Articles by Loren Olson, MD

Am I Too Old To Love Again?

The Good Men Project, December 3, 2020

Years ago, we had friends with a young son. He always called me, "Loren and Doug." He didn't see know me as anything except as a part of a couple.

My husband and I have been together now for thirty-three years, so perhaps I don't see myself as anything but "Loren and Doug," too. I don't believe in that overly romantic ideal that two lives become one. But if and when I'm alone again, who will complete my sentences for me? Who will spoil my jokes by telling the punch line when it takes me too long to get there?

Haven’t We Talked About Sexual Orientation Labels Enough?

Psychology Today, December 2, 2020

Perhaps you’re one of those people who say, “Enough, already, with the labels!” I tend to agree.

A couple of years ago my pre-teen grandson asked, “What’s the Q in LGBTQ, Grandpa?” It provoked me to think about the infinite list of labels we use to describe gender, sexual orientation, and romance. Everyone seems to be fighting for their own space.

Cowboy Up: Gay Men in Rural America

The Good Men Project, November 26, 2020

Several old men wearing seed corn ballcaps sat around in the feed store in St. Charles, Iowa, drinking Folger's coffee out of Styrofoam cups. Although Doug and I never heard this conversation, I imagine it went something like this:

Have ya' seen what those two sissy boys that bought the old Palmer place are doin'?

Isn't that the darndest thing you ever saw! (Good Baptists didn't say "damn.')

Give the Gift of Forgiveness

Medium, November 24, 2020

I don't think there's a lonelier place on Christmas Eve than a moderately-priced, residential hotel like the one I spent a few nights in a few years ago.

I knew that I could not withstand a Christmas at home with my husband, Doug. So, a few days before Christmas, I decided to check into a hotel. As bad as it would be to live alone in a cheap hotel over the holidays, I knew that I would feel shunned if I stayed at home.

Are You Afraid to Love for Fear of Loss?

Medium, November 20, 2020

I never expected to live as long as I have.

When a person reaches midlife, he or she begins to think, more days lie behind me than days left in front of me. I began to have those thoughts as a child.

My mind always defaulted to loss.

3 Steps To Achieve Lasting Self-Esteem

The Good Men Project, November 19, 2020

You don't need someone's permission to live your own life; you must seize it.

Throughout my long career in psychiatry, I have had many patients say to me, "I just want to be happy." It's as if I were going to dispense some magic potion that suddenly would make them feel good about themselves.

Why Do Married Men Watch Porn?

The Good Men Project, November 12, 2020

If I told you that I only watch porn for research in sociology, you'd likely call bullshit. And you'd be right. My husband and I have been together for thirty-three years. We have what sex advice columnist Dan Savage calls a "monogamish" relationship.

Passionate sex in a new relationship has a shelf life of about one year for all couples. Our story is no different. The things that drew us together still hold us together. Neither of us has any desire to change that.

3 Steps to Forgiveness

Medium, November 9, 2020

I should be an expert on betrayal. I've been both the betrayed and the betrayer.

We have no control over how others hurt us. The ones we love - parents, lovers, and children - inflict the worst suffering.

A betrayal of trust by someone you love inflicts excruciating pain on us. It disrupts our inner world, and it bleeds into our outer world as well. It's difficult to concentrate on anything other than our pain.

What Do You Call a Man Who Has Sex with Men?

Medium, November 5, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls men who have sex with men, "Men who have Sex with Men" (MSM).

If you ask some MSM, "Are you gay?" they will respond, "Absolutely not." If you ask them, "Have you ever had sex with a man?" the response is apt to be "Well, maybe."

Without Intimacy Your Partner Will Look Elsewhere

Medium, October 30, 2020

"Michael" was desperate when he wrote me this:

I've been married for over thirty years, and I have two sons and a daughter. A couple of years ago, I had an affair with a man. Will my wife ever get over it?

My wife and I have hardly had sex in the last ten years, and when we have, she always says something like, 'Ok. But let's hurry up and get it over with.' It makes me feel like she thinks I'm raping her. I've always wanted more sex than she does.

I Did Drag Once and That Was Enough

Medium, October 30, 2020

After coming out in 1986, my first gay friends were a group of men I met in a support group for gay fathers. In those days, being a "gay father" almost always meant you'd had children with a woman to whom you'd been married.

I had joined the support group to help with the transition from straight to gay. My closest friends from the group and I were all in our early forties and beginner-gays.

The Fear of Sacrificing Everything to Come Out

Medium, October 26, 2020

A few years ago, I gave a talk about men who come out gay later in life to a group of about sixty mostly grey-haired gay men at an LGBTQ community center.

A man I'll call "David" sat near the back of the room. David appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Nothing about him gave any inkling that he was a gay man. He was large and powerful, a very masculine man with the calloused hands of a tradesman.

Is It Cheating if it’s with Another Dude?

Medium, October 23, 2020

Sometimes we don't want to want what we want.

I used to tell myself All I want is a blow job. To achieve that goal, I was going to have to look for it. First, I had a lot of questions: Who does what to whom? How is that negotiated? Where do I go to find it? What would be expected of me in return? What if I like it too much?

Is Fitting In Enough for You?

Medium, October 16, 2020

When I was nine-years-old, I called my widowed mother at her work and sobbed, "I can't get the lawnmower started again."

She responded, "Of course you can. You're a man, aren't you?" How does one answer that question? Men fix machines; I can't fix mine; I must not be a man. I felt as if she'd ripped off one testicle.

Being a Man Doesn’t Demand Being Toxic

Medium, October 9, 2020

When I was about nine-years-old, I tearfully called my widowed mother at her work to say, "I can't get the lawnmower started."

She responded, "Of course you can. You're a man, aren't you?" How does one answer that question? Men fix machines; I couldn't fix mine; I must not be a man.

What You Should Know About Getting Old

Medium, October 2, 2020

I once spoke to a group of older men in Houston about aging. When I finished, "Don" stood up, raised his hands in the air, and said, "I'm 82, and this is the best time in my life."

I thought, What does he know that I need to figure out?

I then realized that what Don had said about aging was far more important than anything I had said about it.

After Divorce, Rethink the Definition of “Family”

Medium, September 29, 2020

My ex-wife, Lynn, and I would have been married now for fifty-two years. But I've been with my husband now for thirty-three years; we married as soon as the law allowed.

I love my husband, and I love Lynn.

Although we're no longer married, I often refer to Lynn as my wife.

I May Be Gay but Don’t Call Me Homosexual

An Injustice Mag, Sep 19, 2020

Recently someone asked me, “If ‘homo’ means same, and ‘hetero’ means other, why is it wrong to use the word ‘homosexual?’”

It’s a fair question.

“Homosexual” and “homosexuality” have long been associated with pathology, mental illness, and criminality. They imply that being gay is sick, diseased, or wrong.

It May Surprise You But Old People Have Sex

Medium, August 22, 2020

When I was 32-years-old, my mother re-married after nearly thirty years as a widow. The night they were married, I suddenly sat straight up in bed and said to my wife, "Oh my god! Do you think they're doing it?"

Most adolescents have a similar reaction when they think that about their parents having sex. Without a father, that thought - like many others - didn't enter my brain until I was much older.

Gay Husband, Straight Wife: Can It Work?

Medium, August 17, 2020

Often enough people have asked me with some skepticism, "How could you not know you were gay?" I used to wonder that myself. Then there's the followup question, "Weren't you hiding behind your wife?"

I guess you could say I was in a "mixed-orientation relationship" (MOR) for eighteen years. But neither my wife nor I knew that we were. When my wife and I divorced, we were homo-naive. I don't remember others talking about MORs until much more recently.

Are You Keeping Secrets in Your Therapy?

Invisible Illness, August 9, 2020

We all want to present ourselves favorably, but in therapy, we have different rules about that than we do in social discourse.

After reading Timothy O'Neill's excellent story, When You Lie To Conceal The Full Extent Of Your Illness", I thought it might be useful to write about what transpires on the other end of that couch.

Are You Fat Or Just Gay Fat?

Medium, August 1, 2020

I have man boobs.

I was always self-conscious about the size of my breasts. As a teenager, at the swimming pool, I either stood in shoulder-deep water or lay face down on my towel. When that wasn't possible, I always had a t-shirt handy. There, on my chest, visible to everyone, was physical evidence that I wasn't quite a man.

What to Do With a Husband Who Cross-Dresses

The Good Men Project, July 30, 2020

The fantasy of submissiveness and dominance makes people whose sexual behavior runs toward the vanilla uncomfortable. For men, the fantasy combines the roles of a dominant woman or man who holds power over the "naughty boy."

Mutual consent governs the role-play, although the fantasy itself incorporates an element of non-consent.

What HIV Teaches Us About COVID-19

The Good Men Project, July 23, 2020

I came out as gay in 1986, the peak of the HIV epidemic. Sometimes this COVID-19 pandemic feels a lot like that.

After leaving my wife and two daughters, I accepted a job as Medical Director of Psychiatry at one of the largest healthcare systems in Iowa. As far as I knew then, only my wife knew about my recently accepted sexual orientation.

Why Is Doing Everything Right So Wrong?

The Good Men Project, July 9, 2020

When I was young, I followed all the rules, and yet, I never felt good about myself.

Other mothers would say to my mother, I wish my boy would be more like Loren. That never felt good. I wanted to be naughty, the one who flaunted the rules but had adults dismiss it as Boys will be boys.

But I couldn't risk the disapproval of people I loved.

What the Hell Is a ‘Demisexual’ and Do We Need It?

The Good Men Project, June 25, 2020

"Why am I Afraid to Have Sex? On the rare occasions when I've had sex, I can't think of one that was a positive experience."

That's how a letter to me from a gay man in his mid-sixties began. [The message has been edited for clarity.]

He went on to say,

"I want to have an enduring, romantic, and monogamous relationship with another man, but how realistic is that at my age and with my sexual history?"

Are We Ever too Old to Come Out?

The Good Men Project, June 4, 2020

"When I was struggling to decide between whether or not to come out, I was hurting. Then my wife and little boy were killed in a car accident. I know what I should have felt, but what I felt was a relief."

This friend loved his wife and son, but guilt and shame consumed him for betraying them. His pain bothered him to the point he couldn't bear it, and he had thoughts of suicide. He also knew that despite his many promises, he couldn't restrain his desire for sex with other men.

Monogamy in Gay Couples

The Good Men Project, May 14, 2020

Dr. Olson,

I don't know how to ask this, not even sure if I should, but I will. Given that there is a difference in sex drives between younger and older men, and you are significantly older than your partner, did that ever create conflict for you and/or him, and if so, how did you resolve it?

You may ask me anything-my life's pretty much an open book-but I also suspect that you are more interested in your own sex life than mine, and I'm guessing you are concerned about differences in sexual desires between you and either a much older or younger partner.

I’m Coming Out as Old

The Good Men Project, April 23, 2020

On my 77th birthday, I'm coming out again: I'm coming out as old. That means I'm officially a part of the "old old," among "the most vulnerable" during this COVID-19 pandemic. I'm now a part of an age group that our society may prefer to be invisible and may feel worthy of being discarded.

But as Oliver Sacks wrote at 80-years-old, "I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over." He also wrote, "I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one's own life, but others', too."

The Curse of an Attraction to Older Gay Men

Psychology Today, April 23, 2020

When I met my husband, he was 29-years old. I was forty-four.

I said to him, “There’s fifteen years difference in our ages. Do you think this can work?”

He responded, “I’ve always liked older men.”

We rarely discussed it again.

Do You Need a Hug? I Do: Anxiety in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Psychology Today, March 26, 2020

We’re all anxious now.

COVID-19 occupies the lips and ears of everyone. A threat we understand causes us to feel afraid and results in planning an appropriate response, but anxiety comes from the unknown, from the uncertainty of how to make ourselves safe. Separation from loved ones, the loss of freedoms we have taken for granted, uncertainty about risks, and boredom all can cause dramatic consequences.

Digging Deeper with Straight Spouses Part II

Psychology Today, July 27 2018

As I was working on this essay, I got an email from my ex-wife, whom I divorced 32 years ago, asking me to have lunch. “Nothing serious. Just haven’t caught up in a while.” I quickly accepted the invitation. My experience is unimaginable to some straight spouses, and for us, it didn’t come easily or quickly.

I knew when I married her that I wanted be the best dad any kid could have.

Digging Deeper with Straight Spouses

Psychology Today, July 26, 2018

Since my essay, “My Husband Is Having an Affair...With a Man,” was published, I have received many, many comments. Although some of the comments were supportive, many of them were challenging, such as this one: Sadly, most married, closeted gay men are manipulative, narcissistic con artists who only think about themselves with only occasional feelings of guilt and remorse. Their decision to leave or stay in their marriages is never out of consideration for the wife. [The comments – mostly from women -- have been edited slightly]. Her comment made me angry and defensive.

My Husband Is Having an Affair...With a Man

Psychology Today, March 5, 2011

Sexual infidelity is often considered the ultimate betrayal. It disrupts ongoing, meaningful relationships. When a heterosexual couple experiences infidelity and the offense is committed with someone of the same sex, it turns worlds upside down.