LGBTQ+ Relationships: Same, but Different
Not surprisingly, same sex couples struggle with the same challenges we all face on the path to love and being in relationship. Communication difficulties, sexual intimacy, financial problems, conflict over shared household tasks and responsibilities, differences in parenting styles, and extended family relationship conflicts and expectations.
Positive, healthy and fulfilling relationships form the basis for a happy life. Most of us consider our intimate relationships with our partners to be integral to our sense of fulfilment, contentment and wellbeing.
A committed, loving and stable relationship provides us with a deep source of satisfaction and happiness as well as being at times the source of frustration, anger, hurt and disappointment.
In some instances, same sex couples may also be grappling with the additional pressures of societal attitudes, issues around identity and coming out, a lack of support from family, and loneliness and isolation.
How can we maintain a good relationship?
Problems can occur at any stage in a relationship and may result from poor communication, difficulties with sexual intimacy, jealousy and a lack of trust, or infidelity and commitment issues. Our relationship may be affected by anger or domestic violence, substance misuse or an addiction to pornography. We may be under financial pressure or struggle with conflict over shared responsibilities. We may be disconnected from or rejected by our family, or be going through a major life transition including a career change or the loss of an important family member.
What can we do when our relationship is in trouble?
When your relationship is in crisis you may not feel connected to your partner even when you aren’t arguing. The friendship between you may feel flat or nonexistent and discussions about your differences may degenerate quickly into arguments and stand offs.
Sometimes it is difficult to see how our entrenched patterns of behaviour can be altered and how we can develop skills to improve our relationship and to connect with our partner.
Dr’s John and Julie Gottman have been studying relationships for more than forty years and have identified four qualities they believe are the most destructive of relationships and that predict whether a relationship will succeed or fail. They call these behaviours “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”.
- Criticism – using words like ‘you always’, ‘you never’, repeated criticism
- Defensiveness – complaining, using excuses, arguing, seeing complaints as an attack, launching counter attacks
- Contempt – insulting, rolling eyes, sneering, talking down, putting the other down, sarcasm
- Stonewalling – withdrawing, going silent, escaping, ignoring
If you recognise that you and your partner use these styles of relating at times, learning new relating skills can greatly improve the quality and strength of your relationship.
The Seven Principles for Making Relationships Work
1. Enhance Your Love Maps
A love map is the part of your brain where you store all of the relevant information about your partner’s life. Being familiar with the details of each other’s world, remembering the major events in each other’s history, keeping up to date as the facts and feelings of your partner’s world changes and knowing each other’s goals, worries and hopes in life will strengthen the friendship and love that is at the heart of a relationship.
2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
This is one of the most critical elements in a rewarding and long-lasting relationship. It involves feeling that your partner is still worthy of appreciation and respect in spite of their flaws. Attending to the positive rather than the negative aspects of your relationship’s history makes it more likely that your future together will be happy.
3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away
When a partner is looking for your attention, affection, humour or support, being there and attending to them is the basis of emotional connection. Turn toward each other with goodwill in little ways every day.
4. Let Your Partner Influence You
The happiest relationships are those where one partner is able to convey honour and respect for the other and is willing to share power and decision making – to work together as a team where each partner is considering the other’s perspective and feelings. Search for common ground rather than insisting on your way.
5. Solve Your Solvable Problems
Resolving conflict involves five steps: soften your startup (no criticism or contempt), learn to make and receive repair attempts to reduce tension, soothe yourself and each other when things get heated, compromise and be tolerant of each other’s faults. Some suggested practices include:
- Don’t blame
- Make statements that start with “I” instead of “You.”
- Describe what is happening, don’t evaluate or judge
- Be clear, polite and appreciative
- Don’t store things up
6. Overcome Gridlock
Ending a stalemate doesn’t mean solving the problem, but rather moving from gridlock to dialogue. Some steps are:
- Learn to uncover your partner’s dreams and how they are unfulfilled
- Understand why each of you feels so strongly about where you are stuck
- Soothe each other to avoid feeling overwhelmed
- End the standoff by making peace with the issue, accepting the differences between you, talking without hurting each other and being able to compromise
7. Create Shared Meaning
See if you can agree on the fundamentals in life. Create an atmosphere where you can speak candidly and respectfully about your values and dreams. Accept and respect that you each may have some dreams that the other doesn’t share.
Couples counselling can assist you to gain insight into your present difficulties and provide you with the tools to regain and maintain a positive, healthy and fulfilling relationship.
Individual relationship counselling can also be of benefit if you wish to privately discuss issues that are affecting your relationship or it may be that you want to discuss your difficulties in finding a partner, and beginning and maintaining a relationship.
About Our Centre
Our Psychologists, Counsellors and Psychotherapists specialise in Same Sex Couples Counselling and offer a broad range of services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex, Transgender and Gender Diverse adults and young people in our community.
If you are concerned about your relationship, would like further information about our services or would like to make an appointment please email [email protected], complete the contact form below or telephone (08) 9278 6578.
Due to the high volume of enquiries to the Centre, an email enquiry will ensure you receive the most timely response. All enquiries will be responded to during business hours on the day of your enquiry.