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LGBTQIA+ Parade

6 Tips To Handle Gay Codependence

Communicating healthily and efficiently is a task that stumps many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community. Even the best queer or trans relationships get caught arguing in the weeds or even arguing about how they argue. Tough conversations are usually designed to articulate our needs or advocate for much needed change, but anger turns a genuine plea into major criticisms. 

To make matters even worse, the anger we experience results from being in ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ mode where our rational brain (prefrontal cortex) and language centers (Broca and Wernicke’s areas) are impaired. As a result, we will use exaggerations and dramatic language—that teeters on false claims—to pepper our argument, all the while suffering to fully comprehend what our partner(s) is/are trying to communicate. We hyper-focus on making sure our version of truth wins, leaving us incapable of listening, demonstrating empathy, and seriously considering any resolution. As a result, we’ll feel even more disconnected, unheard, invisible, or hopeless when our communication falters. 

You might need to practice new communication skills with your partner(s) if you notice any of the following: 

  • You have repeating arguments
  • Arguments are slowly dissolved but not resolved
  • It feels unsafe to be vulnerable
  • You end up feeling more rejected than heard and more isolated than connected

Good communication will inspire emotional connection and strike upon resolutions. It will give you the ability to experience vulnerability as safety and see that differing opinions are the raw materials that create teamwork. 

Think of it this way: Arguments—underneath it all—are requests to be heard, to be soothed, to feel important. Poor communication takes these innocent requests and turns them into criticisms that deny you the very thing you’re seeking. 

To get what you want—resolution, change, understanding, connection—don’t focus on what ‘they are doing wrong.’ Focus on what you feel and own the feeling. Remember, you are in charge of how you feel. Here’s my dramatic example: If someone lies to me, I can ask why they lied, I can lash out with anger, I can shut down and give them the silent treatment, or I can respond with grace and compassion. I need to own my feelings and choose a mature response. Doing so allows me to articulate my needs in a way that protects my partner from my immaturity. It might sound something like this: 

“I told myself that you don’t respect me. And when I made that interpretation of your behavior, I felt invisible, like you don’t care about me.”

Tip #1: protect your relationship from your anger 

Tip #2: preserve your requests instead of shifting focus to the ‘who did what’ debate

Acting like a springboard for your conversations, statements like the one above can prime your partner’s understanding and curiosity, allowing them to self-assess, instead of self-protect. 

Tip #3: don’t blame with data of what the’ve done

Blaming will do nothing but force your partner(s) to defend themselves. When blamed for something big or small, your partner(s) will most likely search for data that proves their innocence or find examples that incriminate you, too. Instead of spinning your wheels in the ‘I’m right, your wrong’ mud pit, create the safety for both of you to take responsibility. 

Tip #4: your interpretation might be wrong, and their actions might be hurtful

If we are not safe enough to admit we are wrong, we won’t admit we are wrong, period. Create the safety that nurtures humility. If you can easily and peacefully say, “I’m wrong,” you have co-create a relational safety that produces attachment repairs and allows them to form quite easily. 

Tip #5: relational safety produces emotional humility

When we have a relational safety net beneath us, we don’t freak out when we make mistakes and fall from innocence. We trust that the net will catch the lightest and heavy-hitting mistakes we make. That safety net allows us to fall without argumentation, but with a humility that can easily say, “Thank you for loving me even when I royally mess up. I like that I am safe enough to be perfectly imperfect in front of you.” 

Tip #6: When we are safe and humble we can also be empathetic

As we experience an incredible type of loving forgiveness, we are also more capable of demonstrating it, or extending it to others. You and your partner(s) will eventually grow to know how good it feels to be loved even amidst mistakes, AND you’ll offer it to one another. 

Final Thoughts

Overtime, you’ll look back to realize that you no longer need to debate or argue, but that you are safe enough to be honest- when you make a mistake, when you need to ask for change, and when you crave something more satisfying. The best part of this new dynamic is that you are safe enough to ask for what you need and safe enough to admit—very peacefully—when you are wrong. 

Efficient communication isn’t something we learned in the closet and most of us in the LGBTQIA+ community didn’t experience healthy versions of communication in our relationships after coming out. Queer and trans people face different challenges that require different solutions. Good communication for trans and queer people will help undo all of those feelings of being too different or too isolated and create new sensation, like being connected, feeling belonging, and experiencing the safety we’ve wanted for a long time. Healthy communication is your ticket to a peaceful and fulfilling relational life. 

Good communication takes practice and we’re here to help get you started. It’s our goal to help you create the love lives and relationships you crave.

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dating apps - LGBTQIA+

Lonely, curious, excited, and starving for connection. I felt all of these emotions in major waves as I unpacked my brand new set of sheets in my first apartment. I was 26 and Grindr hadn’t even turned 1 years-old yet. 

The app seemed like a promise, like I would find the man who would finally put an end to my isolated nights, my empty calendar, and my emotional angst. I wondered if those new sheets would ever swaddle someone other than me. So night after night, I would practice taking the perfect pictures that could convince someone to want me. Of course, it didn’t take long for my love journey to get lost in the sauce. I became more occupied with getting someone to want me than I was focused on finding someone interested in creating long-lasting love with me. 

One of my friends thought his compulsions were not tied to a Grindr addiction, but more related to an affirmation addiction. Although that may be the case, I think it goes a bit deeper than just seeking affirmation. 

As I observe our interactions with Grindr and other hook-up apps, I’ve noticed that we actually have a low sense of relational value. Valuelessness isn’t only a default setting in our bodies after all those years hiding in the closet, it can also be the bedrock for our identity. Learn more about Relationtips for Dynamic Couples

There is one important factor to consider with valuelessness: We don’t know we are valuable enough to ask for what we need and want. As a result, we provoke others into soothing us and we call our provocations Negative Control

Whether it be a sex addiction, a value hunt, or Negative control, here are 7 questions to consider: 

1. What role does sex play in my life? Starting at square one, consider what role you want sex to play in your life. For many, sex is just as much emotionally bonding as it is physically pleasurable. And for others, sex is simply pleasurable and playful. But for now, is sex used as a provocation to feel worthy or is it originating from a source that feels authentic? 

2.  Is it even about the sex or is it about getting confirmation? When negative control is at play, our pictures, our quippy or steamy messages, and our personalities will be used to convince someone into sleeping with us. In this context, sex isn’t about bonding or even about play. It has become the sign that we are valuable. The “I provoke you into soothing me” loop is complete when they finally agree to hookup. 

3. What are you soothing? Oftentimes, I tell my clients that when we came out of the closet we didn’t bring our desires with us. It might be true that becoming aware of your desires might be a good step in assessing your relationship with Grindr. Is the hookup designed to give you a sense of belonging, connection, thrill, desirability, dominance, or being known? Sex can be a powerful source of all these great emotional experiences, so it’s no wonder we want it so badly. But when we know what desire–like a bond-dry bucket designed for fulfillment–need filling, we have more control in how we top it off. 

4. Is vulnerability challenging? Because we have spent so many years hiding our desires–or our preferences–from others, vulnerability often leaves us feeling scared or awkward. If showing your desires to others is difficult, it will be even easier to provoke someone into soothing you on the invisible and subconscious level where emotional satisfaction resides. 

5. Do I have safe and trustworthy people? Sharing your desires and allowing others to fulfill them can be a serious life-changing force, a true game-changer. Identifying safe and trustworthy people is an imperative. Avoid practicing the new skill of vulnerability with someone who might take advantage of your honesty or disrespect it. The safe and trustworthy will not only leave you feeling cherished, but also soothed in an emotionally fortifying way. 

6. What will actually fill up my emotional buckets? Because sex can be a powerful source of value (and all the emotional desires that contribute to it), it is hard to get the same level of satisfaction. So let’s be real, taking up running will not do the trick. This isn’t about finding things that can occupy your attention. It’s about finding the deep relationships, the meaningful projects, and the restorative practices that leave you fulfilled, purposeful, and connected. And remember sex isn’t the bad guy, negative control is. 

7. Can I find my value and use Positive Control? When we know we are valuable we are confident to ask for the things we need and want. In such circumstances, we are confident to ask for connection, belonging, pleasure, and thrill- we don’t have to provoke others into giving it to us. Positive control allows you to show up fully aware of what you desire (in relationships or out of sex) and you get to connect with others, as opposed to using them. 

You and your sex life deserve to be wildly fulfilling, but it might require that you connect back to your value and your desires. Don’t rely on the flimsy connections based on provocations, short-term agents like pics and DMs, and polished personalities. Doing so will only leave you hunting for the next whoosh of gratification in ways that feel compulsive or addictive. From the get-go, give your connections a chance to thrive by showing up confident in your value and fully aware of your desires. Learn more about addiction counseling at iAmClinic!

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2 girls

Contents

Jump To:

1. Intro

2. What is comprehensive sex ed?

3. The state of sex ed in America

1. Intro

Sex education can seem awkward and even intimidating as a subject to broach with your loved one, especially if they are exploring their identity within the LGBTQIA+ communities. However, comprehensive sex education can promote and facilitate safe and responsible sexual behavior in teens and adults via deconstruction of taboos and centering healthy communication habits. So, if comprehensive sex ed really is so helpful, why aren’t more American schools adopting it as a standard for their health classes?

2. What is comprehensive sex ed?

Sex education can be categorized into two schools of thought: the “comprehensive” model and the “abstinence” model. Let’s start by describing the “abstinence” model. There are actually two models of sex education that prioritize abstinence in modern sex ed: “abstinence-only” and “abstinence-plus.” These models are virtually the same in every aspect except for one: where “abstinence-only” prioritizes that abstinence is the only acceptable standard of sexual behavior for teens until they reach adulthood (sometimes even until marriage), “abstinence-plus” education also includes information on protection such as condoms and birth control. However, “abstinence-plus” education focuses on the flaws of these protection methods, yet still champions abstinence as the fool-proof way to not contract an STI or get pregnant.
On the flipside, “comprehensive” sex education provides medically accurate, appropriate information on sex to teens, as well as advice on safety beyond simply choosing not to have sex. Planned Parenthood describes several key topics discussed in comprehensive sex ed as: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture. Compared to the abstinence model, comprehensive sex ed provides information on a wider variety of topics, allows for a broader dialogue on a range of issues, and even works to reduce the stigma surrounding sex by simply talking about it in an honest, mature way.

3. The state of sex ed in America

Currently, only 24 states, plus the District of Columbia, even mandate that sex education be taught in schools. 37 states require that abstinence is included in sex education, and 26 of those states require that abstinence must be prioritized above all other safety methods. Only 18 states require that information about birth control be shared with students. Only 10 states mandate discussions about LGBTQIA+ relationships and gender diversity, and 6 states outright ban the subject. Let’s move away from the dire-sounding numbers for a moment. The reality is, most sex education policies for public school systems are decided by state legislators, and vary widely depending on where you live. Often, they favor the abstinence model, and private schools favor the comprehensive model, but even then, there is no guarantee of the quality of sex education that children receive while they are in school. This is just the tip of the iceberg, given that the second most prevalent source of sex education for young people is most often found in churches, where shame and “purity” culture is enforced en masse. 

Check back in next week for part 2 of this blog, where I detail the state of queer representation in pop culture, adolescent sexuality and identity, and how this all ties together in favor of comprehensive sex education!

References: 

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Contents

This post is a continuation from a previous blog, read part 1 here!

Jump To:

1. Queer representation: the good, the bad, the ugly

2. Adolescent sexuality and empowerment

3. How can comprehensive sex ed protect and empower LGBTQIA+ youth?

1. Queer representation: the good, the bad, the ugly

So, how does queer representation factor into all of this? In recent years, television shows aimed at children, such as “Steven Universe,” “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” and “The Owl House,” have included more LGBTQIA+ representation. Shows and films aimed at adults, including the recent and acclaimed “Our Flag Means Death,” have followed the same trend. Though we are seeing an advent in LGBTQIA+ representation in our media, something that has proven to have positive mental health outcomes for those that identify within the population being represented, there is still a lot of space to grow.

There are several harmful stereotypes that pervade queer representation in media and pop culture. For instance, the “flamboyant gay best friend” trope was the primary form of LGBTQIA+ representation outside of cult queer films, in which the only gay character in a given piece of media would be portrayed in an exaggerated, comical fashion. Some common messaging in popular media takes a more sinister turn. Take the “bury your gays” trope- an astounding array of films featuring queer couples end with one or both of them dying. This issue has become so pervasive in media that many queer spaces have actively collected the names of films that stray away from this trend in order to promote media that centers queer joy, rather than queer trauma. Finally, there is the villanization of sexual and gender nonconformity in many popular pieces of media, from HIM of “The Powerpuff Girls” to King Xerxes of “300.”

What’s the problem with these stereotypes? Am I saying that you can’t have a cool gay villain or you can’t tell an evocative story that involves a gay couple where one of them dies? No, of course not. The issue with the trends listed above is that oftentimes they’re the only stories that get told. Often, the first words out of my mouth when someone recommends me a queer film are, “do they die in the end?” The line between tokenism and representation is defined by the sensitivity and the diversity of stories being told. For every gay villain, tell the story of two gay heroes. And when we do so, we must do the research necessary to tell the story faithfully, and to avoid falling into those harmful stereotypes. There’s more than one way to embody queerness, and representation lends depth to that reality.

2. Adolescent sexuality and empowerment

Let’s take a moment to talk about teen development. Other than the miasma of hormonal soup that most adults probably remember none-too-fondly, adolescence is often the period at which identity development really kicks off. Most teenagers acquire and explore their preferences in friends, activities, and romantic partners during this time. That exploration often includes sexuality- the average age for first sexual engagement in the US is 16.8 for male-identifying individuals and 17.2 for female-identifying individuals. Many teens even report that they first have sex before they feel ready to do so. It’s clear that teenagers are capable of making such serious decisions as choosing a sexual partner, yet they are often treated as if they’re still too young or immature. This results in important knowledge being kept from them, disempowering them to make informed decisions, which may lead to more risky behavior.

3. How can comprehensive sex ed protect and empower LGBTQIA+ youth?

At this point you may be wondering, “what does all this have to do with sex ed and queer youth?” Consider the data that states that abstinence-only sex education does extremely little to deter teenagers from actually having sex. In fact, the abstinence model has been linked to higher rates of sexual assault and risky sexual behavior in some studies. Contrast this with comprehensive sex education, which provides information not only on safe sex practices, good communication, and different relationship dynamics, but also on a wider variety of sexual and gender identities.

Given that seeing oneself represented in various facets of life, as with queer representation in media, can be tracked to better mental health outcomes, it can be assumed that acquiring information specific to queerness will not only benefit queer youth, but help reduce the stigma of their cisgender heterosexual peers by teaching that queerness is not only normal, but something to be actively integrated into social systems. Therefore, promoting comprehensive sex ed and acknowledgement of queerness in an informed and mindful way can empower LGBTQIA+ youth to seek out and acquire information that helps them stay safe.

So, if you have a loved one who identifies as LGBTQIA+ and is in that essential developmental phase, what can you do to support them? Remember that advocacy is your most powerful tool. Any individual can advocate for policy change by calling representatives, or even testifying in the state capitol. If large-scale reform seems intimidating, it’s never too late to start small. Check your own personal biases about relationships, and try diversifying your language when you talk with your loved one. Using “they” instead of “he or she” or describing someone’s marital partner as a “spouse” instead of assuming that they must have a husband or wife can go a long way. And finally, unpacking your fears about talking about sex can help you be there when your loved one needs your support and insight. Showing them that you’re not afraid to talk about it, might help them deconstruct all that stigma for themselves.

Resources

  • Planned Parenthood
  • KFF
  • Columbia University Public Health

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A growing number of spouses are in some way part of the LGBTQIA+ community yet find a great deal of satisfaction in staying with their opposite-sex partner. In these Mixed Orientation relationships, love, history, families and shared emotional intimacy are profound stabilizing forces, staples of family life. Coming out doesn’t mean that one member of the couple has to walk away.

In fact, the fear of coming out keeps many LGBTQIA+ spouses trapped in silence for months and even decades. They consider if they can really uproot their lives and change the relational context for everyone in their family. Many coming out spouses wager with themselves, a perpetual internal debate that feels like a nagging worry and anxiety than decision-making.

I totally get it. Coming out feels like the wrecking ball that will shatter the stability and longevity holding your relationship intact. Revealing such a deep and personal secret—one that may instantly complicate a heterosexual marriage—can be petrifying.

Those deafening fears can be turned down. First, we need to talk about emotional intimacy and the role it plays in relationships and desire.

Bedrock of Relationships

Emotional intimacy is a major, silent player in your life. As you’ve bonded to your partner you have shared a common history sprinkled with beautiful memories and relational milestones. Over the years you’ve shared parts of who you are, your deepest secrets. Unbeknown to you, your partner has sat in the front row with a perfect view of your personality, your strengths and your insecurities. They know you from the inside out. Needless to say, sharing a longstanding history with a partner solidifies security and belonging, aspects of your life with which you are hardly willing to part, I’d imagine.

Emotional intimacy, in this light, drives unconditional love. In loving relationships, our partners know us in every way and stay by our sides with grace, compassion and love. This kind of love is a message spoken over a lifetime of actions not just with words. It is a powerful and perpetual message of security that many coming out spouses feel like they’ll either be forced to abandon or relinquish.

As coming out spouses toil over the fear of losing the security of their marriages, I always recommend a healthy daily dose of vulnerability.

Vulnerability isn’t just about passing meaningful words back and forth; it is a process that stabilizes our attachments. As you build a secure attachment with your spouse, there is very little that can deconstruct it. Vulnerability is the mortar that will keep your emotional bricks in place. Vulnerability stabilizes that walls that create your relational home. As it were, vulnerability will stabilize the cohesion of your relationships, no matter what direction it might head.

A Way Forward

As you’ve come to know your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, you may now be very familiar with what our body wants, in both your sexual orientation and gender identity. Desire, it seems, is your new guiding force. The awareness of your body’s yearnings, which may seem more profound in the coming out stage of life than in any other, are all too conspicuous. They are blaring in your ears and shining in your face.

This is good news for the coming out spouse. Your awareness can be converted not only into language that will help your partner understand and empathize with your story as a sexual or gender minority, but it will also forge a path toward, you guessed it, deeper emotional intimacy.

Understanding your desires will give you the ability to integrate your desires into your daily life, romantic gestures and sexual moments because they are part of your ongoing conversation and new daily routine.

By desires, I mean those that lead to actions and that relate to basic emotional needs. For example, underneath the behavior of sex lies the desires for physical satisfaction, connectedness, thrill, passion and maybe even emotional bonding.
Taking time to identify what desires underscore the behaviors for which you crave will help you and your opposite-sex partner meet your needs, and hopefully theirs. Talking about your desires will shift the way you relate to each other, with the potential to bring a refreshing whoosh of satisfaction to your marriage.

As mixed orientation couples began talking about what they crave inside the home, under the sheets and within their relational dynamic, they have the power to initiate change. Many mixed orientation couples find that sharing their desires—with a new sense of vulnerability, honesty and openness—rejuvenates a faltering relational dynamic or dry sex life. They began having fun, in and out of the bedroom.

Nurturing emotional intimacy can help stabilize many mixed orientation marriages, particularly those with one partner capable of bisexuality. Mixed orientation marriages don’t work for everyone, let me be honest. Putting pressure on yourself to maintain a mixed orientation marriage can be debilitating and straining, if both partners aren’t truly committed to helping it thrive. But when it works, it really works.

Whether or not you know if you want to make a mixed orientation relationship work, emotional intimacy will help you find your answer. It will unearth deep truths that need to be aired, help you discover desires to guide your heart and body and will help your partner track your internal journey. As both you and your partner walk side by side, you’ll feel rooted and connected, especially when emotional intimacy is your trusted tool.

Be honest about who you are and what you desire. Share it boldly with your partner. Doing so will help you create the life that will leave you truly satisfied.

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Introduction

Being in a committed relationship or marriage takes work, no matter your sexual orientation. However, gay and lesbian couples often face unique challenges that heterosexual couples may not experience. From navigating societal prejudices to dealing with challenges of identity, family acceptance, and unique dynamics specific to the queer and trans communities, the LGBTQIA+ community has its own set of hurdles when it comes to nurturing healthy, long-lasting relationships.

That’s why seeking professional counseling from therapists who are part of the queer and trans communities can be invaluable. In Denver, there are LGBTQIA+ therapists who are experienced counselors providing a safe, inclusive space for same-sex couples to explore their hopes, fears, and challenges together.

Step 1: Understanding When You Need Couples Therapy

Recognizing the need for counseling is an important first step. Some signs that you and your partner could benefit from counseling include:

  • Frequent arguments or conflicts that don’t get resolved
  • Communication breakdowns or feeling disconnected
  • Loss of emotional intimacy or sexual dissatisfaction
  • Difficulty navigating major life transitions as a couple
  • Concerns about compatibility, trust, or commitment
  • Challenges that arise when considering opening a relationship or being polyamorous

The Importance of LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapy

Not every counselor or therapist is equipped to understand and support the distinct experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community. Working with a provider who is affirming of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities is crucial. An LGBTQIA+ therapist creates an environment free of judgment, where you and your partner can feel truly accepted and validated.

Issues Addressed in Gay Marriage and Relationship Counseling

Some common topics that may be explored in counseling for gay couples include:

  • Communication issues and conflict resolution
  • Intimacy and sexual concerns
  • Open or Polyamorous relationships
  • The coming out process and internalized homophobia
  • Blending families and parenting challenges
  • Social discrimination and minority stress
  • Questions around marriage and commitment
  • Unidentified neurodivergence, like ADHD or anxeity

A skilled LGBTQIA+ counselor can help you navigate these complexities and find productive ways to strengthen your bond.

Benefits of Couples Counseling for Gay Relationships

By investing in professional relationship counseling, queer, gay, and lesbian couples can experience numerous benefits, such as:

Improved Communication

Develop healthier communication patterns, learn to actively listen, and find constructive ways to express needs and resolve conflicts.

Deeper Intimacy

Explore emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy in a safe space, reigniting passion and fostering a deeper connection.

Enhanced Understanding

Gain insight into your partner’s perspectives, background, and experiences, building empathy and compassion.

Stronger Foundation

Build a solid foundation for your relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and commitment, setting you up for long-term success.

Personalized Approach in Denver

In Denver, there are therapists dedicated to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community with personalized, affirming approaches to couples counseling. They understand the nuances of gay relationships and can tailor their techniques accordingly.

Step 2: Finding LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapists

Not every counselor or therapist is equipped to understand and support the distinct experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community. Working with a provider who identifies with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities is crucial. An LGBTQIA+ therapist–who is part of your community, and not one who merely affirms your community–creates an environment free of judgment, where you and your partner can feel truly accepted and validated.

In Denver, there are several counseling practices that specialize in LGBTQIA+ services and provide affirming approaches:

  • iAmClinic is a team of queer and trans therapists offering counseling for LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples, as well as their religious loved ones. Our primary goal is to help the LGBTQIA+ community and their families establish internal solidarity, rooted identities, and long-term relational health. What sets us apart is our team of licensed therapists who are all part of the LGBTQIA+ community themselves. They deeply understand the nuances and challenges faced by our community. Whether you’re transitioning, neurodivergent, polyamorous, seeking neurofeedback, or dealing with any other situation unique to the LGBTQIA+ experience, you can find a therapist who gets your exact circumstances. Our therapists provide a safe, judgment-free space to explore your identity, find support, and cultivate hope. We’re here to help you and your loved ones build understanding, resilience, and healthy relationships.
  • Maria Droste Counseling Center offers affordable access to trained counselors, both in-person and online, to empower individuals and help them navigate challenges effectively. While they serve the LGBTQIA+ community, their practice is not exclusively LGBTQIA+ focused.
  • The Relationship Center of Colorado provides high-quality counseling services to help LGBTQIA+ couples and individuals with issues related to gender and sexuality. However, they are a general counseling practice that works with a variety of clients.
  • Glow Counseling in Denver, provide support for a range of issues including sex therapy, counseling, psychotherapy, relationship dynamics, erectile dysfunction, sexuality exploration, passion cultivation, managing sex addiction, improving communication, trauma recovery, conflict resolution, stress and anxiety management, LGBTQIA+ support, couples counseling for Gay and Lesbian partners, addressing infidelity and lack of intimacy, as well as assistance with men’s and women’s issues and anger management.
  • Colorado Counseling Center –  they are dedicated to providing inclusive, affirming, and effective couples counseling services tailored to the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ couples. We understand that relationships can be beautifully complex, and it’s our mission to support you in creating a stronger and more fulfilling partnership.

Effective Counseling Approaches for Gay Couples

While all healthy relationships require good communication, trust, and compromise, gay and lesbian couples may face unique stressors that heterosexual couples don’t experience. That’s why counseling approaches specifically tailored to LGBTQIA+ relationships can be so beneficial. Here are some of the most effective therapy models used:

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for Gay Couples

Emotionally Focused Therapy helps partners understand and reshape the powerful emotional experiences and attachment needs driving their relationship patterns. For same-sex couples, EFT provides a non-judgmental space to explore issues around intimacy, trust, and creating secure bonding. The goal is to create a more securely attached, mutually rewarding relationship.

The Gottman Method for Gay Marriage Counseling

Based on Dr. John Gottman’s decades of research, this approach teaches couples how to build and share a life together through techniques to increase respect, affection, and closeness. Gottman principles like “enhancing your love maps,” practicing intimate dialogue, and managing conflict apply just as effectively to LGBTQIA+ relationships. Gay and lesbian partners learn to navigate challenges while nurturing their friendship and intimacy.

Imago Relationship Therapy for LGBTQIA+ Couples

Imago therapy focuses on transforming couples’ struggles into opportunities for growth and deeper connection. Through re-imagining the monumental love they felt early in their relationship, gay and lesbian partners gain tools to revive their sense of connection, remove power struggles, re-romanticize their bond, and keep conflict from becoming damaging.

Online/Virtual Counseling for LGBTQIA+ Relationships

For many gay and lesbian couples, the option for online or virtual counseling sessions offers significant benefits in accessibility, privacy, and finding affirmative care that fits their needs.

Privacy and Discretion

For those not fully out about their sexual orientation, virtual therapy allows discreet access to LGBTQIA+ affirming counselors without having to go to a local office. This protects privacy.

Expanded Search for Specialized Providers

Online counseling expands the available provider pool to LGBTQIA+ specialized therapists outside one’s immediate area. This allows tailored care for specific intersectional needs.

Convenience and Flexibility

Virtual sessions are easily accessible from home or anywhere, reducing travel time. This flexibility to attend sessions from a private, comfortable environment can enhance the counseling experience.

Increased Availability

With online therapy, couples can more easily find providers with specialized LGBTQIA+ training who have openings that fit their schedules across multiple time zones.

While in-person counseling is still preferable for some, the virtual option has made it easier than ever for gay and lesbian couples anywhere to receive customized, affirmative relationship guidance.

Your Relationship Deserves Support

No matter what challenges you may be facing, your relationship deserves care, attention, and professional guidance to help it thrive. By seeking counseling from LGBTQIA+ therapists in Denver, you and your partner can build a stronger, more meaningful connection that celebrates your love and commitment to one another.

Take the first step towards a more fulfilling partnership by reaching out to an experienced counselor in the Denver area. A few counseling sessions could make all the difference in helping you and your partner better understand each other and navigate your unique experiences together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Gay marriage counseling incorporates an understanding of the unique challenges and experiences that same-sex couples face. This includes issues related to navigating societal stigma, the coming out process, family acceptance, same-gender sex, queer relational dynamics, and legalities around marriage equality. General relationship counseling may not always address these nuances.

No, absolutely not. Counseling services for gay and lesbian couples are available to anyone in a committed relationship, whether married or unmarried. The principles of healthy communication, intimacy, and conflict resolution apply to all committed partnerships.

There is no set duration for counseling, as every couple’s situation is different. Some couples may find that a few sessions are enough to get them on the right track, while others may benefit from longer-term counseling, depending on their goals and the complexity of the issues they’re facing.

The first session is typically an introductory meeting where you and your partner will have the opportunity to discuss your reasons for seeking counseling and share background information about your relationship. The therapist will explain their approach and what you can expect from the counseling process.

Not at all. While counseling can certainly help couples navigate difficult challenges, it can also be a proactive tool for building and maintaining a healthy, thriving relationship. Many couples seek counseling periodically as a way to check in, improve communication, and ensure their connection remains strong.

At iAmClinic, our entire team consists of licensed therapists who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community themselves. They possess a deep, lived understanding of the nuances and challenges faced by our community. With their shared experiences, they can truly empathize with your unique circumstances and provide a fully affirmative, supportive environment.

Absolutely. Intimacy and sexual concerns are common topics addressed in counseling for LGBTQIA+ couples. Your therapist will provide a safe space to explore these issues without shame or judgment.

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supporting GNC individuals

Contents

Jump To:

1. Myth-busting

2. Lived Experience

3. Global Trauma and COVID-19

4. Acknowledging the Diversity of the Human Experience

 

This question has been hotly debated within and outside of queer circles for a very long time. It’s true that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have experienced trauma in some way, but what does that do to one’s identity? Does it kickstart the internal coming-out process? Or does it open the door for more consideration regarding who we really are inside?

1. Myth-busting

Let’s start out by addressing some a common myth about queer identity and trauma. A sentence that gets thrown around by non-LGBTQIA-identifying folks a lot is, “you’re only _______ because of what happened to you.” This is especially prevalent in the asexual community, particularly with survivors of sexual assault. Now, at the outset this might seem like more of a crime of ignorance than anything else, but digging a little deeper actually reveals some of the harmful stereotyping around LGBTQIA+ identity that has been deeply ingrained into our culture. Assuming that non-cishet identification stems solely from trauma furthers the harmful stereotype that being straight and cisgender is the default, and that being queer in any way is somehow “deviant” or “abnormal.” Additionally, trauma isn’t exclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community- many cisgender heterosexual (often abbreviated to ‘cishet’) individuals experience it while still identifying as cishet afterwards.

2. Lived Experience

So, with all that said, I would be remiss in not acknowledging the fact that a lot of identity discovery happens after a major trauma. Additionally, a lot of the queer community can attest to the trauma they’ve experienced throughout their lifetimes. So, to better explain this intersection, I’m going to use psychology, social patterns, and even the pandemic as lenses.

When a trauma is experienced, a lot of things happen. For one, the shape of the brain changes. With this change comes a reduction in “distress tolerance,” or the amount of stress, negativity, etc. an individual can put up with before experiencing an emotional overload. Something else that happens is a little existential- a traumatized individual, in recognizing their trauma, often experiences a great questioning of ideals, the fairness of the world, the goodness of people, etc.

So, with all that goes on in the mind after a trauma, I want to zero in on a few points. One, when individuals are separated from the tightly upheld gender norms commonly found in modern society, they experience a freedom of expression that may eventually lead to a change in identity. Two, the questioning of the way the world works can lead to some other questions, namely what identities do and do not feel right. And three, that reduction in “distress tolerance” may actually aid the individual in realizing what doesn’t feel right to them. Think of it this way- so many gender norms are so ingrained into our lives that we barely even think about them, much less how we feel about them. When our distress tolerance is lowered, suddenly we’re confronted with all of these things that no longer feel “normal” or good to us. It follows that some serious questioning might happen during this time.

Scientifically, no, trauma is not the cause of gender and sexuality questioning. However, it is undeniable that there is a relationship between the two. It can even be said that trauma, however devastating, may open the door to a joyful realization of one’s true gender and sexual identity. This isn’t to say that trauma has to be looked upon positively, of course. It also isn’t to say that you aren’t allowed to feel like your trauma caused your transition. At the end of the day, your experience is yours alone, and whatever answer you settle on is no one else’s right to debate.

3. Global Trauma and COVID-19

I want to quickly highlight the pattern of individuals coming out as queer during the pandemic. Well, remember what I said about questioning social norms? During the pandemic, we had a LOT of time to introspect. During the lockdown, with activities such as social gatherings restricted, we became isolated from the oppressive gender and sexual norms society enforces. We worked from home in clothes we felt comfortable in and engaged in hobbies that we genuinely enjoyed- and from that blossomed a realization for some. Without the heterosexism and cissexism present in workplaces and classrooms, many were given the chance to breathe and realize quite a few things about themselves. So, did the trauma of COVID-19 cause a bunch of people to come out? Not exactly. More like it was a happy byproduct of an incredibly terrible situation.

4. Acknowledging the Diversity of the Human Experience

I want to end this by saying that I write from one perspective. In celebrating pride and resilience, we must account for the incredible diversity of experiences and perspectives present within the LGBTQIA+ community. It is just as much the differences in our stories as the similarities that make us strong, and if you can take one thing from this blog post, let it be that your experiences belong in this community just as much as anyone else’s.

About Daphne:

Daphne Thomas (they/them/theirs) is a recent graduate of the University of Denver’s Master’s program in International Disaster Psychology and the Content Coordinator here at iAmClinic. They have been trained in a variety of approaches to therapy, and they favor a combination of feminist and narrative techniques in practice. They have extensive experience in trauma-informed and queer-affirmative care, and devote themself to advocacy as part of their continuing goal of providing better therapy to clients.

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Mixed Orientation or Queer Relationships have as much variety as the people on this planet, and every person, and every relationship will navigate this terrain differently. It’s another way in which you can design a life that is authentically representative of what you want. After being outed, our contributing writer, Kirk Barnett, chose to live his life out of the closet and reclaim the connection to himself and also expand what connection means within his family.

How old were you when you knew you were gay? 

I can remember feeling different in elementary school.  I didn’t know what I felt was called gay, but remember the first time I recognized the feeling.  I was watching the Disney animated version of Robin Hood and there was a scene when Robin Hood is flirting with Maid Marion.  When I saw that moment in the movie I remember thinking “I want a boy to talk to me that way.”  What I also remember is the shame flushing over me. 

What fears or “lessons” (from church, culture, parents) made staying in the closet feel like the best option? 

I come from a big family with lots of cousins.  I always played with the girls, barbies and playing house felt natural but it was the rebuff from the adults and older cousins that taught me that was wrong. I also never remember an explicit message of ‘don’t be gay’ but there was messages of dont be a sissy, stop standing that way, dont sound like that. [I received] LOTS of “be a man” messaging. 

What was it like to live in the closet while married? What parts of you had to die so that you could stay alive?  

Living in the closet was a constant internal battle. I wanted to marry because I desperately wanted children and to have a stable family life.  At that point, being out and having a family were not possible. While I was married and in the closet, the constant state of hypervigilance was exhausting.  Every action as a good dad or husband was internally questioned as “am I really a good person?”. The guilt and shame compounded over time to an unbearable weight and it was debilitating. It was this weight that ultimately led me to have thoughts of suicide. 

How did you find the courage to come out and what gave you confidence to step into that courage? 

I actually didn’t find the courage to come out. I was outed and it is absolutely the best thing that was ever done to me. After it happened, I started the journey to figure out who I am and try every day to Live Out Proud. 

If you feel okay sharing, what might be some of the things you would do again in terms of preserving your relationship with your ex-wife? 

Once my ex-wife found out, I made a commitment to start being honest and while that was hard, I definitely would do that again.  It makes you face things you might not like about yourself but you also grow so much from being honest. 

 My ex-wife and I were also adamant that this would not  impact our children, we would not have an ugly divorce. We wanted to maintain the life my kids had come to know as much as possible for our children, like their schedule, as well as making sure that I was a part of their daily routine.  Taking the kids to school and being with them on Saturdays never stopped.

If you feel okay sharing, what might be some things you’d do differently to make coming out easier and nurturing your relationship with your ex-wife more effectively? 

I would have worked harder to ensure that I wasn’t responding to everything out of guilt for what I had done.  I would have been more reassuring of myself that I had done everything I knew to do when I was in the closet. I was working within what I thought was best for my family therefore I didn’t need to carry guilt or shame for as long as I did. 

What have you gained, personally and relationally, now that you have come out? 

I have learned that I am enough, I am worthy to be loved and I am worthy to love a wonderful man.  I have come to understand that my gifts from being gay are God-given and that they need to be used to make the world better.

If you could speak to the version of you preparing to marry or the version of you who is married, what might you tell him? 

This is the hardest question…as I don’t regret getting married.  I have my children and my ex-wife who is one of my best friends. It sounds trite, but as I sit and think about what I would say to the version of me getting married is: “Your love for her is real, it is not quite the romantic love it should be, but it is real.  You will have a wonderful life, so know that you are worthy of the life that will unfold in front of you.” 

We can find and reshape what resiliency looks like throughout our life. Sometimes facing the most difficult choices and challenges that we will deal with in our lives can manifest a more intense security in the world. Thank you Kirk for showing us that in your story – the ability to integrate worthiness in your life after being outed and reclaiming the truth of the beautiful life that can continue to unfold is deeply inspiring. 

This article features an interview with a guest contributor, Kirk Barnett. Check out The Lighthouse to learn more about Kirk and his work. 

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Many of us are comfortable talking about sex with friends. We divulge details, share tips and tricks, and even get advice on aspects of our strained sex lives. Talking openly and honestly with our sexual partners, however, comes with a higher level of discomfort. Talking with transparency comes with the risk of hurting our partners’ feelings, embarrassing ourselves, and asking for things that feel selfish, and it forces us to be vulnerable about the parts of ourselves many of us try to hide: our naked, sexual bodies.

Psychological research shows that couples who talk openly about sex report higher levels of relational satisfaction. How, though, do couples talk about sex so easily?

Tip #1: Spend Time Destigmatizing Sex, Sexual Activity, and Sexual Body Parts.

One of the best ways to work through the discomfort of sexuality is to pick up a sex guidebook that can help you learn more about your body, sex, and sexuality in general. Some of my personal favorite books on this topic are Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity and Janet Hardy’s The Ethical Slut. Books like these will help you feel versed in sexual language, destigmatize sex language, and experience confidence talking about sex with your partner(s).

I once taught a master’s-level course called Sexuality and Counseling. It astonished me how many graduate students felt either scared to talk about sex or ashamed that they had never masturbated. What surprised me more than anything was that these students had a very hard time identifying parts of their sexual organs on a fill-in-the-blank chart.

Learning about our bodies from an academic perspective will help you become comfortable talking about your sex and sexual cravings, allowing them to become a natural part of who you are and how your autonomic nervous system (neurology in charge of sex) functions.

Tip #2: Embrace Self-Exploration

Learning about how your body functions, what you like, what turns you on, what is uncomfortable, and what fantasies you might have can help you make peace with your sexual cravings, and it can also give you the confidence to speak your truth to your sexual lover(s).

Even if they needs to be your personal secret at first, sex toys can help you discover the innocence of what feels good. Masturbating with sex toys and/or the insights of books can help you fully understand your body and inspire confidence to ask for the things you like and stop the things you don’t. This will also help you ask your partner what they like and don’t like, making your self-exploration quite the guide for an under-the-sheets exploration with your partner(s).

Tip #3: Talk About Your Sexual Ethic and Cravings

Sexual activity exists on a massive spectrum. Some mate for life, and some are polyamorous; some enjoy little exploration, while others dive head-first into kink or puppy play. To better assist you and your sexual partner(s) as you approach sex or resolve sexual issues, understanding what is off limits and how you agree to keep one another safe is going to be a great way to set the stage to talk about and have great sex.

The autonomic nervous system, where sex and orgasm live in the neurological body, heavily rely on a felt sense of safety. With safety, the body can sexually function rather well. Without safety, however, the autonomic nervous system will easily and quickly shutdown.

In this light, talking about your sexual ethics and finding agreement will help the nervous system find ease and comfort, which will inspire great passion and sustained satisfaction. You can read more about sex, the body, resentment, and safety here.

Tip #4: Practice Vulnerability & Emotional Intimacy

If you are having a hard time talking about sex with your lover(s), you might want to start with non-sexual emotional vulnerability and intimacy. Talk about your fears, your dreams, your insecurities, and your passions that have nothing to do with sex. Doing so will help you realize that vulnerability is a very rewarding and safety-building process. Log some time experiencing just how safe vulnerability can be and how much emotional intimacy it can create. In this context, you will create an exciting climate and will learn to trust the process of healthy vulnerability, which will lead to meaningful talks about sex. Pave the way to talking about sex by being vulnerable in other areas.

Talking about sex is very different than slipping right into it. However, having these conversations will not only boost your sex life, but also fortify your connections.

Ignite Meaningful Conversations: Exercises and Prompts

When it comes to fostering open and honest communication about sex and intimacy, sometimes a little guidance can go a long way. These exercises and conversation starters are designed to help you and your partner explore desires, boundaries, and concerns in a safe and judgment-free environment.

The Desire Dialogue: Take turns sharing one sexual desire or fantasy you’d like to explore with your partner. Approach this exercise with an open mind, without judgment, and remember that sharing a desire does not necessarily mean acting on it. The goal is to create a safe space for open and honest communication. Done well, this is a great way to demonstrate unconditional love that allows your partner(s) to be fully authentic with you. 

The Pleasure Mapping Exercise: Draw an outline of a body (it doesn’t have to be anatomically correct) and use different colors or symbols to indicate areas that you enjoy being touched, areas that are off-limits, and areas you’d like to explore. Share your pleasure maps with each other and discuss any differences or similarities.

The Intimacy Inventory: Create a list of intimate activities (e.g., cuddling, kissing, oral sex, anal sex, role-playing) and rate your level of interest or comfort with each one on a scale of 1 to 5. Compare your lists and discuss areas where you align or differ in your preferences.

The Boundary Conversation: Take turns sharing your personal boundaries related to sex and intimacy. These could include physical boundaries (e.g., no penetration without protection), emotional boundaries (e.g., no degrading language), or situational boundaries (e.g., no public displays of affection). Discuss ways to respect each other’s boundaries while also finding compromises when possible.

The Concern Check-In: Set aside time to discuss any concerns or challenges you may be facing in your intimate relationship. Use open-ended questions like “What’s on your mind regarding our sex life?” or “Is there anything you’d like to improve or change?”

Breaking Down Barriers: Overcoming Common Obstacle

Gay couples may face unique obstacles when it comes to communicating about sex, including:

Internalized Shame: Years of societal stigma and discrimination can lead to internalized shame or self-doubt about one’s sexuality or desires. To overcome this, it’s important to practice self-acceptance and surround yourself with supportive resources (e.g., LGBTQ+ affirmative therapy, online communities).

Trauma or Negative Experiences: Past traumatic experiences, abusive relationships, or negative encounters related to one’s sexuality can create barriers to open communication. Working with a therapist or counselor who specializes in trauma and LGBTQIA+ issues can help process and heal from these experiences.

Fear of Rejection or Judgment: Some individuals may worry that expressing their desires or concerns will lead to rejection or judgment from their partner. Building a foundation of trust, respect, and empathy in the relationship can help create a safer space for vulnerability.

Lack of Positive Role Models: Without many positive representations of healthy, communicative gay relationships, some couples may struggle to find examples to model their own communication after. Seeking out LGBTQIA+ resources, literature, or mentorship from more experienced couples can provide guidance.

Societal Stigma and Discrimination: The persisting stigma and discrimination faced by the LGBTQIA+ community can make some individuals hesitant to fully embrace and discuss their sexuality. Connecting with supportive communities, advocates, and allies can help counteract the negative impact of societal biases.

Remember, overcoming these obstacles takes time, patience, and a commitment to creating a safe and judgment-free environment for open communication within the relationship.

Don’t let another day go by without prioritizing open communication about intimacy. Implement these exercises and tips today to start breaking down barriers and fostering the deep sexual connection you both crave. Your sexual satisfaction depends on it – take action now.

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Men laying in field

Introduction

He had swirled for months, arguing with himself. Parts of him wanted to stay in his heterosexual marriage to preserve life with his family and children, and other parts wanted to experience love and sex with another man. He came to my office frazzled because he had been teetering on the thin line between cheating with a man from Grindr and honoring his wedding vows. He was desperate to know which direction in life was right for him. 

Desperately torn between two fantasies—one featuring his heterosexual life of stability and comfort and another starring a handsome, gay coworker—he wanted to know which life would leave him deeply satisfied. 

In all of his angst, that 40-something family-man wanted to come out to his wife, but he didn’t know what he’d say or if it would be the beginning of a tragic end. 

To confound the situation even more, a cloud of unending questions swirled around him: Was he truly gay or bi? Would he tear his family apart only to ‘hope’ to find a mature, loving man? And what if he found great sex, but nothing else to replace the love he shared with his wife? His questions left him paralyzed and powerless. 

Each mixed orientation marriage (when the sexual orientations’ of the partners do not match) finds a variety of resolutions for the challenges they encounter. For some, it means accepting that the differences between them are too great, requiring that they grieve their relationships and separate amicably. Others, however, make peace with the differences between their sexual orientations, find workable solutions, and move forward as a married unit. 

I’ve had the great fortune of watching mixed orientation couples navigate marital red tape, romantic high and lows, as well as coming outs and being left out. While each couple’s circumstances are unique, I have come to recognize common key areas that I encourage every couple to consider.  

If you find yourself in a mixed orientation marriage, I recommend that you first take a careful inventory of your internal desires, gage the emotional climate of your marriage, as well as the mechanics of your sexual orientation. Learn more about Attachment in Polyamorous Relationships!

Know your desires…both of you.

There are more queer people in straight-looking marriages than one would think. And although that is the case, only a small percentage of these couples stay together. Some find great comfort in what they and their bodies want, and a heterosexual relationship works for them, while others want and need a queer relationship to feel whole.  

No matter what path is right for you, I highly recommend both partners take an inventory of their sexual and emotional desires. What do you crave romantically, sexually, and emotionally? 

Taking an inventory might mean observing your emotional and sexual desires and itemizing them so you have robust awareness surrounding what you and your body desire. 

Over time, couples who neither talk of their cravings nor their passions slowly find a rut that brings boredom and complacency, which in turn may stoke curiosity for another lover and. Reconnecting to your desires, however, will either help the relationship find a new stride or a new wave of thrill, passion, and mutual discovery that can reinvigorate the marriage or it will give the relationship much needed clarity that romance and sex withing the marriage is not possible. It brings a lot of comfort and peace of mind to make your decision based on self-knowing and grace rather than fear and self-compromise.

Take Temperature of your Relational Climate

There are many couples who foreclose on the marriage, giving no hope to the potential of reigniting love and thrilling sex. I get it. But I wouldn’t necessarily only blame difference in sexual orientation. 

Many mixed orientation spouses, like spouses of any other type of marriage, report feeling relationally dead for years, sometimes decades. Not experiencing any type of intimacy the five  domains of intimacy––emotional, sexual, spiritual, intellectual, social––leaves may partners wanting to exit their marriage. Faltering or nonexistent intimacy will provoke partners of all sexual orientations to dream of finding more elsewhere. 

Living in a sexually and an emotionally dead marriage will often times provoke momentous cravings, palpitating desperation, and a major need for relief. In such en emotional position, many spouses are eager to leave their marriage, not because it makes more sense for their sexual orientation, but because they have been too lonely within their marriage. They often leave their relationship to soothe their pain, rather than making authentic relational decisions. 

So before you jump the gun and assume that you have to leave because you’re starved for emotional connection or because of a difference in sexual orientation, be the thermometer of your relational climate. Recreating intimacy within all five domains may bring back your passion, friendship, and closeness. It will either help fortify your marriage or it will make separating as close friends a lot smoother. 

All this to say, when considering the end of a marriage, don’t blame your sexual orientation right out the gate and don’t forget about emotional intimacy, either.

Beautiful women having fun in the street

Get Clear on Your Sexual Orientation

Although sexual orientation is largely experienced when visual stimulation and personality compatibility is present, emotional intimacy is a major component that rarely  gets recognition it deserves. The safety of emotional vulnerability is a major—I mean MAJOR—green light for the autonomic nervous system, where sexual orientation and sexual arousal live. So although it may feel like sexual activity or erotica is the only indication of sexual orientation, emotional intimacy is usually a strong indicator of what will initiate sexual arousal. And if you discover that you are either bisexual, demisexual, or pansexual, you’ll have a lot more to consider as you consider which direction is right for you.

For coming out partners, learning about their sexual orientation and finding the courage to talk about their desires and romantic yearnings is a phenomenal practice. Doing so destigmatizes: 1) alternative forms of sex, 2) sexuality’s diversity and 3) romantic and sexual cravings. If you take the time to clarify your sexual orientation, both you and your partner will have more information to make well-informed, educated decisions.

More in-depth research findings and statistics on mixed orientation couples

According to research conducted by the Kinsey Institute, it is estimated that approximately 20% of marriages in the United States can be classified as mixed orientation relationships. These marriages involve one partner who identifies as heterosexual and the other partner who identifies as homosexual, bisexual, or somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Demographic studies have shown that mixed orientation couples come from diverse backgrounds, with no significant differences in terms of age, race, education level, or socioeconomic status compared to same-orientation couples.

Factors related to relationship quality:

  • Open and honest communication has been identified as a crucial factor in successful mixed orientation marriages. Couples who are able to discuss their needs, desires, and boundaries openly tend to report higher levels of satisfaction and intimacy.
  • Mutual understanding and acceptance of each partner’s sexual orientation are also key. When both partners embrace and respect each other’s identities, it fosters a deeper emotional connection.
  • Flexibility and compromise are essential, as mixed orientation couples may need to navigate unique challenges related to sexual intimacy, social stigma, and family dynamics.

Potential challenges:

  • Navigating the complexities of sexual intimacy and desire discrepancies can be a significant challenge for some mixed orientation couples.
  • Societal stigma and lack of understanding from family or friends can create additional stress and emotional strain.
  • Internalized homophobia or biphobia can impact self-acceptance and the ability to fully embrace one’s identity within the relationship.
  • Concerns about raising children and addressing their questions or misconceptions about sexual orientation can be a source of anxiety for some couples.

It is important to note that while mixed orientation marriages may face unique challenges, many couples report deeply fulfilling and committed relationships when there is open communication, mutual understanding, and a willingness to work through any issues that arise.

Religious and spiritual aspects of mixed orientation marriage

Mixed orientation marriages often intersect with religious and spiritual beliefs, creating additional complexities and perspectives to navigate. Different faith traditions have varying stances on homosexuality and non-traditional relationships.

Within Christianity, there is a range of views, from more conservative denominations that condemn same-sex relationships to more progressive churches that are affirming and inclusive of LGBTQIA+ individuals and relationships.

In Islam, while homosexuality is generally considered haram (forbidden), there are diverse interpretations and ongoing discussions within the Muslim community about how to approach mixed orientation marriages and LGBTQIA+ individuals with compassion and understanding.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is generally more acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, with some teachings emphasizing the importance of compassion and non-judgment.

Regardless of the specific faith tradition, many mixed orientation couples struggle with reconciling their religious beliefs with their lived experiences and identities. Some may experience internal conflicts, feelings of intense guilt or shame, or face rejection from their religious communities.

However, there are also growing movements within various faiths to create more inclusive and affirming spaces for mixed orientation couples and LGBTQIA+ individuals. These spaces provide support, counseling, and a sense of belonging for couples navigating the intersection of their relationships and spiritual beliefs.

Ultimately, each couple’s experience with religion and spirituality in the context of their mixed orientation marriage is unique, and it is essential to approach these complexities with empathy, open-mindedness, wisdom, and a willingness to engage in respectful dialogue and understanding.

Identify the Unknown

Many people coming out of the closet are guided by fantasies, attractions, and unexplored desires. They haven’t had a sexual encounter with a person of the same gender and their curiosities run painfully wild. The lack of sure-fire experiences can create a lot of tension and helplessness. 

For coming out spouses in this situation, the first and most helpful step is to talk openly about your desires. Alongside your partner, you can create boundaries that sustain self-discovery and respect the safety of all involved. Some couples agree that gay or lesbian friendships are okay, giving the coming out spouse a chance to integrate into the LGBTQIA+ community. Others determine that a short-term open relationship helps both partners solidify decisions. And still, others choose monogamy until both feel safe in taking any potential next step. Regardless of your value system and ethics, boundaries will help facilitate the coming out process and the camaraderie of the couple as they evolve.

Have I seen mixed orientation marriages work? Of course. Have I seen couples try their hardest only to see their marriage eventually end? Yes.

All this to say, let your truth be true. Don’t put pressure to be someone you cannot, but also gather the courage to acknowledge your full capacity—for love, romance, intimacy and sex. Honor yourself and your spouse by making decisions out of courage, not fear. It’s hard, for sure. But in a moment when life as you know it seems to be ending, remember that many other people have walked this path before you. You are not alone.

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Contents

Jump To:

1. Boundaries and limits

2. Substitution Behaviors

3. Mindfulness Skills

4. Planning for Challenges

Even after years of healing from compulsive social media use, I have found myself checking my notifications nonstop the past few days. When I come up for air after a work meeting or errand, I reflexively reach for anything that will help me feel some element of control with the state of the world and current events. Doomscrolling gives me the illusion that if I only know enough about the world I might have some power.

From past experiences with these behaviors, I knew they were an indicator of an underlying stressor or feeling. Instead of judging myself for regressing or losing progress, I took it as additional information and became curious about what might be happening for me internally and how I could help myself cope. 

In part one of this blog series, we tackled misnomers about “addictive” behavior, explored its connection to the LGBTQIA+ community, and explored questions to help us better understand the function and limitations of our behavioral habits. 

In part two, we will explore some tangible strategies that may help to curb behaviors that feel out of control. Please note that these strategies are not intended as medical guidance or therapeutic advice; if you have any issues requiring additional support, please reach out to appropriate resources. 

Harm reduction strategies are intended to limit the harms associated with specific behaviors. It is important when starting with harm reduction strategies to have knowledge of the potential harms and benefits associated with our behaviors, as covered in part one. Once you have some awareness of the harms and benefits, then it is possible to explore alternatives.

1. Boundaries and limits

There are many types of boundaries and limits that we can set that may proactively help us to curtail problematic behaviors. I like to set limits on the time spent with any specific behavior with a timer and immediately switch to something that requires my full attention when the timer goes off. Additionally, I may decide which settings may actually limit my ability to engage in the behavior. For example, with my example of compulsive internet use, I try to turn off my wifi by unplugging the router or go to a coffee shop that intentionally doesn’t offer that service.

2. Substitution Behaviors

When it comes to substitution behaviors, I like to consider what would be an effective distraction that helps to satisfy the same urge. It may take some creativity, but focusing on what needs are being met by the behavior can help inform which substitution behavior would work best for you specifically. If engaging in the behavior gives you a feeling of freedom, consider what might stimulate that same feeling with less harm. I had a friend once who described feeling free when riding her bike and chose to substitute that for online shopping whenever possible. 

3. Mindfulness Skills

There are so many incredible resources available for mindfulness, including a strategy called ‘urge surfing’, which allows us to intentionally ride the “wave” of an urge to complete a behavior. I love using insighttimer.com, which is a free inventory of thousands of guided meditations and other related content. To learn more about urge surfing, consider reading the following steps:
– Recognize what urge(s) might be present.
– Become aware of what is happening in your body. Ask yourself what sensations are happening internally.
– Develop a mantra. For example, one helpful reminder is to think that you are allowed to have urges and that they are not dangerous. Another set of mantras might be “I can have this thought without acting on it” or “This will pass.”
– Distract yourself until the urge passes.

4. Planning for Challenges

Lastly, I have come to understand that nothing helps me with harm reduction more than advanced planning. If I can anticipate scenarios where I might be tempted to engage in doomscrolling, I can ask for support from others or plan to use the strategies above well in advance. I like to create a weekly calendar that highlights times of the day I might be most inclined to doomscroll with an alternative planned activity like reading a magazine or book. I also recommend working with a therapist to identify triggers and create comprehensive plans that involve customized coping strategies for each challenge.

There are so many ways that we can explore and manage process addictions. For further reading, consider reading the works of Dr. Gabor Mate, a world-renowned specialist in addictive behavior and processes. If you are searching for a space to process your specific needs or troubleshoot any concerns, the iAmClinic provides therapeutic services with a nonjudgmental, queer-affirming lens. 

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Navigating relationships can be challenging for anyone, but for transgender individuals and couples, finding a safe and supportive environment to address their unique experiences and challenges is crucial. In Denver, trans-inclusive marriage counseling services are available to provide the understanding, validation, and guidance needed to foster healthy, thriving relationships.

Why Inclusive Counseling Matters

Transgender individuals often face a myriad of obstacles, both internally and externally, that can impact their mental health and relationships. Not only is the coming-out process challenging, but also discrimination, stigma, and a lack of understanding from society can contribute to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and depression. When seeking marriage counseling, it’s essential to find a therapist who not only understands the complexities of relationships but also has the knowledge and sensitivity to work with transgender clients.

Inclusive marriage counseling acknowledges and validates the experiences of transgender individuals and couples. It creates a non-judgmental space where clients can openly discuss their gender identity, the impact of transitioning on their relationship, and any other related concerns. By working with a therapist who affirms their identity, transgender couples can feel more comfortable and empowered to work through their challenges.

Unique Challenges in Trans Relationships

Trans couples often encounter specific and complex challenges:

Navigating Gender Identity

  • Transitioning Together: When one partner transitions, it can significantly alter the relationship dynamics, necessitating adaptation and mutual support.
  • Internalized Transphobia: Many trans individuals struggle with internalized negative beliefs, which can harm self-esteem and relationship satisfaction.

Social and Family Dynamics

  • Coming Out Journey: The process of coming out, whether individually or as a couple, can be filled with anxiety and stress, impacting how the relationship functions.
  • Family Acceptance Issues: A lack of acceptance from family members can lead to emotional distress and conflicts within the relationship.

Health and Well-being Considerations

  • Access to Competent Healthcare: Finding healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about trans-specific needs can be challenging and stressful.
  • Mental Health Concerns: Addressing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety is essential for maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

Inclusive marriage counseling addresses these challenges by providing a supportive space to process emotions, develop coping strategies, and strengthen communication skills. Therapists can help couples navigate the complexities of transition, build resilience, and foster a deeper understanding and help uncover the path that feels authentic and safe for the couple.

Overcoming Challenges Through Counseling

Transgender couples face unique challenges that can strain their relationships, such as navigating the transition process, dealing with societal stigma, and coping with mental health concerns. However, with the help of specialized marriage counseling, these couples can overcome obstacles and build stronger, more resilient partnerships.

Trans-inclusive marriage counseling provides a safe, supportive space for couples to discuss their experiences, fears, and hopes related to the transition process. Therapists can help couples develop effective communication strategies, foster empathy, and create a shared vision for their future. Counseling can also help couples learn strategies for managing stress, setting boundaries, and building a strong support system to cope with external pressures.

Furthermore, marriage counseling can address mental health challenges that may impact the individual and the relationship. By processing emotions, developing coping strategies, and strengthening resilience, couples can work towards overall well-being and a healthier partnership.

Ultimately, trans-inclusive marriage counseling helps couples build the skills needed to overcome challenges and create a loving, supportive relationship. By working with a knowledgeable, affirming therapist, transgender couples in Denver can navigate the complexities of their relationship and build a strong foundation for a thriving partnership.

Finding Trans-Friendly Marriage Counseling in Denver

When searching for trans-inclusive marriage counseling in Denver, it’s important to consider the therapist’s experience, approach, and credentials. Look for counselors who have specific training or expertise in working with LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples. Many therapists will state their specialties or areas of focus on their websites or online profiles. Learn more about finding an lgbtqia+ friendly therapist in denver!

Organizations such the Colorado Center for Clinical Excellence and the Colorado Counseling Association maintain directories of qualified mental health professionals, including those who specialize in LGBTQ+ issues. Additionally, referrals from local LGBTQIA+ community centers or support groups can be a valuable resource in finding a therapist who understands and affirms transgender identities.

At iAmClinic, we specialize in providing supportive counseling services for Transgender individuals and couples, along with their loved ones. Our mission is simple: to empower the LGBTQIA+ community and their families to foster internal solidarity, embrace authentic identities, and cultivate lasting relational well-being. With us, there’s no judgment—just unwavering support and hope. Take the first step towards a brighter, more affirming future. Contact iAmClinic today to embark on your journey towards healing and acceptance.

Counseling Approaches and Techniques

Various counseling centers and therapists in Denver employ a range of approaches tailored to the unique needs of transgender couples:

Affirmative Therapy

  • Supportive Environment: Creating a space where clients feel safe to explore their gender identity and relationship dynamics.
  • Identity Affirmation: Encouraging self-acceptance and pride in one’s identity.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Addressing Negative Thought Patterns: Helping clients identify and change harmful thought patterns related to gender identity and relationship issues.
  • Building Coping Skills: Developing strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

  • Strengthening Emotional Bonds: Fostering deeper emotional connections between partners.
  • Improving Communication: Enhancing communication skills to resolve conflicts and build trust.

Family Systems Therapy

  • Navigating Family Dynamics: Assisting couples in managing relationships with family members.
  • Promoting Acceptance: Facilitating discussions to foster understanding and acceptance within families.

Practical Advice and Strategies for Overcoming Challenges

Navigating Transition

  • Open Communication: Encourage ongoing, honest conversations about feelings and expectations related to the transition.
  • Mutual Support: Ensure both partners feel supported throughout the process.
  • One Step At A Time: We keep all options open, testing the path, one step at a time, to ensure your arrival at safety, mutual respect and authenticity.

Communication Issues

  • Active Listening: Practice active listening to understand each other’s perspectives and needs.
  • Conflict Resolution: Use conflict resolution techniques to address disagreements constructively.

 Family Dynamics

  • Setting Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with family members to protect the relationship.
  • Seeking Mediation: Consider family mediation to facilitate difficult conversations and promote acceptance.
  • Coming Out to Children: Many parents find it difficult to come out to their children. We help you identify the safe route with care, love, and wisdom.

Frequently Asked Questions

Marriage counseling for transgender couples takes into account the unique experiences and challenges faced by individuals who are transitioning or have transitioned. Therapists who work with transgender couples should have a deep understanding of gender identity, the impact of societal stigma, and the specific issues that may arise in relationships where one or both partners are transgender. This specialized knowledge allows for a more tailored and effective approach to addressing the couple’s needs.

Transitioning can be a complex and emotional process that affects not only the individual but also their partner and the dynamics of their relationship. Marriage counseling can provide a safe space for couples to openly discuss their feelings, concerns, and expectations related to the transition process. Therapists can help couples develop effective communication strategies, build empathy and understanding, and work together to adapt to changes in roles and identities within the relationship.

When seeking a marriage counselor, transgender couples in Denver should look for therapists who have experience and training in working with LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples. It’s important to find a counselor who practices affirmative therapy, which validates and supports the experiences and identities of transgender individuals. Additionally, look for therapists who create a non-judgmental, inclusive environment and who are knowledgeable about the specific challenges faced by transgender couples.

Yes, marriage counseling can be a valuable resource for transgender couples facing family and societal pressures. Therapists can help couples develop strategies for managing stress, setting boundaries, and coping with external challenges. Through counseling, couples can also work on building a strong support system and fostering resilience in the face of adversity. Therapists may also provide resources and referrals to LGBTQIA+ support groups or community organizations that can offer additional support.

Transgender couples may benefit from marriage counseling if they are experiencing communication difficulties, struggling to navigate the challenges of transition, or facing other relationship issues. If you and your partner find yourselves frequently arguing, feeling disconnected, or having trouble understanding each other’s perspectives, marriage counseling can help. It’s also important to seek counseling if one or both partners are dealing with mental health concerns, such as depression or anxiety, which can impact the relationship. Ultimately, if you feel that you need support in strengthening your bond and building a healthy, fulfilling relationship, marriage counseling may be right for you.

Discover the Support You Need at iAmClinic

If you’re looking for relationship counseling in Denver, consider iAmClinic. With specialized expertise in LGBTQIA+ challenges, our counselors are dedicated to providing a safe, understanding, and affirming environment to help you and your partner navigate the complexities of your relationship. Whether you’re facing internal challenges, societal pressures, or family dynamics, iAmClinic is here to support your journey toward a stronger bond and a healthier relationship.

Reach out to us today and discover how we can assist you in achieving your relationship goals. Your path to a more connected and fulfilling partnership starts here.

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storm

Contents

Jump To:

1. What is a cyclone?

2. Stepping into the “cycle”

3. When the cycle is really a cyclone

4. How to escape the cyclone 

1. What is a cyclone?

A cyclone is a weather phenomena that forms when a cluster of thunderstorms over the ocean begin to rotate and gain heat, warming in a way that it can grow in size and intensity until it can become one of the most dangerous forms of storm on earth. Even when a cyclone is Category 1, also known as the weakest category, it still causes damage. Cyclones, while often “predicted” by meteorologists, are ultimately unpredictable, because just the right shift in conditions can either dissipate or exponentially exacerbate the storm.

2. Stepping into the “cycle”

The cycle of domestic violence is a constant circle with predictable phases. Tensions build, violence occurs, reconciliation happens, then things are calm; and so it begins again. This language, while easily understandable, is problematic and hurtful. It implies that the abuse in relationships is predictable, and survivors are often interrogated and blamed for the abuse because they didn’t leave during the “calm stage” the first time. They choose to stay and risk going through the violence again, because now they know the cycle and know that tension & violence come next. That doesn’t really sit well, does it?

3. When the cycle is really a cyclone

Domestic abuse encompasses a wide range of behavior – sometimes violent – meant to gain, and maintain, power and control over someone. Society stereotypes usually depict a romantic relationship where a (cis)woman is the ‘victim’ – also hurtful language – and (cis)man as the abuser. However, abuse can be inflicted on anyone, by anyone, and it is constant. In fact, the commonly termed ‘Honeymoon’ or ‘Calm’ phase should be much more appropriately referred to as a period of “manipulative kindness” (Owens, 2018), since it’s a purposeful act by the abuser to prevent the survivor from leaving, reporting, or doing anything else that might result in consequences for the abuser. The abuser may give gifts or elaborate displays – commonly called love bombing, make promises, or “let” the survivor do something or go somewhere for a change, which are subtle tactics of abuse, and not random acts of kindness. Rather than being a cycle, abuse exists in varying stages – think like the color stages of pandemic risk (green, blue, yellow, orange, red) – that can change in severity at any time and is unpredictable in how or when it shifts. 

4. How to escape the cyclone

Even with knowing all of this, leaving an abusive relationship is not easy. On average, survivors return to an abusive relationship seven times before deciding to permanently leave. There are many reasons why someone may stay or return to an abusive relationship: fear, normalized abuse, shame, intimidation, low self-esteem, lack of resources or support, disability, immigration status, cultural context, children or pets, and genuine care for the perpetrator are some of them. 

For individuals in the LGBTQIIA+ community, all these reasons apply with even more nuance around the lack of resources, fear of ostracization and discrimination because of sexuality or gender identity, and varying legal protections in general. One of the first steps, and possibly the most important, is determining whether it’s safe to leave and identifying supports in your community. Going back to the risk stages analogy, you are the best judge of when you’re in the ‘green’ where it’s safe to leave. When the time is right, you can prepare for leaving by doing things such as: making a go-bag that includes things like identification and medication, putting some money aside to support you during the tumultuous transition – whether holding it yourself or asking someone you trust to, and creating a safety plan for leaving and after you leave. If you have children, pets, or other dependents involved in the relationship as well, be sure to include them in your safety plan. This will help you be ready, if that’s truly possible, to leave the abusive relationship and free yourself. 

If you’re suffering through domestic violence, there’s help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or The Network/La Red at 800-832-1901. If you need help creating a safety plan, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides an interactive safety plan guide.

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a nationwide hotline for individuals who are experiencing domestic violence, are survivors of domestic violence, or is a friend/loved one concerned for someone they believe or know is experiencing domestic violence. They now have access to Language Line, expanding their ability to help individuals in over 140 different languages. 
  • The Network/La Red is is a survivor-led, social justice organization rooted in anti-oppression principles that focuses on work dedicated to ending partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities, and aims to create a world where all people are free from oppression. 

This article was written by our iAmClinic graduate student intern, Diluvio Palazzolo. They recently completed their Master’s in International Disaster Psychology, and are experienced with working with those who have experienced trauma. 

References: 

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