Why It Matters: Three Ways LGBTQ+ Affirming Couples Therapy is Different

Queer couples therapy has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve gotten to do as a licensed marriage & family therapist and the owner of Prospect Therapy. I love being able to help people get to the bottom of what they’re really fighting about, and build more connected and fulfilling relationships. Sure, this is the case in all couples therapy. Couples counseling can benefit any couple, of any age, at any time. But doing therapeutic work with the LGBTQ+ community is different. And I believe it should be.

The representation of couples counseling in mainstream media has focused heavily on cisgender, heterosexual, and monogamous couples. But what about the rest of us? The lack of representation shouldn’t dissuade you from getting the help your relationship needs. Anyone can benefit from the help of a professional therapist.

1) The LGBTQ+ Community Faces Social Hostility

Arguably, the most obvious difference with LGBTQ+ couples is they have experiences and prejudices against them that cis-het couples simply don’t have.

Same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized in the United States until very recently. Even so, there are still people who strive to invalidate the legitimacy of such marriages and relationships on a personal basis, and institutionally.

Many queer couples are straight-passing. One partner may not be open about their gender or sexuality, and it isn’t “obvious” to outsiders that they are a queer couple. This certainly may come with many privileges, but for many people, it reinforces invisibility and invalidation of their identities.

Add those nuances to the mix, and the mere stress of social issues that queer couples face can easily be detrimental to both a relationship and an individual’s mental well-being.

Such couples are going to have very different issues to bring up in counseling than what cis-het couples might have.

2) Preconceived Notions of Gender Aren’t Necessarily Applicable

While the same could be said for all couples, gender notions are challenged much more in the LGBTQ+ community.

The construct that a man should work while a woman stays home obviously doesn’t exist within a same-gender couple. The idea that men and women have to act/dress/behave masculine and feminine, respectively, is also less likely to exist within a queer couple’s dynamic than a heterosexual couple’s dynamic.

Gendered social constructs can be limiting, but they also provide some type of starting point for people. Like it or not, we learn how to act in relationships from those around us. What happens when we don’t necessarily see relationships that look like ours?

Besides, the way people perceive gender and take on such roles is up to the individual. But, when it comes to a couple, these roles may be confusing when your friends, family, culture, and even partner has different notions of gender roles.

Outsider’s Perspectives May Impact Your Relationship

Furthermore, outsiders may have their own opinions about how the roles should be in your relationship. Their opinions don’t truly matter, but this negative input could certainly strain a relationship.

A great way to work through these preconceived notions of gender is to go to couples counseling with your partner. Not only can you each express your ideas of roles in a relationship, but a counselor can help you find a way to expel negative opinions from outsiders.

3) LGBTQ+ Couples Face Different Personal Issues

LGBTQ+ couples face a range of social issues and backlash for their relationships. However, it is important to note the personal issues such couples face as well.

The dynamics of couples that can fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella is extensive. Couples can be gay, one partner can be bisexual, asexual, or transgender. These are, of course, only a few examples of relationship dynamics.

Because LGBTQ+ couples are so diverse, personal issues within their relationship are often more diverse than those of heterosexual couples.

For example, a lesbian couple will have more obstacles to go through if they want a child. Whether a couple chooses adoption, surrogacy, sperm donation, etc., these avenues can be very costly, both with time and money. Couples in which one partner is transgender - and is considering medical, social, or legal transition - can be faced with myriad pressures, obligations, and expectations. These can come from within the relationship, or from outside of it.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Within the LGBTQ+ community and culture, there are varying mindsets when it comes to dating and relationships, in general.

People have different upbringings and different coming out stories. People may have families who respect their identities. Many others have families who do not respect their identities.

It is important to respect our partner’s boundaries and experiences. This can easily be accomplished by speaking with a counselor in a low-pressure setting.

By discussing the variety of dynamics within your relationship, you can more easily set yourself up for a happy, healthy, and communicative relationship.

Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and identities in Long Beach, Seal Beach, and surrounding areas. Click below to schedule a free consultation to learn about how couples therapy can strengthen and improve your relationship.