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.


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?




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.





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?





I know of couples that have been together for many years and still do not have a shared bank account. So how much do you financially share in a relationship? Well you could have a joint bank account for commonly used goods, like food and holidays. There are definite positive emotional outcomes for couples sharing money and paradoxically a sense of separation when not doing so.

Ah but what about the risk? Well life is full of risk and without it life is pretty safe and dull. I feel it is important to lessen financial imbalances in a relationship and couples need to work at this so they both feel equal. It is not uncommon for one partner to be better off than the other. What seems important is to share common things so if you move into another’s home for instance, pay reasonable rent. Share, and expect others to share common expenses, and emotionally you will feel more equal, more connected.

Sharing the things that need to be done and organized also makes couples feel equal. If you are both working professionally obviously getting a cleaner in prevents many resentment squabbles over those jobs. Who in your relationship pays the bills, buys food, arranges social events, plans holidays, fixes things, cleans the car and rings mutual friends? If it is only you then equality is not happening. Aim for equal power.

I know these ‘doing things’ might seem petty but in the long run the more you share the more your will feel connected emotionally. You might have to challenge your control freak bias but it is important to let the other do more. They might never truly know how much you do anyway. So how do you go about sharing more without having a big row over who does what all the time?

I find having a suggestion jar where couples write down things they want to discuss for later is a good way to start. Having regular times to sit down with a cuppa, or a glass of wine, makes light of these sharing ideas. Having a set time to discuss sharing ideas stops having an argument every time resentment builds up about doing more than the other. Once the suggestion is in the jar a sense of relief takes place where the issue will be sorted out at a later set date.

May I also suggest using “I’ statements when discussing ideas. “I find doing the shopping all the time really boring and would like some help with that.” This is better than saying, “You never ever do the shopping.” The way we organise words is powerful.

Sharing in a relationship results in a sense of equality, self-respect and mutual understanding. Inequalities manifest in emotional separation at a deeper level. So be brave and start sharing more. Using a suggestion jar could launch your relationship into greater adventures and new worlds. Aim for equal power.