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You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

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Exploring Healthy Sexuality

 

“O Body swayed to music, O brightening glance how can we know the dancer from the dance?”   — W.B. Yeats

Sexuality is not something we do, but its part of whom we are.  We are physical, intellectual, emotional, sexual and spiritual people, and all parts are equally important.  To consider sexuality as energy, a state of being, and not a state of activity, helps us bring our sexuality and our sexual expression back within ourselves.

Part of my challenge with sexuality is to explore what healthy sexuality is and to decide what my values and behaviors are going to be.  I am responsible only for taking care of myself; it is not up to me to decide sexual issues for others or for society.  It is more than enough to know my own needs and how I will meet them.  I can give myself permission to put sexuality in its rightful place.  It is an important part of who I am, but only a part, not the entire sum of my personality and being.

 

Hugging and Holding

 

“I’d never seen men hold each other.  I thought the only thing they were allowed to do was shake hands or fight.”  —Rita Mae Brown

Like many men, I grew up without knowing the warmth of lovingly touching one another.  Some of us had fathers who trapped themselves in a stereotypical male role, afraid to hold us and show their love for us.  We may have learned to be independent, competitive, and even separate.  We often fall into awkwardness and isolation.  As men especially, we become afraid to reach out, hug, and hold someone of our own sex. So many of us, whether male or female, have lost touch with ourselves and with others.  We have been alone far too long.

One result when pursuing personal growth is the awareness and beginning of healthy and proper holding of one another and giving hugs.  At first, we may find it embarrassing and keep our distance.  As we learn to loosen up and reach out, we look forward to the warmth and strength that comes from giving and receiving a friendly, caring hug.  It is good to learn to touch in a fearless and nonsexual way.  I am glad to be in touch with other people through hugging and holding.

It’s Him!

Read the rest of this entry

About The Narcissistic Personality Disordered Person

My previous relationship was with a man with a paranoid personality disorder.  Eventually, it was determined that he also had a narcissistic personality disorder.  With this knowledge I chose to stand by the side of my then partner, as I felt that, through no choice of his own, he was afflicted by mental illness. It goes without saying, that this affliction played a major role in my life both individually and in the relationship. Each day proved to be a difficult day. I have blogged about my experience with his paranoid personality disorder. The insight I have gained through my process of understanding narcissism has broadened the scope of my comprehension of the bigger picture of what was going on and what was “in play” within our relationship. I stated in my blog about paranoia that by sharing this type of information openly in forums such as this and my decision honor the commitments I have made to my partner, I have alienated myself from key persons I would normally choose to have in my support network. As a result of my openness and honesty, I sacrificed both family connections and close friendships.

Contrary to what some people may think, I felt I had given considerable thought to my decision to stand by my partner, again consulting with both paraprofessionals and professionals in the field of psychiatry. It is a lonely experience trying to share the struggles my partner and I faced to some in our support network, and some abandoned us altogether. I was often asked,” Why do you stay with such a person?” When faced with trying to understand his narcissistic behavior, I found myself in a very familiar place, asking myself that very same question.

As I continued to learn to live with the decisions I made, I saw more of the options available to me. Thoughts, feelings and emotions were so jumbled up inside my head. I felt as though I was hanging onto a very thin rope over a very deep abyss. I knew that in times such as those I was experiencing, I needed to first take care of myself. Eventually, healthy people came into my life. One or two of them were there all along, only I wasn’t open to receiving their opinion and I didn’t pursue the friendship. I found I had a small circle of stable people I could call and talk to and spend time with outside of my home environment.

I knew I needed a tool to process the jumbled feelings, the hurts, resentments and fears that were consuming my thoughts; even manifesting themselves physically in my body. One way I typically approach the more significant issues in my life is to look at the situation very analytically. One of the ways I do this is to write a blog and journal which incorporates the more factual matters; much like the way one would approach writing a research paper on the subject matter. Following is the result from my research, condensed and specific to my situation with my former partner:

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, need for admiration, extreme self-involvement, and a lack of empathy for others. Individuals with this disorder are usually arrogantly self-assured and confident. They expect to be noticed as superior. Individuals with NPD are sometimes called “serial bullies.” Many highly successful people might be considered narcissistic. However, this disorder is only diagnosed when these behaviors become persistent and very disabling or distressing. The narcissist does not cater at all to his own needs. Contrary to his reputation, the narcissist does not “love” himself in any true sense of this loaded word.

He feeds off other people who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to applaud, to detest – in a word, to assure him that he exists. Otherwise, they have no right to tax his time, energy, or emotions – so he feels.

NPD is a true mental diagnosis for people who need admiration, lack empathy and have a grandiose sense of their self-importance. It is called a pervasive pattern of grandiosity in fantasy and behavior, and usually begins by early adulthood and it presents itself in a variety of symptoms. To make this diagnosis, a person presents five or more of the following:

Are You Narcissistic?

 

 

Fill in the blank next to each question with a number from 1 to 5 as follows:

 

1 strongly disagree     2 disagree     3 neutral     4 agree     5 strongly agree

 

_____      I am very concerned with what others think of me.

 

_____      I am easily bored.

 

_____      I feel that I am attractive

 

_____      I call, text or email my friends when we haven’t spoken for a while.

 

_____      People are always coming to me with their problems.

 

_____      I am more important than most people I know.

 

_____      I find that other people’s remarks can be hurtful.

 

_____      I don’t like being alone for long.

 

_____      People often don’t appreciate me.

 

_____      I feel that I am always sorting out people’s problems for them.

 

Scores between 24 and 34 are normal (The average is 29).

If your score is 35 or more you may be narcissistic.

If your score is 23 or less you may be lacking in self-confidence.

It is rare for a narcissistic person to be diagnosed with NPD because those who really should be don’t seek help and so don’t get clinically assessed; it is usually members of their family or work colleagues who seek help to cope with them. Here are a few pointers that may help you identify one:

Their lack of empathy colors everything they do.

They may say, “How are you?” when you meet, but they are working from memory.

They are not interested in how you are.

Virtually all of their ideas or ways of behaving in a given situation are taken from others, people they know and perhaps think of as an authority (mirroring).

Their sense of self-importance and lack of empathy means that they will often interrupt the conversations of others.

They expect others to do the day-to-day chores as they feel too important to waste their time on common things.

Listen for the constant use of “I”, “me” and “my” when they talk.

They very rarely talk about their inner life, such as their memories and dreams.

They feel that the rules at work don’t apply to them

They will always cheat when they think they can get away with it

If you share workload with them expect to do the lion’s share yourself.

They love to delegate work or projects, and then interfere by micro-managing it. If it goes well, they take the credit, if it goes badly they blame the person they delegated it to.

There tends to be higher levels of stress with people who work with or interact with a narcissist, which in turn increases absenteeism and staff turnover.

They get impatient and restless when the topic of discussion is about someone else, and not about them.

How is narcissistic personality disorder treated?

There is no known cure for narcissistic personality disorder, but psychotherapy might help the person learn to relate to others in a more positive and rewarding way. Psychotherapy tries to provide the person with greater insight into his or her problems and attitudes in the hope that this will change behavior. The goal of therapy is to help the person develop a better self-esteem and more realistic expectations of others. Medicine might be used to treat the distressing symptoms, such as behavioral problems, that might occur with this disorder.

What are the complications of narcissistic personality disorder?

People with narcissistic personality disorder might abuse drugs and/or alcohol as a way of coping with their symptoms. The disorder also might interfere with the development of healthy relationships with others.

What is the outlook for people with narcissistic personality disorder?
The prognosis depends on the severity of the disorder.

Can narcissistic personality disorder be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent narcissistic personality disorder.


Gay Domestic Violence “Is My Relationship Abusive?”

Relationship is What?

Relationship is What?

IS MY RELATIONSHIP ABUSIVE?

Domestic violence can be difficult to identify, especially for the person experiencing it. I am blogging about my own personal experience in an abusive relationship. For reasons I am still trying to understand, I remained in an abusive relationship for more than four years. How is it that I finally have the strength and courage now to share this part of my life? An abusive relationship clouds one’s thinking and ability to discern fact from fiction in addition to the creation of doubt, shame and blame. This is my chance for serious introspection during this time when I see my life clearly.

The abuse I experienced caused me to enter into a very introspective time during which I spent a vast number of hours researching this topic of domestic violence, specific to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered communities. I hope that within several blogs I will be able to break my personal situation down to a series that will take the reader along a path from the more general, almost research type approach I take when attempting to understand new information, to a more specific view of my own personal world.

I have come to know that people sometimes misunderstand domestic violence and think it is only physical abuse when actually, it can be emotional, financial and/or sexual abuse as well. Abusers often manipulate victims so that they feel they are to blame for the abuse. Sometimes gay abusers will try to tell their partners that “this is how it is in a gay relationship”. Abusers often promise to change their behavior, and the hope for that positive change can keep a victim from identifying the pattern of abuse in the relationship.

Am I Being Abused?

How can you determine whether you’re being abused? Every relationship is different and many relationships have rough patches with arguments and other turmoil. Though some behaviors may be hurtful, no one behavior determines whether a person is being abusive. Also, intimate partner abuse takes many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, identity and financial abuse. Review the following list of signs of possible abuse:

Are you in a relationship with someone who:

• Keeps you from spending time with friends or family members?
• Makes you account for your time when apart from him/her?
• Is excessively jealous and possessive?
• Makes unreasonable demands for your attention?
• Blames you for all the arguments or problems in the relationship?
• Wants to make all the decisions?
• Invades your privacy – opening your mail, reading your e-mail or going through your personal belongings?
• Gets angry for no apparent reason?
• Seems like two different people – one is charming or loving, the other is mean and hurtful?
• Lies in order to confuse you?
• Criticizes, ridicules, humiliates or belittles you?
• Controls your finances or feels entitled to your financial support?
• Damages your property?
• Harasses you at work or school?
• Threatens to out you at work, to your family or to others?
• Criticizes your body and appearance?
• Prevents you from practicing safe sex?
• Forces or coerces you to have sex or hurts you during sex?
• Becomes angry if you don’t go along with his/her sexual demands?
• Blames his/her behavior on alcohol, drugs or his/her own history of abuse?
• Pressures you to use alcohol or other drugs?
• Threatens you with physical harm or makes you feel afraid?
• Pushes, shoves, grabs, punches, hits or strikes you with hands or fists?
• Threatens or assaults you with weapons, such as household objects or knives?
• Manipulates you with the constant threat of mood changes and impending rage? Has you “walking on eggs” or living with constant stress, anxiety or fear?

Get More Information

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, you may want to learn more about partner abuse and take a serious look at your relationship. Start by reading and educating yourself at your local library or the Internet specific to these topics:

Definition of Domestic Violence
The Types of Abuse
The Cycle of Abuse

A very helpful book is Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them by David Island and Patrick Letellier.

What to Expect

An abuser has two goals: one, to hold his/her partner in the relationship and two, to control his/her partner’s behavior so the partner meets the abuser’s needs. Abusers can be astonishingly devious in creating tactics to meet these goals, but there are some common maneuvers:

It’s More Than Physical

Most people think of abuse as physical but there are four other types of abuse: emotional, sexual, and financial and identity. Even if he/she’s not hitting you, he/she could be abusing you. Verbal or emotional abuse, for example, is almost always used even if physical abuse is not. Abusers can be extremely creative in the types of abuse that they use. Also, abuse usually follows a cycle with standard phases: first he/she is nice, even super nice; second, he/she starts being mildly abusive; third, there is an abuse attack; fourth, he/she is apologetic, loving and contrite. But the cycle just starts all over again and again and again.

“It’s Normal”

Abusers will try to convince their partners that their abusive behavior is “normal” or “normal for a gay (G), bisexual (B) or transgender (T) relationship”. This tactic is especially effective with people who are inexperienced in gay relationships. Abuse is not normal in any relationship, including gay relationships. Abuse has no part in a healthy relationship.

“You’re the Abuser, I’m the Victim”

Partners may defend themselves against abuse, such as physical abuse. An abuser may assert that this self-defense is abuse and that the partner is the abuser. Or the abuser may claim that the partner is “mutually abusive”.

A common characteristic of abusers is the lack of responsibility they take for their own behaviors. They may accuse their partners of being the “abuser” and they, sometimes, genuinely believe that they are the “abused” party. They may use this claim to manipulate friends, service providers and law enforcement. An abuser, for example, may seek a restraining order against his/her partner, claiming the partner is the abuser.

“You’re to Blame”

Another ploy is to blame the partner for “making” the abuser abuse. The abuser will claim that he/she would not abuse if only the partner did X or if the partner didn’t do Y. Again, the abuser is trying to shift the responsibility from him/herself to his/her partner. Unfortunately, this tactic is all too successful. Partners often assume too much responsibility not only for the abuser’s behavior but also for the relationship as a whole. The reality is that the partner can not stop the abuser from abusing.

“It’s the Stress, Drugs…”

Abusers sometimes claim that some circumstance forces them to abuse and if only the circumstance were to change, they would stop. They blame their abusive behavior on such circumstances as stress, lack of a job or the use of drugs (especially crystal meth) or alcohol. These are only excuses. There always will be some circumstance that in their minds justifies their abusive behavior.

“Promises, Promises”

Abusers commonly promise to change – to stop abusing, to stop using drugs, to stop whatever. These promises often follow an abusive incident. The goal of these promises is to win back the partner and to hold him in the relationship. The abusers may believe their own promises, but the goal of the promises is not to reform their behavior but to keep their partner. Once the partner indicates that he is staying in the relationship, the promise is forgotten.

No Legal Protection

Abusers may attempt to convince their partners that no one will help them and that they are not entitled to legal protection from abuse. There is help available.

Ending the Abuse

Experience has shown that once abuse begins it is very likely to continue and become more frequent and more severe over time. Research suggests that abusers are also very unlikely to end the relationship. Partners who are abused have two choices, either to stay and be abused or leave. Partners can and do have compelling reasons to stay in an abusive relationship. Abusers rarely end the relationship because in most cases they psychologically need the partner more than the partner needs them. They can be quite successful at hiding their dependency on the partner and their fear of losing him, and they often work to convince the partner that he would be lost without the abuser. Whether a partner stays or leaves, it is wise to have a safety plan to maximize his safety.

If any of these maneuvers sound familiar, you may want to not only get more information, but seek assistance from a resource knowledgeable about domestic violence.

What to Do

Reach out for help! There is help available!

Gay men often do not reach out for help because they believe there is no help out there for them. Services specifically for gay men are limited but they do exist. There are gay-friendly services of all types such as mental and physical health care providers, counselors, social service agencies and support groups. One way to find these resources is by contacting a local, gay social service agency. Friends and family also can be a supportive resource.

About Abusers

The most frequently reported reason why partners stay in abusive relationships is “hope for change” or their “fear of being alone.” Partners believe the abuser’s promises to get help or to change. Experience shows that once a person begins to abuse, the problem is likely to get worse. Get a perspective on your own experience. Abusers may feel guilty and apologetic after an abusive incident and promise themselves and their partner that they will change. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, most abusers do not stop being abusive.

Digital Photography – Through The Glory Hole

Glory Hole

Image by groovydudesdude via Flickr

A few years ago, I found a new “hobby” of sorts in digital photography, and the photo editing I realized I could do through various editing programs.  Starting with the most simple of editing programs, I began to turn what seemed an ordinary photos in to something quite – extraordinary. This photo, called “Through The Glory Hole” began as an edit of photo of a television screen.

This is a re-post of this blog/photo.  Interestingly, it is the third most viewed blog on any one of my three web blog sites!

The term “glory hole” originated as a mining expression.  Obviously, the meaning has evolved over the years to one of an adult connotation. Any adult reader who doesn’t know what a glory hole is, click the link.

Digital photograph of an adult gay male in front of a glory hole at an adult men’s club. There appears to be some hot action in the background.

 

 

through-the-glory-hole-6

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Domestic Violence in Gay Relationships

The World Was Mine?

Domestic Violence in Homosexual Relationships

mark-self-portrait-15.jpg

“The world was always yours; you would not take it.” — Archibald MacLeish

In October 2007, I experienced a very bad day; one that I am very ashamed of. I allowed myself into a situation with my then partner and I ended up getting hurt. I was physically attacked and beaten by my partner; I made some very wrong choices that day. It’s possible during a difficult time to become sidetracked in self-pity, anxiety, anger or fear.

Yesterday, I felt all of those feelings. It can be easier for me to fall into those feelings than to look honestly at my responsibilities at the moment. When I feel myself spiraling down, possibly into a dangerous, unhealthy situation, it’s time to ask some hard questions.

What will I choose differently today? Am I willing to take care of myself before I take care of anyone or anything else? Is there someone I can call or turn to, something I can do to stay on track with my personal growth and respect me?

I know the answers are all within me. I have infinite inner resources and potential. I have people to whom I can reach out. I have my Higher Power and I have a commitment to myself. Through the use of these tools I will find the hope and encouragement I need, just for today to keep me safe and out of harm’s way.

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Look In The Mirror – A Poem by Christopher Eshenbaugh

more-posing-049

Look in the Mirror

Look in the mirror.
I gaze deeply at the image of me;
A man who is troubled by mental relapse;
“sick-in-the-head” behavior problems,

Caution, code red!

What a deceiving image I see.
Is this reflection really of me?
I look like a man who is strong and keen,
but deep inside, I feel ashamed.
I cannot control the anger built inside of me;
Anger I have for things I should just let be!
Anger even built towards me.

Who is this coming from behind me?
A man who’s reflection joins me.
My partner, my love!
Do you see the monster I call me?
I have hurt you in many ways;
please forgive the words I say.
Forgive me for hitting you
and calling you those trashy names.

I am scared of myself. Can you help me
out?

“I know I love you without a doubt.”
is sung from his beautiful mouth.

I am blessed to be given his love and affection.
I must not destroy this reflection;
the two of us, side by side.

I am reminded that this man stands beside me,
willing to continue, right here at my side.
I must not make this a wild, scary ride.
I will change my reflection starting deep inside.

Copyright 2007

Christopher Eshenbaugh

All Rights Reserved

Something Happened For the First Time in My Adult Life ~ A Commitment to Monogamy

 

Something has happened in my thinking for the first time in my adult life. Those who know me well will agree that this “happening” is revelation for me, if not a miracle:

I went to bed last night hours before my partner Christopher; one of those artist traits where an idea must be completed to his satisfaction on canvas or else his mind won’t rest. After sleeping for what seemed like a full night, I looked at the clock. I had only been sleeping a little over two hours. I noticed I was freezing. “He has the A/C turned to the 60’s I thought to myself”. With a still sleepy voice, I called out, “Christopher.” My voice was so faint and I knew he was on the opposite end of the house. Little did I expect that he’d even hear me? I laid there and pulled the down comforter over me. Just then, in walks Christopher, “Yes Baby?” “I’m cold” I told him”, still softly. “Would you like me to warm you up? I’ll have to get naked you know. “Yes.” I still muttered.

As he crawled into bed with me beneath our luxurious comforter, I soon felt the heat radiating from his body. Once I was warm enough, I pulled my arm out from under the comforter and stroked his handsome face. Soon, we began making love. Not just a routine kind of love-making; this was very different. We found ourselves becoming so intimate with one another and so passionate; our faces were lit by our bright smiles and our eyes locked in to one another’s. As our demonstration of love to one another continued and grew even further in its intensity, I began thinking to myself, “God, no other man knows me like this to even come close to making me feel this good” and, “I love him so differently than anyone else in my life”. And Christopher said, “Baby, you are so right for me. I love you deeply”. I responded to him by saying, “Baby, there is no other man for me but you”. Our kisses, just as they have in the past, sealed our commitment to one another. Our love making met each other’s needs so completely and naturally.

My mind continued its course of thoughts like, “This is it. He is so much “the one” for me. I have no doubts. Even with all of the challenges we face, nothing can erode the foundation of true love that we have for one another. He so longs for monogamy. I believe I can now give it freely, authentically, and honestly to him”.

Later, in the shower these feelings still lingered and I thought to myself, “I have never given myself so completely to someone, nor have I had anyone match my giving so equally in return. Tonight Christopher helped me get to a place where no one has ever been successful before”. I planned to tell him this and from the shower walked up behind him as he sat on the computer going through email messages.

“It says here I can make $3,000 a month selling candles, Baby” he said.

“Christopher I need to share something really important with you” I said as I grabbed his big hand into my own two hands. “Tonight, you helped me with something and with your help, together I feel like we went somewhere in intimacy where we have never been before. At least, I never have been in my entire adult life”.

There was enough familiarity with certain key words in what I was saying that changed his look of concern to his big beautiful smile. “Christopher, I felt monogamy. I don’t know exactly how; I’m going to sort more of this out in the morning, but I know I felt it. And baby, right now what I’m feeling is the need to say to you that I am ready to be monogamous. With you. No one has ever made me feel so secure, so attractive, so loved, so cherished as you. And I have never felt the need to make another man feel these same things from me before. At least not all of them in one package. You are the only man I want. This is what I want – monogamy.”

He pulled me into his lap and kissed me so deeply. We cried tears filled with all kinds of happiness and relief and the elimination of regrets. I felt free! I mean, I felt as though tightness was removed from my chest. My face seemed to be engaged in an endless smile. Christopher said, “It sounds to me like you need your inhaler and I’m going to go get it for you and bring us back something cold to drink. Now you crawl back into bed Baby, and I’ll be right back”. After sharing our cherry Kool Aid, I found my spot for my head on his chest; it’s a spot that nestles my head just perfectly. And we fell into a deep sleep in each other’s arms.

This morning, I woke up to thinking of what happened last night and smiled as I stretched and pulled a kitten off Christopher’s neck and kissed him “good morning.” As he sat up I said, “I still feel exactly the same way Christopher.” He looked at me and smiled (a rarity when he first wakes up) and said, “I’m glad. Me too, Baby”. Already, our morning is off to a much different start than the many that have come before. A gentler and more relaxed kind of activity, while we take care of our animals, we call it the morning “chores.”

I logged on to write my blog, and our dearest friend (well really we consider him to be like family to us); Matt IM’d me which made him the very first person I could tell about my “happening”. He was thrilled and gave so much wonderful feedback. As I get ready to post this blog, I know that there is going to be something different about today. Something lighter, brighter and definitely will be full of love. Thank you Christopher and I must say “thank you” to my Self, as I know it took the two of us to create beauty. For the first time, and at the age of 46, Mark feels a sense of monogamy – a need for it. And is ready to give this gift to my partner. The only man who could help me get here.

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