Do Serious Same Sex Relationships Exist?
As children attending primary school we will most probably, have formed close relationships with other children of the same sex. From our earliest days in class or when mixing in the playground, it’s customary to gravitate towards people with whom we feel most comfortable, who seem to be on our wavelength and with whom we easily relate. Sometimes the children who are different to us will be dismissed as rough, nerdy, sporty, almost giving us permission to write them off. It’s ‘safer’ not to fraternise with them and stay with ‘our own sort’.
Some of those early years’ friendships may last our whole lives, through school, college, university, house moves, having children of our own, divorces, sometimes surviving longer than any romantic relationship. A same sex relationship may well be seen as a comfortable place of mutual understanding, where little or no explanation is needed. There’s a, a ‘you get it!’ when sharing troublesome stories, especially about relationship and emotional issues, often about the opposite sex!
Having serious same sex friendships and relationships in younger life can provide both an emotional and physical buffer as we grow and experience more of life. Those relationships often offer comfort and reassurance about any doubts, fears and uncertainties that may be experienced as we grow in years. We discuss the ups and downs of life, that they’re normal, usual and survivable and are often valuable learning points along the way.
Sexual awareness can be a cause of anxiety for many young people, as they question their own sexuality, maybe experiencing shame about complicated thoughts, feelings and crushes they may have or embarrassment at the changes or lack of changes to their body. Some youngsters may explore their sexual awakening together and practice kissing, touching, playing at doctors and nurses.
These relationships grow in breadth and depth, often, throughout the years, becoming the most significant people in our lives, the person or persons who know us better than anyone. Together we’ve shared the good and bad times, experienced disasters and triumphs. We’ve compared notes on our experiences, taken on board any feedback, no matter how painful, endured tough situations at home and worked through various crises of confidence or confusion about our direction in life. We learn that relationships are about compromise, loyalty and shared experiences. To succeed they have to be flexible and tolerant of each other’s foibles as they evolve.
Maintaining a serious same sex relationship also requires additional considerations.
If there’s a growing attraction it can cause confusion and possibly even distress in a same sex relationship, where doubting one’s own sexuality may be brought into question. Sometimes same sex couples will explore their feelings together and things further. It may start with childish curiosity, but if both agree, it can potentially lead to a stronger relationship that’s more than just a friendship.
Equally, companionship and friendship, without sexual intimacy can be the cornerstone of a successful, happy and fulfilling same sex relationship. Some couples may agree than if one person’s sexual needs are not being met then those needs can be satisfied outside the relationship, but often discussion and ground rules need to be applied.
If a couple are living together, it may be that everything is discussed openly, but some couples prefer to keep extra-curricular activities away from home, firmly on the other side of the front door. It may be accepted that one person may not always be able to fulfil the other’s sexual wants and needs, but if the relationship works well in every other aspect they may not want to risk losing it. It’s important to be open and honest when determining what works for both.
A potential minefield may be if one person realises they want more than just friendship, is strongly attracted and wants a more committed relationship. Or jealousy may arise if one person is more sociable, aspirational, wants to explore other friendships, do things outside of the relationship and maintain separate interests. These areas need to be discussed with a sensitivity that includes open, honest communication, so all areas can be satisfactorily resolved.
Attraction and developing successful relationships can have different criteria for each sex. It’s not unusual for men to be quite visual, being attracted by physical attributes like looks, body size, shape and age. Whereas, women can find themselves drawn to a potential partners’ financial standing, the security they offer, as well as characteristics like a sense of humour, integrity and kindness.
Consequently, remaining in a close relationship with someone of our own sex can feel less challenging and be a comfortable, less stressful place to live. But, as in any relationship, compromise, sensitivity and understanding are required for it to endure and grow.
A serious same sex relationship needs empathy and tolerance, an appreciation that each person may have a different perspective about what the relationship means to them. But any expectations may become fluid if a potential new love interest emerges, an exciting work opportunity arises that requires long hours or travel away, or the situation changes with regard to availability.
Sometimes there may be a need to loosen the hold and give each other space, while other times, being present in a full-on supportive capacity might be what’s required. Good same sex relationships can even be revived after several years and many miles apart. Sometimes a couple may pick up exactly where they left off with hardly a blink. That connection can be exactly what makes a good same sex friendship and relationship work well.
Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net