While intimacy issues are not unique to gay relationships, there are some additional hurdles that gay couples sometimes have to navigate.
Intimacy issues in gay relationships
Imagine a gay couple in their early 40s. They have come into couples therapy because of a betrayal. They discovered that one member of the couple has been hiring sex workers on the side and lying about it. They have an open relationship, and their agreements around the open relationship make space for having sex with other people. The betrayal is not about the sex itself, it’s about the fact that the partner who hired the sex workers was not being honest and open about it.
Types of issues
When we think about the ways in which intimacy issues can surface in gay relationships we have to understand that there are unique topics and vulnerabilities that can come up for gay couples. In the imaginary couple above, there was something going on under the surface that prevented the partner who hired the sex workers from communicating honestly and openly about his needs or desires with his partner. This led to lying and betrayal, which can rock the foundation of any relationship.
For this couple, maybe the partner who hired the sex worker was feeling shame about a sexual need that wasn’t being met and he didn’t feel comfortable coming in contact and explore that shame with himself or his partner. Maybe there had been stress around work or money and instead of coming together and talking about fears or struggles, he acted out sexually instead.
Where did this start?
As gay men, many of us have become adept at playing roles and hiding our true feelings. Even if we came out early and had supportive families, we may have been conditioned as men to be strong and confident. It can be hard for us to access our feelings.
As we come to know more about our vulnerabilities and emotional blind spots we can have even more connected, supportive and transformative relationships.
Anger keeps other feelings at bay
While all feelings have their place, anger can be a powerful protector and sometimes an emotional force field that prevents those we love from coming to know more about our vulnerabilities.
As men, we’re shown examples of how anger is acceptable, encouraged and masculine. Take the couple we’ve been talking about above. If the partner who had been hiring sex workers got anger and accusatory when his partner confronted him that could prevent the pair from having a deeper, more intimate conversation about the causes and solutions for how to move forward.
Are you able to be fully yourself around your partner? If not, maybe that’s worth exploring more.