Every LGBTQ Couple Needs Therapy

A year into our relationship, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I decided to see a couples counselor. We intended to get a stamp of approval on our incredible relationship, along with some advice as to how to maintain it. An hour later, we left questioning everything we thought we knew about ourselves and each other.

In hindsight, I can see that if we had never gone to therapy, we would have since broken up. Our therapist pointed out the vagueness of our reasons for coming in in the first place. He sensed that we were scared. We had both seen signs that not everything was perfect but had been unwilling to admit this. He exposed us to the reality that we were tiptoeing around each other and avoiding important conversations, and that if we did not have these conversations, we would soon find ourselves in crisis.

Acknowledging this was the first step towards building a stronger foundation for our relationship, getting to know each other on a deeper level and learning to express our needs.

We’re not the first “happy” couple to go to therapy. Many couples have benefited from seeing a counselor before anything went wrong. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard are one of the most famous examples.

But LGBTQ couples are more at risk than others, and need to see a therapist, in person or online, if they are to remain healthy.

One major reason for this is that every queer person experiences internalized homophobia, transphobia, or the equivalent. We have all grown up with some level of self-hate. Because this is deeply personal, we tend to be more queerphobic than the average cisgender, heterosexual liberal.

This will come through in your relationships. You will express it, overtly or covertly, towards yourself and your partner. None of us are immune to this.

My internalized homophobia has expressed itself in a number of ways. Describing my husband as “my husband” still sometimes feels emasculating. That fear of emasculation was much stronger a few years ago. The fact that he earns more money than me is one of a million things that would have become a source of resentment. On the flipside, he has more feminine qualities (in the stereotypical sense) than me, in his looks, interests, and the way he runs the household. It took me a while to stop demeaning his Beyoncé obsession and his distaste for rock music. Now I’m a bigger Beyoncé fan than he ever was, but as petty as it sounds, things like these were becoming real points of contention.

Another significant reason we needed to see a therapist is that both of us grew up hiding an immense secret. Like other LGBTQ people, we’re experts at it.

Getting over the habit of hiding takes more than coming out parties and pride parades. Even as we learn to express our queerness with pride, we continue keeping secrets. These secrets may no longer have anything to do with sexuality itself, but they are connected to our self-worth and feelings. Secrets and stubborn silences are not good for relationships.

Finally, we needed to talk about sex. I spent my youth believing that my sexuality was disgusting and unnatural. This belief did not simply disappear the moment I kissed another man.

A huge proportion of LGBTQ couples have sexual issues, ranging from sexual dysfunction to infidelity. For so long we associated our sexuality with perversion. When we carry on seeing it that way in a relationship, problems are inevitable.

LGBTQ couples cannot avoid challenges that heterosexual couples don’t have to face. Couples therapy helped me and my husband address these issues before they had caused major problems.

If we hadn’t started then, we would have had a lot more to deal with later on, if we were to have a “later on” at all.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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