LGBTQ+ people don’t have relationships that different from any other kind of relationship, but there can be some small differences when it comes to things like coming out, being open with others about your relationship (for reasons relating to sexuality), and how you handle situations of homophobia from family and other close people, etc,. So while most of the things covered in this blog can apply to any relationship, a few will be more specific to the LGBTQ+ community.
Like a lot of people, I used to be in an unhealthy relationship, but I didn’t know that (or the extent of it) until I found myself in a healthier relationship.
There were a lot of moments where my partner and I would say something like “Oh really? You’d do that for me?” after offering to help each other out or listen to each other. At the time we found certain healthy gestures to be grand acts of kindness instead of the norm.
When I ask myself why that is, why I didn’t notice all of the healthy things that lacked from my previous relationship until now, I realized it’s because I had never really been shown or told what a healthy relationship should look like.
At least, not until I took a Social Psychology course in college. Not everyone has that opportunity, so I figured I’d share those things that I learned.
To give some background, I’m a 23 year old gay woman and I have a beautiful fiancé who also identifies as a gay woman.
We came out to our families about a year ago when we got pretty serious about each other (and we both had pretty different responses to that).
This became the source of a lot of stress for us.
We had to learn to love and support each other under these strange conditions of being out to others (on top of all the conditions that any relationship faces).
After over a year of being together: learning more about each other, talking through our past relationship issues, seeking counseling to work through our own situations, and eventually moving in together (and deciding that we are in a great place to get married), I decided I wanted to write about the 10 things that have really stood out to me as healthy and helped us build a strong foundation for our relationship.
When it comes to having a healthy relationship, there is a lot of work to be done.
All of the things I’m going to mention take time and work. If your relationship isn’t exactly like this, don’t feel bad. Nobody’s relationship is like this from the start. As you get to know each other you’ll slowly start to do all of the things. These are not only healthy things, but they’re things that bond people and build trust over time.
I know my fiance and I are still working on these things, every relationship is full of constant work and communication. (That’s what makes one healthy at least). All healthy relationships are works in progress, and they rely on communication to stay healthy.
That’s where sign 1 comes in.
Communication is everything in a relationship.
You Both Communicate
Communication is key in any relationship, romantic or not. You need to know that you’re being heard when you speak, and your partner needs to know that they’re being heard when they speak as well. It’s important that you react well and appropriately when your partner opens up to you (and vice versa) so you feel comfortable telling each other anything you need to.
All of these other “signs” need good communication to work. If you can’t talk to your partner openly, without judgement or reprimand, you won’t be able to sustain a happy and healthy relationship. Who wants to spend a lifetime with someone who never listens to them and never understands them?
You Both Apologize
When two kids fight and things get heated, what’s the first thing you say after splitting them up? “Timmy, that wasn’t very nice. Apologize to your friend for hitting him.” Timmy will say “I’m sorry, Jack” and you’ll say “Sorry for what?” Timmy will finally soften his resolve and say “I’m sorry for hitting you Jack. You can play with my legos.” The two will smile, laugh, and start playing together.
I work in childcare. Trust me, this is accurate.
Why do we tell our kids to apologize? It’s because they’ve hurt another kid’s feelings and we want them to show that kid that they care, so they can heal their friendship and get along again. We want them to realize what they did wrong so they don’t do it again.
We need to do this too.
Apologies are a really important part of a healthy relationship. Everybody argues from time to time. Sometimes there will be subtle arguments, sometimes things may get more serious. Whether it’s really bad or not, apologizing is important to make your partner feel loved and understood.
Sometimes unwarranted arguments seem to come out of nowhere, and the only thing you can do to make things better is do the right thing afterwards. There is no taking back harsh words, but there is letting your partner know you are truly sorry and that you will learn from the experience.
Apologies won’t fix things right away, but it’s much better to say that you’re sorry and acknowledge that you were wrong than ignoring the situation and making your partner feel like you don’t care about how you hurt them (and that you may do it again).
Ignoring problems doesn’t build trust, it ruins it. Apologize, accept responsibility for your actions, and live up to the changes you both say you’ll make to avoid the argument again.
Conflict resolution is even more powerful than never having argued at all, so make sure you end an argument right. Because ignoring an argument can also be more detrimental than an apology that might take a while to be accepted.
You Both Include Diversification Of Impact
Enjoy each other’s interests.
Don’t worry! Relationships aren’t all hard work and communication (they kind of are, but here’s a positive side too, that’s why people get into relationships). Our partners enrich our lives, and we should make sure we’re allowing them to do that by adding their part to the relationship.
You can’t listen to only one person’s music, watch one person’s TV show’s, and clean the house the way only one of you likes it’s clean. If you want that, stay single.
Take interest in your partner’s interests. If your partner is a huge anime fan and you’ve never seen anime before… You will someday soon, my friend. Ignoring your partner’s interests isn’t going to make them feel very good, but taking the time to sit down with them and give their favorite show a chance will mean so much to them.
Just think about it. If you heard your partner listening to your favorite songs before a road trip so they could sing along with you, you’d be so happy to have someone who takes part in what you enjoy, right? And like I’ve said before, in the video linked below, it can also broaden your taste and help you explore new things like music, movies, hobbies, sports, etc., You might’ve never found this stuff on your own, and it’ll make your partner really excited to see you loving what they love. Isn’t that a win win all around?
This “Diversification of Impact” is one of the main principles of relationship development. All that means is that the more different things you do with your partner the closer you’ll become. You’ll learn new things about each other, have fun, and it keeps the relationship interesting. You can learn more about this psychological concept in my video “Diversity of Impact: And Why Getting Psyched Is Good For You”.
You Both Continue To Show Your Love
The “honeymoon stage” of a relationship doesn’t need to end. The “honeymoon stage”, in my opinion, is an excuse to get lazy once you’ve been together long enough. You don’t have to be as cheesy as my lovely fiancé and I are (we get told we are very cheesy all the time), but you should continue the habits that made you two fall in love with each other in the first place.
Did you take your partner on great dates? Keep it up. Maybe you said I love you a lot, or gave good gifts. Keep it up. Whatever your love language, and however you showed your love, you should continue doing that and continue making new efforts to show your appreciation and love.
“He/She hasn’t taken me on a date in years.” does not sound like the statement of a happy spouse.
Relationships statuses are just a sign of how serious and committed two people are to each other. They do not take the place of actually showing love and care for each other. If you want to be two happy little gay noodles (or not gay if you are not gay) then do something special for your partner often and let them know just how happy you are to be with them. Never let the “honeymoon phase” completely disappear.
You Take Turns
Chores and errands shouldn’t rest on one person’s shoulders, unless that’s been agreed on. And personally, I’d never agree on that, and I don’t know who would.
This might be one of the more boring parts of a relationship, but it’s also one of the most crucial.
It may sound silly, but this is something that can easily end a relationship. Life is hard on all of us. We’re all stripped for time. We all want to relax after a long day of work, but there are things we have to do sometimes that disrupt our relaxing time (or creative time if you’re a part-time freelancer like a lot of us in the blogging world are).
These chores and errands should be split equally in the relationship so your partner and yourself feel cared for, understood, and respected. If my fiancé has to work late, I’ll do the dishes and prepare dinner so she can relax after a long shift. On the same hand, when my fiancé gets off work earlier than me, she prepares the dinner and does the cleaning. This makes us feel like equally respected individuals and it’s an easy and useful way to show each other that we care.
Don’t have money for a bouquet of flowers? Do the dishes. It’s free, and you might get the same reaction.
We also split things like grocery trips, taking out the trash, feeding the pets, etc., If you’ve never had a talk about household chores, maybe you should. It took a huge burden off of my relationship when we did.
You Accept Each Other
Don’t like your partner’s taste in music? Too bad. You think they’re eating habits are weird? You should’ve taken them to a restaurant before getting serious. You can’t, and shouldn’t, try to change these things about them. When you decide to be in a relationship, you decide to take on the good, the bad, and the dirty.
You have no right to ever tell your partner to change, or make your partner feel bad about being who they are. This is why you get to know someone when you first start dating. See something you don’t like? Either leave the person alone or learn to accept it, there is no other healthy way to move on from that.
Accept your partner’s strengths, areas they need growth, hobbies, passions, insights, views, strange thoughts at 3am, and awkward eating habits: or don’t be with them. It’ll save you both a world of headaches.
It’s fun to be a positive, uplifting person. So instead of judging your partner’s habits: Love on your partner and love on everything about them.
You Understand Each Other’s Family Relationships
Whether your gay, straight, or neither you should care and try to understand your partner and their relationship with their family.
However, this can be a little specific when it comes to the matter of coming out.
As silly as it is, most people are given a hard time by at least someone in their life when they come out. Understanding your partner’s situation is the best way you can be there for them, and it’ll help you two understand how to act when it comes to those particular people.
Maybe this means skipping a family meet-up if your homophobic uncle is attending, or maybe it means understanding that your partner will ask you to act differently in-front of certain people. The important thing is that both of you understand each other’s situations and don’t take it out on each other if someone in the family is making things hard on you. Don’t let the homophobes be a source of stress in your relationship.
Have open conversations when someone/ something makes you uncomfortable
Ever been around your partners family and someone said something mean under their breath that you heard, or they wouldn’t get near you because you’re too gay? You have to be able to tell your partner if this is happening, especially if they don’t know about it.
You can communicate with each other, but you can’t read each other’s minds, so sharing these uncomfortable feelings and being able to listen to them is super important on both sides. Most relationship issues can be solved with communication, and in moments like this it’s especially important. Bottling up these uncomfortable moments can lead to arguments and fear of being around others openly.
Once you both know what’s going on, you can come up with a gameplan on how to deal with the situation so it’s more comfortable next time.
Make sure you have the conversation of coming out
This only applies if one or both of you isn’t “out” yet.
You need to discuss this early on so you don’t have tension later. When you’re talking to someone, social psychology says it’s important to understand each other’s expectations for life.
What are your goals? Dreams? Do you want kids? This way you can find incompatibilities early on.
Never expect someone to change, you just need to make sure you’re okay with their answers and that you could live with them.
The same goes for coming out.
If someone says they don’t think they’ll ever want to come out, you need to understand that, because that means you can NOT pressure them later on. If they say that they will come out, and a long time goes by and they avoid the topic/ change their mind, that falls on them, but it’s still grounds for you to re-evaluate the relationship. You shouldn’t have to be unhappy if someone won’t hold to what they said they’d do. If you really want to be out but your partner doesn’t: that’s going to cause some tension. So make sure you understand the expectations on this before you get “too serious”.
You shouldn’t pressure someone into coming out but you also shouldn’t be forced to stay “in the closet” if you really don’t want to. It’s painful, but the reality is this ruins a lot of LGBTQ+ relationships. Make sure you understand each other’s feelings on coming out as soon as it’s appropriate.
Understand each others feelings on “social norms“
Is your partner comfortable with terms like girlfriend or boyfriend? Does your partner feel okay with one person proposing marriage? What about taking up last names? Does your partner want children? How do they want to have children? Are they okay with being a stay at home parent, or vice versa, or do they want another accommodation for childcare?
This might be my last sign, but it’s probably one of the first things you’ll start thinking about when you start to get real serious with your partner.
The social world has all kinds of rules for relationships that were built for old-school straight couples, and a lot of those rules may or may not be desired by your partner. Make sure to discuss them early on to avoid conflict in the future. If you get married, or get serious in other ways, before knowing this stuff, it can cause some problems.
Like I said before, understand each other’s answers to these questions and make sure they’re something you can live with.
I’m not a relationship expert or anything, but from my own personal experience I can say that these 10 things really help me strengthen my relationship.
These aren’t things I do everyday with my partner and things that I will continue to do now and for the rest of my life to make things work. I do think relationships are a lot of work, but with the right person, it’s totally worth it. It’s not all talking and seriousness. It’s also about sharing fun moments with each other. If we weren’t communicating and if we weren’t fully accepting of each other these moments wouldn’t be as fun. It’s great knowing that there’s no judgement between us and it’s amazing to feel understood by the woman I love.
It took a lot for me to get into a position where I was ready to be in a relationship, but I’m glad I put in the work and time.
Here’s the key to relationships: you both have to be mature and ready for it. If you’re understanding, communicate well, and accepting: and your partner isn’t… it won’t work. Both parties have to be ready for things to thrive.
Communicate openly, accept each other’s point of views, families, and histories, take turns on your chores, apologize often, and make sure your life plans are on the same track.
And don’t forget…
Happy pride everyone! June is a special time, but remember to always have pride and to always cherish our love and relationships.
Until Next Time,
If you want more of my fiancé and I checkout our YouTube video together where we share our favorite gay stories for pride.