Men laying in field

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know your desires…both of you.

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

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

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

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

Take Temperature of your Relational Climate

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful women having fun in the street

Get Clear on Your Sexual Orientation

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

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

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

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

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

Factors related to relationship quality:

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

Potential challenges:

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

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

Religious and spiritual aspects of mixed orientation marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identify the Unknown

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

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

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

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

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Table Of Contents

Introduction

Realizing I Needed Professional Help

After ensuring I could take care of myself

Finding the Right LGBTQ-Affirming Therapist

Rebuilding Intimacy as a Queer Couple

Frequently Asked Questions

My Partner Says, “We Need Therapy”, But What Does Gay Couples Therapy Cost?

For the first 15 years of my dating life, playing the role of a committed partner always led me to feel obligated and controlled. Frustrated, I couldn’t understand why I was losing myself, my dreams and my individuality. Dating was a vacuum that seemed to suck out everything that made me, me.

I always felt like my partners were nagging at me to do things another way or to become someone else. In this context, I would never be enough to keep the man-of-the-moment happy.

Back in 2005 when I started dating, I thought couples therapy was for married folks. It wasn’t for boyfriends who were dating with serious intentions.

As I pushed toward my 30th birthday, however, I realized that I was also pushing men away from me—really good men! Fear of growing old was rattling my internal cage, but not nearly as much as the fear of being a crappy partner who might die alone.

I finally realized that I needed professional help.

When I took my first steps into a couples and relationship’s counseling office, I was a wreck. My relational home was a mess!

Over time, I began simplifying my habits, organizing my identity, and reassembling my gifts. Right away, I implemented boundary setting and healthy expectations. I grew in confidence that I was a healthy person. Although I had done major work to know who I was, I hadn’t yet plunged into the depths of who I was in relationships.

After ensuring I could take care of myself, it was time for me to take care of my relationship.

Before couple’s therapy I assumed that to be in a relationship meant keeping my partner pleased. I would compromise my desires, stuff my dreams and shut down my opinion. And when I wasn’t busy camouflaging my personality, I was trying to be spectacular. I figured a fancy car, a shiny career and expensive clothes would keep my man proud of me. I wanted to be the mysterious arm candy that everyone wanted to taste.

Needless to say, couples counseling helped me see just how much I had turned relational intimacy into a performance.

In our therapist’s office, my boyfriend and I sat eager and nervous. There, I learned to acknowledge that the behaviors I had called controlling were actually my partner’s requests—that I grow in maturity, communicate effectively and offer my uninhibited opinion. I began to shed the layers that kept me protected from changing and those that kept me from seeing the liberating truth of relational intimacy.

I noticed something for the first time on my therapist’s couch; now as a couple’s counselor, I see it in many of my clients: many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community fear that the perfect person could be just around the corner, even while we’re madly in love with someone else. We have trained ourselves to imagine that another person—with a better smile, a more tender heart, a vibrant personality or a perfect body—is out there waiting for us. Ultimately, we fear commitment because we might lose an opportunity to find this imaginary ideal, someone better who never quite materializes.

Bottom Line

All relationships are messy, hard and challenging. We will never find a partner(s) with a perfect personality or a spotless track record. We are all perfectly imperfect.

Is Gay Couples Therapy Worth It? Costs, Benefits & Advice

In spite of our imperfections, I believe we grow most in a relationship, especially intimate ones, because our full selves are on display. Relationships provoke our deepest yearnings, our biggest insecurities, our long-standing resentments and our biggest dreams. Relationships are the arenas where we sharpen our skills sets, build our stamina, and eventually become masterful gladiators. Our relational prowess may be on display to an entire arena of friends and family spectators, but our partners occupy the front row seats. You didn’t think you were fighting your partner, did you? In the relationship arena, we face ourselves.

My partner has heard me voice my internal narratives of shame, inadequacy and self-doubt. As I grew to repair these voices, he grew so that he could affirm me, not just with his words, but his actions. To know that my partner has watched me wage the most deeply rooted internal battles AND then has intentionally grown in his own right—so that I might feel utterly safe, completely accepted, and unconditionally loved by him—that makes him irreplaceable!

I hope I have done the same for him.

For us, couples counseling wasn’t just about working through arguments and learning to communicate. It was about growing in emotional and relational stability so that together we could create the relational home that allows us to live in full authenticity and belonging side-by-side. Now, several years later, our time in couple’s therapy has proven to be worth every ounce of energy.

If you need help with your relationships or being a healthy partner, it’s never too late to get help, and it’s never too early to start building a relational home. Trust me!

Finding the Right LGBTQ-Affirming Therapist

Searching for an LGBTQ-friendly therapist who understands the unique needs of queer relationships can feel daunting. Here are some tips: Learn more about the Pros and cons of using insurance for therapy!

  • Check therapist directories like Psychology Today that allow filtering by issues like “LGBTQ” or “same sex relationships”.
  • Look for statements on their website or bios mentioning LGBTQ counseling certification, training, or experience. You can ask about their credentials.
  • Inquire about their specific experience counseling queer couples. How many have they worked with? For what issues?
  • Ask if they will provide an LGBTQ-affirming environment and not make assumptions about your sexuality or relationship.

Rebuilding Intimacy as a Queer Couple

Intimacy issues can arise in any relationship. As a same-sex couple, you also navigate extra challenges that can impact your connection. Here are some tips to restore closeness:

  • Make time for quality conversations without distractions or devices. Be present.
  • Maintain physical touch, even when struggling. Hug, cuddle, hold hands.
  • Compliment your partner’s non-physical attributes like kindness, humor, determination.
  • Occasionally reminisce about your first dates, when you fell in love.
  • Prioritize emotional intimacy first. Sexual issues often reflect deeper problems.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How can therapy help my relationship?

Therapy provides a safe space to improve communication, increase intimacy, manage conflict, understand each other’s needs, and gain healthy relationship skills. It can help you reconnect and strengthen your bond.

What issues do gay couples commonly address in therapy?

Common concerns include communication problems, intimacy issues, conflicts over finances or family, infidelity, challenges with coming out, navigating differences, handling external stigma, and personal growth as a couple.

What should I look for in a gay-affirming couples therapist?

Look for a licensed therapist experienced working with LGBTQ couples. Ensure they create a welcoming, non-judgemental environment. Ask about their specific training and competency with gay couples.

How long does couples therapy take?

The length depends on your challenges. Brief therapy may resolve simpler issues in a few months. Ongoing therapy over months or years may help for ingrained patterns or deeper challenges.

How often should couples therapy sessions occur?

Typically once weekly is best for making progress. Consistency helps build on each session. For crisis issues, 2-3 times per week may help stabilize the relationship.

Are you ready to create a healthy relational home? We’re here to help.

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Contents

Jump To:

1. Boundaries and limits

2. Substitution Behaviors

3. Mindfulness Skills

4. Planning for Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

1. Boundaries and limits

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

2. Substitution Behaviors

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

3. Mindfulness Skills

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

4. Planning for Challenges

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

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

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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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Relationship advice for gay couples

Introduction

After a long season of tolerating major stressors, my husband and I stared to spiral a bit. In all of our busyness we started to neglect one another and it was our emotional needs that suffered the most. He had shutdown and I had resorted to anger. We were both resentful. I had, slowly over time, forgotten to implement the stabilizing techniques upon which our relationship was built. It was our turn for couples therapy. Regardless if your a seasoned therapist like me, in a 20 year relationship, or a 2-month situationship, the following steps might just help you get your relationship up and running, but this time with a little more ease.

Step 1: Learn how to implement mature boundaries

LGBTQIA+ couples or polycules usually start their relationships, like everyone else, with the need to negotiate new boundaries. When we have poor boundaries we are convinced that we can manage someone else’s comfort- and more so that our partner should be capable and willing to manage ours. A mature boundary system is like a snow globe keeping our emotional temperature regulated no matter what happens on the other side of the glass dome. Demanding that our partner leaves their snow globe to adjust the thermostat inside our snow globes, we start to judge their performance based on how well they can keep us comfortable, happy, pleased, seen, etc. 

As a means of stopping repeating arguments and in attempt to create a healthy dynamic inside of your relationship(s), learn to regulate your emotional climate instead of demanding that your partner(s) do it for you. A poor boundary system will keeping you emotionally jabbing your partner for more in ways that don’t clearly communicate your needs. The jabs themselves are violations of normal and healthy boundaries and these violations can set your relationship up for resentment and escalating pain. A healthy boundary system will not only keep the emotional interactions organized and healthy, but you will also create a safety that will allow your partner(s) to grow in authenticity and vulnerability. Speaking of vulnerability…

Step 2: Practice vulnerability

Opening up emotionally has all sorts of  fears and baggage that come with it. As children our needs and wants, as well as our honesty and our insecurities might have been squashed. Dating and all the ways we’re trained to manage one another’s thermostats has convinced us that our needs and wants don’t matter. I have seen it time and time again: not talking about what you emotional crave will set you up to get it elsewhere. Cheating, lying, or building resentment that comes out as anger or criticism will be the new accessory to your relational decor. And trust me, you don’t want that. Learn more about Attachment in Polyamorous Relationships!

No matter where vulnerability went array or how, it is hard to find the safety to open up, especially about our emotional needs. Expressing your desire for more attention, more thrill, a deeper sense of connection, or the need to be seen in a more significant way can feel completely awkward and possibly even selfish. But don’t give up too soon. Vulnerability will not only change your relationship, it will change the ways you experience love, trust honesty, and grow in self-esteem. 

Step 3: Weekly Check-ins

Terrence Real, a world-class relationship expert, had an idea that transformed my marriage: Arena Times. 

Having a weekly meeting on your calendar to share your thoughts, express your pains, and articulate your needs and wants is a great opportunity to not only practice boundaries and vulnerability, but also to repair your relationship. 

Having a set weekly time for Arena Times not only helps stabilize your sense of being safe, but it will also keep your connection honest and—dare I say—sexy. Emotional intimacy will produce sexual intimacy.

In this blog entry I listed Arena Times after boundaries and vulnerability on purpose. You will need mature boundaries and healthy vulnerability before entering weekly check-ins. Let me give you one small, yet profound piece of advice: enter the arena willing to loose. When we enter to loose, we stay humble, we show up willing to grow, and we come prepared to be curious about our partner’s pain and needs- a curiosity that is like a healing balm for any relationship. Obviously, Arena Times can be very heavy at first, especially for a relationship that has a weak infrastructure. But once your structure is solid, Arena Times will decorate your relationship with safety, honesty, and a connection that will protect the relationship even through the roughest storms.

Don’t Let This Opportunity Slip Away – Take Control of Your Relationship Today!

If you’re ready to invest in your relationship and unlock its full potential, consider working with a licensed therapist or relationship coach. Professional guidance can provide invaluable insights, tools, and support tailored to your unique circumstances.

Take action today and commit to nurturing your relationship. Your future self will thank you for prioritizing this essential aspect of your life. Connect with us to schedule a consultation and embark on a journey towards a more fulfilling, emotionally connected partnership.

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

Why Inclusive Counseling Matters

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

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

Unique Challenges in Trans Relationships

Trans couples often encounter specific and complex challenges:

Navigating Gender Identity

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

Social and Family Dynamics

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

Health and Well-being Considerations

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

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

Overcoming Challenges Through Counseling

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

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

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

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

Finding Trans-Friendly Marriage Counseling in Denver

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

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

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

Counseling Approaches and Techniques

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

Affirmative Therapy

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

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

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

Family Systems Therapy

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

Practical Advice and Strategies for Overcoming Challenges

Navigating Transition

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

Communication Issues

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

 Family Dynamics

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

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

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

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

Discover the Support You Need at iAmClinic

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

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

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storm

Contents

Jump To:

1. What is a cyclone?

2. Stepping into the “cycle”

3. When the cycle is really a cyclone

4. How to escape the cyclone 

1. What is a cyclone?

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

2. Stepping into the “cycle”

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

3. When the cycle is really a cyclone

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

4. How to escape the cyclone

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

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

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

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

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

References: 

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