"There is a world of difference between wanting a relationship and being ready for a relationship. Perhaps everyone at one time or another wants to be in a meaningful relationship wants to give love and feel love returned, to know that they are important, of worth, to at least one other human being on the planet; to know that they matter. But readiness implies something more. Readiness requires a healthy dose both of awareness and ... courage ... It requires a commitment to engage in self-examination with rigorous honesty. Readiness implies that a person understand that he or she is a work in progress with strengths and weaknesses, and that any healthy relationship requires the courage and patience to lovingly embrace the ongoing process that is another human being."

The above is an extract from The Power Of A Partner a book by Dr. Richard Pimental-Habib Ph.D. a psychotherapist in private practice in California. A member of the American Psychological Association and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists he focuses on how you can best create and maintain a healthy gay relationship.

Having addressed issues of self-esteem and emotional well-being in the gay community in his previous book Empowering the Tribe, he provides a blueprint for forming and cultivating meaningful and long-lasting relationships. Using real-life relationships as examples he illustrates the importance and value of healthy relationships with family, friends and lovers. OutUK's Mike Gray has been talking to him.

Power Of A Partner
The Power of a Partner is available now from Amazon at 11.99
OutUK: In your experience what is the most common problem facing two men who want to create and enjoy a gay relationship?
Richard: I think because we don't tend to have the level of societal support for our relationships, or whole-hearted political or legal support, and a lot of times we don't even have family support, I think that we often run into self-esteem and intimacy problems. We don't always have the tools to solve problems because we haven't been taught the tools necessary to have healthy ongoing or satisfying gay relationships. So we're often left in a bit of a quandary as to how to proceed and what's healthy and what isn't, what's good for our self esteem and what isn't. We don't have so many role models and we don't have all the support that the straight world has.

OutUK: But many heterosexual relationships and marriages end up on the rocks too...
Richard: I think the biggest difference is that straight people at least have the bosom of their family to support them. Heterosexual relationships, they flounder too of course. We don't have a monopoly on floundering in a relationship and straight people aren't doing a whole lot better, but they do generally have more support when things don't go well. They have their family to turn back on a lot of the time. They also have a higher level of social acceptance and while they're married they're still enjoying a higher level of legal benefits too.

OutUK: In your book you say you prefer monogamy.
Richard: I think that's an ideal for me. I don't know that it's the right fit for everybody. I think the point is that whatever a couple's ideal is, it should be honoured and supported and encouraged. Certainly monogamy is not for everyone. Whatever kind of relationship people desire, there's a way for that to be happy and healthy, and that's good for everyone's self-esteem.

OutUK: What difficulties are the most common within a gay relationship?
Richard: I think there's a few. One is communication ... how to fight fairly, how to communicate through the rough spots, how to foster self-esteem in your partner whether the relationship is going well or not, how to make love last and keep the relationship going if that's what the two partners choose to do. Generally how to keep going and have a support system that encourages that.

OutUK: You talk a lot about self-esteem. I would have thought as gay relationships are becoming far more acceptable if not totally accepted, self-esteem isn't such a big problem as it was.
Richard: I like to think that it's improving. I suppose when people come to my office I'm probably seeing a skewed cross-section because they're coming to my office because of a problem. By and large I have to say that self-esteem is still a big issue I think. My first book was Empowering The Tribe which was about building self-esteem. I wrote it because I really do still think that its a problem, In bigger cities it might be less of a problem, among supportive and family network systems, but there's a whole lot of gay people that aren't living in big cities where there are plenty of other gay people around to make you feel good about yourself. We internalise this message that somehow we're not good enough when you don't have a support network.

OutUK: You say in the book that you find meditation can be helpful.
Richard: I'm a big fan of meditation and feel that it's a really terrific tool for getting in touch with what I call the true self and the true self is that inner core of who we are, when we're not putting on masks and we're not living in fear. It's the real inner spirit that each of has inside. I think meditation can help us reach that inner place of truth. I'm a real fan of meditation. I don't use it with very many clients but when clients do want to be helped I'm very happy to oblige because I think it's very helpful. Meditation is sort of like chicken soup - we're not sure exactly how it works but it always feel good.

Power Of A Partner is published by Alyson Books and is available from Amazon.

Adrian Gillan interviews two UK psychotherapists


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