By Adam D. Blum, MFT, Gay Therapy Center Founder and Director
The experience of discovering that your partner or husband is secretly hooking up on a social media site like Manhunt, Grindr, Adam 4 Adam, or Daddyhunt can be a very painful, and increasingly common, experience. The issue comes up regularly in my counseling and coaching practice.
Discovering that your partner is looking at a gay social media site does not necessarily mean he is hooking up without telling you. A recent research study on the use of Grindr in Southern California found that 84% of users are on the site to "kill time", 78% are there to make new friends, and 65% use it to connect to the gay community. Sixty-five percent have used it to facilitate a hook up.
However, if you do find your partner is using the site to hook-up and you are hurt by this information, here are some tips that may help you navigate these waters:
Hurting You? Not OK
If you feel pain then the issue, by definition, is very important for you and for your partner. Frequently I hear "I shouldn't get upset because this is a part of gay culture." There is no aspect of gay culture that supports hurting someone you love. It is the responsibility of everyone in a relationship to try to avoid damaging their loved one, and when they do injure that person, to make amends.
Lying is Violence
For many people, the experience of being lied to about hook-ups is more painful than the actual event itself. Being lied to by the person you love is an act of violence to the soul. The foundation of any authentic connection between partners is trust. The loss of trust needs be processed or it will remain a part of the relationship, eroding the closeness in ways you may not even be aware. Acknowledging the impact of lies is one way to validate what you are going through.
Can You Cultivate Curiosity?
When you get the courage to discuss the issue (and yes, you will need to discuss this eventually), the conversation will go much better if you can cultivate a spirit of curiosity rather than blame. We all shut down and get defensive when we feel blamed. Consider delaying the discussion until you can approach it with a calm curiosity about the role of hook-ups in your partner's life. You might be surprised to find out that what you thought was just your partner's desire for new sexual experiences is actually a lot more complicated than that.
Your Story is Compelling
When you do talk about the issue, try to stay focused on your experience rather than his actions. Bravely share the moments of tears, anger, insecurity, or shattered self-esteem. Your act of vulnerability and it is always vulnerable to share our more tender feelings is more likely to engage his empathy and inspire him to engage in conversation. Most of us are quite interested in the stories of others that's why soap operas and novels are so popular but none of us are interested in being shamed.
All pain is easier to endure with support. If you have a friend who can hold you and your partner with compassion (this is very rare), you might want to access their care. You can also consider enlisting a Relationship Coach to help guide and support you through this. (Full disclosure: I am a Relationship Coach).
The Good News
Ultimately the crisis can be good for the relationship because it leads couples to talk about the very important issues of sex, honesty, and hurt feelings. These are topics that are frequently avoided in many relationships, often at great peril to intimacy. If you go into these places with your partner, rather than away from them, you are guaranteed to grow.
For more information about how we help LGBT individuals and couples please visit our website at www.gaytherapycenter.com. We offer services in our San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles offices or by Skype or phone worldwide.