Gentleman’s Club

I had dinner tonight with a gay couple – we meet every 6-8 weeks and catch up on life, work, stuff. I LOVE their relationship. And I don’t like relationships. It is loving, honest, open, supportive, collaborative, respectful, intimate, and joyful. It is everything I want. I have seen them raise a son together, traverse financial crises, deal with family illnesses, ex-partners, and career issues and manage these transitions with grace and love.

Last night I had dinner with another gay couple – same adjectives. I love being with them – when I leave, I actually start to become a believer. I watched them and it was so easy. I start to think in terms of heresy – perhaps a relationship could ENHANCE my life, could be a place of GROWTH and COLLABORATION. Did I really say that?

During dinner, gay couple after couple came into my mind as ideals of what I want. In all cases, I love being in their space together – there is so much love and support that I leave feeling buoyed, and I see relationships not as a space of hurt and regret, but rather as a place of joy.

Sadly, I was unable to come up with any heterosexual couples that made me feel the same way. Not one. By and large, after an evening with heterosexual couple(s), I leave moderately bereft, and grateful I am single. I don’t spend that much time with heterosexual couples. Don’t get me wrong – I have lots of male-female couple friends. But, they never invite me out to dinner, something about being a single female out to dinner with a married or committed heterosexual couple doesn’t work. What is that about? Fear? Loathing? Discomfort? A portal to an alternative lifestyle of being alone?

My friends and I at dinner speculated about this. We were not naïve. There are TONS of gay couples that are a hot mess too. But when it came to the couples that inspired me – they were all gay. So what is it?

One of our explanations was that many of the gay couples don’t have children. Research has documented that marital satisfaction drops to its lowest level when people have young children. Children are a funny paradox – a sort of relationship nuclear reactor core meltdown. They are often responsible for destroying the core of the relationship while keeping it together far past its shelf date for reasons of guilt, obligation, laziness, or financial tethers (people too lazy to end relationships try to be heroes and claim they are staying together “for the children”). So the core melts while the structures remain. Without that stress and strain – many of the childless gay couples are freed from a big relationship killer. If they do decide it is not working, childless couples can walk away with far greater ease. But enough of the gay couples did have kids that the kid theory wasn’t enough. And I know lots of heterosexual couples without kids and it isn’t much more pleasant to be with them as the ones with kids.

Another theory was power imbalance – society has pretty strong scripts for male and female gender roles and like lemmings we go with them. So that power imbalance can calcify over time and lead to some pretty calcified misery. While gay relationships are characterized by gendered roles and power differentials, these roles are not as socially entrenched as traditional male/female roles. But that still didn’t seem to capture all of it.

Is it possible that something that is hard won is more appreciated? The gay couples I know waited long and fought hard for marriage. They have withstood hatred and hurts. They have witnessed and experienced bias. They don’t have the same legal protections. Most of these men have been around the block – have had other relationships, and when lightning finally struck, they were better prepared to understand it. Perhaps the absence of a “biological clock” allowed them to take the time they needed, rather than frantically rushing things along. And I get that, I have waited a long lifetime to get it right. I hope that when my time comes – that I treat that man and our relationship like the treasure it is.

At the end of the night we still hadn’t figured it out. I did know that the only reason that after nearly 3 interesting, magical, tumultuous, and at times lonely years of being single after a divorce, that I would even consider tossing my hat back into the relational ring is the relationships of the gay men I know. And it also makes me nervous – if I ever did manage to enter a relationship again, am I doomed by the heterosexual curse? Or could I take the lessons I learned from these men’s relationships – to cultivate and grow something characterized by love, respect, growth, space, cooperation, authenticity, shared and divergent goals, sex, and happiness – and make them my own?

So Eric, Eric, Bryan, Miguel, Perry, Bobby, Steve, Rafael – and anyone else I left off – thank you. If that right man and I make it work – I tip my hat to you for showing me what is possible.

This is one Gentleman’s Club I am happy to enter.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 10:00 am and is filed under Relationships and Sex. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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