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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    How do you handle a partner who is struggling with their identity or sexuality?

    We all have moments of identity confusion or shifts in our sexual orientations and attractions. But for some, these experiences can become more than passing states of being - they can become long-lasting, intense struggles that negatively affect their lives. If you are in a relationship with someone struggling with their sexuality or identity, it’s important to show your support and understanding so that they don’t feel alone.

    Firstly, it’s essential to accept and recognize the struggles your partner is going through. No one should ever be ashamed of their feelings or desires, regardless of social mores or conventions. Acknowledge that your partner’s emotions are valid - try not to laugh off their reservations or tell them snap out of it; this only serves to belittle what they are feeling. Even if you don’t agree with them, it’s essential to honor their right to make decisions about their identity.

    Helpful communication is also essential. The back and forth exchange of ideas and feelings can help create more open dialogues between partners, often leading to a better understanding of each other’s needs. Ask your partner how you can best support them and which outlets might help, whether it’s reading material, attending lectures or therapy. Showing an interest in their issues and having faith in their ability to manage them will help them feel less isolated.

    Sometimes conversations about sensitive topics, such as one’s sexuality or identity, may not seem comfortable or safe. Make sure your partner knows that emotions should not be held back; it’s important to express them in some way. Talking about how your partner feels can be extremely therapeutic and it helps let your partner know that you are there for them. If talking about it face-to-face appears too difficult, perhaps text messages or emails could be exchanged instead.

    The amount of support your partner needs may vary over time. Some days they might need extra encouragement while on others they won’t feel the need to talk about it. It’s important that you adjust accordingly and without judgement. Eventually, they will find the confidence they need to navigate their identity and sexuality, sometimes on their own, other times in collaboration with a support system.

    In addition, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself too. The stress of helping someone else can often take its toll on the supportive partner too. It’s perfectly acceptable and understandable for you to take breaks in order to process and stabilise. Tasks like going for a walk or taking up a hobby can be a great way to regain balance and energy. It’s important to remember that accepting your partner’s struggles does not mean sacrificing your own health or happiness.

    Living with someone who is confused about their identity or sexuality can be a tough experience, but it doesn’t need to be an isolating one. With encouragement, love, acceptance and understanding from partners, journeys to self-understanding can become much more manageable and easier to manage. As always, communication, patience and kindness are essential in any relationship, but particularly those that involve searching for identity or navigating sexuality concerns. No matter what, loving your partner through such experiences can help them feel supported, appreciated, and most importantly, respected.

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