Dr. Love,My name is Lisa and my problem is somewhat complex. My boyfriend(9 mths) and I were discussing transvestites and gays. We are on opposites ends of the spectrum when it comes to anything that has to do with this topic. For the record: He believes men and women should be together and thats it. I, however believe that love conquers all and a persons sexuality doesn’t matter. I understand, from the nature of his upbringing, how his opinions are formed. So, neither of us is right or wrong, we just strongly disagree.My problem is this: During the conversation I told him that it would be interesting to have a penis for a day. I went on to explain that my reason is to see what men go through, but I think his mind clouded after the first sentence. He keeps saying that he wants a woman and I want to be a man. ‘ Women in the 90’s, man’ Thats his favorite saying lately.It’s frustrating me that it seems he’s not understanding me. And even if he can’t understand he wont just accept. I don’t want to feel restricted when were together. I want to be as open as possible. He says he loves me. He says he’s confused but wont talk about it without arguing with me. I love him with all my soul. How can I put him at ease? How can I still be open, but not as threatening? I NEED HELP!!Misunderstood(Like all the rest of us)
You are correct that you and your boyfriend are experiencing a value conflict. You are open to various sexual orientations (he isn’t) and you allow yourself the freedom to fantasize (he can’t).I don’t believe that your conflict stems merely from the fact that your values differ. The anger that he exhibits when you verbalize your fantasies indicates that you are scratching the surface of issues and feelings that he can’t face. And, when this happens, his unconscious defenses rise up.Defenses are unconscious mechanisms that the mind employs to protect us from terrifying or unacceptable feelings. When he argues, and points the finger at you, he is defending himself from the terror that is welling inside him. What is he afraid of?When you talk about wanting to be the opposite sex, he thinks about what it would be like for him to be a female for a day, and, that thought sends him into a frenzy. I think he unconsciously equates his being female with homosexuality. (Females are penetrated sexually, just as homosexual males are penetrated.) For a man who is afraid of his own homosexual urges, the mere thought of his becoming a woman would stir overwhelming fear.When his homosexual urges arise (sparked by your comments), his defenses mount in order to block his feelings from his awareness. The point here is, his anger, and refusal to talk is a clue that you are touching territory that is too dangerous for him.I understand that you want to feel free to say everything to him, and to feel accepted for who you are. However, you are not seeing that his reactions have nothing to do with accepting you or not. His reactions are about him, his anxiety, his defenses, and his need to avoid a subject that he can’t deal with. Imagine a man drowning in the ocean, flailing his arms and screaming. You swim up to him to try to help him. He’s in a panic, he swings his arms and belts you. Next, imagine asking this drowning man to listen to you talk about sexual role reversals. This analogy may sound silly to you, but this is exactly what’s happening. You need to see your guy as someone who can’t give you the response he needs because he’s drowning. So, see him for what he is and stop personalizing (he doesn’t love me, or care, or understand or respect me) his inability to respond to you the way you want.I know you asked how you could make him more comfortable to talk with you. Again, this request is motivated by your wanting him to give you what you need. Understand that his defenses prevent him from doing this. The only chance you have to get him to accept your position is to stop locking horns with him. Arguing with him will only solidify his defenses. Bottom line, don’t try to remove his defenses. They are there to protect him and he needs them. If you understand this, you won’t be so hell bent on forcing him to see your side or making him open up to his own secret wishes.If you feel the need to talk about this subject, you need to be very gentle. If he starts to react with upset, ask him,’What’s all the heat about? Why is he getting so upset? See what he says. It can take years in therapy for a person that is homophobic to open up to this side of himself. And, your guy may never get there. Realize that when you are not inserting your own wounded feelings into the conversation, you are freer to help him look at himself. In which case, you can put the problem back in his lap by gently saying,’Many men feel threatened at the thought of becoming a woman. There are fears of being helpless, out-of-control and dependent…’ See if he can own the above, which is easier to admit than homosexual urges. If he can own the above, then you can talk about why it’s scary for a guy to be dependent. If he can stick with this conversation, you might be able to help him see that beneath the fear is a great wish–we all have wishes to return to a state of dependency and be cared for. If he c an own this wish, he might talk about why dependency is so scary (fear of being abandoned? hurt, etc.) See how far you can go.If he can’t tolerate the above discussion in any form, then you will need to accept that this guy can’t handle this subject and you will need to find your acceptance and understanding from others. Good luck.