Premarital Counseling for Same-Sex Couples

By: Allen Bencomo, Humanist Master Celebrant

Chief Contributing Editor - Officiants

INCLUSIVE: the magazine

Premarital counseling can be effective for same-sex couples if it is tailored to meet their unique needs and concerns. Same-sex couples face a variety of challenges that differ from those experienced by opposite-sex couples.

It is important for same-sex couples seeking premarital counseling to find a counselor who is trained and competent in working with LGBTQ+ individuals and couples. This can help ensure that the specific challenges and issues faced by the same-sex couple are addressed in the counseling sessions. A counselor who has heterosexist biases are more likely to miss some of the same-sex subtleties.

Some of the challenges that may be unique to same-sex couples include:

1.  Coming out: Same-sex couples may have to navigate the process of coming out to family, friends, and society. This can be a stressful and emotional experience and may require support and guidance from a counselor.

Here are some different levels of "outness" that an LGBTQ couple may adopt:

§  Completely closeted: In this scenario, the couple keeps their relationship and sexual orientation, or gender identity completely hidden from others. They may fear rejection, discrimination, or harm if they were to disclose their identities to others.

§ Partially out: In this scenario, the couple may be open about their relationship to certain people or in certain contexts, but keep it hidden from others. They may have concerns about the potential negative consequences of being fully "out" in all aspects of their lives.

§  Completely out: In this scenario, the couple is open about their relationship and identities to all people in all aspects of their lives. They may feel that being completely "out" is important for their own sense of authenticity and to help increase visibility and representation for the LGBTQ+ community.

§  Selectively out: In this scenario, the couple may choose to be open about their relationship and identities in some contexts, but not in others. For example, they may choose to be "out" in their personal lives, but not at work or in other professional contexts.

2.   Discrimination and stigma: Same-sex couples may face discrimination and stigma from society, which can impact their mental health and well-being. A counselor who is sensitive to these issues can help same-sex couples cope with these challenges.

3.    Legal issues: Same-sex marriage has only recently become legal in many parts of the world, and there may be legal issues that same-sex couples need to navigate. A counselor who is knowledgeable about these issues can provide guidance and support.

4.   Cultural differences: Same-sex couples may come from different cultural backgrounds, which can lead to differences in expectations and values. A counselor who is aware of these differences can help same-sex couples navigate them.

5.    Relationship dynamics: Same-sex couples may have different relationship dynamics compared to heterosexual couples. For example, they may have different gender roles or communication styles. A counselor who is aware of these differences can help same-sex couples navigate them and build a strong relationship.

Effective premarital counseling for same-sex couples should address these specific issues, as well as any other concerns that may be relevant to their relationship. For example, the counselor may explore how each partner's family has responded to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and how they plan to handle potential conflicts related to this.

Additionally, the counselor may help the couple establish healthy communication patterns, manage expectations around roles and responsibilities within the relationship, and work through any lingering traumas or insecurities related to their identity.

By addressing these specific needs and concerns, premarital counseling can help same-sex couples build stronger, more resilient relationships that are better equipped to handle the challenges they may face and help them set a strong foundation for a successful marriage.

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