lusting after men, and I was not having fantasies about sex with men. I was not having a huge lust problem. But related to my same-sex attraction were other things that were part of my same-sex attraction that were there. So, that was not how the same-sex attraction interfered with my sex life. I had had terrible body shame, and I always felt envy when I saw another man that seemed to be more attractive than me. So, this always shamed me and made me feel like I was less of a man. So, these feelings of self hate, feelings of fear and insecurity interfered with what should have been my strong opposite-sex attraction to my wife. Because I was having these strong emotional struggles, sex was both a blessing and a curse for me. I loved the closeness and intimacy, but I always felt like I was a lousy lover, and that added to my self-hatred, and I felt shamed about my masculinity. So, there's a good side and a bad side. Because of this tension, I feared sex as well as enjoyed it. My lack of a normal sex drive mystified my wife, and, in the end, my apparent lack of interest in her sexually hurt her very, very much. And, for this, I am genuinely sorry. There was nothing wrong with my wife. The problem was with me. I had brokenness, and the brokenness wasn't really necessarily my fault, it was just part of my life, and I grew up with that. But my brokenness caused her much emotional pain, because I wasn't emotionally ready to love her sexually, as I should have been. I still had emotional pain from my childhood and my early adulthood, there were unresolved wounds around my gender, and, at that time, I had no real idea how I could change my same-sex attraction, or find the needed healing that would improve my marriage.
I wanted to ask you, before we carry on, so, when you got married to your wife, she didn't know that you had same-sex attraction, or did she know?
She knew. She knew.
She knew about that, okay. Yeah. So, we always have these debates on our support groups. "Should I tell my wife before I get married, should I not?" And then you always have both sides of the debate, like, "Yes, for X, Y and Z reasons", and others "No, for X, Y and Z reasons", and it depends. So, my question would be, why did you choose to tell her, how did you do that, and how did she take it?
Well, I say, at that time, I really had no idea how I could change my same-sex attraction, or what I needed to do to find healing, to improve my marriage. That is why I am so thankful for all the resources that are here today, "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", because we are helping people to do things, and that help was not available to me, and I needed it. And that's why this is so, so important. The short answer is, I told my wife that I had had this homosexual relationship with another man, and that it had stopped, and I was not going to do it again, I was going to be faithful to her. And I asked her to forgive me. I told her this before we got married, she had the opportunity to say yes or to say no. To continue in our relationship, she chose to forgive me and to get married.
That's really heartwarming, honestly, I would say that the odds are against you, judging by the stories that we hear from around the world. So, your wife is a huge blessing. God bless you both, honestly, like hats off to her!
It's been a few years ago since we've talked about this, but I can also add, you know, not so many years ago, you know, two or three or four years ago, or something, that we both talked about it and said, "If we had the chance to get married all over again, you know, would you marry me?" And we both kind of answered that question, and we both agreed, we would both willingly marry each other again. That is like after having gone through different problems and struggles and things like that. So, that is to me also a good thing.
That is so sweet! I'm so happy to hear that, honestly. That's great!
Yeah. Anyway, I didn't know what to do. And I didn't really even understand why I felt the way I did, or I didn't understand that changing my feelings was possible. That information just wasn't available for me. I have read a few things about the causes of homosexuality, and I knew that a broken or missing relationship with one's father and a strong emotional tie with one's mother could result in homosexuality. That was helpful for me to understand where my same-sex attraction came from, but I still didn't have any idea how to resolve it or take care of my inner conflict. I wasn't always aware of it, but I think God was at work in my life through the next several years, helping me to do many of the things I needed to do to find healing from my earlier traumas related to my gender identity, I've had many great friendships with Christian men through the years. I've known these brothers through church, Bible studies and as prayer partners, and each one has been a blessing for me, and each one has been part of the restoration that God intended for my life. In many ways, they have given me the affirmation as a man that was missing in my childhood and early adulthood. Though none of them knew about my struggle with same-sex attraction, their acceptance and love was part of my growth into a male community. I would say that, for the next 30 years, the strength of my same-sex attraction had decreased but never completely disappeared. There was always still a wounded man inside of me. Under stress, the strength of my same-sex attraction would increase. It was an old and familiar coping mechanism that was easy to fall back on. I still masturbated to relieve my stress, my fears or my loneliness. I was never completely able to stop looking at handsome men I admired. And I still had body envy, and I was always comparing myself to men who I felt had better bodies than I had. So, about eight years ago, I was under a lot of stress, I had moved to a new city, I had taken a new job, I'd left behind friends, and I felt isolated and alone except for my wife. So, during this time, I was exposed rather unintentionally to some sexually suggestive materials on the internet. And that triggered the same old feelings of same-sex attraction. It awoken old and unhealthy lustful desires that have been generally latent for years. I had never thought about how susceptible I was to this visual stimulation. At first, what I saw on the internet was only suggestive. Then, it gradually became erotic. And then, at some point, it progressed to actual searches for gay pornography. I began as a novice to internet porn, but soon learned how to navigate the free gay porn sites. I felt shame and horror because of my addiction to gay pornography. This was in conflict with my religious faith. Even though the sexual feelings aroused by pornography felt exciting, I understood this pursuit was sinful in God's eye and that porn was a barrier to my relationship with Him. How could I be a serious Christian and continue to lust after men and pornography? I knew it had to stop. But how? Porn is addictive, and my will alone or my shame and guilt would only keep me clean for maybe a month at most and often less time than that. So, I confessed my problem to one Christian brother who was visiting, and he encouraged me to find someone that would help hold me accountable, and I began to pray for the right brother. One day, during our prayer time in church, I told my pastor about my porn problem and had him pray for me. And I believe his prayer was a turning point in my battle against gay porn. My use of porn didn't end right away, but God showed me things about myself and led me to the point where I began to hope again. He showed me when and why I had a problem with pornography. So, God showed me "When": first God show me that porn was not my real problem but a symptom of the deeper problem, my feelings of inadequacies, that I never accepted myself as a real man. I came to understand that I was using porn whenever I had negative feelings that I didn't know how to handle. Whenever I felt really stressed, or I felt very lonely or disconnected, or I felt completely inadequate in some way, then pornography became a way to cope temporarily with my negative emotions. It was, in a sense an old coping behavior from my teenage years, my sexual fantasy with men, and it was easy to fall back into it. When I felt most vulnerable or inadequate, I used porn to comfort myself. As a Christian, I believe this was often Satan's spiritual tap on me, to use an old emotional wound from my childhood to turn me away from God Who could actually help me. So, I understood in my head that what I needed most was God's grace and love, and not some pseudo form of comfort. But my old habits were often deeply ingrained, and changing them was not easy for me. I had unmet emotional needs that had nothing to do with what I understood was rationally right. Heart and mind - unmet emotional needs and a rational understanding of truth and right. The comfort that this coping behavior bought was very temporary, and the shame and guilt that followed was just unbearable. I was just absolutely miserable. I want to share something now that I wrote in my journal about porn, this is from January in 2014. I said, "I'm searching for something that is missing, but my search just never satisfies. Whatever I find does not satisfy. It is like being truly hungry and looking at color photos of delicious food that I can never taste or smell. It doesn't matter that when I look at the next picture, there can be something even more appealing than the picture before it. It is an empty pursuit that never fulfills, and chasing that dream never bring satisfaction to the real hunger inside, no matter that my mouth drools as I look at another picture of delicious food. God, I know that in my head that You are what I want, and that You will satisfy my hunger and my emptiness. You will fill me up and give me life to the full. As it says in the Bible, 'Like newborn babies crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that God is good.' And in another place, it says, 'Taste and see that God is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.'" So, obviously, this entry about being hungry and looking at photos of food is really a discrete way to describe what pornography is really like. In that journal, I couldn't know who my future readers would be, so I was not directing my reference in here. But while telling my story, I can, of course, be much more direct.
So, the first thing that God showed me was that porn was only a symptom of the deeper problem, and that I turned to porn when I felt I couldn't cope with my stress or emotions. Until I got to the root of the problem, I probably would never be successful to end my porn addiction. My root problem was really my same-sex attraction that was only partially resolved and again with old emotional baggage that I needed to surrender to God. The second thing that God showed me about my SSA and porn addiction was "Why": God showed me some things from a website called "People Can Change", and this helped me understand why I had an unresolved same-sex attraction. For the listeners, I want to say that "People Can Change" organization has changed its name to "Brothers Road", that's what you'll find when you look for it.
Absolutely, we've had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Wyler a couple of episodes ago, and he talked to us about Brothers Roads and all the activities that they do.
So, the Brothers Road website has information to help men with unwanted same-sex attraction, and as I read the surveys, the root causes of same-sex attraction, and the stories of the men who were able to change their lives and diminish or eliminate their same-sex attraction, I realized that my deeper problem was that I never really completely resolved these deep emotional issues from my childhood and early adulthood, that it led to my attractions. I had done some of the things I needed to do, by the grace of God, but obviously the process wasn't finished. I had known some things about the causes of same-sex attraction already without knowing how to resolve that. This website helped me to synthesize lots of the pieces about unwanted same-sex attraction into a big picture, and more clearly understand how everything has started, and the website also gave me some action steps about how I could work on change. So, I wanted to share with you, this is from Brothers Road. They use an acronym "MANS" to list four aspects of a man's journey into manhood. "M" is for masculinity. We found that connecting deeply with our masculinity was a terribly significant area of healing that had to take place in two important realms: internally and interpersonally. We need to feel like a man internally, accepting ourselves as masculine men, and we need to bond with other men as our brothers, and to experience brotherly love as a man among men. Powerful stuff. "A" is for authenticity. We understood that, to be free from unwanted homosexual desires, we would have to free our hearts and reconnect with our core emotions fully and authentically. We had to release our shame and work through and heal long buried anger and hurt, we had to rediscover ourselves. But it will not be enough to have authentic feelings, we would also have to live authentically in our relationship with others. We need to stop living our lives for others, or trying to be what we thought they wanted us to be. We needed to be genuine and authentic with others, not defensive. And we needed to learn not to detach from men. Powerful words, again. "N" is for needs fulfillment. We began to discover our true needs and desires underlying our homosexual thoughts and desires and found ways to meet them in healing in constructive ways. We stopped focusing on resisting or controlling unwanted or self destructive behaviors and thought patterns, and instead focused on replacing and preempting unwanted desires, by fulfilling needs in healthy ways, rather than suppressing our core needs, to the point of what we really need to do. We began to envision a greater good or higher purpose for our lives, and we began to put our energies into running towards the good rather than running from the bad. For some of us, the most common authentic needs underlying homosexual desires or needs were these needs: 1. for male affirmation, attention and acceptance, 2. for male association for a male community or a tribe, 3. to feel like one of the guys, 4. for healthy platonic touch, 5. for physical exertion and connection to our own body, 6. to play, especially in the company of other men. 7. to connect authentically to feeling and especially for a safe place to feel and express anger and grief, 8. to connect authentically with others, especially men, being real with them, being fully seen and heard, 9. to connect to God, and 10. to find a higher purpose in life, beyond serving only ourselves and our own needs. Powerful, good stuff, good thoughts. And "S" is for surrender. We became willing to yield our will and lives to the care of God and to submit to and trust in the Divine Will. We surrendered all forms of homosexual behavior and all association with homosexual life, taking the actions of withdrawal, surrender to God and escape from same-sex attractions provided by God. We uncovered and surrendered any defenses, obstacles or resistance to change that we've been holding on to, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally. This is something I read in Brothers Road that absolutely just moved me, because it spoke about positive things that I needed to do in my life. It gave me like a road map, showing me where I needed to go and positive steps that I could take.
Wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. So "MANS": masculinity, authenticity, needs fulfillment and surrender. Powerful stuff, thank you for sharing.
Okay. This last part, "surrender", from this, is one of the points that really hits me. It's amazing to me that, when I consciously surrendered my same-sex attraction to God, that I experienced such a peace that I have never felt when I was trying by my own willpower, or trying through feelings of shame to release my unwanted same-sex attraction. And I realized that this is subjective. But by surrendering to God, I feel that I've been able to let go of my guilt and shame for the first time.
One of the steps I felt that God directed me to do was to share my story of what God's doing for me with others and to seek their personal support. As long as my past life remained secret, it seemed that Satan could use it to attack me spiritually. And when I surrendered it to God, and I was willing to share my story with others, I took away Satan's weapon of shame that he used to attack me. So, the first time I shared my story, outside of sharing it with my wife, was with my best friend who was straight. And this was emotionally very hard, but I felt God called me to do that. And I talked to him for about three hours, and I expected that after I finished, I would feel great shame. To my surprise, afterwards, I felt that God took away my shame, and I felt free for the first time.
And that was six years ago now. Now, I've shared my story with over 130 people who don't experience same-sex attraction. For the most part, they were friends and family members that I trust. But I've also shared my story in groups like this one. And as I've shared my story of my brokenness and my healing, I've also been blessed with people who have affirmed and encouraged me on my journey. If I could set out about sharing my story with people who do experience unwanted same-sex attraction, I couldn't even begin to count the number of people that I've talked to, I have no idea what that number would look like. I believe that, through my confession of sin and through prayer, that God has helped me to heal my past. And I trust that by surrendering my secret and confessing my sin to other people is something that God has used and is using to destroy the power of same-sex attraction in my life. I thank the men at Brothers Road who are working to help other men with unwanted same-sex attraction to change. Their stories, insights, suggestions have given me hope and the courage to change. I know God isn't finished with me yet, but I'm so glad for where he's led me so far and for the continued journey ahead. And I just especially want to thank God for His Goodness.
Of course. Thank God, always and forever, alhamdulillah. So, as you were talking about Brothers Road, obviously, it was "People Can Change" at the time, and then you got to know them through the website, and you went to "Journey into Manhood", correct?
Yes, correct. I went to "Journey into Manhood" in 2015, and I have staffed three Journey into Manhoods, in 2017, 2018 and 2019. A staff is a volunteer person who helps to run the weekend. I've done that.
Right, that's excellent. Hopefully after COVID is over, you would be willing to staff again?
Yeah, I hope so! The "Journey into Manhood" for Europe this year was postponed until spring, and we'll see what happens with COVID by then.
Great! So, many of the listeners who would be interested in seeing you and joining "Journey into Manhood", so that would be a possibility to do both, hopefully, in the future.
Yeah. And, you know, it's very encouraging. I've met people through different support groups and stuff, and then I encouraged them to go to "Journey into Manhood", and to actually go and meet them there. It's just a joyful experience for me to meet these men that we've already got a relationship with. So, that's great.
Right, and you actually maintain the connection after the "Journey into Manhood" weekends, right? So there are online meetings, and through social media, obviously, and through visiting each other, some of them keep those connections up and well. I'm assuming that you are doing this within your own community and with the brothers that you've met during these weekends, correct?
If we can go back a little bit, you told us how you reconnected with your brother before he passed away, may he rest in peace. Can you tell us a little bit about that? So you were estranged from him growing up, and then he didn't have a good connection with your father, obviously, and he was dealing with his own issues and mental health problems. How did you reach out to him? How did you reconnect? Can you tell us a little bit more about that if you feel comfortable?
Well, I can try, we'll see where it goes. My brother had always been sort of volatile, hostile, aggressive and violent. He basically, I would say, he emotionally froze some place in maybe preteen years, in childhood, he was very immature. And so, he just would have violent outbursts and things like that. I worked with my brother in a family business, growing up, but he would have these outbursts and things, and he would become violent. And so it was a difficult relationship. He never married, he lived on his own, and he became increasingly more isolated. Eventually, he couldn't keep a job. He started living as, I call him a virtual homeless person. My parents provided, they had a house, and he lived in the house, but he didn't have a job. And so, he actually found food, he would go to the fast food places, and if it's been on the warmer too long, they would throw the food out, and he would take it out of their dumpster. And, you know, he did terrible things, you know, just to live. My dad and I understood that he had mental health problems, and my dad and I worked for several years to basically try and get him mental health care. And, finally, we were able to do that. It's very difficult to get a person to mental health care, unless they agree to it. You have to do a lot to prove that they are either suicidal or not able to take care of themselves, and those kinds of things. We finally were able to get him into mental health care. When he got into health care, he was actually ordered by the court - he was evaluated psychologically and ordered by the court to take medications for schizophrenia, I think bipolar (disorder) and some other things, and he began to live in a nursing home. So, when he was on medication and in a nursing home, I began to basically visit him in the nursing home, just to reconnect with him, and, you know, just going and visiting and talking to him and sharing with him, and I was able to, you know, touch him, every time before I would leave, I would pray with him, before I would leave, I would actually, you know, kiss him on his forehead and tell him I love him, and, you know, basically, just have that connection. The summer before he died, my sister and I knew that he had been diagnosed with one form of cancer, and we were able to go together and share with him, and we took photos from our childhood, we talked about memories, we did other things, just basically to connect to my brother. You know, in a sense, for me, it was an emotional time, but it was a good time. We affirmed to him that we loved him and we cared for him, and I think that was so important.
God bless you, honestly, I'm just so moved! I've been moved throughout the interview, but this is just so, so moving. God bless you, you're such an angel, I swear! May God bless all of your efforts, I'm pretty sure that your brother really appreciated that before he passed. And may he rest in peace, I'm so sorry for your loss. But yeah, just kind of listening to you recount all of these stories is so heartwarming. Can you tell us more about - so, you told us that your relationship with your wife was, you know, it was a bumpy road, you faced a lot of obstacles, whether in your intimate life, whether through your own personal issues, like with the emotional needs, obviously, the homo-emotional needs, and then, you know, the behaviors online, like through pornography and masturbation, all of that. Obviously, that took its toll on your marriage and your own personal relationship. So, I'd like to explore these things further, if you don't mind. Do you consider yourself to be completely transparent with your wife in that you tell her about your problems? Or do you prefer to kind of, you know, hide these aspects from her? Where do you stand on these issues?
Okay. I'm at a point in my life where I'm very transparent with anybody who is receptive to me. Sometimes people ask me things that honestly are not comfortable for me. But I'm at a point where I believe in being authentic, being real with my emotions, being real with my answers. So, I even answered the uncomfortable questions. My wife is at a point in her life - I've had multiple discussions about same-sex attraction, about the work that I'm doing, about being in the recovery community for pornography, and other things, and my wife, as far as it goes, she's supportive of everything that I've done, going to the "Journey into Manhood", or meeting with other people in support groups or things like that. Emotionally, it is difficult for my wife to talk about these things, and this has to do with her, not to do with me. And so, I would certainly share more, and I would certainly be more transparent with my wife all the time. But she's at a place in her life where she's got her own struggles and her own difficulties, and this area is sort of a scary area for her, sort of a gray area, and she's not always comfortable to hear. So, a lot of time, it's important for me as a man that I am able to talk openly about these things and share them. So, for me, I have to talk mostly with other people, I am very open with my sister, and I certainly am very open with other men who I'm friends with and talk about these kinds of things. But I don't share a whole lot of it with my wife, because it's difficult for her to listen to it.
Yeah, understandably, I can imagine. You know, as a man who experiences same-sex attractions, and again, you've had your own difficulties through this marriage, it's been 40+ years of marriage, a common question that might come to the listeners right now: so if you were not able to have a fulfilling sexual life, how were you able to compensate for that in other ways?
Well, you know, I think that's a terrific question. First of all, sex is a beautiful, beautiful part of marriage, but it is only one aspect of marriage. There is so much more that goes into it than simply sex. If you will, it's like eating a piece of cake, and the sex is like the icing on top, and trust me, when I eat a piece of cake, I prefer cake that's got icing on it. I have a terrible sweet tooth! But, you know, the cake is there, and the cake is actually the real substance, you don't usually just sit down with a bowl full of icing and a spoon and eat it out, you know. So we began with a very strong friendship, we have very similar values, very similar morals, we both have strong faith in God, we both had desires and goals in life that were similar things that we wanted to do. We have basically been able to work closely together, and with a lot of things in our life, we homeschooled our children together. So, we've had a lot of sharing of things. So the friendship aspect has been very, very important to us. I would say we spent more time together than is fairly typical for busy families nowadays. When my children were growing up, we essentially ate three meals a day, together as a family, with our children, you know, which is very atypical in the world, the busy world today with people going on doing things. So we've maintained a close relationship. We did some things well, we did some things not so well. As I've been in the recovery community, I'm interested in improving whatever I can. So, I mean, some of the bad communication patterns that we established early on in my life, our marriage, you know, I'm working to improve those and change the way I communicate to make it better, you know, so lots of stuff going on.
That's a beautiful answer, honestly, because a lot of people who want to get married, they think it's all about sex, and "I need to be able to perform in bed." And, as you said, you know, this is a tiny percentage of what marriage constitutes. It's hard work, it takes a long time to get to know each other. The friendship aspect is one of it, getting to know each other intimately is another, getting to know each other's emotional aspects, the good sides and the bad sides, and to be able to integrate everything together and be patient with each other, and to love each other, and to cultivate that nurturing relationship is a huge aspect of marriage. So yeah, I mean, I loved your answer, honestly, thank you for saying all of that.
I have prepared quite a bit to talk about this whole question about marriage. Since we're on this topic, let's have a discussion about it. Let's talk about "MOMS", not to talk about our mothers, but what some people call "mixed-orientation marriages" (MOMS). My guess is that, every man listening today and some women listening today immediately heard me say that I'm in a heterosexual marriage, and I've been married for 41 years to a woman, and because they have same-sex attraction, that is also a huge question for them. They all want to know, is it possible for me to get married to a woman if I have same-sex attraction? Well, the answer, of course, is yes, that it is possible! But, actually, I've read some place that 30% of men with same-sex attraction are in heterosexual marriages. That does not mean that three out of 10 men with same-sex attraction are happily married or that they are doing well. My understanding is that there's a high failure rate for men in mixed-orientation marriages, but I think that may be because many of the men didn't do the healing work that they needed to do before they got married.
And by healing work, again, I just need to mention a caveat here, because a lot of people think that "Oh, I need to go into marriage having zero same-sex attractions." No, we're not talking about this. We're talking about healing a lot of, let's say, doing a lot of work on your mental health issues, emotional dependencies, any emotional baggage that you have. It doesn't mean that you go into a marriage (being) perfect, no one can reach perfection, it's actually to have a place of stability and peace, where you can actually be a functional part of this marriage, correct?
And you said that so well. By healing work, we'll talk more about it, but I think self-esteem is so important, dealing with shame, dealing with any codependency, those kinds of things. If they are things that will interrupt or disturb your relationship, then those are things that you don't have to finish working on, but you should at least be starting on those and seeing progress on those things, before you want to get married. A mixed-orientation marriage creates unusual dynamics and difficulties for the husband and wife, but these dynamics and problems are not impossible to overcome. Remember, all marriages have problems, and all husbands and wives need help from God to adjust to their new life together.
Hundred percent. A lot of people think that it's only SSA marriages that have issues. I'm like "Honey, look at all of the OSA marriages, and look at all of that crap that goes on! So, don't blame SSA for the marital problems!"
Yeah, no, no, please don't. Same-sex attraction is just one unique kind of problem that a few married couples might have. I've been married over 40 years to one woman. I have never acted out sexually with another man during those 40 years. I would say that we've had a good marriage, and, overall, we've been happy together, and we've raised two wonderful children. One of the questions that I'm most often asked from men with same-sex attraction is about developing sexual attraction for the opposite sex. How can a man with same-sex attraction decreases his attractions to men and develop his OSA, his opposite-sex attraction? Most men who ask this question want to get married, but they have fears about a sexual relationship with a woman, because they feel no sexual attraction to them. As I said before, 30% of men with same-sex attraction are in heterosexual marriages. I want to tell you about some of the things I did right and some of the things I did wrong. And I do that, because you can learn, the listeners can learn from both kinds of experiences, they can learn from what I did well and what I didn't do well. I'm going to speak as a man with same-sex attraction, and what I would say could be adapted to women who experience same-sex attraction as well. First question: should a person with SSA tell his/her fiancé about their same-sex attraction? When you get married, you're entering into a sacred union with another person. Keeping a huge secret about a very significant part of your life is not the best foundation for an authentic and intimate marriage. So, my general advice would be to tell your future mate before you get married about your SSA. This is general advice, and I think that some Muslims need to consider the community that they live in, specifically, you need to consider whether it's safe to tell your future spouse or not. It should not be your fear of rejection from your fiancé that drives your decision to keep your SSA secret, but it should be an understanding of the tolerance or the intolerance of your community where you live. I told my future wife about my homosexual relationship that I'd had before we got married, and I asked her to forgive me. She felt betrayed, but she forgave me, and we got married. I think it's better for a woman or a man to know this part of one's future husband or wife's life before they get married. I certainly think it's wrong for the wife or the husband to have this big surprise about their husband or wife after the wedding. If you aren't going to tell her or him before, then it's probably best not to tell him or her at all.
Getting married doesn't fix SSA. A supportive wife can help, and a supportive husband can help, but marriage by itself will not repair the issues a man has with same-sex attraction. That is work that he must do himself to be prepared for a relationship with a woman, and it's best that he does much of that work before he gets married, and I'll explain more about these things as I share my advice, so keep listening. Same-sex attraction affects all areas of life, physical, emotional and spiritual, but it's primarily a problem with emotional development, because of shame and attachment loss. Most same-sex attracted men need support and help to restore their normal development and masculinity. They need support to connect in healthy relationships to men and in a healthy relationship to their wife. Likewise, wives need a good support system when they marry a man, whether that man is SSA or OSA. So, I recommend that a man should be sexually chaste for a period of two years or more before he gets married. No sex with other men before the marriage. I think honesty and accountability are essential. Each man, heterosexual or SSA, has to maintain his commitment to purity and fidelity in his marriage. All men face sexual temptation, and all men need God's help to live as a man of God and honor their marriages.
So, how do you love a woman? This is my advice. First, you must love yourself. Richard Cohen said, "You cannot give what you haven't experienced. You must receive and experience healthy love. Love is the medicine that will heal your emotional wounds. You must find healthy mentors and friends who gift you with healthy male affection and affirmation." That is work you should do before you get married. Richard continues, "You cannot love another person until you love yourself. What are the greatest commandments in the Bible? Love God and love your neighbor as yourself." Two implications. First, you feel loved, I accept that God loves me, and now I can love God. I must love myself before I'm capable of loving somebody else. We must experience being loved before we can love ourselves or others. As your self-esteem grows, you can love others more naturally. Second, focus on being a friend. Most great love relationships start with great friendships. Treat your potential girlfriend or boyfriend the way that you want to be treated, respect her/him, be kind. Listen to her/him with your full attention. Turn off your smartphones, messenger, email and other apps when you're with him/her.
100% this is valuable advice, honestly!
Surprise her/him with small thoughtful gifts, speak sincere words of admiration to her or him. There are five love languages and there's a book on this that you can get. Use all of these love languages, but find out what her primary love languages are, and focus on those. The five love languages are: words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, acts of service, and affectionate touch. Have patience to let your relationship grow naturally. Don't try to rush things. In general, two people often do not grow equally in their love for each other. The rate that their love grows is not the same. If you find yourself growing in your feelings of love faster than your girlfriend or your boyfriend, slow down and be patient. If you put pressure on her or him before she or he is ready, the most likely result is that you will frighten her or him away, not encourage her or him to grow deeper intimacy and deeper friendship. Ask meaningful questions to find out who she is/ who he is on a deeper level. Be ready to share something vulnerable about yourself. Go slowly with her or him, and go slowly with what you reveal about yourself. You need to develop trust, this takes time and should not be rushed. Any revelation about your former or current same-sex attraction shouldn't happen until you've established a close and intimate relationship and are getting more serious about your future together. Revealing your past same-sex attraction or current same-sex attraction to soon may scare her or him away from developing a trusting deep friendship. Develop healthy love in all of your relationships. Make love part of your character, this will be attractive to the woman you love. This takes practice. Essentially, all humans are self-centered creatures. There is a healthy self-love that is needed before you can love others. But there is also an unhealthy self-love that is simply selfish. Healthy self-love will make you a man who loves and accepts himself and therefore can be selfless, without insecurity, to give his love to others. Spend some time looking at your motivations: why are you doing what you're doing? You may do exactly the same loving action through either selfish reasons or selfless reasons. You need to have the best interest of the woman you love as your primary goal. Do not seek a woman that will fill up your love needs. You must have a full love tank before you can give love to others.
If your love tank is empty or nearly empty, you will only try to siphon love from her love tank, and this is not healthy love. Too healthy love is about giving, not taking love. If she is healthy, she will want to give you love in return for this sincere love you gift her with. This kind of giving selflessly takes practice. Our basic human nature is to be selfish, not selfless. This is a word of warning: beware of an emotionally unhealthy and needy woman, who is only selfishly using you to fill her empty love tank. The purpose of your growing friendship is to discover who this woman is.
Or the man in the case of a woman.
Or the man, that's right. She is not perfect, or he is not perfect, and neither are you! Allow for imperfections, character faults and mistakes. But if you discover that she or he is not emotionally healthy enough to return your healthy love, find another woman or another man who is.
Here are a few thoughts on sexual love with a woman. First, sex is really meant to be between a husband and a wife in a life-long marriage. This is God's intention for marriage. Modern cultural ideas about sexual freedom and casual sex with multiple partners can be hurtful to the well-being of both partners. Sex without commitment is basically selfish sex. It focuses on your pleasure and not on the well-being of your sexual partner. Sex without commitment uses people for private pleasure and is not concerned with the pain it may cause the other person, if you use them and abandon them. This kind of sex can result in unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, broken relationships, emotional dependency, codependency, and a whole lot of other stuff. Having casual sex with the person before you develop a deeply emotional intimacy usually inhibits the development of a deeply emotional and spiritual relationship. The relationship will get stuck at whatever level of emotional and spiritual intimacy you have when you start having sex. So starting a sexual relationship when you just meet a person is not a good idea for developing a lasting committed relationship. Honestly, this is why gay sex really doesn't work to create monogamous, permanent relationships. Sexual intimacy is the glue that holds a committed relationship together and creates the best possible conditions for personal growth of your partner and for the children that result from your sexual union. This relationship is best expressed in a commitment of a lifelong marriage. One writer call sex the "act of marriage", and another speaker calls it the "holy thing", referring to God's command for the first man and woman to be fruitful and multiply. Women want the security of knowing they're loved and cared for. Intimacy before sex is the key to a woman's sexual happiness. When she feels secure and loved, she will gladly and freely give her body sexually to her partner. A man wants sex to feel intimately connected and loved. Notice that the order is different. The woman's emotional well-being comes first before she enjoys sexual connection. The man's sexual connection comes first before his emotional connection. Here is an area for the man to take responsibility for the woman by showing her respect and love. He must do what is necessary to demonstrate his love to his partner, before the "act of marriage" will be a joy to his partner. Every man wants to know that he can have good sex and satisfy his partner. This is true for all men. All men. Men with same-sex attraction and heterosexual men all have some natural fear about being good sexual partners. Many men make the mistake of trying to get sexual experience before they get married, and, as I stated previously, this may not be a good idea. To prepare yourself for lifelong committed relationship to one's marriage, I suggest that you read a few good books about sex. This will help you understand some of the basics and also the real differences between a woman and a man sexually. Women generally take a much longer time to come to an orgasm then men do, this means you need to spend more time preparing the woman sexually before you become sexually active, if you want to have an orgasm with her at approximately the same time. I will leave further discussion of the mechanics of sex to other qualified authors who have written books on the subject. Their general knowledge will help eliminate some of the anxiety about the "unknown" in the act of marriage for you. Rather, I just want to make some general comments about the act of marriage.
First and foremost, it is important that you and your partner enjoy this. Your partner is your best teacher about what she likes sexually. And you are her best teacher about what you like sexually. Talk to each other. Show each other. You spent a lot of time building trust with this person before you got married, so trust them now. If you fail at good sex at first, trust them and continue to work on it until it improves. When you mess it up, and you won't get it perfect the first time, or the second time, or the third time, unless you experience a supernatural miracle, laugh about it and relax!
Right. Don't shame yourself and beat yourself up. Yeah, definitely.
Right. You have a lifetime to learn how to please each other and to pleasure each other in this wonderful act of love. Films today make it look like two people who meet each other and fall in love, or perhaps they just feel deep lust, simply go to bed and have fantastic sex the very first time. This is really an unrealistic expectation. It takes time and practice to have good sex. Pornography is a horrible sex teacher. The majority of porn contains violence and shows rough sex, and gives the idea that pain is enjoyable. This is simply a lie. Sex should be gentle, caring and an expression of love. Have the right expectations and work towards sex that expresses true love. And more to say here, Richard Cohen says that a man needs a supportive community of men and women, this be true I think for women as well. These mentors are very important. The man needs to be able to talk about his fears and get advice from other men. Safe women can also help him understand sex from a woman's viewpoint. Just a quick example: I have a nephew who is straight, he's a straight man, he's a virgin, he's religious and he's in his late 20s. He's navigating the new experience of romantic love, and he comes to me to ask questions. He does that, because I'm a safe man for him to ask his questions and check his ideas. Yes, my nephew knows about my same-sex attraction, but I'm still able to support him as he navigates this new world of female relationships. We need mentors to do this. Here's some good ideas for men who want to begin to experience heterosexual relationships. This is from a man, his name is Jeffrey Robinson, and he says this: "You can do some systematic desensitization to lose your fear of heterosexual relationships." He says, "Start in a mixed group of men and women. This is much safer for you than starting out with a one-on-one date with a woman. There's less pressure, and it provides a safe place to begin to interact with females." He says, "Get involved with heterosexual men, do things in mixed heterosexual groups where you can observe and just watch how men and women do things together." So just be an observer. And he says, "This is really key. Have a here and now focus on relationships. Don't obsess, and don't worry about the future. Be in the moment, not worrying about what happens next." And he says, "Learn to be a loving person, sincerely caring for others."
Here's what Robinson would recommend from a man who wants to marry his daughter, a man with same-sex attraction who wants to marry his daughter. He says, "You should have a good track record: be celibate, morally clean for a real period of time, two or more years, you should experience decreased homosexual arousal", decreased, he doesn't say it should end. "You should not be currently lusting or fantasizing after men. Significant heterosexual arousal, having a growing physical desire for the woman you care about" - that doesn't mean you necessarily have a desire for all women, but at least for one woman that you care about. He says, "You should have the ability to make a deep commitment, because marriage is a relationship based on commitment, not just feelings, and feelings are changeable. You should have a deep commitment to God... The real ongoing relationship with God needs to be there, not just using God temporarily to fix your same-sex attraction." This is a good quote that I have from Robinson and I like it a lot. He says, "The first mistake many guys make is that they compare their level of heterosexual attraction to their level of homosexual attraction. When they do, they think that heterosexuality is supposed to be the flip side of homosexuality. They tell themselves, 'I should be lusting like crazy, I should want her!' And it's probably not going to happen. It probably shouldn't happen. It's kind of like an alcoholic saying, 'You know, I just don't think orange juice is the drink for me, because it doesn't give me the same buzz that vodka used to.'"
And it's not gonna give you that buzz anyway!
Haha! Well, an alcoholic is trying to change from something that is unhealthy to something that is healthy, and expecting it to give him the same kind of kick. It's not a healthy expectation. C.S. Lewis, a well known author, says, "Sex will cease to be a demon only when it ceases to be a god." A lot of guys who have worshipped the god of homosexuality found out that it was a false god, an idol, if you will, and they wanted to substitute (it with) the worship of the god of heterosexuality. And that creates a lot of anxiety, because they think that they need the heterosexual experience to be the same as the homosexual experience. For the majority of men who struggle with this, this is not going to be, and neither should it be. It should not be an all obsessive lust.
Actually, this is very important, because a lot of people think in black-and-white terms, when it shouldn't be the case, right? And, obviously, it's not going to be the case for the majority of us. So, you know, if you want to get married, if that's your intention, you know, as Alan was saying, there's a lot of work to be done before marriage. And once you go into marriage, just focus on the person that you love, and cultivate that relationship, right?
Yeah. Here's my comment: I like to use two different words here. Sexual desire is from God, it's a gift from God. Lust is from the devil. Lust may be more intense than desire, but lust is all about taking something from another person, and love is all about giving yourself to another person. Lust will not satisfy you. Desire expressed in a committed love relationship will bring you lasting joy and peace.
I have one more comment, and then I want to tell you about what I did right and what I did wrong. This is a great comment. David Steele has written a book called "Conscious Dating", and he has a lot of things on his checklist to let you know when you're ready to date. This book is not written for SSA men, it's just written for everybody. He says, "Any man who wants to date a woman should be able to say, 'I am happy and successful being single. I enjoy my life, my work, my family, my friends, and my own company. I am living the life that I want, and I'm not seeking a relationship out of desperation and need.'" Isn't that wild?
This is amazing!
Okay, now, you know, I'll qualify that a little bit. I think that's a general truth. No man is perfect, no woman is perfect when they get married, they cannot say, you know, that everything in my life is beautiful. If we all waited until everything was hundred percent, you know, none of us would get married. But I think, for a man with same-sex attraction, he needs to come to a point where he accepts his own masculinity, where he feels like he belongs to a community, he feels secure in himself, he feels assertive, he feels that his love needs have been met. And that man, you know, his life will not be without problems or be perfect, but he should be able to say, "I'm happy and successful being single. I'm not getting married because I think that's going to fix me or complete me." No man, same-sex attracted or heterosexual, is perfectly there when they get married. I'm not saying that. But they should have a sense of wellness and well-being about themselves, self-esteem that should be in place before you're ready to take this plunge and join yourself to another person.
What did I do right, and what did I do wrong? Okay, I'm going to be vulnerable here. Based upon the things I've shared with you, I would say, I had not done all the work I needed to do before I got married. I know that now. I didn't know it then. But I had done some of the important things before I got married. I was sexually sober for about two years before we got married, I was committed to fidelity, and I was not having fantasy or desire to have sexual relationships with men. My wife and I enjoyed each other's friendship, we shared values and our faith in God. Our marriage was built on a solid friendship. I had confessed my homosexual relationship and asked for and received forgiveness. These were really good things. What about the not so good stuff? Okay. I struggled with self-esteem and my masculinity. I never really experienced an affirming male community, and I didn't know how to affirm my own manhood or masculinity. This is work that I believe I needed to do before I got married, or, at least I needed to start before I got married. I came with great insecurity and a wounded self-image as a man, and this affected me and my role as a husband. I wasn't as healthy as I needed to be in order to give myself selflessly to my wife. I add here a comment on the side: no man that I know of is truly selfless when they get married. It has nothing to do with being same-sex attracted or opposite-sex attracted. God uses marriage to help each man and woman to grow into his better self or her better self. I had a great fear about being a lover and about sex. I didn't have any problems getting sexually aroused with my wife, and, honestly, I enjoyed making love to her. But I always feared that I wasn't adequate, and I felt like I was a failure at good sex. See, the physical part of the sex was not a problem, it was all the emotional part in my head, the stories I told myself. In addition, I still felt guilt over my early homosexual relationship, the fear and the guilt didn't totally destroy the joy of sex for me, but, nonetheless, they kept me from freely giving myself and enjoying sex like I should have. In my head, I had stories I told myself that I was a failure at lovemaking. This created anxiety in me, and I didn't delight in sex like I should have. So, I rarely, if ever, initiated sex, my wife had to be the initiator. My apparent lack of interest in her sexually hurt her greatly, and she felt rejected. The problem was really about me, not about her. But the message that she took away was that I was rejecting her. This one did my wife's self-esteem greatly. My unresolved wounds around my masculinity brought great pain to my wife. There was brokenness there, that it would have been better if I had worked on and progressed with before I got married. My advice to any man, straight or with same-sex attraction, who is struggling with their sexual adjustment in their marriage, is to swallow your pride and get help, okay? Whether it's a counselor or a trusted friend, a mentor, a therapist or someone else, go to someone and get help! This is an important area of your marriage to work through and make peace, so you can enjoy the holy act of marriage fully.
What about my wife and me today? My wife and I have not had a sexual relationship for some time. Currently, my wife has problems that have interfered with our sex life. When I began to heal my masculine wounds in the year 2014, that's when my journey pretty much started, I felt more like an authentic man, the man that God wants me to be. My interest in sex with my wife exploded! I really desired to have a fulfilling and blessed sexual union with her, but because of her problems, she was not ready to respond to me, even though that was my desire. So, I'm doing what I can to restore intimacy and affection in our relationship. I've been making amends for my failures earlier in our marriage, and I'm doing my best to romance my wife. And I'm happy to report that, slowly, I think that some of those wounds to her self-esteem, that came from me, are being healed. She has other problems, both physical and emotional, that have nothing to do with me that need healing, and I simply have to surrender those things to God. That is her work in this life. I absolutely cannot change my wife. Every man gets married, this is a lesson they need to learn, and it is not only about sex, it's about everything: you cannot change your wife, the only person in our marriage that I can change is me. And, with the help of God, I'm doing my best to be the loving husband that I should be.
One of the questions was, I wanted to ask you about your kids, like how's your relationship with your kids, if you would like to talk about that? And then, if you can, if you want to briefly touch upon your codependent relationship with your mother, and how you're able to kind of detach from that?
Okay. First of all, my wife and I both have close relationships with our children. Both of our children were adopted, both of them originally came from India, so ethnically, they are Indians. My son is now 33, and he's single. My daughter is 31, and she's married. I think my children actually, they have both developed well. I think there's fear that a same-sex attracted man has that, "Will I be able to help my son and my daughter grow up and be normal, because maybe I don't have everything I need to be able to do that?" And I would say, actually, that we have done that. I've shared with my son about my same-sex attraction. My son is not same-sex attracted. He's not a perfect guy, but I am proud of him, I am, you know, proud of where he is in his life. I think every person still needs growth, and their life is a lifelong journey. My daughter, I love her very much, we're very close, just good relationship with her. So, that part of our lives has been wonderful. We were very close to our children, we homeschool them, so we spent a lot of time with them. The close relationship continues today, so that's a great thing.
As for codependency with my mom, actually, my mother died 26 years ago. And so, I didn't begin to understand codependency with my mother until a few years ago, when a friend of mine asked me about my relationship with my mom. I would have told you that I had a great relationship with my mom, partly because I was close to her growing up. My mother was sort of the person, the one parent in my life who was affirming and spoke words of affirmation to me, she she was physically affectionate, she was attentive. So, I kind of got some very good aspects from my mother. However, when I began to understand codependency, I also understood that my mother was very narcissistic, she was emotionally very volatile, she had a strained relationship with my dad. So, instead of attaching to my dad, she attached to me emotionally. So, it was not, in any sense, a healthy kind of relationship. She always tried to recruit me to be her ally, to fight against my dad. So, in a way, she was not encouraging me to make a connection to dad, she was always trying to keep me from that, and keep me connected to her. So those were unhealthy aspects. I only learned about those many, many years after my mom had passed away, I love my mom dearly, bless her heart, but I also see that it was dysfunctional. The bigger part for me today is to understand how codependency works, which is care-taking of another person, you stop taking care of your own needs, you stop expressing your own emotions, so you can take care of the needs and emotions of another, basically. I became the parent or the caretaker for her, and my job was to manage her so that she was okay. It was just an unhealthy way to relate. I brought a lot of my ideas about relating to women from that relationship with my mother into my marriage. The rules of codependency did not work well with my wife, I didn't understand what I was doing wrong. So, I made mistakes in terms of trying to relate to my wife using codependency, you know, trying to be a nice guy, trying to get my needs met by, you know, serving and being a nice guy, hoping that if I did enough nice stuff that I'd get my needs met. I needed to understand that I need to, you know, meet my own needs, not someone else's. First of all, I think that's important for any anybody struggling with codependency. You meet your own needs. If you have needs, it's okay to ask people to help you meet those needs. But you're the one who has to take responsibility. You don't magically hope to, "Gee, if I do enough nice things and everybody thinks I'm a great guy, then, somehow, somebody will respond and give me, you know, attention or affection or affirmation." I can ask for attention, affirmation and affection from people. I can be responsible. As an assertive adult, I can say, "I need this, where can I find it?" And then go do something about it. So, that would be my comments about codependency
And how did you kind of escape that codependency? How did you work on yourself to readjust?
I read the book by Robert Glover called "No More Mr. Nice Guy".
If I had a nickel for every time I've recommended this book to someone, I can take a nice vacation somewhere! Glover, his whole book is about codependency and how to overcome the actions. He never uses the word "codependency" anywhere in this book. This book is written for people who are codependent to help them understand what their behavior is, and he has practical exercises on how to stop behaving like a codependent. And those exercises did a whole lot for me to change the way I thought, and to give me new behaviors, new thought processes, different ways so that I can relate as a more mature adult, manage my own life, and do other things. So, I mean, that was huge. It has everything to do with same-sex attraction and nothing to do with same-sex attraction! Hahaha! For me, codependency was one of the pieces of my same-sex attraction puzzle that was important.
Of course, yeah, and it rings true to a large number of us as well. Like, we feel that codependency has been a major aspect of our upbringing, the way that we've perceived life and relationships, and the way that we could relate to ourselves and other people. So, that's a major area to work on for so many of us. Yeah, definitely.
So, the changes started happening with you in 2014, and you were, back then, in your late 50s. I just kind of wanted to, you know, point the listeners to the idea that, sometimes people think that, you know, we need to have figured everything out by our, you know, 20s or 30s, the latest, and everything has to fall into place. And I'm like, God sets us off on our own individual paths, and we never know what's going to happen in our lives, the best we can do is just to keep on moving forward and doing our best for His sake, and He will take care of everything. And like, for you, Alan, things have started changing for you in your 50s and 60s, it doesn't mean that time is up for you, or that it's over. I mean, we can change our lives at any point, as long as we're living, right? And with the help of God, we can achieve that. And there's no shame in that. And there is no timeline, correct? It just happens based on so many different variables, and what matters to us is to do this, through His help, for His sake, and to keep on striving and moving forward, right?
Yes, you said it so very well. That is so true. You know, essentially, a lot of the same-sex attraction has to do with our development as healthy, mature adults. If we miss anything along in our development, we can do it, no matter what age we are. You know, if you didn't connect to men well when you were, you know, start when you were two and a half or three years old connecting to dad, you can connect to dad or a father substitute now, whatever age it is, it doesn't make any difference. If you didn't become part of a male community, when you were seven or eight years-old, or when you were 13 or 14 years-old, you can connect to a male community now, no matter what age you are. If you've never connected by playing sports, and you feel like it's important for you to do that, I don't care if you're 30, you can go out and learn to kick a ball around or, you know, whatever you need to do. Ask a man to mentor you and say, "I've never done this, can you show me how it works? Can you practice with me?" You know, that's a good way to make a friendship with a man, just saying, "This is something I have no idea how to do, please show me."
Absolutely! And, as you said, you know, when it comes to marriage or outside marriage, swallow your pride and seek help, there's no shame in that, right?
Absolutely, there's no shame in that. And, you know, if I had been around as an older me to give advice to younger me, I would have told myself, "You need to go to somebody and get help with the sexual problems" that I was having adjusting to sex in my marriage. And I wasn't there to do it. I think there actually were people working with unwanted same-sex attraction at that time, there were therapists and things doing it. I didn't know anything about that, I didn't know I could go to somebody to work on self-esteem and emotional traumas and things like that. I didn't really find out much of that stuff until I was, you know, 56 years-old. That's when I began to learn that stuff. I'm happy. I have no idea why, if you will, I needed to wait until I was 56 years-old to begin this journey. But I would begin it, whatever age I'm at, I would begin the journey, because it's so important to take that journey, and just to grow up to become the man that God intends you to be. And you're never too old to start the journey. As far as I know, no man ever finishes the work that God has for them to grow up and become a better person. I think that's a life journey for every man, regardless of who they are, that's a lifetime.
Amen, amen. Absolutely. Hundred percent.
Okay. These are things that have happened to me, basically, within the last six years, which is when I started working on things. First, I've accepted my male body, and I like it for the first time in my adult life. I no longer think of myself as inferior or inadequate in regards to my body image. I had body shame for over 50 years, and I do not have body shame anymore. Second, I began to feel and express my emotions more passionately. For many years, I didn't allow myself to feel things, sometimes trying to avoid painful feelings, and sometimes trying to avoid rejection or criticism from other people. But now, I accept and welcome all my emotions. Third, at this point, my sexual attraction for men has gone. I realized that I will always have a strong need to be emotionally connected to men in healthy, platonic relationships, but I'm thankful that I no longer think about relationships with men in sexual ways. Fourth, my sexual attraction to my wife has blossomed and grown; as the interference from my unwanted attraction to men decreased, I found myself increasingly attracted to my wife in a sexual way that I never really dreamed possible. Five, my spiritual life has improved, I feel more connected to God now than ever before. Six, I feel authentic, more authentic and connected to men, I'm more honest, and I'm trying not to hide the unacceptable parts of my life for fear of rejection. I feel less lonely and isolated than I used to. Seven, I have a huge increase in self control, understanding my past history and its effects has helped me to stop reacting in the same old patterns of behavior and to choose new behaviors. That journey will continue all my life, I'm constantly learning new things about how to be a better man and to be more authentic. Eight, I have more self-esteem, I feel like a man, a normal man in a man's world. Nine, I'm not proud of my past, but I'm no longer ashamed of it. I've been active with "Brothers Road", "Joel 2:25", and other support groups. I've shared my story personally or in public with over 130 people. I believe that sharing my story can help others, and I can support men with sexually addictive behaviors and men who struggle with same-sex attraction. I've been teaching monthly classes to people in Eastern Europe on topics related to same-sex attraction for almost three years now. So, those are changes I've experienced, and I think those changes are worth working for.
God bless you. I am just so moved right now, I'm like over the clouds happy! God bless you for sharing all of that with us. That was really nice.
I mentioned "Joel 2:25", which is a Christian support group for men with same-sex attraction. One of the things they do is sponsor speakers once a month who come and talk on various topics related to same-sex attraction. Back in February of 2016, Richard Cohen was the speaker, and he talked about 12 lessons that he learned from his journey. If anybody listening here doesn't know that Richard Cohen had same-sex attraction, he worked through that and later became a therapist, and you can hear about that in Episode 12. He has something about 12, I guess! 12 lessons from his journey, and he's in Episode 12, he's a 12 kind of guy. Number one: Never give up on your journey. Never, never, never give up. Your efforts will work, and you will get better. Two: We learn from our mistakes. Our brain learns by making three or more mistakes. It's like learning to ride a bike; until we repeat our mistakes a number of times, we won't internalize our learning. There is no failure, only new information. I like that. Three: You cannot give what you haven't experienced, you must receive and experience healthy love. Love is the medicine that will heal your emotional wounds. You must find healthy mentors and friends who gift you with healthy male affection and affirmation. Four: Time doesn't heal wounds, it only buries them deeper. You must face what happened in your life. You must feel the old pain before you can heal. We must grieve the pain from our past and learn to love again. Five: Wounds we experienced in unhealthy relationships must be healed in healthy relationships. We need to heal with other people. We, same-sex attracted men, must receive love from other healthy, non same-sex attracted men. Six: After grieving, we need to identify core beliefs. You will need to find your "stinking thinking", your negative self talk. "What did I come to believe about those past experiences?" You need to rewrite those unhealthy beliefs. For example, "I don't trust men", or "I don't trust women, and other beliefs. Change the way you think about the past, so you can change the way you respond to the present. "I can trust some men, I can trust some women."
Seven: Relationships are how we learn. Men with unwanted same-sex attraction must heal with other men. We need to be with men to feel like "I am one of the guys. I fit in." We have to internalize our own gender identity in a community of men, before we can be a man with a woman. We must accept ourselves as a man among men, before we can be a man among women. We must be comfortable as a guy before we can be successful with a woman. Eight: You cannot love another person until you love yourself. What are the greatest commandments? Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Two implications: you feel loved first. I accept that God loves me, now I can love God. I must love myself before I'm capable of loving someone else. We must experience being loved before we can love ourselves or others. As your self-esteem grows, you can love others more naturally. Nine: No one can make you think, feel or do anything without your consent. If someone mistreats you or speaks badly about you, you can choose to accept or reject their words or actions. It is your choice how you respond to their positive or negative words. People who do evil things to you are only people who have never experienced love. Ten: Those who speak ill of you are only projecting their own unresolved wounds and unconscious issues on you. What they say about you is not about you, it is about them. Let it go. It isn't personal. People who say good things to you speak out of their health and love. Listen to those voices. Eleven: When we are under stress or pressure, old habits may emerge. This is only a repetition of old neurological patterns in the brain. It doesn't mean that you are a failure. You can learn from an old habit. Listen to your insides, and check with your heart, mind, body or spirit. It is a message, listen to it. When you figure out what is going on, the old behavior will go away. It takes time and repetition to reformat your brain with new patterns and new habits. Forget the moral judgment that you make about yourself, or the lie that you are a hopeless failure. Find the message and deal with the core issues and move on. And lastly, twelve: Same-sex attraction is a gift to help you heal, to grow and help you become the man that you were meant to be. Same-sex attraction is a gift, not a curse. Listen to it, embrace it, and learn from it. In your process of your healing, you will become a great, powerful and healthy man who can bless others. Don't ask God to take it away or think that same-sex attraction is a curse. You have same-sex attraction in your life, so God can be manifested in your life, and so you can bring Him glory. There is a link between same-sex attraction and your broken heart. When your heart is heard, loved and healed, you will no longer need your same-sex attraction.
You have shared with us so many wisdoms today. I'm very grateful to you. I've learned so much from you, and I'm pretty sure that the listeners have learned so much when it comes to, you know, shedding shame, overcoming attachments and personal addictions, and the wisdoms and the pearls that you have shared with us, when it comes to relationships and marriage, and investing yourself in the other person, getting to know that person and escaping codependency and healing... I was moved throughout the entire interview. On top of everything that you've shared with us, any last wisdoms that you would like to share, any other take home messages for the listeners?
Okay, I have two things I'd like to share. First, perhaps the most important thing for a person with same-sex attraction that they need is to believe in themselves. And I'll say it again, believe in yourself. Allow yourself to believe that you can choose a new narrative, and that this will change your life. Your past doesn't define your present or your future. Allow yourself to believe. And the second thing I would say, you need to learn to live in the moment. Don't obsess about the past that you can't change, and don't waste your energy or don't give anxiety to the future. Focus on now. Be present with your feelings. Be present and focused on the people who are in your circles that you are connected to in healthy relationships. Those are the last things I'd like to say.
Brilliant pieces of advice. God bless you, Alan, thank you so much. On behalf of the listeners, I thank you so dearly for sharing your vulnerability, your wisdoms, your gems. You're a true gem. I'll be praying for you, and I ask everyone to join me in praying for you. May God bless you, God bless your wife, God bless your kids, your family, your entire community. It's been an honor and a privilege to talk to you. I'm so, so happy, and I really can't wait for the listeners to hear this entire episode, inshaAllah. Thank you so much for your time and all of your efforts.
You're most welcome, and I'm very happy I could share. God bless you.
Thank you so much.
And with this, we have come to the end of today's episode, I hope that you guys have enjoyed it and learned from it. I have certainly learned so much. And, as I said, this is the last episode of the season. InshaAllah, we will be back in a couple of months' time in season four, and we have lots of goodies planned for that season, inshaAllah. Until then, I hope that you guys have a blessed remainder of this year and a blessed start in the new year, inshaAllah. May it be a year that is filled with lots of rewards and blessings and healing and barakah from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in all aspects of your lives. And I look forward to talking to you in a couple of months' time, inshaAllah. As always, you can listen to all our episodes on (awaybeyondtherainbow.buzzsprout.com), where you can find all the transcripts as well for every episode, and you can listen to us on all your favorite podcast apps. And you can always email me on ([email protected]), I would love to read your emails, your comments, suggestions, anything that you have found useful so far by listening to this podcast, inshaAllah. Thank you so much for joining me in the season and the previous seasons, and I look forward to talking to you, inshaAllah, in season four. This has been Waheed Jensen in "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta'ala wabarakatuh.