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This is one of a
of articles in self-improvement Lesson 4 -
optimize your relationships. This subseries focuses on
improving primary relationships. The article summarizes special
challenges that typical same-gender couples face. It offers
options for all such couples and gay stepfamily couples.
The article assumes you're
Gay, homosexual, bisexual,
queer, fag, and lesbian are provocative terms in many
(most?) cultures. They
usually have associations with some mix of bad - wrong -
sick - evil - sinful - perverse - unhealthy - unnatural and disgusting.
These associations can block clear thinking and merited compassion and
respect. That inhibits effective problem-solving and relationship-building.
Calling heterosexuals straight implies
that homosexuals are bent or crooked, which promotes
partners have enough of those already.
Bottom line - be aware of your terminology!
History documents that males and females in all cultures and eras have felt
attraction and love for people of their own gender. For psychological and
religious reasons, many heterosexuals fear, scorn, and reject homosexuals as
abnormal, inferior, and even dangerous. That promotes shame, guilt,
confusion, anxiety, pretense, hurt, resentment, anger, and denial for couples and their
The debate about
what causes homosexuality (a chosen "lifestyle" or a neuro-chemical
response?) is heated and ongoing - largely because of public denials,
ignorance, and misunderstanding. A useful, readable book on gender
differences is "Brain Sex," by Anne Moir and David Jessel.
An incendiary core of this debate is the
long-outdated bias that natural sexual urges are "sinful" and must be
only for procreation. Many unaware people focus only on same-gender
sexual behaviors, rather than seeing that as just one component
of a normal pair-bonding.
Committed same-gender couples are slowly gaining legal equality and
social acceptance in our Western society. Until that multi-decade process
stabilizes, same-gender couples with and without kids face
extra stressors. Our society does little to help such couples and their
families understand and
master these stressors.
Premise - all bigotry and
prejudice spring from:
including an inability to
and ignorance (lack of knowledge); and...
public denial and indifference.
Once aware of these problems,
you can reduce the first two, and
speak out about the third!
you're committed to a person of your gender, what stressors will you two
face, and what can you do about them? This Lesson-4 article outlines
common problems and solutions, and provides links to more detail. The second
section of this article proposes answers to these questions for typical
Personal and Partnership Stressors
"stressor" is some personal or social/environmental condition that causes
someone "significant emotional/physical
you are attracted to people of your gender, see if you experience some or
all of these normal stressors: guilt, shame, confusion, anxiety, and
grief. Let's look briefly at each of them...
These two normal emotions feel
the same, but have different roots and merit different responses.
Guilt is an involuntary mental/emotional reflex caused by the belief that you have broken
someone's rule (a should, must, have to, cannot, etc) - i.e. you've "made a mistake."
Shame occurs when your
feel inferior, worthless, inept, disgusting, and unlovable. In
moderation, guilt and shame help us to regulate our social behaviors. In
excess, they cripple our behavior, serenity, achievements, and relationships.
Excessive shame and guilts are very common among
of a low-nurturance childhood. They are rarely affected by "logic"
("You shouldn't feel that way!"), and are amplified by social rejection and
- specially if survivors are parents
Until homosexuals are genuinely comfortable with their identity and know how
to ignore or forgive social bigotry, they may feel significant shame
("I am abnormal, inferior, and a despicable freak.") - specially if they
were raised in a bigoted,
They also may feel major guilts - e.g. for hiding their true identity,
preferences, and activities (broken rule: "I should not lie"), and being
"weak" by fearing to admit their identity publicly. They may also feel
guilty for shaming ("embarrassing") their family members - specially
conservative parents and relatives.
one or both mates are significantly shamed and guilty and don't know how to
those burdens, that can be a major relationship stressor - specially
if they're unrecovering Grown Wounded Children (GWCs). The good news is
- once admitted and personal
wound-reduction is begun, excessive
shame and guilts can be reduced
to normal. For options on how to do this,
Another same-gender stressor is...
In your opinion, what causes the mental/emotional state of "confusion"?
Is that state the same as feeling overwhelmed, ambivalent, and/or
Premise - confusion occurs when your active personality
subselves (a) can't make sense out of the sensory information they're
receiving, and/or (b) they're
about what to do about the
information. In our context, homosexual people and couples may feel confused
about concurrent issues like...
their individual identity ("Am I really
their personal and social legitimacy as a
their moral and legal rights a committed couple;
mixed signals they get from key people ("we
accept you and we disapprove of you")
how to respond to ignorance and prejudice in
gay people and couples may feel confused about...
their relationship roles ("Am I your
husband, your wife, your partner, or something else? Are we 'married,'
'committed,' 'mates,' 'partners,' or something else?")
if, how, and when to acknowledging their
gender-preference and/or their partnership in their families, churches,
neighborhoods, and workplaces;
their financial and legal obligations to
if, how, and when to adopt and/or raise kids
how to resolve religious and spiritual
questions about their gender preference and relationship; and...
other local confusions.
major factor shaping responses to
confusions like these is whether or not couples are guided by their respective
If false selves control them, mates will have trouble sorting
out and resolving confusions like these. Even if
their Selves (capital "S") guide them, if mates are members of low-nurturance
families, communities, and/or workplaces, confusions like these will be
hard to resolve.
Options - same-gender partners should (a) expect confusions like
those above, (b) admit them with-out guilt or shame; and (c) help each other
creatively apply these self-improvement
- specially Lessons 1 thru 4.
third common same-gender relationship problem is...
often breed doubts, uncertainties, and
anxieties ("worries"). All kids and adults have
anxieties and fears, and evolve trial-and-error ways of coping with them.
Same-gender couples often experience special anxieties as their
relationship evolves. For instance...
"Will my family and/or key friends reject
(abandon) me or us?"
"Will my/our church community still accept
me/us as full members?"
"Will I be shunned / demoted / harassed /
ridiculed / discriminated against in my workplace?
"Will God punish me for my choices?"
"Will our relationship last?"
"Will my/your/our kids turn out all right?"
"Will my or your ex sue for child custody
and/or impede visitations?"
"What if we can't find effective supports?"
"What will happen if we can't resolve or
manage our anxieties, confusions, shame, and guilts?"
Whether a couple's dynamic mix of anxieties ("worries") is manageable or
stressful depends on (a) who leads each of their personalities (false self
or true Self), and (b) how well mates can think, communicate, and problem-solve together. So -
work patiently together on Lessons 1 and 2, ideally starting in courtship.
Recall why you began reading this. Are
you getting what you need so far?
common gay-couple relationship stressor is...
Mourning Special Losses
Mourning is the healthy process of accepting and adjusting to broken bonds
(losses). Many people mistakenly associate grief only with death, not other
Typical gay persons and couples have significant extra losses to
mourn compared to heterosexual peers:
loss of a "normal childhood";
loss of social "normalcy" and identity;
possible loss of genuine acceptance and
support by some
loss of some social opportunities;
possible loss of the chance to be biological
possible loss of psychological and financial
Each gay person and couple has unique losses they need to mourn, as well
as the broken bonds everyone experiences (e.g. loss of youth, relationships,
opportunities, etc.). Implication: same-gender mates have extra reasons to gain the
for healthy mourning and form a
If either or both mates are
(GWCs), this may be hard, and will add to other personal and partnership
All couples can benefit by
studying and discussing Lesson 3 in this self-improvement
and intentionally forming and living from a healthy
reviewed common concurrent stressors that can burden
same-gender couples: shame, guilt, confusion, anxiety, and grieving
Each of these can be reduced to
normal levels, once mates
are (a) guided by their
(b) admit (vs. minimize
or deny) the stressors, and
(c) decide to reduce them. Links above lead to more detail on how to
recognize and reduce each
Same-gender stepfamily couples have some additional stressors. If you
know such couples or you are one, consider these extra...
Issues for Gay Stepfamily Couples
Typical divorcing and stepfamily adults and kids must admit and resolve
mixes of concurrent problems like these:
learning stepfamily norms and realities, and
converting myths to realistic expectations;
admitting and solving disputes about
couples making three informed, well-timed
re/marriage and/or cohabiting
admitting and reaching consensus on how to
"do" up to
evolving, agreeing on, and living by an effective stepfamily
admitting and grieving special losses caused
by divorce and stepfamily formation;
patiently resolving inevitable conflicts
three or more multi-generational biofamilies;
evolving effective strategies for managing
conflicts and relationship
adults learning typical
minor kids' many developmental and special family-adjustment
needs, and resolving confusion and disputes over
for filling which needs?
learning how to overcome common
to evolving an
learning how to pick
(unwounded) lay and
The "universal" gay-couple
stressors outlined above are often amplified by this array of
concurrent stepfamily problems, because:.
more roles and relationship problems cause higher odds for
significant confusion and overwhelm;
cause higher odds of
anxiety, prejudice, and rejection;
more divorce and re/marriage and/or cohabiting losses increase mates' need
to grieve well; and...
there is currently very little effective help available for gay mates and
If a heterosexual couple’s
challenges are like driving a sedan, then the challenges facing average same-gender
stepfamily partners is like piloting a 747 Jumbo jet in severe