What’s The Secret To A Happy Relationship?

Gay and looking for love? We asked same-sex couples to share their advice on finding someone special and making love last.

By Julie Taylor

t all sounds so easy: Boy meets boy (or girl meets girl), they fall in love, and live happily ever after. But anyone who’s been on the dating scene for more than a millisecond knows that it’s not that easy—not by a long shot. Finding and maintaining a successful relationship often takes a little luck, more than a little patience, and a lot of work. What else does it take for a romantic partnership to go the long haul? For the specifics, we sat down with four successful same-sex couples to explore what exactly keeps their bond strong. Feel free to take notes!

The Couples
Lisa, 38, councilmember from Westchester, IL, and
Rebecca, 36, occupational therapist from Valparaiso, IN; together for 10 years

Rob, 37, publishing executive from Philadelphia, PA, and
Kevin, 36, a marketing and promotions entrepreneur from Brooklyn, NY; together for 10 years

Kereth, 32, a writer from Damascus, MD, and
Tara, 40, a high-school teacher from Silver Spring, MD; together for 12 years

Timothy, 41, a financial analyst from Potomac, MD, and
Adam, 31, an accountant from San Mateo, CA; together for 4 years

What surprised you the most about being in a long-term relationship?

Lisa: We never thought that it would evolve so much over time. The
“Don’t wait until you meet someone special to come out to your parents.”
couple and the individuals that we are today are vastly different than when we met more than ten years ago.

Adam: I once thought being in a long-term relationship meant a lot of sacrifice on my part with little return from my mate. With Timothy, it is a give-and-take situation. He is very giving and kind and doesn’t make a big deal out of doing things for me. We just do things for each other naturally, because we want to.

Rob: Challenges can strengthen a relationship as long as you stick together. Our fortunes have been everything from fantastic to downright terrible, but facing the tough times together has made us much closer.

When did you know that your significant other was a “keeper"?

Kereth: I think it was when Tara encouraged me to go to college. Up until that time, I hadn’t really considered it a possibility. I didn’t think I could afford it, and I didn’t think I was capable. Tara convinced me otherwise. It was the first time I had someone in my corner and someone who believed in me.

Adam: Timothy took me to dinner for my birthday right before we started dating. We were very close friends at that point. My previous boyfriends had virtually ignored that day when I was with them. Timothy went so far as to surprise me by taking me to my favorite restaurant and making it a fun night. It was very special for me.

What’s your secret to keeping a long-term romance fresh?

Kereth: Pay attention! It’s easy to tell when you’re falling into a rut. Just don’t let it happen. We recently instituted a weekly “date night” so that we can get out and do things. We’re both homebodies, so it’s easy to languish at home otherwise.

Timothy: It’s difficult because we fall quickly into a groove in terms of restaurants we eat at, entertainment on a Saturday night, and day-to-day life. The main way we keep things fresh is by traveling. This pulls us out of our mundane routine the most.

Adam: It’s also important to have sex regularly to keep the intimacy alive.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give gay singles on the dating scene today?

Lisa: Don’t wait until
“A loving partner is an incredible source of strength, comfort, and joy.”
you meet someone special to come out to your parents. Start the process when you are single, that way your parents can’t blame someone else for your sexual orientation.

Rob: Meet people somewhere other than bars! Bars are dark, loud, and most of the people in them are drunk—this is not the best way to meet people who will enjoy staying home with you. Take a class, volunteer, join an activity, go to friends’ parties—try to get to know people socially before you jump their bones.

Kereth: Don’t settle. There’s someone out there for you if you keep looking.

What’s the biggest challenge in your relationship, and how do you work to overcome it?

Tara: Choosing a course, and sticking to it. We have a tendency to make plans and then not follow through. That causes conflict, but when things come to a head, we work through it.

Rebecca: We see things differently and communicate very differently. Expecting to achieve perfect agreement on every issue is unrealistic. It has been and continues to be an enormous challenge to listen to one another and keep communicating until we have heard each other. It is something that we continue to work on and expect to work on for the rest of our lives.

What’s the greatest lesson that your relationship has taught you?

Lisa: It has taught us both a lot about who we are and how we deal with other people in our lives. Without having each other to reflect on ourselves with, we would not have some of the insight that we do about who we are as individuals and how that plays into any dynamic—whether that be family, friends or workplace.

Adam: Be compassionate to your loved ones. Timothy is truly one of my favorite people in the world. I can easily forget that when I am angry with him. If I say mean things to him in the heat of the moment, they may stick and hurt him. Even at our most difficult moments, I try to remind myself of what a special person Timothy is and what a positive difference he has made in my life. And when he is down, it is my job to help bring him up… and vice-versa.

Kevin: Don’t be afraid to give yourself 100 percent to your relationship. A loving partner is an incredible source of strength, comfort and joy.

Tara: Sticking to it really works. You can’t cut and run. A long-term relationship may take effort, but it’s worth it in the end.

Julie Taylor is a freelance writer who writes regularly for Happen Magazine and has contributed to Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour. She has been in a long-term relationship for 13 years. Her secret? Never go to bed angry.
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