Gay and Lesbian Relationship Advice
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Music Credits: Giorgio Moroder, “From Here to Eternity”
Relationship Advice For Gay and Lesbian Couples
Humans are built to bond fiercely to each other. Secure attachment is a constant in every healthy relationship, and this is true for same sex couples, gay and lesbian couples, opposite sex couples, non binary couples, and “gender fluid” pairings, polyamorous relationships, “throuplings” and more. If you’re looking for relationship advice for lesbian and gay relationships, hear this first: Love is love, always.
As an experienced online couples therapist who’s had the honor of serving all types of couples over the years, I know that virtually all relationships have their ups and downs, particularly as attachment grows and people become more important to each other. As we spiral into deeper levels of emotional intimacy and knowing, new growth areas emerge around communication, trust, love, appreciation, respect, boundaries, identity and partnership. That’s a given.
However, it is also true that in addition to the usual peaks and valleys every relationship weathers eventually, gay and lesbian couples have additional layers of complexity that they often have to face together. These can put unique stressors on the relationship, but they can also offer profoundly meaningful opportunities for growth and empathy on each side.
Societal pressures, family of origin relationships, internal messages around identity, and unique cultural factors must be understood and honored as well.
In this episode of the podcast, my colleague here at Growing Self, Colorado and Utah-based couples therapist Kensington O. gives us an overview of the nuances of LGBTQ+ relationships, as well as special considerations when it comes to effective gay and lesbian couples therapy.
You’ll learn about the unique struggles LGBTQ+ couples may have to go through and the reasons why. She’s also taking a deep dive into the family of origin and cultural issues that can impact so many gay and lesbian couples, and how these can be stepping stones towards greater strength, resilience and empathy.
If you’re in a same-sex relationship or have a loved one that is part of the LGBTQ+ community, this episode will give you perspective into how happy, healthy gay and lesbian couples learn, grow and thrive together.
My guest, Kensington has compassionate insights from her experiences as a couples therapist for gay and lesbian couples, as well as a therapist for gay and lesbian individuals on the path of personal growth and healthy identity development.
She has lots of gay and lesbian relationship advice to share, as well as thoughtful insights into healthy growth for individuals too.
Here’s what we’re discussing:
Gay and Lesbian Relationship Advice: Podcast Highlights
- Learn about Kensington’s research on the impact of religion on gay and lesbian relationships.
- Understand why members of the LGBTQ+ community can struggle with shame and low self esteem, and how to support them through it.
- Discover the similarities and differences in couples therapy for same sex couples and opposite sex couples.
- Realize the importance of being or having a compassionate, safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals to grow.
- Understand gender dysphoria,and what to do if you or someone you love is suffering with it.
- Learn essential tools for becoming empowered and fostering self-compassion.
- Apply time-tested, evidence-based strategies of couples counseling for gay and lesbian relationships.
- And more!
You can listen to this episode, “Gay and Lesbian Relationship Advice” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you like to listen to relationship podcasts.
You can also scroll down to the bottom of this page to listen right now. Join us! (And join the conversation in the comments below!)
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Kensington O., MS, LAMFT, MFTC
Our authentic relationship experts know how to help you learn, grow, and move forward into a bright new chapter.
Gay and Lesbian Relationship Advice: Key Takeaways
Difficulties with Religion as an LGBTQ+ Couple
One of the most challenging obstacles facing many gay and lesbian relationships is that many must learn how to work through the legacy of an unsupportive family of origin. This is often even more difficult for gay and lesbian individuals who grew up in strongly religious households that disparaged gay or lesbian sexual orientations or relationships.
Kensington talks openly about her experiences growing up in the LDS (Mormon) faith, and about her work as a therapist on the campus of her alma mater, Brigham Young University.
During her time there, Kensington worked with many gay and lesbian individuals and couples who were struggling to reconcile their faith and their sexual orientation. She hosted support groups for members of the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and was also involved in research studies focused on understanding and assisting this population.
Although her professors and colleagues were supportive of her research regarding the LGBTQ+ community, the school was still strictly Mormon. There were a number of unique stressors and challenges for gay and lesbian students and staff.
For example, students at BYU had to sign an Honor Code, which required them to not engage in LGBTQ+ relationships. Her experiences working within this system allowed Kensington to develop a deep appreciation for the struggles and triumphs of her clients navigating the complexities of culture, religion, family, and self identity that many gay and lesbian individuals and couples face on their journey of growth.
Kensington reminds us that we bring our culture and upbringing with us, and that the messages we internalized early on become part of us. We also bring these parts into our relationships — both with others, and with ourselves.
Kensington speaks compassionately about the complicated and real battles that can exist inside of gay and lesbian individuals, both in the LDS faith and others:
- LGBTQ+ persons may still have strong ties with their strict, religious families.
- Going to a religious school might be a better option for them financially.
- LGBTQ+ persons may not have been aware of their sexual orientation in the first place.
When considering these factors, students of the LGBTQ+ community at Brigham Young tended to explore in secret. “It kind of creates an association of shame and secrecy with love and sexuality,” Kensington says. She mentioned how this tendency towards concealment can come into relationships, and says it’s one of the most significant and most harmful long-term effects of being gay or lesbian in an unaccepting culture.
Creating a Safe Space for an LGBTQ+ Loved One
It’s quite challenging for a young person to deal with the conflicts that come with being in the LGBTQ+ community. There aren’t a lot of LGBTQ+ role models for relationships. That can make it challenging to find your identity or see what your future may look like as an LGBTQ+ couple.
So one research that Kensington has done has to do with gender dysphoria, especially in children. Gender dysphoria and its symptoms affect those who feel they are not physically in the right body.
In talking about her research, she emphasizes the following:
- Gender dysphoria is an official diagnostic term that refers to distress and not transgender feelings.
- Although medical science is still advancing, one of the key takeaways for any approach is that children need a supportive and affirmative environment.
- The “cure” isn’t about trying to change the transgender feelings but addressing the extreme distress that it can bring.
Does Your Partner Have a Same-Sex Attraction?
Kensington also talked about how it’s not uncommon for people in opposite-sex relationships to suspect that their partner may have a same-sex orientation or attraction.
If you’re an adult in a relationship and suspect that your partner or spouse may be more attracted to the same sex, you want to be a safe space for them to open up.
Kensington remarks about the desire to be your partner’s safe space and says, “I think that shows a lot of love and respect for the experiences or the feelings your partner might be having.”
Figuring out how to approach this situation may be daunting, but she says it doesn’t matter how or what you say. To have that kind of conversation, Kensington says that it’s essential to cultivate the right environment of openness, trust, and vulnerability.
Self-Acceptance in an LGBTQ+ Relationship
“Everyone wants to love and be loved,” Kensington says. As someone who has worked with LGBTQ+ support groups and LGBTQ+ couples therapy, she has witnessed LGBTQ+ couples still dealing with shame in their thirties or forties.
Despite being open and free, they may be feeling leftover shame from their adolescent years. Regardless of the relationship’s nature, feelings of shame, and guilt are subconsciously hurtful for both the individual and their partner.
So what are the core things or steps you want to take when addressing shame?
- Name the emotion. To be fully aware of the feeling, you should acknowledge its existence and then name it.
- Recognize when the feelings are coming up. Once you’re able to identify your feelings of shame, it’s also essential to recognize what “triggers” the emotions.
- Choose to do something different. When the emotion arrives, you want to address it and then choose not to act on it. Doing this makes all the difference in your journey towards acceptance.
“You heal from that shame through becoming aware of it.” Sometimes, Kensington adds, you might feel ashamed for even feeling shame in the first place. Although it might be a struggle, it’s crucial to recognize that that’s completely okay.
Polyamory in LGBTQ+ Long-Term Relationships
Most non-heterosexual long-term relationships tend to happen later on in life for LGBTQ+ people compared to heterosexuals. Because of this delay, sometimes one or both individuals may want to explore. Although this might affect “expectations of fidelity,” open or polyamorous relationships have become an option for many.
In cases like these, it’s crucial to consider:
- There is no one way to have a happy relationship. Each relationship can find its unique way of approaching things like consensual non-monogamy, as long as the foundations are there.
- To have an open relationship requires an enormous amount of trust. As mentioned, a strong foundation is necessary when you want to venture into relationships that don’t adhere to “societal expectations.”
- Recognize and honor your “first” relationship, but don’t let it hinder you. It’s easy to be attached to your first, especially if you’re in an LGBTQ+ long-term relationship. However, it’s acceptable to acknowledge that they may not be “the one.”
Kensington remarks, “I think there’s a way to honor that special attachment and connection, even if it feels like they’re not going to be my life partner.”
- Growing Self – if you’re looking for an online LGBTQ+ couples therapist or a Colorado LGBTQ+ couples counselor, get in touch with us to request a free consultation session.
- How Healthy Is Your Relationship Quiz: Take our free online how healthy is your relationship quiz to discover the strengths and growth opportunities in your relationship.
Kensington has covered some valuable points on LGBTQ+ relationships. What did you connect and relate to the most? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.
Did you like this interview? Subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Be sure to follow up on Instagram (@Growing_Self, and also @DrLisaMarieBobby) for daily doses of inspirational personal growth and relationship advice to help you create the love, happiness and success you deserve.
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Gay and Lesbian Relationship Advice
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Music Credits: Giorgio Moroder, “From Here to Eternity”
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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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