Table Of Contents

Episode Summary

Host Isaac Archuleta and his guest explore the complexities that happen when our learned shame and internalized homophobia affects our ability to have and enjoy sex with our partner and pleasure ourselves.

Some of the episodes in our line up are what we call, RelationTips Q&A’s, a safe space for everyday folks to come on the show and talk with a therapist about a problem or topic they are struggling with.

These episodes are intended to highlight queer stories with the hope that others can relate and gain insight into their own journeys.

Guests on these episodes bring vulnerability into the space that allows for a deep, emotional exploration of areas that hit deeply for many queer folks.

For information about how to become a guest, visit us at iAmClinic.org.

Liberating Love: Embracing Sexuality and Overcoming Internalized Homophobia

Sexuality and identity are integral parts of the human experience, but for many queer individuals, they can also be sources of shame and internal conflict. This blog explores the journey of a young queer person navigating the complexities of sexual shame and internalized homophobia while trying to embrace their true self. We will delve into the impact of religious upbringing on their self-perception, the struggles faced in intimate relationships, and the path towards redefining sexuality as a sacred and beautiful expression of love.

The Weight of Sexual Shame:

For individuals raised in conservative religious communities, the messages surrounding sexuality can be deeply damaging. Many queer people are taught that their desires are sinful and deviant, leading to feelings of guilt and shame. The blog begins by acknowledging the emotional and physical impact of internalized homophobia, as the protagonist describes the tightness in their stomach and shallow breathing that accompanies feelings of shame.

Growing up in a religious household, the protagonist recalls feeling a profound disconnection between their sexual desires and the values instilled by their faith. They wrestle with the idea that their queerness is at odds with their spiritual beliefs, leading to an internal struggle between their authentic self and the desire to fit into their community’s expectations.

Navigating Queer Identity and Religion: 

The protagonist shares their journey of reconciling their queer identity with their religious upbringing. They express how their spiritual beliefs helped them accept their non-binary identity, but the condemnation of their sexual desires still lingered. We explore the concept of purity culture and how it perpetuates harmful beliefs about sexual expression within the LGBTQ+ community.

This section delves into the emotional turmoil the protagonist faced when trying to harmonize their faith and sexuality. They recall moments of prayer and seeking guidance, grappling with a sense of unworthiness and confusion. However, it also highlights moments of solace and self-discovery when they began to understand that spirituality and queerness were not inherently contradictory.

Intimacy and Vulnerability in Relationships: 

The protagonist opens up about the challenges faced in their romantic relationship with a genderqueer partner. They discuss how internalized homophobia affects their ability to initiate intimacy, leading to a fear of rejection and feelings of inadequacy. Their partner, coming from a different background, struggles to empathize with their emotional turmoil during intimate moments.

In this section, the protagonist bravely shares their struggles with vulnerability in romantic relationships. The fear of rejection based on past experiences of shame often prevents them from fully expressing themselves and embracing intimacy. Their partner’s frustration comes from a place of not fully comprehending the depth of internalized homophobia, leading to communication barriers that further complicate the relationship.

Unpacking Internalized Homophobia: 

In this section, we delve deeper into the nature of internalized homophobia as a pervasive emotional experience rather than a cognitive narrative. The blog explores how the process of internalizing homophobic messages begins during childhood and continues into adulthood, leaving deep scars on one’s self-worth.

The protagonist reflects on the messages they absorbed throughout their life, from media portrayals to interactions with peers and family. These messages reinforced the idea that their queerness was shameful, leading to an internalization of prejudice and negative self-perception.

Rewriting the Narrative of Sexuality: 

The protagonist shares their newfound understanding of sexual orientation as a guide towards emotional connections that teach us we are worthy of love. This perspective helps them see sex as an expression of love and intimacy rather than a sinful act. They express a desire to shift their emotional experience during sex from one of shame and guilt to one of peace and restfulness.

By challenging societal norms and questioning the religious teachings that stigmatize LGBTQ+ individuals, the protagonist embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. They recognize that their queerness is a beautiful aspect of their identity, deserving of love and respect.

Reclaiming Pleasure Through Self-Exploration: 

The blog discusses the process of reclaiming pleasure and intimacy through masturbation. The protagonist admits to struggling with achieving orgasm on their own due to feeling disconnected from their body. They express a willingness to practice this new emotional approach during solo moments to rewire their autonomic nervous system and rewrite the narrative of pleasure.

Through self-exploration, the protagonist aims to establish a more profound connection with their body and desires. By unlearning shame and embracing their sexuality, they aspire to foster a healthier relationship with pleasure and sexual fulfillment.

Empathy and Solidarity: 

The blog concludes with a powerful message of empathy and solidarity for all those struggling with internalized homophobia. The protagonist acknowledges their own journey and extends compassion to others who might be facing similar struggles. They express hope for a future where all queer individuals can embrace their sexuality without shame or fear.

Conclusion: 

Liberating oneself from the grips of internalized homophobia is a challenging and deeply personal journey. It requires acknowledging the emotional and physical toll it takes, and then actively working to rewrite the narrative around sexuality and identity. By understanding that sexual desires are not sinful but a beautiful expression of love, individuals can pave the way towards self-acceptance, empowerment, and genuine intimacy. This blog serves as a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit in the face of societal pressures and self-doubt, reminding us that love, in all its forms, should always be celebrated and cherished.

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Episode Introduction

LGBTQ+ sexual health is a very important topic. Many of us didn’t have “the talk” which leaves those of us in the LGBTQ+ community feeling as though we have to reinvent the wheel or fake it ‘till we make it, but, thankfully, we get to talk about it now. 

In this episode, we have an inquisitive nurse and a brilliant nurse practitioner, Randall McDavid, who break the ice in a conversation that is usually held within the private walls of a doctor’s office. They talk about condoms, sexual health, STIs, and what research is showing us about HIV prevention medicines, like PrEP.

The cost of PrEP and how it’s paid for is a crucial topic when discussing its accessibility and affordability. PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a medication regimen taken by individuals who are at high risk of contracting HIV to prevent the virus from establishing itself in their bodies. Here, we’ll delve into the cost of PrEP, insurance coverage, and assistance programs to make it more accessible.

The Cost of PrEP:
The cost of PrEP can be substantial, and it varies depending on the specific medication you’re prescribed. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, two common PrEP medications are Truvada and Descovy. Without insurance or assistance programs, the average monthly cost for these medications can be around $1,800.

Insurance Coverage:
Many insurance plans, including Medicaid, typically cover PrEP. However, the level of coverage, including copayments or deductibles, may vary between insurance providers and plans. It’s essential to contact your insurance company to understand your specific coverage and any associated costs.

Patient Assistance Programs:
Both Truvada and Descovy are manufactured by Gilead Sciences, the pharmaceutical company. Gilead offers a patient assistance program called “Gilead Advancing Access.” This program helps eligible individuals afford their PrEP medication by providing financial assistance, often in the form of copay cards.

With the assistance of the Gilead Advancing Access program, many patients can significantly reduce or eliminate their out-of-pocket expenses for PrEP. The program typically provides a maximum annual benefit of $7,200.

To take advantage of these assistance programs, you’ll usually need to meet certain eligibility criteria, such as income limitations. Your healthcare provider can guide you through the application process and help you determine if you qualify.

Generic PrEP:
As mentioned in the conversation, there were discussions about Truvada going generic. Generic medications are typically more affordable than their brand-name counterparts. However, it’s essential to monitor developments in the availability and pricing of generic PrEP in your region.

State Programs:
Some states have initiated PrEP-specific programs or grants to increase access and affordability. In the conversation, “p-hip” was mentioned as an insurance option available in Colorado. Similar state-level programs may exist in other states, so it’s worth exploring whether your state offers any assistance programs for PrEP.

Keep in mind that the information provided is based on my last knowledge update in September 2021. The landscape of healthcare and medication pricing can change over time. It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider, a PrEP navigator, or an organization specializing in HIV prevention to get the most up-to-date information on PrEP availability and assistance programs in your area. Additionally, it’s advisable to verify your insurance coverage and any potential out-of-pocket costs associated with PrEP.

Episode Debrief

I was listening to these two brilliant men talk about sex in the background. Scribbling to take notes, I was enamored with their insights and excited to imagine how their conversation might guide our behaviors to practice sex with a little bit more confidence, comfort, consent, and most importantly wisdom. 

Many of us have preconceived notions about sexwhat works, what smart, what’s bestbut I am thankful for people who are willing to ask the bold questions and the professionals who know the answers so that we can know what is accurate about sex and our bodies. 

Many of us never got the birds and the bees talk and certainly didn’t get the bees and the bees talk. This often leads to a silence in our sex lives that might leave us exposed to risk, emotionally and physically. Hopefully, this episode gives you the information you need to stay safe and keep sex fun! 

Have you talked about sexual health with your partners? In my experience as an LGBTQ+ therapist, I’ve noticed that we often get into sex first and then have the serious conversations after. But, I believe knowing your partner first and creating safety before sex will make sex, well, more sexy. 

I hope you enjoy this episode and that you take some of the wisdom you gleaned from these brilliant men to improve your sex life and keep you safe out there.

Episode Links

Colorado Public Health Intervention Program

The Gilead Advancing Access Co-pay Program

Lelo Hex Condoms

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Episode Description

Isaac sits with TikTok’s Dr. Carlton and they talk all about butt stuff! They touch on topics like the stigma that comes with bottoming, anal sex/play in straight men, the G-Spot, some tips to help make anal sex a little easier, and much more!

You can find Dr. Carlton on TikTok and Instagram at @DoctorCarlton

Resources

Find where to get PrEP in your area: PrEP Locator

Find a doctor who knows queer stuff: Gay and Lesbian Medical Association

Timestamps

00:02:09 – The location of the G-Spot

00:03:39 – It doesn’t make you gay to like your G-Spot stimulated

00:04:06 – The fallacy that men can only penetrate and not be penetrated

00:07:14 – What a young man should know about sex

00:08:13 – Most people can’t label parts of their own body. Mistaking normal features for dangerous ones

00:09:39 – Checking for testicular cancer

00:10:55 – How to prepare to bottom for the first time

00:15:46 – It is normal if an accident happens while engaging the anus

00:17:19 – Sensation of anal sex and lubrication

00:19:07 – How to relax the anus

00:23:10 – “Let the entry happen on the exhale.”

00:25:53 – Be a guest on Queer RelationTips

00:27:05 – What is it about the prostate that makes it so pleasurable? How to elicit the pleasure 

00:29:36 – Getting rid of hang ups that limit sexual stimulation

00:32:38 – Things to look out for with anal fetishes

00:37:00 – Fisting

00:37:52 – Other muscles that need to relax for anal sex other than the anus

00:38:47 – What to do about internal bleeding

00:41:00 – Anal fissure/tear treatment

00:43:02 – Should you douche after someone ejaculates in you?

00:43:51 – PrEP, the importance of 3 site STI testing, Human Papillomavirus, and anal warts

00:45:50 – Guys should get a Pap smear every year. Have a provider that understands what you do sexually, and you need to be honest with your provider.

00:47:29 – Story about rectal bleeding/pain being misdiagnosed 

00:48:27 – Find a doctor who knows queer stuff: Gay and Lesbian Medical Association

00:49:10 – Find where to get PrEP in your area: PrEP Locator

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Transcending Boundaries: Exploring Transgender Experiences and Women’s History

Women’s History Month serves as a poignant reminder of the contributions and struggles of women throughout history. However, there is a facet of women’s history that often goes unexplored: the experiences of transgender women. In this blog post, we will delve into the rich tapestry of transgender experiences and how they intersect with feminism, privilege, mental health, advocacy, and empathy.

Transgender Experiences in Women’s History

Transgender individuals have existed throughout history, yet their stories are often overlooked. In this section, we will uncover the unique challenges and experiences faced by transgender women in different historical contexts, shedding light on their invaluable contributions to women’s history.

Navigating Gender Dysphoria in Childhood

Growing up with gender dysphoria is a profound experience for transgender children. This section will delve into the emotional and psychological aspects of their journey, emphasizing the crucial need for understanding and support during their formative years.

Feminism and Transgender Inclusion: A Complex Intersection

The intersection of feminism and transgender rights is a complex and evolving landscape. Here, we will explore varying perspectives within feminism regarding transgender individuals and discuss how unity among all women, regardless of gender identity, can fortify the battle for gender equality.

The Weight of Privilege: How It Shapes Our Understanding of Gender

Privilege, particularly white privilege, plays a significant role in shaping our understanding of gender. This section will discuss the impact of privilege on an individual’s perception of gender and how recognizing and addressing privilege is vital within feminist and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Mental Health Matters: The Transgender Experience

Transgender individuals often face mental health challenges, including depression and suicidal ideation. Here, we will emphasize the importance of accessible mental health support and delve into the mental health struggles faced by the transgender community.

Advocacy and Legislation: Paving the Way for Transgender Rights

The fight for transgender rights is an ongoing battle that involves legal protections and advocacy efforts. In this section, we will discuss the need for policies like the Equality Act and the significance of advocating for equal rights for transgender individuals.

Empathy and Education: Bridging Gender Experiences

Empathy and education are powerful tools in reducing discrimination and fostering inclusivity. This section will encourage empathy and understanding between different gender experiences and highlight the role of education in creating a more inclusive society.

Conclusion:

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us remember that the history of women includes the experiences of transgender women. By exploring the unique challenges and contributions of transgender individuals, we can forge a more inclusive path towards gender equality. Through empathy, education, and advocacy, we can work together to ensure that transgender women are recognized and valued within the rich tapestry of women’s history.

Episode Description

Paula Williams is a brilliant public speaker with a background as a radio show host, college professor, public speaking coach, trans psychotherapist, TV show producer, CEO, clergy, and way more. She holds a doctorate, has millions of views among her 4 TedTalks and is about to release a book on June 1 entitled As A Woman: What I Learned About Power, Sex, and Patriarchy After I Transitioned, available for preorder now.

She and Isaac discuss the histories of trans women, the roles men have played in initiating and sustaining patriarchy, and the effects it has on women.

Looking for Lesbian Couples Therapy Specifically? Click Here

 

Links To Content Mentioned in Episode

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Navigating Queer Relationships: Finding Love Beyond the Grindr Grid

Queer relationships are a beautiful and essential part of the LGBTQ+ community. As the world becomes more inclusive and accepting, the search for love and meaningful connections within the queer community has evolved. In this blog, we’ll delve into the multifaceted world of queer relationships, from the challenges posed by hookup culture to the journey of self-discovery and the search for genuine emotional intimacy. Let’s explore the nuances of queer love and how to build lasting connections.

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The Allure and Pitfalls of Hookup Culture

   – Discuss the prevalence of hookup apps and their impact on queer relationships.

   – Share personal anecdotes or statistics highlighting the ubiquity of casual encounters.

   – Examine the emotional toll of hookup culture, such as feelings of loneliness and emptiness.

The Longing for Connection

   – Explore the emotional deprivation experienced by many queer individuals during their formative years.

   – Discuss how the need for connection and belonging drives people to seek intimacy.

   – Highlight the distinction between emotional and sexual intimacy.

Emotional Intimacy vs. Sexual Intimacy

   – Define emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy and their roles in relationships.

   – Share stories or examples that illustrate the difference between the two.

   – Explain how emotional intimacy can enhance sexual experiences and vice versa.

The Value Hunt: Seeking Validation

   – Discuss the concept of the “value hunt” where individuals seek validation through sexual encounters.

   – Explain how constant validation-seeking can impact self-esteem and self-worth.

   – Share insights on breaking free from the cycle of seeking external validation.

The Fear of Relational Safety

   – Explore the idea that relational safety can feel threatening to some individuals.

   – Discuss the fear of settling down and the desire to keep searching for the “perfect” partner.

   – Share personal experiences or stories of people who have struggled with this fear.

Developing Relationship Skills

   – Emphasize the importance of developing skills for meaningful relationships.

   – Discuss communication, conflict resolution, and trust-building as crucial components.

   – Provide practical tips on cultivating these skills in queer relationships.

Miami’s Unique Dating Landscape

   – Spotlight the dating scene in Miami, known for its diversity and open-mindedness.

   – Share stories or experiences that reflect the challenges and opportunities for queer relationships in the city.

   – Discuss how the Miami dating scene aligns with or differs from broader trends in queer relationships.

Conclusion: Building Lasting Queer Connections

   – Summarize key takeaways from the blog.

   – Encourage readers to prioritize emotional intimacy and self-discovery in their quest for meaningful queer relationships.

   – Share resources or further reading for those interested in exploring the topic further.

In a world where love knows no boundaries, the journey to find genuine connections within the queer community is a beautiful and transformative experience. By recognizing the pitfalls of hookup culture, seeking emotional intimacy, and developing essential relationship skills, individuals can navigate the complex terrain of queer relationships with authenticity, love, and resilience.

Episode Description

In today’s episode we sit with TikTok’s JerBear to explore what it is about sex and hook ups that can create internal strife, feeling used and abused. His experience has left him with a life changing shift, revealing happiness and self-confidence as a gay man, living out and proud. Many will resonate with his words and maybe even be inspired to make shifts in their own sex life, if need be. 

You can find JerBear on TikTok and Instagram @jerbearmia

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Breaking Barriers: The Importance of Culturally Competent Counseling

Mexican food was a big part of my growing up. My dad’s family used to own a Mexican restaurant and his recipes made their way onto all of our holiday tables. When I first went to college and told my white friends what we ate over the holidays—you know things like enchiladas, tamales, and posole—I got the tilted, confused look that normally comes from puzzled golden retrievers. 

When I first stepped into my therapist’s office on the campus of Colorado University in Boulder, I noticed quickly I was coming from a very different world than her white and educated background. I had come from a small town where Waste Management leaked into our soil, where my father worked as a pastor of a small, Spanish-speaking congregations, and where my mother cleaned homes for the rich on her hands and knees. For the first time, I sat on her therapy couch as a gay, closeted, partially Latinx, partially Indigenous, and fully lost college student from an alternate reality. 

Intersectionality of LGBTQ+ & Ethnic Minority Experiences

In our first session I remember telling her that I was afraid to come out. She asked questions like, “What makes it so hard to tell your parents?”, “What is it about being Latino that makes being feminine so wrong?”, and “Why do you have to stay so close to your family?” 

Sadly, as I responded to her answers, I received the very familiar confused, golden-retriever-tilted-head look. I felt so objectified and like most of my time was spent teaching my therapist about my reality and not my challenges. 

As a graduate student, I took classes like Cultural Counseling and Cultural Considerations. I felt like those classes were written for white student to better understand minority clients like me. And there I was, the token Latinx, gay boy in a sea of white faces studying how to make a good counselor for my own people from a white perspective. I was so annoyed at how my people were being represented. I had to assert my voice to speak up when lectures were misguided, when textbooks missed the mark, and when I knew better from personal experiences. I had to be a voice for better-informed standards. 

Embracing Diversity: Our Commitment to BIPOC Mental Health

Today, at iAmClinic, we continue to hold high standards when it comes to being a safe, equitable, and knowledgeable therapy center for Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC), as well as minorities of all types. 

Because of what I—and all of our therapists—experience as sexual, gender, and ethnic minorities (just to name a few minority positions among our team), we don’t just approach therapy as trained clinicians, but also as minorities working with other minorities. 

And yes, having a diverse staff with a variety of skin tones is important to us. We know that trans and queer people come in all colors, in all languages, and in all shapes. We take it very seriously to ensure that we have therapists on staff who know your background because it is also their background. We want you to be able to speak Spanish with your therapist if that is your preferred language, because being yourself and being comfortable is your right, especially in therapy. I am determined to ensure that all queer or trans BIPOC have that experience at iAmClinic.  

We know that having to teach people about the subtle ways our skin, our hair, our accents, and our backgrounds are challenged in society is not only exhausting, it is isolating. That is why we are sure to have therapists who understand your world, leaving no need for you to do the teaching. 

iAmClinic is ready, not because we know what the textbooks say, but because we know what discrimination (in big and small ways, in overt and covert forms, and conscious and subconscious microcosms) looks and feels like. 

If you’re a BIPOC and find yourself needing therapy, feel free to reach out for a free consultation. I know what it is like to call numerous providers to feel hopeless and misunderstood. At iAmClinic there are BIPOC therapists ready to meet you and help you on your healing journey. 

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Man is taking off the wedding ring

Jump To:

1. What language is mine?

2. My Internal Truth

3. Necessary Closets

4. Acknowledge Outdated Assumptions

She was so sincere in wanting to help her coming out husband. Wanting nothing more than for her husband to be happy and for their children to go through any transition smoothly, she was eager to learn and love. It took her husband quite some time to make it in to our sessions because he was terrified that was would cause his family pain.   

For a variety of legitimate reasons, coming out to your spouse can be a very scary and challenging process, to say the least. You’ve built a life with someone, and the idea of unraveling and abandoning that history can leave your central nervous system paralyzed. Perhaps you are considering if the benefits of coming out really outweigh the costs.

To help create peace of mind and find resolution, let me explain a couple of moving parts to help you determine if you want to come out.

Self-discovery

1. What language is mine?

Sexual orientation describes what happens in your central and autonomic nervous systems—the various involuntary ways your body respond to visual stimuli (like another person’s body or personality), emotional intimacy and sexual pleasure. Sexual identity, however, is the name with which you label your sexual orientation. Although your sexual orientation could be, let’s say gay, you could publically claim that you are bisexual. In this scenario, your private sexual identity would be gay (because it matches your sexual orientation), but your public sexual identity would be bisexual. Your sexual orientation does not have to match your sexual identity, at least until we come out fully.  

Some sexual orientations are lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, demisexual, gay, asexual, etc. 

Gender identity is the felt sense or internal knowing of one’s gender, regardless of the physical body with which they/she/he is born.

Some gender identities are transgender, gender nonconforming, gender non-binary, trans non-binary, and trans binary, to name a few. 

Sex symbol

2. My Internal Truth

I encourage my clients to ask a very simple, yet illuminating question: What is true about my gender identity, as well as my sexual orientation, both physically and emotionally?

Asking this question as you walk down the street, see an attractive person, interact with coworkers, fall asleep at night and pleasure yourself sexually will help you make peace with the physiological and involuntary mechanisms of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I also strongly encourage you to discover which personality types you are drawn to and what yearnings they provoke. We are emotionally aroused when we feel seen, special, sexy and wanted.

Taking a thorough inventory of what brings you comfort and pleasure––from the inside out––will contribute to a comprehensive picture of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity and all their components. Self-understanding is the best catalyst for deeply rooted confidence. 

3. Necessary Closets

As you make peace with your sexuality, coming out may be too emotionally or relationally threatening. And for this reason, you may reach clarity and identify exactly why your closet has been necessary. Acknowledging any imminent or assumed rejection, isolation, or derogation will help you prepare for the initial jolt of coming out. Laying a stable foundation––like a trustworthy support system, for example––will give you the emotional and physical stamina to withstand challenging relational storms. 

4. Acknowledge Outdated Assumptions

“My sexual orientation was socialized, and I can change it” 

Thankfully, we now have scientific data that proves we were born with both a pre-established sexual orientation and gender identity set in place by in utero bathings during weeks 6 and twelve. 

Although there are no genes fully responsible for homosexuality or gender identity, it is easy to understand our sexual orientations and gender identities were installed by hormone bathings that wire our brains for sexual preferences and a felt sense of gender. The software, if you will, that encodes our sexuality will remain somewhat unactivated until puberty, whereas that which encodes our gender will be activated as early as 2 years old. 

“I’ll be alone forever”

Many of my clients who contemplate coming out assume their lives will completely fall apart or that they’ll be seen as the world’s biggest jerk for causing so much pain in their loved ones’ lives. 

There is a major range of reactions in those who hear the news for the first time. A significant percentage of my coming out clients face a short-term season of relational discord where time and space help everyone involved establish a new normal. 

Another noteworthy percentage of clients face the transition as a team, creating a new normal side-by-side. Families and couples who do this have well-developed abilities to communicate, to be vulnerable and to practice unconditional love. 

It is rare, but worth mentioning, that for bisexual, pan, or demi clients––who are in some capacity attracted to their opposite gendered spouse and the same gender––remaining in their marriage is possible. Again, these mixed-orientation marriages are stabilized by mature communication and thorough understanding of both their sexual orientation, sexual desires and deep emotional intimacy.  

Coming out can change your life dramatically, possibly leading to utter rejection. But with more than ten year’s worth of clinical experience working with couples and families, complete rejection is very, very rare. If being ostracized from your loved ones is possible, take every step necessary to create a safety net of trustworthy friendships before coming out.

Wife supporting husband in therapy

Coming Out

As you plan your coming out, identify the triggers your spouse might experience and how you may be prone to feel responsible for their reactions. Remember, you cannot cause another’s reaction; they do! Amidst their triggers, for which you are not responsible, implement a sophisticated boundary so that you can stay in your truth, while your spouse or loved one experiences theirs. 

One major element to a successful coming out is your story—the tale of your lived experience as you felt your sexual orientation or gender identity blossom. I have my clients complete a timeline where they list experiences of their sexual orientation/gender identity (e.g., a crush in elementary school, a self-discovery in adolescents, an epiphany in young adulthood, etc.), as well as what they thought and how they felt during those experiences. Pack out your timeline will all the details that will help them understand you, your body, your desires, and your lived experience.

Share with your loved ones when you first discovered what your sexual orientation or gender identity are and how you knew. Tell them what it felt like as you held this secret and all the assumptions (and painful realities) that made your closet so necessary. All in all, this timeline, once completed, will be a robust repository of helpful language for you to articulate your story with confidence and peace of mind. It will also help you know the answers to deep, probing questions that might come your way.  

Your coming out will be the very beginning of a long process, but with the internal inventory you’ve completed and the confidence you’ve built, hold to your inner knowing, which is where freedom lives—for both you and your loved ones. 

Ready for a change for you or a loved one? Schedule your Free 15 Minute Consultation today.

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relatioinship with 3

Open relationships are the new sandbox where many LGBTQIA+ persons test out their relational skills. Can we explore new relationships and not violate one another’s boundaries? Will our health,our sex and our emotional intimacy thrive because of open relationships, or will they become tattered by pain and rejection over time?

Many of us wonder if we can trust our lovers to the powers and pulls of an open relationship, while others crave for another outlet for their love and experiences that keep a sense of youthful joy alive. No matter the context from which you consider the idea of opening your relationship, I recommend you take time to read through this 3-part series.

What is an Open Relationship?

An open relationship is a committed partnership in which both individuals consent to engaging in romantic or sexual relationships with people outside of the primary couple.

The key factors that differentiate ethical non-monogamy from cheating or infidelity are honesty, communication, and the full approval of all involved partners. Boundaries and terms of the open relationship are negotiated transparently.

There are many varieties of open relationships, with flexibility to structure agreements around each couple’s comfort level. Some common examples include:

  • Only recreational threesomes together, but no independent external partners
  • Casual dating and sexual encounters are allowed, but not ongoing secondary relationships
  • Full permission for additional long-term romantic partnerships

The exact parameters are up to each couple to decide through respectful discussion and compromise. There is no single “right” way to practice consensual or ethical non-monogamy.

female couple walking

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The Prevalence of Open Relationships Among Gay Men

Research indicates that open relationships are fairly common among gay male couples. Studies show that around 40-50% of gay couples engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy. This contrasts with rates of just 4-5% for heterosexual and lesbian couples.

These statistics highlight that traditional monogamy is not universally considered the ideal relationship structure among gay men. Open relationships, sometimes called “monogamish” arrangements, can take many forms based on each couple’s wishes. Understanding the range of options can help couples determine if some type of open relationship could work for them.

Facing Social Stigma Around Non-Traditional Relationships

Despite their prevalence, open relationships still face stigma and judgment, even within the LGBTQ+ community. Many gay couples report feeling pressure from family and friends to conform to traditional monogamous expectations.

This can lead to feelings of shame or guilt, and cause couples to hide their open status from unaccepting loved ones. Having to “return to the closet” and hide an important aspect of their relationship can take a psychological toll.

It’s important for couples to anticipate these potential challenges. Finding community support among other ethically non-monogamous couples can help counteract negative societal messages.

Managing Difficult Emotions in Open Relationships

Opening up a relationship often brings up difficult emotions like jealousy, insecurity, anxiety and fear of abandonment. These feelings are completely normal, but failing to address them can sabotage the open arrangement.

Partners should listen without judgment when the other(s) expresses vulnerabilities. Sharing fears and insecurities openly can help diffuse their intensity. Establishing rules and boundaries around outside sexual contacts and emotional closeness can provide reassurance.

Seeking counseling from therapists experienced with open relationships can also help couples process challenging emotions and dynamics. The key is to acknowledge and compassionately discuss these feelings before they spiral out of control.

Establishing Clear Rules and Boundaries

To maintain stability and trust, open relationships require clear ground rules about what activities are permitted or prohibited. It’s crucial for partners to explicitly communicate and negotiate guidelines around:

  • Safer sex practices
  • Level of detail to disclose about external partners
  • Overnight stays vs. only sexual meetups
  • Emotional involvement with casual partners
  • Which friends or acquaintances are off limits
  • Scheduled quality time to nurture the primary partnership

Of course, these rules can evolve over time as partners adjust to the open dynamic. But starting with clearly defined expectations can minimize hurt feelings down the road.

Prioritizing Emotional Intimacy and Quality Time

Partners should intentionally nurture closeness and affection in their relationship, despite any outside sexual connections. This requires ongoing expressions of love, appreciation and commitment.

Regular one-on-one dates, without distractions, are important. Couples need quality time to check in emotionally, cuddle, maintain physical intimacy, discuss any issues, and reinforce their primary bond.

An open relationship can thrive only when anchored by a strong foundation of intimacy, friendship and trust between partners. Frequent emotional nourishment is essential.

Key Discussion Points for Opening Up Your Relationship

If you are considering transitioning to an open partnership, here are some important topics for couples to discuss:

  • Level of disclosure about external partners and encounters
  • Guidelines around safer sex and STI prevention
  • What specific sexual acts are permitted or prohibited
  • Expectations around emotional attachment and time spent with casual partners
  • Rules about interacting with friends, coworkers, exes
  • Scheduled quality time to focus on your primary relationship
  • Managing jealousy and insecurities as they arise
  • How often to review and revise agreements as needed
  • Contingency plan if trying non-monogamy doesn’t work for the couple

Having candid conversations about needs, fears, and boundaries before opening up is key. Addressing potential issues proactively can prevent hurt feelings.

To get you started, here are three highly important questions to consider as you contemplate what will leave you truly satisfied:

1. Is your Relational Esteem High or Low?

Relational esteem is the barometer that reveals how much each of you knows, believes and trusts that nothing can deconstruct the relationship––not another person, a sexual rendezvous or a major disagreement.

High relational esteem squashes insecurities and feelings of being replaceable. It roots itself in an unshakeable confidence in the relationship’s longevity for each member of a relationship to realize their highest selves and to trust that they truly belong. High relational esteem knows––relying on every experience of affirmation and belonging––nothing can tear the relationship apart.

When we have a high level of emotional intimacy, our relational esteem will be high. And from these heights a couple’s ability to open their relationship will emerge from a sense of excitement, not dread, fear or jealousy.

When our relational esteem is low we fear rejection and breakups. We panic easily because we are accustomed to thinking our partner might fall in love with someone else or become bored with us. Low relational esteem has a scary message: I am replaceable. Low relational esteem fears the ongoing effects of an argument and will often flutter with doom that the relationship might end, even when the end isn’t realistic. Recurring thoughts of inadequacy prevent us from having high relational esteem, just as watering soil with salt water won’t allow plants to grow.

Low relational esteem is directly tied to not believing in your own inherent value, either because you cannot acknowledge that you are loveable or because your partner (among other people in your life) has failed to provide convincing evidence that you are cherished and belong in loving arms. If you are like me in my late 20’s, you may feel a little bit of both—not believing in yourself and not having the data of your worth staring you in the face.

We improve our relational esteem by learning to trust our partner with the honest reality of who we are—our insecurities, our wounds, and our success and joy. Relational esteem arises as we let another see us for who we are, and they stick around for both the good and the ugly. Sometimes we might need to ask our partner to be more intentional to affirm our role and worth. Asking is ok! Many partners are way too unaccustomed to expressing their love. In these instances, we have to prime the affirmation pump by communicating our needs.

Do you need help learning about relational esteem and inherent value? We’re here to help.

open relatinshihip couple

2. Do you frequently communicate about sex, belonging, and security?

Although many couples who think about opening their relationship communicate about logistics well—who, what, when—, I want to encourage couples to communicate about their fears, their sexual desires, and the mechanisms that stabilize their relational esteem.

Communicating about what feels good and what doesn’t, whether it be emotionally, relationally, or sexually, will help any couple navigate open relationships with more awareness. Learning about what scares or calms, excites or exhausts and fulfills or depletes your partner will help you choose actions and identify a third that improves your relational esteem, rather than diminishes it.

One of the most important things about an open relationship is that you are honest with yourself so that you can be honest with your partner(s). Know what you like, what works for you and that which doesn’t. Help your partner(s) understand who you are what you need. From this place you can confidently co-direct your relationship to a place of confidence, comfort, and peace.

When we have a peaceful and honest relationship with our own desires we will have a peaceful relationship with our behaviors. And when our behaviors are in alignment with our desires we protect ourselves from pain and our relationships from our own resentment. Talking about what you like and what you don’t goes way below the sheets and into the fabric of who you. From this place, your desire can help you create the love life and relationship you most deeply brave.

While open relationships can take a variety of shapes and sizes, remember that you are not an island functioning in isolation. Your actions will still affect your partner(s). Communication will help keep your relationship(s) on track an in line with your co-determined relational trajectory. Opening a relationship does introduce a higher level of autonomy, but it also requires working as a team, possibly even more so than before.

3. Is your boundary system sophisticated and functional?

Good communication leads to a sophisticated boundary system that allows all people involved to feel safe, seen, secure and soothed.

By boundaries, I mean not only permitted or prohibited sexual experiences but also emotional experiences.

Couples who open their relationships should clearly understand what role another partner or a third will play. Is the open relationship about exciting sexual encounters or finding love? Does it involve one partner or many? How much do each of you talk about? What details are disclosed or kept private?

Questions like this will be important to leave on the table. Answers may not be present immediately, and many couples will have to find the answers as they navigate the open world. But boundaries will help protect the relationship and will bring a sense of safety so that all partners know their place and hold realistic expectations.

Open relationships are a major topic to consider. Living in an open relationship requires a type of unconditional love that can tolerate paradox, one that loves when a partner falls in love. Relational esteem can carry an open relationship through many challenges and to places where mature love knows no limits.

Remember, an open relationship doesn’t necessarily mean more joy and more satisfaction. Know yourself and take care of yourself as you plot your steps.

Ready for a change for you or a loved one? Schedule your Free 15 Minute Consultation today.

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couple in kitchen

Two strapping young men sat on my couch, wet boots soaking the office carpet. The heavy rain outside was nothing compared to the ways in which they felt drenched in hopelessness. Both toiled over the consideration that an open relationship might be right for them. In their differing approaches to opening the relationship, one experienced the lack vitality and sexual freedom like a wet blanket that smothered his youthful soul, while the other felt trapped in a wetsuit he couldn’t shake off. The tension in his chest was all too consuming. He was panicked that he’d be left behind, that his partner would love a third more than him.

Maybe you see yourself in one of the young men who ran out of the storm and into my office. You, too, may be considering opening your relationship with the perception that it will liberate a long-forgotten vitality or long-gone sense of sexual thrill. Perhaps you’re scared that opening a relationship could be the beginning of the end.

As an attachment-focused clinician who has worked with individuals of open relationships, I have seen two predominant motivators for open relationships.

First, it may be that one or both of you is approaching an open relationships from a place of security, feeling profoundly steadfast and confident in the longevity of your relationship. With the test of time on your side, you or your partner may be looking to augment experiences of love, sex, and thrill. I assume that couples who want to expand their abilities to love and be loved have an earned secure attachment and deep relational esteem that can withstand the weight of an expanded emotional world. Lovers with high relational esteem are stable in their relationship and feel deeply connected, so that the love for a third or someone outside the relationship is non-threatening. Couples who know this type of steadfast love can be one another’s cheerleaders, celebrating their loved one’s love from the sidelines, like a spectator who wants their home team to win.

In such a context––with an earned secure attachment and deeply rooted relational esteem––open relationships bring new tricks to the bedroom, perspectives that deepen relational intimacy and fresh air that enlivens the otherwise mundane routines of adulting. Certain agreements, sexual expressions and relational habits that were once fixed or off the table are now up for conversation again.

One alternative to such a stable love story is when one or both partners feel as though the wells of emotional and sexual intimacy have grown thin, dried up by hollow gestures, patterned resentments and petrified disappointments. Motivated by the fear that the relationship could be more of a trap of stale love, these partners often enter an open relationship seeking remedy for their pain.

Physiologically, we know the early passion in most relationships gradually fades The dopamine and serotonin cocktails our brains create give way to partnerships and everyday routines. (Little wonder that the Greeks separated Eros, the god of passion, from his mother Aphrodite, the goddess of committed love!)

Some people in committed relationships, wanting to keep their stability in place and feel alive again, began fantasizing about romance, thrill, and enticing sexual encounters that can tickle their fancies. Striking a deal within themselves––and possibly their relationship––these partners feel as though an open relationships is just the trick. They have found a way to preserve their cake and eat it too! Although such a deal may bring some relief, if the underlying patterns that allowed the boredom to settle in are not addressed, the dryness will persist and the once-medicated pain of loneliness will turn into resentment over time, no matter who the lover(s) are.

It is very common for people who opened their relationships out of fear, loneliness or pain find themselves in one of the following three categories.

The first is the insecure and scared partner who experiences jealousy and insecurity. They are certain that their partner might love someone else more, leaving them disposable and alone. These lovers may panic and self-medicate to reduce their anxiety. They often agree to an open relationship with fear and trembling.

Do you experience anxiety because of your open relationship? We’re here to help.

feet in bed

Second, are the lovers who are too willing to detach from their primary relationship. The relational environment was too dry and empty; the compromises, too great. Opening the relationship is a fortuitous exit and they are quick to take a peaceful landing in an otherwise a turbulent relationship.

The third is the lover who cannot make up their mind because they have not acknowledged their fear, loneliness or pain. Confused by their own desires, these lovers will be present for a spell and then gone like a thief in the night. With one foot in, they may pepper you with seductive words to convince you to stay. And with the other foot out, they leave you wondering if you really ever mattered. The whiplash of their ambivalence is painfully exhausting. Ultimately, they will need to reckon with their emotions, before they can be fully present with anyone else.

Knowing the context from which you consider opening your relationship allows you to answer these deeply important questions:
Is opening my relationship about love or fear?That is, might you be making the decision to open their relationship out of the fear of emotional depletion rather than out of love for self and others?

As couples familiarize themselves with their context, one of the first things I recommend is to open up a conversation, not the relationship. Talk about emotional intimacy within the relationship. If the relational climate is dry, if vulnerability isn’t shared or passion is absent, the couple will benefit from reigniting emotional vulnerability. Feeling the relational thermometer reach warm temperatures once again may calm the lonely-forever fears and return the couple back to passion, thrill and romance. Before you enter a relational storm with torrential downpours, set your relational climate with honesty, vulnerability and the power to love yourself and others well. From such an open, honest and sturdy place, an open relationship will have the best chance for success.

Do you need help finding what’s right for you? We’re here to help.

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gay men in park

Given our natural neurology, open relationships will mean different things to different people. Our sexbrain––the name for the various mechanisms found within our physical bodies and neuroanatomy that guide self-understanding and intimacy at large––is determined by a variety of factors that ultimately create rushing neural highways for one person and trickling rivers for another. The sexbrain determines the ways in which emotions play a small or big role in love, bonding and sex. It also explains why we all have different ways of experiencing and expressing gender identity, and the manner in which we understand our sexual orientations.

As we know from research our sexbrain is largely determined by an in utero hormone bathing in weeks 6 and 12. After birth, of course, our families, interactions, relationships outside of the home and our interpretation styles will add layers to the ways in which intimacy is allowed or held at bay.

All this to say, because of our sexbrain, we will all have a unique way of seeing emotional intimacy and sex.

The differences between your and your partner’s sexbrain–– the areas of the brain/body that host your sexuality and emotionality (e.g., hippocampus, limbic system and the autonomic nervous system)––may be profound. In other words, sexual intimacy may be heavily tied to love and safety for one of you and thrill and playfulness for the other. Some need emotional connectedness to feel sexual arousal, whereas others need sexual connectedness to have emotional arousal. Many need independence to feel close, while others need closeness to trust independence.

Thus, two people in one relationship may have vastly different approaches to an open relationships because they’re: 1) relying on different signals that initiate safety in 2) a brain/body that defines safety differently than others.

If we consider that sex and emotions are wired differently in all of us––each relying on a different version of safety––it is easy to see why some of us are comfortable with open relationships, while others might see them as unnecessary, possibly even frightening.

As you consider opening your relationship, you should identify the ways in which both you and your partner define safety, sexual intimacy, as well as emotional intimacy. Such clarity will help you see what’s at play underneath the hood of your sexbrain and how it affects what happens under the sheets.

Here is a list of thought prompts to help you and your partner understand why an open relationship can improve or diminish your relational satisfaction.

1. How does sex feel to you? On a spectrum, is it more like a ceremony of bonding, where safety, trust and protection are passed from one to the other or like a fleeting, but meaningful physical act where care and sensuality are shared between two partners?

Again, tt can be dramatically illuminating to understand what role sex does and does not play for you and your partner. It may be that the sexbrain functions differently, rending different meanings, associations, and emotions during sex. As a result, for one partner, sex might be an act of delight and pleasure, while for the other, a ceremony of bonding and union. If this is how sex plays out in your reationship, open relationships will feel triggering for the one who feels sex’s binding power. They may interpret that their partner wants a deep union with others because monogamy hosts a deep sense of belonging and safety. To these partners, open relationships can feel like a random person is moving into their home, their sacred haven.

For someone who experiences sex as an experience of non-bonding pleasure, an open relationship can be a way to share joy, passion and possibly even love without it threatening the primary relationship. They can often implement a healthy boundary system that allows themselves to dip into an experience of passion, without questioning their fidelity to their primary partner.

If the role of sex hasn’t been discussed and clarified, approaching an open relationship can be more bumpy or chaotic than it needs to be. Take time to talk about the role of sex and boundaries—physical and emotional boundaries— and how they can stabilize the relationship even if your relationship remains closed.

Do you need help communicating your fears to your partner? We’re here to help.

3 men together

I’ve noticed that most challenging emotions that arise as couples consider opening their relationship stem from the underlying and deeply innocent desires to love authentically and find safety. Honor your partner’s experience because it may, in fact, help you make peace with whatever route you take.

2. How will you assess the emotional maturity of any prospective lover?

Often times couples who green light an open relationship find an attractive, like-minded lover. Assuming that a brief disclosure about the open relationship is enough information to keep things healthy, many persons in an open relationship find themselves managing more emotional fires than they expected.

Anytime we create a new relationship we engage an entire human—their history, their current cravings, their wounding, and their current level of emotional ability. Their ability to hold boundaries, self-soothe in difficult moments and a deep internalization of their inherent value will affect your relationship, for better and worse.

Take a moment for due diligence and create a list of non-negotiables with your partner. Strategizing for our co-created, ideal dynamic. Finding the right fit can bring a stabilizing peace of mind that may help both of you feel ready to test the waters of open relationships.

Do open relationships work for everyone? Not always. Should we assume that at a certain level of emotional maturity we’d all be capable and comfortable within an open relationship? Absolutely not. The sexbrain is way too powerful and our neurology is too precise to prescribe them for everyone.

Before you make major assumptions about what is and isn’t possible for you [and your partner], take time to get to know one another’s experience with love and sex. Doing so will be a major guiding force—one that is reliable and trustworthy. And even if you don’t ultimately open your relationship, you will feel closer.

Are you thinking about opening up your relationship? We’re here to help.

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Contents

1. Coming Out To Yourself 

2. Coming Out To Friends

3. Coming Out To Family

4. Coming Out Across Identities

5. Reconciling Sexuality and Spirituality

5. Letting People See You As Queer

6. Reclaiming Your Desires

7. Continuing to Live Openly

8. Assessing Safety and Support

9. Finding Support and Community

Coming out might just be the hardest, yet most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. It surely was for me, on both accounts.

As I reflect back on that 22 year-old who made the bold decision to tell his parents, I realize that I was doing something more profound than just uttering important words to my folks. I was shifting the trajectory of my life, playing the lead role in my own life’s tale. I was allowing my authenticity to blossom. And much like a flower, my blossoming happened in phases. I hear these coming out phases echoing in queer people’s lives every day. Learn about sexuality counseling here!

1. Coming Out To Yourself 

Coming out to ourselves is a big step in honesty. It’s one small thing to say, but a massive thing to let be true. When we admit to ourselves: 1) what is true of our sexuality and/or gender, 2) what has been true about our internal knowing, and 3) what will be of our lives, we gain the ability to unleash all our potential. In other words, coming out is not only a verbal declaration, but an emotional liberation. After we come out to ourselves, we are able to fully live out of our inherent value, and we begin to live from it as a source of fulfillment, not from the motives to do good, be right, and become enough. As we leave the closet, we leave behind the illusion that we need to earn our value. 

2. Coming Out To Friends 

Most research shows that the first person to whom we verbalize our truth is a close friend. No surprise there! Friends are often our allies, providing camaraderie, support, and a relationship wherein our true self is not only welcomed but cherished. When people feel like they’re coming out in a context with no friends, I recommend first creating a safety network of trustworthy allies who can offer coming out support. We all need a safe shoulder to cry on, if need be. Friends who stick around for the coming out process might just become your new chosen family. 

3. Coming Out To Family 

Before making any public statements to loved ones who might not be accepting, I recommend knowing your own story. Gather the language that will empower you to answer your anti-queer loved ones’ questions with a steadfast confidence. Your truth and your story is real and happened involuntarily. It’s not a choice. The more we can speak of and describe our closeted history with confidence and appropriate language, the more we are able to stand firm in the face of religious hate or cultural homophobia. Answer questions like: 

  1. When did you first know?
  2. How did it feel to experience same-gender attractions and, possibly, not want them?
  3. What did you do to potentially hide or rid yourself of your attractions?

Answers to these questions will dispel the erroneous notion that you “chose” to be gay or that you made the decision out of peer pressure. 

I also recommend coming out to parents in a safe relational context. If you feel as though you might experience rejection or persecution, I might recommend waiting to come out to any anti-queer parents until you are stable and able to care for yourself properly. Too often, queer children are left abandoned with few resources. Above all else, take care of yourself before you prioritize honesty.

4. Coming Out Across Identities

Your cultural background, religion, race and other identities can strongly influence your coming out process. Some additional considerations:

  • Coming out in ethnic communities can be complicated if LGBTQIA+ identities are taboo or misunderstood. Connect with people who share your cultural identity and sexuality.
  • Religious expectations may make families less accepting. Seek out LGBTQIA+-affirming faith leaders who can help you reconcile sexuality and spirituality.
  • People of color often face bias compounded by both racism and homophobia/transphobia. Find support tailored to the intersections of your identities.

5. Reconciling Sexuality and Spirituality 

This is an extreme feat! I had a majorly challenging—even debilitating—time processing what my religion said about my “sinful” sexuality and how I experienced its innocence. It wasn’t until I started reading scholars with doctorates in New Testament theology that I would even let myself consider the idea that my sexuality was neither wrong, dirty, nor disgusting. Be gentle with yourself and take your place in the driver’s seat of your own spiritual development. Discover what you believe by learning what your Higher Power thinks about you, rather than what some minister tells you your Higher Power thinks about you.

There are hundreds of resources devoted to helping people reconcile their sexuality and spirituality. If you need help accessing these resources, please feel free to reach out to us!

6. Letting People See You As Queer 

Although making a public statement is a big step, one of the other profound statements is what we let people see. Showing our affections with our partner over the holidays in front of our loved ones, holding hands in public, or posting romantic and affectionate pictures is a major non-verbal and political statement. Letting people see you as out serves to create a boundary that will give you a ton of freedom and liberty. It breaks the silent barriers that keep us trapped in shame. Being your authentic self in a public fashion carves out an authentic place in the world. It is a brave step that not only breaks the ice but also allows you to find confidence in that what you bring to the table is just as beautiful as any other version of love. 

Reclaiming Your Desires 

In one of our Queer RelationTip episodes, we interviewed a lesbian wife who grew up in a small Mormon town. After being taught that her desires for love, admiration, and belonging with a lesbian lover were wrong, she left her desires in the closet, along with her genuine personality. After coming out, she felt as though she had to be what people wanted her to be, just like she had while closeted. After taking time to realize that she deserved not only to be happy, but to feel powerful, exuberant, and alive in her own life, she realized that she needed to heal from the ego split by reclaiming her desires. 

Continuing to Live Openly

Coming out is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process throughout your life. After coming out:

  • Be prepared to repeatedly come out as you form new relationships and join new communities. It can get easier with practice.
  • If you’re safe enough, correct those who assume you’re straight in your daily life. Coming out is stating your truth.
  • Stand up against anti-LGBTQIA+ remarks and biases. Your visibility makes a difference.
  • Keep surrounding yourself with people who support your LGBTQ+ identity, while being patient with those still learning.

Assessing Safety and Support

Coming out can impact your physical, emotional, and financial safety. Gauge how supportive your environment is before deciding to come out. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there a risk you could face violence or be kicked out of your home if you come out? If so, make an emergency plan and reach out to LGBTQIA+ organizations for help before coming out. Your safety always comes first.
  • How do your family, friends, school or workplace respond when LGBTQIA+ issues come up? Do they seem hostile or open-minded? Their reactions can clue you into potential support or rejection.
  • Does your community have non-discrimination protections? Are there local LGBTQIA+ resources? A lack of legal protections or visibility may indicate increased risk.

Just like that young newlywed, we too have to embrace all the small mechanisms and linchpins that make us queer: our desire for love, our passion, the ways in which we seek, experience and express love, as well as the many other ways our queerness originates within our bodies. We have to let the desires that inform our identities stand with validity and honesty. Don’t hold your desires back, because the moment you do is the same moment you stifle your personality and dim your life. 

Finding Support and Community

You don’t have to come out alone. LGBTQIA+ organizations, hotlines and online groups can provide invaluable support.

You have an abundance of support out there. Reach out so you don’t have to come out alone. Learn more about neurofeedback in this FAQ guide.

If you’re looking for professional help, reach out now!

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lesbian marriage counseling

In Denver, a city celebrated for its inclusive culture, lesbian couples–seeking to fortify their relationship–have access to expert, compassionate counseling. Here, we explore the unique challenges lesbian couples may encounter, outline the qualifications of specialized LGBTQIA+ focused counselors, and share personal testimonials that highlight the profound impact of such counseling.

Unique Challenges Faced by Lesbian Couples

Lesbian relationships can face a variety of specific challenges which may include:

  • People Pleasing & Anxiety: It is very common to have one partner in the relationship working hard to keep the other comfortable and stable, while the other feels fearfully detached and comes across as either critical or powerless. Such a dynamic is common. Small adjustments can take a lesbian couple a long way. 
  • Boundaries & Communication: Many lesbian couples have repeating arguments that stem from challenges (emotional, relational, and past traumas) and pepper their relationships with hopelessness and confusion. 
  • Internalized Homophobia: Struggles with internalized societal biases can negatively influence self-esteem and interpersonal dynamics.
  • Coming Out: The journey of coming out to family, friends, and colleagues can often bring anxiety and may impact the relationship dynamics.
  • Family Acceptance: Challenges in gaining acceptance from family members can create significant emotional turmoil and conflict within the relationship.

Addressing these issues within a supportive counseling environment can lead to transformative outcomes for couples grappling with these challenges. Learn more about Attachment in Polyamorous Relationships!

Addressing These Challenges Through Counseling

Expert counselors in Denver are uniquely positioned to support lesbian couples as they navigate the intricate challenges that may affect their relationships. These professionals create a nurturing environment where couples can openly address internal conflicts, societal pressures, and family dynamics. Here’s how counseling can help address three major areas: internalized homophobia, the coming out process, and family acceptance.

Understanding People Pleasing Patterns and Anxiety

Life in the closet is bad for us in more ways than one. As we live hiding our true selves it can either feel like our hiding is what keeps others around us comfortable, or as though our hiding is what keeps us detached from others and anxious. Either way, as we live closeted–from our most intimate relationships–we develop a relational software that stems from childhood closeted experiences and affects our romantic, professional, and platonic relationships. 

How Counseling Helps:

  • Learning about Enmeshment & Detachment: identifying how enmeshment (people pleasing) and/or detachment (feeling isolated and anxious) are inherent effects of living in the closet can help couples talk openly about what has hurt and what needs to change
  • Learn About Your Relational Dynamic: Assessing how these patterns affect romantic relationships and have defined relational and/or emotional intimacy
  • Setting the Tone You Crave: Redefining ways of connecting as a means of learning to trust a new pattern and playing a new, healthy role in relationships
  • Loving Yourself To Love Another: Connecting back to authenticity and independence so that your relationships doesn’t feel like work, but liberation

Practicing Boundaries and Healthy Communication

Lesbians often joke about ‘U-hauling it.’ And sometimes there is a lot of momentum in relationships, but not enough boundaries to support the movement. In the excitement and surge of getting to know one another, it is easy to overlook setting a solid platform upon which the relationship can thrive. Boundaries and efficient communication are two tactics that can propel an excited, lesbian couple from stage one into a long and fulfilling future. 

How Counseling Helps:

  • Creating Sophisticated Boundaries: Boundaries are often thought to be a wall that protects us. As such, they also become barriers to healthy emotional intimacy. Utilizing a sophisticated boundary system, we see that they actually help us bond
  • Objectifying Behaviors: A mature boundary system will allow us to assess our own behaviors so that we can feel proud of how we show up in relationships. It will also help you empathize with your partner’s emotional experience. Again, a strong boundary system will strengthen your ability to understand one another and keep the relationship organized
  • Empathy Feeds Healthy Communication: Once we have a healthy boundary system, communicating efficiently and healthily is inevitable. With the distance that a health boundary creates, our partner’s emotions no longer feel like personal attacks. Communication then is another tool that allows you to learn about your partner as opposed to needing to protect yourself from her. 

Lesbian Marriage & Relationship Counseling in Denver

Exploring Feelings of Internalized Homophobia

Internalized homophobia is a common challenge many lesbian individuals face, stemming from societal messages that may have been unconsciously accepted over time. This can manifest in feelings of shame, low self-esteem, or conflict about one’s own sexual orientation.

How Counseling Helps:

  • Deconstruction of Negative Beliefs: Counselors assist individuals in unpacking and challenging these internalized beliefs, helping to dismantle the negative self-concepts they have developed.
  • Promotion of Self-Acceptance: Therapy sessions focus on building self-acceptance and pride in one’s identity, which are crucial for personal happiness and healthy relationships.
  • Improvement of Relationship Dynamics: As individuals feel more comfortable with their identities, their relationship dynamics can improve, fostering closer and more authentic connections with their partners.

Strategizing the Coming Out Process

Coming out to family, friends, and colleagues can be a significant source of anxiety and stress for lesbian individuals and couples. Each coming out experience is unique, and the process can significantly impact both personal well-being and relationship health.

How Counseling Helps:

  • Personalized Coming Out Strategies: Counselors work with individuals and couples to develop tailored strategies for coming out that consider personal circumstances and the potential reactions of others.
  • Support Systems: Therapy provides a supportive backdrop where individuals can discuss fears and concerns about coming out, ensuring they do not face this challenging process alone.
  • Managing Reactions: Counselors equip clients with tools to handle various reactions, whether supportive or adverse, helping to maintain their emotional equilibrium throughout the process.

Facilitating Family Acceptance Dialogues

Family acceptance is crucial for the emotional well-being of lesbian couples. However, not all families are immediately accepting, and navigating this reality can be emotionally draining.

How Counseling Helps:

  • Communication Techniques: Counselors teach effective communication skills that help couples articulate their needs and boundaries clearly to their families, which can lead to better understanding and acceptance.
  • Mediation and Facilitation: In some cases, counselors may act as mediators in family dialogues, helping to facilitate discussions that might otherwise be too emotionally charged to handle alone.

Coping Mechanisms: For ongoing non-acceptance, counselors help couples develop coping mechanisms to protect their relationship and well-being, allowing them to maintain connections with family where possible, without compromising their mental health.

Creating a Safe and Affirmative Counseling Environment

It is crucial for therapy to occur in a space where lesbian couples can freely explore issues related to sexuality, gender identity, and non-traditional relationship dynamics without judgment:

  • Exploration of Sexuality and Gender Identity: Counselors provide a secure environment to discuss these topics openly, which is vital for personal and relationship growth.
  • Non-Traditional Relationship Dynamics: Counselors support couples in navigating and embracing various relationship structures, enhancing mutual satisfaction and understanding.

The Impact of Supportive Counseling

The benefits of a supportive counseling environment extend beyond the therapy sessions:

Improved Communication

One of the most immediate impacts of a supportive counseling environment is the enhancement of communication skills within a relationship. Effective communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, and it becomes even more crucial when navigating the complexities associated with lesbian relationships, such as societal pressures and internal conflicts.

Benefits of Improved Communication:

  • Clarity and Understanding: Couples learn how to express their thoughts and feelings clearly and listen to each other without judgment. This understanding helps prevent misunderstandings and builds a foundation of trust.
  • Conflict Resolution: With better communication, couples can more effectively resolve conflicts. They learn to approach disagreements with a problem-solving attitude rather than a confrontational one.
  • Expressing Needs and Desires: A supportive environment encourages individuals to voice their needs and desires openly, ensuring that both partners understand what is important for maintaining a healthy relationship.

Increased Cohesion and Partnership

A supportive counseling environment also cultivates a deeper sense of partnership and cohesion. When couples feel understood and supported by their therapist, they are more likely to extend that understanding and support to each other.

Strengthening Relationship Bonds:

  • Shared Goals and Values: Counseling helps partners align their goals and values, fostering a shared vision for their relationship’s future.
  • Mutual Support: As couples work through their issues in a safe space, they learn how to offer and receive support, strengthening their bond.
  • Facing Challenges Together: A strengthened partnership equips couples to handle external pressures more effectively, whether from family, society, or professional environments.

Personal Empowerment

Finally, the benefits of a supportive counseling environment contribute significantly to personal empowerment. Individuals are encouraged to explore and affirm their identities, which is particularly impactful in a society where LGBTQIA+ identities may still face stigma and discrimination.

Elements of Personal Empowerment:

  • Self-Acceptance: Therapy provides the tools for individuals to accept themselves fully, which is crucial for mental and emotional health.
  • Confidence in Identity: As individuals become more confident in their identities, they are better able to live authentically and maintain open, honest relationships.
  • Empowered Decision-Making: With a stronger sense of self, individuals can make decisions that truly reflect their needs and values, positively affecting all areas of their lives.

Expertise of Denver’s LGBTQIA+ Counselors

The effectiveness of relationship counseling is significantly enhanced by a counselor’s expertise, particularly their understanding of lesbian relationships. Counselors in Denver bring a robust skill set:

  • Part of the Querr & Trans Communities
  • Specialized Training: Many hold advanced degrees with additional certifications in LGBTQIA+ mental health, ensuring they are equipped with the latest therapeutic methodologies and insights.
  • Extensive Experience: Effective counselors often bring years of experience working directly with LGBTQIA+ individuals, deepening their understanding of the unique pressures and challenges faced by these communities.
  • Credentials: It’s essential to verify that counselors are licensed and accredited by recognized mental health organizations.

Testimonials from the Community

  • Megan Thoprakane: “The team at iAmClinic has been huge in getting my relationship back on track. I can’t thank them enough for helping me understand all the unconscious ways I had been sabotaging my relationships.”
  • Emily Dykes: “I’ve been coming to the iAmClinic for years for individual and couples therapy. I’ve always had an incredible experience but today was particularly special. I attended a breathwork session and it was powerful!! It’s beautifully led, and I felt well supported the whole time but I was also given the space I needed to follow my own body and feelings in my breath. This felt safe, meaningful, and I highly recommend to all!!”

Discover the Support You Need at iAmClinic

If you’re looking for relationship counseling in Denver, consider the iAmClinic. With specialized expertise in LGBTQIA+ issues, our counselors are committed to providing a safe, understanding, and affirming environment to help you and your partner navigate the complexities of your relationship. Whether you’re dealing with internal challenges, societal pressures, or family dynamics, iAmClinic is here to support your journey towards a stronger bond and a healthier relationship. Contact us today to see how we can support you and your relationship goals.

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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 in Bed Texting

I’ll admit it—I was a novice at dating, but I tried my hardest to love the man who showered me with gifts. He provided me with European vacations, cars and an offer of lifetime commitment, but I couldn’t fully settle into our relationship. I was too wide-eyed and curious. I wanted to know what it would feel like to sleep with other people and date other personality types. I was desperately searching for the dream man I had made up in my head.

Without being fully conscious of it, I lived under the assumption that the perfect man was out there waiting for me. Even though my boyfriend of the time was enamored with me and my personality, his love was no match for my wild and unrestrained curiosity. 

I was caught in perpetual ambivalence: I wanted him so desperately, but I couldn’t commit. I loved him, but I didn’t know with certainty if I would be happy. I was ready to set down roots but leary that I might regret a permanent decision. I’m sad to say I was too uncertain in my value and my lovability. 

The poor chap. He made every attempt to convince me of his love, and yet, he could feel the energy of my rowdy desires and unsettled determination. It was in this emotionally chaotic and uncertain spell that he was deployed for 18 months as an Army reservist. He left feeling lonely, unimportant, valueless, and invisible. 

One and one-half years later, he walked in our apartment, returned from Iraq. I knew we had hit an all-time low. He was cold, seemingly irritated by my presence. Within 24 hours, he asked me to move out. He needed the room so that his new boyfriend could move in. 

Needless to say, I spent months reeling with the facts. He had cheated on me. I spent several months walking in a haze of confusion, pangs of floor-dropping anxiety and gut wrenching grief.

sad man on edge of bed

In the aftermath, I felt as though I was sitting in a crater where our home once stood. It was one of the darkest seasons of my life. The debilitating sorrow, however, forced me to reckon with the truth.

I realized that we had lived in a relationally dry climate for too long, and we alone were responsible for letting it get there. Our vulnerability was too low, our passion had diminished, and we had begun living separate lives. His healthy emotional desires had gone unseen, unacknowledged and unmet for too long. He had been emotionally starving with no sustenance in sight. I was a major contributor to our relational dynamic, often neglecting it, but he chose to respond to our bad situation in a very bad way. 

Sadly, this type of emotional hunger is all-too common for and often catalyzes those who cheat. 

The alarms of emotional hunger may not come all at once. But when important desires—belonging, love, thrill, satisfaction, joy, and romance—go unmet for long, partners find emotional resources elsewhere. Some reach for healthy options like close relatives, best friends or co-workers. 

Other partners may begin to scan for another lover who might be able to meet their emotional needs ‘perfectly.’ In the starvation phase, they often fantasize about the ideal partner and project that fantasy outside of their relationship. At the end of the day, they’re simply looking for someone who can fill up their emotional buckets.

Feeling silenced by the repeated rejection that leads to shame of their emotional or sexual yearnings, partners like my ex may be afraid to voice their true desires and needs. As a result of this lacking safety, they often meet their needs in secret—thus, cheating. In other words, discussing unmet needs with a neglectful or shaming partner is often much more difficult than seeking to meet their needs outside the relationship.

A new sexual partner—for a person in a dry emotional environment—is like an IV drip for a drastically dehydrated person. Sex is a major source of emotional connectedness and exciting vulnerability. Because emotional connectedness and sex oftne go hand in hand, it is no wonder an emtionally starved partner might reach for deeply sattisfying and thrilling sexual encounters. Playing out our emotional fantasies with a new sexual partner will reap short-term benefits because we feel immediately worthy, desired, and special, especially when someone is excited to sleep with us. If, for an emotionally hungry person, fantasizing is a medication, having sex is the buffet table. Again, cheating is a bad way to respond to a bad situation. 

Obviously, cheating as a type of emotional replenishing causes major damage to relational stability and trust. 

Men Holding Hands black and white

Understanding Why Infidelity Happened

While emotional starvation was a factor in my own experience, research shows there are various other potential causes of cheating in gay couples to understand. Some of these include:

  • Unresolved internalized homophobia leading to shame around needs.
  • Issues with sexual compatibility or mismatched libidos.
  • Different expectations about open relationships.
  • Lack of communication and emotional intimacy.
  • Substance abuse problems.
  • Childhood trauma and attachment issues.

It’s important not to make excuses for cheating, but understanding the nuanced causes in your particular situation can help you both heal. Be open to hearing your partner’s perspective without judgment. Infidelity often happens due to complex reasons.

Tips for the Unfaithful Partner

If you were the one who cheated, recovery starts with you fully owning your actions and making amends. Here are some steps:

  • Give your partner space if needed. Don’t pressure them to “just get over it.”
  • Be prepared to answer any questions they have with full honesty.
  • When it is the right time, tell your partner what was missing that you sought from an affair and work together to meet those needs appropriately.
  • Understand that rebuilding broken trust takes consistent action over time, not just words. Prove yourself trustworthy again, even if it takes longer than you expect.
  • Seek individual counseling to understand your reasons for cheating and change harmful behaviors.
  • Accept that full forgiveness may take a long time or not happen. Focus on being respectful and caring.

Guidance for the Betrayed Partner

Discovering a partner’s infidelity can be utterly devastating. Here is how to start healing:

  • Allow yourself to fully feel anger, hurt, and grief. Don’t minimize the damage done.
  • Confide in trusted friends and family for support if needed.
  • Consider if any issues in the relationship preceded the cheating and caused distance.
  • If you want to rebuild things, be clear on the boundaries and steps required to regain trust.
  • Communicate what your partner can do to help you feel safe in the relationship again.
  • Seek professional counseling solo or as a couple if you’re struggling to move forward.

Should We Stay or Should We Go? A Decision Framework/Checklist

If you’re uncertain if your relationship can or should recover from cheating, asking yourself these questions can provide clarity:

Assess the cheating partner’s mindset:

  • Are they fully owning the infidelity and showing genuine remorse?
  • What steps have they taken (or are they willing to take) to understand why it happened and change their harmful behaviors?
  • Do you believe their promises to be faithful moving forward?

Evaluate the state of the relationship:

  • How satisfying and emotionally connected were things before the cheating?
  • What unresolved issues or needs might have contributed to the distance between you?
  • Are you both willing to openly communicate and put in consistent effort to renew intimacy and trust?

Reflect on your own emotions:

  • When you imagine staying together, does it mostly feel exhausting or hopeful?
  • Can you envision regaining a sense of safety being vulnerable with this person again?
  • Do you believe you could regain passion and positivity in the relationship together?

Consider external factors:

  • Do you share finances, property, pets or children that would make separating more complicated?
  • Is there family pressure on either side to stay or leave?
  • Does the length of the relationship make it harder to let go?

Envision your futures:

  • If you split, do you feel confident you could heal and eventually find love with someone new?
  • If you stay, can you see yourself being happy and trusting your partner completely again?

Really dig deep and listen to your gut when answering these questions. While there are no absolute right or wrong answers, the wisdom you need is within you. Trust your intuition. Some relationships can heal stronger than before after infidelity, while others cannot. Make an informed choice of what is healthiest for you.

If you are currently seeking to repair damage caused from cheating, here are things to consider:

1. Create a safe environment for one hell of an apology.

Your partner will need to understand that your apology is sincere and not just an empty gesture to return things to normal. To set the mood and create a healthy repair, emotional responsibility and empathy should always be part of the formula. Here are the thought prompts to my 5-Step Apology:

  1. This what I did that hurt you. (Describe the boundary violations so that they know you mean what you say and that your grief and regret have merit.)
  2. This is how it affected you. (Describe how your actions affected your partner and what they might be feeling, emotions like unsafe, stupid, angry, hurt, untrusting, etc.)
  3. This is how I got to the point of hurting you. (Don’t make excuses! Own your shit, take responsibility, and tell your partner(s) about how you ended up making your decisions. Be honest and authentic.)
  4. This is what I am willing to do to protect you, myself and us from this happening again. (Tell your partner about the precautions and boundaries you will put in place, as well as the work you will do to repair your own emotional environment. You may need to be vulnerable. Ask your partner to work on their fair share to repair any stale emotional environment, but save requests for a later time.)
  5. Apologize with sincerity. 

Although an apology is only a beginning step, it is a major way to bring resolution. You may have to run through the 5-Step Apology over and over again because your partner may need to hear it several times as they process your betrayal and learn to trust you again. 

2. Practice Trusting

Trusting a partner who has cheated can be scary and utterly challenging. The practice of trusting your partner involves  setting proper and stable boundaries, accepting the 5-Step Apology and allowing time to pass so that you can heal. Trust must be earned, but if your partner has earned it, practice recognizing it and leaning into it. This is possibly the most challenging step in the recovery process because we must grieve  and work through very big anger before we are ready to trust again. I always recommend allowing the grief and anger to surface so that the emotionally environment is primed for trusting again.

3. Practice Vulnerability and Create Safety

Like my ex, I often hear cheaters, in couples’ sessions, defend their long-standing history of being vulnerable, asking for their needs to be met, and eventually feeling shamed by all the judgment they encountered.

Without vulnerability and safety relationships will be dry. They will not be able to reach the satisfaction and passion they once had. Although one person may have cheated, all involved are responsible for creating a safe and trustworthy space where any partner can share what they need and be comfortable doing so. Contrastingly, judgment and criticism will shut down vulnerability over time. Vulnerability is a practice of showing up with even the most disdained parts of yourself and trusting your partner to see and care for them. When romantic partners grow for one another, they reestablish their safety, connection and passion. In such a relational context, emotional satisfaction can abound.

Even if you wonder, “How can I move on after cheating?” you can reestablish a healthy, thriving relationship. Counseling professionals have walked through this process with other couples and can support you on your journey toward healing. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need. It will take work, but oftentimes our closest relationships are worth the fight. 

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Contents

Jump To:

1. Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Basics

2. Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Complications

1. Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Basics

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s attraction to another; physically, romantically and/or emotionally. There are many definitions beyond gay, lesbian and bisexual, which are the most commonly used to describe our communities. Some less referenced identities and definitions used in the larger LGBTQIA+ community are:

Allosexual– denotes a person who experiences sexual attraction to others

Asexual– is an umbrella term used to describe a multitude of identities for people who do not experience sexual attraction, regardless of gender or biological sex, sometimes shortened to Ace or Aces

Demisexual– refers to a person that usually needs to develop an emotional connection to someone before experiencing sexual attraction to that person

Polysexual– is an umbrella term used to refer to people who experience sexual attraction regardless of someone’s gender

Queer– is an umbrella term that can be used to encompass all of the identities in the LGBTQIA+ community and offers a broader perspective on sexuality as a spectrum. This term still has some negative connotations for members of the community, despite being reclaimed by others

Sapiosexual– people who experience attraction based on intelligence, gender and biological sex may be irrelevant

Click here for a more exhaustive list of identities and sexual orientations.

LGBTQIA+ | Understanding Gender and Sexual Orientation

Gender identity refers to how a person experiences their own gender. Someone who feels that their gender does not align with the biological sex they were assigned at birth is transgender. Transgender people may identify as binary (aligning with social definitions of masculinity and femininity) or non-binary (identifying outside of the binary altogether). Some identities commonly associated with a binary identity are transman, transwoman, transmasculine and transfeminine. Some non-binary identities may include genderfluid, gender nonconforming, or agender (having no gender). A person who does feel that their gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth is cisgender.

Click here for more identities and definitions.

2. Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Complications

So, how does all of this intersect? Sexual orientation has to do with who you are attracted to and gender identity has to do with how you experience/present yourself. Just like cisgender people within the LGBTQIA+ community, transgender folks also experience a wide variety of sexual orientations. For more binary identified trans folks, they may identify as straight, gay, lesbian or any of the above identities based on how they experience sexual attraction. Some examples include a transwoman who is only attracted to other women who identifies as a lesbian or a transman who is only attracted to women who identifies as straight. For more non-binary identified trans folks, they may prefer to avoid sexual orientation identities that imply their gender is binary, such as straight, gay or lesbian.

For some folks, their gender or sexual orientation may not be fixed, resulting in more fluidity in expression and attraction. This could mean identifying as a lesbian one day someone is feeling particularly feminine and attracted to women, or identifying as polysexual on a day one is feeling more attracted to different genders.

When we are first coming into our identities beyond cisgender or heterosexual, having words that accurately describe how we feel can be incredibly valuable. As we grow and learn more about ourselves, these identities might shift and intersect differently throughout our lives. The richness of the LGBTQIA+ communities is born from our self-exploration and expression. Our hope is that this post might offer some guidance along your own journey. We are here if you are exploring such complexity with your identities and need someone to talk to.

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Contents

Jump To:

1. What Does Genderfluid Mean? 

2. What It Means To Be Genderfluid?

3. Gender Identity | Gender Expression | Sexual Identity 

4. Common Questions 

What It Means To Be Genderfluid 

As with all things gender related, the term genderfluid may mean something a little different to everyone. 

Why is this? 

Gender itself means something different to everyone, because each person has a unique experience of gender. For some, it’s an inner feeling. For others, it’s much more of a physical experience. Not to mention that gender identity and gender expression are separate aspects of gender that may or may not be the same. 

Definitions and Terminology

Here are some key gender identity terms:

  • Genderfluid: A person whose gender identity shifts between male, female, both, or neither. Their gender expression may also be fluid.
  • Non-binary: An umbrella term for those whose gender identity falls outside the gender binary of male/female. Genderfluid falls under this umbrella.
  • Genderqueer: Similar to non-binary, this describes a gender identity other than man or woman. Some genderfluid folks identify as genderqueer.
  • Gender expression: How someone externally presents their gender through behavior, style, etc. This can be fluid for genderfluid people.
  • Gender identity: Someone’s internal sense of their own gender. Genderfluid people experience shifts in their gender identity.

History of Gender Fluidity

While gender fluidity has gained more visibility recently, it’s not a completely new concept. Many cultures have long acknowledged identities outside the Western male/female binary. Examples include Two-Spirit people in some Indigenous tribes, and hijras in South Asia. However, colonization and Westernization suppressed many of these identities. The term genderfluid originated in trans communities online in the 90s/early 2000s. Gender diversity is becoming more widely understood and accepted today. Find the LGBTQIA+ therapists in Denver?

What Does Genderfluid Mean? 

According to the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, identifying as genderfluid means your gender identity is not fixed; it’s capable of changing over time. The very definition lends itself to various interpretations. Some sources include shifting from male to female given your mood in their definitions, while others state that it’s the feeling of being both male and female. A genderfluid individual has the potential to identify as male, female, both or neither on any given day. 

Genderfluidity doesn’t necessarily have a fixed point on the gender spectrum, as by its very definition, it’s fluid. It fluctuates and has its own spectrum. An individual may feel 10% female and 90% male, or 40% male and 60% female, or any range in between. Leaning one way or another, shifting along the spectrum, or having a unchanging experience of gender does not make a genderfluid identity any less valid.

Discussing Gender Fluidity with Loved Ones

Coming out as genderfluid can be difficult if friends and family lack understanding. Be patient, educate them, and provide resources to support them. If they use the wrong pronouns, gently correct them. Help them separate their preconceptions of gender from your lived experience. Remind them that you are still you, regardless of how your gender identity shifts. Give them time to adjust. Having ongoing open conversations can help. If issues persist, seek support.

Navigating Pronouns

Many genderfluid people use shifting pronouns, alternating between he/him, she/her, they/them, etc. When first meeting someone, share your current pronouns. On days when your pronouns change, inform those in your life. Gently correct anyone who misgenders you. Carrying a badge or card with your pronouns can help prompt correct usage by others. practicing using your own pronouns can help your mental transition.

Scientific Research and Data

While gender identity research is still evolving, some key findings include:

  • Data indicates gender fluidity is not just a phase. One study found over 80% of genderfluid youth still identified as gender diverse years later.
  • MRI scans show genderfluid individuals exhibit neural activity aligning with their expressed gender, rather than their sex assigned at birth. This adds biological evidence that gender exists on a spectrum.
  • A UCLA study found up to 27% of youth identify as gender diverse in some capacity, indicating higher prevalence than previously assumed.

Gender Identity | Gender Expression | Sexual Identity

These three aspects of who someone is—gender identity, gender expression and sexual identity—often cause confusion for those who aren’t really sure what each one means. Let’s remedy that. 

Gender identity is your personal sense of gender. For example, as a genderfluid person, sometimes I feel female, other times I feel male, and sometimes I feel like I’m neither. My personal experience with being genderfluid means not experiencing my gender as static. 

Gender expression is how you express your gender identity. This can be done through your appearance, such as with clothing choices, or even through behaviors. Identity and expression are commonly confused, largely due to stereotypes or societal expectations. For example, identifying as genderfluid comes with an expectation of presenting masculine and feminine at separate times, but these are two different things, and a genderfluid person may or may not wish to vary their gender expression. 

Give yourself permission to express your chosen gender in any way YOU see fit. Explore what identity and expression mean to you, and then go for it. Be who you feel you are in whatever way feels most natural to you. 

Finally, sexual identity is often confused with gender identity; however, they are not the same thing. Sexual orientation is tied to the gender of who you are or are not attracted to, romantically interested in, or want to have sexual experiences with (if you experience romantic feelings), while gender identity is your personal experience of gender. This means someone can be genderfluid and straight, bisexual, or any other sexual orientation that is congurent with their internal experiences.

Practical Tips for Genderfluid Individuals

  • Experiment with your gender expression through clothing, accessories, grooming, mannerisms, etc. Find what makes you feel most aligned.
  • Seek out genderfluid and LGBTQ+ online communities to find support and resources. Connecting with those with similar experiences can help.
  • Consider coming out to close friends and family. This can allow more flexibility in safely expressing your gender. Provide educational resources to facilitate their understanding.
  • Try new gender-affirming names or pronouns privately at first to see what feels most suitable before asking others to use them.
  • Set boundaries if you feel pressured to identify a certain way by others. Your gender is defined by you alone.

Common Misconceptions

Some common myths about gender fluidity include:

  • It’s a trend or “fad” – No, gender fluidity has likely always existed, only the terminology is new.
  • Genderfluid people are confused or going through a phase – Not true, genderfluidity reflects diverse gender experiences.
  • Physical appearance dictates gender identity – Gender expression can align with identity but does not define it.

Common Questions 

Are you male or female?
Simple answer? Yes. Identifying as genderfluid means embracing being both male and female, either somewhere on a spectrum or separately at different times. There isn’t a right or wrong way to experience genderfluidity. It’s unique to each person. 

What does Mx stand for?
When I began to embrace my identity as a genderfluid person, I was asked this quite frequently. Mx is the gender neutral equivalent to Mr., Ms. or Mrs. Unlike the gendered salutations, Mx leaves space for being male, female, both, neither or anything along the gender spectrum. This term is not exclusive to genderfluid individuals. 

How is genderfluid different from nonbinary?
Nonbinary is considered an umbrella term for various nonconforming identities, including genderfluid, genderqueer, agender, and others. As an identity, nonbinary simply refers to someone who doesn’t identify with the previously used gender binary (male/female). It is possible for a genderfluid person to also identify as being nonbinary. 

Do genderfluid individuals experience gender or body dysphoria?
Maybe. There isn’t a clear cut yes or no to this question. Some people may experience varying degrees of dysphoria, while others may not. People often have an image in their mind of what they “should” or want to look like, and when reality doesn’t match that image, dysphoria can occur. Stereotypes, societal or cultural expectations, peer or personal pressure, and hormones can all impact the presence or intensity of gender and/or body dysphoria. 

What is it like being genderfluid? 

Again, there’s no single answer to this question. It’s an incredibly personal experience. Personally, being genderfluid offers me a sense of freedom. I don’t have to fit in a box, meeting expectations or definitions created by other people in an effort to define who I am. It’s flexible. I can wake up each morning and express myself however feels accurate for me that day.

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