Navigating Differences: Friendships Between Gay and Straight Men (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies)

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Gay men have only the same heterosexual models, including their own families, which they may try to emulate but find unsuitable Non-gay people rarely question the rightness or wrongness of their sexual orientation, but at some point gay persons do. Often progression to one stage is temporary and regression to an earlier stage follows. Often one may be "Out" to friends but not to family. Often one may be satisfied with oneself but unable to find and maintain intimate relationships, thus preventing further growth. What follows is a short summary of McWhirter and Madison's six stages of gay relationships.

It should be noted that couples may form while the individuals are at any of the given stages. The individual members of the couple may also be at different stages of the coming out process. Blending - Stage 1 - Year 1 This first stage in a couple's development entails the "unification" of the couple into a single unit.

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Each is very happy to have the other and to no longer feel isolated and alone. The couple spends most all their time together, experiences high limerence romantic love , show high sexual activity, and attempt to equalize the relationship. This equalization process serves to help the couple negotiate responsibilities, rules, mutual goals, individual strengths and weaknesses It can be a very difficult time for couples, in that the two members of the couple are socialized in very similar ways.

Males are supposed to be decision makers, bread winners, and dominant. Two men may have a hard time giving up control, negotiating responsibilities, learning to rely on and support each other, and being able to show each other their strengths as well as weaknesses. Nesting - Stage 2 - Years 2 and 3 This second stage is characterized by homemaking, finding compatibility, declining limerence, and ambivalence. Homemaking serves to represent their commitment to each other. Finding compatibility requires accepting and learning to live with each other's differences, personality styles, needs, and goals.

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Issues of control, power, autonomy etc. The loss of limerence or the "end of the honeymoon" can result in a more realistic view of the relationship and can cause a weakening of the relationship or of the members' commitment to the relationship. This may result in some ambivalence, depression, or jealousy. Internalized homophobia, models about how relationships develop, isolation from role models, ideas about how couples act, what couples should do and not do Maintaining - Stage 3 - Years 4 and 5 This stage is characterized by the re-emergence of the individual, establishing traditions and customs, dealing with conflict, and taking risks.

The members of the couple may re-assert their individual needs and deal with the conflicts that will result. The couple does not have the traditions provided by dating, engagement, marriage, and religion, and has to develop their own. They may settle into traditions around holidays, may wear rings, may deal with the issue of monogamy Each member may express interest in new activities or hobbies that do not include the other, make friends outside the couple without the other, and make career changes or development.

Each member may take risks by expressing something that they dislike about the other. This involves the risk of hurting the other, losing the relationship, and of admitting that one is not everything to one's spouse. The couple learns also to deal with disagreement, conflict, problems, and "standing differences of opinion. Building - Stage 4 - Years 6 through 10 This stage is characterized by the settling of the last stage and the feeling of "dependability. They are now able to collaborate towards newer goals and desires, such as career building or pooled financial ventures.

One partner who did the cooking for several years may turn the job over to the other partner and go back to school. This stage may also be marked by a comfortable complementarity, a decreased need to process every issue and discuss every decision, and the ability to "know what the other is thinking" in a conversation.

This may also be detrimental if the communication process breaks down or if members make unwarranted assumptions about the relationship.

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Releasing - Stage 5 - Years 10 through 20 In this stage the couple trust each other completely, after realizing who they are and who the other person is. There is no desire to "change" the other one. Close friendship and companionship are the main characteristics of this stage, as well as higher relationship quality Kurdek, Money and resources are no longer shared so much as they are simply owned by both. Each member gives themselves freely to the other. The couple may however, begin to find life with each other as boring.

They may begin to take each other for granted, may sleep apart, may find little pleasure in their accomplishments, and the individual members may experience the "mid-life crisis. Renewing - Stage 6 The could be called "the retirement" stage of the relationship.


The couple has achieved adequate financial security and now has time for each other. As they move toward "old age" together issues of health may become important. Each individual may be concerned with his own health as well as the health of the other. Old friends may die at this stage as well. Issues of productivity, accomplishment, and meaning in life may become important.

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It should be noted that McWhirter and Madison compiled these stages before , when AIDS was beginning to be identified in hospitals. Issues of health, dying, financial security, and loneliness become even more important during this stage in the 's. Lower self-esteem and depression may exacerbate already present feelings of estrangement from family Lang, Issues and conflicts in this stage of the relationship conform to Erikson's "Integrity versus Despair" stage of psychosocial development.

Introduction to Gay Male Domestic Violence There is little information on gay and lesbian domestic violence for several reasons.

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  • First, only since have statistics regarding gay and lesbian domestic violence been collected. The San Francisco Police Department reported no fewer than calls per month for gay and lesbian domestic violence in It makes gays look "bad" in an already homophobic society and takes efforts away from fighting homophobic elements of society. It goes against most feminist beliefs as well -- that a lesbian woman, a woman most likely holding feminist ideals that women should be treated with respect and that domestic violence is largely a gender issue, that such a woman should hit another woman is unbelievable.

    Third, this kind of violence may be misreported as well. What is really gay domestic violence is often recorded in police logs as "mutual combat. Island and Letellier argue that the rate for domestic violence in gay couples should be at least the same as in straight couples, as there is no evidence that gay men are any less violent than straight men. For a discussion of these factors, see Rosenbaum and Maiuro History of Abuse or Witnessing Abuse 2.

    Large Power or Status Differential 4. Alcoholism or Other Drug Abuse 5.


    Martin and Hetrick report that the third most frequent problem for gay and lesbian adolescents is violence. Others have obtained similar findings Harry, Often, expulsion or running away from home results when the adolescent's sexual orientation is discovered and prostitution often occurs as a secondary consequence Deisher et al. They note that, contrary to what one might expect from the literature, many gay male adolescents are abused and or raped in the home, usually by an uncle or older brother, but sometimes by the father. Most blame themselves or are blamed by others because of their preference for male sexual partners.

    Additional studies Baier et al. Low Self-Esteem in either Spouse and Spouse-Specific Assertion Deficits or Poor Communication Skills Low self-esteem, poorer relationship skills, and many other psychological difficulties could result from problems in adolescent development.

    Colgan uses Erikson's theory of psychosocial development to discuss problems in the development of identity and intimacy in gay males. A positive identity involves having a positive sense of self-worth and seeking relationships that value that sense of worth. An identity disorder involves a negative sense of self low self-esteem and seeking out relationships that reinforce one's sense of worthlessness. Intimacy is a sense of belonging, of trusting and caring for others, and listening and responding to others. An intimacy dysfunction involves an identity disordered male that must rely on outside agents to provide a sense of worth.

    Colgan presents two extremes that one may find in gay men as a result of failure to develop a positive sense of identity and intimacy. Over-separation is the act of "forming and maintaining one's identity at the expense of emotionally satisfying human connections" p. The goal of over-separation is to place such a value on independence that emotions are displaced, projected, denied, and repressed.

    Thus, emotional needs are denied and hard to communicate. This leaves the man feeling very vulnerable and under-equipped. Colgan explains that the man learns to becomes numb to his own feelings and needs and may even learn to be very sensitive to other's feelings and needs to act to prevent exposure of his own vulnerability. Over-attachment is "the pattern of forming human connections at the sacrifice of one's own separate identity" p. The goal of over-attachment is to "preserve affective harmony" p.

    The man may form anxious and insecure attachments, deny negative feelings, and neglect his own feelings and needs. Again, emotional needs are denied and hard to communicate. How might gay men be more susceptible to these problems? Many theorists Chickering, ; Johnson, argue that males develop a positive identity when there is a congruence between their own sense of self and the responses of others.

    Because society is homophobic or at least heterosexist, society's ideas about homosexuals are not positive. Further, there are no dating norms for gay or lesbian adolescents or even available models of gay and lesbian relationships. Exploration and attempts to meet intimacy needs for the adolescent will be thwarted and possibly severely punished by the rejection of peers, teachers, friends, and parents.

    Even associating with someone thought to be gay carries some stigma Sigelman, ; Jenks, The stereotypic distance from affect in males and fear of homosexual stigma may result in internalized homophobia. The adolescent's needs for closeness and intimacy have to be repressed for the youth to receive support, approval, and attention from others. On the other hand, the adolescent may develop anxious over-attachment and desperately cling to anyone who can meets his emotional needs.

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    In either case, this rejection by others and separation of emotional needs is likely to result in the boy labeling his difference from other children as negative, in a severely damaged sense of self, and in poor relationship skills coming into a relationship due to difficulty resolving identity and intimacy issues Colgan, Large Power or Status Differential Power differences between men and women tend to be more tolerated in heterosexual relationships.

    As a result, a man with stereotypical ideas about power in relationships, the man's role in the decision making process, and who should make more money in the relationship may be able to find a woman with similar ideas and expectations. However, in a gay relationship, where power differences occur, neither male is likely to be accustomed or socialized to accept being in the less powerful position, to have less power in decision making, or to make less money than his spouse.

    The male with lesser power may not know how to handle, cope with, or change this. This also conjures up images of being a "kept boy" Harry, , although this may actually be rather uncommon Harry , In the same sense, a female with greater power may be uncomfortable making decisions for the couple and contributing to what she may perceive as an exploitive relationship.