We are inescapably driven to make relationships in the hope of
communicating something that was unacceptable in the past.
Familiar experiences for couples
Most adults, heterosexual or gay, hope to find a relationship which will allow them to meet their competing needs for intimacy and autonomy. In couple work the therapist aims to hold open a space where conflict can be paused and thinking can take place. When a couple fall in love they are often drawn to a character who seems almost the opposite of their own. Over time this polarised fit can become more exaggerated and the very qualities that were initially so delightful come to be distinctly annoying. In therapy we work to identify these projections and to enable each partner to re-own these lost parts of the self.
When a couple are looking for help with their relationship they are likely to be managing a high degree of disappointment both with themselves and with each other; this is in bleak contrast to the hope with which most romantic relationships begin. For some couples the inevitable loss of the intense early passion feels unbearable. The aim of the work is then to explore how much of the attachment still exists and to establish whether the couple have a mutual commitment to work on their relationship. When partners can tolerate the hard work of making this transition their sense of connection will be significantly deepened.
Gay and lesbian couples
The heterosexual model of a male and female partner has for centuries been upheld as an ideal solution to human intimacy, whereas the homosexual model has been, and often continues to be, denounced. This means that gay couples enjoy less endorsement from society; on the other hand, being unconstrained by traditional gender norms, they may have a freedom to find their own roles.
For gay and lesbian couples there will often be additional layers of distress – depending on how hostile their early environment was to their development of a homosexual identity.