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Two is enough: want to be happy and gay? Try monogamy, says veteran gay therapist Richard Isay.

Psychotherapist Richard A. Isay scored two victories for the gay rights movement in the '80s: In 1985 he came out professionally, becoming the first openly gay member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and in 1989 he published his landmark book Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development, one of the earliest works to argue that homosexuality is an inborn identity. Both triumphs underscore a 30-year career dedicated to helping gay men lead happier, more meaningful lives, a goal that serves as the impetus behind Isay's potentially controversial new book Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love (Wiley, $19.95).

Isay argues that loving, monogamous sexual relationships are vital to personal contentment but that many gay men have difficulty making such commitment work. "I see gay men all day long," he tells The Advocate, "and they can be happier than they are. Most have a lot of problems in their relationships."

According to Isay, a history of rejection (by family, society, and previous lovers) has taught gay men to fear seeking shelter in another person. He says, "Accepting love stirs up so much need and dependence, and that is the problem.... Many gay men don't trust that being dependent and reliant on somebody else is going to come to anything."

Isay believes gay culture and gay media promote the mistrust of love by celebrating casual sex as an ideal. Glorifying lifelong promiscuity and "open" relationships, he says, only hinders the ability of gay men to experience the happiness of committing to their partners. "I don't care how much two people agree that it's OK to have sex outside the relationship," he asserts. "It builds mistrust and it detracts from the passion that's within the relationship. And why shouldn't we care about maintaining that passion?"

However, Isay is not claiming gay men should eschew sexual experimentation or feel pressured to settle down. He simply wants them to make more room for discussing the value of exclusive coupling. Clarifying his position, he says, "Nowhere in the book do I say that the ideal of a monogamous relationship is mandatory. What I say is, we should strive for that.... To me, it's the struggle [for monogamy] that's most important. Within that struggle we convey that we care about and love our partners."

Blankenship writes for
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Title Annotation:BOOKS
Author:Blankenship, Mark
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 15, 2006
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