Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. These are the issues that come up repeatedly in couples counseling sessions: Statistically, white men tend to be relatively high earners.
The sexism that women only earn a portion of what men earn, for the same work, extends to both gay men and straight men. Gay men of color face a dual challenge in managing social reactions and pressures from being both gay and people of color, and also gender expectations. There are many potential pressures to face and overcome. Straight men face a lot of social pressure, still, to earn more than their wives.
How these dynamics are expressed, and the conflicts that can result, are often the impetus for entering couples therapy. The gay men that I work with are often from mixed cultures or different nationalities. But it also adds an extra layer of mystery, excitement, exoticism, and fun. But along with cultural differences, such as language, food, spirituality, traditions, and habits, can be cultural differences about money.
Just ask a scholar in feminist studies if that statement is true. Unlike straight couples, who up until relatively recently had the monopoly on legal recognition of their relationships before domestic partnerships and marriage equality laws , gay men were treated by the law as two unrelated individuals under one roof, especially for legal and tax purposes.
They are more likely to have joint bank accounts, joint tax filing, and automatic rights of survivorship on everything from ks to Social Security survivor benefits — and they have for generations. Sex— Gay male couples tend to approach sex differently. We all know that gay male couples are much more likely to entertain the idea of, or even be in, a non-monogamous relationship.
So, part of my job in couples counseling is to help gay men understand this, and to avoid making direct comparisons to straight relationships all the time some of the time is OK, particularly in confronting double-standards and internalized homophobia. While this is not necessarily unique to gay men, a big factor can be finding time for sex, when often both partners are busy, high-level executives or professionals who work extraordinarily long hours or have jobs that require frequent travel.
Household Chores— Perhaps surprisingly to a non-clinician, the issue of how to equitably and fairly divide the list of common household chores can be frequent topic in conjoint therapy. While modern straight couples sometimes like to pretend that they are oh-so-liberated, in reality, in many or most cases, the woman is subtly expected to, and ends up doing, the majority of the household chores related to keeping things clean, organized, in good repair, supplied, delivered, monitored, and humming along in a domestic household.
In couples counseling, I generally recommend that a Master List of Required Household Chores be written down, which is exhaustive and comprehensive. Who pays the bills? Who does the cleaning? Or, who supervises the cleaning? Who mows the lawn?
Or, who pays the gardener to mow the lawn? Who supervises the gardener? Who changes the light bulbs? Who picks up the dry cleaning? Often, making a list and then discussing how to divide it can be a discussion at home, or in session. Gay male relationships where there is a parenting factor involved differ from straight relationships mostly in that same-sex parenting needs extra support.
Family— In gay male relationships, the role of one of the male partners in taking care of aging parents can be an issue, similar to straight couples. Fortunately, for most of the gay couples I have worked with, there have been surprisingly few seriously hostile in-law conflicts.
More often, the son-in-law is treated as a full member of the family, which is a nice thing to be able to say about the current times we live in. Fun— Fortunately, one huge and consistent benefit I have observed in gay male relationships over straight ones is that gay couples consistently demonstrate a youthfulness, playfulness, and sense of fun, especially with peers but also alone with each other.
While this is common to affluent gay male couples, even middle class or working class gay couples seem to have an extra sense of discovering fun, creative pastimes.
Men are physically larger than women, so they can go through a lot of alcohol and food at events hence the stories of the first all-gay cruises running out of alcohol on board!
A friend of mine once said that he believed gay men had particularly-evolved critical thinking skills. While two gay men might love one another in their relationship, they will still subtly compete with one another to others, like most males in the animal kingdom. This can be a certain mutual benefit, but it can also be a source of competition or even resentment of what the other has that he lacks. We want to make ourselves attractive to each other, but we also tend to want to be recognized and admired in our own right by others.
For gay male couples, loving and accepting the self individually and in context of each other, and society at large, can be a challenge. Politics— I think gay male couples are just simply more affected by politics, changes in laws, and changes in society than straight couples are. When we watch the evening news, or read news outlets online, they are often talking about us as gay men. That just puts an extra stress on the day, in addition to the fact that the Internet service provider is down or that the cat just threw up grass on the carpet.
Gay male couples tend to be more politically aware, and even more politically active attending protests, writing letters, attending fundraisers, observing boycotts, making donations than straight couples, because their rights and existence are challenged every day these days with a certain urgency and immediacy that straight couples are generally spared. However, form, endure, and happily, they do, often without my help at all. What is your experience with the above 10 items of difference?
Your comments and feedback are welcome. For more information on my therapy and coaching services, or for more articles on many topics of interest to gay men, visit www.