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Blog LGBT Relationships

Chief Justice John Roberts’s dissent

An interesting read from http://gu.com/p/4a5kc on Chief Justice John Roberts‘s dissent to making gay marriage legal across the US.

IMHO, he has a point about acceptance through democratic process.

Here are some nonconsecutive excerpts from his dissent, which essentially argues that this was a matter for the states to sort out, and not for judges to decide:

“This Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

“Our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition.”

“Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.”

“Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens – through the democratic process – to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept. “

“If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not Celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

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About Counselling

An Allegory for Couples Considering Counselling

Something I hear quite often in couple counselling is:

“We want our relationship to be how it used to be”.

This statement is actually about loss: the couple’s relationship is in a place that’s far away from the (supposedly happier) experience that the couple used to enjoy, and they are comparing now with how things used be.

The thing is: couple counselling provides no way for a couple to go back in time… and the hurt and conflicts that have brought the couple to me for counselling cannot be erased or forgotten.

The following allegory is a lovely way of suggesting a couple’s beginning in couple counselling:-

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“Grab a plate and throw it on the ground.”

– Okay, done.

“Did it break?”

– Yes.

“Now say sorry to it.”

– Sorry.

“Did it go back to the way it was before?”

– No.

Do you understand?

… because couples who complete their work in counselling, and who have decided to stay together, have often commented that their relationship is in a different place to how it was before counselling – and how different the place is from the place that they’d originally wanted to return.

Rather like what the Japanese call kintsukuroi (“golden repair”).

 

To learn more about couple counselling – click hereclick here.

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Couple Relationships FAQ

Can counselling help a couple to break up?

Are you one of the many people who assume…

“…couple counselling tries to prevent a couple from breaking up…” ?

Then you might be surprised to learn that this commonly held view is a myth!

When people think that couple counselling is for couples who want to stay together, they’re missing the fact that couples who are breaking-up, divorcing or dissolving their civil-partnership can also benefit from using couple counselling to help them end their relationship.

Breaking-up a Couple Relationship.

When couples build their relationship, they acquire assets: physical, tangible and emotional.

Perhaps the couple share accommodation and a joint bank accounts.  They may develop joint responsibilities, and may have friends of the relationship. Many couples may have children, foster care or adopt children. There may be loved pets.

When a couple reaches a place where they may be facing the end of their relationship, matters such as these – and the couples own emotional attachments and distresses – need attending to.

The couple may be angry with each other, emotions may be running high, and there may be lots of blaming. Because of the relationship’s responsibilities & acquisitions, the couple may have to continue seeing each other during the break-up.

Some couples choose to use lawyers to end the relationship for them. This is understandable, the couple may be able to afford this (usually two lawyers), and the lawyers do the communication behalf of couple.

But some couples, at the end of their relationship, are able to work together to legally dissolve their relationship together – often at a much lower cost (financing and emotionally) than using solicitors. A couple counsellor can help the couple find a place where working with each other to dissolve their relationship is possible.

Working with a couple counsellor to end a relationship can be helpful – not least because:-

  • Meetings take place in neutral territory.
  • The Couple Counsellor is an independent third party who does not take sides.
  • Session times are fixed: the couple know when the session is going to end (which can feel quite containing).
  • Any matter can be discussed.
  • Should one or both partners wish to change the focus of the counselling – this can be discussed in session.
  • Counselling helps bring understanding… and this can reduce the need to blame and hurt.

The Couple’s Focus in Counselling.

One of the first things we do in couple counselling is begin to find the focus for counselling.

The focus of a couple’s work will be what the couple want to change about the relationship (including behaviour).  Assisting both partners express what they wish to focus on can help a couple bring a mutual understanding; that they are on the same page and that their direction is an agreed one.  It may be at this stage that the couple learn what the separation is really about – and may decide to work on that whilst postponing a permanent separation.

The couple may need a way to manage their separation – if not with any friendliness then at least with a modicum of tolerance.  That’s not an easy process – for obvious emotional reasons – but the couple can make use of a professional’s experience in helping their relationship to end.

Why choose a Couple Counsellor?

Not all qualified counsellors are qualified in working with couples.  A majority of counselling training qualifications train the counsellor on how to work with an individual, not a couple.

Couple counselling is quite different.  For example…

A counsellor trained only in individual counselling may meet with a couple and may focus upon one partner first (listening to them & offering questions & comments to them).

For example:  ‘how did you feel about his affair?’  (this is called an open question – it invites the individual to say more about a matter). The therapist may then turn to the other partner to repeat the process.

The counsellor is not offering true couple-counselling.

A counsellor trained in couple counselling, will practice neutrality whilst listening to the couple discuss their issues in a way that’s most comfortable to them (perhaps equally, perhaps one partner dominates the other before the counsellor intervenes).  The counsellor may offer questions & comments that addresses the relationship, (rather than the individuals).

For example: ‘Who first noticed that the relationship was breaking down?’ (this is called a circular question – it invites both partners to address their relationship, rather than their individual perspective in isolation).

 

For more information click here: Dean Richardson and his approach to couple counselling.

Divorce & Couple Counselling.

Couples who have engaged in marriage or a civil-partnership may decide that they wish to divorce.  Solicitors will be involved for the legal matters but the couple can still meet weekly with the counsellor to discuss matters about their divorce.

It is normal for an individual wishing to leave a relationship by “saving face”, and there can be pressure to denigrate their partner (because doing so helps the individual to appear or feel better than the partner).

Couples counselling can assist the couple with the separation processes through divorce; both partners may leave the relationship in a neutral (perhaps even friendly – though not essential) way.

Are you a couple thinking about breaking-up?

Whether divorce, dissolving, breaking-up, or separating, couple counselling can assist you in the process of bringing your relationship to an end.

Dean Richardson offers couples counselling in Portsmouth and Southsea (Hampshire) and online via Skype.

 

Categories
Blog

Why are some Couple Counsellors not Qualified?

After 4 years of hard work, sweat, tears, time-out, falling on my ass and getting up again, I worked my way through to being awarded my first Diploma in Counselling (Individual (Psychodynamic) / Accredited by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy) in July of 2003. Obtaining a qualification in therapy is essential for any practitioner – not least because it’s a major factor in protecting the public from dangers such as the counsellor’s incompetence.  [button style=’float:right’ link=”2599″ color=”orange”] Learn Dean’s approach to Couple Counselling…[/button]

But what the public generally do not know is:-

  1. A majority of ‘counselling’ qualifications focus upon individual clinical work (i.e. one adult client and one counsellor).
  2. Such qualifications do not cover working with couples: couple counselling is a significantly-different approach for the counsellor.
  3. British Law (as of 2014) has no requirements for anyone to have any qualifications in counselling in order to set ones-self up in a counselling business.

Basically: ‘Aunty Joan’s Tea and Sympathy Service’ could be lovely counselling service (Aunty Joan may be a very good listener, you see, and she may have lots of things to tell you based on her life’s experience). But, with her having no formal training, no recognised qualifications, no supervision, no indemnity insurance, no membership of a recognised national professional body… Aunty Joan is offering a significantly dangerous service.

Practising Beyond a Counsellor’s Original Qualification.

Matters begin to border on the unethical when a counsellor who has an initial qualification in one particular model of therapy, begins to branch out into areas of therapy that is not covered by their original qualification. Again, in British law, there is no legal requirement for that counsellor to seek additional qualifications (although the ethics for the majority of qualified counsellors would compel them to seek appropriate training) – but still a small proportion of therapists continue to practice with no formal qualifications. In 2008 I decided I would like to practice counselling with couples – something my original qualifications did not cover – so it was necessary for me to obtain further training.

Individual-Therapy Qualified Counsellors… Practising with Couples.

After qualifying with my post-graduate diploma in Couple Counselling (Psychodynamic/Systemic) 2009, I attended a workshop for couple counsellors. In addition to the majority of attendees who had qualifications in couple counselling, were a handful of counsellors who had no such qualifications. Whilst they had full qualifications as individual counsellors, they had begun working with couples and were struggling with some of major difficulties. Again, legally, there’s nothing to stop these counsellors from working couples, and I would hope that each therapist might have been appropriately supervised by someone who was supporting their couple work, but… ethically… because these counsellors:

  • didn’t have an understanding of the basic concepts of couple counselling,
  • didn’t have theoretical frameworks for couples,
  • didn’t have appropriate counselling model for couples,

…they were getting stuck with their couples. Applying individual-counselling techniques were not helpful. There were better approaches for couples: concepts found in training for couple counselling. So, in my marketing I regularly make reference to

Not All Couple Counsellors are Qualified…

…because from the experience above, there’s practically nothing to stop people from practising counselling in ways not covered by their qualifications (should they have any to begin with).

Check your Counsellor’s Qualifications.

For anyone seeking counselling, I would recommend that you check out the following:-

  • Does the person’s website, business card, or literature, clearly state what qualifications they have (eg letters after their name, or a statement of their qualifications)?
  • If not, when you meet the counsellor: ask what qualifies him/her/them to be practising.  They should not be offended, and should not skirt around your question; if they do then maybe this isn’t the counsellor you want to be working with.
  • You might make a note of the training /awarding body or the professional body (eg ‘Chichester Counselling Services’ or ‘The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’) and make contact them them asking if the body recognises the counsellor and/or they are properly registered.

Categories
Couple Relationships

“It’s him that’s the problem, not me!”

What Couple Counselling Cannot Achieve On Your Behalf.

This is a brief comment – based upon many experiences of new couples coming into counselling for the first time – and is more about emotional conflicts between couples (as to actual physical harm, which comes more under heading of law than therapy).

Here it is … are you ready … this is it:
     No-one can be changed in order to suit you.

There … that was a couple counsellor’s wisdom (perhaps).

Denial of Participation.

You see, a common situation that couples bring into counselling “it’s my partner that’s the problem.  If he/she would only just change then we will be happy.”

Let me reword that comment: “I am not part of this relationship’s problem; this is solely the responsibility of that person sitting there, not me.  I believe that I am not a part of this problem being created or existing, so I will have no part in its resolution.”

True? A little harsh? Real?

I wonder where has the relationship gone when someone announces that they are not part of a relationship’s conflicts. From a systemic point of view, every member of a relationship has an influence over events (whether they are aware of it or not).

So, a person cannot be changed on your behalf.  You cannot bring your partner into counselling and ask the counsellor to change the partner for you.  As much as you desire it, it is not going to happen.  That will be loss for you … but all is not lost.

Acceptance of Participation.

There are two options to consider from this point:-

Option 1) You can make a request of another person to consider altering their behaviour.  That person can choose to comply to your request, decline it, or negotiate further with you (they may not understand their impact on you, for example). After all, you may be a participant in the problem beginning.

Option 2) You can separate from each other (“can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people that you choose to be around”).

 

Couple counselling can be a very effective way to work through insurmountable relationship conflicts … and a good couple counsellor will also help you work through loss & disappointment when you discover that what you want to be achieved cannot be done so in the way you want it to be (“It’s all his fault….”).

Categories
Couple Relationships

How I wrote to my MP regarding the British Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

On Thursday 24th January, 2013, the British government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales was officially introduced to the House of Commons by Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

Great – I thought – now things are progressing to address the unequal, two-tier situation regarding those who have access to civil-partnerships, and those who have access to marriage.

But my mind was bugging me a bit.  Although I am a public supporter of Equal Marriage, and I tweet and Facebook about it, and my counselling practice supports it, I haven’t actually taken any direct action with regards to getting the law changed.  

I know that writing to ones MP can be a common approach, and I had not done that.  Something was holding me back.

So, today, using good CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) skills, I went through a small project of breaking down a task into smaller, manageable chunks … and I thought I’d share my process in case it helps others who might also wish to write to their MPs … if only they knew how.

Step 1 – Who is my Member of Parliament?

This turned out to be easy – visit “They Work for You” at http://www.theyworkforyou.com and pop in your postcode.

Voila – your MP!

Step 2 – What do I write?

I chose to take a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach to my opening.  It’s something I learned ages ago when one needs to get someone’s attention at the beginning of a presentation.  So I opened by redefining what others are saying about redefining marriage 😉

Other than that, I choose to take an approach that communicated my professional beliefs as a couple counsellor, practising in Hampshire and on Skype.  (BACP members – pay attention that we must not use our membership of BACP to communicate or give the impression that BACP endorses us, or our beliefs or practice, in any way.   I included my membership as it was relevant to my position in my letter to my MP).

I’ve included my letter below in case it inspires you to write you own (please use your own words and write from your own points of view – it comes across lots better than a rubber-stamp letter).

[learn_more caption=”Here’s a copy of what I wrote to Mr George Hollingbery”]

Mr George Hollingbery, House of Commons London, SW1A 0AA.

Dear Mr Hollingbery

I URGE YOU NOT TO REDEFINE MARRIAGE … but, instead, to contribute to changing laws so that what marriage represents (the social union and establishment of rights and obligations between two adults who love each other) may be extended to adult couples of the same gender.

To clarify my point: I am for the equal marriage bill. I am for marriage to be available to couples of the same gender (including those who have transitioned gender) but who are currently denied marriage due to archaic (and now somewhat anti-social) laws.
I ask you to vote “yes” in the approaching bill for equal marriage.

As an accredited member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, working in my private Hampshire practice (and world-wide over Skype video) it had been my privilege to work with all sorts of adult couple-relationships: gay/lesbian, straight, mixed-sexuality, mixed-race, same-race, differing-age, same-age, even platonic/professional couple relationships. But especially with respect to intimately-involved couples, it makes no sense to me for British society to deny any two loving adults the institution of marriage. Whilst civil-partnerships were a sensible step forward, I have come to believe how that has also created a two-tier, unequal social-platform. I believe the bill for equal marriage addresses this too (and I would also support civil partnerships for heterosexual couples).

Forgive my slightly tongue-in-cheek opening! It is a little wearing to hear much unfounded “but redefining marriage will destroy the world!” paranoia in the news; it leaves one wondering if, historically, the same unfounded fear-fuelled messages were communicated when couples of different skin colours wished their partnerships to be socially & legally accepted.

I hope you will be a part of this courageous bill to redress the current inequality of marriage and I thank you for your attention to this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Dean A. Richardson, MBACP(accred)

[/learn_more]

 

Step 3 – How do I get my message to my MP?

Easy … in step 1 there’s a link to a page that allows you to send a message directly to your MP (via email I think).

Look for the link WriteToThem.com – write your message (politely and to the point) and send it off.

NB – I began using this form, but as I neared the end of my message I realised that I actually wanted to print my letter on quality paper, put into a nicely prepared envelope  and send it through the mail.  If I’m going to ask my MP to pay attention to how important this matter is, I wanted the quality of my message to get through in the best way as it could.  Just a personal thing 🙂

Step 4 – Send … and wait for a reply.

We’re not guaranteed to receive the reply we want from our MPs.

Many other people will have written with other views – and an MP must do his or her best to represent everyone (though, in reality  he/she may try to represent the majority as this is what got him/her into his job in the first place … and will likely put him/her back there in the next election).

But, if we remember that our MPs are in parliament to represent us, not to simply represent their own personal views, then the more people who support Equal Marriage who write to their MPs, the better the chances that laws will be changed for the better.

Categories
Couple Relationships FAQ

On Bringing Couple Counselling to a Close

Couple Relationship Counselling is about working in therapy with conflicts in a couple’s relationship.  The couple can be married, in a civil-partnership, being romantically involved or just simply colleagues who have a relationship (business or personal) that has developed conflicts (read more…).

Closing States of Couple Counselling.

There are two states for the end of couple counselling: resolved and unresolved.

Resolved: when the initial conflicts – plus conflicts that appeared during the course of couple counselling – have been worked through to the couple’s satisfaction. Satisfaction may mean: enough so that the couple can work on the issues themselves without further therapeutic intervention.

Unresolved: when the initial conflicts – or conflicts that appeared during the course of couple counselling – have only been partially worked  through & the couple are still distressed at – or helpless from – the conflicts.

Both of these states can be worked with during an ending to couple counselling. Although resolved might appear to be a better state, it depends upon what the couple want as it’s their relationship (and always has been even with therapeutic intervention).

When a couple decide to end counselling, working toward an ending is an appropriate choice (rather than simply stopping counselling without notice).

Topics for Closing Sessions.

In the final sessions it can be helpful to discuss the following:

  • What matters presented at the assessment for couple counselling (read more…).
  • What matters came up during the couple counselling?
  • What matters do both partners agree that we have worked through?
  • What matters do partners disagree on.
  • What matters are left outstanding (any “unfinished business”) – for both partners together, or for each individual partner?
  • What might the couple wish to do about the unfinished business?
  • What has been gained from the counselling process … and what is being lost as it ends.

A purpose of such a review is so that couples counselling can end with the work being reviewed openly.  Both partners can leave therapy knowing what is agreed as being resolved, and what matters are left unresolved.  Knowing what work is left to do means the couple can consciously continue to work on further matters in their own time and their own way.

Number of Sessions.

The number of sessions to bring couple counselling to a close will be decided in a discussion with the couple.  It’s preferable that an ending to counselling is brought about once the presenting issues have been worked through – so the ending is a case of how many sessions would be required to discuss sufficiently the closing sessions topics.

This, plus any outstanding matters the couple wish to talk about.

Ending Counselling without Final Sessions.

Leaving counselling without such an ending as discussed above can be unhelpful to the couple’s relationship.  Unresolved conflicts can continue in the relationship – assuming that the relationship continues.

Sometimes the couple decide they wish to separate and they leave the relationship (couple counselling can also be used to help a couple to separate) and when the couple no longer maintains the relationship, the counsellor’s “client” (the relationship) can no longer be brought to counselling.  Other types of endings can then be discussed.

So, working towards an ending in couple counselling are an important part of the counselling process.  whether the couple involve the counsellor in the ending or not.

Categories
Couple Relationships LGBT

Mixed-Orientation/Sexuality Relationship Counselling

Relationship Counselling for Mixed Sexual-Orientation Couples.

Couples who are in an intimate, mixed-sexuality relationship or an intimate mixed gender-orientation marriage can experience relationship problems in just the same way as any other couple relationship.

Whist any trained & qualified couples counsellor could be able to work with your relationship,  sometimes mixed-orientation couples choose to work with a systemic couples relationship therapist who specialises in working with mixed-orientation couples.

In Hampshire, and on Skype, that therapist is Dean Richardson.

What is a mixed-sexuality / mixed-orientation relationship?

Not all intimate couple relationships have be composed of people of the same sexuality.  Mixed-sexuality relationships are when both partners identify with a different sexuality to their partner; for example a gay man and a straight woman.

Whilst such relationships work perfectly fine without therapeutic intervention, they can also develop conflicts that are particular to this type of relationships.  As an example, whilst sex does not have to be the centre of an intimate relationship, when sexual intimacy becomes a problem, mixed-sexuality couples may require a special kind of support in helping the couple to find  their own solutions to such difficult problems.

Dean Richardson – Mixed-Orientation Couple Counsellor.

Dean Richardson is a fully qualified and experienced couple relationship therapist.  He specialises in working with LGBT couples and couple relationships of mixed-sexualities and mixed-orientations.  He doesn’t impose traditional values on relationships that are incomparable with heteronormative standards.

Working with Dean means the mixed-sexuality/mixed-gender-identified couple can continue to feel proud of their relationship. They can regard their relationship problems as an interesting obstacle to be worked with curiosity & inspiration – a healthy approach through systemic couples counselling.

You, your partner and Dean will work with the relationship style that you bring to counselling, and we’ll work with resolving the problems that you bring too.

How to begin Couple Counselling.

Long Distance Counselling.

Couples who are separated by distance – or away from Dean’s Portsmouth practice – but who still want couple counselling – may find Dean Richardson’s Skype Couple Counselling Service useful (read more…)

1) Pick a date/time from Dean’s availability.  You and your partner will be attending together – and if you and Dean agree that couple counselling is a suitable form of treatment for you, you will both be attending with your partner for each week’s session.

2) Contact Dean to arrange an assessment for couple counselling – or to discuss with Dean your questions or concerns for couple counselling.

Couples counselling for mixed-orientation couples can be a helpful resource to a couple who are struggling with problems that seem unique and insurmountable.  Choose Dean Richardson to help you attend to your unique relationship … together.

Categories
Gay Male Couples

Developmental Stages of Gay Male Couples

Summarised from David P. McWhirter, MD and Andrew M. Mattison, MSW, PhD. Chapter: “Psychotherapy for Gay Male Couples”. Book: “A Guide to Psychotherapy with Gay and Lesbian Clients”, Ed. Gonziorek (1982). Original publication McWhirter & Mattison (1984, Prentice Hall 0-13-547661-5)

Introduction.

Over a 5-year period (1974 to 1979), the authors interviewed in depth 156 gay male couples [in the California, San Diego County area] who were not in therapy and had lived together anywhere from 1 to more than 37 years. The mean time in a relationship was 8.7 years, with median being slightly over 5 years.

Six stages of relationship were identified.  The first four stages occurred within the first 10 years of the gay couple’s relationship.

The stages were presented as tentative formulations needing further clinical trial and research validation.

The conceptualisation of developmental stages has been very helpful in the clinical approach to therapy with gay male couples.

Stage One: Blending (First Year)

Characteristics:

  • Blending
  • Limerence (falling in love, being romantically in love, intrusive thinking about the desired person, acute longing for reciprocation, sexual attraction).
  • Equality of partnership
  • High sexual activity

Blending is experienced as the intensity of togetherness gay men feel early in their relationships. Their similarities bind them, their differences are mutually overlooked.

Stage Two: Nesting (1 to 3 years)

Characteristics:

  • Homemaking
  • Finding compatibility
  • Decline in limerance
  • Ambivalence

By the second year, more attention is paid to their surroundings taking the form of homemaking activities. Couples in this stage also tend to see each other’s shortcomings and discover or create complementarities that enhance compatibility setting the stage for the mixture of positive and negative feelings about the value of the relationship: ambivalence.

Stage Three: Maintaining (3 to 5 years)

Characteristics:

  • Individualisation begins
  • Risk-taking
  • Dealing with Conflict
  • Relying on the relationship

Maintaining the relationship depends upon establishing balances between individualisation and togetherness, conflict and its resolution, autonomy and dependence, confusion and understanding. The intense blending of Stage Two clears the path for the re-emergence of the individual differences, indentified here as individualisation. Individualisation requires some necessary risk-taking.

Stage Four: Collaborating (5 to 10 years)

Characteristics:

  • Collaborating
  • Productivity
  • Establishing independence
  • Dependability of partners

After 5 years together, couples experience a new sense of security and a decreasing need to process their interactions. The individualisation of Stage Three can progress to the establishment of independence, sustained by the steady, dependable availability of a partner for support, guidance and affirmation.

Stage Five: Trusting (10 to 20 years)

Characteristics:

  • Trust
  • Merger of money and possessions
  • Constriction
  • Taking the relationship for granted

Trust develops gradually for most people. The trust of Stage Five includes a mutual lack of possessiveness and a strong positive regard for each other.

Stage Six: Repartnering (20 years and beyond)

Characteristics:

  • Attainment of goals
  • Expectation of permanence of the relationship
  • Emergence of personal concerns
  • Awareness of the passage of time

The twentieth anniversary appears to be a special milestone for gay male couples. A surprising number of couples reported a renewal of their relationship after being together for 20 years or more.

Comparing Studies.

When comparing the “Marital Stages” by E. Street (heterosexual relationships) with “Gay Male Partnership Stages” by McWhirter & Mattison, and interesting parallel emerges:-

Marital Stages
Gay Male Partnership Stages
1st RomanceStage One: Blending
2nd RealityStage Two: Nesting
3rd Power StrugglesStage Three: Maintaining
4th Finding OneselfStage Four: Collaborating
5th Working throughStage Five: Trusting
6th MutualityStage Six: Repartnering

See also Counselling for LGBT Couples.

Categories
Couple Relationships

Five Secrets of Happier Couples

As a professional couple’s counsellor, it’s an occupational hazard that I only get to work with unhappy couples.  Fortunately, I often do get to experience a transitional stage where a couple begin to transform their relationship into something that’s more positive and more happy for the two of them.

I am sharing these five “secrets” (not really secret!) based upon my observations.  Whether heterosexual, gay or lesbian, how couples moves their relationship from an unhappy state into a more happier state have common features.

1) Couples spend quality time on their relationship.

At least by the time a couple begins to meet with me for couple therapy, the couple have stopped spending time on the relationship.

This is sometimes due to the fact that sometimes couple learn to not communicate for very good reasons – and by not spending time on the relationship those reasons can be kept under lock and key

Living together is not spending time on the relationship.  The relationship is that thing that the couple have created together (and sometimes begin to destroy together).  Learning what the relationship is for a couple (it can be different for each couple) is the first step. 

  • Some couples set a “date” night once a week. 
  • Some set a meeting night once a week to discuss their relationship.
  • Some keep a “relationship” diary where both partners can write messages to the relationship about what’s going well (or not).

Sometimes a poorly relationship needs some focussed time spending on it.  It can simply be that the couple have forgotten that their relationship needs care, and for a while it needs to be nursed back into help.

2) Couples can hear each other’s communication.

One of the more frequent interventions I make in couple’s counselling is “What did you make of what your partner just said, there?”.

Couples who are in a distressing relationship can often answer “I don’t know”, or misunderstand their partner, or say things like “Well if he/she loved me I wouldn’t need to explain”.  These couples have have lost their skills in communicating.  It can be a very painful state to be in.

Inviting each partner to learn what the other partner is saying can be very helpful.  If a partner gets the communicate message wrong, it’s helpful for the partner to patiently teach the other what was meant (avoiding chastisement).

3) Couples can be comfortable when apart from the relationship.

Some couples have found they have unintentionally excommunicated all their friends to the point where only their partner exists in their world.  There may have been an unintended plan in doing this – I’m talking attachment styles.

When thinking about attachment styles (eg the early relationship of the infant to its caregiver) the infant may be secure; that when mum goes out of the room the infant will carry on playing, knowing at some level that mum will be back in a bit.  On the opposite scale, an insecurely attached infant will be greatly distressed when mum disappears for a little bit. For more on attachment styles, read “Attachment Theory – an Overview”.

Deeply felt insecurities may manifest in the relationship.  Jealously (“where were you all night?”), suspicion (“who are you seeing behind my back?”), are just two manifestations.

Having partners understand how each other attach in intimate relationships can help both partners appreciate where unpopular behaviour stems from (sometimes way back in the past).  Showing consistency (eg going out with the lads every Thursday night causes anxiety, but coming back home at an hour both partners agreed) can greatly help address initial change from insecure attachment to something more secure.  Secure attachment can handle unplanned behaviour (eg coming home late) where as insecure attachment may not.

4) Couples can share the truth / show authenticity.

No-one can tell when you’re lying.  Honest!

There are many reasons why people lie, and as a therapist one of the greatest demands on my practice is consistently authentic.  It’s essential that I demonstrate trust-able behaviour, consistent responses, holding boundaries agreed up front.  It’s a form of replaying the holding care that a care giver does (or should) when the infant is very small.

In the beginning, it’s likely that you and your partner were more truthful with each other than later in the relationship (ever heard of “pillow talk”, for example?)

Introducing inauthentic behaviour or telling lies will be felt at some level by our partner.  If you find there isn’t a place to tell the truth, maybe secret #1 might be the first place to address this.

5) Couples recognise their relationship as being unique.

When problems arise, everyone may have a say: your family, your friends, your partners family & friends, work colleagues, the people next door.  They’ve all been through it… but have they?

In couple therapy, part of my role is to provide an encouraging atmosphere of promoting the couple coming up with ideas and solutions of their own.  I don’t have any exercise that if performed correctly will cure the relationship’s problems.  I have no magic words that will make the unhappiness go away.  But what I do do is help a couple to realise that their relationship is pretty much unique and that they do not have to adhere to what society says is the behaviour of a happy relationship (see Secret #4!).

In society, we usually want to fit in, so we make our behaviour fit with everyone else.  We know that mum and dad never had a bad word and never argued.  We know that the couple over the road were married for 70 years and never spent an might apart.  Except … what people say about how their relationship works may not be quite the truthful story.

Helping a couple to disengage with what they think is supposed to be the right way to behave in a relationship, and helping them engage creatively and with inspiration with what they would both like in the way of relationship-behaviour can contribute greately to making their relationship work … after all, there’s no relationship quite like theirs.