When I started thinking about my blog and my business, I knew I wanted to serve the GLBTQ community, specifically gay and lesbian couples. Marriage equality was creating exciting, financial opportunities for many of us, and I realized that I could provide good insight with my financial knowledge and experiences in the trials and tribulations of coupledom.
I’ve mentioned before how managing your money as a couple proves much harder than handling it by yourself. You have to figure out how to meld your different money personalities, develop a money system that works for you both, and deal with the myriad of financial issues that arise when getting married.
The good news is that couples often create more wealth than individuals. However, the key is staying together. Having been in my relationship for 15 years, I understand how hard that can be. I’ve learned so much about myself, attributes and faults, by having another person see the best and the worst of me. Ben reflecting his observations and understanding of me has been critical in my becoming a better person and partner. (And why I’m so grateful to have him in my life.)
Today I want to do something a little different and focus on practical tips for creating a healthy relationship. Obviously I’m not a relationship expert or counselor, so I’ll just share information that I’ve found particularly helpful. And hopefully learning these tips will help you keep your relationship healthy and wealthy.
Understand that Same-Sex Couples are Different and Create Your Own Path
Overall, gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples have a vast amount of similarities in the triumphs and struggles of their relationships. However, some particular distinctions exist that same-sex couples should keep in mind when navigating their relationship.
In a blog post last year, Kathy Gottberg examined many “social and legal barriers that are unique to their situation that influence [same-sex] relationships.” She highlighted that gay and lesbian couples employ different relationship strategies to deal with conflict, including accepting “conflict in a more positive way” and using “fewer controlling, hostile or emotional tactics.”
Another study that she examined found that, “[f]or lesbians, affection was more important than it was for gay males, while for gay males, validation was more important than it was for lesbians.” She also pointed out that individual autonomy plays a bigger role in gay and lesbian relationships.
My favorite distinction stems from the fact that same-sex couples don’t rely on cultural and relationship gender roles to determine power dynamics in their relationships. She states, “ rather than fall into cultural or religious norms as many of us do unconsciously, gay and lesbian couples must come to a mutual agreement about the details of their lives in order to stay together.” And this mutual agreement can help balance equality and fairness in the relationship, key components in making it last.
I love the idea that gay and lesbian couples should embrace these differences and learn to foster a sense of mutual respect in their relationship. We can create our path in a way that both spouses feel respected. As Gottberg eloquently explains, “conversation, equality, negotiation and a willingness to create something new — not because you can, but because you want to — is something every straight couple could learn from same-sex couples.”
Learn How to Communicate In Ways Your Spouse Understands
My mom is one of the most spiritual and reflective people that I know. And as much as I tease her for all of her relationship and self-improvement advice, she actually got Ben and I a book that changed the dynamic of how we interacted and saw each other.
The book was The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It focuses on understanding the way you and your spouse express and experience love.
The Five Love Languages are:
- Words of Affirmation – using words to affirm other people
- Acts of Service – where action speak louder than words
- Receiving Gifts – what makes a person feel most loved is a gift
- Quality Time – giving another person your undivided attention
- Physical Touch – a person feels the most love through physical closeness
The book provides a quiz to help you figure your primary and secondary love languages. And once you know the languages for each other, you can start to express love in a way that your spouse understands and can receive.
I was skeptical at first, especially at the thought of having to fill Ben’s “love tank.” But it actually made a huge difference for us. It gave reflection points and concrete language to use in understanding our conflict and how to resolve it. When I don’t feel like I’m able to communicate my love for Ben during a conflict, I can now express it in a way that he recognizes.
The Perfect Spouse is the One that Continues to Work on the Relationship
My most recent favorite article was published last week in the opinion section of the New York Times. Alain de Botton titled his article “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”
Despite such a provocative and cynical title, the article provided an eye opening analysis of why many of us fall into the trap of marrying for the wrong reasons. Some of the “bewildering array of problems” that emerge when trying to find a partner include the lack of self-awareness, seeking familiarity rather than happiness, and choosing a relationship out of fear of being alone.
But “the good news,” according to de Botton, is that “it doesn’t matter if we if we find we have married the wrong person.” He said we should abandon the idea that there’s a perfect person out there that will “meet all of our needs and satisfy our every yearning.” Rather “the person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. “
This article hit home with me because I’ve often thought about finding that “perfect person” after Ben and I have had an argument. If only I found that person who I will never disagree with and whom I have everything in common, I would think, life would be perfect. But I eventually understood that he doesn’t exist. And even if he did, life would be extremely boring.
I love that Ben pushes me to become better and exposes me to ideas and experiences that I never would have considered on my own. And what I love the most is that he’s always willing to keep trying to resolve whatever issues that we have because he loves me and knows I will do the same because I love him.
I hope these articles provide some helpful tips on strengthening your relationship. Having a healthy relationship will only increase your ability to thrive financially.