Central PA's LGBT News Source
By Dr. Terry Drew Kaaren
Have you noticed how complicated relationships can be? The LGBTQAI+ communities have developed relationship issues, expectations, and social norms beyond our straight counterparts. We have exceeded those limitations.
The word “limitations” is used intentionally. Other terms come to mind: rights, abilities, and obligations. Limitations was used because in a culture that has fought for freedom, and continue to do so in many of our communities today, we are quite adept at placing restrictions on the freedoms we acquire.
What are relationships anyway? It’s not just coupling. It’s certainly not the act of being legally married. Gays and lesbians fought for that right for a very long time the U.S., yet some of the most vocal gay and lesbian advocates of legal same sex marriage have declined to take advantage of the right. Why? Too many restrictions.
Besides long-term romantic relationships, we form relationships in all areas of our lives. The people we work with, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification; our family members, blood or chosen; our circle of friends; and, casual encounters, which range from opening the door to a stranger to sharing a few minutes of erotic ecstasy without knowing his name.
We often say we don’t want to get involved, yet we are involved, with all the above situations and far, far more. There is an energy exchange of some kind in all the interactions we have with other people. We can choose to deny it or ignore it, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. This is most noticeable in our primary relationships.
Our society in general is obsessed with finding the “perfect relationship.” This ideal implies finding someone who will be faithful to us, never leave us, and in this will make life just peachy. The Hollywood fantasy of finding or being Prince/Princess Charming is very new to humans, occurring over the past two centuries, give or take a decade.
Before that time people coupled primarily for property, for security, and for procreating; the latter provided an unpaid, live-in work force to work the fields. Love was an added byproduct, appreciated, but not necessary expected. While we are appalled as a community at the limitations put on modern heterosexual marriages, there are plenty of same sex couples who are replicating the very same thing our communities have sought to avoid.
Ironically, that same ideal of what marriage is supposed to be doesn’t work any better for a lot of straight couples either. What does work is creating relationships that work for our particular lifestyles and work schedules; that allow a level of security and comfort, while continuing to maintain independence, individuality, and freedom; and, that last for as long as we want them to last.
Forever is a long, long time. I admire the many couples who live for decades in relationship. We create myths about them, which is unfair to the individuals, because we want them to be evidence of the dream we desire. Two guys I know have been together for over 20 years and recently tied the knot legally. I was told by someone else they are both on Grindr; the guy who told me was almost livid. The couple broke the fantasy he had of two men being in a long-term relationship without outside sex. Does complete monogamy among male couples exist? Yes, it does; though statistically it’s rare after the five-year point.
Communication is vital to maintaining our relationships. When I officiate at weddings I remind the couple that their marriage will change over the years. It doesn’t mean they will love each other less, or that their commitment to the idea of marriage and being together will wane. But like everything else on this plane of existence, change is the only constant. When we change, but our marriages don’t change, then the long-term relationship is doomed.
If we expect our marriages to be the same today as they were thirty, twenty, ten, five, or even two years ago we’re kidding ourselves. We all grow in different ways, and at various times. Relationships are not a straight line, no pun intended. There’s a natural, and unpredictable, ebb and flow; it’s by riding those waves together that we create a solid foundation of love, trust, and commitment.
If you’re already in a relationship, recommit daily to the reason you got together in the first place. If you’re single and looking for a partner or partners, get clear on what you want in life – NOT what you want out of a relationship. It’s not what we get OUT of relationships, but what we put INTO them that make create satisfying, lasting, and exciting unions.
When we let go of the idea of other people completing us we free ourselves to find and express our own true nature. Each of us have unique and amazing gifts that will not only draw partners to us, but will help heal the planet, one person at a time. But, without a willingness to be who we are without apology or reservation, no one will ever know what we have to offer.
Take pride in your relationships, particularly the most important one you have: The one with yourself.
Terry is an author, speaker, licensed social worker and flight attendant. He is also the director of Spirit, Mind and Body Foundation (spiritmindbodyfoundation.org).