It’s going to come as no great surprise to many of us that the secret to making a gay relationship work is the same as for any other relationship, whether that be with people at work, family, or our partners: we have to learn how to communicate in a positive way.
Gay couples face some different challenges, though. The gay community can sometimes seem to place a premium on sexual contact, perhaps over and above emotional intimacy.
Whether real or imagined, this can contribute to any feelings of loneliness we might already have from living in a largely hetero world. There may also be a sense of pressure to be perfect, as if our relationship has to hold off the negative stereotypes from middle America.
In addition, dealing with families, whether approving of our lives or not, can add fuel to the fire. Add that to the mix of any two people trying to live together for an extended period of time, and it can make for some intense arguments. After the initial honeymoon phase has worn off (and it does with every relationship), we are faced with the real challenge of achieving a healthy and happy relationship.
We may have tried to shore up our emotional needs through sex, perhaps even by being in an open relationship. However, we need real emotional intimacy in order to sustain us. And, as we all know, sex is not intimacy.
We can think of intimacy as “the ability for two people to share with each other exactly how they feel in the current moment without fear of rejection or criticism by the other; and without the listening person feeling either that they did something wrong, that they are being asked to change, or that they need to rescue the speaker from their suffering.” [Source: http://www.gaymendenver.com/intimacy-in-gay-relationships/]
Intimacy comes back to being heard, and being respected as a person.
Some Great Ways That We Can Bring Back Emotional Intimacy:
When speaking of your feelings, use sentences that start with “I”. For instance: “I feel hurt when you don’t text me back immediately. I feel like you are avoiding me.”
Then, the listener repeats what they’ve heard in active listening: “I understand that you feel hurt when I don’t respond back to your texts right away, and you feel like I’m avoiding you.
Have I understood that correctly, and is there anything that I’ve missed?” It is only then that a solution can be discussed, after both parties have expressed how they are feeling. For example, in this case, perhaps either email or a voice mail could be used instead.
Ensure That We Are Not Placing The Burden Of Our Happiness On The Other Person
While another person can be a wonderful complement to our own lives, being in a committed relationship does not define our happiness. Our personal needs and growth stem from our own minds, and not those of another’s.
We still need to take time for ourselves, even in a relationship, to make sure that we have time for reflection and contemplation of our lives.
This personal time is critical in any relationship, but perhaps especially so with the social lives of many gay couples; we seem to have more interconnected friend circles, and less of just “his and his” friends.
As the saying goes, we can only refill another’s cup when ours is running over.
Celebrate Our Differences
We don’t need to be bound to traditional roles. This can really make us more free within our relationship, and we can give our partners (and ourselves) the ability to change things that aren’t working.
As Psychotherapist Brian L. Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach says, “A real advantage of gay relationships is the ability to be flexible with life roles and not to have to ascribe to traditional sex role stereotypes commonly held in heterosexual relationships.
Negotiate such roles and tasks openly and freely with your partner, acknowledging areas of strength and talent in this decision-making.”
Talk It Out With A Professional
As with any relationship, when things are not going as smoothly, the advice is not to simply bail out. Instead, working through problems in a safe and caring environment for both parties is always recommended, especially if there are concerns over lifestyle and sexual differences.
A trained therapist will help not only on communication skills with each other, but also find ways to help us both look at our thoughts in a different light.
One of cognitive behavioral therapy’s major tenants is teaching an optimistic outlook for events in our lives, but with our partners and without.
At Nassau Guidance, we look at each person as an individual and each couple as unique, and work with you to find the emotional guidance needed for a committed and caring relationship.