Counselling for Same Sex Relationships
Infidelity, intimacy or sexual concerns, difficulty in communicating, relationships with family or children, pressures from work and family, financial concerns – same gender couples experience most of the same relationship issues as heterosexual couples.
However, there can be added burdens caused by the difficulty of maintaining a strong relationship within a society that is rejecting or hostile.
Some of the many areas which can cause problems include:
- monogamy and open relationships
- affairs and betrayals
- drug and alcohol problems
- marriage and parenting
- independence and interdependency
- understanding what arguments are trying to achieve
- dealing with issues concerning intimacy and sex and learning the differences between them
- building skills that can help you stay together over a lifetime
Then there are the many other issues connected with being in a same-sex couple in world that is often homophobic. As well as the effects of open or institutionalised homophobia in society, many gay couples experience great stress when everyday supports are missing from their lives; these might include familial, religious, economic, or social support. Lacking such supports combined with the stress of living as members of a minority, can all put pressure on the relationship. Interrelated issues include:
- The effects of internalised homophobia from your background or upbringing. This may include unacknowledged feelings of shame or ingrained messages that you are not normal.
- The issues concerning having children via adoption or artificial insemination.
- Getting clear about your roles in the relationship, boundaries and commitment. This may include looking at the differences between same-sex and heterosexual relationships.
- Coming out to friends, family and at work.
- Coping with homophobia from friends, family, or society as a whole.
- Feelings of isolation which may surface, or the lack of a sense of community to support you
How Relationship Counselling Helps Same-Sex Couples
Despite advances in equality, heterosexism still plays a big part in our society. Your first question in looking for a counsellor may be, ‘Will this counsellor understand me? Will this counsellor accept that my relationship is normal?’
Our counsellors at All Relationship Matters are experienced in seeing same-sex couples. They understand your challenges and will meet you with the same acceptance and non-judgement as they do all their clients. Even then they won’t see you as a type: they will work hard to understand how you see the world and how you experience your relationship.
In the first instance, relationship counselling for gay couples gives you a safe, non-judgemental and supportive environment in which to explore your relationship, its patterns and dynamics and to express how you feel. Counselling where a couple works with an un-biased counsellor opens up channels of communication between you, encourages honesty, creates greater understanding, brings a feeling of really being heard and fosters deepening intimacy.
You can also look at how your sexuality, and the ways you learnt to accept it and be gay, now influence your relationship. In same-sex relationships having the same gender can help couples have a high level of initial rapport and understanding and to connect and merge deeply with each other. Also, years hiding their sexuality or believing they must be alone, perhaps forever, can all add to the emotional intensity of at last finding someone. The early stage of the relationship can be a wonderful high.
However, when this initial phase ends and the early passion between you either lessens or alters, there can be an equally strong feeling of disillusionment, coupled with deeper feelings of panic and fear that things won’t work out or that you may end up on your own. In addition, each partner may have done different amounts of coming to terms with their sexuality. How open and expressive one partner is of their sexuality may be in conflict with that of their partner.
Or there may be difficulties with being close, with one partner longing for the safety of closeness and feeling held and recognised and the other finding closeness suffocating. This may be particularly so if closeness brings back memories of the years in the closet, when closeness came at the price of having to hide, pretend or being rejected by others.
On top of this there may be all kinds of more general difficulties you may be facing, such as one partner wanting more independence and the other seeing this as uncaring or feeling abandoned. One partner may want to talk and express themselves even when this leads to conflict, and the other may find conflict highly distressing and seek to pacify or placate, wanting harmony at all times.
Relationship Counselling helps you acknowledge the truth of what is really happening for you both. You can then look at causes and influences now and in the past and the resulting painful emotions which lie unhealed beneath the surface of relationship problems. Counselling also brings in a broader perspective, where you can get clear about the effects of historical and present prejudice, and the influence they have on how you relate to each other. Through counselling, old feelings of alienation, isolation, or fear, can be acknowledged and lessened or contained, and new ways of meeting these challenges together can be discovered.
At ARM, we utilise a highly effective, well research and evidence based Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) when working with couples.
Strengths of Emotion Focused Therapy:
- EFT is one of two most well-substantiated therapies validated by over 20 years of empirical research. It shows 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements.
- It is an effective therapy for couples with sexual abuse histories, depression, grief, management of chronic illness, eating disorders, and PTSD.
- EFT is equally effective across cultures, with same-sex couples and with educated or less educated couples.
- EFT is brief therapy between 8-12 sessions, depending on couple history and length of relationship.
- Clients report that five things happened in therapy that made things better for them:
- One partner expressed underlying feelings, and the other changing their perceptions of the partner after hearing this
- Learning to understand underlying emotions
- Learning to productively express emotional needs
- Taking responsibility for emotional needs
- Receiving validation for one’s needs
For more information on EFT, please see Emotion Focused Therapy.
At ARM we see couples that are struggling or fighting in their adult love relationships as they attempt to stay connected to each other. Unfortunately, this sometimes drives them further apart. If this is you, call us to have a chat on how we can help you to stop the struggle and find out what’s really going on. We can help you to be closer to each other and love in a way that neither rejects or attack.