Love, Crazy In Love and Graveyard Love by Kyle Phoenix

As Valentine's Day approaches I've been getting emails about love.  General questions, thoughts for dates, suggestions for television shows.  I generally do a "Love Workshop" at places to have fun around February and we talk about the kinds of "love".  It's difficult to be intimate, to be open to love especially when you're learning to manage an LGBT sexuality in a world that is still adjusting to it's acceptance of it.  I often start with the questions: what is love to you?  What kind of love do you want?

The answers include : someone who accepts me unconditionally, who loves me completely, who understands me, who likes me for me, who I don't have to change for, who knows what I'm thinking and feeling without having to tell him (or her), someone who likes the things I do, who wants to do things that I like doing.

I post the answers on a big white board and then we start doing work.  Real work.  All over the above answers are fantasy based.  It's not realistic nor will it work out that way.  You might find that you get some of those things with a partner in the first few months and then it changes because the first flush of passion and attraction changes.  The funny part is men generally have trouble with getting past the 3, 6, 12 month and 2 year phases of a relationship because of not understanding or having experience in a long term relationship.

Love (Mature Love)
He is not you.  He will never be you.  Same sex relationships tend to make the error in the expectation that because someone looks physically like you they ARE like you.  The greatest lesson we can learn from heterosexual relationships is the understanding that the other is fundamentally different.  We have to discuss, even in love, what we want or are and come to a negotiated compromise.  That doesn't sound very romantic does it?

Crazy In Love
That's where a; the drama with friends, phones, philandering and fights comes in.  Some people think that love should be dramatic and loud and hurtful and painful and identify that as passion.  If you think this you should look at who taught you how to love.  Most often it's our parents/guardians/caregivers.  We like to think we know better or learn different or even sexuality means that you're not looking for your father....or you mother...but you are.  What we try to do in maturity, is identify those things about our parents that are good and bad, the errors in love we learned.  how we act out those errors.  And find partners who have managed those areas that we're attracted to.  I often use the example of if your parents were rage-aholics or narcissists or had addiction issues, you're more likely to partner with someone who has those issues.  Why? because you unconsciously associate those ways, actions, drama to love.  That's a hard thing to handle and can feel like an impossible thing to overcome.  The way we overcome it is first identifying some of those negative attractions then we seek out partners who might be more demonstrative with their anger (which reminds us of our parents) but isn't destructive with it.  Yes, it's a fine line of management.  But it's worth it.  See, how you have to negotiate?  You might be conscious of dating addicts by not being in bar settings or only dealing with those who are in 12 Step programs.

Graveyard Love
I take this from Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon novel.  Love that has gone into stalking and violence and extreme pain is generally Crazy Love that's gone too far.  We have all had angry, enraged, even violent thoughts about partners because we have hormones and a society that commercializes violence but to act on it means that we can't control ourselves.  There's domestic violence in LGBT relationships of an emotional, physical and financial nature.  The taboos around gender, masculinity, manhood and sexuality makes it difficult for men to admit that their partner is abusive.  Also the intense desire for a relationship, that all human beings have, can make someone who feels deprived tolerant of a love that might lead to their or another's death.

How do we learn to love?  Those questions always come up.  We learn to love by BEING in love---dating, flirting, loving, being in a relationship.  You can't learn to play baseball without getting into the game.  You have to get into a relationship to learn how to love.  Think of Love like a school.  You can watch some movies, talk to friends, have sex and that's about the equivalent of Middle School of love.  Dating regularly---that's' High School Level.  But a marriage---that's College Level and with children----oh, that's Graduate School Love.  But we graduate levels by dating.

Men who opt out of dating, or who only try to date "The One" aren't learning the skills you need for The One.  Imagine if you were still at your first job or only used those skills?  My first job was at Charles' Fried  Chicken on Gun Hill Road in the Bronx as a delivery boy.  I was making $30 a week,plus tips.  My job was to read an address and take food to it, receive payment, count out change and keep my tips separate.  That job is soooooooooooooo far away from the computer, organizational, educational, professional, social, cultural, cognitive and management skills I use now.  There were maybe a dozen, if not more jobs from my teens to now in my thirties, that progressed and evolved me to this point.

That's what Love is.  Evolution of you as an intimate, vulnerable human being....but you got to get in it to win it.  Ask someone out----even if you don't think they'll be the love of your life.  Pay for dinner.  Give a man flowers.  Flirt.  Not every date is marriage.  But every date is skill building.

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
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