QUESTION: What issues do you see occurring in this gay couples therapy session? You don't need an advanced degree or license to have an opinion.
YOUR INITIAL ANSWER: What did you notice? What do you identify as the real problem this couple has?
THE MOST COMMON ANSWER: The problem with this gay couple is that the one on the left is violent. He needs to control himself.
Let’s go deeper and thoroughly analyze the situation. The partner on the right (we'll call him Partner #1) is criticizing Partner #2 in front of the therapist. Partner #2 is going to quickly and understandably become defensive, which is a human being's natural response to being criticized, and possibly avoid further therapy sessions. He believes that because he’s already apologized for his previous behavior that the damage has been repaired, and he doesn’t understand why the issue is being dragged out again.
I'd like you to play the video again and watch for the following:
Partner #1 notes that when he gets angry, he goes into himself and wants to “hunker down.” His comments indicate that he has a negative attitude toward people displaying anger. This is an unchangeable component of his personality, and the therapist should not attempt to change it.
Partner #2 sees value in displaying negative emotion. Most likely, he learned this from his family when very young. Although the therapist may want to tell him he needs to reform his behavior, it will not change and it’s not realistic or even necessary.
Obviously vase throwing is not appropriate. But "hunkering down" every time there's conflict is not realistic either. Instead, the therapist should work with them to figure out how much anger and negativity is acceptable. Neither partner is “right” or “wrong” at the Gay Couples Institute. Couples are given the skills to discuss what is appropriate behavior in their households, which is a conversation they'll be having for years moving forward.
Think your relationship could benefit from some new skills? It's easy to schedule a consultation and learn more.