One of the folks who comes to The Center was musing about the role of CEO. “You’re like the mayor of Gayville!” he quipped. Well, he’s not far from the truth. This job at The Center puts me at the hub and cross section of so much activity and so many peoples’ lives. It truly is a joy and a privilege to be at the service of so many wonderful people.
One of the extraordinary learnings of this role is getting to know so many LGBTQ couples. Despite the pioneering years of the movement, and despite the lack of role models, so many people have partnered for mutual love and respect. Indeed, being partnered is still a wondrous miracle. And, I’ve been so pleased to learn of LGBTQ couples who have been partnered for 10, 20, even 30+ years. In my relationship with Douglas, my partner, we have partnered for 19+ years and I’m still amazed. How do these folks make it all work?
In a recent article that I read about relationships and longevity, Denise Henry, writing about all types of relationships in Lifescript, notes five distinct tips for making love last:
I was surprised to learn that early in relationships, romance has a tendency to cause you and your partner to simply “goof off” with one another. Then life abruptly sets in with the maturing of a relationship. Life then has a larger tendency to steal away the fun and spontaneity of relationships. In order for love to last, couples need to plan simple and creative fun activities. It’s the “glue” to relationships according to Henry. It creates a positivity around relationships. It’s common for couples to forget about dating and playful activities with one another. Making time for play makes a lot of sense in a world in which more and more responsibility challenges us with the obligatory and the mundane.
Make an effort to see the best in your partner.
We’re all human beings, and I’m sure each one of us could start a laundry list of the shortcomings of our partner. Henry suggests that instead of stewing over the failures and weaknesses of your partner, why not try to see your partner’s goodness and success? It’s a plain fact: the way that we see one another affects the way we behave toward each other. Seeing your partner’s goodness and seeing the best in your partner breeds a type of reciprocity. They naturally look for your goodness and the best in you when you are accentuating it in them. It contributes to the positivity of your relationship.
Team up for tasks and errands.
I like this tip. Again, this makes a lot of sense. In the busy lives that we live, it’s easy to get caught up in the errands that we have and the limited time that we have to do them. So, our natural instinct is to divide and conquer—assign tasks and errands that your partner can accomplish, while assigning some to yourself. Again, Henry makes a lot of sense by suggesting that we team up for the completion of tasks and errands together. Earlier last year, I attended the vow ceremony of a longstanding gay couple who had been together for nearly 28 years. I remember being taken aback when they both stated that some of their most fulfilling days together in their relationship is when they spend time doing errands together on Saturdays. Rather than do tasks solo, join forces together to get them done. It feeds your relationship with a mutual support and caring.
Kindle the flames.
Is there ever a lack of sex and sexual expression in the LGBTQ community? We are known for a sex-positive movement and sexual creativity abounds in our culture and in our community. Nevertheless, while sexual sparks fly at the beginning of our long term relationships, over the years there is a settling effect and there needs to be a healthy cultivation of sexual expression between long-term couples. I wasn’t aware but many social psychologists cite research that sex is strong early on in long-term relationships due to the release of neurochemicals in the body. It’s easy to keep sex alive and active because of that release. Then, after a period of two years or so, that stage of neurochemicals comes to an end. But sex shouldn’t. Regular date nights and adding new sexual activities compensates for boredom that comes with the familiarity with one another.
And last, did your partner hurt you? Say so.
It’s amazing at times how we might harbor hurt feelings without ever mentioning it to our partner. Then, when there is a flare up, we go right back to that source of hurt and throw it into our partner’s face. They are often surprised to learn of something that has been festering for such a long time. It comes to them like it’s a smack in the face. Research indicates, according to Henry, that when people share true emotions with their partner honestly and without fear of recrimination, they experience calming and bonding effects. Another neuro chemical, oxytocin, kicks in with securing, reassuring, and anxiety-reducing effects. Partners who merely hide their hurt miss out on this important “cement” to their relationship.
So, bring on February and all its Valentine’s Day wonder. Yes, sparks will fly and the frivolity of love and love-making will abound. We’ll certainly get fatter on chocolates. But beyond the Valentine Day experience, hard work and joyful effort take place to make the love of Valentine’s Day work and endure, for many years. Making love work can be a challenge but a joyful work for ones involved. We have plenty of role models to draw from who have been successful in making love work!