Posted: 29 Mar 2013 05:25 AM PDT
It is easy for us to get stuck in ruts in relationships. That’s true whether the relationships are dating ones or long-term, committed ones. We human beings are creatures of habit. Often we don’t like change much, especially if keeping things the same helps us feel safe. Many of us will choose safe-but-boring over new-and-possibly-better any time we have the ability to make the choice. On the other hand, we human beings also have an inborn desire to change and grow.
When something is hurting us, or we find ourselves feeling stifled or deadened, we experience something inside of us that cries out, “There is more to life than this!” We find ourselves considering the need for change, even if we also are anxious about it.
It is easy to confuse “unfulfilling relationship” and “stupid, inadequate partner” sometimes. Pinning blame for your unhappiness on your boyfriend or partner seems to let you off the hook. If you find yourself playing the same record over and over again, finding the same shortcomings in partner after partner, it’s time to take a look at the common denominator in all those relationships: You. (Hint: if you ever find yourself saying something like, “All gay men [insert your gripe about men here]....,” it is definitely you!)
So the first step in creating something new is to take responsibility for your portion of creating the situation that needs changing. This is different from self-blaming. Understand that we generally do the best we can in life. As we grow and develop more life skills, we can learn to do even better. For instance, the first priority for many of us as gay men was to keep ourselves emotionally safe and protected. If you think back to your first heartbreak, you may even remember vowing never to feel that hurt again. The problem is you can’t have true intimacy in life if your first priority remains to defend yourself at all costs. You need to learn when it is safe to begin lowering your guard and opening your heart.
If your typical pattern that you are the romantic who can never seem to find true love and who has sometimes been manipulative in relationships (what I called the Pursuer in a previous column), consider stopping your efforts to control the outcome and learn to let go. If you find feelings of fear coming up for you, you are probably doing this right. Not returning to old patterns will be a challenge, but you are on the right track.
Similarly, if you have always been a Distancer and kept a good bit of detachment from those who have sought to get closer to you, your task is to open your heart and to learn to express your desire for your partner. This opens you up to the possibility of rejection. That’s frightening for those who have learned to be more comfortable doing the rejection! Allow yourself to feel vulnerable. Again, the presence of uncomfortable feelings likely means you are doing this right.
In both cases, the basic fear is that we are not lovable. It is understandable that many of us will do anything possible to avoid facing that fear. For many of us, this fear is too much to overcome on our own. When that’s the case, individual or relationship counseling can be helpful support and guidance in not staying stuck.
When we learn to overcome our fears and to allow ourselves to be who we truly are, relationships offer us great potential for healing and growing, learning new skills and finding that we love and respect ourselves.
John R. Ballew, M.S. an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questi
ons or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. -www.bodymindsoul.org.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Friends. . . .Perhaps when you get past this photo, you may care to read what the Justices had to say. . . .a least a BIT of what they were saying.
On a personal level, I try to be tolerant but I really do object to our lives as GLBTQ people personified by exhibitions such as this. Maybe I am a snob, , ,so be it. . .some of us New Englanders tend in that direction, it has been said. . LOL. .
but a characterization such as this, to the eyes of those who do not understand us, and. . ..well you know the prejudice. . . This kind of stuff does not make me proud; perhaps - I don't know yet totally. . .what to think of this kind of exhibition. Qween Amar does not personify what it means to be GL. . .and certainly I'd say the majority of us do not identify with this. . .We do not want our lives to be thought of and classified as this kind of disrespect and disparagement of Women. I do not want those who are against us. . .and legislators in African countries who are trying to pass and enforce the death penalty against any form of homosexuality to use performances like this to support and help pass their evil intents. They will see this and use this performance on the steps of the Supreme Court of our country potentially to do Gay and Lesbian men and women a great deal of harm.
This kind of exhibitionism does not portray the essence and struggle of being Gay or Lesbian. This is not the aim and goal of Transgendered People in all they suffer and endure in their efforts to be who they are in the deepest part of their being.
Maybe, just maybe, this is not the time for "Marriage Equality". Why not? Could it be that WE are not ready for Marriage Equality. The People of Vermont started this ball rolling for Marriage Equality with their first-in-the Nation passage into law of Civil Unions. That was hard-fought for victory of Gay People. And even that victory was covered over by a governor who missed an opportunity to really Celebrate Our Existence. He chose a private signing of this Bill into Law in an almost-closet in the State House, with one or two people as witnesses.
I hope no one is offended by or takes any of what I say personally. My intent is never to hurt anyone. I am a few weeks from defending my dissertation thesis before the faculty of the College of Medicine and the Department of Psychology.
The first principle in the healing profession and Hippocratic Oath is "Primun non nocere aliquem. . . First never to hurt or injure anyone." I hope to be true to my Oath.
~ justin o'shea
Posted: 25 Mar 2013 12:26 PM PDT
The labyrinth of laws at the local, state and federal level, along with the rapidly evolving landscape of gay relationships, has forced us to become informed to a much greater degree than those in heterosexual marriages.
If the legal landscape seems intimidating, that’s because it is. Which makes a new book, "Same Sex Legal Kit For Dummies" so necessary.
Weighing in at 384 pages, this comprehensive guide, with the accompanying CD, covers every aspect. This may be the cheapest legal advice money can buy. It is also chock-full of personal advice.
The following edited excerpts give only a tiny sampling. I strongly suggest anyone who is in, about to enter or even contemplating a committed relationship get this book which is available online at Amazon , at bookstores and even at WalMart. All excerpts courtesy of John Wiley & Sons, the publisher.
If you’re renting and only one partner signs a lease, you need to make sure the agreement clearly states your ability to let the other partner move into the unit with you. If you live in a marriage-equality state or municipality with legal rights for LGBT partners, only one partner may be required to sign the lease.
If you’re the legally recognized partner of a tenant and your partner moves out or dies, you may be able to stay in the rental unit.
If you’re buying a home, consider a "joint tenancy with right of survivorship." Both partners own an interest in the property. When one partner dies, that interest automatically passes to the surviving partner rather than the deceased partner’s family.
With "tenancy in common," both partners own an interest in the property. When one partner dies, that interest doesn’t automatically pass to the surviving partner but rather to someone the deceased has named in his or her will or to the deceased’s next of kin.
Shares can be unequal, but in most states, even if you own property 50-50, unless you use the magic words "with rights of survivorship," a deed will automatically create a tenancy in common. But that is subject to probate because your share of the property doesn’t pass automatically to your partner.
Instead, it will transfer to whomever you’ve named in your will as beneficiary; if you have no will, your share will go to your next of kin.
About a third of U.S. states offer transfer-on-death, or beneficiary deeds, as a means to pass property to a partner or other loved one outside of a trust and still avoid probate. Transfer-on-death doesn’t take effect until the homeowner dies.
Thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, LGBT couples can’t file joint federal tax returns. If you own a house together, you need to figure out how you’re going to handle mortgage interest and property tax deductions. You can split them 50-50, but a partner who makes a lot more money should probably claim the entire deduction and compensate the other partner in another way.
Be sure to keep accurate records showing what each contributed to mortgage payments and taxes, or the IRS may determine that the deceased partner was the sole owner, which places the entire tax burden on the survivor.
Unless you live in a marriage-equality state, you won’t have any legal guidelines to aid in separating your jointly held assets. If your partner defaults on a joint loan or fails to make payments on jointly owned property, you’ll be responsible for 100 percent of what is owed.
It’s important to draw up an estate plan that details how you want assets to be managed while you’re both alive and in case of death. Be sure to spell out in your will how your assets will be distributed. You will need two witnesses present when you "execute" (that is, sign) your will. Make sure they aren’t named in the will. Select a heterosexual where LGBT relationships aren’t recognized. Otherwise, a disgruntled relative may convince a probate court that the LGBT witness coerced you into naming your partner as the principal beneficiary.
There are advantages to sharing a last name. It creates an identity as a familial relationship. Anyone can change his or her name.
You may be able to get around DOMA by filing a federal tax return as head of a household and claiming an unemployed partner as a dependent. He or she must earn less than $3,700 in all income (for 2011); have received more than half of his or her support - food, shelter, medical expenses, etc. - from you; be a U.S., Mexican or Canadian citizen or resident alien; and not be claimed by anyone else as a dependent that year. Also thanks to DOMA, you can forget about getting a deceased partner’s Social Security benefits.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Posted: 25 Mar 2013 05:25 AM PDT
Opening yourself to what you are feeling is an important first step towards increasing your capacity for intimacy. Take a breath. Notice what you are feeling in the moment. Learn to recognize the sensations, including the bodily sensations, which accompany emotions.
Shallow breathing may indicate anxiety, for instance. In fact, psychotherapist Fritz Perls called anxiety “excitement without the breath.” The next step towards lowering the walls and increasing the intimacy in your life is to become more comfortable with sharing your feelings with others.
Take responsibility for what you are experiencing rather than attributing it to someone else. Keep it simple and direct. Remember that emotions don’t always have to be monumental things; sharing your feelings about a piece of music or a movie you’ve just seen with a friend can be a great way to gain more experience.
If you develop greater capacity to communicate your feelings with others, you’ll soon find that people do one of two things. Some folks will reciprocate and share their feelings. Others will not, and may even feel uncomfortable with your “opening up.” Don’t allow others’ responses to put you off-track.
People choose different levels of intimacy with one another. If your goal is to open up the walls and have more intimacy in your life, look for people who respond positively to your initiatives. These are the people who have the greatest potential for giving you what you are seeking.
Intimacy requires being genuine and sincere with people. Genuineness and sincerity require telling the truth. Learning to tell the truth about your experience can be challenging – especially if you’ve been raised with the belief that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” Small wonder that learning to speak truthfully about your feelings, experiences and desires takes practice for some of us.
Someone once said, “Sincerity is the most important thing in life. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made!” Beware of false intimacy. False intimacy can easily develop in online chat rooms, for instance. It seems you are having a heart-to-heart conversation with someone. Then you make plans to meet and they don’t show up, or they aren’t who they represented themselves to be. Or the chat-and-email connection is suddenly just dropped without explanation. These folks aren’t practicing intimacy. For them, relationships are simply a source of entertainment or diversion.
Party drugs also can lead to a false sense of intimacy. One of the things many men like about them is that it increases their sense of well-being, connection and affection. The problem is, drugs produce this out of a neurochemical reaction, not a relationship.
I’ve known men who despised one another and would do well to avoid each other who, under the influence of a party drug and a driving musical beat, resurrected unhealthy relationships that should have been left dead and buried. If you rely on party drugs to provide opportunities for experiencing intimacy, you are only fooling yourself.
With practice, experience and occasional coaching, we can learn to open our hearts and develop closer relationships. You have a right to healthy, affectionate closeness with others. Don’t let the fact that these don’t happen automatically talk you out of getting what you want.
John R. Ballew, M.S. an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. -www.bodymindsoul.org.