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Arlen Keith Leight, Ph.D
 
 
 

2312 Wilton Drive,

Wilton Manors,

FL  33305

 

Tel: 954.768.8000

www.doctorleight.com

E-mail: DoctorLeight@aol.com

 
 
 
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About

Arlen Keith Leight, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and board certified clinical sexologist. He received his BA in psychology from The Johns Hopkins University, his MSW from The Catholic University of America, his psychodynamic psychotherapy training from The American University, and his Ph.D. from Maimonides University. Dr. Leight is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Florida, Massachusetts and Washington, DC and is certified as a sex therapist, hypnotherapist and clinical supervisor for graduates working toward licensure.

Dr. Leight is a Diplomat of the American Board of Sexology and a member of National Association of Social Workers, American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists, and the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Dr. Leight has been on the faculty at Florida Atlantic University where he has taught psychotherapy with families and groups, has taught at Catholic University and is currently in private practice in Wilton Manors, Florida.

 
Read a new column provided by Dr. Leight every week on Mark's List:
 
Coming Out To Family
 
Question: I want to come out to my family so I can take a prospective boyfriend to family functions. These would involve grandchildren. How do I graciously do this? What if they tell me they no longer want me and ask me to disappear from their lives?

Answer: The decision to come out to your family PRIOR to taking a prospective boyfriend to family functions is definitely the better approach.  Learning your family's comfort level before an introduction is very prudent. You may be surprised to learn that your family already knows or has had their suspicions. Grandchildren, depending upon their ages, may not need to know about sexual orientation at this point in time. It is best if the parents of the grandchildren make the decisions as to the appropriateness and timing of disclosure.

The art of communicating difficult matters to others always starts with a focus on feelings. Ask yourself how it is going to feel to tell your family. Talk first to your closest adult family members. You may wish to start by stating, "I feel really anxious and uncomfortable talking to you about my sexual orientation, but in order for me to remain close and connected with the family I need to let you know I am gay." If the response is neutral or positive, give the family time to digest the facts before considering asking your family if they would be comfortable having your boyfriend join you at family functions. Remember how long it took you to get comfortable with your homosexuality. Don't expect family to immediately embrace your sexual orientation. If the family wants you to "disappear", then you have little choice but to withdraw for a time. Again, let the news sink in. Hopefully they will come to realize that you are still an important member of the family unit, and being gay does not change the person they have known and loved. You cannot control the feelings, beliefs or actions of others. You can only live your life honestly and authentically and hope that doing so will set an example for others to emulate, including family members.
 
Twisted Freaks
 

Hi Doc,

 

I am a single gay male who is HIV negative.  I have a full time job and live by myself in a small apartment in Ft Lauderdale.  When I moved to Fort Lauderdale I had a thought that this was going to be Shangri-La - beautiful weather, interesting people looking for others to grow and be old with and meet decent men for long term relationships.  I quickly learned that men here, most, and yes I do say most, practice unprotected sex which I do not, and then I realized that those who go out to clubs, a place I thought would be a good way to meet people, are just twisted freaks who want dirty sex, no long term relationships, and are so judgmental! I have not given up!  I never say never! So Docanswer me this:

 

What does a nice, smart, funny, ok looking, hard working guy wanting monogamy, honesty and fun, along with an erotic safe sex life while also being able to talk things out, the good and the bad, do to find men for the dream of a partner?

 

Thanks,

 

MJ

 

Dear MJ,

 

It sounds like you are very frustrated with life and your ability to connect with quality men.  You describe a world in which you are a great catch but the rest of the population has a boatload of problems.  Indeed, you see others as judgmental, but you yourself use judgments such as "twisted freaks." 

 

The question is why are you attracting what you don't want into your life?  Likely it is because you are focused on negativity and have your antenna up looking for the worst in others.  You may indeed have ambivalence about your own sense of self and what you really want.  You are probably seeking out love rather than enjoying life with the understanding that when you are feeling good about yourself and your life's purpose and passions you will attract the kind of people you want into your world.

 

I would suggest doing some psychotherapy either individually or in a group to deal with some of the deeper issues you need to bring to consciousness rather than blaming the world outside of you for your problems.  Group work might be the best place to start, and you may wish to check out my Confidence, Self-Esteem and Personal Empowerment Group for gay men as an option.

 

I wish you my best,

 

Arlen Keith Leight, PhD, LLC 

 
 
Monogamy in Gay Relationships
 

Do you believe in monogamy in gay relationships?  If two men want to be together, marry, and just be with one another, do you feel that is possible?  What do you advise men about the nature of gay relationships?

Monogamy is not something you believe in; it is a contractual agreement defined as the marriage of one person to one person (mono).  Polygamy is defined as marriage to two or more persons at the same time (poly).  Marriage does not necessarily require sexual exclusivity.  Many couples, both gay and straight, choose to marry without choosing sexual exclusivity.  Marriage, monogamy, polygamy, sexual exclusivity or sexual openness is a choice two (or more) adults decide for themselves.  I have no professional judgment as to what is best for any two (or more) adult individuals, although I do feel honesty and integrity are essential to all relationships.  I am a strong advocate of legalizing gay marriage because I believe the government has no business restricting the choices we make about our personal relationships and thereby legalizing and legitimizing heterosexism.

 

That being said, there is a strong case to be made against sexual exclusivity as inherent to our human species.  In his new book, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Human Sexuality, Christopher Ryan points out multiple reasons to believe that Homo Sapiens are historically and more naturally open with sexual expression.  He argues that, pre-historically, sex was free for any given group of our ancestors; paternity was not important, children were raised by the group, and concomitant greed, ownership and jealously were not a part of the human experience.

 

We see in our own time that people will risk everything—family, friends, jobs, power, money and honor—for sexual trysts.  In the last several years major figures—Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Tiger Woods—have broken marriage fidelity vows.  Beyond celebrity, more than 50% of marriages end in divorce, and the trend toward open relationships is growing.  If human nature were “naturally monogamous,” would there be so much sexual infidelity?  Would we need laws and rules to prevent “cheating”?  Would women need to be circumcised or stoned in other cultures to keep them reined in?

 

I think we can all agree we have control over our behavior but not over what we desire.  Society sets up institutions, moral codes and laws to be sure we do not endanger the interests of others.  With regard to relationships, I believe people have a basic right to happiness and privacy.  Sexual exclusivity or sexual openness is a choice partners have the right to make for themselves.  Those who elect open relationships need to do so honestly and openly.  I advise good communication and setting parameters that keep the emotionally fidelity intact.  I work with couples who want to have openness to establish relationship agreements while setting parameters and guidelines for such activity while maintaining relational stability.  Sexual freedom does not destroy relationships.  Lying, cheating and avoiding communication about feelings does.

 

Arlen Keith Leight, PhD, LLC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Wilton Manors.    www.DoctorLeight.com.
 
HIV Disclosure
 

Question: My boyfriend of several months and I want to move in together. I am HIV positive. How and when should I tell him? The anguish and guilt are eating me alive...and I don't want to lose him.

Answer: The question is not when should you tell your boyfriend that you are HIV positive, it's when should you have told him. If your boyfriend has a problem being with someone who is HIV positive, wouldn't you want to know this before you get too involved? After dating for several months I wouldn't be surprised if he is more upset over the delay in disclosure than the HIV status itself. That being said, I wonder about the level of communication in this relationship. How do men date for several months without ever talking about HIV? You guys are NOT ready to move in together. I recommend you spend some time getting to know one another more intimately before considering such a commitment.


You may wish to tell your boyfriend how you're feeling about the disclosure prior to breaking the news. "I'm feeling some anxiety about having a conversation we need to have before we commit to living together. I'm feeling anguish and guilt about the fact that I have not talked to you about my HIV status.  I guess I've been afraid that if I told you I'm positive you wouldn't want to be with me anymore." Allow the dialogue to open focusing on feelings. Professional guidance may be necessary as I sense you guys are not very experienced or comfortable at talking about emotionally charges matters. If your boyfriend still wants to develop a relationship, then put off moving in until you are both feeling comfortable being intimate--both sexually and verbally--with the new dynamic. If your boyfriend cannot deal with your status then be glad you approached the subject before committing to living together. Know for the future that early, open and honest communication about HIV is absolutely necessary for any sexually intimate connection.

No matter what happens, I certainly hope you have been having protected sex. Unprotected anal intercourse is a risk as BOTH a bottom and a top. If you continue to be sexual, be certain to be safe. Preventable passing of infection is NOT a loving gesture.

 

Arlen Keith Leight, PhD, LLC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Wilton Manors.  www.DoctorLeight.com.

 
Serial Dating
 

Question:  A friend of mine is a very good looking, intelligent, creative, successful man, but he consistently goes from dating one guy to the next.  He serially goes from man to man…usually making a new start within days of the last break-up lasting days to months.  Each one seems to be “the one”, and he invests a total emotional commitment even when immediate “red flags” are clearly present.  I want to try to help him stop.  Selfishly I never seem to be able to spend time with him because “in between” time is so brief.  What’s this about, and what can I do about it?

 

Answer:  This pattern of obsessive-compulsive behavior is complex and multi-dimensional.  The likelihood is that your friend feels empty and lonely without feeling the attention and “love” of a potential partner.  The pain of each break-up is avoided by the emersion into the next “relationship”.  There was likely childhood emotional neglect and/or abuse.  By ignoring red flags or lacking filters to make wise choices, your friend is essentially “asking for” a repetition of abuse, neglect and/or emotional pain. Unconsciously your friend is repeating the family-of-origin pattern which is actually comfortable compared with the prospect of true intimacy.  The repetitive compulsion is an unconscious attempt to heal the wounds of childhood thinking that this new person will fully love him because of the interest shown upon meeting.  It is this initial apparent interest that is so alluring and by-passes your friend’s rational mind that might otherwise realize the prospective partner is not a good match.  The limerance (initial excitement phase of a relationship) provides a dopamine (brain chemical) response that creates a high, can be very addicting and replaces any grief about the last relationship.

Unfortunately you are probably not in a good position to counsel your friend.  He is likely to close down should you try to help him see how he, in pursuit of intimacy, is actually setting himself up for future loneliness.  Therapy is important, but many therapists miss this pattern all together thinking that it is good to see their single clients seeking partnership.

Ideally, your friend and others like him need to take some major steps to remedy the pattern.  These include but are not necessarily limited to:

1.        Work on feeling good about oneself by oneself.  Fulfillment does not require partnership, and, indeed, to be a good partner you need to feel and be complete by yourself.  Self love and acceptance are critical ingredients to bring into relationships.

2.       Take time off to be by yourself.  Feel the pain of loneliness if that comes up.  Be with the anxiety.  Time will help you process these feelings and understand them and yourself better.  Doing this work with a therapist is most helpful.

3.       After a sufficient period of time enter the dating world slowly.  Don’t jump at the first potential partner who shows you some interest.  Have in mind what is important to you in a partner, and do not sacrifice Self at the altar of relationship.

4.       Experience dating without “relationship” in mind.  Don’t limit yourself to one person.  Allow yourself to experience all different kinds of people.  Have fun and take your time.  Don’t confuse interest from others with love.

5.       If you are going to date someone more than a couple of times, be sure they are emotionally, intellectually and sexually available and compatible.  Learn to say “NO” if there are red flags, if they are not right for you, or if you are giving up parts of you for the sake of a potential partner.

Arlen Keith Leight, PhD, LLC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Wilton Manors. www.DoctorLeight.com.

 
Frustrated in Fort Lauderdale
 

Dear  Dr. Leight:
 
I am so frustrated with my dating experiences.  I find when I really like a guy I'm so afraid to come on too strong for fear of scaring him away.  If I know the guy isn't quite right for me I find myself dating him too long hoping it will change which it never does.  How do I find Mr. Right?  And, if I find him, how do I keep him?
 
Dear Frustrated:
 
These are age old questions that single gay men continuously face. Often we don't find what we want because we don't know what we want.  I advocate an "Authentic Dating" approach to increase the likelihood of success.

Authentic dating is about being honest. First, that requires being true to yourself about what you are looking for, i.e. what is/are your goal(s) for dating? Are you looking for a life partner? Are you looking for casual sex? Is stability more important than passion? Do you want a monogamous relationship or an open relationship? Are you currently in a positive life space and emotionally available for an exclusive sort of dating relationship or not?

Next, you must be honest with yourself about how you feel about the person you are meeting or dating. It has been shown that we know within minutes if not seconds of meeting someone if there is potential for passion (that “click” or chemistry). If there’s nothing there you need to ask yourself if and/or why you wish to pursue the connection. This requires introspection and an evaluation of your self-esteem.

Finally, you want to be totally honest with your date. If there is nothing there but you want to see if something will develop (unlikely, by the way) say so. If you want to be dating a whole host of people and not ready to be with one individual, say so. If you are only interested in this person for sex, say so. If you are looking for exclusivity in dating, say so. If you have no interest in another date, say so. If you see potential in this person, say so.

The logical argument against such a straight forward approach is that you might scare someone off. This approach is not for everyone…only for those who want an honest, open, and sincere relationship with another person who has similar objectives. I can state unequivocally, if there is a mutual passionate connection (i.e., chemistry or “click”) and both are looking for the same thing, the other person will not be turned off by stating your feelings. Your date will be thrilled to know you feel likewise. If there is no passion or if the two of you have different dating objectives, what difference does it make if you scare the other person away?
 
How do you find Mr. Right?  There is no magic formula, but you are most likely to meet the right guy when you're enjoying life.  If you hate bars, you are not going to be in the right frame of mind to meet Mr. Right at the bar.  Do what you love in life and be happy and you will attract the man you seek.  Don't be desperate for a relationship.  You are unlikely to be honest with yourself about how right the connection is for you when all you really want is to be connected.  Remember relationships are about building intimacy and mutual love for another...not about filling some void or loneliness in your life.  If you make the search about becoming "complete" you will surely meet Mr. Wrong.  You need to feel complete within yourself so you have the full, whole, authentic YOU to share with another man.

If you are interested in learning more about this new way of thinking about yourself, dating and relating, Dr. Leight offers a weekend intensive for gay men in which these topics are fully explored.  Check out www.DoctorLeight.com for future offerings.

 

Please feel free to offer your input or ask additional questions.

 
Arlen Keith Leight, PhD, LLC is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Wilton Manors.

 

www.DoctorLeight.com
 

 
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