Jealousy in Gay Relationships: A Common Problem Needing Urgent Solutions
In any relationship, the green monster of jealousy can rear its ugly head. But in gay relationships, the whole phenomenon of “jealousy” can be particularly intense, because as a rule, gay or straight, men compete. Men are particularly territorial of what they consider their “property”, and even though they don’t really consider their partner as “property”, they tend to defend the integrity of their relationships with a vengeance. Which is understandable; we love our partners and we tend to revile any threat to our domestic and sexual happiness. Straight men are the same way, whether in a singles bar or on a football field. But gay relationships also have to cope with existing in the context of a certain “social strain” — lacking mainstream social validation in many states by a lack of legal gay marriage, lack of legal protections against hate crimes or discrimination, and lack of societal support. It’s often up to us and our peers in our own community to give our relationships ongoing validation.
If you are experiencing issues regarding jealousy in your relationship — whether it’s on your end, or your partner’s — you’re not alone. Coping with jealousy is one the most common problems that gay couples bring to couples therapy sessions with me. Part of this is because in gay culture, there is a lot to be insecure about. We often socialize in gay bars and clubs, where an animalistic, even “law of the jungle” atmosphere prevails, and it can feel like a game of “survival of the fittest.” We compete strongly with our peers to get the best body, best hair, best clothes, best job, and best car. We have to sometimes “defend” the integrity of our relationships from others who do not give appropriate respect to the boundaries of our relationship, especially a monogamous one. Occasionally we must appropriately set limits with others who truly seek to threaten our relationship by “putting the moves” on our partner.
What is critical in relationships, however, is being able to distinguish between a “healthy” jealousy that protects our relationship from stressful attempts by others to undermine it, and underscores the partners’ commitment to each other (whether in a monogamous or open relationship), versus an “unhealthy jealousy” that evokes anger, resentment, paranoia, passive-aggressive behavior, or distancing in ourselves or our partner.
Talking out the issues of jealousy in couples counseling can help make this distinction, and can help the partners plan a strategy to protect the relationship “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” By “clearing the air” on what sorts of behaviors (from your partner, or others) make the other partner feel threatened, you can openly negotiate practical solutions in session that help a jealous partner to feel more secure and invest in the relationship even further — making the “green-eyed monster” nothing but pussy-cat.
The suggestions here are general. Every relationship has its own emotional dynamics because of the two individuals involved. For help improving the relationship between you and your partner, email me at Ken@GayTherapyLA.com, or call/text 310-339-5778, for a free brief phone consultation.