Work

Avoiding Disconnection in a Relationship

Q

What does it take to sustain a happy and successful relationship/marriage?

A

The very nature of a relationship almost makes it impossible to succeed. You start with two unique individuals and put them together to co-habitate, love, and grow together, all the while needing to match or blend backgrounds, personal taste, families, personal incomes, sex drives, careers, pets, and friends. It is a daunting prospect for anyone, never mind two people of the same gender.

My partner and I have been together for five years now (8 years if you count a brief stint of dating and the occasional hook up once a year for the first three years). This by far is the longest romantic relationship for both of us. We are two extremely committed men who enjoy our lives together immensely. That isn’t to say that we don’t work very hard to keep our relationship strong. It is the same for gay couples as I imagine it would be for straight couples. The first stage of any romantic relationship is always exciting. You can’t wait to see the face or hear the voice of the one you are getting close to. Each day you learn more about the other that makes you grow closer and more secure. You meet the friends and family or your future partner, and they become your friends and family. You share more and more of yourself with the other and you begin to feel safe in knowing that you are releasing your fear of being hurt.

Along the way you discover that you are in love and a life without the other does not seem imaginable. We decided two years into our relationship to have a commitment ceremony. We were surrounded by all of our family and friends at the home of my brother and exchanged vows to love each other, care for each other, and to always be there when needed. That day was the best day of our lives.

Three years later our relationship has evolved into something more complex as I am sure happens to many couples. As you become more and more used to the strengths and weaknesses of the other, you begin to lose patience and inevitably the first major fight(s) happen. What would normally be a traumatic experience has in retrospect become a huge opportunity to learn something about each other that we did not previously understand. These arguments reveal a fear that we are having or an insecurity that may be brewing. Regardless of the cause of the fight it is the lesson that we take from it that allows us to stay close.

I remember a good friend of mine got married and a year or so into the marriage. I asked her what she liked most about being married. Her response was “what I love most is that both of us are not going anywhere.” When I asked what she meant by that she said that even though they would find themselves sometimes embroiled in a huge argument, she loved the security in knowing that they were comfortable enough to have that argument all the while knowing that neither of them would leave. This truly inspired me.

As we enter the sixth year of our relationship I am happy to say we are as committed to one another as ever. With busy travel schedules, career challenges, and struggling economies, sometimes the pressure to connect is tiresome and overwhelming. When we feel that disconnection happening we make a point of scheduling a date night. This usually entails a romantic night at home together where we prepare a wonderful meal or maybe we go to one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. Regardless, we make sure we take the time to reconnect.

Being a gay couple in California certainly has its downfalls. It is not a very supportive place knowing that the rights to marry that our straight friends enjoy has been taken away from us. With that comes a stress that is unique only to gay couples. The non-acceptance is a burden that can sometime cause a rift in a relationship. After all, if your government and neighbors don’t accept you as a couple why bother? We bother because we love each other and want what most people want—a lifelong partner to grow old with.

– Stephen Huvane owns the public relations firm Slate PR and lives in Los Angeles with his partner, artist Steven Janssen.  

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