Is My Old Boyfriend Gay But in Denial?

Hi Dr. Olson,

Last year, I dated a sixty-five-year-old dentist. It was an on-and-off again relationship. He seemed humble, engaging, and honest when I first met him. He was married to his wife for thirty-five years, and during the last two years of his marriage he watched a lot of heterosexual porn.

He had no interest in touching or pleasuring me. He said he was confused and needed to find himself. He had admitted to hundreds of fantasy affairs with different women.

My questions are these: Is he gay or bi but in denial? Is he a narcissist and sociopath? Is he a porn or sex addict? I can’t stop thinking about how he used, gaslighted, and traumatized me. I wish I had never fallen for him.

Wanting Answers

 

Dear Wanting Answers,

First, I have to say, it would be unethical for me to diagnose this man or try to interpret his behavior, so I can speak only in general terms. Your primary questions are “Is he gay or bi but in denial? Is he a porn or sex addict or a narcissistic psychopath?”

Let’s look at the facts as you presented them to me:

  • He’s a sixty-five-year-old professional man.
  • He has a history of watching a lot of porn; none of it was gay or child porn.
  • He said he wanted to figure himself out and didn’t think he’d ever know himself well enough to give to someone else.
  • You fell in love with him but feel used by him. Yet you can’t stop thinking about him.

The first thing that stands out to me is his age. Men in this age group experience diminished sex drive, and over 60 percent of them will have some difficulty with erectile dysfunction. It often makes them feel that their masculinity is in jeopardy. I have a handout available about men’s changing sexuality over the course of their lifetime.

New sexual partners and alternative or risky sexual practices may enhance a diminished sex drive and function. Eroticism diminishes in longer-term relationships. A new partner (even a fantasied one in porn) heightens eroticism and sex drive. These fantasies may or may not be about the same sex. It often helps men feel like a new man and compensates for these normal sexual changes that occur over a man’s lifespan. But nothing in what you’ve presented to me suggests that men like him are gay, bisexual, or pedophiles.

It is normal for the highly charged erotic feelings to diminish as a relationship progresses. In all healthy relationships, love loses some of its erotic intensity and must be replaced by other types of love. Some men and women lose interest in any established relationship when eroticism diminishes, and they seek to recreate it by always seeking someone new. It may not be an addiction to sex but simply an inability to sustain a long-term, loving relationship.

Even sixty-five-year-old dentists are just people. They may not know themselves well enough to be able to give to someone else, and their partners may suffer because of it. We are all a product of our own developmental history, and experiences and conflicts from early life create problems in relationships. These experiences, if present, may create a lot of psychic pain for him.

Is it possible you are personalizing this problem more than you should? Whatever has impacted his behavior, it is not your fault, but it is also causing you pain. It has nothing to do with you other than its manifestations contaminated your relationship with him.

It’s normal for you to feel hurt and angry. If you can get past the anger, you may be able to understand that he is also in pain. You will never know the explanation for his pain, but if you can accept it and empathize with it, you may be able to forgive him. Forgiving him will set you free, even though he may not deserve it.

 

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