Staying Friends

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We hear so much criticism of our community from without, and within, I thought it would be a nice change to talk about something that LGBT people do better than our heterosexual peers. While our breakups can be just as painful as our straight counterparts we are much better at creating lasting friendships with our exes.

There seems to be some data to support the idea that queer men are somewhat better at preserving these relationships than women. But, LGBT women still fare far better than their straight peers.

While it isn’t the case for me. It is important to remember that many gay people have little or no contact with their families of origin. That means that they need stronger support from elsewhere. Many of us create families of close friends who serve the same social, and emotional, needs as a traditional family.

End of life issues are an important part of these connections. In many cases our exes, our closest friends, understand our wishes much better than our families of origin. Particular when we have moved away from the religions of our birth our wishes no longer align with what our families might believe. Through the AIDS crisis many of us, learned to be caregivers, filling yet another role traditionally played by families.

I have remained close to two of the men I have spent significant time in relationship with. The exception is my first partner who was abusive.

But, when family relationships are good, and either partner is in a new relationship, why would we break the societal pattern and remain close? I’ve pondered the question often. When people in my circle discuss the topic we arrive at the conclusion that we are asking the wrong question. The better question being, “Why not?” One of the advantages that we have sitting outside the culture at large is that we have more choices around rejecting “standard behavior”.

Our approach makes more sense. You meet, you fall in love, If you stay together long enough that love deepens and the relationship evolves. Then five, or ten, or twenty years later something happens. For whatever reasons the relationship no longer works.

Even when the decision isn’t mutual queer folk do better. Breakups are hard, even traumatic, no matter how congenial and mutual they might be. We need time to recover and regroup. But, love doesn’t just disappear because we’re no longer together.

Once a bond has been formed through years of life together and mutual support, it doesn’t just go poof overnight. If it does either the love was never that deep, or the partners simply believe they must never forgive each other for the “failed” relationship. This sad state of affairs is more likely for straight couples. I think much of that is because they don’t have to face battles with the world just for being together. They are also bound much more tightly to societal norms that push them together even if it isn’t what they really want.

Real love doesn’t disappear because your living arrangement changes. Removed from societal pressure we can honor our beautiful history with another human being. I want to be there for the people I love, exes included, to celebrate their victories and console them in their losses. That is what love is about. So next time a close straight friend talks about an impending breakup why not talk to them about the options they have when the dust settles so they don’t have to loose that important person in their life.


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