GAY & BISEXUAL MEN - Relationships
There are no hard and fast rules about what a healthy relationship must look like. All different types of relationship can be healthy, fun, intimate and pleasurable. Whether it is friendship or romantic sometimes the problem isn't knowing when a relationship is healthy, but when it's unhealthy.
What are the qualities of a healthy relationship?
Some of the qualities a healthy relationship can be built on are:
- Equality - Do you both want to be in the relationship? Do you feel pressurised or forced into things you don't want to do?
- Respect - Do you feel like equals? Does your partner value your feelings and opinions?
- Trust - Do you trust each other? Do you feel safe with each other?
Relationships can be healthy irrespective of the type if they are built on the qualities above. Some gay and bisexual men have relationships that wider society may not recognise as typical. However, the same variety of relationships exists between gay and bisexual men as exist between anyone else. The uniqueness of a relationship can be what makes it exciting, special and intimate but can sometimes be what makes it difficult to maintain.
When it comes to relationships and sex being able to negotiate with others about our needs is important. We may need to negotiate about the type of sex we want, the sexual role we prefer, whether or not to use condoms, the rules for relationships, taking alcohol or using other substances.
What is an unhealthy relationship?
An unhealthy relationship is one where trust, respect and equality has broken down. It can also be when someone is controlling or abusive (verbal, emotional, physical or sexual) to another person in the relationship. Whatever the type, abuse is always wrong.
What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship?
Some of the signs of an unhealthy relationship can be:
- Abuse - Does your partner call you names to humiliate or put you down? Does your partner physically hurt you? Do they force you to have sex you don't want to have?
- Poor communication - Is it difficult to discuss problems or issues you are not happy with in the relationship? Do they keep secrets from you?
- Manipulation - Are they controlling? Do they force you to have sex in a way you are not comfortable with? (E.g. without condoms or group sex you don't want to have)
- Isolation - Do they try and stop you from seeing your friends or meeting up with people without them? Do they want to monitor your text messages or emails?
Sometimes people can miss the signs of an unhealthy relationship or believe that they deserve the treatment they get from a partner. But abuse is always wrong. Some gay and bisexual men can feel they have additional barriers to seeking help when they are in an unhealthy relationship due to their sexuality.
What barriers can gay and bisexual men have to seeking help?
The additional barriers gay and bisexual men can have to seeking help can include:
- Coming out - You may not be out to your family or wider circle of friends. This can sometimes stop men as they can fear the repercussions of seeking help when nobody knows they are gay or bisexual.
- Not being taken seriously - You might fear that if you report abuse you won't be taken seriously as the perpetrator is also a man, or that services won't deal with it as confidently as they would within a heterosexual relationship.
- Embarrassment - You might feel ashamed that you've experienced abuse or are in an unhealthy relationship and feel unable to do anything about it.
If you need someone to talk to about your relationship your local sexual health service is a good place to start. They can also put you in touch with local agencies that can help you build the skills and confidence to maintain the healthy relationships you want and enjoy.
Content reproduced/adapted with permission from Steve Retson Project, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde