Copyright 2014 Roberta Gallagher
Over the years I have worked with many gay and lesbian couples. I was of the opinion that there were no differences in a same sex relationship than in an opposite sex relationship. You live and learn.
Rather than academically research what the experts were saying I thought I would ask some men what they saw as differences and similarities.
“I don’t think there are any unique barriers to having a happy and healthy gay relationship compared to straight if both parties want it and work at it. I think a gay couple can just as easily have a relationship filled with trust, kindness, generosity and good communication, intimacy etc. if both parties fully participate”.
All interviewed were passionate that: communication – communication – communication is the primary similarity. Being clear on the “Rules and Roles” was another strong element of success or failure for them.
The struggles growing up in a hostile society create baggage. There is an element of mistrust that comes from being a reflection of a culture that hates you and somehow internalizing this so that it becomes self hatred. As Groucho Marx said “Who would want to be a member of a club that has me as a member”?
The common wisdom is that we have to love ourselves in order to love our partners. This is a dilemma.
There are unique, significant barriers and temptations that can shorten the longevity of gay relationships compared to straight.
There are no strong support networks to assist in surviving difficult periods. This is a time of building support networks and surrounding yourself with other couples who wish to stay in a lifetime relationship. It is a time of developing models for young gay couples to follow.
These men thought that marriage, and especially children, can keep people together during difficult periods. In reviewing the research I see that this is a myth that is destructive of gay relationships. It is commitment alone that keeps straight people together.
It may be that gay cultural norms are not as supportive of “sticking it out” because of the short time that they have been acceptable. If we examine the push for Gay Marriage among gay men we can see that the desire for conventional coupling seems innate.
“We don’t have long term gay-relationship role models due to the closet and AIDS. We are the first generation to be visibly out and in long-term relationship. There is no expectation that we stay in 40-60 yr relationships because it has rarely ever happened. Sadly, they lied and died. (I have met two 40+ yr gay couples, in my lifetime but it is like sighting a rare exotic bird. It’s not expected”) .
This is a learning curve for gay couples. There will be mistakes and experimentation to arrive at a dynamic model that will rest upon personal development.
7 Suggestions as Gay Couples Seek Their Path
1. To Do or Not To Do?
Do we do others? If we both decide to have an “Open” relationship then we must respect the boundaries and agreements we have made. Check in regularly to make sure you are still both following the same rules.
2. Co-dependent or interdependent?
It is important to find balance between togetherness and separateness. Beware if you get with someone who wants you to be the center of their life. They will suck the life out of you. It’s flattering at first and then becomes a burden.
3. Speak specifically not abstractly
Listen and learn. Check out if what you said is what your guy heard.
4. Be honest with yourself
If what you are looking for is primarily stability don’t expect Mr Excitement. They usually don’t live in the same person.
5. Living together
If you want a serious committed relationship, living together is important. If you can’t live with your man look at how intimacy (not sex) is present in the rest of your life. You might have a risk/trust issue. Just saying.
6. Be fully honest about your idiosyncracies.
If you are a neat freak let him know before you move in.
7. Money talks
Come up with a way to manage money that is spelled out. Many times one guy has more means than the other. Think about a “ratio” system.
Relationships are trial and error. Give yourself a break and try to lighten up while remaining open to new ways of doing things. Be affectionate and playful and always let him know he turns you on.