So what makes a healthy and lasting long-term gay relationship successful? Our society certainly doesn't make it easy for us as gay men to date and mate with all the homophobia and discrimination that exists. Though this is slowly starting to change in many parts of the world, man-to-man love continues to be stigmatized and this backdrop of cultural oppression and hatred can put a strain on a gay couple's budding relationship that many heterosexual pairs may take for granted.
As a gay community, we lack adequate and visible positive role models of gay couples that provide hope for lasting relationship success. As men, we've been conditioned to define our masculinity in rigid and narrow ways as part of the socialization process growing up and this can create conflict when pairing up two individuals of the same gender looking for intimacy and emotional connection.
And then we have our own layers of discrimination and pressure in our own gay community that at times can leave gay couples feeling unsupported and uninspired to achieve relationship longevity in the one place they thought they'd be safe-among their own.
While the odds do seem to be stacked against us in the fight for the dream of claiming our rightful husband with the accompanying house, white picket fence, and prideful rainbow flag securely attached to the front porch, they don't have to be obstacles to our success. Having to face so much adversity has actually enabled many of us to be quite resilient in the face of stress and makes us good candidates for partnerships with the right focus and determination.
There are many gay men in long-term relationships who can vouch for their fulfillment of this dream and speak of happiness and bliss in their coupled status. But what are the ingredients that make a healthy gay relationship?
Characteristics of Successful Gay Couples
There is no specific blueprint or formula for how to maintain a lasting and successful relationship. One of the beauties of being gay is that we can create our own definitions of what constitutes an ideal relationship for ourselves as we are not hampered down by restrictive gender roles and norms like our heterosexual counterparts.
Each couple develops their own unique partnership that works for them. That being said, there are some universal qualities that can promote a more solid and functional relationship over the long haul for partners seeking long-term connection and happiness.
Successful gay couples can exhibit some of the following...
It's important that partners have similar interests and hobbies to share in common to build experiences with together, but it's also essential to have some differences as well to complement each other. This helps to keep the mystery and intrigue alive in the relationship that exists with contrast. Who wants to have an exact replica of themselves that they interact with on a daily basis?!
Boring! What is absolutely critical, however, is that both partners will have a smoother and more fulfilling relationship if they share comparable value systems. This forms the foundation of what the couple believes in and is the diving board from which they co-create a vision for their future together as a united front and alliance for life.
This involves direct and honest dialogue about the mundane aspects of life to the serious thoughts and feelings that get triggered as a part of relationship dynamics. The partners create a climate in their home where each feels safe and comfortable sharing vulnerable aspects of themselves with each other and are attuned to each other's needs. Listening skills are primed and each feels like an active participant in the relationship. Issues are not swept under the rug and are dealt with immediately in an assertive and caring way.
Healthy gay couples recognize that conflict is an inevitable and normal part of a relationship, seeing these "rough spots" as opportunities for growth and positive change in their partnership. They deal with their anger in constructive ways, avoid hurtful comments and assigning of blame, and take the time to understand and validate each other's points of views before initiating collaborative problem-solving to try and reach a win/win solution. They are open to compromise and sacrifice and always keep a teamwork stance in negotiating their differences.
4. They have a balanced lifestyle comprised of both individual and couple identities.
In relationships it's important to have time devoted to nourishing the relationship and also to focus on individual interests and pursuits. Too much "couple identity" causes both partners to feel suffocated. Too much "individual identity" creates a feeling of being disconnected and living as roommates. Striking a positive balance of both brings in just enough freshness and vitality to the relationship where boundaries are strong and healthy. Each partner feels supported by the other for striving for their own personal growth and goals without feeling threatened because the relationship vision is also being attended to simultaneously.
Life can be stressful, so why add to the tension with a hardened demeanor? Successful couples are those that are playful with each other, enjoy a humorous banter between the two of them, and feel energized by such things as tickling, cracking jokes, pulling pranks on each other, and being perverted with each other. All things are done in a loving way and this approach to their interactivity creates an atmosphere of laughter and celebration for being in each other's lives.
( PART TWO - TOMORROW )
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
The suggestions and feedback offered in this column are but one perspective of multiple approaches to dealing with problems or challenges. Information provided in articles and advice columns should not be used as a substitute for coaching or therapy when these services are needed. None of this information should be your only source when making important life decisions. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a particular problem, nor should it take the place of a consultation with a trained professional. It is your responsibility to consult a professional prior to making any life decisions.
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc. http://thegaylovecoach.com