Always Be My Baby: Our Semi-Professional Opinions on What Keeps Queer Couples Together

Bailey , Writer

Vulnerability, which goes well with realistic and reasonable expectations (see first question). Feeling safe to be vulnerable about  bringing up insecurities and an intention to work on them (therapy, self-care, reflection, growth on yourself, etc) so that they don’t come up as much. If a committed partner has the same stance on vulnerability and we can both trust the most ridiculous sounding insecurity will land well because there’s an agreement to work through them rather than letting them ferment and come up again and again, I’m into it!

danijanae , Writer

I never farted in front of my ex and our relationship crashed and burned just over a year in, so maybe let em rip.

In all seriousness, I think mutual respect and independence are the key to keeping a relationship together. Be cute together and apart, don’t be the couple that is never seen apart and when they are its an ordeal.

Super important, don’t say “I love you” when you don’t mean it. Wait until you really feel it and deal with the awkwardness that will probably come with it.

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

Getting lucky enough to find someone who is willing to work as hard at it as you are — not just in the beginning, not only when working on it is working out which sex toys to buy together or whether or not bath tub sex is really even worth trying to figure out (it’s not), not only when working on it is dirty dishes and did you eat the last of my Cheerios and you forgot to lock the front door again and it’s your turn to call the landlord. I also mean working at it when you are raw and exhausted and in deep pain and external forces are conspiring against you and you’re crying and they’re crying and you can’t even make it through one conversation without one of you leaving the room.

In that dark night or week or month or year, having lucked into someone who never stops trying to see the good in you that they fell in love with, and will come back to the table again and again and again and sit on the same side with you and never stop working with you to forge a mutually beneficial path forward, and help heal each other, because you are doing that same thing for them. There’s no test for that. You can know what traits to look out for when you’re scouting for that kind of partner — self-aware, emotionally mature, takes responsibility for their actions and the pain they cause, knows how to apologize, is committed to self-betterment, etc. — but I think so much of finding someone who’s wiling to sharpen and soften all those skills inside the hard parts of a relationship is a lot of luck. And sometimes you don’t know until you know.

(I also think there’s something to be said for both people in a relationship working to be the kind of person someone wants to stay on a team with.)

I think you have to stay open to discovering something new about yourself and about your partner. I think it’s so hard to keep relationships going because they require a baseline of vulnerability that’s hard to maintain, but I think it’s necessary.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Managing Editor

Ahahahaha what does it say about me/my relationship history that the thing that first came to mind was DON’T LIE. Ok yes, don’t lie to your partner, but also that’s a horribly low bar for a relationship so it is not my real answer to the question.

I think a major factor for a relationship staying together is y’all’s relationships to OTHER people. You have to like their friends or at least make an effort, and they have to like your friends or at least make an effort. Beyond that, you should have a healthy mix of couples friends and your own friends. You should feel comfortable being with friends without your partner, and they should be comfortable spending social time away from you. It’s a nice sentiment for you to be dating your best friend…but you should also have a best friend who you are not dating. So I guess the success of a relationship also sort of depends on healthy FRIENDSHIPS. Wow, that’s cute.

Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor

Letting each other change (and supporting each other through those changes) is vital if you want to stick together. If you resist your partner’s changing career, interests or beliefs, they’re clinging to your past self instead of support who you are in the moment. When you’re stuck in the past, a relationship’s future becomes impossible.

Rachel Lewis, Writer

You have to really be able to be honest with yourself about both who you are and who they are. I think people force it because they WANT to end up together, but you’re going to grow and change. Also, don’t date someone who wants drama for the hell of it. Life is going to throw drama at you; a partner is someone who should be by your side as you get through it all. Not someone who wants a HUGE EXPLOSIVE ROMANCE WITH DRAMA.

Rachel Kincaid, Former Managing Editor

I am perhaps not the expert you want to consult in this situation as I’m really doing a Divorced Bird thing right now and for the foreseeable future, but reaching this point has given me a lot of opportunity to reflect on how our closest and most intimate relationships function! One thing I think about a lot is the disparity in how we treat the people we love most and spend the most time with as opposed to newer, shinier people that we don’t feel as secure with — usually the latter group really gets our best selves, the selves that are patient and generous and forgive and explain and give the benefit of the doubt. We often come home from a day of extending the most grace we’re capable of to our bosses, our friends, our clients, and then relax into our absolute worst selves around our families and our partners — irritable, snappy, defensive, checked out. It’s easier to do that because there’s trust there; we know they’ve already seen us at our worst in really vulnerable and meaningful ways, and they haven’t left, and because we have years of little annoyances and resentments and small (or big) betrayals that make us feel justified in it.

Even if we are justified! I think a difference in how we act with people outside our most immediate circle is that we are often willing to fake it when we aren’t feeling it; we’re tired or in a bad mood or still irritated at our work friend for RTing that bad take, but for the sake of the relationship, we’ll still keep our coffee date with them and summon up a good mood. One of the best things about a solid longterm relationship is that you don’t have to do that, and can relax into your bad mood, and I’m definitely not arguing for bottling up your feelings or suppressing actual issues in your relationship. But I think making the active choice, and it is something you have to actually try to do, to try to be our best selves to our partners even when we don’t feel like it in the same way that we do to the people in our lives we  “have to” be nicer to goes an incredibly long way to making respect, trust and genuine love and intimacy possible in the long term, and it affirms for your partner that they’re a priority to you and encourages them to reciprocate with the same effort!

Assuming best intentions from each other. That’s just a start, but it makes a huge difference. There will still be fights, there will still be rough patches, there will still be relationship issues, but starting from that simple rule, and going back to it as much as you can, makes it so much easier to work almost anything out. In my experience, relationships tend to fall apart after a build-up of resentment that stems from hurt feelings and insecurities. Don’t let it get to that point. Develop a habit of avoiding defensiveness and start assuming good intentions. React to your partner like they mean no harm. And just as important: be honest and open with them like they’re assuming the same thing about you, too.

It’s been my experience that the one reliable thing that ensures relationships will hold up is both people wanting the relationship to continue, and being equally committed to the work it takes to make that happen. I’ve seen relationships thrive with differing degrees of love, attraction, intimacy, and so many other things but as soon as there’s a disparity in partners wanting and choosing the work and the relationship it’s in danger.

Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor

I am a workaholic and a perfectionist so in my most hopeless heart of hearts I always believe there is something I could have done to make a relationship work. I’m also a 36 year old woman who is medium nice and I’ve yet to be in a relationship that has lasted more than six months. When I figure that out, I will let you know.

Something I have recognized in my friends’ relationships that I am jealous of is this one particularly intangible quality where the two bring out the best in each other, creatively, socially and otherwise. Those are the relationships that tend to last. There’s just this spark when those two people find one another and it just makes SENSE and you can tell they feel totally comfortable and also inspired by each other; that is something I hope to find some day… but do not expect to, as love is a lie and each and every one of us will indubitably die alone.

Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor

Love is a choice you make every single day. Some people do not find this particularly romantic – I think there’s an idea out there that love just HAPPENS to you and it’s magic and not something you have to nurture to ensure it grows and thrives. That’s… a lie. Love is a verb, an action. Love is the foundation of a relationship and then life gets in the way and that’s what makes things messy… if you keep doing love, and choosing actions based on your foundation of love, you’ll be much more likely to stay together. That’s my hot take, and personally, I think that’s the most romantic thing in the world.

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  1. These are beautiful and honest and so true. Thank you!

    Some other thoughts that come to mind, at the risk of being TMI???:

    – When you’re in an argument, it’s not you versus your partner. It’s both of you versus the problem that you’re trying to solve together.
    – Say thank you: for the little things, the big things, the silly things.
    – Take care of each other. My partner and I have a joke/not joke where one of us will go “I’M the sick one!” when we need to be fussed over or spoiled a little bit, and we take turns without (! important!) keeping score. I have some chronic pain stuff so I take, uh, a lot of turns, but I really enjoy making sure she gets doted on enough too/feels appreciated for caring for me.
    -Even if we have a busy week(s) where it’s hard to have sex (having visitors/flu/etc.), we still hit on each other a looot and have lots of close intimate touch in other ways (holding hands, cuddling, long long hugs, etc.)

  2. Heather, I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you on the bathtub sex thing. Bathtub *penetration* oh absolutely not, but it is ideal in a thigh pressure situation when one partner likes the water boiling lava hot and the other doesn’t cause no one has a bathtub big enough to share anyway

  3. Heather’s advice!!! I’ve been with my girlfriend for ~5.5 years and the one thing we always remind each other is that we’re on each other’s teams and always assume the best of each other. (She even got us matching engraved caribeaners for our last anniversary). Relationships are tough and they change as people grow but as long as you’re willing to keep putting in the work and bringing out the best side of yourself and them it’ll work.

  4. THIS POST IS GIVING ME ANXIETY for the currently established couples, it feels like a jinx anyway it’s fine i’m fine

  5. There’s a lot of great advice here, but this in particular stands out for me: “React to your partner like they mean no harm.” I’ve been on the receiving end of both – distrust, criticism, endless questioning and demanding justification for the smallest perceived slights on one end of the spectrum, and open-hearted generosity of spirit on the other – and the difference is immeasurable. The former left me feeling constantly insecure and on edge, while the latter has allowed me to blossom in relationships like I’d never experienced before.

    The sad thing is that sometimes there are decent people who have been badly hurt in the past (and obviously, it’s important to be aware of if/when your partner is in fact trying to harm you!) and they react this way because it’s what kept them safe at one point. But after a certain point of constantly trying to prove that you’re trustworthy, things are going to crumble if something doesn’t change within the other person.

    • I’m not in a romantic relationship, but I’ve had the same roommate for a decade, and the bit about “it’s not you vs. me, it’s us vs. the problem” is pretty helpful in most contexts, I find

  6. i don’t think i’ve ever commented on a post before today but heather’s answer made me cry so much! this whole thing is so beautiful! thank you for sharing yourselves with us! i spent my entire day reading old journal entries and this is really pushing me over the fuckin edge!!!

  7. “I’m also a 36 year old woman who is medium nice and I’ve yet to be in a relationship that has lasted more than six months.” Stef, I thought I was the only one! I’m glad you exist. <3

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