Coming Out as a Gay Man…Again and Again and Again

Most of us thought we would come out to our parents and then be done with the whole uncomfortable topic of coming out.

Little did we know that we were starting a sometimes awkward process that would continue for the rest of our lives.

Like when:

You check in at the hotel and wonder if the hotel clerk is cool with the fact that you are two men asking for one bed.

You didn’t tell a work colleague that you are gay and now you’ve become closer and you’re embarrassed for not telling him or her earlier.

You feel the impulse to hold your boyfriend’s hand but you don’t see any other couples doing that in this neighborhood. So you don’t.

It’s your cousin Rita’s wedding and everyone is dancing with their partner and you can’t imagine doing that.

I Should Be Over It

Sometimes clients tell me stories like these rather sheepishly.  They’ll say, “With all the political progress we are making, I should be over this.”

When you find yourself beating yourself up for not being “out enough”, it may be helpful to keep in mind a few reasons why being gay remains difficult.

They aren’t hard to find.

Reasons such as:

You are a minority not only in society but also within your own family.

Most religions still teach that gay sexuality is sinful.

The Republican Party actively fights your right to marry the person you love.

All of us were dosed with homophobia at a young age.  If there is one thing I know for sure from my work each day with gay men, exposure to homophobia can be highly toxic.

Most of us undervalue the impact of what happens to children and teenagers when their family, church, and peers tell them that their natural sexual orientation is wrong.

And if you dealt with additional challenges growing up—like an alcoholic parent, frequent moves, or poverty—overcoming homophobia can be even harder.

Difficult, Not Impossible

There are good reasons that most of us remain in the closet at certain times.  No one enjoys worrying about safety or the experience of ridicule or embarrassment.

There are also important reasons to keep pushing ourselves to that edge of discomfort when it comes to taking the next step in coming out.

Each time we make that decision to be “discrete”, somewhere deep in our psyche we are reinforcing our belief that we are “less than”.  We tell ourselves that these little moments don’t really make a difference.  However, these experiences add up, ultimately limiting our ability to feel good about ourselves.

Yes, the political movement for equality advances when we come out.  But on a more personal level, each time we take a small anxious step towards freer personal expression we undo some of the damage done by the culturally “made up” story that gay is not as good as a straight.

A lifetime of living slightly under the radar can lead to a lifetime of mild depression or anxiety.  What small step can you make today to take up just a little more space in the world?

 

For more information about how I help individuals with coming out and other issues impacting gay men, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide.

 

 

In Defense of Baby Talk

There’s a big role for babies in our relationships with our partners and with ourselves.

Tapping into your inner baby is a really useful tool in managing life’s challenges.

With Our Partners

Children are the masters of love.  They love with great abandon and openness.  And they know instinctively that hugs are the best way to express it.

Here’s how some very successful gay couples use their inner child to connect and resolve conflict:

Roger and David* have a stuffed dinosaur on their bed named Bugsy that they use as a puppet to talk to each other to break the ice when tension starts to mount.

When Ty is grumpy, John sometimes approaches him like an overtired toddler and asks if he would like to watch his favorite TV show together and eat Lucky Charms.

To soften the mood when they are getting edgy, Ray or Yan will start talking baby talk to Rufus, their 10-year-old collie mix.

When Walter has had a really bad day, Jose sometimes whispers in his ear as many positive, joyful reminders he can think of.  It lifts them both up.

Exploring your inner child with your partner is intimate.  It signals that you are willing to be vulnerable by acting a bit “foolish”.  Because it’s a private communication that doesn’t get shared at work or even among most friends, it reminds you both that your bond is like no other.

When you intentionally express your inner child you are telling your partner that you are safe and available for play.   It demonstrates that you are ready to let go of the fight that just occurred or is about to happen.

Baby talk proves that you have let down your sword.  You are no longer a threat. I suggest using it as a “reach” to reconnect with your partner when you are getting off course.

Most gay male couples I work with do this, but they do not dare talk about it with others.

With Ourselves

There are libraries filled with books and research studies that basically prove that we still have our childhood self within us.  In our efforts to grow up, make money in business, and “be a man”, we all like to deny that.

The truth is that when we are stuck, when we are repeating unhealthy patterns, or when we surprise ourselves with how strongly we reacted to a little thing, it’s likely that an experience from our childhood is being triggered.

Sternly telling yourself to “just get over it” when you find yourself back in that place of fear, anxiety, or anger isn’t going to result in lasting change.  Personal transformation happens when we learn to hold those wounded parts of ourselves with curiosity and compassion.

And that sometimes means talking to yourself the way a good parent would try to calm a hurt young child.  The tone is soft, the care is expressed, and it usually includes soothing words of encouragement.  Sometimes a special treat is offered.

And what tend to be the final words at the end?  “I love you.”  Of course.

Try it at home.  It’s 100% non-toxic with no negative side effects.

 

*All names have been changed to protect the innocent children.

For more information about how I help individuals and couples build better gay relationships, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide.

 

 

Blaming Your Parents

No one wants to be a cliché.

For some, it’s a cliché to talk to a therapist about your childhood experience with your parents.  I often hear statements like:

“My parents did the best they could.  I’m not going to blame them for my problems.”

These clients are showing compassion for their parents.  Raising kids is a tough job and no one is going to get it right every day.  I think it’s true that most of us, including parents, are doing the best we can.  If we could do better, we would.

When clients talk about their childhood I also hear:

“That was a long time ago.  I’ve moved on.  And my parents have mellowed with age.”

Here’s my perspective on this.

Blaming parents:  not good.

Avoiding the knowledge of how your parents impacted your life:  also not good.

The problem with skipping this exploration is that one important person gets left out of the equation:  you.

If you don’t care about how you experienced the world as a young child then probably no one (except your therapist!) cares about this little guy.

He essentially is abandoned by you and left with the message of  “you are on your own and get over it.” 

It might be easier to muster up some compassion from your overworked or stressed out parents than it is to feel compassion for your experience as a bewildered, clueless child who was trying to make sense of everything around you.

Why should we care about how we felt so many years ago?  Isn’t that old news?

On a daily basis we don’t usually feel connected to our childhood self, and yet hundreds of compelling research studies show that there is a direct link between those experiences and our current life.

For example, a famous researcher at Harvard University named George Valliant completed the largest ever study on this topic in 2007.  He spent $25 million following a group of male Harvard graduates for 75 years.

Among his many findings were that men who had warm childhood relationships with their mothers did better.  They earned an average of $87,000 more per year, were more effective at work, and had much less dementia in old age.

Men who had warm childhood relationships with their fathers had less adult anxiety, greater enjoyment of vacations, and increased “life satisfaction.”

This doesn’t mean we are doomed to unhappiness if we missed out on experiencing some warm relationships with our parents as a child.

But to improve our adult happiness we need to understand the misguided messages we picked up along the way.  And that requires figuring out what those messages are.

In my experience as a therapist, the most common mistaken message that we picked up as children was:

There must be something wrong with me because my parents (or siblings or peers) treated me with X.”  “X” equals a place where our feelings got hurt.

As adults looking back we can see that our parents were cold or cranky because of their own stressors, but that’s beyond the mental capacity of kids.  Kids only know how to take it personally.  And that kid is usually still within us.

In therapy we make sure that the kid inside gets to hear the new, truer information:  that we are good enough.

 

For more information about how I help the LGBT community with self-esteem and other issues, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide.

 

 

 

How To Stop Fighting With Your Gay Boyfriend

When you fight with your partner it can feel like he is the enemy.  Couples can get momentarily trapped in a belief that the person they love is evil, intent on doing them harm.

Unless you are in love with a sociopath, your partner is not evil.  But I understand that’s how it feels when you are in a cycle of fighting.

As you take a closer look at your fights, perhaps you will see this very common pattern:  One of you attacks and the other gets quiet and distant.

Decades of research on couples shows that this pattern is the most widespread and enduring one in relationships.

Underneath this exhausting dance, here is what may be happening for each of you:

The Attacker

At first glance it might be easy to judge the attacker as mean, bitchy, and demanding.  That’s certainly how his partner experiences him.

But if we explore the tender places below those expressions, we can find that the attacker is really just fighting for the relationship.  He wants to re-establish the close connection you had before.  His rage is protesting the loss of this contact.

The Stonewaller

The stonewaller looks uncomfortable, distant and like he just doesn’t care.  To his partner it feels like he has exited the relationship.

Underneath, he experiences the humiliating pain of  “doing it wrong” in the relationship once again.  He feels like a failure and that causes him to freeze up.   He is quietly protesting feeling criticized by this partner.

It’s Hardwired

The couple gets caught in a loop.  One partner reaches out—in a negative way—and the other steps back.  This gets repeated, again and again.

Part of this cycle may be wired into primates.  An infant monkey will attack a mother who ignores him, desperately trying to get her attention.

Changing the Cycle

Consider how these steps could help you soften this painful system:

Step One:  Tap the Power of Time

If you are triggered and fighting with your partner, good communication can’t occur.  It’s best to give up talking about it until you feel a little better.

The good news is that you always feel calmer after giving it some time.  You may just need a one-minute break to wash your face, take a breath, and get a snack from the fridge.  Other times you’ll need to take the dog for a long walk around the neighborhood.

Respect your partner by letting him know how much time you think you need to calm down, so he isn’t left hanging.

Step Two:  Name and Reframe

We feel a lot more relaxed when we gain perspective about what is really going on.  During the “time out” period, remind yourself that you are stuck again in the familiar “attack-stonewaller” pattern.

If you are the “attacker”, remind yourself that your partner probably is feeling like a failure and that’s why he is withdrawing again.

If you are the “stonewaller”, remind yourself that your partner misses you, wants to be closer, and that’s why he got so upset.

These “reframes” help you to stop viewing the guy you love as the evil enemy.  It reminds you about the vulnerable and tender feelings that are the engine driving all of your fights.

Step Three:  Discuss the Cycle Together

Now try coming back together and talking about what just happened from the perspective of this cycle.

An attacker could say something like:  “I want to be close to you, you are feeling criticized by me, and we’re both feeling shaky right now. Let’s hug.”

A stonewaller might say: “I am frozen, you are fighting for our relationship and we are upset.  You feel shut out.  I don’t want to fight anymore. Let’s rest on the couch together.”

Notice that each of those sentences ended with what couples therapists call a “reach.”  A reach is a request for closeness.  Asking for a hug is a classic and often powerful reach.

Are the above steps easy to implement?  I’m afraid not.  Getting to Step Three takes commitment and time.  Couples counseling is usually about helping clients get to Step Three.

Is it worth the energy to work on shortening and reducing the fights?  To answer that question, ask yourself:  what is more important than my relationship?

For more information about how I help individuals and couples build better gay relationships, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide.

Here is a recording of my Gay Open Relationships Webinar

In October I was interviewed by Annie Schuessler, the founder of the Bay Area Relationship Center, on the subject of “Open Relationships: What Works? ”  You can click below to listen to a 45-minute audio recording of the webinar.

 

 

 

Adam D. Blum, MFT is a licensed gay psychotherapist specializing in relationship and self-esteem issues for gay men. Adam offers services in his San Francisco office or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit his website to subscribe to his e-newsletter and his free guide on building gay relationships. Follow him on Facebook 

 

Does Your Gay Boyfriend Ignore You?

This month’s blog post features my answer to a question I received for my “Ask Adam” relationship advice column at gay.net.

Dear Adam,

My boyfriend surfs the web while we watch TV together, never comes up with a plan for the weekend, and spends way too much time thinking about work.  Otherwise he’s a good guy and I’m lucky to have him.  But I’m afraid if I bring these issues up I’ll push him away or hurt him.  How can I get him to pay me more attention?

Signed,

Annoyed in Akron

Dear Annoyed in Akron,

Here are the six most dangerous words to describe a gay relationship:

“We don’t talk about our relationship”.

Many couples can spend years—even decades–talking about a wide range of topics like politics, entertainment, or their friends—but can’t talk about their relationship.

These are the distressed couples I often see in my couples counseling practice.  The strategy of “we don’t talk about it” eventually leads to big relationship trouble.

Men rarely receive any training, modeling, or support for talking about their relationships.  You can see it on TV: even the Real Housewives can spend an entire season talking about their relationships with each other.  Yet how often do you see a bunch of guys doing the same?

I’ve never seen Superman or Batman talk about their relationships.

Here’s a truth:  all boyfriends are annoying.  Even the most functional, loving couples will find each other annoying at least once per week.  Over a twenty-year period that’s more than 1,000 annoying things your partner will do.

If you don’t talk about them, the annoying things will get more and more annoying. Then you will start to feel that your partner doesn’t “get” you, doesn’t care enough to listen to you, and maybe doesn’t even love you anymore.

It’s not sustainable.

For many of us, talking about the relationship is scary.  What if I bring up that thing and he just gets defensive?  Then I’ll just feel more lost and alone.

How can you begin to get more comfortable with this essential relationship skill?  Here are some ideas:

#1:  Acknowledge that talking is really important

How do individuals resolve conflict?  How do nations resolve conflict?   Either they talk about the conflict or they resort to violence.

Talking is the only effective relationship repair strategy known to humans. Once you are convinced that there is no better way to get closer to your boyfriend, you’ll have more motivation to take the risk of talking.

Like most people, you have a need for attention.  You honor that need when you talk about it with the man you love.

#2:  Be the Man You Want Him to Be

Newcomers to relationship “processing” understandably want the other guy to do the heavy lifting of revealing vulnerable feelings first.  They’ll try asking a question, hoping to get him to open up.

Unless your partner is already good at processing, this strategy may fail.  The best way to inspire change in him is to model the new behavior.

Start small.  Pick something that is not too threatening to reveal.  If you find that goes well, you’ll have greater confidence to approach the big stuff.

#3: Do Not Talk About Him. 

I recommend you start by sharing your feeling.  For example, say, “I’ve noticed I’ve been feeling lonely lately.”

A statement like that is all about you, what you experience.  It doesn’t sound like a criticism of him.  Yes, ultimately the feeling stems from a dynamic that you two have created together.  But by starting with your vulnerable experience you are more likely to inspire his curiosity and empathy.

He’ll be vigilantly listening for a criticism of him.   When he finds it he’ll shut down.  So don’t give it to him.

If you have to, present it like it’s your problem.  “I’ve been working on trying to let you know what I’m feeling, and I’ve noticed how really hard it is for me to do that.”

That’s a lot easier for your boyfriend to hear than the more common, “You don’t pay attention to me.”

Talking about how we “dance” together in a relationship feels dangerous and causes butterflies in most people’s stomachs.

In reality, not talking is much more risky for your relationships.

For more information about gay relationships, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide. Follow me on Facebook.

What If I Don’t Look Like Steve Grand?

The following article is my response to a question posed to my “Ask Adam” relationship advice column that appears at gay.net’s Dating 101 website.

Dear Adam,

Can you give me some tips on the best ways to get the hot guy of my dreams? As an average-looking guy I am starting to feel hopeless and exhausted in my search. And no matter what I do, I will never be a great looking guy.

Signed,

Lonely in Los Angeles

Dear Lonely in Los Angeles,

If you are a student of gay culture then you have already seen the groundbreaking music videos by Steve Grand on YouTube entitled, “All American Boy”, as well as his most recent video, “Stay.” This very good-looking singer/songwriter has received millions of views for his musical portrayal of gay relationships.

We can all identify with Steve in his first video story. His love is unrequited because the guy is straight. It’s a universal gay experience.

In the second video Steve’s wish for love is fulfilled: he gets the beautiful gay man.

For those who are still seeking a gorgeous boyfriend, this video can leave you with a feeling of unease.

Some of us watch it and feel badly about ourselves. The internal script might go something like this:

“Of course Steve gets what he longs for: he has the washboard abs, big pecs, white teeth and great skin I’ll never have.”

or

“To get a boyfriend you have to be in your twenties, white, and hot. Otherwise no one cares about you.”

Seeing beautiful men in love is triggering.

In the video Steve not only gets love, he receives the ultimate gay wish fulfillment: acceptance from the group. He is surrounded by an adoring party of attractive friends who lift him up in the air and carry him around like a hero, for no apparent reason.

You could call it “acceptance porn” for gay men. He “fits in” n a way that none of us ever has.

Whether you are spinning in a sea of envy and self-criticism from watching “Stay” or from your encounters in the gay dating scene, here are some thoughts that may help:

Keeping Perspective

It’s true that we are all stirred by beauty whether it is in art, nature, or for most gay men, the male body. We all long for it.

Desire is exciting but it is not the meaning of life. In our media and advertising culture, beauty can feel like the national religion. Because it is fleeting, beauty has never sustainably made anyone feel better.

Can you let yourself practice dipping into the pleasure and fantasy of beauty and then come back to what’s really sustaining for you in life? Examples of what often gives people a more long lasting experience of happiness is feeling productive, expanding honest friendships, and striving for balance between work and play.

Understand Why You Desire Beauty

While our attraction to beauty is “built in” for most humans, if your need for an underwear model boyfriend is very strong, perhaps you are really hungry for something else. When my clients fully explore this desire they often find that the pursuit of beauty is linked to a need to feel accepted by their peers. The internal script is something like, “If I have a hot boyfriend I will be liked and admired and will finally fit in.”

In the heart of every gay man lies the experience of being the “other”. For many of us, this was traumatic. Until we can feel true compassion for the kid inside who at some level was always separate from his community, our hunger for acceptance will feel compulsive or stressful.

Hot Doesn’t Equal Happy

Many of us believe that if we were great looking or if we had a beautiful boyfriend, we could be happy. It’s a false trap. It’s like believing that the right floor cleaner, couch, t-shirt, or other purchase can bring lasting happiness.

Ultimately there is only one route to permanently feeling better:

It’s the lifelong pursuit of greater self-acceptance.

As you learn to love yourself you may be surprised that you fall in love with someone who makes you feel good through his words and actions, not through his washboard abs.

For more information about gay dating and other gay issues, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide. Follow me on Facebook.

Why Am I Attracted to Dating Younger Gay Men?

Many of my clients ask me why they are only attracted to gay men younger than themselves.

If you are happy dating gay men in their twenties, then this question is not important. It’s like asking “Why do I prefer blondes over brunettes?” My advice is to let yourself enjoy dating whomever interests you (as long as they are over the age of 18).

If you find 25-year-old-guys cute you probably will always find them cute. Your job is to accept your attractions rather than judge them. If they hurt no one then they are good.

As a gay man you have already spent years judging your sexuality. That didn’t make you any happier. You’ve probably already learned a lot about unpacking society’s arbitrary rules about attraction. Use those lessons to unlearn any self-reproach you have about whom you find beautiful.

But What If I Don’t Like Dating Them?

Some men find younger guys attractive but have been disappointed in finding a younger man who is also interested in a committed relationship. Finding a younger guy ready to build an enduring partnership is possible, but perhaps harder to find.

Gay men who want to increase their odds of finding a long term lover sometimes wish they could find guys in their thirties or older sexually attractive. They ask me: Is this possible?

If your attraction to younger guys is causing you relationship pain you may be able to expand your desires. That doesn’t mean that the 20-somethings won’t always be sexy, but perhaps some of the 30-somethings can also be enticing. Some of us can bend our attractions, but few of us can change them dramatically.

If you want to expand the age range of the people you date, and are prepared to consider this with self-compassion, then the following stories about gay men I’ve worked with might be helpful:

“Alan“ (all names have been changed)

Alan, a large man in his mid-forties, always hated his body and has struggled with his weight for his entire life. He had no trouble finding guys in their early twenties for hook-ups who were attracted to his big size and warm personality. But he found it difficult to find a young guy interested in a long term relationship. Alan longed for a partner with the emotional maturity and economic stability that he himself had developed at mid-life.

In therapy he discovered that his exclusive focus on younger guys was related to the shame he felt about this body. He bought into a cultural teaching that young cute guys are “the best.” He realized he experienced temporary relief from his inner critic when he was able to “bed the best. ”

During our work together Alan began to heal his shame and learned to appreciate his own body. As this learning took hold he still found the young guys fun to look at, but less compelling. He is now actively dating guys in their thirties and enjoying them.

“Will”

Will is attracted to young, thin men who evoke an air of innocence. However, at age 60, he has no interest in being a “sugar daddy.” He wants a long term lover to share his passion for the outdoors, country music, and home remodeling.

In therapy he uncovered that inside he felt very young. He saw himself as “one down” compared to other adult men, and feared being overwhelmed by the power and needs of a more confident boyfriend. As therapy progressed he found his innate power and learned to express himself more freely in the world.

As his empowered self-confidence grew he noticed that the 30-somethings and even a few 40-somethings began to look increasingly hot.

Today he is in the second year of a relationship with a 38-year-old man who can meet him emotionally. While he is naturally more of a caretaker, he is now also letting himself be taken care of for the very first time.

“Jeremy”

Jeremy is a life-long guy watcher. He is a painter who loves beauty and will even take the time to drive around the block to enjoy the visual of an attractive young guy walking down the street.

He has always been attracted to younger guys physically, but emotionally he feels more connected and compatible with guys his own age of 50. His solution? He and his new 40-year-old boyfriend enjoy an active fantasy life. His boyfriend enjoys playing the role of the innocent young college student and Jeremy enjoys being the take-charge dominator.

Each of us is different. These stories may or may not resonate with you. Your attractions may expand or they may remain the same. What is most important is that you continue to deconstruct the “made up” conventions about age disparity in relationships.

When you learn to accept your sexuality you will find your relationships, sex life, and happiness improve. And when you build your inner resources, usually you get more of what you want in life.

For more information about gay dating, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide.  Follow me on Facebook.

Gay Men and Validation

Everyone loves validation.

Gay men often suffer from a scarcity in the validation department. When you don’t get enough of something as a kid you can be hungry for it for a very long time.

What Didn’t Happen

Here’s what probably didn’t happen to you:

When you were in first grade and wanted to hold hands with the tall boy in your classroom, no one told you it was “cute.”

When you had a crush on your third grade reading teacher, your parents didn’t smile and tell you someday you’ll grow up and marry someone just like him.

In sixth grade you didn’t spend hours on the phone with your best friend, talking about the hunky boys in your class.

In eighth grade you didn’t play spin the bottle with a bunch of males in your parents’ rec room basement.

In tenth grade you didn’t cry in your mother’s arms when the dark haired kid from Spanish class swiftly dumped you.

As you got ready for the prom no one said that all the boys at the dance would be eyeing you in that great tuxedo.

The bottom line is that this core, built-in part of you–your sexual attraction–was not validated by the people who loved you.

Unlike most straight kids, no one told you that your elementary school attraction to boys was adorable or found your teenaged crushes charming.

In fact, for many of us, the silent message we received from the people we loved was that our attractions were weird, nasty, and to be hidden at all times.

We Are Hungry

Sometimes–not always–this unmet need for validation can be the driver behind behaviors that feel somewhat compulsive.

Some gay men begin to regret how much time they spend on gay social media hook up sites like Grindr. At times it can get in the way of our other life goals such as developing lasting friendships, satisfying hobbies, or more time for sleep.

Knowing that the hot guy on Scruff thinks we are sexy certainly fulfills that hunger for admiration–for a few minutes.

Pleasing our friends, partners, colleagues and family ALL of the time can offer us lots of validation, while leaving us exhausted and resentful.

Overachieving every day at work or at the gym can give us plenty of admirers but also make us stressed and tired.

What To Do About It

I am imagining that you may already know the answer to the question of how you can soften your need for validation.

Healing comes from building the muscle of self-validation. Frequently this is an atrophied muscle that takes some time and patience to build.

The process begins when you start to see how unfriendly you are to yourself. Where do you put relentless pressure on you? Where don’t you give yourself a break? When do you expect perfection from you?

Change happens when you start to notice and recognize the voice of your inner mean guy. From there you’ll have an opportunity to build a new habit of responding to him with greater self-compassion. For more about how to do that you can read my blog post entitled The Secrets of the Inner Critic.

(http://gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com/blog/2011/09/secrets-of-the-inner-critic/)

What Else to Do About It

Developing trusting relationships with lovers and friends is another way we can support our healing from a lack of validation. This works best when our closest relationships are rich with generous validation.

Many men are uncomfortable giving compliments to their partners or friends. It can feel embarrassing and “fake.” Underneath those feelings often reside an odd truth: it feels vulnerable giving a man we love a compliment. It can feel like a loss of power. We?ve been trained to compete with men, not to support them.

Yes, the world is full of fake compliments designed to manipulate others. However, we all can sense when a compliment we give or receive is real. By speaking the compliment when it authentically arises within us, we help to build supportive and healing relationships.

What makes it easier for you to remember to validate yourself or others? I invite you to share your experiences here.

For more information about gay therapy and other issues, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide. Follow me on Facebook .

Thinking About an Open Gay Relationship?

Are you and your partner thinking about opening up your relationship to additional sexual partners? Here are some considerations that may help you get ready.

Talking About Tough Subjects

Sex is not an easy topic for most people to discuss honestly. Do you and your man know how to talk about difficult subjects and end up closer at the end of the conversation rather than further apart? If you open your relationship before you have developed this skill you could be headed for trouble.

Open relationships increase the possibility of waking up the more vulnerable part of ourselves. If you both have not had practice in comforting each other in vulnerable emotional places, then consider developing this skill first before opening the relationship.

Your Sex Life Together

Are you longing for an open relationship because your sex life has fizzled? Before embarking on an open relationship it’s important to understand (and discuss) why the sexual chemistry between you has declined.

Sometimes couples seek to open the relationship to avoid the difficult conversations about poor sexual communication. Sex between couples can decline over time when they neglect to bring creativity to their sexual routine. For humans, everything gets boring without change. For more on this topic you can read my blog entry entitled: What Keeps Sex Exciting in Gay Relationships?

Some couples declare they aren’t sexually compatible because they want different things in bed. They underestimate their own or their partner’s flexibility. You two may not agree on everything, but where could you meet in the middle? Our sexual turn-ons are more malleable than we may think. You might be surprised.

Be wary of the impulse to give up on improving your current sex life with your partner by turning to an open relationship. Are you open to the possibility that with some imagination your current sex life together could grow even as you explore an open relationship? If so, you’ve greatly increased your chances of open relationship success.

Getting Guidelines

All open relationships need mutually decided guidelines. Each partner will have different feelings about what is okay. Consider these questions:

Can you fully hear and accept your partner’s guidelines even when they are different than your own?

Are you able to track yourself and know when you are getting close to violating a guideline?

Are you comfortable telling your partner about the limits you need him to respect?

Can you enter into an open relationship with a real commitment not to hurt your partner’s feelings?

Can you commit to sincere and patient emotional repair if by accident your partner’s feelings are hurt?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then maybe you are not yet ready for an open relationship.

The Prep

Does all of this sound like a lot of work? It is. An open relationship requires an advanced level of communication skills. You’ll need to spend more time “processing feelings” and talking about the relationship than most couples.

If this is something that you and your partner are committed to creating, consider giving yourselves six months to prepare. Use this time to practice talking about the tough issues in your relationship.

Discuss your sexual history together.

Explore the unresolved hurts that have accumulated over the years.

Look at any of your unproductive communication cycles.

Consider how you emotionally hold, protect, and express love for each other.

When these discussions bring you to a place of feeling closer rather than an unpleasant fight, then you may be ready for a fulfilling open relationship.

For more gay relationship advice, please visit my website at www.gaytherapist-sanfrancisco.com. I offer services in my San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide.  Follow me on Facebook.

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