Any personal relationship, no matter what the sexuality of the couple are, can go through some difficult and challenging times. To be part of a relationship means that you have to take on another identity along with the individual identity to entered the relationship with. The new identity is one of being and being seen as a couple. Most individuals take to this easily but for some people it can be a challenging time.
Typical Challenges that can happen in any relationship are :-
1) Communication - somehow or another the couple have stopped talking to each other about the important things in life; emotions, needs, etc. Communication is more about practical aspects of living together. If more personal and emotional aspects are touched on, arguments may arise and it can lead to both parties feeling like they just can’t speak about feelings without it leading to an explosion.
2) Sex - what was acceptable at the beginning of the relationship is not longer acceptable now. Relationships change and love-making needs to get apace with this. If love-making has become routine and formulaic it will become boring and one or both partners may seek other liaisons to satisfy what they are not getting in the relationship
3) Responsibility Agreements – relationships and practical agreements may evolve without any verbalised agreements. One person might be the tidier individual and end up always being the one to clean the house whilst the partner doesn’t do anything to help. Eventually this can lead to problems because one person can feel the efforts are in vain or are not appreciated. Typically a statement that emphasises this issue is “Why is it always me that has to ….. (eg. clean, drive, sort things out etc)”
4) Priorities – relationships settle down and as a couple feel more secure the relationship can start to be taken for granted by one or both people. Rather than keeping the relationship as the most important aspect, it starts to slide down the league table of what’s important and after a while feelings of anger, hurt and resentment start to surface.
5) Differences - as much as being a couple, is an identity where most decisions are agreed on, if their are differences in taste, opinions or priorities, that become a bigger feature of interaction, and these are not handled with respect and honesty, it can lead to an unhappy and unfulfilling life together
6) Honesty – for any healthy relationship, honesty and trust must be present. Lying and leading a secret life will eventually have an impact on the relationship. Someone who is dishonest will have low self esteem because they know they are lying and they can’t hide from themselves. The person who is being deceived will lose faith and trust and will wonder if they can ever feel secure in the relationship again.
7) Finances – when a couple are going through a stressful financial time this can put a strain on the relationship particularly if one person is working and the other is unemployed.
8) Out or In - for some gay or lesbian couples, one may be out to their friends, family and colleagues and the other partner may not have come out yet. Whilst this situation may have been acceptable at the start of the relationship, after a while there may be some resentment building up. The partner who is out is able to share their network of family and friends openly but have to put up with being referred to as a friend or flat mate when meeting the “not out” partners family or friends.
9) Childhood trauma – occasionally someone’s childhood experiences have left unresolved issues for one of the partners in a relationship. Unfortunately those experiences may lead to certain behaviours, urges, patterns that are not healthy as an individual never mind in a relationship. For example, the fear of rejection can leave a person feeling really needy or on the other hand, make them quite cold and hard, never showing their emotions and never allowing their partner to get close.
10) Religion – one or either of the partners in a same sex relationship may have come from a religious background where their belief still plays a central role in their life. If both partners have strong and yet different religious beliefs, this can be a challenge but with respect, is not insurmountable. Each partner’s family may or may not use their common beliefs as a way of manipulating the relationship.
11) Parenting – one partner may have children from a previous relationship which can have an impact on this same-sex relationship. As with heterosexual couples, a decision may be made about brining children into the same-sex family via adoption or a semen donor or might be a friend or anonymous
12) Gender roles - it doesn’t hold today that certain roles are solely for the male or female. In a heterosexual relationship the biggest earner might be the woman. Likewise in a same-sex relationship it isn’t true that roles are divided between who is more masculine or feminine. There can be a lot of flexibility about roles.
All relationships have their challenges. Gay men and lesbian women as couples will have extra challenges that can put a strain on their relationship. With the advent of civil partnerships and gay marriage, the legal status and gay and lesbian relationships can add a dimension to same-sex relationships that is still in its infancy.
However all of these situations can be managed and solutions found if all involved are willing to be honest with themselves and their partner and are also motivated to seek resolutions.
Steven Harold utilises a process called EMSRP (Emerging Meta-Schematic Re-Patterning) to look at relationships past and present and how now only to be empowered within them but to thrive.