*The other day I was talking to a male friend who is married. During our conversation he asked the question “from all your relationship experience what do you find are the differences between a straight and gay relationship”. I thought this was an interesting question but I really needed to give it time to sink in before responding. After much thought I came up with this response.
1) Contrary to popular belief, from my experience a key difference is friends. In a straight relationship you tend to find that primarily men have male friends and woman have female friends. So in this dynamic it is a ‘safe’ environment for both in the relationship. Gay men seem to have friends who are gay and male. So really this dynamic is different. In a straight relationship if the majority of a woman’s friends were male it would make the husband feel uncomfortable at times. So this dynamic is very different to a straight relationship. My straight friend actually said he felt this was something that he doesn’t know how he would deal with.
2) Marriage is obviously a big thing for many. The ability or choice to get married in my mind is very different. I see that marriage is more than a ceremony. It also encourages people to work harder on a relationship before walking away. It is also in my mind the ultimate level of commitment. Now others may disagree but this is my view. Without the right to get married I believe on some level it feels like you are in the endless state of boyfriends. I know that people can choose not to get married but in a straight relationship it is the end result on some level. In a gay relationship that doesn’t exist. So to some degree I feel that this is a big difference. The response I got to this was that my friend always grew up wanting to get married at some point and felt that if he didn’t have that choice he would feel second class.
3) Following on from this he said to me that it’s true that even in a straight relationship he only views relationships as being permanent or serious once someone gets engaged or married unless they have been together for like ten years plus. So in a gay relationship where marriage is not even an option he said in reality he never really sees it as more than dating. He felt bad about this but as I said, it makes sense. Marriage or the pathway to marriage is how you judge any relationship. So without that and particularly in a gay one you don’t really see that lifelong commitment even though it may be there.
4) Another difference as I see it is from history. Because being gay was in the past a particularly closeted thing, there were really no role models in society so no one to really look up to from a values and moral viewpoint. Many therefore didn’t get to see what a good and bad gay relationship meant. We all had traditional relationships to look at but it wasn’t the same. So the identity that has been created which has lead to many of the stereotypes hasn’t really in many cases had time to form. I see a lot of young gay people who really just go out there and don’t really have an identity but rather act in a way that is what they think a gay person should act like. I think in many cases it's the same for relationships. We may have had straight role models who taught us right from wrong but in many respects we were left to work out for ourselves how to implement or translate that to a gay relationship.
5) Research has shown that one very positive difference is that because both people in the relationship are of the same gender these relationships seem to work better as the traditional gender roles don’t exist. This makes running a household or raising children equal on many levels. Traditional gender roles are ingrained so in a straight relationship even unintentionally they tend to exist.
Generally there are far more similarities in relationships across the board. The key is to recognise those things that may be different and deal with them. We need to understand that every relationship is different. Often in a gay relationship we try to be just that, two same sex people, but a lot of the time it is two different people. One will usually always have more female traits. In my relationship for example I have more masculine characteristics but emotionally I am much more female. So in the end we need to recognise that in any relationship there are two different people and it is no simpler for a gay couple than a straight couple. *