“Oh my god!” or “Wow, that’s a long time. Congratulations!” These are the usual two responses I hear when I tell people that my partner and I have been together for almost 19 years. Some will proceed to ask how we achieved a long term relationship given that it’s an open relationship too. I must admit it’s an achievement for gay relationships, considering we have also lived together for almost 18 years.
To achieve a long term relationship, in my humble opinion, both have to be compatible in character. We are independent, mature and pretty logical in our approach to handling issues despite our obvious cultural differences: he is a White American while I’m a Chinese Singaporean; he’s 51 and I’m 47. I know it is not easy for anyone looking for a long term relationship (LTR) partner: there are so many factors to consider – body type, looks, age, sexual compatibility and personality too. And it doesn’t help that there is also a lack of gay role-models who are in a successful long term relationships whom we can refer to. Comments like “Aiyah, the gay circle is like that: if you can stay for 2 years, it is considered very good already” do not really help either.
Next comes the curious question: “Open relationship – aren’t you afraid of him finding someone else?” Initially there were jealousies and insecurities which caused some tension, but that is the price we both have to pay for wanting to taste the “greener pastures”. We took the risk and now we definitely feel more secure in our non-monogamous relationship as we learnt more of each other. Of course, there is still a chance that either of us might leave for someone else but if the other person can make him happier, why should I deprive him of that? This is the part where my independence and self-confidence kick in.
When I hear gay couple break off after a relatively long relationship, I’m often curious to ask them why. One of the common reasons mentioned is “we don’t love each other anymore”. From the way I see it, their love trip has pretty much come to an end assuming they have discussed openly and tried to work out their differences. Some still choose to stay together as companions. The other reason is the lack of honesty. Couples cheat behind each other while living under false pretense that they are still in a monogamous relationship. No doubt, the savvy ones have an understanding that there is some hanky-panky going on but they do not want to discuss it. As the saying goes “See no evil, hear no evil and therefore feel no evil.”
In a relationship,
both parties share each other’s baggage…..
In the end, one has to ask oneself if good times are worth fighting for.
Remember, it is those tough times that show each other our strength.
There is something that often puzzles people. How can I call ourselves a couple when there is no more sex between us? This is an interesting topic. Let me attempt to open your eyes to my perspective. First, it is not uncommon for gay couples (even straight ones) to get tired of each other sexually especially when one has been eating the “same dish” for so long. I tell people I eat until sian leow1. Life is too short to deprive myself of the varieties out there. My good friend once commented that since there is no sex between us, we are like flat mates living together. People fail to understand it is not just the sex that determines the status of your relationship, more importantly it is the emotions that you feel towards each other. After all, there are many couples, straight or gay who are still very much in love despite the absence of sex. However even if a married couple falls out of love, they are as good as two lonely strangers living under the same roof. By the same token although we don’t engage in sexual activities, that didn’t stop us from showing lots of affection for one another, such as holding hands, cuddling on the sofa to watch TV, kissing each other every day and saying “I love you”. These are loving-affirmations that we still share as a couple. Please don’t get me wrong, my relationship is far from heaven. We have quarreled many times and even separated twice. I have to admit there were doubtful moments when I asked myself if I want to continue with my partner. In a relationship, both parties share each other’s baggage. This is part of the raw deal one has to consider. In the end, one has to ask oneself if good times are worth fighting for. Remember, it is those tough times that show each other our strength.
As for the statement “You can never hope to change a person”, I find it true by the hard way. There are many stupid habits of his that I simply have to learn to accept. I am sure he would say the same thing about me. For one, I am a frugal person while he is not. He commutes everywhere in taxi when I am very happy with the bus or the MRT2. I believe in being environmentally friendly while he leaves lights and fans running in the house for no good reason. I can drink water from the tap while he must drink bottled or boiled water. He is a hygiene freak in the kitchen (he changes our kitchen cleaning sponge every 3 weeks!) while I can pick up a morsel off my kitchen top and eat it because it’s too wasteful to throw away. He can go to bed without showering but I must shower before I crawl under the sheets. Recently I do see some changes in him after 18 years. He has made more effort to do the laundry when I am not around. These are little things that show we are progressing in the right direction. But there are few principles which I will not compromise in. My partner has to be a kind person and I mean kindness to people and animals (bonus if he is kind to the environment too). I won’t tolerate rudeness and arrogance in a person and I am thankful he is not like that.
There is this cliché “we can finish each other’s sentences” which is also true. We know exactly how we would react and respond to certain questions or situations. This is the part which I really enjoy in a long term relationship. I know for example whatever mischief I get myself into, I will be forgiven. There was an occasion when I was caught sneaking out of the house at 1 am to meet a sex date. I know it’s a terrible thing to do but I took the risk because I know even if I was caught, he will forgive and move on. Good thing that guy was worth the scolding I had to endure.
Although I am out to my siblings they don’t talk about it much. But they have accepted us in their own subtle way. Unfortunately religion has a big part to play in their view towards gay people. My ang-moh3 partner came a few times for our Chinese reunion dinners and Lunar New Year visits and some major family events. I am sure that is also sending a rainbow smoke signal to the relatives too.
We have written a Will for each other. That is as much as we can do for now. Hopefully in the future, I will not have to face an emergency situation where I have to prove to the hospital that I am the most important person my partner wants to see at his sick bed. That’s why we need gay marriage equality.
1 sian leow – Singaporean Hokkien dialect term for “tired/enough already”. The Mandarin equivalent is 厌倦了.
2 MRT – Singapore’s underground mass rapid transport
3 Ang-moh – 红毛. Singaporean Hokkien dialect term for Caucasian.
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