In my counselling work with the gay community, I am staggered by how many gay men report they have dissatisfying relationships. It seems to be the norm that gay men feel lonely, isolated and disconnected from other gay men and the broader community in general. If they are part of the gay community, many of their relationships tend to be superficial, vacuous and consist of ‘fair-weather friends’.
Dave’s story is one that is familiar with many gay men. He was feeling frustrated and despaired about the state of his love life. It felt like he was on a dating merry-go-round. His relationships were frequently short-lasting and he cycled through many brief flings and one-night stands that went nowhere.
Sydney Gay Counselling is soon starting our next gay men’s group therapy in Sydney. The group will be facilitated by myself, Clinton Power, and my colleague, Adam McLean. Group therapy is a powerful way to work on deepening your connections with other gay men in a safe and supportive environment.
Some new research reported in the New York Times suggests that couples that engage in more touch report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. This might sound like common sense, but it is also a good reminder of what helps sustain successful relationships. Although it is hard to know what came first for these couples, the relationship satisfaction or the touch, it is clear that there is a link between the two, and that touch is a powerful tool for building relationships.
Time and time again in my clinical practice, I am coming across clients who report gay relationship breakdown because of problems in communication related to social media and the web 2.0. Web 2.0 refers to the new era of the internet where we have moved from static websites that people visit to an interactive social web where people form online communities and share information and resources.
Some people believe that whatever kind of childhood they had, it has no bearing on the relationships they form in adulthood. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is impossible to not bring the influences of your childhood into your relationship. It is in childhood that we develop a ‘blueprint’ for relating. We learn and internalize what we perceive love is and how it is expressed.
No relationships are easy, gay or straight! I am always amazed how people spend so much time, money and energy studying, training and applying themselves in their professions to become the best they can be. Yet, when it come to relationships, many people think they will just happen and take care of themselves without much investment of time or effort.
In my last post I wrote about developing a relationship vision, either with your partner or if you are single, developing a vision of the type of relationship you would like to create in the future. The benefits of this are that you can become clearer about what your personal goals are, and together you can form relationship goals that you create, revise, and renew within your partnership.
After a week of incredible dust storms in Sydney and the problems we all had with our vision (and breathing!), it got me thinking about the difficulties we sometimes have with our vision in gay relationships. In my gay relationship counselling work with singles and couples, I often hear statements such as, “I just fell into this relationship and found out after 4 months we are not working.”
I have been reflecting on my counselling work of the last week, when I worked with a number of couples that were in enormous emotional pain. It had me asking myself the question, what is it that happens in gay relationships that causes pain? One answer I come back to again and again is related to needs.