Maybe you typed Gay Couples Therapy San Francisco in the search box when you hit the end of your rope. Maybe you’ve tried everything else you knew how to do. Maybe you really wanted to type in Fix My Relationship San Francisco, or better yet, Fix My Partner San Francisco. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could type words in a box and have your search engine pull up an actual solution?
Whether the two of you are looking together for some help with your relationship troubles, or you are checking things out on your own, this is a good spot to land in at this moment. Here’s a story, a cautionary tale, that may help you think about what you’d like your next step to be. As David and Bertie share their experience with you, try to notice any similarities between David and Bertie and your own relationship. Have a read and then let’s see what you think.
The Story of David and Bertie
David and Bertie were a thirty-something couple, successful professionals who’d been together for nine years. Their friends knew them as a happy, comfortable couple that were easy to be around. Of course the two men had their ups and downs just as any couple does, but it seemed to those they were close to that they had long ago worked out any big conflicts.
The couple had spoken of marriage at times over the years, but now that it was actually possible to be legally married, these conversations became more meaningful. Bertie had brought up the topic of children, but David was in favor of dealing with first things first.
About eight days into the couple’s vacation in Europe, Karen, their friend who was house-sitting for them, received a tearful international call from Bertie. Sobbing so hard she could barely understand him, Bertie reported that David had just informed him that he wanted out of their nine-year relationship. That it was over. David said he was sorry, but he just didn’t want to do it anymore.
It wasn’t another man, Bertie reported, his broken heart easy to hear. It was simply a matter of not wanting to get married and not wanting to have kids, which David knew Bertie had wanted very much. In the days and weeks that followed their return home, Bertie told his friends repeatedly that he did not understand why David was leaving him. In fact, none of their friends understood, either, and most struggled to refrain from judging David. Karen, who was close to both men, talked to David at length. It was clear that he was in a lot of pain, too, and regretted the hurt he was causing Bertie, the man he considered to be his best friend. He was adamant, however, that the couple relationship was over.
In hindsight, friends said they had noticed a little tension between the men, but neither man had mentioned that there were any problems. It seemed clear to everyone that Bertie had been taken by surprise by David’s announcement.
Talking About the Hard Stuff: What happened to David and Bertie?
Among gay couples like David and Bertie, and for lesbian couples as well, it is not uncommon that one partner is more emotionally communicative than the other. Couples who stay together arrive at their own unique ways of connecting with each other in spite of these differences. Where couples run into trouble is when one or both of the partners are unable or unwilling to bring up emotional issues with each other.
There are a number of reasons why a person may find it difficult to communicate about emotional subjects. It is rare to find someone who has no access to feelings, his own or someone else’s. It is more likely that he acquired the habit of keeping things to himself from the way feelings were handled in his family of origin. Or a person may refrain from voicing his feelings so as to avoid “rocking the boat.” If two people have been living in a fairly peaceful, conflict-free relationship, it may be very difficult for either one of them to bring up an issue that may cause conflict, or worse, cause the other person to feel pain.
But there is another scenario that may be at work in a couple that doesn’t communicate, and this is the one that is most difficult for people to admit, to themselves and to each other. To illustrate what I mean, let us assume a scenario for David and Bertie:
Bertie and David had been a couple longer than most of the men they knew, and as a result had essentially been breaking ground for younger couples in their social circle and beyond. David and Bertie had few role models for managing a successful and healthy long-term gay relationship and none who were legally married. Therefore, there was no reason why they would recognize a relationship warning sign even if it popped up and beeped at them.
They probably didn’t know that every healthy relationship must do at least one essential thing: the couple must talk about the relationship on a regular basis. For the past nine years they should have been talking at regular intervals about how the relationship was going for each of them. Were both of them getting their needs met? Were there any expectations that were not being met? Any unresolved hurt feelings? Any sense that one or the other was pulling away? Any changes in life routine that one or the other was worried about? Did both men feel they were equal in the relationship? Were one man’s needs more important than the other’s? Had one or both of them been accumulating resentments and not talking about it? Was one of them feeling bored or empty? Was there something one partner needed from the other that he was not getting? And so on. If they were like most couples, they hadn’t been doing this simple
Gay Marriage Counseling
Listen. Some of this stuff is fairly easy to talk about, but a lot of it is difficult. For example, if you feel your lover pulling away, it is very difficult to bring up the subject, to ask him if there are resentments, or unmet needs. To ask him if he is thinking about leaving you. No one wants to hear that he has fallen short or let his lover down. No one really wants to know he was a jerk at the last family dinner and his lover has been hurt about it for two weeks and has said nothing. No one wants to find out his partner has not been satisfied sexually. And there is the danger of the one issue opening the door on other issues and then all hell breaking loose. At least that’s what everyone fears the most.
The price for not doing this kind of relationship maintenance is very high, though. It may mean losing the very thing you think you are preserving: your relationship.
Remember what I mentioned before about the real reason why someone may not be talking about his feelings? The real reason is this: it is more likely than not that he wants to spare his own feelings. David didn’t tell Bertie how he was feeling. Perhaps he told himself he shouldn’t say anything because he didn’t want to hurt Bertie’s feelings, or maybe he told himself he shouldn’t make a mountain out of a molehill. But the truth is David didn’t tell Bertie how he felt because he didn’t want to be the recipient of Bertie’s feelings in return. After all, Bertie probably would have a lot to say about how he felt, right back at David.
David is uncomfortable with his own feelings. He is definitely not comfortable with Bertie’s—or anyone else’s. The sad truth is, in this case a nine-year relationship was lost because David was unable or unwilling to speak up about how he was feeling, and Bertie was equally unwilling to bring up the fact that things hadn’t felt quite right for some time. But since David didn’t say anything, Bertie didn’t want to be the one to rock the boat. By the time David got enough courage to say he “couldn’t do it anymore,” he really couldn’t. He’d already left Bertie in his mind and his heart, and there was no going back for him.
Avoid now, pay later
How often do we fail to say what our truth is because underneath the social image we project, we are actually emotional cowards? Afraid of someone’s anger or hurt feelings, or worse, afraid that we will be made to feel guilty because we have needs that are different than the other person’s? These are complicated, sticky, tangled issues, some of which come from our upbringing, and some from learning experiences we’re not even aware of most of the time. Who would want to confront these things?
The problem is, it really is an either/or situation. Either you talk about the relationship and how it’s going, how both of you are faring, or the relationship dies, either quickly or slowly, but die it does. It is a rare couple that can sustain a relationship in which one or both partners refuse to discuss feelings. Oh, and by the way, letting resentments build until one or both of you explode is not my definition of a healthy relationship. Anger, at times, in a relationship is natural and unavoidable. Explosions of hair-tearing, dish-throwing (or fist-throwing) fury are not.
Gay Couples Therapy San Francisco Style
Please consider this cautionary tale and speak with your significant other about the state of your marriage or relationship and your respective feelings. If you need some structure or guidance to do that the first time or two, or if you frequently fight when you talk about feelings, call me for an appointment. Try my version of Gay couples therapy San Francisco style. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful, comfortable and effective it can be. Or I can give you a referral to someone else if we aren’t a good match.
I want success for you in your relationship. It is attainable with proper care.
If you aren’t married but are considering it, please get pre-marital counseling so you can discuss your deepest expectations of the marriage and your beliefs about what it means to you both. It will likely take between 1-3 meetings and will greatly improve your survival rate as a couple. Again, please call me so we can set up an appointment to talk about doing this for the two of you, or to allow me to offer you a referral to someone else, if you prefer. It is so important. I really do want you to have success in your marriage.
However you manage it, dear hearts, for the sake of your marriage or partnership, take a deep breath, open your mouth and talk about your feelings.
Every heart deserves to be free to love, free to express how you feel, free to seek your own happiness. FreeHeart Counseling is here to help with creative, thoughtful solutions through lesbian and gay couples therapy San Francisco style.