Relationship issues are different for queer couples
With Pride quickly approaching in Minneapolis, this post is about the unique difficulties encountered by queer couples.
The common assumption is that queer couples have the same problems as straight couples. Indeed, they do, and yet they have other stressors that heterosexual folks don’t. Queer couples don’t have the same privilege that straight folks take for granted. This creates stress for the couple, which often goes unacknowledged by others.
This is by no means a complete list. Instead, these are stories meant to increase awareness.
Queer couples can be limited in how they show affection in public. In our office, one couple reported being harassed on vacation because they were simply holding hands.
When gay couples have children, it can be hurtful when people make heteronormative assumptions about the other parent. This can range from birthing classes to the delivery room, and it goes on into the school years. We worked with a couple who reported the school teacher repeatedly said, “bring this homework to your mom and dad.” Obviously, not inclusive language.
Disrespectful, invasive, and even sexualized comments are can be made by well-meaning, otherwise supportive heterosexual couples. This week, an Instagram post from Glennon Doyle reads: “If you wouldn’t say it to a straight couple, don’t say it to gay couple. Getting weary of smiling politely at the ‘you two are turning me gay. I’d leave my husband for your wife’ comment. Gay couples deserve all of the boundaried respect you offer straight couples.” Comments like these are offensive and disrespectful to queer couples.
Days after the 2016 election, many queer couples were fearful about a lack of validation for their marriages. Discussions about whether their marriage would be considered legitimate are still happening in our office. Gay couples live with this fear every day.
A same-sex couple was referred to us by a colleague after one partner had an affair. We suggested the same affair book that we suggest to all of our couples who are dealing with an affair. We were unaware that the book made no mention of gay couples in any example. We should not have assumed. This illustrates that we have a long way to go.
Heteronormative biases impact queer couples on a daily basis. When we sit with gay couples who are relationship distress, we are aware of how heterosexual assumptions exacerbate their relationship stress. Queer couples can’t take things for granted, because our culture does not affirm and validate them the way it does for straight couples.
Gay communities are meant to support and un-isolate these couples. We are grateful for Pride in Minnesota. Hope to see you there!