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Making a Long Term Relationship Work

Article By: virgjoseph
Gay and lesbian


I have struggled myself with making a long term relationship successful, so I decided to write a more personal anecdotal points of view.


Submitted:Jun 21, 2011    Reads: 444    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


The Rocky Road that a Couple Must Traverse to make a Long Term Relationship Successful
Adjusting made to be in a Relationship.
It can be extremely unsettling to relinquish one's autonomy after years of being single. My partner and I were both grown men when we met, I was thirty-six and he was forty-six so giving up our solitary bachelor lifestyle was unnerving. We each had become accustomed to coming and going as we pleased without the necessity of having to explain our behaviors to anyone else. Over the years I had heard many couples refer to themselves as "we" as though they were one person. "We went to… We had…"I always found it amusing until I heard my partner saying, "We…" to a friend of his who made a snotty comment to the effect of, "What are you now one person, attached at the hip?"I realized that we had become the "We" I had scoffed at over the years. It was enlightening to notice that at that moment it felt comforting to hear it coming from my partner. Now I may need to leave a note on the kitchen counter at home explaining where I am going but in exchange I have someone in my life that cares where I am.
Asserting one's territory becomes of paramount importance as one begins to feel their environment impeded upon. Sharing a household with another person who has already established a home in their house can became stifling for both parties. Consolidating our lives into one living space began to feel claustrophobic and constricting. Suddenly every piece of furniture and knick knack takes on enormous importance as both partners begin to assert their territorial boundaries. My partner would constantly complain that I had too much stuff repeatedly asking me if I needed a specific item. Of course the item would always be something like a toothbrush or a box of cereal which he already knew I needed. My partner was obviously beginning to feel cramped as I invaded his space. We resolved our loss of privacy by concluding that each of us would have our own closet in order to maintain a private space that the other respects.
Relinquishing one's independence can cause an individual to feel as though their identity is being taken away. Much of my identity was wrapped up in my property and valuables. As I was settling into my partner's home I felt the stripping away of my independence with the elimination of every piece of furnishing that I was forced to discard. On the other hand later as a couple starts making purchases together they become more intertwined solidifying their relationship. I soon discovered that I needed a dresser for my clothes so we went shopping to find one. My partner insisted that it match the furniture he already owned so that it would blend in with his stuff.Eventually I agreed to his request because I felt that melding our possessions would move us towards building a life together. In the process of making a life together we fashioned a home we both can be happy living in.
Learning the dietary restrictions of a partner can happen at the most inopportune times. I used to eat whenever I felt hungry but now when I prepare a meal it must pass a board inspection. Coordinating a dinner is like planning an event. What did he have for lunch? Is it too late for spicy food? I constantly need to keep in mind my partner's tastes in foods considering what he is willing to eat with what I am willing eat. Once I cooked a roast that I had seasoned with cayenne pepper that later my partner refused to eat. I assumed that he would like it because the spice came from his cupboard. Later I found out that he had bought the spice for a specific recipe which he had made only once because he did not like it. I was crushed when he refused to eat my lovingly prepared meal but I learned that he could not tolerate spicy foods for later meals. Learning the dietary restrictions of a partner is a bumpy process that involves a lot of trial and error. I now clear meals with my partner before I proceed with preparation.
One must also keep in mind the internal hunger clocks of their partner when planning a meal. Once when we puttering around the house I absent mindedly made myself something to eat and forget to ask my partner if he was hungry which elicited from him the hurt, "Didn't you think I might be hungry?" accusation. It did not occur to me that a grown man was not capable of feeding himself. I realize that if one loves their mate it is not an imposition. It just did not register that when I stopped to go inside to make myself some left over's or a sandwich that my partner had not thought to feed himself. I learned that if I do not feed him he might starve to death. I now know that if I interrupt my yard work to go inside to find myself something to eat I should turn to my partner to ask if him if he is getting hungry as well.
Social engagements can be tricky to negotiate especially as the couple starts getting to know their partner's friends. Both partners are expecting the other to meld with their friends. One may not like or have trouble meshing with their partner's friends. Initially I had a difficult time with some of my partner's friends.I was anxious and felt self conscious at parties because many of them seemed to be highly accomplished. In the end making an effort to get along with his friends also garnered appreciation from my partner. Once I got over being intimidated I sailed along smashingly with my partner's friends.As a result my partner recognized that I was a genuine person who was putting in the work to fashion a life together.
Coordinating one's life so that it is conducive to sharing time together is very important when two people are starting a life together. Working as a dancer and in retail I had no set schedule the hours were often erratic and unorthodox. By the time I met my partner I was ready to settle down and stop traveling as frequently going from one dance gig to another. So when I chose to find work that kept me in one place I realized that I would gain much more with this relationship than I lost working odd hours. I have now migrated to day shifts with more consistent time schedules so that we can share dinners and our evenings together.
People in a long term relationship who come from different upbringings or backgrounds may find themselves interpreting the world around them in different ways. Having been raised in the Bay Area I had exposure to a wide range of people and personalities. My partner was born and raised in a small town in Missouri so he tends to be much more conservative than I am. He can become quite intimidated in neighborhoods where he feels unsafe while I on the other hand being city wise can be more of a risk taker in urban settings. He is more of a home body while in the past I was much more active outside of the home. I now enjoy spending time at home with him rather than going out.
Growing up I was exposed to the arts and pushed to explore my artistic inclinations. My partner comes from a meat and potatoes upbringing. He does not seem to have had any exposure to the classical arts until he moved to California. Consequently he never developed an appreciation for the ballet or the theater which I feel is an essential component of my life. Therefore we have agreed that I will attend concerts either alone or with a friend. It has actually worked out quite well. This gives us both a chance to follow our independent interests while catching up with friends that either he or I do not seem to make time for together. My partner is perfectly happy to give me space. He feels that I am saving him the trouble of hanging out with someone he does not like or going to a performance he would find excruciatingly boring.
Coming from different cultural backgrounds can inform how a person perceives the world around them. My whole life I was taught that people did not care about what I was doing or even pay close attention to my behavior. My partner imparted some insight upon me that in Missouri people do not have fences because their neighbors would wonder what they needed to hide or keep secret in their yard. This has resulted in what I consider to be an obsession with the impression he is making on other people. When we met he would barely speak in public. We had an incident at the IKEA in Palo Alto were he felt that I was drawing attention to myself by as he put it "flaming out" (behaving conspicuously flamboyant). At the time of the alleged incident we were surrounded by about 40 other gay couples. Once I realized what he was concerned about my mannerisms I hit the roof. Never in my life have I cared what other people thought of me. In the beginning of our relationship my disregard for how others perceived me was a problem for him. In time he learned that I will not change to accommodate his neurosis but I acquiesced agreeing to rein in my behavior when in settings where he feels uncomfortably conspicuous.
As gay men we did not encounter any of the traditional social or family pressures to settle down begin and a family with children that many heterosexual people commiserate about. My partner has a Chinese female friend in her mid-forties who jokingly tells us humorous stories about her mother's fretting over her daughter's unconcerned need to approach to the altar. After my partner and I confirmed our relationship by making it official I was surprised to hear that many of our friends had been speculating on whether we would ever find partners.One of my partner's friends who has been in a long term homosexual relationship commented with relief, "I was beginning to give up on you, I didn't think you would ever meet someone." We both chuckled looking at each other when my partner taken aback said, "I guess you me gave me validity." We came to realize that more people are accustomed to seeing associates entering into relationships than we had originally believed.
Adjusting to going from a bachelor lifestyle to being a couple can fill some people with anxiety over losing their independence. They may believe that now they will be expected to keeping a running account of their every move or questioned about every detail of their day. For a person who has spent a large portion of their life single this seems intrusive as though their private life is being invaded.Although that individual's private life is longer exclusively their own they now have the riches of sharing their life with another person who has agreed to do the same for them. I feel that we have provided each other the nonjudgmental loving support that facilitates the freedom to let go of our inhibitions both privately and publicly. This knowledge gives us each the courage to face our days independently with the reassurance of returning home after a hard day to a loving partner.
Elements that help make a Successful Relationship.
Being raised in different cultural backgrounds can influence how people communicate. My partner's parents were Midwestern WASP and my parents are Mexican-Italian. Getting him to divulge his feelings is like pulling teeth. When I finally coax him into confiding in me he is minimally succinct uttering no more than a few words. My partner revealed to me that his family does not talk about personal matters in the same manner as my family nor had he heard his parents argue in front of him often. He disclosed that they equate asking personal questions with prying. He was raised with the family view that if someone wanted a matter disclosed they would make it known to those they chose. My grandmother felt that there were no topics which she could not discuss. One could walk into the kitchen of my grandmother's house during a family gathering to hear all the women of the family discussing more than I ever wanted to know as a child. In addition my parents never held back their emotions from each other whether happy or angry they always let the words fly. Conversely I want to spill my guts every time we have a discussion when my partner is happy with just the facts. I understand that his family's style of sharing information is much more selective however I never had this model in my family's culture. Until I met my partner I believed that raising one's voice during discussions was the only way that families interacted. I now know that one can get their opinion across without having to shout.
If a couple neglects their relationship they could jeopardize their relationship. People tend to think that all the strife and friction within a relationship will finally abate with little effort on their part. They mistakenly believe that a secure comfortable relationship requires little effort. Maybe my partner and I have not been together long enough to lose interest in our relationship but we work at it everyday. I had a friend who once said that if you loved someone a relationship was not work. Unfortunately they were misguided. A relationship is always a work in progress. It is the love for the other person that makes the relationship worth the work. We are unanimously committed to the belief that our relationship warrants a daily affirmation of our commitment to reciprocal considerate treatment of each other. A relationship is a fluctuating creature that continues growing and evolving as the partners change. We are constantly fine tuning and adjusting the perimeters of our relationship.
The relationship must come first. Sometimes people get busy mistakenly believing that because their relationship is fine they can put other projects first. People can grow apart if energy is not taken to insure that both partners are having their needs met. Work and life away from home can consume the whole day leaving nothing for the relationship. Doing little things for your partner shows how important they are in your life. Taking them to dinner or a show without it being a special occasion can affirm their importance.My partner and I often take time out for each other spending quality time together on our weekends.
The holiday season can present problems creating many obstacles for a relationship when deciding where a couple will celebrate. At times it can seem insurmountable when family and friends are extending invitations that must be acknowledged. One wants to be committed to their developing relationship by creating shared memories that will strengthen their bond. Unfortunately it is not possible to celebrate holidays with everyone so old friends and family may feel slighted. My mother was upset when I chose to spend the holidays with my partner and his friends. My partner and I now make time for my family and friends on more family centered celebrations like weddings and birthdays. This has allowed for more intimate connections on smaller special occasions.
Embracing one another's eccentricities by overlooking habits of a partner can make life go more smoothly.My partner hates shopping and needs naps so when we travel I shop on my own while he naps. When we are out together I try to keep a running memory of the shops I want to check out on my own while he is taking one of his infamous naps. That way he can sleep uninterrupted for the agreed upon hour or so and I do not feel that I have missed out on anything. I return to our hotel room to awaken him rejuvenated for our evening together.
Freedom to pursue individual interests can enrich a relationship. Each can go off to engage in their hobbies and return reenergized. I take time out to go to concerts or reconnect with an old friend to get guidance from a sympathetic ear. My partner goes to lunches with his insurance friends so they can talk shop unencumbered by the need to include me in their conversation. We agreed to keep separate interests so that we could reengage with one another refreshed from our time apart. Also we do not to feel that we are giving up something we enjoy. Spending short periods of time apart can help invigorate the perspective of the relationship. My partner goes back to his hometown to visit his family and friends while I stay here at home. His return always revitalizes our relationship allowing us to reconnect with stories of our separate activities during his absence. The passage of time puts into perspective the fact that our relationship is the important element not all the bickering over little insignificant stuff.
Keeping an open pathway of communication facilitates the ability to voice any reservations one may have with one's partner. It can be unproductive with the potential to stagnate a relationship by bottling up feelings of resentment. It is always more comforting and assuring to get things out in the open by listening to your partner's needs. I am still learning to be completely honest by voicing my true feelings. My partner once accused me of agreeing with him just to placate him. I used to think that this would make him happy preserving the relationship by telling him what I thought he wanted to hear. I now know that I was not being true to myself and was actually creating more animosity within our relationship. I must be honest with myself first in order to create a healthy relationship with my partner. I now tell him my reservations and concerns allowing the chips to fall where they may.
Playing off our strengths by complementing one another's weaknesses during a crisis or difficult times makes a home life together more harmonious. My partner helps alleviate some of life's trials by filling in with his strengths making us a dynamic team. My mother's house burned down this summer and my partner was able to step in and take over. Having worked in insurance industry for most of his professional life afforded him the ability to make the whole process of negotiating with the insurance company run fairly smooth. He was able to squeeze every last cent he could out of the insurance company. He was also able to seek the advice of his colleagues. I do not know if I would have had the ability to persevere this hardship without his invaluable support.
At times it is easy to take ourselves too seriously so interjecting levity into a relationship can be of paramount importance. My partner likes to thinks that he is a real funny guy always needling and teasing me with jokes. He is always telling me I am hypersensitive that I take things to heart when he is only joking. With levity in our relationship we have weathered deaths as well as catastrophes while supporting each other with laughter during difficult times. I have noticed that his natural inclination to see the funny side of events has helped me to take life's serious moments with a grain of salt.
Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. There have been times that my partner and I have not seen eye to eye, but we still respect each other's opinion. There has to be an agreement to lovingly grant the other person the freedom to safely to be the person they are. Trying to change them into someone they are not is only going to create more problems than solve them. I accept him and he accepts me explicitly with all our respective faults.Our relationship has become a touchstone for us to which we can return to for guidance and support from one another.
Economic Power struggles within a Relationship.
Rarely do both people in a relationship have the same income level; unfortunately these financial inequalities can pose problems. Society conditions boys to believe that men are suppose to be self reliant money earners; "a man" takes care of himself. For thirty-six years I thought I was doing fine paying my bills and still affording to eat. Of course I did my grocery shopping at Walgreens. So it was difficult for me to be put in the position of being provided for. I and my partner both had a hard time adjusting to the financial inequalities in our relationship. When we met I was still dancing and taught dance part time. I would never make his income level if I continued to pursue this professional route. We agreed that I should return to school to further my education which would give me more opportunities. But of course this would require an investment of time that we both realized was necessary. Returning to school has enriched our relationship by alleviating my financial insecurities with the possibility of future higher earning potential. I now feel that someday I will be able to contribute more to our financially stability. Then our relationship will no longer be one sided with my partner always shouldering most of the financial burden.
Even if the partner earning the higher income is generous, there still can be emotional issues that arise. Planning trips, evenings out on the city and other extravagant activities can be daunting when one of the partners does not have the disposable income to cover the costs. I could not afford to take expensive trips or eat at four star restaurants but my partner and his circle of friends were accustomed to this lifestyle. Initially I felt uncomfortable with him constantly paying. Before I met my partner I never felt a need to frequent these places because they were not within my financial abilities. I began to feel anxious trying to keep up with their spending. Finally I had to tell my partner that I simply would not be able to attend these events. He assured me that he was not expecting me to keep up with him and his friends, and that, as his guest he would provide my entrée to all future events. I had to learn to accept his generosity graciously and not let my pride get in the way of sharing a flourishing life together.
If one chooses not to contribute to the financial stability of their relationship the stress of the burden can chip away at the foundation of that couple. I have two friends that I have known for twenty years who coincidently met their respective partners at the same time I met my partner. One of my friend's relationships was damaged beyond repair because he refused to earn an income while he finished school. The majority of their relationship was consumed with his partner's accusations of his refusal to assist with household expenses. Eventually his partner's pleads for his help with monetary contribution led to irreconcilable strain which ended their relationship. I am aware that my partner is unable to sustain complete financial responsibility for our household. Nor would I feel comfortable asking him to do so. I have done whatever is within my financial capacity to secure a harmonious home life for myself and my partner.
There are times when the partner with the higher income may feel justified in making the financial decision for the couple. I know in my relationship my partner had a habit of saying things like, "I am the one taking the risks" or "It's my money".Of course I felt obliged to cede to his authority allowing him to be the one who made the decisions of how the money was spent. In time I began to feel resentful because I felt that my opinion was not valued. After voicing my grievance to him he agreed to include me in future decisions concerning our life together. I now help my partner with creative choices in our home even though he takes on the brunt of the financial burden.
Sexuality issues within a Long Term Relationship.
Keeping a sex life exciting within a long term relationship can require creativity. After a few years maintaining a vibrant sex life takes work. In order to do so, couples need to explore with ways that work for them. My partner and I found that we often have resurgences in our intimacy when we travel. Being in a new environment can help us forget our problems at home.New surroundings eliminate the entanglements of our usual home turf arguments. The game is changed because we are in a new playground. When a couple takes a holiday together they can temporarily set aside the burdens of their daily lives and enjoy unencumbered freedom. This is one of the reasons my partner and I enjoy traveling as often as we can afford.
One's religious views may influence a person's willingness to experiment with new sexual experiences. My partner was raised in a strict southern Baptist household so he often has hurdles to overcome when facing any risqué or blue material. In fact we have had many incidents when we have run up against his "Bible Belt" upbringing. In Paris he referred to Picasso as pornography. My partner will not allow any nude pictures of men on display because he feels it is tacky and uncouth. Mostly he is afraid that guests will think we are some kind of depraved hedonistic animals. I always tell him, "Honey people know you are boring. No one is going to mistakenly think that you are some kind of sexual deviant." In fact he insists that any hint of homosexuality be hidden when repair or installation people are coming into our home. I assure him that we live in San Francisco and that they will have seen much worse. One time when a repair person arrived he turned out to be gay and he and my partner actually had a long conversation about their respective relationships. That gave me a good laugh. All this subterfuge was for nothing. We took away the revelation that a variety of personalities will enter our home and we must remain secure with our lifestyle.
Both people in the relationship must feel sexually satisfied. If a sexual encounter is one sided the other person is going to feel neglected.I had heard of the infamous "Seven Year Itch". Now that we have hit the infamous seven years I am wondering if there is any truth to the old adage. Many couples have "arrangements" with ground rules. It is necessary for both people in the relationship to agree upon the sexual boundaries of their relationship. Full disclosure should precipitate any dalliances with people outside the relationship. My other friend of twenty years started having sex outside of his relationship without discussing this change with his partner. He caught a venereal disease which forced him to confess while handing his partner the necessary medication for the condition. His relationship soon ended badly after this episode. My friend later confided that he felt not only sexually unsatisfied but also disregarded within his relationship. He attributed his extra-relationship activity to boredom that he needed more attention than he was getting at home. I felt that this was his way of asserting his independence by rebelling against as he categorized "a controlling partner". The terms of opening up a relationship should be jointly agreed upon. I would never contemplate sexual activity outside of my relationship without complete disclosure to my partner.
Role playing can help spice up a sex life that is beginning to feel tiresome. We have tried pretending that we are someone other than ourselves. In the dark one can be anyone they chose. We also have tried reversing our sexual roles. Being the one to always initiate intercourse can put that individual in the role of the aggressor within the relationship. Sometimes it can be enticing to relinquish control to a sexual partner. The repetition of in the bedroom on the bed in the same position every time becomes a mood killer. Romance requires imagination trying something new or spontaneous can ignite passion. Creativity led my partner and me to having sexual activity in different rooms of the house. We have also tried intercourse with the lights on instead of the common lights off routine.
Both people in the couple need to continue being open to their partner's suggestions and willing to try new things. The trouble begins when one of the partners turns off and stops listening to the other's needs or frustrations. Communicating keeps a sex life in a relationship enlivened with the possibilities for new experiences. Now I know that it is the anticipation of what my partner might introduce into our relationship which keeps our sex life interesting. Beyond the intimacy shared within a sexual relationship there is an emotional bond that connects the couple that continues to evolve over time. I now realize that emotional bond needs to be consistently nourished or it will wither and die.
Conclusion
There are many adjusts that both people in a relationship must make to accommodate living as a harmonious couple. An open pathway of communication allows the couple to stay in touch with their partner's concerns and reservations. Honestly addressing any issues that may arise within the relationship helps alleviate frustrations for both people in the couple. Financial stresses can overwhelm a couple so there must be agreements about how money earned will be spent. Disagreements over the sexual needs of both partners have the potential of destroying a relationship by breaking the bonds of trust developed over the years. One must make room in their life for a partner if they wish to share a life with another person. An individual may be asked to forfeit their independence when entering into a relationship but in return their life is enriched beyond any calculations. A relationship is a growing entity which must be tended to for it to continue flourishing. One must always be sympathetic and considerate of their partner's needs. One's should take steps to ensure that their relationship comes first if they wish for that relationship to flourish.




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