I want to share some topline concepts and pointers from one of my gay love relationship workshops. We all want to live happily ever after, right? Well here are five things to keep in mind when you’re still at the “once upon a time” stage.
1. Really learn about your partner
If you know each other’s dreams, hopes, fears, wants, needs and truths, it’s hard to ever “grow apart.” Talking about these things builds trust and connection. You should ask questions of each other daily. And be sure to listen to your partner when he answers. If you have trouble doing this, try passing a “talking feather” (or use another object) between the two of you. Taking turns talking and listening can help you focus when it’s your turn to use your ears. Because you want to avoid making assumptions.
2- Spend quality time together
Do things that engage you with each other. Watching TV together can be nice, especially when cuddling on the couch, but it’s not engaging with each other. Schedule date nights. Alternate picking the activity. Get creative. Push the envelope. Switch it up. (By the way, this includes in the bedroom. Oh yes, I went there.)
3- Appreciate each other
According to a survey by the Divorce Mediation Project, 80% of breakups happen because couples grow apart. They lose a sense of closeness, so one or both men end up not feeling loved or appreciated. Only 20-27% of couples break up because of affairs.
Acknowledging, appreciating, and complimenting each other is so important in a gay relationship. Here’s a great way to do that: once a month, write down five things you love about each other. How fun!
4- Have healthy conflict
Avoid what John Gottman calls “the four horsemen,” which are:
Criticism – change it to positive talking and talk about yourself
Defensiveness – this takes many forms, including attacking, playing the victim, making excuses, and whining
Contempt – insulting your partner, using sarcasm, and name-calling
Stonewalling – withdrawing from the relationship; giving him the silent treatment
Know that you can avoid the horsemen, and you can compromise. What’s important here is to understand how your partner deals with conflict and respect his boundaries. Quick idea: give him (and yourself) 20 minutes – that’s how long it takes your body to calm down. Be sure to accommodate each other’s “strange” side because we all have one. Handle his idiosyncrasies with care, respect, affection. Isn’t that the same treatment you’d like for your “thing,” whatever it might be? And if you do sometimes fall short in this area, remember that saying “I’m sorry” can create magic in any relationship.
5- Value your relationship
Be supportive, respectful and encouraging of each other. Make important decisions together. Do things because you want to, not because it’s expected. And the big one, which I’ve blogged about before: don’t play the What If? Game.
I know I packed a lot into just five things, but if you can do just a few things I mention here, it’s better than not doing any of them, and you’ll be on your way to finding – and keeping – your Prince Charming.