Are you feeling lonely in your relationship as a result of a fading connection? Has intimacy and romance gone out of the window? Perhaps you no longer enjoy spending time with your partner and feel happier alone? Or have you lost the excitement of dating your partner? Well, you might be having problems in your relationship.
If you’re thinking of ways to save your relationship, maybe it’s time to focus on gay couples therapy. So, what is gay therapy? And why is it important? Let’s explore together.
What Issues Do Gay Couples Face?
Gay and lesbian couples share common challenges as straight couples. However, homosexuality is stigmatized in many societies, bringing a unique set of challenges for LGBTQ couples. Here are some of the issues gay relationships face that call for gay couples therapy.
Traditional gender roles base their arguments on the understanding of same-sex relationships. The assumptions are that the masculine spouse represents domination, wealth, competition, and independence.
On the other hand, femininity implies dependence, submission, and commitment to the relationship. Instead, gay couples rely on task-sharing and flexibility. Problem sets in when one partner assumes the masculine role and the other feels compelled to take the feminine role even if they aren’t comfortable with the assignation.
Stage discrepancy causes problems between gay and lesbian couples. In most cases, partners start relationships before completing personal identity growth. During this period, partners undergo sexual identity while navigating the relationship challenges of a new relationship.
As a result, issues of disloyalty and betrayal set in.
Marriages, regardless of sexual orientation, share a common struggle, communication. Particularly, gay and lesbian relationships that practice open relationships suffer the most. Open relationships require negotiations and openness. When there is a communication breakdown, the aggrieved party may feel betrayed, cheated on, and shamed.
What Is The Best Therapy For Gay and Lesbian Couples?
When choosing the best therapy to address gay couples’ concerns, therapists must consider the couple’s unique needs. First, a therapist should consider the driving factors that push couples to seek advice.
Research indicates that better communication, solving personal problems, and the desire to complement and commit to each other are goals in any gay/lesbian relationship.
However, a therapist should be aware of sexual identity issues in gay men and lesbians that result in relationship distress. Most gay couples are vulnerable to discrimination and stigma from friends and family.
Additionally, gay and lesbian relationships suffer from internalized shame and guilt. As a result, they limit emotional intimacy and live with uncertainty about their rights to lesbian and gay marriage.
Therefore, LGBT therapists should be aware of the struggles of same-sex relationships and should develop strategies to address the conflicts.
What Is Gottman Couples Therapy?
The Gottman Method is a therapeutic approach based on the Sound Relationship House Theory. The theory helps couples assess the relationship and help individual partners focus on their problems using research-based interventions.
In addition, Gottman Method focuses on improving verbal communication and removing barriers to conflict resolution. Also, the method increases intimacy, affection, empathy, compassion, and respect among partners.
Gottman Method takes a personalized approach for each couple. From the beginning, the therapist guides couples through individual and conjoint counseling sessions and exercises.
What Happens During The First Gottman Couple Session?
The initial session comprises of three processes, namely:
- Assessment– the therapist conducts joint and individual interviews with the couple. At this point, the couple fills questionnaires. The aim is for the therapist to gauge their relationship.
- Therapeutic framework– the therapist, together with the couple, discusses the session frequency and duration.
- Therapeutic intervention– this process focuses on three areas, namely, the creation of shared meaning, conflict management, and friendship. The therapist helps the couples talk about their challenges and replace negative conflict behaviors with positive interactions.
Which Issues Does Gottman’s Theory Commonly Address?
The Gottman Method separates problems into resolved and perpetual issues. The method focuses on addressing ongoing issues. These are problems that couples always face but are manageable through counseling.
Some of the common problems addressed include;
- Sex life problems
- Frequent conflicts
- Poor communication
- Money and parenting problems
- Emotional challenges
Partners in a strong relationship can also apply Gottman Method Couples therapy. They can use the approach in understanding each other, increase intimacy and build a strong emotional tie.
Can Couples Therapy Make Things Worse?
Yes. Couple therapy can make things move from bad to worse if the process is not handled well. A therapist is like a driver. They guide you as a couple on how to overcome challenges and save your marriage.
But what can happen if the driver has little or no training? You are bound to hit a rock.
While family therapists and counselors can offer couples counseling, they may lack specialized training in dealing with LGBTQ couples’ issues.
Imagine a scenario where intimate aspects like sex are discussed during a gay or lesbian counseling session. Can a counselor or a gay life coach intervene and provide useful insight? Chances are an untrained counselor may escalate the feelings of guilt and shame if they react negatively. The bottom line is to look for trained, experienced, and licensed therapists who understand gay relationships.
How Do I Find The Best Therapist For Gay Couples Counseling?
When choosing a therapist, it is vital to choose one who has undergone intense LGBTQ training. Trained expertise understands issues affecting LGBTQ couples and helps them recapture their passion for each other.
Also, additional training on same-sex couples is a plus as the therapist understands LGBTQ needs and offers support. Moreover, it’s more comfortable talking about LGBTQ and LGBT relationships with a therapist who understands your struggles and concerns.
Note, talking about relationship issues enables LGBT couples to open up and discuss the most personal problems affecting them as a couple. In return, they build a long-lasting and healthy relationship.
Another critical criterion when looking for gay couple counseling is the therapist’s experience. A therapist who has spent years offering couples therapy must have learned the art of being fair to both partners during a session.
For example, they know how to avoid getting caught up in emotional conflict and not take sides. Your ideal counselor should have a license in mental health care. If the therapist is Gottman trained, they should provide proof of certification. Their therapeutic and communication skills should be in check.
Moreover, you and your partner should seek the services of a family therapist who fits the criteria when children and marriage are part of the equation.
Which Questions Should I Ask A Potential Therapist?
Before settling on a therapist, you and your partner should know the person better. Here are some questions you may ask.
- How long have you been practicing?
- Are you a licensed therapist?
- Do you have experience dealing with gay men/ lesbians?
- What treatment options do you apply? What are their success rates?
- Are you a certified Gottman therapist?
- Do you accept our insurance plan? What other payment options do you have?
- How many couples have you helped? And did their relationships blossom again?
- Do you have referrals from previous clients?
What Percentage Of Gay Couples Attend Therapy?
In the past, gay men and lesbians have undergone stigma, sexual prejudice, victimization, and discrimination due to their sexual orientation. As a result, these people have been battling mental health issues silently.
Fortunately, the sensitization drive on sexual diversity across the globe is yielding results. In the recent past, LGBTQ people could not access specialized LGBTQ counseling. Today, the number of qualified LGBTQ therapists is on the rise.
The rising numbers show that same-sex partners are at the forefront of saving their gay and lesbian relationships just like opposite-sex couples. Research indicates that one in every four gay couples seek couples counseling.
Conflict resolution approaches largely dictate the direction relationships take and their survival rates. Research shows a strong association between conflict response and relationship dissatisfaction and dissolution of marriages.
Studies conducted indicate that same-sex couples experience sensitivity when it comes to power-sharing as compared to straight couples. As a result, gay men and lesbian couples control emotions better and stick to fairness.
Moreover, gay couples react calmly to positive criticism with minimal emotional hurt compared to opposite-sex couples. LGBTQ couples have less relational fear and calm faster with humor and affection. During a complaint and when seeking change, they do not react in anger compared to their counterparts.
Therefore, gay couples show positivity and remain calmer during the conflict. They also have a soothing skill during a heated argument making their conflict management exceptional.
The Bottom Line
Being a gay couple is tough enough due to social discrimination and stigma. Navigating through and dealing with relationship issues is even more challenging. But do not despair; marriage can be challenging for people across sexual orientations or tribes.
In the meantime, do not throw in the towel before exhausting all means available. But remember, you need to walk the reconciliation journey as a couple. If one partner is left behind, the marriage is as good as dead. Yes, that is the sad truth.
So, think of gay couple therapy as your first step to rekindling the love and passion in your marriage. You will be amazed at how easy you will navigate through situations you thought were beyond your means.But, always know that not all marriages can be salvaged even when children are in the equation. Love yourself first and quit if your happiness and peace of mind are at stake.