Two years ago Dustin and I spent this upcoming weekend in Atlanta celebrating our then four year anniversary. While in Atlanta we went out to a gay bar, had a few drinks, and the man standing beside us started talking with us. He asked where we were from (at the time we lived in Tallahassee) and we told him that we were in Atlanta celebrating our anniversary. The next question was of course "how long?" Dustin said, "four years." The man looked confused, held up his four fingers, and said "four months?" "No," we said, "four years." He was shocked, as many people we meet are (especially in bars).
I wonder what that man would think now. Today is September 17th and six years ago a young boy of just 18, Dustin, agreed to be a boyfriend to a 20-year-old version of me. Yes, it has been six years. Not six months. Not six days. Not six minutes.
I know the longevity of our relationship does surprise many. Party because of our ages. We are young and at different times this has bothered me. Did I miss out on something? But you can't choose when you fall in love and I found it at 20 and don't regret it for a minute. Party people are shocked because they believe gay people are somehow incapable of long term relationships. You will find this in both straight and gay people. They have bought into the stereotypes. And finally people are shocked/surprised because it seems these days few relationships of any kind hold up. In many ways I enjoy the reaction we get when people find out it has been six years, but at the same time I don't really want to place myself as a role model for all gay relationships, because there is no one model for how a relationship should work.
Dustin and I aren't prefect. Our relationship hasn't been perfect. Why? Well, because relationships are work, which is why many fail at them. We often don't want to admit that relationships take effort on all parts. In many ways we are still a very immature society when it comes to love. We think it should all fall into place (or at least fall into place after a few funny or awkward situations) and we think that anytime something happens we have to throw our hands in the air and give up (believe me I have done my fair share of hand throwing, but never giving up).
Now, I'm not saying my relationship with Dustin is like a job, but I'm saying we have made huge efforts to keep our relationship alive and moving forward. We have changed so much in the last six years that at times I'm not sure I would recognize the silly boys who first met in my dorm room in September of 2003. We have grown, we have reshaped our relationship, and we've become men together.
One day (I'm not sure which) we both woke up to the fact that we love each other more than anything, but that our relationship was our own and it didn't have to match the picture we both had in our heads (a picture that was very heterosexual based). From there we forged our own definitions. We found what worked for us. In many ways this is the beauty of being gay. I'm already breaking the mold, the tradition, so why does my relationship have to pretend it is something it is not. I have no set model to follow.
The secret to a good relationship is easy: you have to make it your own. Dustin is not only my partner and my lover, but his is truly my very best friend. To be honest I grow tired of people and I've never been someone that can be with the same person all the time. I like my alone time and space, but Dustin is that one person that I never tire of and that I want to be with all the time. He knows me inside and out (he should after six years, right?) and I know him.
With each year our relationship alters. Part of me longs for those first weeks of it, when everything was new, but then part of me revels in the maturity and fun we are having right now in our sixth year, but the biggest part of me can't wait for what is yet to come, because I trust it will be challenging, amazing, and worthy of my love.