The PARE model is a useful tool for clinicians who work with couples in mixed orientation marriages (one in which one of the spouses experiences same-sex attraction). After the disclosure of same-sex attraction, both spouses go through a variety of emotions and a time of learning to face their new understanding of reality. In the midst of this, many couples choose to divorce. However, for those couples who decide to remain together, Yarhouse and Kays (2010) describe a four-stage framework: Provide sexual identity therapy, Address “interpersonal trauma,” foster Resilience through marriage counseling, and Enhance sexual intimacy (PARE).
Sexual identity therapy walks alongside the individual who has same-sex attraction in a client-centered, identity-focused way in order to help them navigate their sexual identity conflicts. Though this portion of the PARE model is primarily focused on the sexual minority, there are psychoeducational portions of therapy that can also be beneficial for the spouse.
In the next stage of the PARE model, the focus is more on the spouse, as the couple addresses the potential “interpersonal trauma” (Gordon, Baucom, Snyder, Atkins, & Christensen, 2006) of the discovery that one’s spouse is attracted to the same sex (and whether there has been any sexual behavior outside of the marriage). This work often parallels the therapy that is offered to the same-sex attracted spouse. This stage involves three phases, in which the spouse realizes the effect the disclosure/discovery of same-sex sexuality (and/or sexual behavior outside of marriage) has had on him/her and their relationship (impact), the spouse seeks to make meaning of the offense and regain a sense of control so he/she can move on (search for meaning), and then the spouse uses their new understanding of the situation to move past the hurt and consider how to proceed in the relationship based on their new understanding (recovery).
After there has been a time of focus on the issues that each of the individuals in the mixed orientation marriage may face, the couples who decide to continue together are taught how to foster resilience in their marriage. Therapy at this stage focuses on supporting frequent and honest communication, strengthening the couple’s emotional bond, and demonstrating role flexibility.
In the spirit of helping couples grow in their commitment to one another, it is can be helpful to enhance their sexual intimacy. The couple is developing their own unique relationship that is unlike any other couple’s relationship. They can work through some of the concerns they might have about intimacy in light of one partner being attracted to the same sex. It is important for the couple to understand this and to be willing to pour into their relationship with the intention of creating something beautiful between them as a couple.
Gordon, K. C., Baucom, D. H., Snyder, D. K., Atkins, D. C., & Christensen, A., (2006). Treating affair couples: Clinical considerations and initial findings, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 20, 375-392.
Yarhouse, M. A., & Kays, J. L. (2010). The PARE model: A framework for working with mixed orientation couples. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 29(1), 77-81.