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CHECK Berlin #1

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  • Corona
  • Berlin
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EN PSYCHOLOGY The

EN PSYCHOLOGY The Push-Pull- Pattern Corona as a chance to reflect on our relationships The COVID-19 crisis forces many of us to stay inside. But do we also look inside? Andrew G. Marshall counsels gay and straight couples both in Berlin and London. We asked him to help us dig a little deeper. What does this period of isolation do to us in terms of our relationships? This whole crisis has shown up the huge differences between the people who are in relationships and the people who aren’t. There’s a difference between socially isolating with somebody else that you can snuggle up in bed to, stroke, touch and kiss, and being alone. Berlin has a very relaxed, open community, where everybody hugs their friends. So here, you’re getting a lot of basic social and physical contact even if you’re not in a relationship. This makes you feel really grounded in a part of a community. Suddenly you lose all that, because while you can see your friends, it’s all from a distance. If you’re not actually in a relationship, you’ve lost most of that touch. Gay men, in some sense, are lucky that they can normally get it any time that they want; they can go to the sauna or they can go on the apps and can, more or less, get sex any time of the day or night that they want. Now suddenly you can’t and that’s a huge gap. This brings up a lot of deeper feelings that have never really been addressed. What kind of feelings? For example, there are attachment issues. Our first attachment is with our mother, and there are some mothers that hug their children, bounce them up and down on their knees and help them cope with difficult things. Small children can’t regulate their feelings themselves. So a mother can provide a feeling of safety and security. If you haven’t had that, or had unpredictable nurturing, you’re likely to have very on-off relationships. Because on one hand, you want intimacy terribly, and on the other hand, it can be overwhelming when you get it, and frightening , if you think it’s gong to be taken away. Intimacy has many different layers. There’s a big difference between going to someone’s house and sucking their cock and making love to the whole person. On a surface level, cock-sucking is very effective way to get close. There are no emotional risks, but it’s impossible to be truly close to someone without taking a risk. It‘s all part of the strategies we’ve developed to create intimacy. In a manageable way that we can order up and have it without facing any of the complexities. And those strategies, to some extent, have now fallen apart. So people are having to take a look at some of that painful material underneath. People who have long term ambivalence about relationships on one hand desperately want a relationship but on the other hand never seem to be able to have one. Ask yourself: Why is that I both 36 CHECK | AUSGABE 1

EN desire relationships and find that I can’t have them? Or I want a relationship but the people who I choose are unavailable; people who live in another city or who refuse to call the fact we’re in a relationship a relationship. How do you suggest we approach these things? How do we open this box? First you need to see your patterns. Oftentimes, there’s a push-pull. You date people who push you away or who are simply not available. For example you decide you want someone 20 years younger than you who is not available and will forever be pushing you away. Then you say, “Well, I’ve had enough of this,” and have a relationship with somebody who really wants a relationship. But they don’t just want to stay for coffee, but for lunch and then dinner, and suddenly you can’t get bloody rid of them. Now you become the one doing the pushing away. It’s what we call push-pull pattern: switching back and forth between pushing and pulling. You think it’s about the people you date. They are either idiots or really clingy. But, you need to think, what is the common denominator in all these relationships? – “OOPS! It’s actually me!” This is often rather difficult for people to see and particularly challenging if everybody else in your circle is managing their intimacy needs through cheap sex. So you really need to look for the patterns and actually see that swapping roles is still playing the same “game“. What does this journey of self-discovery look like? You need to be brave enough to actually look deeper. You can talk to your friends, write in your journal or speak with a therapist. And you need to look at your own mother and father and their legacy in the way that you react to people. You’re not going crazy, you’re repeating history. There’s nothing wrong with you. This cock-sucking behavior is actually one way to deal with sexual intimacy. It’s rather a clever way of managing the problem, but that’s the problem – it only manages the issue, rather than actually dealing with it. Can you tell us a bit more about how you work with parental dynamics? I run a workshop called “Facing the Father Wound”. It starts out just asking for a person’s name and what they are hoping to get out of the experience. But I don’t even get around the circle before everyone is already in tears. This material is so strong. Our relationships with our mothers are even more complicated. Gay men spend a lot of time trying to please our mothers because we feel rejected by our fathers. And our mothers often intuitively understand this. So, the knot between mothers and gay sons is often even more twisted than for a heterosexual man. What happens if you don’t break the push-pull pattern? Nothing changes. And you run the risk of becoming the thing everyone is fearing – a bitter old queen. We surely don’t want that. Thank you, Andrew. My pleasure. (ts) www.couplestherapy.berlin CHECK | AUSGABE 1 37

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