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
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
Adrian Gillan interviews two UK psychotherapists