You’re in a same-sex relationship – maybe for the first time or maybe not. You and your partner are easing nicely into being a twosome. You’re happy and relaxed with each other as the days and months go by, but you can’t help feeling frustrated or hurt by the reoccurring struggles with the outside world, specifically getting those around you to feel as comfortable with you as you feel with one another.
Attitudes and laws regarding homosexuality have changed over the years in this country. Prejudice, homophobia, discrimination, and harassment are fading out in the U.S., where roughly one out of 100 women and 2 out of 100 men identify themselves as being gay. Yet there are over half a million same-sex households, same-sex couples who still wrestle with indignities large and small in their own social and family circles, at work, and in their communities.
You are More than Your Sexual Preference
Being a couple is still at times eclipsed by being a “gay couple” in the minds of the people who are close to you, who matter to you. They may not see you the same way you see yourselves, even though your attitude is “I didn't choose to be gay; I fell in love with someone who happens to be of the same sex.” That attitude can make you feel diminished in the sense that others don’t see the total you, your overall personality, your relationship as a couple, who you both are, as separate selves and together because they identify you by your sexual preference.
Blame it on age, religious beliefs, or upbringing … the question remains: How can you make your relationship thrive and sustain itself between not the two of you, but between the two of you and the people that mean something to you?
How You Handle How Others See You
You need to be able to look past others who reduce your relationship to a sex act. You are each individuals with diverse interests, which happens to include slightly diverging preferences in how you express yourselves sexually, romantically, and emotionally.
That being said, there may be times when you feel the need to “put the brakes” on your behavior as a couple. Are you adjusting the level of openness you show to people in certain situations? Maybe in some settings, you are completely candid about who you are to one another and how you express it; in other settings, you control how you interact. How does it make you feel?
Are you comfortable having varying personas as a couple?
· When meeting new people, are you apprehensive about not being accepted?
· Do you sometimes ask yourselves, “I wonder if Jane or Joe will be ok with us?”
· How should you introduce your partner to friends, family, co-workers, your employer?
What about your family or your partner’s family, who want to keep things “hush-hush” about who you are to one another at family gatherings or other social events? Should you comply with their wishes or dig in and say no at the risk of alienating them? Should you make the effort to conform or readjust on your end or should you be completely open and unfettered and work toward gaining acceptance in time?
How do other peoples’ reactions make you feel when you are publicly displaying your affection, or just holding hands walking down the street? Are you self-conscious when people stare or give you weird looks or do you dismiss it, laugh it off?
How do you handle assumptions of other people? You’re checking into a hotel and the clerk assumes you want two separate bedrooms? Or you’re meeting new people and they make remarks or ask questions based on the belief that you are friends, not lovers?
Does a permanent commitment to one another such as marriage change how accepted you are as individuals and as a couple? How about as parents? Are you ready to make a commitment to your partner and the possible reversal in attitudes and acceptance from those close to you? Does the need to be understood and accepted override your discomfort? Are you willing to risk losing some friendships and family members?
Running Its Course
One would think the discomfort and prejudice of others regarding same-sex relationships are just about extinct, like the objection to giving women the right to vote. However, ingrained attitudes and beliefs can take decades to run their course. In the meantime, you as an individual and you as a couple need to explore and come to terms with how you feel and react to being misunderstood at best and shunned or ridiculed at worst. How accepting and adjusted you both are to those reactions, are indicators of your love for each other, the success of your relationship, and your individual self-confidence.