From an historical and humanistic perspective, I am delighted in the latest Supreme Court rulings in favor of marriage equality and that the number of States supporting this equality are increasing, thus furthering civil rights for the LBGT community. This opens more doors for those who determine to marry, endowing them with the same rights and benefits as heterosexuals. From my experience as a therapist who has been in practice for over 25 years and provided individual and couple therapy to both gay and straight adults aging 18 through 80, it is remarkable that an 18 year-old lesbian, for example, has support of her parents and can love her girlfriend safely and openly. In the past, gay teenagers in love, were at risk for much more conflict, stigmatization, and consequent depression and anxiety affecting their self-esteem. (Not that it isn’t hard enough to love and have relationships in adolescence!) I have also noticed that some of my gay and lesbian clients in their 20’s and 30’s, are experiencing more peer pressure to marry before they are 35, and for lesbians, to have babies. This pressure used to be more prevalent among straight adults.

Thus, clients who have not achieved this may come to my office with concerns about their desirability and capacities to connect with the “right” partner. They may ask, “What’s wrong with me?” or “What am I doing wrong?” In addition, those couples that are considering marriage enter therapy to work on conflicts as part of pre-marital treatment to strengthen their bond and work through “snags” as well as make certain their problems are resolvable before tying the knot. Homophobia and internalized homophobia remain factors that straight couples do not have to contend with, and may underlie some of the problems same-sexed couples still face. It is hard to feel proud if one feels afraid and stigmatized given the persistent discrimination and continued violence against the LBGT community nationally and globally. On another level, divorce and child custody battles have become more prominent given the fact that more gays and lesbians are getting married and having children.

In short, the problems inherent to living life fully and authentically—loving deeply, choosing to marry or not, deciding to have children or not—are fortunately paths that are increasingly expanding legally for the LBGT community, equipped with the challenges and rewards such life choices entail for all of us.

Gwenn A. Nusbaum, LCSW, BCD, CGP

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