Today, February 23, David and I are celebrating fifteen years together. In honor of our anniversary, we’ve put together a list of 15 essential relationship tips that help keep us strong:
  1. Everything you do will either draw you closer together or push you farther apart. Choose wisely.
  2. If it’s broken, either fix it or throw it away. There’s no reward for living with broken things. (and yes I’m referring to relationships)
  3. Commitment is only valuable if it is accompanied by communication and genuine connection.
  4. Accept how each other is wired and work with it not against it. Recognize and celebrate the beauty of your differences as a strength, not a weakness.
  5. Let go of jealousy. It’s not all about you and how you feel.
  6. Continue to invest in and love yourself as an individual. If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?! – Ru Paul
  7. Be intentional in your relationship. Make time to communicate, be romantic, have sex, do new things together.
  8. Protect your relationship. Know what and who is destructive to your relationship and keep it out.
  9. Get help. Choose trusted friends, elders, counselors, therapists, coaches, to help you enrich your relationship.
  10. Let go of societal expectations of what a relationship “should” look like or how it should operate. It’s your relationship, you get to choose how it works for you!
  11. Embrace change. Relationships change because we change.
  12. Admit when you’re wrong, apologize, and take actions to do/be better.
  13. Express love and affection verbally and physically…often.
  14. Invest in learning how to effectively listen and communicate.
  15. Play together. Relationships take work, but they don’t have to be all work and no play.
 
We don’t claim to be relationship experts, we are simply sharing some of what we’ve learned together over the years. There are few resources or models for gay relationships. One of the biggest mistakes we observe in others is when gay couples model their relationship after the heteronormative model held up as the template and yet it doesn’t even have a high success rate. We’ve been socialized to view the heteronormative model as the only acceptable way to have a relationship. I reject that notion. The legitimacy of your relationship isn’t dependent upon social norms which are rooted in patriarchy and religion. You get to decide what makes your relationship real.
 
David and I have certainly had our share of relationship ups and downs. These 15 years haven’t been without significant challenges. When David met me I was a newly-out, single dad raising three kids struggling to make ends meet and rebuild my life. There were times of great sacrifice for both David and me in those early years, but we knew we had something good and worth investing in, so we did. We learned together about love, life, and one another. Our relationship is stronger today because of our intentionality and investment in US!
 
If it’s worth keeping, it’s worth investing in.
 
People often ask us how we met, if you’d like to hear that story, listen to this 5-minute version as featured on StoryCorps.
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