Note: This transcript was written by Robert West.
Welcome to The Prevention Podcast. I’m your host, Candice Christiansen. Our goal at The Prevention Podcast is to talk about dicey, controversial issues related to preventing sexual abuse. Why? Because it needs to be said. Topics include: the biology of pedophilia; risk, need, and responsivity principles related to non-contact and contact sex offenders; researchers in the field of sex-offender treatment; and more. Join us bi-weekly, and let’s talk about it.
Meg: Well hi everyone, welcome to The Prevention Podcast. This is Meg Martinez-Dettamanti, your host. In line with our theme of exploring non-offending, anti-contact, minor-attracted people, I am so excited for today’s podcast, because we have our first mixed-orientation couple, that we will be interviewing. If any of you have heard our first, very very first podcast with Bruce, we actually have Bruce back with us, with his wife Gina. Hey, guys!
Meg: And welcome back, Bruce!
Bruce: Thank you.
Meg: Wonderful. We’re so excited to have you here. Your podcast got a lot of attention. And so I’m excited for listeners to hear this side of your story with your partner.
Bruce: Thank you.
Meg: So, I’m sure people are dying to know. I’m just gonna dive right in. I’m sure people are dying to know, how did you tell Gina about minor attraction? How did you you explain that to her?
Bruce: I told Gina about my attraction pretty early on in the relationship. There were quite a few years prior to me seeking help, uh, and even before I realized my attractions, struggling in relationships and struggling to fall in love, and struggling to have anything more than a platonic friendship with the people I was trying to date. As I mentioned in my other podcast, I’d become very depressed, very alone, and very, um, isolated, before realizing what was going on and seeking help.
So I had been seeking help through therapy and through other friends who are also minor attracted, coming out to a few of my close friends, uh, in the three months prior to meeting Gina, and when we’d started dating, and I started to realize that this was a unique relationship, that I was feeling things for her that I had never felt for other people I’d previously dated, and because I had gained a lot of support and courage from coming out to friends, I knew that it was important to come out to her as well. The hours preceding telling her, she could tell that something serious was on my mind, and that I was hesitating opening up to her about it. But eventually I cracked, and I basically told her that, uh, I was trying to figure out my sexuality, that I was trying to figure out what I felt, and what I didn’t feel, and that she was getting into a very complicated situation, and that I was attracted to young boys, at the age of 12–14.
And immediately after telling her that, I immediately, like, shut down, weathering further reaction, you know, whether she reject me completely, whether she would accept me, and, uh, she accepted me. She loved me. And I felt safe. And it was a great bonding experience. Um, for that night. The next morning, uh, it apparently had started to sink in for Gina. And she was starting to, to brainstorm all of the things about what this meant about our relationship, what it meant about her, what it meant about me, and everything we didn’t know about where things could go. And it was causing her a lot of anxiety, and a lot of stress, and she was reaching out to me to, to talk about, uh, those things. But her, her anxiety and her stress about the situation increasing, immediately started to make me run away, and withdraw.
Cause at first my attitude was, I can handle it: Reaching out to her, letting her know, now she can handle it. We’re all good. But as soon as she couldn’t handle it, I was like, no, I’m done. Uh, this won’t work, nice try, I’m gonna, I’m gonna pull out, and I left, and drove to my parents’ house, and was crying in the basement. And Gina, she was like, answer your phone, talk to me, we have to talk about this, you can’t run away like this. And I was like, this is too hard, like you were saying, there’s too many unknowns, you know, who knows if it’ll work or not, so I’m just gonna bail. And she, she said something that’s been powerful for me, my whole relationship, and that was: I’m not gonna let you make my decision for me, that to be in a relationship with each other was a two-person decision, and I couldn’t make that decision for her. And so I surrendered that decision to her, and went back to her place, and we talked about it, and we decided together that we were gonna try to make it work and see where things went together, and I couldn’t run away and kill the relationship for her. That had to be a mutual decision.
Meg: That is such a powerful story. And I’m dying to know your perspective on it, Gina. I think Bruce did a wonderful job like sharing kind of that timeline, but I know the listeners will want to hear, where was your head at?
Gina: Um, I was shocked. Nobody thinks that that is what their boyfriend is gonna tell them. And up until that point, Bruce had been like the near-perfect boyfriend. He did the dishes, he opened doors, he gave me rides, he texted me, how are you doing, like, he was like the golden boyfriend, it was too good to be true. And so when he told me, I was just like, like, of course, this is too good to be true. Of course he’s gonna have something wrong with him. Though when he first told me, he wasn’t, I could tell that he was really sad, and ashamed, and just really depressed, and felt terrible about himself. And so, the way that he told me, it wasn’t like he was this cocky jackass, it was like, yeah, I have this attraction, you have to deal with it. He was actually really really sad and depressed, and the only thing that I saw at that point was that this was someone that I cared about, and he was in pain.
And I just wanted to make sure that he felt loved and supported through this pain. And so that’s why, when he initially told me about it, um, I reacted the way I did. But then I went home and really thought about it, and I realized all these social implications, and legal implications of the situation, like, you know, even if, you know, let’s say he did offend, and then, like obviously, I would break up with him before, like, you know, there were warning signs, like that. If he was going down that path, I just wouldn’t stay with him at all. If I didn’t see improvement, I was, and I was very clear with him, when we talked about it later, like if I do not see improvement, if I don’t see that you’re doing better, I will leave you, and that will be my final decision. Like, I was very firm about that.
Um, so, after he told me, I went home and thought about it, and I thought about all these social and legal implications, and I realized that he’s in danger of victimizing other people, but he’s also in danger of becoming a victim of other people’s bigotry. Um, and that part made me really upset, because I’ve known Bruce for more than when we had just started dating. He’s been in my friend group for a long time. And I’d seen him interacting with people, interacting with kids, interacting with adults, like, for a year prior to us dating. And so I knew that he was a good person and that he was not a threat. But I didn’t, but other people didn’t know that he was a good person. And so it just made me, like, immediately worried about his safety. Cause I knew that he wasn’t going to do anything wrong. But I didn’t know if other people, if they found out about his secret, if they would just like go and do something insane like shoot him or murder him. I was really worried about his safety.
Meg: I love that you realized, it’s so beautiful, that you realized the difference between a MAP and an offender. Even in that situation that’s so close to home, right? So I have this idyllic relationship, and we’re in the early stages of that dating, right? When this bomb is dropped. And I mean, seriously, it’s a bomb that’s being dropped, right? This secret or this information, but I, I’m really impressed that your first instinct was, yes this is scary, but this is, this is a person, and not on offender. And yeah, it can have these, these worries over here, but the stronger worry is that my partner is treated like a human. And he needs that love, and he needs that acceptance, and he needs that guidance.
Gina: I think something that people need to know is that, like, you know, there are pedophiles that want to make contact legal. But there’s a lot of MAPs, I would say the vast majority of the ones I’ve met that are anti-contact, they want nothing to do with contact. They just don’t want, they they really want to protect people from their own inner struggles, and it’s just really sad to me, to see these like really good people that are struggling with a complex physiologic and behaviorial and moral thing, you know? It’s like, it’s like they’re trying to do something with their lives and be good people, but they have this problem that, you know, puts them at a threat to themselves and others. And it’s just sad to see a lot of people that need help not be able to access it.
Meg: As you were invited into this part of Bruce’s world, you, you met other MAPs. You guys began to communicate with this community that Bruce, you may or may not have been a part of. Share that with us as you sort-of started to assimilate into the world of, of MAPs, as a partner.
Bruce: One problem that we encountered is that, within the community of minor-attracted people, there’s not that many who do have heterosexual relationships, whether committed as a relationship or married. And so, we didn’t have very much to go off of what it would be like, and what it should be like. And so, we kind of had to figure it out for ourselves.
Gina: I’d agree with that. I’m suspicious. I suspect there are more people like us than, that people let on. Even if, you know, let’s say it’s not a mixed-orientation marriage, which I actually hate that terminology for this situation, cause his orientation isn’t set. It’s a flexible orientation. Um, but, there just aren’t a lot people that will even admit that their partner has problems, right? And not necessarily one of this magnitude. I know lots of people whose husbands have cheated on them, but like, that’s not something they’re going to air out in public and want to like talk about either.
And so, just finding people that were open and like aware of the problem was difficult. We did find one other couple that, where the husband was a MAP and the female, the wife, was straight. And so we started, we tried to message them, but it was like within minutes of messaging the wife, that I realized that she was not gonna be helpful. Like, I messaged her, and I said hey, you know, I’m just wondering how you feel about, you know, some of the trials that you guys have had regarding your husband’s MAP issues, and she said, oh, he’s such a sweet person, it’s, everything’s perfect, it’s gonna be fine. I read that text and I thought, if she thinks for a second that her relationship doesn’t have any problems, she’s in complete denial. Cause like, this is a huge issue, and it’s like not easy for me to deal with, and I think I’m a very open-minded person. Um, so, I think that, I feel like we’ve had to forge a path on our own.
Meg: I think that you’re absolutely right, in the fact that there’s probably more couples that have this going on within their relationship, whether the, the female or the male partner or both males, both females are minor attracted in any way, because there’s so much shame around disclosing it, right? Even to somebody that’s as close to you as a partner. So I think you’re really right as far as that’s concerned, and we’ve, you know, experienced people who have decided to come out decades into their marriage and share with their partner, and it’s hard. A lot of partners don’t know where to turn for support. In forging your own path, what did you do?
Gina: Well, I think the hardest part about the situation, aside from, you know, fearing for Bruce’s safety, was learning that it really wasn’t about me. When he first told me, another, like, the egotistical part of me was insulted, because, I was like, am I not feminine enough to attract, like, a normal straight guy? Like, this like sweet golden boyfriend who has this terrible situation. Like, it was just, I just, as a female, I felt like a failure, because I like couldn’t attract like a normal, quote unquote normal, straight guy?
And so, I had to get over that really quickly. Um, and I think like, the longer I’ve been in our relationship, the more I’ve come to realize that all of Bruce’s MAP issues have zero to do with me and my sexuality or my femininity. They are 100% related to his feelings of self worth. And it also just, um, his desire to be good. And it’s really hard to be mad at someone that tries so hard to be good that they mess themselves up.
Bruce: Um, I’ve also learned from, from our relationship, the longer we’ve dated and, uh, since getting married, that the MAP side of our relationship has become less and less of an issue, and normal couple squibbles and differences have become major, uh, things. It’s, it’s fascinating, like, where I when we first starting dating, I thought this was the worst bomb in the world, that it would destroy my life and I’d never get married because of it. And in our marriage, it’s almost a footnote, like, we’re a regular married couple with regular married couple issues.
Gina: We argue over dishes, we argue about who’s gonna vacuum. It’s like, the stupidest things are the biggest problems. (laughs) Not really the biggest problems, like, they’re just like normal people problems.
Meg: And do you guys think that has something to do with the fact that you came out early on in your relationship, and this was something that was known by Gina throughout, and isn’t something new that’s come up after like a decade of marriage and a few children?
Bruce: Yeah, I don’t think I ever could’ve lived a life keeping something like this a secret. Uh, personally I am just not a good liar. It’s very obvious what I’m thinking and feeling, and I couldn’t have kept it a secret even if I’d tried. And, and I do feel like the longer you keep something this, like, this caliber a secret, the harder it is to, to talk about it, to tell a spouse about it. But I feel like there’s millions and millions of couples out there with secrets that they keep from each other. So, someone who’s attracted to minors, coming out to their spouse, shouldn’t think that it’s any more unique than someone who’s cheated on their spouse, you know, coming out to their spouse that they’ve beein doing that. Like, it’s gonna hurt no matter what the issue is. Um, so, if, if you’re committed to the relationship and you’re committed to honesty, and you, you feel like they need to know, then I hope people have the courage to, to tell, to talk about it.
Gina: I would say that with a caveat, though, like, I, I meant it when I told Bruce that I would break up with him and leave him if he was not improving. I think if a MAP is serious about coming out, they also have to be serious about the road to recovery. If he had not, like, improved as much as he did over the year and a half that we dated, um, I would’ve just left him.
Meg: What is it, tell me and our listeners, what is it that you mean by improving?
Gina: So in terms of, well, it’s kind of hard to delve into this without delving into like the roots of Bruce’s MAP disorder. I don’t even know what to call it at this point, attractions? So his attractions stemmed from, like, feelings of self worth, like low self worth, self loathing, wanted to be obedient and good, um, and then directing, almost like anorexically depriving himself with any, like, sexual feelings, except for those that he experienced when he was an adolescent. And so, if I didn’t see any like personal growth or personal development, like gain some confidence, better methods of self soothing, like when I noticed that like Bruce would tend to, they call it edging, I noticed that he would edge and whenever he felt like really bad about himself, and like to me that’s just a very immature way of dealing with your feelings, right?
Like if I feel bad about myself, I’ll go on a walk, or I’ll call my friend, I won’t do like anything stupid on the Internet, right? And so if I didn’t see improvement in that sense of like him being able to better regulate his emotions and also deal with his feelings in a healthy way, I would’ve left him. And I think that’s true of any person, like you could substitute MAP for, you know, overplaying video games, or gambling, or drinking, you know? It’s, behavior that results from a deep-seated personal need to soothe, and it’s just, the behavior needs to be directed in a positive manner instead of a negative one.
Meg: So for our listeners, Gina is talking about that psychological component of our sexual orientation or our attraction, where at times we’ve seen individuals who have some sort of an arrested development, due to a trauma or an experience at a young age. And so, because of what Bruce was able to share with you about his belief around the origins of his attractions, you are really aware of the behaviors that were stemming from that minor attraction that were actually unhealthy, such as inappropriate things on the Internet. And so if you didn’t see improvement in how he chose to cope, then you were essentially seeing him succumb to behaviors that he, you knew were going to be inappropriate or unhealthy for him.
Gina: Yeah. And also inappropriate and unhealthy for me as well. What he does impacts our relationship, and that’s why I told him, like, I will leave you if you are doing anything that threatens my future.
Meg: I, I actually think that that’s really boundried of you, to be able to say that I’m willing to work with you and accept you and love you through this, but I do wanna be clear that I’m aware that your attraction could lead to behaviors that actually could impact my future. And I, just like you said earlier, I’m not going to let you take those decisions from me. And so I’m making this decision to stay with you and to be with you and to love you and to cultivate this relationships, and I’m committed to that, and I’m also committed to non-offending, just like you say you are, an anti-contact just like you say that you are, which is beautiful.
So with that being said, outside of the boundaries that were really firmly created around how Bruce was going to regulate his emotions and the awareness of his attractions and the potential behaviors that could result from them, what were some of the boundaries and ways that you guys explored healthy and positive sexuality within your relationship?
Bruce: So this is where, uh, our religious upbringing and perspectives play a major part. We’re both raised very religious, where we don’t believe in sexual relationships before marriage. So anything that we discovered together, uh, was kind of limited in that regard, and, um, because we were so open and honest with each other about the minor-attracted issues, we were able to talk about sex and talk about what we wanted it to be like, in terms of frequencies, and um, what it meant and what turned us on, what turned us off, and we, I felt like we gained a lot of education around sexuality from taking courses and listening to speakers talk about it, to that, to the point that, I felt like we were very prepared, uh, to be married, uh, just from the education that we took, and we were able to, to do very intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually before we ever tried to implement anything physically.
Um, regarding our physical intimacy, I had a lot of barriers that I had to get over. There was times in the first few months of our dating relationships, that I did not want to kiss her, because I didn’t know, um, what it meant, and what the feelings that it created meant, um, and we had to talk about it. We had to learn about it to the point that we became comfortable kissing, and it was kind of a roller coaster. At times we would kiss, at times we wouldn’t. And figuring out what everything meant, and it got to the point that by the time we were married, I wasn’t scared of being intimate, um, we were able to have a very healthy sexual relationship since then, um, very committed to each other, very turned on by each other, um, but it felt like we had to do our homework to get to that point, and I’m glad that we did get to do that homework.
Gina: Um, I was just gonna say, I think our relationship is like, it’s like kind of what every, um, person that would like to promote, like, a consent-based culture should really endordorse. Like, for me, like, sex is really important. Like, I’m not a prude person, even though I was a virgin when we got married, but like, I’m just not afraid, I wasn’t afraid to talk about it. And so I think Bruce lucked out in a sense that he got a partner that was like really open about talking about sex and sexuality and like what everything means, and I feel like every couple, even if it’s a heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple, should have these really in-depth conversations about what all of that stuff means to them.
And I’ve just seen, you know, a lot of, most of my friends are in straight marriages, so the only examples I can think of are from their marriages, but, um, once you add sex into the mix, it’s just, even if you’re dating or married, or even if it’s just a hookup, it just makes everything complicated. And so, being able to talk about it openly, I think set the foundation for us to have a really healthy sexual relationship once we were married.
Meg: I actually think it’s amazing that you guys basically did the same thing that we would encourage any couple to do, right? Is talk to each other about how you’re feeling, talk to each other about what your sexuality means to you and what your boundaries are or what your desires are, and nothing really sounds like it was done specifically or separately because of the minor attraction. So is there anything that you think a non-exclusive MAP would need to know, or any advice that you would give to a non-exclusive MAP that is seeking a romantic relationship with a same-age peer, anything that you would say that may be different from what you just said, that actually is great advice for any couple?
Bruce: I would definitely say that you have to believe and trust that sexuality is fluid. There wouldn’t be so many sexual diversions in the world unless those diversions were created by people trying to solve some trauma that they experienced, trying to fill a void that they didn’t get from their mom and their daddy issues, there’s like so many different ways that sexuality can become weird and corrupted. And I feel like my minor attractions, who knows how much of that is biological? But I know that a lot of it was, just me being a kid, trying to figure out my emotions. And so, if my attractions could be deviated to the point of where they ended up, I had to believe that they could change and improve just as much as they, uh, degraded, and I can say that I truly am sexually attracted to my wife, Gina, and I’m very happy with how my sexual attractions have evolved.
It’s not completely cured, and I’m not sexually attracted to adult women in general, but then I’m happy only being attracted to one adult woman. (laughs) And, and I look forward to my minor attractions becoming less and less of a distraction, and less and less of an issue, to the point that it’s, it’s not an issue any more. So just to recap for people like me, who are wondering whether they should explore heterosexual relationships or adult relationships, um, if you believe that your sexuality can change, and if you’ve invested work and effort to that recovery, you’ll see yourself change, and you’ll, you’ll gain that hope that it can work.
Gina: I would just say, just go get help. Go to the people that have expertise in the field. Cause like, your average therapist probably is not going to be able to help you. That’s just the bottom line. Like, most, most people are aware of this, but they will just label, unfortunately, they’ll just label MAPs as monsters, and that’s not the truth. I think, I think that’s just unfortunate. But I would really encourage them to get help. I think I have better advice for the partners of MAPs, um, I think the best advice I could give, and this is only speaking from my experience, but it’s just to realize that it’s really not about you.
It’s not you. Like it’s definitely not you, (laughs) you have not done anything to your partner expect be there for them. And the best thing you can do is just, try to understand the situation, um, for what it is, and also be engaged in, the, your partner’s recovery, um, because I’ve learned that as Bruce improved, that our relationship is actually a really important part of him feeling supported and loved and, um, I was happy to give that support, and love, and so it just ended up working itself out.
Meg: Absolutely. I, I do just want to say for our listeners, that the way that Bruce and Gina are speaking is in no way encouraging any sort of, like, conversion therapy or conversion of, of an attraction or an orientation. It’s purely just a minor-attracted individual who wanted to be in a relationship with a peer. And I think many minor-attracted individuals can, can say, I wish I could be in a relationship with someone my age, I wish I could have that romantic relationship with, with an, with another adult, and this is an example where you guys have made that happen in a way that’s been really open and really healthy. I know you’re not looking for a cure, Bruce, but I know that in this process of exploring your sexuality and your relationship with Gina, you have noticed that the psychological burdens and the symptoms, for lack of a better word, that come from being minor attracted have decreased.
And with that being said I want to just very clearly say to our listeners that if this is something you’re interested in, this is the podcast for you. This isn’t about not accepting a MAP for who they are or not accepting an exclusive MAP that has that attraction, we do just find often that people are interested in what would it be like to have that healthy relationship with another adult. And because of that, we are actually at The Prevention Project starting a support group for partners of MAPs, whether it’s boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, who do need that support in continuing to support their MAP partner. And so I love that you’ve been on today, Gina, to really address the partners and to share your perspective and your experience. And then as always, Bruce, we’re so excited to have you back and continue to catch up and follow up with your story as well. I so appreciate you both being on our show today.
Bruce: Thank you.
Gina: Thank you.
Meg: Until next time, thank you for listening to The Prevention Podcast.
Thank you for listening to this week’s podcast. Please visit http://thepreventionproject.org to learn more about our project and programs. Please remember to subscribe to our podcast at https://thepreventionpodcast.com or iTunes. See you next time!