By the Publisher
Love One Another! 5/2005 → Family Life
Two issues ago we presented an interview with Dutch psychotherapist Professor Gerard van den Aardweg on the nature of homosexual love. Here is a personal testimony by one of his German patients. For additional information on this subject, our readers may refer to the Suggested Reading section.
I experienced my first homosexual feelings rather early — when I was 14 or 15 years old. At that time I had a casual contact with my cousin. Apart from that one incident, I don’t believe he has shown any homosexual tendency. In my case, the inclination grew stronger. The male body attracted me more than the female body. Despite this, I knew from the start that this was not something I wanted, as I always dreamed of being normal like other boys of my age. In high school I began to distance myself from my male peers. I met a friend with similar inclinations. We became “kindred spirits.” The relationship lasted for quite some time, though it never led to sexual contact.
My parents, who have always been very religious, never talked about homosexuality. In hindsight, I see this as a mistake, since this put me under considerable internal strain. At university I came to know my future wife, even though my attraction toward men continued to be stronger. I didn’t actively seek out girls, although there was plenty of opportunity to do so.
Only men seemed to attract me. On the other hand, it was always my intention one day to have a family, and for this, obviously, a woman was necessary. Since my girlfriend took a great interest in me, I consented to a relationship. By this time I had already had my first sexual experience with a man — something I considered beautiful, though I had few illusions as to how the world would view this. I began to wonder what family and friends would say. This is very typical of homosexuals: an attempt, in the early stages, to explain and justify oneself.
I decided to tell my girlfriend about my homosexual tendencies. I told her it wasn’t a problem since I could suppress these urges and in time get over them; just as one can an illness. What surprised me was that my girlfriend had no problem with this — or so she claimed. Her behavior proved otherwise. Throughout our relationship, and then throughout the years of our marriage, she always wanted to know who I was talking to, who I was meeting, etc. At university I had a good friend who was gay. My girlfriend knew of our friendship. We didn’t have sexual contact, but we did visit numerous nightclubs together, which was typical of student life, except that these were gay clubs. Once we brought my girlfriend with us. Naturally she found the whole thing repulsive. Now I see quite clearly why; but at the time I couldn’t understand it.
In the end I decided to get married, trusting somehow that everything would work itself out. Others around me were getting married; so why shouldn’t I? The first two years of our marriage passed without serious problems. Right from the start my wife forced me to break off all contact with my gay friends. I did so with a heavy heart, since by now I had formed many gay friendships. I didn’t think this was quite fair. You might say that my homosexual tendencies manifested themselves subconsciously and were constantly undermining our marriage. The subject became taboo at home. I knew it was a big problem for my wife. With the birth of our first child things began to get worse. This was a difficult period in our marriage. My attraction toward men had not gone away. During my wife’s second pregnancy I had a brief affair with a man. It threw our marriage into turmoil. This reached a climax the following year when I told me wife I had never loved her. To this day I do not understand why she did not leave me then.
The following years of our marriage were sheer torture — for her, because she knew she was living with a man who did not love her; for me, because her control over me had reached the point where I couldn’t take a step without her knowledge; even my eye movements were controlled. She insisted on knowing who I was meeting with, even at times when I had no intimate contacts. Our difficulties were compounded by other personal problems, which had nothing to do with homosexuality. We came to realize that even under normal conditions we could never be a happily married couple. Finally, my wife left me, taking our children with her; and my world fell apart.
It took me some eight months to get over the breakup of my marriage. I was just getting back on my feet when I came upon a certain Augustinian monk. By this time I had informed my parents that I was gay and having affairs with men. My mother had heard of a monk who was well acquainted with the problems of homosexuality. She never stopped mentioning him. Finally she prevailed upon me to meet this Augustinian. We met in Wurzbürg. It turned out that he was also gay. He told me that the homosexual lifestyle was not in conflict with the Faith. In his opinion, my experience — the breakup of my marriage — was a sign that my homosexuality had won the day and that I ought to find a man and spend my life with him. He advised me to sever all contact with my mother.
After this meeting, I hurled myself wholeheartedly into the homosexual milieu. I found it all so new and exhilarating. I lost no time in finding a young male partner who turned out to be a drug addict. I supported him financially — quite considerably at that. At first he said he loved me. I wanted us to be like a married couple. But I soon reached the conviction — later to be borne out by many other relationships — that everything in the gay milieu is superficial and based exclusively on sex. Our relationship fell apart after three months.
All this time I drastically limited my contacts with straight people. But after two or three months I met and had an affair with a woman. I still dreamed of leading a normal life. This relationship was also short-lived. Not surprising, since there was no love involved — only a desire to be with a woman again. Two or three weeks later I found a new male partner. This time I believed I had found true love. I practically lived at his house, rarely returning home. It then that I decided to live an exclusively homosexual life. I cut off all links with my family, and embarked on my new life. Since my contacts with heterosexual people — particularly my family — were becoming increasingly more infrequent, I grew more and more dependent on my male partner. In fact, he was the only friend I had left. I became totally obsessed by our relationship. When I was with him, my whole life, work, family and surroundings seemed abhorrent to me. I lived only for the moments when we could be together. In the morning, I would have to get up and return to my drab, detestable existence. I clung to our relationship. It was my “protection” against a hostile world. Now of course I see things quite differently.
After a year and a half, he “terminated” our relationship — but then all my relationships seemed to end because of someone else, never because of me. After our breakup, I found myself completely alone. I had estranged myself from all of my family, friends and surroundings. Sitting alone at home for two days, I came to the realization that I had only two ways out of my predicament: suicide or a complete change of life.
Fortunately for me, just a month earlier, I had had an angry exchange with my older sister who was then connected with the Opus Dei movement. She told me that change was possible. On the other hand, the path I had chosen could never make me happy, no matter how much I pretended I was. We had parted in anger. But now, in this difficult moment, the idea that there really was a way out began to take shape in my mind. After two sleepless nights I called up my sister and asked for her help. She gave me the address of an Opus Dei priest who knew Dr. Gerard van den Aardweg. I was immediately put in touch with the famous Dutch psychotherapist. It turned out that he had left Germany and moved back to Holland. But this did not bother me. I was prepared to travel even farther so long as I could find help. I arranged to see him in four weeks.
While waiting for my visit, I bought van den Aardweg’s book entitled The Drama of the Normal Homosexual. The book was a revelation to me. It accurately described my life from childhood to the present moment. I was instantly convinced that van den Aardweg’s therapy was the right one for me. I went to see him. From my reading I knew that mine was an exceptionally difficult case and that the healing process would take a long time. Since I was an impatient person, this was not a happy prospect.
It was around this time that I made my first contact with Opus Dei, an organization to which I had not been favorably inclined. My sister and I had quarreled many times over it. I saw it as a caste-like, puritanical sect, whose members denied themselves every pleasure in life. Given this attitude, it was surprising that I should ask my sister to put me in contact with these people. Yet the initiative was my own. No one forced me into it. I can see now that it was God acting in my life. I found the people open to my problem. They talked to me, did not judge me or say, “my God, what an awful burden to be carrying!” Quite the opposite: they encouraged me, supported me — quite often at first, but then stepping back more and more in order to let me stand on my own two feet. In the process I returned to the Faith.
In the course of my therapy I learned that my problem was not at all one of “sexual orientation” but of arrested personal growth. Others had progressed farther in developing their personalities. They had become men with a natural orientation toward the female sex. I, on the other hand, had remained a mere boy: unsure of himself, lacking courage, with a placid temperament — the type that doesn’t like to dirty his hands, who never thrusts himself into the forefront, preferring to remain inconspicuous. All this was a great discovery to me. The prospect of changing my personality became so tempting that I couldn’t resist saying: go for it!
At first I told no one, not even my family, about my therapy. I tried to manage on my own. At the same time, I became more involved in my profession with the result that my work began to give me satisfaction again. There were many obstacles, but I overcame them. This strengthened me internally. I entrusted all my inner conflicts to God. I had never experienced this before. Before, when faced with problems, I would run to other people — to my so-called “good friends.” But one could at least try to do this on one’s own — that is, with God’s support. The knowledge that God was always there to help me, that I was never alone in any situation in life, enabled me to rely on Him in all things. In this I found Opus Dei to be of great practical benefit. Here were people I could talk to about my experience of God without disapproval.
At the same time, I noticed that the issue of homosexuality was growing less important to me. The old dilemma of whether I should be with a man or a woman began to lose all significance. What was important was my maturing character. I was growing stronger and more self-assured. I no longer needed a male or female partner in order to be happy. I was now so busy with what I was doing that I had no time to think about such things.
Predictably, when I told a former homosexual friend of mine about my therapy and its progress, I ran into misunderstanding. Angrily he tried to talk me out of it, but in the end he accepted my decision. Clearly his curiosity got the better of his hostile attitude. Now he even calls me up to inquire about the progress of my treatment. This assured me even more that I had chosen the right path. I believe most homosexuals would like to take this path, but for one reason and another lack the courage to take it.
This is not to say that I was a happy camper in the early stages of my therapy. For the first four or five months progress was very slow indeed. On my days off, i.e. Sundays, I was at a complete loss as to what to do with myself. During the first week everything seemed to be going well, but after that it felt as if I were sliding downhill again. I lost my peace of mind, grew less sure of myself. I called up Dr. van den Aardweg and asked him if I ought to be doing something else. It was then that he told me that the crux of the problem lay in my self-love, my acting as if I were the center of the universe around which everything revolved.
I thought this over and decided to go and work in a hospice. These institutions are not very well known and none too popular. People see them as dark places — as houses of the dead. At first I thought I was not strong enough and too sensitive to care for the terminally ill. Even my Opus Dei friend advised me to think twice about it, since such work was suitable only for strong characters. But I decided I would go ahead anyway. I called up and went. After only a day of working at the hospice for cancer patients with three months to live, I knew this was the place for me. I still work there. Caring for the terminally ill has brought me much closer to God.
Soon afterwards, I met my present girlfriend, who I hope one day will be my wife. I had known her earlier when I was still gay and living with my former partner. She had taken a liking to me even then, but at that time, of course, love was out of the question. For the first few months our relationship was very casual. We would talk to each other on the phone. Later I told her I was undergoing therapy for my homosexuality. This piqued her interest. As it turned out, her mother had died in the hospice where I worked. As a result, we grew closer. Later our relationship would develop even further. All this transpired over a long period of time. Love did not strike me instantly like a lightning bolt, as had always been my experience before. Instead, everything proceeded very serenely. In my view this “growing” into a relationship is very healthy. One might say we are “earning” our love. Our relationship is now two and a half years old — my longest relationship since divorcing my wife. Only now, in fact, does it feel that I have finally fallen in love. I think this is a healthy relationship.
I see Dr. van den Aardweg quite rarely now — perhaps twice a year. The long journey makes more frequent visits impracticable: two hours there, two hours back, and two hours of therapy. But I now finally understand my situation. I know my weaknesses and how to deal with them. I would not say that I am heterosexual yet, but I am free. Apart from the odd telephone conversation with former friends (twice last year), I have not had a single homosexual encounter since starting treatment. On the odd occasion that I meet an old friend (only once last year), I stand on neutral ground and my position is respected.
I notice that the two worlds inside me are drifting ever farther apart. I have lost all interest in the things that my old gay friends talk about. They strike me as superficial; but then I observed this even when I was a practicing homosexual. Superficial relations, insecurity and self-dissatisfaction are the common lot of every gay person. I am strongly convinced that these are not socially conditioned symptoms as is widely thought. The uninformed say that society discriminates against homosexuals, that it does not allow them to love. Reality does not bear this out. Gays have never enjoyed as much freedom as they do today, and yet the level of dissatisfaction among them remains the same as ever. I have never met a homosexual who is completely happy.
I am currently trying to convince my good friend to go for reparative therapy. He has reached the point where life is no longer worth living. He is convinced that he will never find happiness in life. Sometimes I think that such a moment comes to every gay person at some point in his love.
Fortunately, in the USA there are numerous positive initiatives aimed at dealing with the homosexual condition. I regret to say that, in this respect, Germany represents a blank page. I have recently joined a group on the Internet called People Can Change. Its aim is to help persons struggling with homosexual tendencies to change their lives. The website lists numerous helpful tools and forms of therapy. By a happy turn of events I am about to meet a man living in Frankfurt — the first German to join this Internet group in search of treatment. He is unhappy and wants to have done with homosexuality.
Kristoff N., Münchengladbach, Germany
Reprinted from the April 2003 issue of Fronda (nr 30/2003)
The above article was published with permission from Miłujcie się! in November 2010