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Separately Together

For most people the format is the same; after a certain amount of time spent dating you have ‘the talk’, and become official. A year or two passes and you take ‘the next big step’ and you move in together. A few more years pass and one of you ‘pops the question’, you become engaged and eventually married. More time passes, more banal phrases in inverted commas begin to sum up your relationship, and before you know it, you’re knee deep in dirty nappies, and neither of you has gotten a wink of sleep in six months. You’re tired, you’re cranky, but here you are, living the dream, and you’re happy, right?

Since 2015, the relationship ideal that had been held in such coveted regard is now a package that is aggressively sold to gay couples. Not that it wasn’t an option before, it’s just that now it is done so with legitimacy and an extra weight behind it. Society said we can get married, they said they don’t care, that they want us to be able to live exactly as they do, and hoorah for that! But sometimes can’t help but feel like, now that they have let us in, they never want us to leave! Like the permissibility of our relationships can only be afforded to us if we conform to the societal constructs that they have had in place for generations.

I remember when The L Word came out first, and, for those of you who don’t know, the main long term couple in the show were Bette and Tina. They were together seven years and were a dynamic power couple who were trying for a baby. They were the archetype of what a successful on-screen relationship looks like. While most of my friends were unable to fathom being with the same person for that long, (we were only in our early 20’s at the time), all I could think was, how it all just looked so unappealing to me. Not the length of time with the same person, but the constraints that these two women had willingly placed upon themselves.

I could never imagine it. Being so tied down to one thing, one place, being responsible for another human forever. The only thing about it that ever appealed to me was the idea of finding a soul mate, a partner in crime to share the adventure with. But never wanted the rest of it.

I am a 35 year-old woman, a lesbian, a devoted cat mother and have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for seven years. But our relationship functions in a different way to a lot of the other relationships that see around me. We don’t live together. We both live in our respective family homes. We have no interest in getting married and we certainly don’t want any children. We don’t see each other every day or even every week despite living in the same city as one another. But we are happy. Extremely so.

We don’t live together because we can’t afford to right now, and we don’t see the sense in giving up two three-bedroom houses in favour of a tiny one-bedroom flat for the two of us and the cat. My partner has some pretty strong convictions about non-conformity that don’t feel the need to challenge. don’t necessarily share her convictions, but also don’t disagree with them.

We don’t want children, because we just don’t want them. Contrary to popular belief this does not mean that we don’t like children. We are the best aunties you will ever find, not some haggard old crones locked away in our individual houses, cursing out the window every time a child kicks a ball in the direction of our house.

Now, you would think that this should be all fi ne and dandy in this day and age, where more and more versions of love are becoming more and more mainstream, but as two women in our mid-30’s, it seems that not everyone is okay with us being okay with our situation. After all, everyone knows that by the time they hit 35, women should be on their first marriage, first mortgage, second child and third car, right? Any woman who is over a certain age and has decided that they do not want children will understand the objection that people have to you making different choices to them.

What seems to be a particular bug bear to these people is that, not only have you made different life choices to them, but you have also turned those choices into successful actions. think this scares them. It frightens them to think that there are other ways to exist that aren’t ‘their way’. People have a deep need for other people to conform to their way of thinking. Almost as if being happy in an alternate situation somehow challenges theirs. It’s as though they think that, because a totally different way of life is possible, their way of life will suddenly become moot.

I was asked recently if thought that myself and my girlfriend would ever be able to live together. Even that question insinuates that the only possible way to know someone well is to actually spend every hour with them. This is something believe to be patently untrue. My girlfriend knows me better than anyone ever has, because we communicate. We don’t have to occupy the same building to talk to one another. My response was: “Maybe, maybe not.” They simply could not fit their head around the idea that we love each other, but we don’t need to be around each other every waking moment, or even see each other every day.

We are a couple that, if you spend more than five minutes in our company, you can feel the love coming off us. have written some of my most beautiful words about her and we have experienced some of the most precious experiences together. We support each other endlessly and without judgement or question and we just adore the bones of one another. But we also kinda dig our alone time. have had a fair few relationships before this one. Each of them were conducted in a manner that would suit most of the people who question this one. None of them lasted. None of them worked. But here am now seven years into a relationship that suits me, and we are still going strong. Surely that says something.

People love to off er their unsolicited opinion to you, especially about truly personal things. The thing that we always try to remember is that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. All that matters is how we feel about each other, and we are both completely confident and sure of our love for one another.

It is interesting that we get more judgement from heterosexual people than from the gay community. I’m not entirely sure what that says about society. It is also interesting that the majority of my gay male friends don’t seem to have nearly the same amount of expectations placed upon them as we do. Almost as if society assumes that their relationships don’t last anyway. There is so much prejudice built into just that one sentence that it would take an entire magazine to fully unpack.

I guess the biggest thing to take away from all of this is - never allow anyone to belittle or illegitimise your relationship, just because it doesn’t fit into the box that they provided you with.

No matter what way you wear your love, once it fits you, it doesn’t matter the size or the shape of it. Happiness should always be the end goal of any relationship. Honesty, love, understanding, support, trust, and passion. Once you have those things, everything else is a bonus.

This article appears in the 358 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 358 Issue of GCN