talk with andy - edition 4
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - talk with andy

As the resident therapist at the online LGBTQymru magazine, I'll be answering your questions on mental health and life. Here's my column from the fourth edition. You'll also find links to read the magazine in full below.

In response to COVID-19 lockdown, and in the absence of any other all-Wales on-line Pride events, LGBTQYMRU formed to bring about the first-ever Wales-Wide Virtual Pride. The team went on to establish Wales' first online magazine for the LGBTQ+ community. It's a completely bilingual publication available in Welsh and English.

You can subscribe to the free magazine by clicking here SUBSCRIBE. You can also read the fourth edition by clicking here READ NOW

If you'd like to submit any questions for the next edition email: magazine@LGBTQymru.wales

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - talk with andy

Research continues to show us that the LGBTQ+ community are most likely to experience body-image anxiety more than heterosexuals. How we perceive our bodies in relation to others is commonly reported to me during therapy, so you're not alone with this one Johnny.

Gay men in particular report the need to conform with what they see as the 'perfect' body. This generally means a gym toned physique - air-brushed and Instagram ready. Studies focused on gay and bisexual men have found a connection between higher levels of body dissatisfaction, and increased likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms and increased sexual anxiety, along with poorer sexual performance.

Beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and it's important that we celebrate them all. Having bulging muscles doesn't make a person more successful in life or relationships. Yes, it probably gets these guys noticed, though I know many people that aren't attracted to such a toned physique - beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Gay men since the beginning of time (I'm using my narrative license here), have obsessed with body beautiful. Whether it's the size of their muscles or the bulge in their Calvin Klein's, the need to be accepted is deep routed in shame. It's about fitting in, being part of the 'norm', being accepted.

I wonder if these 'beautiful, fit gay men' do get the most attention. Often what we end up seeing is what we focus more on. There's a phenomenon called Baader-Meinhof, which is a frequency bias. It's where we notice something, and then seemingly you become aware of the same thing all over the place! Take a closer look next time you're on the scene or swiping right - I'm certain you'll see other people with your body shape.

We are seeing a more diverse body shape celebrated in advertising, and social media is shifting too. How we view our bodies is sometimes through a lens of what we see around us. You don't have to change what you look like in order to fit in with a perceived homo societal-norm. No matter what body type you may have, there's always some other image to aspire to. Your anxiety can be aggravated by the comparisons you make with these guys - ultimately, it's your inner confidence that gets you seen. If losing weight, and toning up is for you, then go ahead and find a healthy route to achieve this. If it's about being accepted by others', it's worth questioning that decision. Body confidence isn't made in the gym, it starts with the mind.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - talk with andy

Open relationships and their success depends on mutual acceptance and trust. The way you communicate your thoughts and feelings is vital, and from your question Steph, you seem a little stuck with this.

Open relationships, also called non-monogamy, is a form of not being sexually exclusive with your partner, though it doesn't tend to involve romance or emotional attachment - please see Polyamory! Just because you're in an open relationship doesn't mean you can do whatever you please with whomever you please, unless that's previously agreed upon, of course.

In your question you talk about what you 'feel' rather than what you know. I wonder if you've sat down and talked through your thoughts and feelings with your partner, if you haven't, maybe consider doing this. By communicating openly you'll find out exactly what your partner is looking for, and you can be clear about your wishes too.

There are many ways to create a successful, loving and respectful relationship. We have been conditioned to believe that monogamy is the defining factor of 'serious relationships', just because society has told us so. Open relationships can be both loving and fulfilling, and can increase erotic charge in the primary relationship, which can encourage a deeper and more profound connection.

Though, open relationships don't work for everyone. If you are firm on wanting an emotional and sexually exclusive relationship, then it will be important to share this with your partner. Let them know how you feel, and express your thoughts on 'not being enough' for them.

Ultimately, communication, trust, and honesty is key for setting expectations. Through communicating you may discover that there are aspects of your sexual relationship that could be improved. Exploring each other's sexual wants and fantasies could bring you closer together, leading to your partner being content in an exclusive monogamous relationship.

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