Friday 21 September 2018

Dear Mary: I finally came out as gay but there's still a piece missing from the puzzle

(Michael Kappeler/AP)
(Michael Kappeler/AP)

Mary O’Conor

I came out as gay to family and some friends relatively late in life after a huge internal battle. It was a big relief but there was much arrested development in the area of forming intimate relationships during my twenties and thirties when my friends were acquiring that experience.

I had huge intimacy issues and hid that part of my life away. I find myself now in my forties and have not had any significant relationship, and it hurts.

I work so hard at bettering myself and do much volunteer work helping others. I am not an unattractive man by any means. I am a good conversationalist and I do believe that I would make a great partner and companion for someone.

However, the opportunity appears to escape me and I am afraid that I will never experience love.

I always tell my friends that self-possession is an essential prerequisite before embarking on an intimate relationship but the loneliness prevents me from heeding my own advice and being content with my relationship status.

I have worked hard all my life to get to this point and it feels like a painful anti-climax sometimes.

My problem stems from the fact that I do not actively seek out an intimate relationship.

I go about my busy days in the hope that I might meet someone. I glance about at the gym but have realised that I struggle to do anything much when I like someone.

I cannot go out to gay bars as I developed such homophobia when I was in the closet that I cannot shake it off.

Walking into a gay bar would fill me with feelings of shame and when I have managed to take that step I sit there in huge discomfort and feel seedy.

I have met men and had brief hookups but I feel such shame and disgust afterwards.

It is in marked contrast to who I am but sometimes I just need to touch someone and be held.

I feel that I have come out and largely accept myself but there is a missing piece in the puzzle which keeps me from meeting anyone. I remain optimistic but there are times when I feel lonely and cannot understand why nobody ever approaches me.

I seem to be always longing from afar or going after a person that is emotionally unavailable. I shut out and hid from intimacy for so long and I suspect that I am continuing to do this unwittingly.

I wondered if you could offer any insight.

Mary replies: Change is never easy - even something as simple as getting used to a new doctor or a new hairdresser can be difficult. How much more difficult then must it be for you, in your forties, to adapt to a totally different way of life, especially as up until recently you kept the real you hidden from almost everybody and even at times from yourself.

So don't be too hard on yourself as you struggle to come to terms with really knowing and liking yourself in all aspects of your life.

It seems to me that you already have a huge amount of insight into your problems with intimacy. You kept your sexual identity so very hidden for so long that now you have come out to family and close friends you don't know how to act naturally and allow yourself to show that you are attracted to men.

This is the case particularly when you are in a gay bar. Your old closet self simply will not allow you to be free.

Your statement that you need to touch someone and to be held is very telling because it makes no reference to being sexual but instead speaks of the deep-seated need for an emotional relationship.

Would it be possible to think of yourself simply as a human being without any label?

The person that is you is who you want people to see, rather than seeing a gay man. In other words the complete person, with all your characteristics both good and bad, but a man that is well worth getting to know.

It may be that you don't like yourself enough to allow anybody else to get close to you which would explain why you go for somebody who is unavailable or else you give out a vibe not to come too close.

Whatever is going on for you this is a complex case where I feel you would benefit enormously from speaking to somebody professionally.

Having somebody help you to peel away the layers to enable you to be true to yourself in a non-judgmental way would be a very great help in moving forward in your life, and I feel sure would help in eventually finding that certain person with whom you can share it.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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