Thoughts on Falling in Love

There is an interesting phenomenon going on in the blogosphere right now amongst those who adhere to the teachings of the Church on human sexuality, and who embrace chastity, and yet label themselves as gay.  These folks collectively accept the moniker of gay or lesbian, embrace a notion of “being queer,” and of celebrating their homosexuality.  Aside from the fact that I think this is opposed to the language the Church uses about man, I think this results in a slippery slope.

I wrote the following in response to a blog entry I read, which had the following paragraph:

“What they don’t realize is that while the homosexual inclination is itself objectively disordered, the overall experience of the homosexual, even including falling in love, is not objectively disordered.”

Surely “falling in love” becomes something other than than the “disinterested friendship” the CCC teaches us about.  I notice on the part of the “gay identity” crowd that there is much parsing of the language of the CCC (in ways which no other section of the CCC is parsed out). Falling in love is not truly friendship, by any stretch of the imagination. It moves outside the very realm of friendship and moves from philia into Eros. I would submit that the only appropriate modes of love between members of the same sex must be confined to “friendships,” and the aspects of love which are appropriate to friendship are forms of storge, philia and agape.

When we fall in love with another person, romantically, we move towards the realm of that which is objectively disordered. I know that you all disagree with this, but when one “falls in love,” it is no longer a disinterested friendship, even if one believes that such a romantic relationship can be ennobled.

In my own life, I have made a conscious decision to avoid becoming close to men for whom I might become romantically drawn towards. I think this is prudent, and I think adheres to the wise counsel of the Church in focusing on “disinterested friendship.”

This comes from a long history of having crushes on other men, and realizing that in embracing these feelings of romance towards other guys, I no longer can see them objectively as merely friends. They become objects of my affection which contaminate those friendships, and besides, they can easily lead to occasions to sin. When one has “fallen in love” with another man, one delights in the memory of him, the coming of him at his next visit, in a way that I believe God has not ordained for same sex friendships. It is not that friends who aren’t romantically attached don’t long for the next visit, but the longing obviously comes from a very different emotional place. I think the totality of the disordered inclination ALSO includes this “falling in love” aspect of relationship, which moves us beyond the realm of “disinterested friendship.” Once we allow ourselves to “fall in love” with a member of the same sex, we have set up a pseudo relationship rooted in Eros, which I believe is counter to our good, and counter to God’s plans for our lives.

What is the fulfillment of a romantic love, felt for another man? If one begins to accept that falling in love with another man is objectively ordered, how does that play itself out? Are you no longer “getting together to hang out,” or are you now “going on a date?” Do you hold hands in the car or in a movie? Do you cuddle on the couch, watching a movie? Do you stare into each other’s eyes over a candle lit dinner in Paris? Do you linger in a hug, in the same way a man and woman linger in a hug? Do you caress the face of your beloved, in the same way a man caresses a woman’s face?

There is a great difference between the joy of friendship, that say, Lewis and Tolkein felt for each other, and the joy of “friendship” I have felt in the past when I’ve had my own “beloved.” Lewis and Tolkein I doubt ever fantasized about the emotional high they felt in each other’s presence. And that’s what romantic love is so often about, particularly in the first stages. Any study of the Inklings showed that their friendship was completely disinterested, which is what made it so rich. They experienced what Lewis calls the “What? You too?” phenomenon, which is very different than the notion of “falling in love.” My views of my friend, where I without a doubt “fell in love with him,” were doomed to disappoint. There is no appropriate method of fulfillment with a romantic love between two men or two women. There IS an appropriate mode of fulfillment between two men and women who love each other, strictly as friends, and that fulfillment is the great gift of the brotherhood of commonality and enjoyment of the person. When romantic love enters into a same sex friendship, at that point, I’m convinced this falls into the rubric of no longer being a disinterested friendship.

So too with a married man or a married woman who become friends, and have a “romantic” relationship with each other, even if it is physically chaste. There is something very self-indulgent when a married person becomes too close to a member of the opposite sex. When these friendships are pursued, they serve one purpose: to make us happy, and for the warm feelings the contemplation of the “beloved” brings. It is self-interested, it is self-motivated, it is self-indulgent. A married man or a married woman can have wonderful, and even close friendships with a member of the opposite sex, but they are wise to understand that the boundary must be the same one which we who are same sex attracted must recognize: it must be disinterested, and devoid of any sort of romantic feelings. Indeed, the canary in the coal mine is the first flush of romantic feelings. In my own life, the joy I felt with certain men when I felt romantically towards them was merely self-indulgent, no matter how ennobled I believed myself to be in my desire to love them “with a Christ like love.” Ultimately, any romantic feelings that I had for another man I think were narcissistically motivated, and I think this is the case for any romantic feelings between the same sex. For me, what this means in my life is that I consciously avoid becoming close to any man for whom I might be tempted to “fall for.” Why? Because I want to see him for the man he is, not as the man of my dreams, or the man who makes me happy when I contemplate him. For me, I have come to realize that my past contemplation of a male beloved are self-indulgent fantasies, escapist in nature, in the very same way that a married man fantasies about another woman to help ease the dissatisfaction he feels in his own marriage. The legitimate, and very real dissatisfaction that a same sex attracted man feels is loneliness, but the wrong path to ameliorate that pain is the path of “falling in love.”

19 thoughts on “Thoughts on Falling in Love

  1. I was thinking the same thing about married couples in the first part of your post, and then as I read further, I saw that you got to that point. As a married woman, it would be objectively disordered for me to be close friends, or have romantic feelings for a man that was not my husband. Even if I claim that it’s “just feelings” with no intent to go beyond a strict friendship, the fact that I have allowed myself to have a romantic interest in a man other than my husband, degrades my relationship with my husband. It can only lead to situations of temptation and the occasion of sin, either in action or in thought. It’s just best not to put yourself in that position.

    • Right, and in this, I don’t think those of us with SSA are any different than anyone else. “Falling in Love” is a bad idea, unless one can actually follow through with what that entails. It leads to all kinds of problems, and so often, it’s merely sentimentality in the first place, which will end. I think when people divorce and say “they simply fell out of love,” they’ve forgotten that love isn’t an emotion, but rather an act of the will.

  2. Your posts have been incredibly helpful! As a Catholic living with SSA, it’s encouraging to know that there are people out there who accept the Church’s teachings on homosexuality and think on the same lines as I do on the issues. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Nathanial, a side question: In your other posts you say you don’t identify yourself as gay. And I would tend to agree with your rational on this. But what do you think of the conventional usage of the word “gay” that merely denotes someone’s sexual orientation? Say someone were to ask me, “so, are you straight or are you gay?” I would certainly not refer to myself as the former. Do you see anything wrong with replying “gay”, in that context, with the clear understanding that “gay” here means nothing more than “I’m sexually attracted to men”?

    • Just speaking for me, personally, I’d never answer the question that “I’m gay.” From a purely personal reason, I think it’s just rude of people to ask that, as if it’s similar to asking someone if they’re a Cubs or a White Sox fan. :-) I’ve only been asked that a few times in my life, and I’m always surprised when I’m asked that question. But that being said, for me, I don’t/won’t ever identify as gay. The Church is clear that She doesn’t teach that anyone’s gay or straight either.

      I think when we say to someone that “we’re gay,” there’s a lot that’s tied up in that, that goes far beyond just describing our sexual attractions. It’s far more complex than let’s say if a guy were to tell another person that he’s more into brunettes than blonds. I’ve come to view “being gay” as an automatic pigeon holing of sorts that impacts both how we view ourselves, and how others view ourselves. At least from my vantage point, the notion of “being gay” in our culture has far more attached to it than merely a descriptor of my sexual attractions. “I am gay” has always seemed to be embracing this as “who I am,” rather than saying that my attractions are something I live with. I think if I were to say “I am gay,” that would place far too much importance and gravity to my sexual attractions as a shaper of my person. I’ve got lots of friends who know about this part of my life, but I’ve always said to them that for as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to other guys. I tell them that it doesn’t define me, and that I refuse to consider myself as gay, since I think my sexual attractions are the least interesting part of me, and that what defines me is who I am, not who I’m sexually attracted to. And I think they understand and respect that distinction.

      I also take comfort in the fact that “being gay or straight” isn’t anything that Christ, or the Apostles would have ever understood or ascribed to people. The concept is maybe 150 years old, so I’ll go with history on this one, and view “being gay” as a newfangled fad. :-)

      • Wow! Your words are the swirling thoughts I have had for so long but I have never been able to articulate. I have NEVER liked the word “gay” and am repulsed by “lesbian” – gives me the creeps! I think I have just found my new family. Thank you.

      • Thanks Julie. I do find it quite liberating to be able to reject the language the world would like to label people like me with. One more great blessing of the Church!

        God bless you!

  4. I agree completely! But, practically speaking, if someone puts you on the spot and asks “gay or straight?” how do you answer in the moment? Any equivocation will be interpreted as “gay”.

    • First, I rarely have the question asked of me, thankfully. I think it’s nosy. :-) I have always responded to that question this way, “Why would you ask me that question?” and then see what they’re answer is. I live in a world where people have assumed generally that I’m interested in women (and I am interested in a very small percentage of women, and even had hoped to marry one a few years back who surprised me by being very attractive to me. I’ve not met a woman since that I think I could/would want to share my life with, and don’t expect it to happen again.) At this point, now that I am obviously more public about this part of my life, I look forward to challenging people’s assertions and assumptions both about me, and about people in general. I think my modus operandi will always be to turn the question around to more questions back to them. If they conclude from that they will label me “gay,” that won’t have any consequence to me, really. Someone told me once that with my position, people will just say about me that “there’s that guy who’s gay but refuses to say he’s gay,” and if that’s the case, they’re opinion of me won’t matter at all, since what I care about is being true to the Church’s way of identifying me.

  5. Nathaniel, although you do point to the fact that seeing someone (of either sex) as a “beloved” or someone whom you have “fallen in love” with, can be superficial and end harmful even, you ought to be careful when labeling persons experiencing this with terms of psychotherapy. The blanket use of the word narcissism to describe people of the same-sex who “fall in love” (especially those who fully determined to live celibately and conform as much as possible to a modes of life which do not do harm to the understanding of same-sex attraction currently explicated in pastoral practice) is inaccurate psychologically and almost calumnious. I agree and fully accept that we must be coherent and consistent and faithful when explicating and discussing moral teachings. However, be careful not to use faulty psychology and sloppy language. Please do not take this as an offense as I’m sure you’re a person of great love for others, but error is of no service to truth. And furthermore the applied sphere of pastoral work, when ill informed can wound people. Again it is a fallacy to label the experience of falling-in-love (in the case of real catholics determined to be faithful to the directives of the pastoral guidance of the bishops) in a true and chaste relationship of love, as narcissistic.The CCC is not trespassing the bounds of psychological labeling of these persons as “narcissists” and neither should you.

    • The only reference in my post to anyone being narcissistic was in reference to myself. But, that being said, I do find in many aspects of homosexuality an underlying narcissism, and certainly saw it in my own life, and have seen it in plenty of others. For me, I am under no illusions that my embracing the idea of a male beloved was narcissistic and self-indulgent. Whether or not it is narcissistic in the case of others is not for me to say. That relishing the flush of romantic feelings one has for a member of the same sex is self-indulgent and ultimately self-serving, I am certain. We’re called by the CCC to form friendships. Eros has nothing to do with the gift of friendship.

  6. I genuinely feel sorry for you Mr. Mattson. One can only presume that you live a very lonely life justified by the deep-seeded Catholic guilt that your family has drilled into you since childhood. Take some time to look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezQjNJUSraY&feature=player_embedded

    Your words and viewpoint are certainly your own but as I read them, my heart aches for you. I wish you all of the luck in the world and hope you find happiness ultimately; which won’t occur at the rate of providing ammo to those who are blinded by ignorant and inherently nasty teachings.

    • I love it when people feel sorry for me, or assume I have a lonely, miserable life–because I happen to live according to God’s moral law. St. Clement of Alexandria said the most important thing I think I could ever follow to find happiness: the commandments of God lead to the blessed life!

      What I write isn’t ammo–it’s liberation! It’s the path to ultimate peace and joy, something so many have found long before me. St. Augustine comes to mind. He lived a life of sexuality outside of God’s plan, and when he finally came to accept that God’s commandments are actually a gift, he said, “Late have I loved thee.” So too with me.

      I’ve never been happier. I just wish I’d recognized this truth much sooner.

      • Nathaniel, your poise and gentleness prove that you are guided by a holy light and those who are outside this light cannot or will not see. These souls outside of this holy light will see your path (and mine) as a harsh judgement. While this harsh judgement is actually coming from within, they cannot accept it without a complete paradigm shift; it is much easier to project that wound onto others, like you. I personally find you to be one of the most courageous souls I have encountered. Remarkably, this past weekend I re-connected with an old friend of mine who considers herself a “Messianic Christian”; She is very enlightened spiritually. When she asked me what was going on with me I told her I had been reading the Catholic Saints and I am so inspired that I am converting and considering a Religious vocation AND that I was giving myself wholly as a Bride of Christ and not acting on my same sex attraction. She started crying because she had recently, with much prayer, decided to stop acting on her same sex attraction. She thought she was the only one in the world. I told about you and Eve Tushnet and she has been so incredibly inspired that her choice is what God truly wants.
        People in the world are most certainly going to react negatively to anything Holy and I take that as a sign that we are doing the right thing and I take it as my Cross.
        God Bless you, Nathaniel!

  7. I disagree. If we take into account your worldview, where attraction is ok, but actions are not, I see nothing wrong with “falling in love” with someone. If you really believe what you spout than it would be a good exercise in fortitude. If you cannot even entertain friendships with men who you might fall in love with, it does not seem to me that you as secure in your convictions as you think.

    • Two question arise as I read your comment here: what is your understanding of what my “world view” is? The second is similar: what is my “world view” based upon?

      You must equate my view of “attractions being OK” as being a benign evaluation of the attractions themselves.

      My view of same sex attraction is in line with what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote in 1986, over a growing concern of the Church “that an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

      Attraction in my world view is “OK” in the sense that it isn’t consciously chosen, i.e., it is not sinful in any way to feel attractions. However, saying that it’s “OK” doesn’t mean that my world view is that these attractions are like one might have a desire for chocolate or something. There’s something amiss within the human person when these attractions exist, so falling in love (even though it can happen without our having any control over it) is opposed to the good of man. Besides, within my world view of sexuality and eros being solely for the marriage bed between a man and a woman, what is the end that “falling in love” with another man is ordered towards?

  8. So, you say that the wrong way to ameliorate the pain of same-sex loneliness is through falling in love. What’s the real way? Disinterested friendships? The argument tends to be that such often fails to satisfy.

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for this very good question! It, along with another fellows comments, has got me off my duff to write more on loneliness. I’m going to begin an ongoing series here, because I think this is the pivotal question, isn’t it?

      Thanks for commenting, and posting the question!

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