A lot of people in the LGBTQ community want to be loved but struggle to find love. Everybody has a different idea of what love is: some people think they have to find ‘the one’ and be in a monogamous bliss. Some people want to find one primary life partner to love and have sex with others. And other people want to love more than one person at a time. All of these different ways of finding love are good, they make up the huge diversity of what we want and desire as human beings.
Many single LGBTQ people struggle to find love. In my consulting room, I hear about it over and over again, but what I also hear are blocks that people have to find love.
These are some of the blocks:
If we can’t love ourselves it is hard to open up to another. Why? Because there is a fear that others will see us as an unloveable person. We are our worst critics and we can think about ourselves with the harshest words: ‘I’m stupid’, ‘I’m not worthy of love’, ‘who would love me?’ ‘I’m a good for nothing’, and so on and so forth. If we believe those things about ourselves, we can’t open up to others because we are afraid they will also see what we think of ourselves.
Fear of rejection
The LGBTQ community is plagued by a long history of trauma and rejection. Today, we still hear those stories. We have a strong in-built survival mechanism. Some of that protection for survival prevents us from opening up and being vulnerable. One of the best survival strategies is to build up a strong armour. It is good to protect ourselves but it is not so good connecting with others in an intimate and meaningful way because nothing can get through the armour.
If we keep it on all the time, we can’t feel the gentle stroking that another person gives us, we can’t feel the warmth of their hugs, we can’t hear or feel their hearts beat for us. Also, they can’t see us, they only see the armour. If we don’t allow others to see us for who we are, it is hard to connect. As an ostracised community, we have also developed a great sense of danger detection: we can scan an entire environment in less than a second to see if we can be safe.
In the heterosexual world, there are many places that are not so safe: the average street may not be safe: we ask ourselves: can I kiss my partner in public? Can I hold his hand? It is a consideration that heterosexual people never ask themselves. So, the armour is helpful. But we have to learn when we can take it off, because it can become really heavy if we never do.
Unhelpful thoughts and core beliefs
Many of us harbor subconscious beliefs about ourselves or the world around us that can distort our perception of reality. For example, if you have a core belief that says: ‘I’m all alone in the world’ it will be hard for you to have an emotional sense that your partner is really genuine when they say: ‘I love you’.
You won’t be able to hear these words, instead, you are hypervigilant to the signs of rejection: you can discount the words ‘I love you’ yet pay great attention to your partner being late for ten minutes, which you translate as: ‘he/she doesn’t love me’ because this fits with ‘I’m alone in the world’.
Other people have core beliefs about relationships, which they have learnt from childhood experiences such as: ‘people don’t stick around’, ‘It hurts to be in a relationship’. Instead of engaging fully in a connection with someone else, we can approach others with a barrier to shield us from anticipatory rejection: this is a self-fulfilling prophecy as it makes it hard for somebody to truly connect with us if all we show of ourselves is our shield.
The perfection complex
This is becoming more and more of a problem as we live in an age where everybody looks at everybody else’s best life moments captured with beautifying filters. When we see our friends and peers on social media always being happy, beautiful and successful, we tend to compare their beautiful ‘shop window’ with our messy storage backroom.
The gay scene sells us an image of perfection, yet it’s an image that is impossible to reach because nobody is perfect. It makes us feel bad about ourselves. We can have huge anxiety about being with someone else and feeling imperfect and inadequate, being afraid that we won’t be liked, that we won’t be good enough. So, again, to protect ourselves, we hide, and as we do so we can’t be seen for who we really are.
This Valentines Day, I challenge you all to make a stand against all those blocks. Be proud of your imperfections. Challenge your unhelpful thoughts: ‘you are a loveable person. You have a lot to offer to a relationship. You are good enough just as you are!’ You don’t need a six-pack to be desirable.
Take a risk to be vulnerable opening your arms and show who you truly are to another, invite them to open their arms too. Share one thing you’re insecure about, or one thing you worry about, one thing you are scared of, or one thing you dream about. And invite a friend to do the same with you.
Intimacy and love (whether it is with partner or a friend) does not reside in conversations about how many sexual positions you can do or how many times a week you go to the gym. But in the dialogue: ‘this is me. Right here. With all my imperfections. And I want you, as you are.
Together, sharing our true selves. I will show you my hopes and dreams and I will share with you my anxieties and fears. And I invite you to do the same.’
If more gay people can learn to open up in that way, we can start to create a ripple effect of intimacy and connection. And slowly, perhaps, we can change our gay community and heal our traumatic history together, one connection at a time. Because it is through radical acceptance, connection and love that we heal and flourish.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Pic1: Luiny – Pic2/3/4: Brookedidonato – Pic5: Virgin&Martyr