Are LGBTQ Relationships the Same or Different from Straight Relationships?

LGBTQ - Couples CounselingTrick question! The answer is both. It is important in therapy to recognize that there are certain things we all want as human beings. To name a few, we all need: to love ourselves before we can love others, to communicate well, love and approval from our partner, and handling our anger.

LGBTQ Couples CounselingOn the other side of coin, LGBTQ relationships have some very distinct differences from straight relationships that can have serious psychological consequences. If you grew up in the 60s, 70s, 80s or even the 90s, chances are that there are many issues that LGBTQs had to deal with, such as societal prejudices, community, family, peer ridicule (especially during adolescence), and legal challenges.

Interestingly, research has found satisfaction to be the same with straight, gay, and lesbian couples. In fact, gay and lesbian couples are more positive during conflict, and use more affection and humor in a disagreement, and are less likely to use negative emotional responses.

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Some More Distinctions That Therapists Need To Be Mindful Of With LGBTQ Couples

LGBTQ Couples CounselingSurveys have found that lesbian couples are not as effective as straight couples in repairing emotional damage that occurred as a result of a fight. Counseling for these couples may need to focus on teaching partners or spouses how to get past the damage more easily. Research has also found that lesbian couples tend to be more negatively and positively emotionally expressive, which on the down side can leave more damage after a conflict. Lesbian couples may be able to use help in toning down some of their negative intensity.

In general, positive, affirming relationships are more difficult to achieve because LGBTQ
couples face challenges that straight couples don’t have to cope with. The following are a few of these challenges:

  • Handling homophobia with family of origin and the outside world
  • Deciding when and how to come out
  • Health Issues (e.g. gay men have a higher incidence of certain types of cancer & HPV)
  • Gay men have a higher incidence of violent victimization, both criminal and from intimate partners,
    and also are more likely to suffer from PTSD
  • Lesbians are more likely to smoke and drink in excess than their heterosexual counterparts
  • Lesbians are more likely than straight women to have issues with body image
  • Homophobic reactions create more stress and mental health issues for LGBTQ couples

Gay Couples CounselingTherapists counseling LGBTQ couples and families require not only an expertise in couples and family work, they must also have a special sensitivity to the impact of these unique issues effecting the LGBTQ community.

In My Work With Gay & Lesbian Couples

In my work with gay & lesbian couples, many people have had extremely difficult childhoods and struggles with their families of origin due to their sexual preference. I have also seen, and research has validated, that there are differences among LGBTQ couples. Gay men have more trouble developing long term relationships and there is a greater amount of promiscuity with gay couples than there is with lesbian couples. Lesbian couples may experience “Lesbian Death Bed Syndrome”, where sex life dies over a period of time in a long term relationship. Confusion is a more common problem in dealing with bisexuality.

Here are 3 articles I found very helpful:

Gay/Straight Relationships: Different?

What Are the Differences Between Gay and Straight Relationships?

How are Gay and Heterosexual Relationships Different?

Here are 3 books that are helpful with same sex relationships:

Lesbian Couples: A Guide to Creating Healthy Relationships by D.Merilee Clunis and G. Dorsey Green

This Book is Gay by James Dawson and David Levithan

The ABC’s of LGBT by Ashley Mardell

The goal of couples and marital counseling is to help couples through difficult times, and to stay together in a way that helps them celebrate their relationship.

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