As I think back on the past 22 years of providing couples counseling for gay male relationships, I sometimes get asked what the differences are that I see in—(in general) in gay male relationships that are, (in general)—different from straight relationships.
In no particular order, below, are some of my thoughts. I offer these to both single and coupled gay men, in order to offer my perspective based on what I've seen through the years. My experiences and observations as a gay men's specialist therapist might differ from other gay men, and even other gay male therapists, and we always have to be mindful of not indulging in unfair assumptions, stereotypes, or even prejudices. But since making a relationship work, which I define, in part, as the relationship's level of satisfaction for each partner and in its overall longevity and subjective "quality" for each partner, is at least in part based on a skills-building process, perhaps offering my perspective sheds light on the skills required for a gay male relationship to both endure and thrive.
Here are my thoughts on different aspects of relationships that tend to come up over and over in the content of the couples therapy sessions:
1. Money – Gay male couples can have a lot of conflict around money. Statistically, white men tend to be relatively high earners. The sexism that women only earn a portion of what men earn, for the same work, extends to both gay men and straight men. Both gay men and straight men will compete with each other regarding financial "success", however they define it. And this competition can be within those groups, between those groups, or even within the gay couple itself. Its hard to find a gay male couple where issues of competition don't come up, whether regarding physical appearance, social influence, or income. When money issues come up in gay male relationships, I believe it's because all American men (and elsewhere) are still, even in our oh-so-modern times, expected to be the "breadwinners". White men, especially middle class or higher in socio-economic status, are socialized and used to "getting their way", among all demographics. Gay men of color face a dual challenge in managing social reactions and pressures both to being gay and of color, and also gender expectations. It's a lot of potential pressures to face and overcome.