A Model of a Gay Relationship
I’ve been in a relationship with a wonderful man for more years than I care to reveal. Okay, I’m not
really that sensitive about my age. Twenty is the magic number.
In all that time, I have never been asked the question that always comes up in any film comedy in which there is
a gay couple: Who is the husband and who is the wife? But I know that question has been in the minds of some
straight family members, friends, casual acquaintances and people who just pass through our lives. No, I
trust those unverbalized questions don’t have anything to do with sexual proclivities or positions. It’s just
that tradition dictates the default roles and responsibilities of each member of a heterosexual couple. What,
they wonder, is a model for a relationship that consists of two men?
Well, let’s face the deeper truth: Heterosexual couples are no longer governed by long standing, cultural
traditions. Women may earn more than their husbands; men may contribute significantly to the child
rearing. Women might take on more of the pleasant task of initiating sexual encounters with their
husbands than would have been the case a few decades ago. Male-female couple work it out, finding a
balance that works for them.
Like any couple, we developed a set of unwritten (and sometimes unspoken) standard operating procedures.
Early in our time together, the lines of responsibility were more clearly drawn. With time those lines have
blurred. But not all of the lines have vanished.
In the beginning our financial balancing act followed a “his-mine-ours” model. When we began living
together, we worked out a basic household budget: housing, supermarket, regular entertainment. We divided the
amount in half–exactly–and each contributed that amount to our new joint checking account each month. We
had to adjust the rate upwards a couple times, mostly to accommodate inflation.
While we didn’t actually discuss it, a pattern developed in which one of us (the one with the higher income)
paid for vacations out of his leftover money, and the one with a lesser income paid for the less expensive special
dinners out or a night at the ballet or theatre.
As the two incomes came more into line with each other, a new model eased in without much discussion. We
got a joint credit card. Everything beyond the basics (still included in our basic household budget) went on
the credit card. (We never carried a balance, so don’t worry about our credit worthiness.) Vacations,
dinners, theatre tickets…absolutely everything when on that card. Then every month, as necessary, we each
put into our checking account half of the extra money to pay the balance, which is automatically deducted
from our account.
Yet, everything is not truly 50-50. We discovered that some suggested purchases caused unspoken tension in
the home. For example, he spends far to much money on a couple of stupid hobbies. Of course, if he were
writing this, he would point out the silly things that I like to buy. So, when that joint credit card bill
comes now, he goes through the statement and marks his initial next to all of his inane purchases. Then I
take the statement and put my initial next to the extremely tasteful things that I buy. A little totaling, a
transfer of funds from each of our individual accounts, and neither of us complains about the financial foibles of
In the meantime, we have garnered more airline miles than we have time to use. We really need a year
The one big area that we don’t truly share is with our cars. Any good American male, gay or straight,
knows that his identity and the true measure of his masculinity is related to what he drives. He has his car;
I have mine. But I think that true of most two car straight couples, too. This shared identity
stuff only goes so far, you know, no matter what your sexual orientation.
Other decision making follows much the same pattern. Sometimes we do what we want to do as
individuals. More often, however, we operate jointly, not out of a sense of obligation or fairness; simply
because we enjoy each other and, often, have learned to enjoy what the other does.
As for the bedroom–frankly, that’s none of your business, unless you happen to be one of our gossipy
friends. You tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine.