Friday, May 23, 2008

Why I Left the Ex-Gay Movement

On his radio program yesterday, Alan Colmes discussed the topic of the ex-gay movement. On the air were Mike Ensley, a young (and kinda handsome--that's him there on the left) staff member of the evangelical ex-gay ministry Exodus, Wayne Besen, an author and activist who devotes much of his efforts to countering the ex-gay movement, and Michael Bussee, one of the original founders of Exodus in the 1970s. Caveat: Colmes's is known for his liberal bias, so some may dismiss this interview on the basis of his bias alone.

In spite of Colmes's bias, I felt the interview was excellent at teasing out the very reason why I left the ex-gay movement: confusion, misleading double-talk, baiting-and-switching terminology. In the following clip, see if you can understand Mike Ensley's convoluted explanation of his present orientation, his former orientation, and what Exodus actually claims to be able to do.



UPDATE: NG has posted links to recordings of the entire interview between Combes and Mike Ensley.

After five years with Exodus, I left because my orientation hadn't changed at all. The orientations of my friends in the programs hadn't changed. Moreover, I had come to learn that the orientation of the leaders of Exodus hadn't changed. Everyone was still gay. I was so disillusioned that the "change" Exodus had claimed was possible hadn't happened, and I was stunned by the fact that no one in Exodus seemed to have experience the "change"!

My questions about the elusiveness of "change" were met with confusing, convoluted explanations similar to Mike Ensley's words in the radio interview. On one hand, Exodus leaders argued that that gay orientation is a fiction--that it doesn't actually exist--and therefore, since no one in Exodus was ever "really" gay, there was nothing to change. This argument seemed deceptive. If this is the case, isn't it lying for them to advertise that "change" is possible? Shouldn't they instead advertise that "there's nothing to change" or "come discover that you're not really gay in the first place"? I guess those slogans aren't as catchy as "change is possible" though...

On the other hand, some Exodus leaders argued that change does occur, but that it occurs in sexual behavior not in orientation. These leaders would claim that they themselves had changed--not because they had different attractions, but rather because they had stopped having sex with people of the same gender. For me, having never had sex with a guy before or during my Exodus years, this argument was completely worthless. There was no sex for me to stop. This nuanced definition from Exodus's lexicon seemed extremely deceptive to me. This was not the operative definition of "change" that I had in mind when I entered the program. Perhaps they should put an asterisk in their slogan (i.e. "Change* is possible") and add some fine print with their in-house definition of change.

I would also like to draw attention to something Ensley mentioned that I think was passed over all too quickly in the interview. Ensley mentioned the core motivator of folks that enter the ex-gay movement: religion, "biblical" Christianity in particular. People with religious conflict over their gay feelings stream into the ex-gay ministries in hope of finding a way to make the gay part of them go away. They hang on the power and promise of the word "change": if they could only be straight, then the huge struggle between their faith and their orientation would disappear.

Since religious convictions are so deeply set among the people in Exodus, it seems they have developed all these complicated, elaborate apologetics to convince themselves that they have been able to rid themselves of "gay" in some sense. As bizarre and incomprehensible as Ensley's words may have sounded to your ears, I believe the number one audience of his complicated words is not Exodus conference-goers; it's himself. I believe Ensley has developed this strange double-talk as a part of an elaborate "self-talk" routine that he uses to convince himself that something about the gay part of him has changed and therefore there is no longer a struggle between his faith and his orientation.

Of course, I don't truly know the thoughts of Mike Ensley. But I feel reasonably confident in making these guesses about his thoughts based on a consistent pattern that appears in the testimonies of many who have left the ex-gay movement and have shared their personal stories of their experiences within Exodus. There seems to be a theme among these stories of people succeeding for a time in convincing themselves that the gay part of their identity had changed.

I do want to give props to the Exodus leadership for refusing to call themselves heterosexuals. While Ensley's description of his present orientation is complicated and confusing, I'm very grateful that he avoids claiming he is straight. This is a wonderful glimmer of truth (or at least an absence of falsehood) in the sea of Exodus double-talk. It gives me hope that all is not dishonest within Exodus.

Epilogue: Reading back over this post, I remember the religious conflict and deep sense of fear that drove me into Exodus in 2000. I was so scared of "being gay." I had so many fears of the "gay lifestyle" described by the leaders of the ex-gay movement: promiscuity, loneliness, addiction, disease, death. I feared rejection by God, by family, and by friends. Who in their right mind would choose such a life! I realize now that I wasn't in my right mind. I had been deceived.

I wish I could go back and have a conversation with myself fifteen years ago. I wish I could talk to myself back before my name changed--back when I was Joe Conservative. I'd love to sit down with Joe C and ask him to talk out his feelings, fears, and conflict about his gay feelings.

I wish I could tell young Joe C how much the lives of real gay men differ from what he believes all gay lives look like. I wish I could introduce him to the wonderful gay and lesbian couples I know--happy, healthy couples celebrating 15-, 17-, even 25-years together. I wish I could describe my own life to him--how thrilling and fulfilling it is and how entirely different it is from his expectations. I'd love to introduce him to my fiancé, the kind, attractive, affectionate young man I've dated for over two years now, the man who will become my husband in just three weeks now (Huzzah! The wedding day is so close!).

And I wish I could blow his mind by telling him how happy I am to be gay. How I would not choose a different orientation today if I were given the choice.

I'm grateful to God and the many people who helped me along the way (some of whom are reading this). God gave me many marvelous friends who helped me gradually deconstruct my fears and misconceptions and gradually identify and understand the truth. My life is immeasurably happier, richer, and more satisfying today. I am such a fortunate guy.

I wish the same for all who are presently in ex-gay programs or are considering them. May God also lead them into the truth, into lives of healthiness and happiness. :-)

hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch

21 comments:

Queers United said...

im glad alan is a liberal
http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com

NG said...

im glad alan is a liberal

How very FOX News of you; I don't think so, sweetie.

RikFleming said...

First, radio and TV talk shows typically are not orderly conversations but merely a series of “shot gun” blasts of sound bites in which people talk over each other, don’t have the opportunity to explain themselves. Christians who are not theologically trained and do not have the skills of debating usually find themselves in such situations being caught off guard because they are trying to answer fools according to their folly in such a way that they are playing their game according to their rules. (Proverbs 26:4-5) In other words, when the liberals have control over the show - they win, period. Whenever the Pharisees tried this with Jesus, He never answered the questions in the manner in which they expected and He too was accused of “double speak.”

Second, one of the problems with many of the leaders of Exodus International is they lack theological muscle, especially in the regards to apologetics and skills in debating. The result is they lean heavy on psychology (which can only provide theories and no epistemological certainty for the truth) and what they provide is mere speculation and a distorted, self-conflicting and confused message.

Third, it is not that Exodus is using “double speak” per se, but that they are using terms differently. But because they are uneducated in theology and apologetics they don’t know how to explain themselves. Pro-Gay theology advocates view their homosexual orientation as an ontological status (it is what they ARE, not what they DO). Biblical Christianity does not view sexuality as an ontological status but rather a desire which can be either holy or sinful. When the Pro-Gay theology advocate hears that someone who has come out of their homosexual behavior (repented) and yet they are still tempted they say, “See, you have not changed!” But what he means is “You’re still ontologically gay!” But the ex-homosexual who knows that his sexual desires are not an ontological status but rather desires which may be moral or immoral, then he defines “CHANGE” in moral categories, not ontological categories. He has changed his behavior, though he may still be tempted at times. Biblically speaking, this is genuine change because the Biblical Christian worldview understands that temptations in many areas of life will continue for our entire life until we reach perfection at the second coming of Christ and the resurrection or we die and go to be with Him. In the mean time, change in our desires is slow, gradual and the entire Christian life is one long battle against the sinful desires of the flesh. If a Christian was committing heterosexual fornication or adultery and they repented of their behavior but they still had the desire to fornicate this would not mean that they had not changed. But if we were to approach the issue as an ontological status (as Pro-Gay theology advocates do) then we would say, “You’re still ontologically a fornicator!”

Fourth, I too left Exodus International but for completely different reasons. I left because its foundation is flawed and it blends Freudian psychology with the Christian worldview. This is especially so in their avocation of Reparative Therapy. The problem is the church in general offers little or no alternative and so many uneducated struggling Christians are running to the MCC for a false gospel.

Finally, if I may quote Michael Saia:

“God does not demand that a person be healed, heterosexually oriented, or happy - God demands HOLINESS.”

seithman said...

If a Christian was committing heterosexual fornication or adultery and they repented of their behavior but they still had the desire to fornicate this would not mean that they had not changed.

Personally, I think this is an apples to oranges comparison at best. After all, there are expressions of heterosexual attractions and feelings that have been deemed "acceptable." On the flip side anti-gay Christians would have us believe there are no "acceptable" expressions of homosexual attractions or feelings whatsoever. A fair comparison would be if someone claimed to be "free from heterosexuality" while still being attracted to members of the same sex.

Of course, I find the insistance to focus on actions -- and sexual actions, no less -- when it comes to homoseuxality. Attractions, feelings, and even intimate relationships involve far more. When I say that I'm gay, I'm saying far more than that I want to have sex with a member of the same sex.

Indeed, I find myself wondering if ex-gays and anti-gay Christians in general reduce their heterosesxuality and heterosexual relationships to nothing more than what they do in the bedroom as well. If they do, then I truly feel sorry for them.

Pomoprophet said...

::smacks head::

NG is such a bitter person! Every comment i've ever read by him is negative and unkind.

I feel sorry for him.

Joe Moderate said...

Hey everyone, I appreciate the comments. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply myself (big wedding planning weekend with C). How I'm back at "work" so I have time to check my blog ;-)

NG, I didn't quite understand your comment. If you're still around, could you clarify?

Rik, thanks for your long and thoughtful comment. I heartily agree with you that Exodus presents a confusing mix of psychology and theology--areas in which none of their leadership seems to have expertise. What they do seem to have expertise (or should I say experience) with is stopping addictive chemical and sexual behavior. I also agree with you that the lifestyle changes that have occurred in their lives are indeed *changes.* And, for the record, I applaud them for these changes! I'm so glad they are no longer living in drunkenness, abusing steroids and other drugs, and having unprotected sex with multiple partners. These are all *wonderful* changes!

However, I entered (and exited) Exodus as a virgin with no chemical addictions. I was not the only one. Yet Exodus continued to advertise that "change is possible" for guys like me. So what kind of change could that mean? In my mind, this could only mean change of orientation. And that's what I was pursuing from day one in Exodus--change of orientation.

I follow your argument that the Evangelical worldview teaches acceptance of life lived in a fallen, fallible human body--that uncorrectable weaknesses are to be expected and endured. Although I no longer agree with the Evangelical worldview, I can understand that perspective and follow your argument that gay attractions may be one of those "uncorrectable weaknesses." However, even if this were the case, I feel Exodus maintains a dishonest stance for its rampant, unspecified use of the word "change."

I think it is extremely misleading and dishonest of Exodus to erect interstate billboards with the message "Homosexual and Sad? Change is Possible" or run radio ads advertising "Revolution. Sudden, complete, radical change. Freedom from homosexuality is possible..." To the general public, these messages unequivocally imply that change of orientation is possible. Exodus does clarify that orientation change is not only improbable, but may be impossible, until a person is deep in the program.

This, in my mind, is deceptive.

NG said...

It was in response to the commenter above me.

Joe Moderate said...

Jarred (Seithman), I totally, totally agree with you.

I feel that gay sex is a wonderful, beautiful, loving act--but it is but one facet of being gay. Defining gay orientation as just sexual desires or sexual behaviors is a huge reduction.

Just last night I had dinner with three gay friends and three straight friends. Among my gay friends we had a brief discussion of our individual orientations--which we automatically described using two metrics: sexual attraction and emotional attraction. This seems common to me among my out gay friends. They recognize that sexuality is a wonderful and important component of orientation, but it's just that--a component.

Sex without the emotional component of a relationship would be unfulfilling. Similarly, a relationship with just emotional intimacy and no sexual intimacy would be unfulfilling. It's the two together in harmony that make gay relationships (and straight relationships) so wonderful and fulfilling.

Thanks for bringing this up, Jarred!

Joe Moderate said...

NG, when you said you didn't think so to the comment "I'm glad Alan is a liberal," did you mean that you do not find Alan to be a liberal?

Ben in Oakland said...

First, Joe, congrats on your wedding. be happy together, cherish each other, and remember that the purpose of any relationship is to make your lives better by the fact that you are together. Every action, every comment, every belief should be directed towards that end.

But on to my point.

"But because they are uneducated in theology and apologetics they don’t know how to explain themselves. "

We agree up until this point, but afterwards, we come to a different conclusion.

The psychology of exodus does not work because it is strictly a matter of their opinion, and very uninformed opinion at that. It certainly has little basis in reality, especially the reality of those of us who are gay and are quite happy with our lives.

The reason the APA dropped homosexuality from its list of mental disorders was that there was absolutely no evidence that being gay is a mental disorder. They had a definition of mental disorder, but to make it stick for gay people they had to ignore their own definition, and say that "Of course. Gay people are mentally disordered BY definition. Just not THIS definition." It could not hold up to any kind of scientific scrutiny. The really homophobic psychiatrists, like Bieber and Soccarides (father of a gay son!!!), the ones who earned their living "curing" gay people, tried to force a referendum on the APA, but it also failed. The whole procedure underlined that prejudice was really the defining issue, not homosexuality, as is often the case on this particular issue. (Not surprisingly, religious reactions to gay people are very similar). First, a whole category of people is defined as mentally ill (or particularly sinful) with no scientific or experiential (or biblical) reason to do so, only a cultural and religious prejudice. They they have a vote, and presto-change-o, a whole category of people are "cured" overnight. Then, the people who whose livelihood depend on the the "mental illness" issue try to make another vote to make all of those people "sick" again. Clearly, not a matter of good science or good medicine, just prejudice. You might call it the politics of diagnosis. There is a great book on the whole fiasco called "Homosexuality and American Psychiatry" by Ronald Bayer. It's a great read.

Exodus's psychology fails because it has nothing to do with reality. Lying about the lives of gay people, lying about change, lying about everything, no matter how fervently those lies are believed or sold, doesn't make any of it TRUE.

Of course, your theological position also has the same problem. All theology is strictly a matter of opinion. You may believe that you have the true answer as to the nature of G and his message to the world, but 2/3 of the world does not buy the Christian story, and 1/2 of what's left doesn't really buy it either. That is why there are multitudes of religions, and multitudes of Christian sects. You can keep claiming "I have the TRUTH" all you want, but that doesn't make it a true statement. It doesn't convince your average muslim, for example.

The gay issue is just one more example of this. Being gay is inherently sinful and must be resisted. That's just your opinion. You can quote your Leviticus, but even that is dubious.Some observations that cloud this oh-so-clear condemnation: The actual phrase in Leviticus literally translated is “sleep the sleep of a woman.’ As I understand it, no one actually knows what the phrase means, though traditionally, it has been held to mean something about gay sex. but it doesn’t appear anywhere else to give us a clue.

The passage, often quoted as condemning ALL homosex, actually refers only to men, and probably only to anal intercourse, which is how a recent meeting of conservative rabbis interpreted it. To call it a clear condemnation of homosex is to engage in wishful thinking– wishful, bigoted, hate-filled, judgmental thinking, to be precise, something that you are enjoined by your savior from engaging in. But of course, that bit of morality seems not to apply to your savior's followers.

The KJV, which is the one usually quoted, was based on documents which were only 300 or 400 years old at the time, and I believe they were German translations of Greek texts, in turn translations of Hebrew texts.. I don’t know enough about the history of these documents, and whether they still exist, but I can say that relying on documents which are copies of copies of copies 1200 years after the fact is not a very valid historical process, especially when you are able to trace the changes, inconsistencies, and mis-translations. Especially when you are claiming that this is "G's word".

The same word abomination in this passage is also used to describe the eating of shrimp, and refers to idolatrous practices. In other words, the word “abomination” does not mean what WE think it means, nor does it mean to us what it meant to King James, and since it is a Latin translation of a Hebrew word, may mean even less than that.

Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality. NOTHING on a subject that is so goddam important to bible-believing Christians. you’d think if it was actually important, he might have mentioned it oh,say, ONCE!!!!!

The bible may or may not condemn some aspects of gay sex. It is amazing to me how unclear G manages to be on the subject, when he is so clear on so many other subjects. (For example: adultery).So coy: “sleep the sleep of a woman” (literally from Leviticus– do you know what it means? I don’t)) to “abusers of themselves with mankind” (KJV of words we don’t know the meaning of.)

If it were as important to G as it is to you, he would have said: “two men or two women together shall not have sex in and way, shape, or form. They will not be naked together and touching each others’ skin. They certainly will not be bumping nasties. Penis into vagina, that’s it. And you shouldn’t enjoy it too much.”

Now, that is clarity befitting the creator of the universe.

This is why exodus fails so consistently: it is bad psychology AND bad theology.

Joe Moderate said...

Ben,

thanks for your comments. I have read (indeed, I own a copy of) Ronald Bayer's book "Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: the Politics of Diagnosis." It's a wonderfully detailed recounting of the events leading up to the APA decision to delete the "disordered" definition of homosexuality. I, too, recommend others read it.

I think my thoughts follow closely along with yours, although I would go perhaps one step further. (This may or may not be different from what you think, but I'll just throw it out there to honestly portray my thoughts).

Suppose the Bible did contain an absolutely clear statement banning sex between two men or two women. Would a crystal clear statement like that clarify the issue of what God's will is? I used to think so. I used to equate words in the Bible with God's will.

But I no longer see the Bible that way. I think one must carefully consider each doctrine and teaching of the Bible (or of one's pastors and teachers) to discern what is and is not God's will. I don't think the Bible has a corner on the market of God's will.

Ben in Oakland said...

Joe-- I would agree exactly. I've done enough bible study to know that the bible is no more g's word than mine is, though it would be helpful if my husband thought it was. (Oh well, it's what you get if you're married. Bummer.)It has too often been co-opted and corrupted by men.

Tho' i don't actually believe (whatever that means) in G (whatever that means, which is why I refer to G, sort of the orthodox jew in me, tho' I don't believe in that either), I think there is a very simple test for G's word (if G can be said to speak)...

"does this make the world a better place? Are people happier? Are they living in peace because of it? "

or, as Fred Astaire put it so succinctly... is it true? is it nice? is it necessary? If you cannot answer all three questions with a resounding yes!, then you shouldn't say it.

I wonder if we'll be hearing from rikfleming.

Joe Moderate said...

Hey Ben, I didn't realize you were also married; perhaps you could give me some pointers on how to make married bliss happen :-) Seriously, I wouldn't mind your advice.

I am interested to see if Rik response. I must say that I'm sympathetic to his views, since my own used to follow along with his quite closely.

Ben in Oakland said...

We actually aren't married legally, but will be shortly. Here's the advice--my Ten Commandments:

1) The first and most important I already gave you: be happy together, cherish each other, and remember that the purpose of any relationship is to make your lives better by the fact that you are together. Every action, every comment, every belief should be directed towards that end--making your lives better. If it doesn't, it is probably not the right thing to do.

2) Communicate what is going on with you both to yuorself AND your partner, no matter how difficult, unpleasant, scary, or apparently irrelevant. If you're feeling it, it is not irrelevant. NEVER shut the other out because of your own stuff.

3) Stand up for yourself and your relationship. It comes first. He comes FIRST. Your emotional baggage always comes second, and other people's emotional garbage should not be a part of your life.

4) Your relationship will most likely never satisfy all of your needs, and you shouldn't expect it to. Have plenty of friends and family around you and share your life together with them. Conversely, if someone or something does not add to your life and make it better-- i.e., makes it worse-- that is not a good thing for you.

5) There's nothing wrong with anger, unless it is misplaced or given power it shouldn't have. Never stifle your feelings 'for the relationship'-- you'll only stifle yourself and the relationship.

6) Make sure you have time for each other. We have a date night every Friday night. If we can't do it on Friday for whatever reason, we re-schedule.

7) do nice things for each other-- always.

8) Don't try to control each other. The toothpaste cap is not the issue-- control and consideration is. Come to an agreement that you both can abide by--and keep it.

9) Be your word in all things. Trust each other and your relationship. Jealousy is a waste of time. On the other hand, don't be the cause of jealousy-- either your own or your husband's.

10) Sex and romance are important-- for both gay and straight, but perhaps a bit more important for us because we often don't have children to distract us. Make your sex and romantic life as exciting, interesting, fun, intriguing, giving, and pleasurable as you can. Eyes may wander-- we are men, after all. But your heart shouldn't. Have it add to your life, not subtract from it. Never use sex as a weapon.

Doorman-Priest said...

I am guessing you have heard the story of Courage UK the ex ex-gay ministry?

Joe Moderate said...

Doorman-Priest: actually, yes, I have! The Courage founder (Jeremy Marks, right?) was at the Beyond Ex-Gay conference I attended in Irvine last summer. Cool guy. Cool story.

Ben in said...

Hi, Joe. I was wondering what you thought of my ten commandments.

I also went over to that site. Though I appreciate the charity and evolution involved in it-- this statement is not a criticism of Mr. Marks-- it reminds me so much of the APA debate on homosexuality 35 years ago. It underlines that so much of what passes for debate or discussion on the issue of gay people and their place in society is just a matter of what I call ideology rather than fact, though the gay side of the discussion usually relies far more on fact than the anti-gay side.

Quoting and abridging myself (substitute courage UK wherever you see apa and sin where mental illness is refered to):

The reason the APA dropped homosexuality from its list of mental disorders was that there was absolutely no evidence that being gay is a mental disorder. They had a definition of mental disorder, but to make it stick for gay people they had to ignore their own definition, and say that "Of course. Gay people are mentally disordered BY definition. Just not THIS definition." It could not hold up to any kind of scientific scrutiny... The whole procedure underlined that prejudice was really the defining issue, not homosexuality, as is often the case on this particular issue. (Not surprisingly, religious reactions to gay people are very similar). First, a whole category of people is defined as mentally ill (or particularly sinful) with no scientific or experiential (or biblical) reason to do so, only a cultural and religious prejudice. They they have a vote, and presto-change-o, a whole category of people are "cured" overnight. Then, the people who whose livelihood depend on the the "mental illness" issue try to make another vote to make all of those people "sick" again. Clearly, not a matter of good science or good medicine, just prejudice.

In other words, religious people who rely on the bible to tell that that homosex is particularly sinful decided that long before they actually read what the bible has to say on the subject

Ben in oakland said...

Whoops--hit the wrong key and posted before finishing.

Mr. Marks did something few religious people seem to do, especuially on this subject-- a reality check.

Joe Moderate said...

Hey Ben,

I'm sorry I haven't responded sooner. My mother has flown up from Texas for a visit (a complicated situation, given the fact that she and dad are planning to boycott my wedding). She just drove away.

Yes! Thank you so much for sending your Ten Commandments. I actually discussed a few of them with my fiance last week. Very thoughtful and inspiring. I know every marriage is tough, but I'm glad to have some wise counsel at the outset :-)

And I agree with your conclusions about the APA classification of homosexuality as disorder and the evangelical classification of homosexuality as sin. I think both were/are intellectual or spiritual ways of baptizing a pre-existing prejudice.

Thanks!

Ben in oakland said...

Joe:

Sorry to hear that your parents are being jerks. Sometimes they do that. Unfortunately you can't make them grow up.

I came out at 21. My parents were never able to deal with it. I tried very hard for years to educate them and to talk to them, but they literally refused to listen or think or experience. I sent them some books, and they wouldn't even tell me that they had received them! My father basically said that I would always be their son, but they were not really interested in my life. Well, what can you say to that?

Eventually, on reflection and therapy, I began to realize that this was not really something new for them. The issue wasn't actually my being gay, the issue was our whole relationship. They gay thing was just a very convenient hook they could hang the relationship hat on so they wouldn't have to take any responsibility for their behavior.

"Everything would be fine if you just weren't queer." Well, not really.

Eventually, to their credit they did sort of welcome my then boyfriend into their home, but it was only because I told them that if I couldn't bring him, they wouldn't be seeing me at all.

Eventually, I wrote them a very long letter, but it was my final act before finally giving in to the idea that there was nothing I could ever do or say that would give me a relationship with them that I would want to have. and I told them as much.

I also told them this. I am quoting from memory a letter I wrote 25 or 30 years ago.

"It is clear to me that your beliefs about homosexuality and what it means to be gay are far more important to you than your relationship with your son, and certainly more important than such things as compassion, fairness, and truth. You might think a little about that. your attitude is never going to make me sorry that I am gay. It just makes me sorry that you are my parents."

Harsh words, yes. but they really needed a slap upside the head. Unfortunately (or not), I didn't have much connection with them after that. Not because I cut them off, but because I realized that all of the impetus for our relationship was coming from me, as it always had, not them. I merely stopped calling them when I was about 33, and except for one brief call from my father in the next three years, didn't hear from them again until my father died in '86. I had some contact with my mother after that, but then didn't hear from her for 9 years more. she finally called me, and when I finally got out of her why she had waited 9 years to call, she said (exact quote) "I thought you were mad at me."

Some relationship, huh?

I don't know how you feel about your parents. But one of the best books I ever read on the subject of parents was a book called "Making Peace with Your Parents" by Harold Bloomfield. I heartily recommend it, though I have always been amazed that people with problem parental relationships usually could not bear to read the book. I stopped trying to change my parents because I finally understood that I couldn't, I could only change myself. But trying to change them was pretty much all that was left of our relationship, and when I didn't have that, and when that was gone, there just wasn't much holding us together.

For your parents, I would say this: "This is one of the most important and happy days of my life. I want my parents and family to share my happiness with me. You can choose to confront your beliefs and opinions and be a part of it, or you can choose not to. All decisions have consequences. If you choose not to be a part of my life, don't be surprised if the consequence is that you are not a part of it. I'm choosing truth and love, because this will make my life better. What are you choosing? "

ben in oakland said...

On another note, I am glad my ten commandments were useful for oyu. Paul and I went through a lot in the five years we have been living together. Last year, when he was going particularly crazy (he has a crazy streak in him), I finally told him you either get this craziness under control, or I am done with the relationship.(commandments 1,2,5, and 8).

He realized that the relationship was important to him, far more important to him than his baggage. The turnaround was just amazing, because he became conscious of how he was acting and how it was affecting me. He still had some craziness to deal with around his school situation, which he also took out on me. But Holy St. Prozac worked a miracle, and the last six months have been what i always wanted in our relationship.

that's called working in a relationship.