Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Do you really need to drape yourself on everyone?

Bravone, among others, can testify that I am an indiscriminate hugger. I have been this way ever since my mission. (NOTE: If you've followed this blog over the last five years, you may remember the story from where I acquired this propensity to hug). I have mentioned in the past that if I find myself holding back, extinguishing my sense of touch and natural affection, then I feel like something inside of me is dying, describing it like a wrinkled last leaf on a withered vine. I told myself, after sensing this "dying" affect, that I wouldn't be that way anymore. I would have to be the way that I naturally am and that this is just the way it has to be for me to find some sense of balance as a man in my situation.

A few weeks ago, an anonymous person commented on my blog and got all over me about me "hitting" on men in church, particularly young men, and essentially called me a pervert, accusing me of using my position of authority to get close to them and get my kicks from them in church settings in a predatory sense. I was very concerned about this reaction to my blog. This person expressed how she would hate to be in my ward and would want to be sure to keep her young boys away from the likes of me. This person obviously didn't follow that the "young men" that I was describing as my friends are in their mid to late twenties now, and married, and very much adults, choosing to be affectionate with me as a sign of a straight-friendship and brotherhood. It makes me wonder though, how I must come across to others... Am I putting myself out there too much? Do I unknowingly drape myself on others whether they want to be recipients of my signs of affection or not?

Case in point, last Sunday: After church, I was in the foyer greeting and saluting folks as they departed for home, and as I am wont to do, I hugged indiscriminately... young men, old men, widows and elderly sister, and wives of my "young men" mentioned above. I must have hugged a dozen or so, when my wife caught me hugging one of these young-straight-married-late-twenties friends in what she thought was a full-body groin-grinding hug. She called me on it and said she didn't like what I was doing, and that it made her feel like I was being unfaithful to her. She left a bit upset. Her reaction made me a bit upset as well. I had to stay behind to take care of things, one of which was giving someone a blessing... I was very confused and befuddled inside wondering how mad she was going to be of me, and whether this was going to spiral out of control, and I started to doubt myself and wonder whether I was fooling myself for believing that this was all as innocent as I meant it and portrayed it to be... It was difficult to feel the spirit as there was a confusion inside me.

When I finally came home nothing was said. Yet, I could sense the coolness in the room. The proverbial elephant had returned and taken up residence in the parlor. The more I thought about it, the more assured I was of myself. I am an affectionate person. I, as a gay man in a straight lifestyle, am needing to express that to others. I do so as a natural extension of myself and this is the way I've got to be. Choosing to not be in a gay relationship, but staying committed to my marriage, has been tough, but I am okay with this decision, but I'm not okay with holding back the natural tendencies of affection.

But, that night she brought it up again as we were getting ready for bed. She wondered why I did it. Why did I have to hug everyone? And why, especially, did I have to hug young adult men to whom she knows I'm attracted. And why, knowing that this is hurtful to her, do I continue to do this.

I decided it was time to talk... I told her that I had to be the natural person that I was and that if I couldn't be who I was then I might as well die. I explained that I was hugging all sorts of people, not singling out or isolating myself to special "men" that I am attracted to... In fact, I honestly told her that my attractions for this particular friend has diminished substantially since he moved back into the ward, that seeing him every week was actually better than not seeing him for a long time.

She still didn't appreciate the fact that I had to be so affectionate, and particularly in long hugs. (It's interesting to note that I heard on the radio this last week that a hug longer than 3 seconds is too long for most people... I'm just getting going at 3 seconds!). I told her that I wasn't going to stop, that I couldn't stop and that I needed her to not request me to stop, and to try to accept that this is the way I am. I tried to be sensitive to her feeling, but asked her to be sensitive to mine and realize that I'm not trying to inflict pain on her as I do this particular questionable behavior. She felt like I was betraying her or being unfaithful to her and I told her that I am not doing it for anything but brotherly love (which is true - it hasn't always been the case, far from it, but that was when I was still figuring out who I was / am). Yet, right here and now it is where it is - I'm extending myself and my brotherly love for my brothers AND sisters - evenly and universally).

I explained to her how I've tried to re-earn her trust, how I have been FAITHFUL to her and tried to show her that I only want to be with her. She admitted that she felt that way, that I was being faithful and that my devotion to her has increased and that I have been affectionate to her... but she still didn't like it.

She's going through a vulnerable and stressful time right now, and I can see and understand that these expressions of affection I make, particularly to some, triggers past pain and deep hurt. So, I understand her feelings of uneasiness and jealousy. That said, I can't stop. I'm not a pervert and I'm not getting my kicks in church.

Finally, yesterday, she was particularly upset and I came and gave her a full-body hug, grabbing her tight to me, pulling her into me from below. We full-body hugged and kissed each other for quite some time (maybe 20 times the legal limit of 3 second hug comfort of most) and then she softly asked if I hugged anyone else this way... and I said no. I showed her that when my arms are up over the shoulders of the huggee, I am pulling my shoulders and head to mine, but not our groins. It was such a simple gesture - something so obvious to me, but finally she got the difference.

As I held her, she whispered: "I trust you. I want you to be you. I want you to be free to be yourself. I will try not to be jealous of the attention and affection you shower freely on others. I will believe you and trust you when you say that you are not feeling unfaithful or that your attractions aren't getting in the way of your affection for me. Just remember to pay attention to me, too!"

I smiled and gave her a big hug and kiss... so much for another baby step...


Am I really just an unfaithful, insensitive husband, as well as a confused pervert, getting my thrills where I can, and church is full of easy targets?


naturgesetz said...

I think as long as you don't give significantly more hugging to the young men, you are okay.

It may possibly be that the need you have to hug people is in some way related to your being gay, but if that is true, I think it is far better to take care of whatever need lies behind it than to have pressures build up to the point you engage in truly sexual conduct with other men.

I can understand why you feel uncomfortable in the face of these challenges directed toward you. Try to take comfort in the fact that the commenter didn't know what she was talking about and that your wife understands and accepts your behavior.

A.J. said...

I don't think your are a pervert just an affectionate guy.

Daniel said...

I have to confess that what that anonymous commenter said has crossed my mind before. I haven't said anything because I have wondered if the way you describe these encounters is actually the way they happen. But if other people, such as your wife, are seeing these hugs and feeling uncomfortable, then maybe it is fair to question it.

That being said, if anyone-- man or woman, gay or straight-- hugged me for more than 3 seconds, I would feel uncomfortable. It has nothing to do with groins touching or anything else, I'm just uncomfortable with a lingering hug from anyone but my husband. I wonder if others in your ward feel the same way but don't say anything. I certainly would pretend that I wasn't feeling uncomfortable even if I was because admitting I was uncomfortable would make the situation even more uncomfortable!

On a slightly different note, your wife feeling insecure about being attractive for you and feeling jealous of any man you look at no matter how briefly seems normal to me. I have heard women from mixed orientation marriages say very similar things many times. This isn't your fault. It's not you, it is simply something inherent in a mixed orientation marriage. Of course your wife is going to feel insecure and jealous of all other men, because all men have something she cannot have but that you are attracted to. There is no need to blame yourself or her for that very natural feeling.

Has anyone who is in a mixed orientation marriage found a successful way to deal with that emotion? Can you talk to any straight wives in similar situations and get their feedback?

J G-W said...

My husband Göran is also a very huggy person. That's the word we both use to describe him: "huggy." He also hugs indiscriminately and he also gives very long hugs. I too enjoy hugging, but I don't give hugs as easily or often, I generally don't hug as long, and I often don't feel the need to hug. Sometimes I'm really OK with a handshake or even a nod. But Göran is not like that. Every person that passes the threshold of our home can expect big, long, huggy hugs at least twice -- once coming and once leaving.

I do think this is just a part of his personality. That having been said... Not everybody is comfortable with that kind of hugging. Some people are distinctly uncomfortable with it.

A number of years ago, a straight, female friend of mine called me and asked me to speak to Göran, because her husband was uncomfortable with Göran's exceedingly long hugs. This straight male friend of ours loves Göran and thinks the world of him, but he was very uncomfortable with the hugs. Not wanting to hurt Göran's feelings, he had been afraid to say anything explicit to Göran about how uncomfortable he was. So he just kind of suffered the "huggy" hugs in silence. But it was making him very uncomfortable, to the point that he finally talked to his wife about it, and his wife talked to me.

I tried talking to Göran about it, and Göran did not take it well. His feelings were in fact hurt...!!

If there's a moral of this story, I think it is that "huggy" huggers do need to be sensitive to the feelings of those around them. They need to be aware that not everybody is comfortable with huggy hugs, and that many people who are uncomfortable won't necessarily speak up or protest.

It's not bad to be huggy! And I personally love getting huggy hugs, though I'm not usually the one initiating them. But just be aware and sensitive... Some people have physical and emotional boundaries you need to be careful to respect...

Miguel said...

One of the reasons I hope to meet you in person some day is to get one of those famous hugs you talk about! :-) yeah, I'm a huggy person and the babe & I have talked about this, he is not a biggest fan of hugging but he also understands that for some people (gay/straight) it may be the only contact they have with others, so he is OK with the 3-second ones.

Your wife nailed it pretty well when she said: "Just make sure you pay attention to me too". Maybe she feels that she is not part of the hug-fest and I don't know if she is OK with you showing that kind of affection in public but next time I'd pull her next to you and hug her first so everyone knows who gets the "I love, need, want you & can't wait to take you home with me" hugs and who gets the other kind! I always learn so much from you Beck!
Hugs--ha! Miguel

Crisco said...

I don't think I've ever had a good long hug from a friend. I would love to have a huggy friend. I need one from time to time, and my friends just don't find that important.

Abelard Enigma said...

You allude to another important point: Maintaining a mixed orientation marriage involves sacrifice, acceptance, and trust - from both parties.

I think we sometimes focus solely on the sacrifices the gay half of the marriage makes by not following their natural inclination towards members of their same gender; and, the trials they face gaining acceptance and trust from their spouse.

But, for a mixed orientation marriage to work, there are also sacrifices for the straight half of the marriage. They have to learn to accept that their gay counterpart isn't like other husbands or wives and that they have different needs. Just as they expect their gay spouse to maintain trust - they also have to work to gain the acceptance and trust from their gay spouse.

Beck said...

NATURGESETZ: For nearly six years, ever since I have come to understand myself - my real self, I have NOT "significantly hugged young men". With that knowledge came acceptance of propriety and responsibility.

After that acceptance of who I really was,I began the process of trying to learn what is appropriate behavior and what is natural discovery of who this person was with whom I was becoming reaquainted after over 4 decades of self denial.

I have tried to act appropriately. When my blog post was misinterpreted as it was, it was like a slap in the head - maybe I am just fooling myself, or maybe no one really gets me.

A.J. Thanks for giving me that benefit of doubt.

Beck said...

DANIEL: Your comments of concern just magnify the questions within this internal debate over what is proper. I have tried to be honest as possible in my blog, yet, these are my impression of what is going on, which may not be what is seen or understood by others. I am trying to learn and be sensitive to my wife at the same time... without real male relationships, this task of figuring it out with a MOM ain't easy. I don't ask for you or anyone to understand. I don't understand. I'm just trying to do the best I can within this situation.

Feedback, however, is great, even when it stings a bit to know that readers like you question my motives or actions.

Beck said...

JGW: As you recall, I have personally received one of those hugs from Goran! And I relate to his hurt feelings.

I feel shakened that someone sees my actions as some kind of perversion. I know I need to be more sensitive to others and to the various dimensions of personal space, and this is a good "self check" to keep things in perspective and be respectful and sensitive to others.

That said, I have accepted that this is who I am, and as I try to build trust in my marriage and my devotion to my wife, I also need to build trust in myself.

Thanks for the reminder, though, to be respectful of others boundary of personal space.

Beck said...

MIGUEL: I'm not sure what you're learning from me. I seem to come across as pretty confused and inept. I do appreciate the insight that if I pay genuine attention to my wife, privately and publicly, the rest will gain proper perspective for her and others.

CRISCO: There are MANY people I don't hug. I don't mean to imply I'm affectionate with everyone. I am aware of those who will not accept my intrusion into their personal space. Clients, coworkers, High Priests, the list goes on where I am well aware of the "no hugs here" policy. I hope you find more "hugs welcome here" vibes.

ABE: You get it! This post wasn't so much another endless debate over appropriate affection for guys like us, as it is about the give-and-take, the compromise, the sense of trust and mistrust that need to constantly be balanced in a MOM. It's work! But I still find it worth the effort.

The Lead Singer said...

I feel like you're lying to her...

Ned said...

I'm glad you posted about this. I'm glad you're a hugger, that your wife expressed her opinion and you expressed yours. I personally find your hugs healing and hope to enjoy some more someday soon.

Beck said...

WYATT: I have lied to her in the past, but this time I'm not lying. I don't have any hidden agenda or motives to lie about.

NED: Thanks, and I hope so, too.

Bror said...

Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. I am a big hugger too.It feels good. I like it. Happy hugging Beck. :)

Beck said...

BROR: One of my points to this endless internal debate is that yes, I have to do what makes me happy and is a natural expression of who I am, but at the same time I have to compromise in the face of sensitivity of others (be that the invasion of personal space, or that of the discomfort and uneasiness thrust upon a confused wife jealous of my misplaces affections). But, you're right... a guy's gotta do what he's gotta do, right?

Happy hugging!

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those people who reserve the "more than three second" hugs for close friends/loved ones or funerals. Anyone who doesn't qualify gives me the jeebs. Simple as that.
Hearing your reasoning behind it makes me soften a bit, but how often do we have the opportunity to fully understand someone's background before they engage you in a "body drape?"
You're a touchy guy. Some people are okay with it. Others aren't. You can't please them all. Keep your motives in check, remember to "body drape" your wife more often than not, and really, what more can you do?
Good on you for being frank with her. I hope it is a portent of things to come.

Beck said...

MANDI: When you speak I hear my wife speaking through you. I hope that doesn't freak you out as I find it very helpful.

From all of this, I am learning that "draping myself" on my wife more frequently is key to keeping it all in its proper perspective.

And I, too, have much hope for the future.

Cinder said...

My heart cries for your situation.

Beck said...

Don't cry for me! Don't pity me! I don't need anyone to pity me and my situation... This is something that I have chosen and I am perfectly fine with my choice. I haven't always been, but I truly am right now.

Bravone said...

I can attest that you have always been a hugger, and a good one at that. I think Daniel and Mandi's advice is good, to realize that all may not be comfortable with long hugs, but knowing you and your personality, I think it would be hard to misinterpret your motivations. You are a bubbly huggy guy who makes people feel loved and valued.

I'm glad your wife is beginning to understand. Don't change who you are. You're amazing just like you are right now.

Beck said...

BRAVONE: Thanks for your personal witness. Sometimes it's just good to have a reality check from someone who truly knows me that I'm not just fully deceptive, but really am as genuine as I think I am when it comes to this bubbly, huggy stuff...

Grazie tantissimo per il sostegno che mi dai. Ti abbraccio forte forte!