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#4 of 6
Rufus is a college history professor who hails from Southern California. He’s in his mid-forties, and is happily partnered to Casey, his husband of 6 years and soulmate of 9. His gentle, even manner belied the force of his convictions, and even while deeply engaged in our conversation that could have gone on for hours, honestly, it occurred to me how closely my audience of predominately straight women could relate to a married gay man offering his take on relationships.
Nevertheless, Casey hit much the same notes as most of the other men I spoke with, placing respect and support – bearing the lows and riding the highs hand in hand – at the top of his list. No matter how they said it, all the men I’ve talked to all agreed on this: it takes a real man to hold up his end of a loving partnership. In this case, it takes two. ♥
Before I met Casey I wasn’t really able to let people in, even though I thought the people around me really knew me. But I learned the hard way that it wasn’t true. I was pretty closed off and guarded because of lots of things concerning my past, but this whole process of relationship has opened me up a lot. I’d say Casey is the one person who truly knows me, and that’s a great thing. It’s also scary at times.
I think the most important part of a strong relationship – and it may sound cliché to say this, but it’s true – it’s communication. You have to be able to tell each other everything. And you have to want to tell each other everything. They say that secrets keep us sick, and I’ve found the few times that I’ve ever had a secret in our 9 years together, it’s always been a bad thing; it never works keeping secrets.
Another thing I’ve seen happen all the time with couples is when they treat each other like adversaries. That’s one thing that Casey and I have: we feel like we’re on the same team – about 95% of the time. Once in awhile something will creep up and we’ll have a moment where it doesn’t feel that way and … actually, it’s more like 98% of the time, not 95. We almost always feel like we’re on the same team and I think that’s what makes the relationship work: you have to feel like that person is your lobster. That’s what we call each other. You know lobsters, they mate for life and it’s like, that’s my person. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything.
I think in any kind of relationship the biggest problem is that people are looking for the wrong kind of person. I have a few beliefs that are probably not what other people have said to you, but, if you’re looking for sex, you’re making a mistake, and if you’re looking for someone you’re only physically attracted to, you’re also making a mistake. I feel a little bit like a hypocrite saying this because I was attracted to Casey when we met, but the God’s honest truth is it wasn’t the first thing I was drawn to. Number one was his personality. I think people should look for someone they think is a nice person. That’s what matters.
In the end, relationships are about communication. I would think a good first meeting would be an hour over coffee – put your private parts away and just get to know the person in front of you. People say sex is a form of communication, but I’m not sure I believe that, and I’m a person who really happens to like sex. But when you’re just meeting someone, it should be like number 13 on your list because, eventually, it goes away.
It does help when we improve ourselves, but not for the relationship; it just helps when we improve ourselves, period. When we put our best version of ourselves forward, that makes it easier for people to connect to us, but I think the most important thing is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with that person emotionally and communicatively. That’s not always easy.
One time way back in our friendship, Casey had plans for us to go out and I blew him off. He sent me an email saying, I don’t have friends who treat me that way and if you’d like to have a friendship with me, you cannot treat me like that. That’s the point where I might have shrugged it aside or made a joke about blowing him off, but in a moment I thought, Yeah, he’s right. So I called him up and said, I’m sorry, you’re right, I didn’t value you in that way. Will you please give me another chance to treat you better? It really opened things up from there. And that was just as friends, before we started getting serious.
Relationships are about finding a person who can see you sobbing and you don’t have to feel ashamed. That’s still a challenge for me sometimes, but that can only happen when you’re truly open and honest.
The façades that we’re taught to put on only hamper rather than improve our communication with each other. The silly ways that we’re taught to be men and women in this culture just don’t foster strong connection at all. In the gay world, all sorts of ideas about masculinity and femininity still try to define our roles, too. But none of that’s real, either. We’re all human beings, and the more transparent we can be with each other, the better. I’d say take away the trappings rather than put them on.
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