Strategies for making your relationships work, Part I
Yuck! In the past I’ve done two Info Pages on how to end a relationship and nothing on how to keep a relationship going. Let me correct this now! This page and the next one will address the topic of keeping your relationship going.
There have been clues in previous Info Pages, like know yourself. Have some clarity about what you are looking for beyond the physical. What personality/character traits are important to you; what values and goals do you admire. Not sure? Look at your friends, they probably embody some of what you like or they wouldn’t be your friends. Be clear with yourself about what you offer and what you don’t offer. If you have a lot of issues perhaps you might consider some work on those first and take dating more casually. There is still a lot of growth, maturing and changing going on between 18 and 25 (your first adult season). All too often a relationship won’t endure those changes in two people simultaneously. Put a little less stock in permanence and more energy into learning about yourself in the mirror of your first young adult relationship.
Assuming that you have some sense of yourself and you have chosen someone to share your life with based on this understanding then enjoy the relationship and let it unfold. The feeling of being in love is terrific and lasts only a brief time, say three to twelve months, so enjoy it. Pay attention to what works, what feels good and repeat it, often. This is the time to establish good habits of communication and activity. It is a lot easier to build satisfying ways of being together when things are going well then when you are arguing and not willing to give. Once problematic patterns of relating take hold (and they can very quickly!) they are difficult to change.
Without role models for how to have a functional same sex relationship, coupling for us presents special challenges to the courage and ingenuity of the partners. Some of the challenges are the same as any couple, like learning how to live with differences, how to compromise or how to share time and space. But some seem unique to same gender couples and without the cultural supports both legal and social, not to mention religious, the going can be more perilous. Our relationships have to be made strong from the within since the outside, including and sometimes especially our own subculture do little to support and sometimes much to disrupt or at least not honor our unions.
Be aware of your expectations for the relationship and your partner and theirs for you and communicate them. Your expectations and your partner’s expectations of yourselves and the relationship should approximate the reality of the two of you and not the ideals and fantasies of you both. For example, if in your fantasy relationship you need to spend all your free time with your partner and you need to feel that you are the center of his/her universe by him/her constantly doing special little things for you but in reality you are a better caretaker then receiver and your partner really likes alone time then this relationship is going to be full of conflict and misunderstanding. So talk about expectations and get them in line with the two real people at this time.
I will continue on this topic in the next edition focusing on the natural stages of relationship, some do’s and don’ts and some ideas about gender differences. Please email the site with any feedback or questions that you would like addressed in subsequent editions.