Introduction - Back in the 90’s, I worked at Linden Oaks Hospital, a psychiatric clinic in Naperville, Illinois in their outpatient department providing counseling to all ages and populations. (Brian Rzepczynski, is a friend and on-going contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER. Brian is a Certified Personal Life Coach.) We did a lot of work with couples and used a handout with our clients that taught them about attitudes and ingredients for having healthy .
I still use that handout in my clinical work as it is a great resource in helping couples assess their own relationship functioning, as well as to use it as a guide for developing goals to work on. Linden Oaks is credited for this content, which is outlined below. The word ‘relationships’ is being used instead of ‘marriages’, as was specified in the handout.
While written for a heterosexual audience, we can certainly adapt this information to our gay partnerships as the following content illustrates issues that are universal to all relationship styles. Hopefully you will find it useful as it applies to evaluating your own relationship for maximizing its success.
Top 10 Reasons Relationships Work
10. “Our relationship is first…not third or fourth…”
9. “We’re able to compromise…”
8. “He acknowledges and validates me…”
7. “Humor…we know how to have fun…”
6. “We’re friends…”
5. “We accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses…”
4. “Everybody’s responsible and no one is to blame…”
3. “We have a healthy dependence/mutuality in our relationship…”
2. “We can disagree without attacking…”
1. “We’re able to really listen and communicate with each other…”
Top 10 Reasons Relationships Fail
10. “We’ve just grown apart…”
9. “We’re just not in love anymore…”
8. “He’ll never change…”
7. “I don’t have any emotions/feelings left…”
6. “All we do is fight…”
5. “There’s just too much resentment built up…”
4. “We can’t work out problems with children…”
3. “There’s no intimacy or ‘fire’…”
2. “I just can’t trust him…”
1. “We just don’t communicate…”
Tips For Lasting Love
• Ability to solve problems
• Active listening
• Ability to express and validate feelings and needs
• Personal responsibility
• Love and romance
Adding ‘Gay’ To The Mix
While there are some universal elements to relationships, we gay couples have our own unique and special challenges and benefits to live through that are different than other relationship styles. In fact, we have added burdens and obstacles to overcome living in a homophobic society to make our relationships succeed in the long-term. And because of the multitude of barriers and stressors we face, we are in a better position to experience higher-level feelings of intimacy because of the shared experiences and resilience we have, but only if we can muster up the courage to push forward during those difficult times as a united front. The rewards of growing, learning, and changing as a couple are great!
Some additional factors that I might add to the list for making relationships work that are more specific to gay men in a couple include:
• Having solid self-esteem and comfort with being gay
• Both men being at the same level of “outness”; and the more “out”, the better to allow for more openness, relaxation, and honesty in all environments
• Having a support system of people who honor, value, and validate the men’s relationship as a gay couple
• Each man having his own individual identity, as well as commitment to a relationship identity to allow for more balance and vitality
• Having a clear agreement about monogamy vs. non-monogamy in one’s relationship and having an understanding of what that means and looks like and abiding by that faithfully
• Recognition that relationships take effort and work
• Having a shared vision for the future as a couple
• And most importantly, as in all relationships, communication is key! Productive conflict resolution is critical! Honesty is a must! The ability to be flexible is also important.
This article merely scratches the surface of what constitutes a healthy relationship. There are many ingredients that go into creating a successful partnership, but the topics discussed here provide you with a basic foundation of what’s most needed to get you on the right track. What’s important is that each couple defines for themselves what works best for them and what happiness and fulfillment would look like for them.
The above skills will help promote a working atmosphere to help the two of you co-pilot the type of relationship you’re seeking. Identify your strengths and weaknesses as a couple from the tips and craft a plan for making things even better between the two of you.
Society desperately needs to see healthy gay couples functioning in successful relationships. Could you be a role model as gay partners if you choose? If so, let us all share the wealth and wisdom with each other as a community, to learn from each other on what it takes! Cheers to your relationship success!
© 2005 Brian L. Rzepczynski
Brian Rzepczynski, Certified Personal Life Coach, is The Gay Love Coach: “I work with gay men who are ready to create a road map that will lead them to find and build a lasting partnership with Mr. Right.” To sign up for the FREE Gay Love Coach Newsletter filled with dating and relationship tips and skills for gay singles and couples, as well as to check out current coaching groups, programs, and teleclasses, please visit www.TheGayLoveCoach.com