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  • Writer's pictureJamie Ratowski, LMFT

What To Expect in LGBTQ+ Couples Therapy

A question you may be asking is why make the distinction that LGBTQ+ couples should expect anything different out of couples/marriage therapy from heterosexual couples?

After all, LGBTQ+ couples also struggle with typical relationship problems such as trust, intimacy, communication, and conflict resolution issues (all of which are commonly addressed in couples therapy). It’s important to note that every couple is unique, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or their gender expression.

However, there are some presenting problems that are unique TO LGBTQ+ couples that they can feel confident and comfortable addressing in their couples therapy sessions.

Coming Out -

The coming out process looks different for each person on this journey, however, when you are in a relationship, you're coming out process may also affect your partner. Challenges can arise when each partner in the relationship is at a different stage of the coming out process, for example, a fully out person dating a closeted person or semi-out individual.

Other obstacles such as self-acceptance of your sexuality and/or gender identity and sharing your sexuality and/or gender identity with loved ones can also affect LGBTQ+ couples in many ways.

The couples therapy process can help create a safe, supportive place to navigate and overcome these battles, assisting you in the coming out process at your own speed. It is important to note that a trained couples therapist can tailor the couples therapy experience to meet you and your partner where you’re at and manage your own specific/unique needs.

Roles -

LGBTQ+ couples can often face challenges that are unique to same-sex relationships. For example, it can be common in straight relationships for couples to adapt their roles to “gender norms” such as “housewife duties” or “the working husband”.

Some same-sex couples face the challenge of assigning specific roles to their relationship. The goal is to be able to assign roles that are best suited for each individual to help make the relationship a collaborative partnership.

Couples therapy can help to explore exactly what these roles look like for your specific relationship, those that suit your preferences, strengths, and ability to contribute to the relationship in a mutually beneficial way.

Expectations -

Expectations are an equally important topic to explore with LGBTQ+ couples. It can be common for same-sex couples to face challenges when the behaviors or habits of their partner are not matching up to their own expectations.

Couples often have different ideas of what is acceptable, or what appropriate behaviors are when it comes to matters such as friendships or forming emotional connections with others. These things may translate into jealousy and insecurities within the relationship.

Communicating about your expectations of your partner’s behaviors and clearly defining boundaries is a beneficial practice that can be done in couples therapy to help you to understand your partner’s expectations, explore a deeper insight into these behaviors and intentions while developing healthy compromise skills if needed. This is a necessary practice in order to eliminate things such as jealousy, criticism, and defensiveness in LGBTQ+ relationships.

Family Conflict -

Navigating family conflict can be difficult regardless of the conflict matter at hand, but disclosing and/or discussing your sexual orientation or gender identity to your family can be particularly tricky in certain cases.

In LGBTQ+ couples therapy, you can expect to learn how to better manage family affairs, how to incorporate your partner into your family life, and address any beliefs, fears, and anxiety that may burden you or your family. Couples therapy can help prepare you for this step and process through this journey in a collaborative environment to benefit you and your partner’s relationship and your own mental health.

Sex -

Sex should be a major topic of discussion in all romantic relationships. With sex comes a lot of different topics that need to be explored. It’s important to discuss each partner’s specific sexual preferences, the sexual boundaries you have set for yourself and your partner, you and your partner’s experience and comfort levels, and the important matter of sexual health.

Sex is meant to be a mutually pleasurable experience for both individuals, and the more clear you are about one another’s sexual wants and needs, the better experience you and your partner BOTH have together.

Couples therapy can be a safe and supportive place for you and your partner to explore these dynamics and reach a deeper level of understanding and insight to ultimately improve your sex lives. If you and your partner feel ready to begin having these deeper conversations, your couples therapist can help you begin discussing different wants, needs, and boundaries to explore in the bedroom.

Monogamy -

Monogamy and open relationships are a matter that often presents itself as a topic of discussion in LGBTQ+ relationships. Maybe you or your partner wants to explore an open relationship. Maybe you or your partner wants to explore multiple intimate, emotional, and romantic experiences.

The concept of monogamy is a topic that can create conflict in the relationship if each partner wants a different dynamic. Couples therapy provides an opportunity to advocate for your own relationship dynamic desires and establish boundaries and a compromise that may be necessary to keep the relationship functioning in a healthy, safe manner.

The 3 C’s

Communication, Compromise, & Conflict Resolution

At the end of the day, regardless of the presenting problems you are facing in your relationship, I am reverting back to “the 3 C’s” which I commonly address in my couples therapy practice. Communication, Compromise, and Conflict Resolution.

These 3 skills are the core components to any and all relationships and LGBTQ+ couples can learn to adequately navigate through any problems or barriers in their relationship with a solid foundation of these skills. Through the use of The 3 C's and LGBTQ+ couples therapy, you and your partner can learn to better connect, overcome problems, and become empowered to build your healthiest, happiest relationship.

Start Your Journey Today

It is of the utmost importance that you find an affirmative couples therapist who is specifically trained in the unique matters that LGBTQ+ individuals and couples face and at Bayview Therapy you can find just that. If you and your partner are interested in LGBTQ+ couples therapy, call today at 954-391-5305 for your complimentary consultation.

I would love to support you in your journey of becoming the best version of yourself and taking your relationship to the next level. I look forward to speaking with you!


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