I learned five things about myself that I never knew before and gave myself the best gift of my life.
By: Martin O’Cook
On my birthday last April, I cried in my living room and scratched my dog’s ears. I wasn’t sad because I just had turned 35. Instead, I was upset because the moment marked another anniversary of being single.
And what did I do to feel better? I sat on Grindr and desperately looked for some random guy to ease my pain. It’s sad, isn’t it?
But at some point, after having zero luck, something clicked in my head.
You see for too long, I had been having random sex with strangers to quiet my inner demons; voices that whispered things like: You’re not hot enough and Nobody finds you attractive.
In fact, it was those very demons that made me cheat on the only boyfriend I really ever had two years earlier. And they were also the reason I was still single at 35.
While my plan wasn’t to remain abstinent for an entire year, I did promise myself to radically create change and engage in self-love. This meant only partaking in sex if I was absolutely ready.
“You’re not hot enough and Nobody finds you attractive”
Now a year later without sex, my attitude has dramatically changed. What’s more, those demons have become silenced. And while I am still single, I can honestly say I’ve learned more about love, sex and relationships than I have after years of meeting guys for random, empty play.
Obviously, I am not suggesting that anyone “go without” for a year to experience new insight. I am saying that this was my experience and I’m completely grateful for what I learned.
During the past 12-months, here are five key things I discovered about myself as a gay man regarding love and sexuality.
1. The attitudes I’ve held about sex come from my past
As a result of my religious beliefs, I was raised to link shame with my sexual orientation. Guys who had sex with other guys were labeled as “sinners”. Obviously, that makes it a challenge to have a healthy relationship with yourself when you do things you aren’t supposed to do.
And so over the year, I’ve learned to reprogram my thinking about sex. I’ve recognized that the messages that were passed on to me belonged to someone else’s belief system – not mine. By no longer shaming myself for being a gay man, I was able to accept the gift of my sexuality and exercise better judgement when using it.
2. I have a wonderful body
So much of our gay culture suggests that in order to be desired, you need to look like a male model. That may be hard to hear but it really is true. There’s a similar dynamic I suppose in the straight world but it just seems like in gaydom, the emphasis on is more pronounced.
For one, I don’t look like the muscled up guys you see in magazines or videos. Second, I don’t have washboard abs and I’m not packing 8 inches. Finally, because I’ve never had those things, I felt guilty for showing whatever sexiness I did have out of a fear of rejection.
During this past year, I’ve taken time to get more comfortable with my body. Before starting this journey, I was obsessed with how others viewed me. I now accept that I am imperfect and that is OK.
The difference today is that I am practicing gratitude for what I do have and not bombarding myself with negativity over what I don’t.
When the time comes for me to share myself with another man, I’ll be more focused on being in the moment and not on his judgement.
3. I have more time for growth
Since removing the need to hunt for sex from my life, I’ve had more time to focus on the things I enjoy. I guess that happens when you make the choice to get rid of hookup apps, like Grindr and Scruff.
I learned quickly there were so many other things to do with my time, like using water colors to paint or bond with my dog and teach him new tricks. I’ve even learned how to make different types of meals, which came as a shock because I’ve always considered myself bad at it.
Finally, my workouts have improved by leaps and bounds. I think it’s because I’m more motivated to grow my body for me and not the off chance that some guy will take notice.
4. I had more meaningful dates
This one may come as a shock to you but once I decided to not hook up until I was ready, the number of dates I went on skyrocketed! I wish I had a way of explaining it here. All I can say is that the shift in energy moved from the physical realm to something more ethereal.
That doesn’t mean I’m not turned on by guys or that I don’t fantasize. I masturbated over the past twelve months and still do today.
5. My depression got better
If you are a gay man, you already know that a lot of us suffer from depression. That’s not just an anecdotal observation but instead, something that has been quantified by research.
The conventional thinking suggests that having sex can help depression, which on some level is probably true. But in my case, the need for validation through sex was so powerful that it actually made mine worse. That’s because I was looking for external validation instead of internal. If you think about it for a moment, doesn’t that make sense?
I hope nobody reading this will think that I am against sex or even casual hookups. That’s not what I’m suggesting. There’s nothing wrong with getting it on with a hot guy when it feels right.
My problem was that I was confusing sex with validation, which left little room to love myself.
For the past several weeks I’ve been seeing a guy and things are going well. Now that I’m stronger and my outlook has changed, I’m confident that if the moment arrives for us to become intimate, I’ll be completely ready.