Q. Our fraternal twins have been self-identified as being gay. My husband and I accept them as they are and we have a happy family. As they are approaching middle-teen years, however, and are dating and developing teen-age crushes, a problem has arisen. Both tell us: “You don’t understand what it feels like to be in love (or dumped by someone you really like), because you are straight, not gay.” What do I tell them?

A. Here are some suggestions that I have used successfully.   

  • Romantic attraction, sexual attraction, and genuine love (if it turns into that) are similar in the brain reward system regardless of whether a brain is straight, gay, transgender, etc.
  • Orgasm in a male is equivalent to a shot of heroin (there is no equivalent to that in a female brain)—so if you are sexually active, it can be easy for a male to become addicted to orgasms.
  • You cannot make another person love you—that’s always personal choice. You can love someone very much and they many never return that love. You don’t like or love everyone and neither does anyone else.
  • When your brain is not yet developed or matured, it can be easy to perceive you love someone and want to be with them—and in a nanosecond that can change. It’s the here today, gone tomorrow type thing. So when an incomplete brain decides it loves a person and that individual does not reciprocate, it can be devastating. That’s partly because many neuron pathways are not completely paved. Neuronal axons that form the corpus callosum, the largest of several bridges that connect the left and right hemispheres, are not wrapped with insulating myelin until age 20-21 (think fiber optics). The prefrontal cortex is not completely developed until mid- to late-twenties.)
  • Remember that unless you did something really egregious, it is not about you—it is about what the other brain is doing. If you really love the other person you must give them the freedom to love you or not love you, because genuine love is never about power, control, or coercion.
  • Feelings always follow thoughts, to the extent that you tell yourself “poor me, I love the person and they are rejecting me,” you will potentiate the pain. Yes, rejection and unreturned love hurts and you will need to grieve the loss. When you change the way you talk to yourself, feelings follow. Say, “(name), you are worthy of love and you are lovable. You accept that _______ (name) feels differently. That’s free choice. You accept that and move on.”
  • Finally, I often tell young people to do things in groups. Get to know many people. Gradually compile a list of key characteristics that you want in a dating and marriage partner. Now, develop those skills in yourself. Water, like attraction, tends to seek its own level. As you become the person you want to love, you will be more attractive to and attracted by individuals who are also developing those characteristics.