Mailbag is an occasional Q&A of your inquiries regarding faith, sexuality, and relationship from an LGBT perspective. We aren't theologians or counselors, but we're walking the same path as many of you and will do our best to answer the questions you have. You can submit your own question here.
Hey Dave and Tino,
I will keep this question short. Apart from the obvious reality of trusting a partner to remain faithful and have integrity in a relationship—how does a gay couple navigate the pitfalls and issues of jealousy or envy or even unfounded suspicion when one partner has a close gay friend where there may be room for temptation?
I struggle in my current relationship with my partner who, in the course of our relationship, has begun a new friendship and become very close to a gay guy. I have been open about my concerns and worries. And he is very understanding and simply asks me to trust him. I know even if my emotions aren't mature or correct they are still present. How do I overcome this? Thoughts?
Thanks for writing! Your question is one that all kinds of couples face—it’s not that different from a straight person developing a friendship with a member of the opposite sex. The simple answer is that you need to be able to trust your partner when he tells you his new friend is not a threat to you. As Elvis Presley put it, you “can't go on together with suspicious minds, and [you] can't build [your] dreams on suspicious minds.” But reality is never simple, is it?
Trust presents something of a catch-22. On the one hand, it is the foundation of every good relationship, but on the other, it takes a long time to build. Trust grows and gets strengthened as it gets tested over time: I trust David more today than I did when we got married, but not as much as I hope to trust him 30 years from now.
Trust is the belief that your spouse or partner has your best interest at heart. Trusting someone means you’re confident that they will be there for you when you need them and that they will side with you when in conflict with others—that they will always choose you over others. That confidence isn’t something you can force or will into existence; confidence needs backing. So the question is, how do you get that backing?
Think of trust as something you’re building every day. Every conversation, every act of service you perform for each other, even every conflict that arises, is an opportunity to either add to or chip away at your trust. Confidence that your partner won’t let you down grows as you become attuned to each other.
Trust grows as you come to know each other better than anyone else; it grows as you turn toward each other when you make bids for each other’s attention; it grows as you show each other empathy and understanding. Trust gets broken when you turn away from each other, when you become defensive, when you begin to sense that you don’t know each other deeply and intimately.
New friendships with people whom your partner might find attractive will only pose a threat to your relationship if you haven’t done the work to build each other’s trust. I don’t know how long you and your partner have been together, but the situation you’re facing now is actually a good opportunity to strengthen your confidence in each other. It’s an opportunity for him to show that you come first for him, and it’s an opportunity for you to talk about why you might be feeling jealous—or, if this is the case, about how your jealousy might produce negative feelings in him. This is a chance for you to talk about past experiences and your past hurts, getting to know each other better, and growing in your understanding of the source of each other’s feelings: Have you been betrayed in the past? Have emotions been used to hurt him or force him into doing things he didn’t want to do?
Your partner has a responsibility in this, of course. To help build trust, he must be willing to talk through the issue and listen to you. He needs to also be intentional about connecting with you to help dispel your fears. A good way of doing that might be for him to purposefully seek you out and connect with you before and after hanging out with his friend, doing things that make you feel loved. Even if the jealousy is unwarranted, we all have a responsibility to help tend to our loved one’s “crazy”—at least to a degree.
I know this all sounds like a lot of work for both of you. It is. But it is worth it, as long as you both are willing to put in the time and effort. Best of luck to you!
Photo used with permission through Flickr Creative Commons.
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