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Did your innocent friendship with the opposite sex turn sexual after a few drinks? Or did this one-night sex hook-up happen when you were feeling at your lowest and in need of comfort?
Many gay couples face this struggle with the "one time mistake" of infidelity hitting the relationship at full speed, but some also have the added challenge of the sex being with someone of the opposite sex. This double whammy not only makes the bond even more insecure and difficult to trust, but everything down to your sexuality is now in question.
Everything is in question … and you can’t go back and press the delete button.
Your partner may respond in complete anger with threats of breaking up and then quickly change to tears, wanting your comfort, within seconds. This emotional rollercoaster and the thousand question blasts from your partner may feel terrible and seem as if there is no end in sight.
Hang tight. It doesn’t have to be like this forever, but keep in mind that it will be like this for now.
Understand that simply because the tragic storm is occuring right now, it doesn’t mean that you won’t make it through to sunlight again.
Here are a few things you can do to rebuild with your partner and show them your true colors:
1. Avoid "the Scene." The party scene can be fun for many people, but right now your job is to create a sense of safety in the relationship. The scene can be filled with the bad influences and lots of substance. If alcohol played a part of the hook-ups, stay away from the booze. Show your partner that he/she is more important than a glass of alcohol or going out to the bars.
2. Teach them about your sexuality. Your partner is now questioning everything; they are confused and trying to make sense of your sexuality, but all they see is this sexual time you had with the opposite. They have no idea. The lingering "double threat" of you cheating and you cheating with the opposite sex, leaves your partner confused and having no clue how to make sense of it. You know your sexuality and how you define it, but your partner has NO CLUE. All they can put their finger on is the past. Don’t just simply say, "I am gay;" expand in depth, step by step. Be an open book about this double hit in the relationship. If you were feeling lonely or not wanted, tell your partner exactly that. Avoid the "I don’t know" statements. This will only leave your partner even more clueless.
3. ACT! Words won’t work. Behaviors will have a stronger message than words. Sad to say, but words don’t have value after an affair. Your actions will make all things matter. If you say that you only have eyes for your partner, but you don't pursue physical affection, aren't very sexual with him/her, or don’t expose your heart verbally to him/her, then your behaviors may be sending a conflicting message. Don’t let your partner jump to conclusions; avoid appearing distant, lacking emotions, or sexually turned to "off."
4. Fill in the blanks. If you feel flooded with endless questions, don’t react by slinking away quietly, bottling up emotions, leaving the room, or becoming defensive. This will only leave them with unexplained blank gaps … and they will most likely fill those gaps with worst case scenarios. Take the "open book" policy and share every little thought.
5. Pick and choose wisely. Everyone is now a threat to your partner. Avoid spending time with the red-flag Friends, the bad influence friends, or anyone your partner feels worried about. For now, your job is to reassure that your relationship is safe.
6. Safety, safety, safety. The affair is similar to touching a stove. At first, it was never hot and always safe to touch, but suddenly it was burning hot. It took time to heal from and the scar remains. Your partner needs to learn that the stove will never get hot again. Reassure your partner and show that you are safe with all of your actions. Understand how challenging it now is for your partner to get close to someone that also created pain.
Jennine Estes is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with a private practice in Mission Valley. She has appeared as a Relationship Expert in Redbook Magazine, Martha Stewart Publications – Whole Living Magazine, Social Work Today Magazine, Glamour.com, San Diego local news stations, and more. To learn more relationship advice from the author Jennine Estes MFC#47653, visit her relationship column Relationships in the Raw or her San Diego Couples Therapy website.