Making love last is Job One for gay men this Valentine season, whether you and yours are just getting in the game, been together forever, or starting over from scratch.
By Mike Fleming
If 2015 was all about marriage, and 2016 found us weathering the storm of backlashes against our relationships, it follows that this can be the year when gay men can settle in, truly define our relationships to suit ourselves and not ideals, and finally figure out how to make love last.
This Valentine’s Day, gay men can redouble our commitment to marriage as only one of the gay relationship options. But once you’ve found and embraced every iteration of monogamy, dating, open relationships, or polyamory, how do you make love stick around?
Start by setting parameters. Yes, even if for you and yours that means a distinct lack of traditional boundaries. The path to relationship meltdown is paved with crossed wires and unfulfilled expectations.
But it’s not good enough to decide where you stand and hope you’re on the same page. You need to communicate those expectations – with words, not assumptions that he surely must know how you feel. Talk about what you each want, and come to agreements about how that should look. Say what you mean and ask for confirmation, then listen to him and repeat what you think you heard. This will save hours over miscommunication, hurried texts and hurt feelings.
You might not be responsible for changing the way he feels, but you are responsible for listening to him and helping him process his feelings.
Commit to check back in on your agreements every once in a while to make sure nothing has changed. Open relationships, for example, are not in any way a mistake that guys make – it’s not agreeing on them in advance and acting indignant when one person interprets the rules differently than the other.
Once you’re comfortable with the ground rules, now you have to work on how go about sticking to them. Your mission, should you choose to accept is to balance ‘All About Me’ vs. ‘All About Us.’
Most gay men are pretty good at the “Me” part at the beginning, but somewhere between meet-cute and key exchange, you may face down the urge to be clingy – or worse, the equal and opposite reaction, to be too aloof. Balance comes as you make time to enhance what you bring to the table as an individual, while you stay abreast and respectful of his interests, as well as keep an eye out for opportunities to enjoy each other beyond the bedroom or dinner table.
So many breakups come down to one thing. No matter what you think the reason for one split or another is, the word your looking for is ‘trust,’ or more accurately, lack thereof. Practice trust. Become an expert. If you’re looking to make love last, trust is Job One.
If trust is a problem for either of you, or if trust freely given is betrayed, you may not be working with the right person. Once broken, getting trust back, while possible, may be the hardest thing you ever decide to try and do.
If communication is the key to happiness, trust is the door it opens, and balance is the living room of your relationship, then life’s hot buttons are like landmines that block your way to the bedroom sooner rather than later. That’s why it’s crucial to talk about money and sex.
If you can’t talk about the big stuff, there’s not much worth talking about at all. Don’t nickel and dime each other’s spending habits, or keep score on who picks up the most checks, but do talk about the division of resources and contributions, and how to save for things you both want.
In the bedroom, say what you want out loud. Tell each other what turns you on. Be playful and flirt. Be creative. Keep it sexy. Entertaining each other’s fantasies increases intimacy, and intimacy keeps love sticking around.
Speaking of your House of Love, most gay men will take it all the way and move in together. No one would suggest that you to rent a U-Haul tomorrow and press a warp-drive button to your final destination before you’re ready. But if you’re interested in a life together, you’re eventually going to be interested in living together. When the time comes, be brave and take the plunge.
Now, after all this great work getting things in order, it may seem so obvious that it should go without saying, but it’s crucial to the health of your relationship to put it to the test.
Every healthy relationship gets tested. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a healthy relationship. We push buttons, ignore needs, and think we’re the only one not getting the attention we desire.
Assuming your relationship is above being tested is incorrect, but viewing normal tests as dealbreakers could be worse. Think of challenges as bumps in the road and lessons learned.
When issues arise, resolve conflicts as soon as possible. Don’t stew too long, and when you do come back together after a disagreement, be ready and willing to compromise. Resentments can destroy relationships so clear the air.
As long as you both approach your relationship with integrity and good intentions, remember that there are no mistakes that can’t be fixed, only catalysts for growth as you go along. Keep an open mind, a grateful approach, and a forgiving heart, and you too can make love last.
Sources: GayTherapist.com, Psychology Today, YourTango