Shannon Jenkins, Associate Writer, Lifestyle & Culture
None of them ever uttered the phrase “love at first sight.” They didn’t need to say what their actions confirmed. Since the day they first met, each of the four metro Atlanta couples has stuck together through thick and thin.
|Lance & Roger
It was about midnight when Lance spotted Roger at a party on Thanksgiving. Lance’s attention had wandered away from a conversation with his friends to the tall gentlemen who had just entered the room. He quickly informed them the person he planned to marry had just arrived. Roger noticed Lance looking in his direction and struck up a conversation. “We talked, we laughed, we danced,” Roger recalled. “We have been dancing for 23 years now.”
|Chris & Jon
The beginning of “Chris and Jon” is a virtual tale. They first met on AOL in 2001 and kept their chats on a friendly basis, as both had boyfriends at the time. A few years later, they bumped into one another on Yahoo Messenger, but this time they were single. “We finally met for dinner on April 3, 2003, and have been inseparable ever since,” Chris said. “We celebrate this day as our anniversary still.”
|Brian & Troy
Another online love story belongs to Brian and Troy. They were both living in Las Vegas when their paths crossed on the Internet. “We were chatting, and I simply asked if he would like to come over and have a cup of coffee with me and he did,” Brian said. The two will be together seven years in August.
|Stephen & Alan
A dance at Saint Mark United Methodist Church brought this pair together. Stephen was a member of the church and attended the dance just to have some fun. Alan had been invited to the social gathering by a gym buddy. “Neither of us was looking for a relationship,” said Stephen, who celebrated his ninth anniversary with Alan in March.
A common thread among these couples is their willingness to openly communicate.
“It’s the bedrock of our relationship,” Jon said. “Chris and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, but it builds a solid mutual respect and trust that endures.”
“If we are wrong for something that we have said or done to the other we apologize and talk it out,” Brian said.
“Stephen and I are better now than we used to be,” Alan said. “But it still is challenging to ‘hear’ what the other is saying and make sure the other is hearing and understanding the one wanting to be heard.”
Local psychotherapists Jim Sacco and Brett Rozen, who both specialize in gay relationships, couldn’t agree more about honest dialogue between partners. “When people are not open about their feelings, their partners often resort to mind-reading in an attempt to guess what their feeling based on their behavior. Much of the time, they’re wrong,” Brett said.
“It takes bravery to be honest,” said Jim, who advised that the starting point for communication needs to be making an agreement about monogamy, or a variation of it. He also said partners should listen to one another, not to prove them wrong, but to understand what it’s like to be in the other’s shoes.
Another factor in their success as couples has been embracing their differences. Stephen tries to be three steps ahead of the pack, while Alan claims to be oblivious to anything outside the immediate task at hand. “We accept each other for who he is and encourage the behavior we want,” Stephen said. With a theatre background, Brian admitted he was the dramatic one in the family, opposed to the reserved Troy, who doesn’t allow emotion to cloud his judgment. “Being very different in our thoughts and who we are as individuals has surely played a key role in our longevity as a couple,” Brian said. Chris and Jon agree. “We both bring something unique to the table, and appreciate each other for it,” Chris said. Jon added, “We don’t try to change each other. Our individual qualities are what brought us together in the first place, and we strive to keep that while we grow together.”
Two of the couples identified a few interesting aspects of their relationships that helped contribute to their longevity. “We have a very broad social network,” Stephen said. “A lot of long-term couples we know tend to isolate themselves with a core group of friends and activities. Depending on the group we’re with, we are the rich ones or the poor ones, the old ones or the twinks, the newbies or the hosts. It helps us keep our perspective on who and where we are at the moment.” Lance and Roger recognized financial planning as a valuable contributor. “Taking steps to protect ourselves during difficult financial times has proven to provide a stronger sense of commitment,” Lance said.
“Healthy relationships happen because there are two healthy individuals,” Jim advised. “Each person must do the work to have the life they want. The more whole we are and more resolved we are before we hook up with someone it’s going to result in a healthier partnership.”
Brett suggested treating a relationship like a rare plant. “If you don’t tend to and water it, it will eventually die,” he said. “When a couple is committed to making a relationship work regardless of issues, it will usually work.”