WHEN THERE IS MORE THAN ONE MAN IN THE BEDROOM

Many gay couples come for counselling wanting to discuss having sex outside their relationship. Gay men need to negotiate this issue maturely, as having sex with others is a threat to relationship intimacy – but not talking about it is an even a bigger one.

Having a monogamous ideal is fine, but keeping it all in a “not for discussion box” is like trying to keep a lid on the nature as gay men. I am not advocating that couples seek sex outside their relationship. I am merely saying it should be discussed so there is no confusion or deceit.

Sometimes one partner wants to open up the relationship more than the other, who could be struggling with jealousy or fear of losing their partner. However more damage is done if lies and deception are in place. Nothing destroys a relationship more than secrets.

Finding out your partner has been fucking around behind your back when you thought you were in a monogamous relationship will cause huge emotional distress. Also, feeling like a fool for not knowing about it is psychologically damaging, especially when friends have known. With a well-structured sexual agreement in place and understood, this will not happen.

Surprisingly, most gay men deep down believe that other gay men will fuck around but this does not mean their partners can do it behind their backs. When couples come to see me with this issue, I firstly congratulate them for showing respect for their relationship. Gay men are more realistic and honest about this sensitive issue than straight men.

So when is the best time to sit down and negotiate an agreement? For beginning couples I suggest as soon as when they know they are in a committed relationship. You are either having a monogamous relationship or you are not. For long-term couples things change over time, with once a monogamous understanding being replaced by partners willing to open to entertain sex with others.

Once the shock of an open relationship has been dealt, there is now room to reinvent the terms of the sex relationship. It is time to negotiate what is acceptable and agreed to by each person to protect intimacy between the partners. Strict rules of when, how often and under what conditions. Also, the notion that intimacy for each other on so many levels has nothing to do with sex with strangers needs to be fully understood.

Typical Case Study

George and Sam* have been together for eight years and live together – but their sex life has diminished. George wants to open up what has been a monogamous relationship belief. Sam is not happy about this and found sex emails on George’s computer. He also suspects George is having sex when away on business. Sam wants to leave the relationship, as he is hurt and confused. In counselling, George admits he has been having sex while away for the last year and this secret has made him feel dirty and unworthy.

Maybe this is a wake up call and I ask if they see anything positive about it. George says he is relieved to have told Sam about being unfaithful, while Sam says he finally knows and can now plan to leave George. I point out the mind wants that to happen, but does Sam’s heart have a voice? He admits he loves George but does not know how to forgive him. Sam is jealous and scared of losing George, while George says he loves Sam but what can he do when he feels horny and Sam is not into it anymore. George also says it is just sex and he loves his life with Sam.

In the second session, we discuss intimacy and being intimate, and the difference with Sam understanding now that George will not leave him. I point out this is easy to say but they both need a sex agreement. The following session, they come with their own conditions about how often and where it will happen, not to see the person more than once, no texting, full protection, and even the possibility of a threesome if both fancy it.

Sam now feels better and admits his previous monogamous understanding was for the past. I insist they write down their agreement and both sign it. They agree to return for monthly sessions to make sure they are okay emotionally.

A six-month follow-up shows George has had sex three times while away on business and Sam once. They tried a threesome but it was a disaster. Overall, they now feel more connected as before Sam was feeling quite the opposite. We can now talk about ways to improve their own sex lives together, which requires both to get back in the boat.

What is interesting is that some couples, once they have opened up the relationship and try it, decide it is not all they thought it would be. The grass was not a green as they thought on the other side. They now enter a discussion on developing a closer relationship with each other, protecting their intimacy together.

A/ Not real names.

 

IS YOUR NEGATIVE SELF-TALK DOING YOUR HEAD IN?

Just how is your self-talk going? When you think about your life do you think negatively or positively? Do you worry about what others might be saying about you? Do you consider your family upbringing as not being the best and has this made you not the confident person you always wanted to be? Do you have a negative body image?

All self-talk matters affect the way you feel about yourself and your daily happiness. Can we do anything about this? The answer is yes, sir ee! There is no point in dismissing negative childhood experiences, stating them and acknowledging them is all part of the process to stop them doing harm today and right now. I love this old Indian saying – No family can put up a sign saying, “There is nothing to be bothered about in this house.” The truth is the majority of us come from dysfunctional families. There is no Brady Bunch. Opps showing my age!

I also heard a radio interview with an elderly woman the other day outlining 8 tips for a happy life. One of these was a gem, “What other people think about you in none of your business.” Isn’t that a relief? Not spending time worrying about what others think means we can just be ourselves accepting everything about ourselves. Good and bad.

Self-talk that leads to low self-esteem can be corrected. The brain has created a pathway where all that negative thinking rides up and down. It is time to put up a detour sign. Start writing down somewhere, maybe notes around the house or better still a diary, positive things about yourself. The more you do this the more the detour sign stays up and another highway is created in your brain called the, “I love Myself Highway”. We all fail to love ourselves enough.

If you do have a negative body image, write down where all that comes from. Write as many stories about that topic as possible. Who are you competing with? What would you like to change? What genetic considerations do you have to accept? How much should I be worrying about it? What things can I change if I wanted to?

Learning to love your self more is what we all need. Getting rid of negative self-talk is something you can achieve. It just takes practice.

DEFINITIONS FOR GAYCOUNSELLINGLONDON.CO.UK

Definition of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change and overcome problems in desired ways. Psychotherapy aims to improve an individual’s well-being and mental health, to resolve or mitigate troublesome behaviors, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts, or emotions, and to improve relationships and social skills

Psychotherapy London

Marriage counselling, also called couples therapy, is a type of psychotherapy. Marriage counseling helps couples of all types recognize and resolve conflicts and improve their relationships. Through marriage counseling, you can make thoughtful decisions about rebuilding your relationship or going your separate ways.

Marriage Counselling London

Relationship Counselling North London

Couples Counselling London

Gay Couples Counselling London

Psychotherapy East London  Psychotherapy Central London

There are over a thousand different psychotherapy techniques, some being minor variations, while others are based on very different conceptions of psychology, ethics (how to live) or techniques. Most involve one-to-one sessions, between client and therapist.

Psychotherapy East London  Psychotherapy Central London

Anxiety is defined as nervousness, apprehension, and self-doubt that may or may not be associated with real-life stressors. Everyone experiences some level of anxiety periodically, but when feelings of dread and worry are unfocused, overwhelming, recurring, and not directly linked to stressful events, anxiety may leave a person severely impaired.

Anxiety London

Depression—a sad or discontented mood—can leave a person feeling lethargic, unmotivated, or hopeless. In some cases, depression can lead to suicidal ideation. Depression may occur in a severe form, as in major depression, or in a more chronic, mild-to-moderate form, as is the case with persistent depressive disorder.

Depression London

depression counselling london

BUSY OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

BUSY OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

I see many clients who report 12 hour workdays suffering either: stress, anxiety, depression or a breakdown in personal relationships but not wanting to reduce the corporate work commitments. They say they are happy working these hours, as they feel fulfilled. They are actually addicted to doing and not being, well their mind is so addicted.

When they return from a long holiday they experience how their lives have been hijacked by a corporate work ethic. After a few weeks back at work they are again addicted – or their brain is. Are you leading a pleasantly full life or a busy life? Is it time to be mindful or thoughtful about how you are living your life? It is an important question to ask don’t you think?

Peer pressure, public status, wanting glamorous life goods and the push to get as much money as possible are some of the drivers for people developing exhausting busy lives. What is a pleasantly full life is another question and is it naturally different for everyone? I think it is about increasing the connection with the real world – the natural environment and our relationships with family, work colleagues, our communities and friends.

How many internal thoughts have you had about observing people totally disconnected from the real world? The prime example is watching people texting while walking or driving. This embodies this disconnect, especially when witnessed at pedestrian crossings.

It is time to become thoughtful about spending more time with family, friends, taking walks in the country air, sitting outside watching life, cooking slowly, wearing cosy socks, comfortable clothes and reading a good book on the couch with the dog at our feet. Does this seem more nurturing to you and relaxing into life’s joys?

Our real lives of being rather than doing are under ever increasing threat. The fascination with the latest technology, instant entertainment satisfaction, wanting instant online sex, and experiencing a constant feeling of needing to do things faster robs us of a having a thoughtful pleasant life. Mindfulness is being thoughtful about what your true self wants as a life.

To make life changes we first need to acknowledge there is a problem, as we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Can you put technology down, leave your phone at home, stop texting so much, reduce your work hours, date rather than get casual instant sex and generally develop a plan for a new life of being over constant doing.

Having a simpler life might mean moving to a cheaper house, working less hours, doing creative things rather than only financial pursuits and generally slowing it all down and at the same time having a full life of non work activities.

My partner recently decided to take a year off from the corporate world and is experiencing life anew. But his friends insist he get back into the work force. Can you think of reasons why they pressure him to do so? I find the reasons for this peer pressure very interesting!

So maybe have a good think now on what you are doing with your life. Mindfulness will get you there because now you are being thoughtful rather than repeating unconscious busy pursuits.

 

 

 

INTERNALISING HURT WILL MAKE YOU MENTAL

INTERNALISING HURT WILL MAKE YOU MENTAL

We are all guilty of it; internalizing hurts with problems in close relationships. Our mind seems happy to churn things over, day and night, inventing scenarios and stories on who is right or wrong. Exhausting stuff!

Let’s say you have been criticized or put down by someone and you feel very hurt and misunderstood. The resulting emotions are the kindle to get the fire raging in our minds. The problem is, this internal mind churning causes a huge mental imbalance and the longer we engage in churning, the greater the chance of some permanent mental damage.

Neuroscience is the study of how our brain works and the way it works makes us behave in a certain way. There is a part of the brain called the Amygdala that reacts to our emotions and when it gets all fired up the Pre-frontal Cortex, which governs our ability to reason, get shut down a lot. And when this happens we are become unbalanced – we are now crazy mind stuff. Spooky!

So the trick is first to be aware that internalizing upsetting issues is not healthy if we let it go on and on. This awareness should help you have some discipline over your churning mind. Of course the mind will keep trying to get you to create new stories of fairness time and time again. Just tell it to shut the fuck up.

Now what can help greatly is you talk to someone about the whole matter because now you are externalizing it rather than keeping it as you own internal story telling. The more you discuss it the less power it will have over you and slowly the hurt will be diluted as other things take more prominence in your life.

The next best thing is to consider writing it all down in a story. This is also externalizing it, this time onto paper. Once it is written down it becomes history and you can now see it unfolded on the outside of your mind. Maybe burn it.

The human brain is good at internalizing problems in the outside world. We would not have built bridges, developed the motorcar or got to the moon without trying to resolve problems in the real world. But internalizing problems in our human relationships long term will lead only to mental health health issues. What they said, what she said and then what they did, is really useless by hanging onto hurts long term. Let it go!

When an upsetting relationship matter happens, work out why you have these strong feelings and emotions, then consider what you are going to do with these emotions. Maybe let them sit for a while and then discuss the issue with the other party, or talk with friends for support and then write it all down. In doing so you are now externalizing the hurts, preventing them destabilizing you needlessly. Take care.

 

 

 

 

DO WE REALLY NEED IT ALL AS GAY MEN?

DO WE REALLY NEED IT ALL AS GAY MEN?

I’m presently reading Velvet Rage, which I highly recommend for all gay men, which highlights the subject of gay shame and our constant need for validation from the world. Coming out in a straight rewarding world is difficult for most of us. Then comes the next task to prove to everyone (family, friends and colleagues) that we are worthy individuals. This need to over proof ourselves can result in us wanting it all.

We want the perfect body, the perfect boyfriend, a glamorous apartment, beautiful cars, highly acknowledged career, the right to have children (even if it means via a surrogate Indian donor), a holiday home, the best art, eating at expensive restaurants and enjoying 5 star overseas holidays.

I like all these things as well, except having children, but I don’t really need to have all these things to proof to the world that I am worthy. And that is the point raised in Velvet Rage, we can free ourselves of the need to replace shame with achievement.

For some of us the GFC gave us a chance to realize we can be more austere and still enjoy the world. Maybe the pursuit of material objects does not in the end make us happy – drive the new car for two weeks and it loses its gloss and excitement.

Let’s face it, we can enjoy the world with less and not be so hungry for recognition or possessions. Imagine a world where you did not work so hard, had less of a mortgage, rode a bike instead of driving a car, spent more time with friends, donated money to an Indian woman so she could look after her own children, volunteered to do charity work, planted some trees, took less expensive holidays, got to know the neighbours more and took stock of why our bodies need to be chipped out of stone, and expect others to as well, to be a worthy boyfriend.

 

Imagine how much more relaxing it would be to enjoy life at this level of peace. The first step to achieving, what appears to be an impossible notion, is to be conscious of what drives us to be such high achievers. Without conscious awareness we merely unconsciously replace shame with the need to have it all and prove we are successful and thereby worthy.

 

I really like the expression –“Acceptance is Home”. Accepting our authentic selves as gay men, recognizing from the core of our being this is us and it feels home, is one step closer to knocking down any walls of shame. When we knock down walls of shame we also move closer to not needing to prove to the world we are worthy.

We don’t need it all, we just have to re-evaluate our lives to see if we can do with less and we can. In doing so we create a better and more sustainable world. And at the same time make our selves much, much happier.

 

 

COMBATING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

NEGATIVE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES

 

In our heads we construct and maintain narratives (stories) about ourselves and other people all the time. These stories are constructed from past events, often dramatized or exaggerated over time, and then replayed continuously. They go round and round like a record. These continuous negative stories stop us seeing the truth, prevent us from growing into better people and prevent us experiencing new life.

 

For example, say a person has the narrative that they are hopeless at fixing things mechanical around the house. Their father told them they were hopeless, they tried and failed a few times in the past so now they panic if they have to even change a washer on a tap. The old narrative creates the new negative behaviour.

 

In all relationships, work and home, we create stories about people and these same narratives filter anything and everything we experience with these people.

Couples over time create narratives about their partners. They might see them as lazy, unreliable, inconsiderate or in need of challenging on every front with an argument. Sure, there were times when they were lazy, unreliable and inconsiderate but maybe there were other times when they were: loving, caring, funny, helpful and sexy. These other positive narratives don’t get a chance because all future perceptions are based on old negative stories.

 

Can I take my own experience, as I am only human? My partner plays a little rough with our dog over ball games and in the past the poor creature tore a cruciate ligament. $2500 later, 8 weeks in aftercare and I had to do all the vet stuff myself. Just the other day I come home and it has happened again, 2 years after the last incident. Immediately I think what an idiot my partner is, so irresponsible with our canine.

 

But there is another narrative. My partner loves our dog, they have great fun swimming together, and loves to walk her all the time. My partner was just trying to brighten up her day after being left for some hours. My partner is a great cook, loves people, is really kind and was devastated about the injury.

 

Changing the narrative allows you the freedom to let go of so much negative self-story telling and to start seeing life and people in a new light. Old negative story telling keeps us imprisoned in the same negative thought patterns.

 

So how hard is it to get rid of all those old negative stories in your head. Well first be aware of them. Think of someone now and then think of the narrative you have constructed. Now either throw it away or reconstruct a new narrative looking for positive elements in the story. Instantly there is a load off your shoulders as you begin to see things differently. Try it for yourself and start living afresh.

 

MANAGING ANXIETY WITH ACCEPTANCE

DEALING WITH ANXIETY BY ACCEPTANCE

Anxiety is a feeling that is common to us all and in fact we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning without feeling compelled to do something with the day ahead. But what happens if your anxiety is really high about everything all the time? Well the best thing to do it accept it and stop struggling with it. If you struggle with thoughts of anxiety you are in the loop of being anxious about your anxiety. But if you simply accept your feelings of anxiety, even though uncomfortable, you no longer enter the anxious struggle world.

I wonder if you can understand the concept that you are not your mind? In your own internal world your mind uses the language of words, images and thoughts to project onto a screen what you are experiencing. Humans can however, observe their own thoughts so if you are experiencing anxiety you can actually step back and see your mind is projecting thoughts of anxiety. The trick is not to struggle with these thoughts as if you do you are fighting anxiety thoughts.

Imagine falling into quicksand. If you laid flat you would float and stay alive. Quicksand only kills you when you struggle in it and in doing so you drown yourself. Anxiety is the same, if you observe, recognize and accept the feelings and do not struggle the anxiety feelings will lessen.

It does not matter what uncomfortable feelings you are experiencing whether it be loneliness, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or whatever, rather than struggling with these feelings accept them. Maybe laugh at these projected thoughts onto your mind screen or make the words that pop up into bright colours with a bouncing ball or make up a song about these thoughts. Doing this allows you the control to observe and defuse your thoughts as just thoughts that will pass.

So here is a trick. Imagine a struggle switch at the back of your mind. Right now it is off. You all of a sudden have feelings on anxiety say about a meeting where you have to present material. Okay you accept these feelings of anxiety. You recognize where in your body you feel these translated feelings. You see the words that pop up in your mind and make them a colour but you don’t switch the struggle switch on which is a secondary mind system.

Your primary mind system produced anxiety thoughts and feelings and you accept these but you do not allow your mind to fall into a secondary system of struggle. Once you enter the struggle world you are now struggling with the anxiety, which means being anxious about the anxiety and this is not a good place to be. How am I going here? Have I lost you?

The important thing to take away is that you are not your mind. You can observe your mind as a series of language expressions of thoughts, images, ideas that come and go to be projected onto a screen for you to observe. Don’t fight the quicksand, lie flat and float and you will survive although it is uncomfortable.

 

If you interested to read more on this subject look up ACT therapy on the Internet.

 

 

If Only I Was the Person My Dog Thinks I Am

A cute saying but maybe we are already the person our dog thinks we are. Maybe deep down however we fail to congratulate ourselves, for not only surviving as a gay person in a straight world, but also failing to appreciate our personal life successes. I am convinced we don’t love ourselves enough and in doing so we negatively affect our self-esteem.

We made it through childhood feeling a bit of an outsider, struggled when we found out we were gay, finally accepted it and then marched on into the world seeking validation from family and others. For many of us growing up was a much harder journey than that of our straight friends, who already had an easy blue print to follow for societal acceptance. So let’s congratulate ourselves for this personal resilience and courage.

Then off we went to find: a career in the world, somewhere to live, flat mates, further study, lovers, ways to tackle the gay scene, new friends and also stay connected to our family along the way. So we are hugely successful.

Because human brains have a negative bias we often however allow negative self-talk that says we are not sexy enough, successful enough, rich enough, social enough, creative enough, or overall just not good enough.

Our minds are full of noise and crap thinking about our selves and others. We face a constant barrage of thoughts and feelings relevant to past events and nothing whatsoever to do with here and now living reality. Some of the noise is often not true and merely is a collection of distorted recollections and personal positions.

Do you know what I am talking about? Those feelings you have about work colleagues or the boss, the friend you don’t see any more or the lover you have issues with. Try this, think of nothing when next interacting. Feel the freedom of not judging. Hear what they have to say without any perception filters.

Maybe there is room for improving how we interact with the world? Maybe we could challenge ourselves more to be healthier? Maybe we could engage in more worthy activities and maybe we could try to be a better partner, friend or work colleague? We can decide to do this and still love ourselves at the same time for being our authentic self.

The one thing dogs always do, that humans don’t, is offer unconditional positive regard. They give us a big welcome and every meeting is a new invitation for positive interaction. Maybe we have a lot to learn from our doggy friends.

To get in touch with the authentic you, that your dog sees, try meditation for a few minutes at the beginning of each day. See the free phone ap, “Take a Break”. Also I highly recommend every gay man reads the book, “Velvet Rage” by Alan Downs, who discusses how you can better get in touch with your authentic self.

Gerry North is a gay couple and general counsellor treating depression, anxiety, sexual issues and addictions. Email: gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com