Perhaps those of you who are gay and single think that being in a long-term relationship would be exciting or cool or whatever the word is today. As far as I'm concerned, it is. There's nothing else like it, and I wouldn't want to live any other way, particularly at my age. But what I thought I'd do is share with you some of the daily realities of Chris's and my relationship, and you be the judge as to whether or not what we share is exciting or cool, and something you would like in your own life.
Remember, Chris and I have been together for nearly eighteen years, so we're pretty settled into the type of relationship that both of us are comfortable with. This includes monogamy. From the beginning, we decided monogamy was a deal breaker: if one or the other of us wanted an open relationship, then it was over. Neither one of us was prepared to share his partner with someone else.
And from the beginning, the foundation of our relationship has been trust. We both agreed that, when trust was gone, we had nothing left. Neither one of us has given the other any reason not to trust him. I believe that's, in part, why our relationship has lasted as long as it has, and why it's as solid as can be.
So, without further delay, here's what our relationship looks like.
1. For over half of our relationship--about eleven years--we've lived in places that one partner loved and the other didn't. In 2000, we moved to Victoria for my job, a city Chris didn't want to move to and, unbeknownst to me, never got used to. And, in 2009, we moved to __________ for Chris's job, a place I would have preferred not to move to (and which I tolerate now). Relationships don't happen in a vacuum. The real world impacts them all the time, including career opportunities and places of residence. Many relationships break up when one or the other partner decides he can't live where the other wants to. Our relationship could have broken up, too, back in 2000, but I made the decision I would never lose Chris to a job, no matter how much money I earned.
2. Our relationship resembles a heterosexual marriage more than we thought it would. I play the wife, and Chris plays the husband. I take on the responsibility for virtually everything in the house, including cooking, cleaning, finances, meal planning, decorating, etc. Chris looks after fixing everything, anything technology, driving the car, mowing the lawn, etc. I've heard several gay men say they refuse to fall into male and female roles, and that may work for them, but I don't think there's any way around it. I consider Chris and me lucky that our interests are in different areas. That way, we don't fight about doing the same things, and we can always count on everything getting done. Imagine if neither one of us fixed the toilet when it broke. What would we do?
3. Our clubbing days are long over. In fact, almost the minute Chris and I met--coincidentally, at the Odyssey, a well-known gay club in downtown Vancouver--we stopped going to clubs altogether. This was back in the early '90s. The music was changing to that highly repetitive techno junk neither one of us likes, and, honestly, why go to the clubs, as I had for years as a single guy in my twenties and early thirties, if you're no longer looking for someone to settle down with? So if you're thinking your wild, carefree days of clubbing every Friday and Saturday night will continue after you're coupled, you're probably wrong, unless it's so important to you that you have to keep it going, and you make it a priority to do it together. But why would you do that when there are so many other great things you can get involved in?
4. Not long after Chris and I started getting serious, our single gay male friends went by the wayside. You know why? Because it turned out we didn't have much in common anymore. We shared a lot when we were single, alone, and miserable, but, when that was no longer the case, they continued to do their own thing on their own (that is, ogle men and fantasize about getting them into bed), and I was only too happy to let them. You can only tolerate those familiar, long, and unhappy faces for so long when you're happy to be in a relationship and want to move on to the next phase of your life as part of a couple. I look back with great fondness on all the times I spent with my single friends. We really enjoyed ourselves, and I'm grateful we were there for each other. I wish them well.
5. On the subject of friends, Chris and I know several other gay couples, but we don't spend a lot of time with them. In part, they're busy with their lives, and we're busy with ours. But also I spoke with a fellow in a long-term relationship several years back, asking him how many friends they had, and he said almost none. He said he was uncomfortable socializing with other gay men, single or coupled, because of the sex thing, and the possibility he could lose his partner to someone else. As insecure as that sounds, I have to agree. Promiscuous sex in the gay male community is too prevalent, and I want no part of it. Chris is off limits to anyone other than me, as I am, too. There will be no partner swapping in our relationship.
6. And on the subject of sex, you might think that Chris and I are lucky because we have partners who are readily available to have sex with. You might even think that we have sex constantly, every opportunity we get. But you'd be wrong. It turns out the amount of sex Chris and I have is consistent with the national average for straight couples (about once a week). Both of us are busy and tired, and our schedules are inconsistent because of Chris's long daily commute time into Vancouver for work. I wouldn't say we're in a rut, but, again, we've gotten into a routine, and I think we're both happy with the amount of sex we get. Life doesn't revolve around sex, believe me.
7. Routines. Now there's an interesting subject. Whether Chris and I love routines, would rather live by them, or that's where lives eventually land, we're very much in a weekly routine. It looks like this: Early Sunday morning, Chris and I go out for a run. Later, we plan our meals for the week and complete our grocery shopping. Then we work around the house, indoors or out. Monday to Friday, Chris is up at 5:00 A.M. and he's at work before I'm out of bed. I work on tasks around the house, write blog posts, work on preparations for my novel, and have dinner ready when Chris returns from work just after 6:00 P.M. Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Chris goes for a run. Otherwise, we shower and settle in for a little TV viewing. Chris is in bed by 10:00 P.M., and I get to bed usually after midnight. Saturday mornings, we have a pancake breakfast and spend the rest of the day running around shopping and completing errands. And that's our week in a nutshell. Boring? Everyone's life is a routine. Take a look at your own.
8. The great thing about being in a relationship is that I know there's someone out there in the world for me. I know I have a champion, someone who's on my side, and Chris knows he has, too. Even though I'm in __________ and Chris is in downtown Vancouver, I feel connected to him throughout the day (I think about him often), and I know he'll soon return home to me. I know the period we have together between the time he returns home from work and when he goes to bed is short, but I'm comfortable in the knowledge that he's mine, that I have a partner, and that I'm not alone anymore. We'll be together again soon, when we'll continue to build on what we have and work on planning for the future.
9. When Chris and I first met, one of his big concerns was that he didn't think we had enough common interests, and, therefore, we didn't have much to build a relationship on. I told him that was ludicrous, and it turns out I was right. Sure, it's great to have things in common, and, if you're so different and so adamant about pursuing what's important to you, then maybe it won't work out between you. But, if you're both open to it, you can learn to share some of your partner's diversions. And, frankly, there's nothing wrong with having your own interests, independent of your partner. They give you something to do away from each other so that when you get back together, you have new things to talk about and to share. You can't be exactly alike and have everything in common. That would be like marrying yourself, and how much fun would that be? (I hasten to add that you MUST have certain things in common, like morals, ethics, and worldview, because, without those, you'll be at each other constantly, and that is not good.)
10. Compromise. Yes, it's true, you don't get your way all the time. Actually, I get my way most of the time, but I'm fortunate. When it comes to compromise, I've found the only way a relationship works is if one person is dominant, and the other is submissive (and I'm not talking about in bed). If the two people in a relationship are both dominant, they'll be at each other constantly and never get along. If the two people in a relationship are both submissive, you'll never get anything done. Honestly, the only way Chris's and my relationship has worked is because Chris has the constitution of a saint. He puts up with my uptightness, but I put up with his laid-back nature. Over the years, he's learned to have a little more backbone and get-up-and-go because of me, and I've learned it's all right to relax more, take it easy, and let time pass me by. This fundamental difference between us has contributed enormously to the longevity of our relationship. I can't see myself working better with anyone else.