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.

 

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.

 

 

 

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP DYNAMIC?

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP DYNAMIC?

You have been in a relationship for a while however the way you are communicating with each other is not healthy or positive and you know it. And the reason is more than likely the relationship dynamic that has developed. Let me explain.

The dynamic is the mental attitude and behaviour you exhibit towards your partner. Take for example you have developed a mental idea that your partner is basically lazy, never gets around to organizing important matters and if it was not for you the whole financial and social world you live in would collapse.

This now is your established way of thinking about your partner and you organize everything to the point of becoming a control freak. Meanwhile your partner has become so used to you organizing everything they are oblivious to how things get done. This oblivious behaviour now confirms the view that the partner is lazy and hopeless at organizing anything.

Bingo we now have a relationship dynamic that is not healthy or positive for growth. So what can you do to change a non-healthy dynamic? Well first it requires self-reflection and a good honest chat on why the dynamic is not working. The problem is the problem and neither of you is the problem, is a good place to start.

Knowing you are a control freak is one thing you will know about yourself. Getting upset and anxious when things do not work out as you scheduled is a strong sign. This feeling can be exhausting and cause depression or anxiety. What about stepping back and seeing what happens when you don’t over plan things? Spontaneity is a wonderful thing and events happen that are never imagined.

To change the dynamic each partner is going to have to be conscious of changing the mental dynamic and response behaviour daily. That means the control freak does not jump in and find the solution immediately to fix an issue and the other partner takes a more pro-active role in getting things done.

If you both can do this mental change in the relationship dynamic you will witness a reduction of tension, the removal of anxiety, a closeness (lost over time) and a spurt of curiosity for new ways of doing things.

It is always interesting to me to hear the perception of a person who is a control freak, seeing themselves as caring and looking after people rather than controlling. And the person being controlled perceives himself or herself as useless but wanting a bigger voice on what happens in the relationship world.

There are many different types of unhealthy relationship dynamics that develop such as non listening, being defensive, laptop and mobile phone addiction, excessive criticism, etc.

However with understanding and a good tune up, relationships can become healthier and more joyful with a change in the fundamental dynamic. How exciting!

Gerry North is a gay couple counsellor and also treats anxiety, depression, sexual matters and addictions. Email; gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com M 0411 368 142

 

 

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN IN RELATIONSHIPS

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN IN RELATIONSHIPS

Communication breakdown is one of the major issues couples say is the problem in their relationship. The love underneath is felt but a distance has been created where there seems little to say to each other and a sense of boredom has crept in. There are many causes of this that can be addressed with curiosity for “what else”.

Being Present

It is impossible to have good communication if either person is not fully present in the relationship. Having secrets is a major barrier to being present.

Mobile Phones & Laptops

We love them. We need them, as they are storage for things that are important in our lives – our second brain. When going out for dinner or just out, especially with him or her, try leaving them at home. At home when they come home close the computer for a while to chat about each other’s days. We know we are addicted to them because without them we feel, well, naked. When you feel that emotion, being without your phone/computer, know that it is your addiction speaking to you. Interesting!

Immersion

There is a lot or research on the negative aspects of immersion in relationships. That is doing everything together all the time. I know it feels safe to be with him or her but in doing so there is deep down compromise going on, with each person not having any new experiences. And without new experiences there is little to talk about. We don’t really have to do everything together. A separate holiday, a night our with separate friends, yoga class, tennis, book club, a movie – are things that can be done separate to your partner and the benefits are many. There is no need to feel threatened if you have trust in your relationship. You will enjoy it after the first felt emotions.

How is Our Relationship Going Chat

Asking and inviting the answer to the question, “How is our relationship going do you think?” is an excellent thing to do regularly. There are many assumptions made by us individually about our partner’s wellbeing. Inviting the answer to this question allows many things assumed to be discussed. We all want to hear, ‘Great’ but maybe there is a time to talk about sex, finance, domestic duty sharing, time spent with each other, etc.

Love Language

It is very easy to take each other for granted. They always come home, our domestic life is cozy and life is good, safe and predictable. Over time we tend to stop thanking our partners for that cup of tea, forget to organize a restaurant booking, buy theatre tickets, flowers, a card to say ‘I love you’ (or say it), text during the day, call each other by a loving nickname and generally thank them for being there with you.

Being Grateful

I’m sure you have heard about the benefits of sharing what you are grateful for before going to sleep. There you are in fresh sheets, feeling like giggling because you are so happy and cozy next to them and this is the perfect time to reel off 3 things you are grateful for in your life. Doing this is so bonding and it is so simple.

Having a sense of shared curiosity about doing things differently will open up communication between couples. Starting with, “How is our relationship going do you think?” is a great beginning.

 

INTIMACY AND SEX ARE NOT ALWAYS THE SAME

Gay couples come to see me to explain that the spark has gone as there is little sex in their relationship and now there are shared feelings of a lack of intimacy. This is despite living together, enjoying each others company, socializing together with friends and family, sharing loved pets, planning holidays together and having dreams about a place in the country one day. Intimacy is not only defined by how much sex is going on. Companionship is also undervalued intimacy.

Sex alone however does help to form intimate feelings, with the sharing of yummy brain chemicals but unfortunately that same brain will de-sex your partner over time as it searches for new experiences. And then the longer the sex gap the bigger the barrier to get back in the boat, or bath, becomes so to speak. There are very obvious, but often unacknowledged, obstacles that prevent sex happening.

TOO TIRED

Many of us work in busy and often stressful jobs, and commonly take work home with us at the end of the day. This can mean that the working day becomes incredibly long and at times seems endless. In these circumstances, there is no surprise that our sex life may not be getting the attention it deserves.

BEING PRESENT

You cannot be intimate if you are not present for each other. That might be spending too much time on individual computers at home, not listening properly to what your partner is saying, or forgetting to have diners out with just the two of you. You have to spend time together to be intimate.

COMMUNICATION

A lack of communication reduces a sense of intimacy in the relationship and reduces the desirability for sexual encounters. Telling each other what worries each other is so important. Discussing sex issues helps to break the ice but if there never seems a right time to talk about this place an entry on the diary, whiteboard or whatever to do so.

LIBIDO

If you are lucky you will have the same libido as your partner but this rarely is the case. Stress, bad sleeping or eating habits, lack of exercise and mental wellbeing affects libido. Paying attention to these aspects of health can lift personal libido. But nature will change your libido at various times of life. Talking about your libido with your partner should help them see it is not about rejection.

BEING CREATIVE

You know it is very possible to re-stoke the fire even if the flames will not rage as they once did. Set aside time to have a romantic evening with music, wine and some erotic images (porn is not a bad thing if not a compulsive habit). Change the way you have sex by having no expectations about orgasm and taking it slowly. Have a bath together. Lie in bed naked and talk with your legs on one another or sit of the couch with legs on each other. Discuss when you both met and what you liked about each other and still do now.

THE JAR

One game that has helped many clients start the ball rolling is the placing of a jar in the house. Place things you want discussed in the jar. Just a short note and then once a week, at a designated time, sit down and discuss them. Be creative and spend time with each other as you can’t be intimate without being present physically and mentally. When you communicate better by being present for each other that sex spark will more than likely sparkle again.

 

SINGLE AND GAY CAN BE TOUGH

SINGLE SELF-TALK

So you are single gay and you have really tried to find a hunky partner but now you have concluded it is never going to happen. It is very natural to commence the blame game and take the whole thing personally, beating your self up with thoughts like, “I am not interesting or sexy enough” or “I can pick them up but they don’t come back for more, so it must be me.”

No it is not you it is a case of pure statistics. Okay let us look at the facts. If you accept 10% of the male population is gay that excludes 90% of men. Of that 10% of gay men, half are in relationships leaving 5% and half of those do not want a relationship so that leaves 2.5%. So out of that 2.5% of the population your mission (should you decide to accept it) is to find someone that you really would like to share your life with.

MR RIGHT

Now say luck is on your side and finally there he is in his sexy underwear, appearing out of nowhere, bathed in golden sunshine on your very doorstep. (This is what normally happens – truly. I wouldn’t lie to you.) Now once you have snared that someone special please work on keeping him.

COUPLE CARE

It saddens me when gay couples split up without trying to find the answers to their relationship problems. It appears easy for some; to throw away essentially good relationships over problems that with healthy adult discussion can be worked out.

YOU ARE WANTED

Anyway back to the singles. Make sure you look after yourself mentally, as unlike heterosexual males you only have a small sample of the population to find your ideal partner. If you take not finding HIM too personally you are mentally going to bash yourself up and that is unattractive. There is someone out there that wants what you want, trust me.

HAVING POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH SELF

Looking after you means having a good relationship with you first. Get to know your loves of – music, film, theatre, books, art, work, exercise, cooking, travel, and enjoy time with family and friends. Having a positive emotional relationship with your self will make you feel better connected to the world. It will also make you more attractive to the very man you are looking for.

 

So maybe have a think about if what you are presently doing is helping you find the partner you want. Can you make life changes to improve your relationship with yourself by getting healthier, mentally and physically? Good luck and happy hunting!

STALE GAY RELATIONSHIP CURE

Couples that have been together for a long time eventually develop entrenched behaviour patterns that can make their relationship stale, boring but very safe. Two become one with every little decision, everything is compromised and resentment takes hold. That unspoken resentment can take the form of sabotaging the other later.

For instance one partner might insist on not tipping in restaurants and not paying bills until the very last moment, to save every last cent on interest. The other partner agrees to go along with this agrees but privately buys expensive lunches and clothes. Or one partner agrees to go to the other’s parents place for Sunday lunch but at the last minute develops a stomach upset and pulls out. Does this sort of sabotaging sound familiar in some way?

Couples become easily aware of this dynamic when it is pointed out and it can be very easy to correct this with some simple new skills and at the same time put some humour into it.

A WHAT TO DO EXERCISE

In week one write down what you would really like your partner to do for you. Be very specific like: take out the garbage, give you a neck massage, cook a vegetarian meal once a week, etc. Next write a list of also what you think they would like you to do for them. Keep a diary and in the second week do one thing a day what you think they would like happen. Do not show each other the list until the end of the second week.

At the end of the second week sit down and each partner tells the other what they liked that happened to them. Then swap notes and every day the third week take one thing from their list and do it for them. At the end of week 3 tell each other how it felt and have an honest feedback session.

If you don’t want to take 3 weeks to change things, write down a list of what you want the other to do for you; initiate sex, buy the fruit and vegetables, buy a sex toy, visit your sister for lunch, etc. Place your paper slips in a jar and discuss each item by listening well. Try to find a compromise or resolution for every topic.

Relationships all get in ruts of established behaviour patterns. Assumptions are easily made on what the other partner wants and expects. So reflect on what you think is the current dynamic in your relationship is and how it became established and then play this ‘pleasing the other game’.

You will be really surprised how this simple fun activity can change the whole way your relationship functions. You will find it very interesting to discover what they secretly would like you to do for them. And wouldn’t you really want to know?

 

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.

 

 

KEEPING SECRETS RUINS RELATIONSHIPS

KEEPING SECRETS RUINS RELATIONSHIPS

Are you tempted to check his or her phone, email or Facebook account? If you are thinking about doing it, the relationship is already in trouble. You are tempted to do this because you have strong feelings the partner is keeping secrets from you. Is it okay to check your partner’s contact platforms and what will you do with any information you find? Well what do you think, is it okay or not to check up on your partner?

Trust is one of the three most important pillars of a healthy relationship, the other two being sharing life’s personal challenges (our vulnerabilities) and having dreams about the future – for each other and as a couple. If you do look at your partner’s phone it means you have trust issues and looking means you also now have a secret to hold – or not.

Holding secrets is as damaging to the person doing it as it is to the person cheated of the truth. John and Bob have been together for 8 years and their sex life has collapsed. John spends 2 hours and the gym and Bob is suspicious about that. John has been texting people on Grindr but has not met anyone and enjoys the pure fantasy of flirting. John has coffee after the gym with someone he trains with but doesn’t want to tell Bob, as he knows he will get jealous. He has decided to keep this a secret and feels he is entitled to a private life of some sort. Bob agonizes over whether to go through John’s phone and finally does so, finding a text about meeting someone for coffee after gym. He confronts John who denies anything is going on but Bob is ready to leave the relationship.

So is John entitled to hold some secrets from Bob and is it okay for Bob to go through his phone? We all hold some secrets from the world. We don’t express our personal fears to everyone we meet but on the other hand keeping secrets keeps us apart from the ones we love. You have to be brave to be honest but in doing so respect is shown for the relationship and each other.

What if John had firstly discussed their failing sex life and how it impacts their relationship? What if John had discussed his feelings for wanting some sort of sex fantasy and the need to have different relationships with new people, like his gym buddy? What if Bob had spoken to John about his feelings of wanting to go through his phone and his suspicions about the 2 hours at the gym?

Getting it all out in the open at the beginning would not have lead to what now is a major threat to their on-going relationship – the keeping of secrets. I ask many couples to check in with each other often with a sit down and asking the question, “How is our relationship going do you think?”

 

Another way of discussing relationship questions is to have a jar in the house where you write down a topic for discussion and at a set time go over it. We all have busy lives and domestic habits so bringing up matters that need clarification can be easily swept under the carpet. The question jar can bring to a head what has been placed there for too long. It also lightens the activity of asking important questions.

So what do you think, should partners check each other phone or other contact platforms? Do they have a right to?