Editors' Note: Guest blogger Wilson Knight is an up-and-coming pop artist. The lyric video for his single "Stable Ground" was recently released.
Stockholm syndrome was created after a hostage situation during a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973. The victims started to care for and bond with the robbers, even going as far as fighting off the police. Stockholm syndrome is described as a subconscious survival strategy, and sometimes as an emotional tie to one's captor. A great example of this would be someone in an abusive relationship, and, let's face it, what is dating a closeted gay man if not an emotionally abusive relationship?
I still remember the first time I realized how bad the situation had become, I was at his (let's call him The Marine, since that's how I now refer to him) I was at his going away party and got extremely drunk because I couldn't deal with the fact that he was going away to fight in a war for seven months! I was intoxicated to the point where I couldn't even walk. I had never before that moment drank that way.
It wasn't until the next day when I had to deal with the aftermath that everything became all too clear. I was on the kitchen floor begging him not to leave. Enough said, right? I was clearly over invested in this guy! I literally couldn't deal with it! I was so embarrassed and emotional - especially with him leaving in less than a week!
I don't even need to tell you how he reacted since he wasn't my boyfriend and no one truly knew the depth of our "friendship." He walked away from me that night on numerous occasions and the next day all he said to me was, "You ready to go home?" That's all he said to me up until it was time for him to go be a marine. Which, of course, threw me into an even deeper emotional decline.
Why is it as gay men, we allow ourselves to be subjected to secret relationships with closeted men?
I would estimate that about 90% of my gay friends have had some sort of emotional or physical interaction with someone who was straight or someone who was in the closet. I'm notorious for falling in love with emotionally or socially unavailable men. Why are we okay with being degraded to number two to a wife, to a life, or to the simple fact that someone isn't comfortable with himself?
I've gone through so much self-inflicted emotional anguish because I wanted to be with someone who, quite frankly, didn't care enough to want to be with me. When is a little less lonesome no longer enough? Where along the way did compromising a serious, full-on committed relationship and accepting fragments of some sort of fictitious affection become appealing to us? I've gone through the ringer trying to change and make it work. I've wasted time on someone who didn't love me enough to be brave. I've compromised dreams because someone wasn't comfortable enough loving me without one foot outside the door.
Do we really think a man will finally come around and fall madly in love with us and the pieces will fall into place? Or is it a more profound issue? Maybe we are more willing to look past the negative because deep down we don't ever feel truly accepted by society. Could it be possible that, just maybe, we don't feel worthy enough of those dreams we have of living a life with a family or someone who loves us and wants to show us off to the world like we do them?
I was fully committed to someone who was too scared to take action and love me back. I spent five years working and going crazy doing everything I could to make it as easy as possible for him until it got to a point where I began resenting him for everything he put me through. I took the back seat to girlfriends, friends, and social outings - all because I allowed him that position of power over me. I let him feel it was okay to treat me the way he did. I felt it was okay he treated me that way.
I allowed it because I loved him and deep down I never felt good enough for him. I felt too ugly for him, too fat, too crazy, too feminine... any excuse I could come up with as to why I wasn't good enough, I did. There was never a point in those five years I felt worthy enough for someone I saw as so perfect. It got to a point where I felt a little of something is better than nothing.
I remember one night we were talking about baby names and adopting children and building a Victorian house to live in, then no more than twenty-four hours later we were back to being just friends. I acquiesced to breadcrumbs and convinced myself one day he'd be ready to give me more. I built a life of wishful thinking and settled. It wasn't until I was out of that mindstate that I realized what those five years really were: a fruitless endeavor.
So, again, why is it that we as gay men allow ourselves to take that back seat? Why do we take it so willingly?
Research has shown that gay men with low self esteem are more willing to practice unsafe sex or high risk sexual encounters, so if we aren't even willing to worry about our lives and our health, why would it matter to us that we aren't getting all the healthy aspects of a relationship from someone we love? If we can't even take the proper precautions to a healthy sex life because we don't give value to our lives, why would we expect anyone else to give value to us, right?
Is that adolescent still haunting us, the one that doesn't fit in? Or could it be the teenager who's told on a daily basis that being gay is wrong?
I'll admit there are situations where I still get uncomfortable being as feminine as I am; like at a super bowl party! I still feel a little uneasy around so much masculine energy, and I don't believe it's because I'm scared to be judged, I think it has more to do with the fact that I just don't fit in with the box society says I'm supposed to and as much as I don't care for "the norms" of society, a part of me still hears everyone telling me that I act like a girl. I've never been more comfortable with myself or in a better state of mind than I am now, so I can't help but look back and wonder if so many gay men settle for a similar situation to the one I was in because they are blinded by all these insecurities.
Why have I seen so many gay men let someone build them up and smash them down when it's convenient for that person? We run back time and time again, but do we really expect a different outcome? Or are we just looking for a temporary relief from having to prove to ourselves we are good enough?
We know how we feel in the moments we get to be wrapped in someone's arms, and we know how we feel when we don't have those arms to be safe in, but is that fleeting comfort and sporadic affection worth the rollercoaster ride of being with someone who can't, or won't, fully invest their time, and more importantly, their heart in you?
I remember I was in a therapy session and my therapist at the time suggested I cut all ties with this man, and I sat there and gave her a list of reasons why I couldn't, why I wouldn't do it. I never returned to therapy after that.
It seemed to be a reoccurring event, I'd complain about everything he'd done wrong, then defend him and make an excuse for each complaint I had just made. No one knew him so they couldn't judge him - that's where my mentality stood. So, why would I complain? I did it because I needed someone to make sense of why he and I were the way we were. I needed an excuse to stay, but that's never what I got. Everyone started to become the reflections I wanted to avoid, the reasons why I knew I should leave, but was too invested to do it.
Since I was so vulnerable and naïve to what a healthy love life is, I had no qualms subjecting myself to such an intensely powerful, virulent addiction. I've found that I was addicted to the fights, the downward spirals, because, in my mind, the arguing meant that he cared. If he didn't care, he would just leave. It was easy to believe that, so I did.
In retrospect, what was there to leave? How can you leave a place you've never really been?
So, if I spent five years changing, trying to hide the fights, and protecting someone who hurt me on a daily basis, wouldn't that mean I am a victim of Stockholm syndrome? I always protected his reputation with my family and friends, arguing that he was great, and they just didn't get to see or hear about the wonderful moments. In a sense, I was protecting my "captor."
Does the decline of our confidence slowly lead us into this subconscious state of dependence, even if the person is deleterious? Why would any sane gay man date a closet case?