It shouldn’t have been that difficult to find gay couples who have been in a relationship with their partner for 10 years or more…but it really was. This reveals the sad truth regarding the fate of same-sex relationships for some men: They typically don’t end with happily ever after.
Luckily, I was still able to find 10 couples who’ve been together for 10+ years. They all agreed to take a survey about their relationship. (The names of the respondents in this piece are changed for the sake of anonymity.)
Going into this project, I assumed the usual culprits for a healthy relationship: honest and direct communication, a passionate sex life, patience, compromise, and generosity. I was right. These factors absolutely contributed to a successful long-term relationship, but there were also a few emerging themes that I didn’t expect.
Out of the 10 couples who took the survey, the average number of years together was 19. Three of the couples claimed their relationship was closed, whereas six stated they were in an open relationship. One couple stated they were polyamorous.
With that out of the way, here are some of the main themes that emerged.
Infidelity is not a deal-breaker
Many respondents had their partner cheat on them, or violate the terms of their open relationship. (For example, some men agreed they would only play together, and their partner went off and had sex with another man by himself.) However, infidelity was never a deal breaker for these men. They admitted that it posed additional challenges, but as Warren, who’s been with his partner for 20 years, stated, “We work every day to rebuild and reestablish the trust and faith that was lost, but in many ways, I think it has made our relationship stronger. It has forced us to communicate.”
The couples were also very clear to attack the root of their infidelity. Were they feeling sexually frustrated? Were they feeling disconnected from their partner? Are they simply incapable of sleeping with the same person for decades on end? They spoke, in great detail, about why their partner felt the need to cheat.
Embracing the present
As you get older, you don’t know if you are going to grow together or if you’re going to grow apart. You can’t focus on the future because there’s no way to predict what’s going to happen. Instead, you need to embrace the present. As Allen mentioned, “Perhaps someday, DJ and I will change in ways that make us incompatible. Perhaps the romantic connection we share will shift to something else. I’d be upset, very upset, but it remains a possibility, as it does for everyone. Until then I’m grateful for what I have [with him].”
Rejecting heteronormative, or “straight” ideas of relationships
Perhaps it was a skewed sample (or simply too small of a sample size),but the majority of the men who took the survey were in an ethical, non-monogamous relationship. Of course, this isn’t traditional or standard. One respondent explicitly mentioned that it was important to reject conventional ideas of what marriages are “supposed” to look like. He said, “Do not model it after our heterosexual counterparts. It is different in many ways. [As gay men,] we have to make our own rules.”
Honesty to the point it’s hurtful
“The only time I tell a white lie is if he asks me if he looks fat,” Aaron said, who’s been in an open relationship with his husband for 15-and-a-half years. But that seemed to be the only time it was acceptable to lie. Nearly all the couples were “as open and honest as I can be, to the point of it hurting his feelings.” There never seemed to be a reason to lie, and as one respondent said, “Lies only lead to being upset. Lies are what soap operas are based on, and I don’t want to live in a soap opera!”
Staying in touch with him throughout the day
Staying in contact throughout the day, and calling when one partner is out of town seemed crucial to a healthy relationship. “We text all the time while we’re at work,” George said, who’s been in a relationship with his partner for 21 years. “It’s important to know what’s going on with your partner throughout the day. It makes you feel connected.”
Finding someone who you can talk to…forever
God knows gays love to have “types” and reject romantic partners based off of their appearance. While that may get you to the one-year relationship mark, it definitely won’t get you to the 10-year mark. It’s necessary to find someone who makes you smile and has something interesting to say. As Mike mentioned, “Find someone who you can laugh with and enjoy talking to. Sex will become less and less important as you grow older, and you need to have someone who you enjoy just hanging out with.”