Michele O'Mara

LGBT relationships

Filed By Michele O'Mara | April 08, 2007 12:48 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: advice column, LGBT community, Michele O'Mara, relationships

Q. Hi! I would just like to ask why is it that gay couples have a hard time sticking in one relationship? Thank you

A. Seems you've fallen prey to the myths that abound about same-sex relationships. So let me clarify what I'm answering so as not to perpetuate any myths here. I don't think gay couples - in particular - do have a hard time "sticking to one relationship." I think all relationships are simply difficult, and all of us human beings have a hard time committing - forever - to one life partner. If you have been with the same partner for more than five years, you probably know what I'm saying when I say - relationships are work. Most people opt to leave a relationship when the going get's too rough - and it is also at this precise time, as partners are calling it quits, that they both stand to learn what they most need to learn, to make their relationship work. It is our individual pain (feeling disconnected, lonely, misunderstood, not a priority, not good enough, slighted, in search of more, better, and different) that moves us out of one relationship and into another.

Granted, same-sex relationships do encounter different obstacles that could pose challenges not experienced by our heterosexual peers, such as: the lack of legal rights, responsibilities to our partners, and the protection of our relationships under the law; lacking societal and sometimes familial support; discrimination and sometimes danger or physical/emotional harm; societally-induced shame about our sexual orientation; rejection/sometimes danger in our culture; relationship invisibility (the assumption that we are all heterosexual unless proven otherwise); and other challenges I'm probably overlooking. Geeze, maybe the question is - HOW DO SAME-SEX COUPLES MAKE IT? :)

The good news is, many couples do make it. In fact, a local video is currently being produced that will highlight several same-sex couples that have been together over 10 years, some as long as 30. The reason most relationships don't work can be boiled down to two key variables, in my opinion these are: one, poor self-care (when we stop taking care of ourselves, and lose interest in our own lives we are inclined to look at our relationship as "the problem"); and two, the pain of self-discovery that relationships bring us - when we don't like the version of ourselves that we see through our partner's eyes, we want to run for the hills (without realizing that we can only run from the mirror, and not from our selves).

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As an example illustrating Michele's great response, there's a whole genre (think Sex and the City, Bridget Jones' Diary) devoted to the question: why do straight women (and by extension straight men) have such a hard time sticking in one relationship?

I believe society sets the bar awfully low for gay relationships. For whatever reason, it is overlooked that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Seems like a double standard to me. Once the expectation is set that gay relationships don't last, it is easier to walk when the going gets tough.

I believe that in my own case it was probably a good thing that my partner and I did not come out, or even know anyone else who was gay, until we were in our late 30's and had already been together for 20 years. Since we did not connect to the gay scene until later on in our relationship, we didn't know what the expectations were, so we applied the expectations we had grown up with (find someone, fall in love, spend the rest of your life together) and just adjusted them to our situation.

The recipe for successful relationship is the same regardless of the orientation of the partners: Love, Respect, Trust, and Commitment.

David Wene | April 8, 2007 11:36 PM

As was pointed out, it is difficult for straight people to stay together.

But straight people have:

1. Expectations that they will marry for life.
(This is less instilled among LGBT people.)

2. There is a kind of dating/courtship process starting in middle school. (No such process for LGBT people and it often starts later in life.)

3. Friends and family help select and evalute potential spouses. (Family and friends may not understand the LGBT community, may think homosexuality or transgenderism is wrong, and therefore they often are not helpful in selecting a spouse.)

4. While dating, the straight couple are open about their relationship which helps them understand their relationship and also allows other to comment on it as well. (We often are not public about our relationships, which means we are not living most moments together as a couple and others will not comment on it.)

5. Once the couple is married, friends, family, church, other organizations support that relationship, encourage the relationship to work. (Since we cannot marry, friends, family, church and other organizations do not encourage our relationships, and in many relationships, they discourage the relationship.)

6. If a straight couple wants to end a relationship, they have to deal with friends and family, and organizations which will add pressure for them to stay together. (Often we do not have that support and may even have people who are encouraging it to end.)

7. There is a legal process that is expensive and painful to go through to actually get divorced. (We just have to pack up what we want and take off.)

If we take away these 7 things, I am sure straight relationships would not last very long.

You know, I'm just wondering off the top of my head here...

Do you think, Michele, that part of this might come from our history as lesbians and gays? Just a few hundred years ago, most would have married themselves (to an opposite sex partner) and only had dalliances with the same sex. For those who couldn't stomach the opposite sex, the priesthood or nunnery morphed into spinsterhood or eternal bachelorhood.

As history has marched on though, gays and lesbians have found themselves more able to form relationships as versus only being able to clandestinely meet. Surely this has something to do with the myth that's been perpetrated about our relationships. After all, it's been less than 50 years since LGBT relationships were even passively accepted.