GAYS AND COUPLE STABILITY

In this post I intend to analyze the stability of the couple life of gay guys. The issue is complex and cannot be reduced to the social problems that gay couples have to face. We start with some ISTAT data. In Italy, in 2007 there were a total of 81.359 separations (+ 1.2% compared to 2006) and 50.669 divorces (+ 2.3% compared to 2006), equal respectively to 273.7 separations and 165.4 divorces for every 1.000 new marriages, this means that for every 1.000 new marriages celebrated 439.1 end with separation or divorce. The children involved are 100.252 in separations and 49.087 in divorces. These data are absolutely objective and show how the life of a couple, despite the exaltation of it that is made by many parts, is actually very fragile even for married hetero couples, that is, for couples who, in theory, at least because of the presence of the children, should have the maximum stability.

In Spain, according to data published by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística and the Ministerio de Justicia (source in Spanish daily La Razón), in four years the law on the marriage of gays allowed the celebration of 13.116 homosexual unions, 8.898 marriages between gays and 4.218 marriages between lesbians. In all there were 159 divorces and 6 separations between homosexual persons. The divorce between homosexual persons in Spain is equal to 1.26% while among the heterosexuals it is around 66%, i.e. every three marriages two couples separate or divorce. The data are not comparable to each other for many reasons but over time and with the spread of gay marriage it is to be expected that the differences between gay and straight couples, in terms of divorce, tend to decrease. A fundamental concept must be emphasized: the so-called gay marriage presents, even after 4 years, extremely marginal percentage incidence because it is in fact an institution that can only be used by a minimum percentage of the homosexual population, i.e. by the publicly declared homosexuals, around 4 % of homosexuals, or approximately 0.32% of the general population. For gays not publicly declared, which make up about 96% of all homosexuals and about 7.7% of the general population, the introduction of same-sex marriage has not changed anything.

In interpreting statistical data, it must be borne in mind that a heterosexual guy is led by the family and the social environment to the idea of forming a couple and getting married. Parents encourage him in this sense. The fact of having a girl is considered as a license of adult life, that not only must not be hidden but that can be exhibited in all environments without any risk. At least theoretically, hetero sexuality is connected with the idea of having children and behaving “according to nature”. If these factors don’t determine the heterosexuals at the wedding, certainly favor the path towards marriage, very often even when the premises for a marriage are in fact lacking. The results of this social pressure towards marriage are easily detected in legal systems rather elastic in terms of separations and divorces, as it happens in Spain, where two out of three marriages break up and the presence of children is not sufficient to prevent their dissolution.

One wonders how many heterosexual couples would exist if social conditions were adverse as it happens in the case of homosexual couples, that is, if there was not the incentive to put children in the world, if heterosexual unions were considered unacceptable on a social level and they had to be lived very often secretly. The life of a stable couple, between hetero people, would be an exception, as it is among gays.

The population of Spain amounts to approximately 46.5 million inhabitants. By admitting a percentage of homosexuals equal to 8% we reach the amount of 3.720.000 gay people, and the percentage of married homosexuals amounts to 0.70% of the homosexual population, a minimum percentage. This means that, beyond the fundamental legal recognition, in Spain, the condition of gays, on a social level, has not really changed except marginally with the introduction of homosexual marriage.

If from the world of gays publicly declared, who arrive to marry, you go to the world of undeclared gays the situation however, at first glance, doesn’t seem to change much. In this case, of course, we will not talk about married gays but about stable gay copies. However, the number of stable pairs appears to be rather low, even if the statistics are much more difficult in this case. Among undeclared gays it is widespread the ideal of the stable gay couple that represents the dream of the vast majority of undeclared gay boys, but anyway you can see few stable gay couples. I emphasize that I do not have said “there are few couples” but “you can see few couples”.

Also the phenomenon “gay couple” is greatly affected by the non-visibility of undeclared gays that are about 96% of the total. Only the gays publicly declared can access the marriage and only they affect the official statistics, the rest is submerged.

Based on what emerges from the chat with the guys, I note that, after the introduction of the internet, the condition of undeclared gays has changed significantly. Until the early 1990s, for an undeclared guy, there was no possibility of meeting other undeclared guys. There were even at that time gay associations, but obviously they were frequented exclusively by publicly declared gays. For the others, the overwhelming majority, in fact, associationism was completely impracticable and isolation was the rule. Things have changed in recent years. For an undeclared gay, there is today the possibility of starting a dialogue with another gay not declared in conditions of total anonymity.

Adopting a common sense behavior it is however possible, with moderate risks, for an undeclared gay guy, to know other undeclared gay guys and it is also possible, and even not uncommon, that two gay guys not declared know each other in person, which it is the basic condition for the formation of a couple between undeclared gay guys.

From the privileged observatory of Project Gay several interesting facts can be observed:
1) Gay people not publicly declared put first in the ranking of the values of their life the possibility of living in couple with another guy. I asked myself if this is only by analogy with what happens in the hetero world. It is clear that for a gay couple there isn’t any incentive relate to children and social pressure, which is on the contrary strongly discouraging. Can, then, only the imitation of the hetero world lead gay guys to consider living as a couple as the first value of life? Frankly I think that for gay guys, and especially for those not declared, the realization of a life as a couple is not just a response to an emotional thrust towards another guy but also has the sense of a revenge on life, represented by the overcoming of a solitude often problematic if not distressing, much more radical for a gay guy, in particular not declared, than for a heterosexual one who does not live in a couple. Basically, for an undeclared gay, living in couple also means overcoming a situation of unease.

2) When creating a couple is possible but not easy and represents a liberation from a state of unease, the life of a couple, which is born against the social judgment, is nevertheless intrinsically strong, so strong as to overcome social obstacles, even by means of a non-visibility accepted as a normal condition. In these conditions the couple stability is high. If creating a gay couple was not only possible but also very easy, the gay couple would intrinsically be born with the same basic fragility of the heterosexual couple, i.e. it would not be born as a realization of a single (or almost) possibility to create a couple, but as a result of a choice between the many possible choices and the idea of modify the choice already made would also appear in the gay field, as it increasingly appears in hetero field.

3) The number of gay couples among undeclared guys tends to progressively increase and especially among younger guys. There are more couples made up of guys between the ages of 20 and 30 than couples of guys between the ages of 30 and 40. Younger gay guys already start with the idea of a possible couple life, the thirty-year-olds are much more skeptical and forty-year-olds consider the life of a gay couple almost unrealizable. However, there are stable couples that have formed between guys well over 30 years, but they are guys who have lived long periods of sexual repression, who have not had previous sexual experiences and have preserved well beyond 30 years an affectivity and a sexuality typical of much more younger guys.

Adopting a common sense behavior it is however possible, with moderate risks, for an undeclared gay guy, to know other undeclared gay guys and it is also possible, and even not uncommon, that two gay guys not declared know each other in person, which it is the basic condition for the formation of a couple between undeclared gay guys.

From the privileged observatory of Project Gay several interesting facts can be observed:
1) Gay people not publicly declared put first in the ranking of the values of their life the possibility of living in couple with another guy. I asked myself if this is only by analogy with what happens in the hetero world. It is clear that for a gay couple there isn’t any incentive relate to children and social pressure, which is on the contrary strongly discouraging. Can, then, only the imitation of the hetero world lead gay guys to consider living as a couple as the first value of life? Frankly I think that for gay guys, and especially for those not declared, the realization of a life as a couple is not just a response to an emotional thrust towards another guy but also has the sense of a revenge on life, represented by the overcoming of a solitude often problematic if not distressing, much more radical for a gay guy, in particular not declared, than for a heterosexual one who does not live in a couple. Basically, for an undeclared gay, living in couple also means overcoming a situation of unease.

2) When creating a couple is possible but not easy and represents a liberation from a state of unease, the life of a couple, which is born against the social judgment, is nevertheless intrinsically strong, so strong as to overcome social obstacles, even by means of a non-visibility accepted as a normal condition. In these conditions the couple stability is high. If creating a gay couple was not only possible but also very easy, the gay couple would intrinsically be born with the same basic fragility of the heterosexual couple, i.e. it would not be born as a realization of a single (or almost) possibility to create a couple, but as a result of a choice between the many possible choices and the idea of modify the choice already made would also appear in the gay field, as it increasingly appears in hetero field.

3) The number of gay couples among undeclared guys tends to progressively increase and especially among younger guys. There are more couples made up of guys between the ages of 20 and 30 than couples of guys between the ages of 30 and 40. Younger gay guys already start with the idea of a possible couple life, the thirty-year-olds are much more skeptical and forty-year-olds consider the life of a gay couple almost unrealizable. However, there are stable couples that have formed between guys well over 30 years, but they are guys who have lived long periods of sexual repression, who have not had previous sexual experiences and have preserved well beyond 30 years an affectivity and a sexuality typical of much more younger guys.

Anyone who wants to try a couple life aims at sexuality and the couple in themselves, largely disregarding the person of the other guy, completely neglecting the basis of the couple’s life which is founded on the authentic and reciprocated love for another guy. Basically on this basis what is formed is not a couple but an image of a couple that lacks the strength of cohesion that a gay couple born on a relationship of love really has.

2) Gay couples built on weak foundations can last in spite of their fragility because the opportunity that determines their dissolution may not materialize. A fragile couple, without external shocks, resists but at the slightest impact it shatters. Often the fracture element is constituted by the presence of alternatives. If the reason that caused the fragility is this, to the dissolution of the couple follows, at least for one of the guys, the almost immediate constitution of a new couple, the so-called alternative couple. A few years ago, when gay couples among undeclared guys were very rare, they were also very stable, now they are much less rare and begin to present aspects of fragility, it is believed that with the increase in the number of couples made of not declared gay guys, their fragility will also increase. If for an undeclared guy it is more difficult to establish a couple relationship than it is for a publicly declared guy, the relationship between two undeclared guys is ultimately more stable precisely because the realization of an alternative appears much more improbable.

3) There are some situations in which the break, usually non-traumatic, of a relationship between undeclared gays is not followed by the establishment of a new couple relationship. Often non-traumatic breaks of this type occur among men no longer young, even well over 40 years, who have a relationship of cohabitation of several years behind them. In these cases it is not the will to create an alternative couple that leads to the dissolution of the first couple, but a slow and progressive desexualisation of the relationship that can also be due to external factors linked to work or other contingent situations. In these cases, the couple’s relationship becomes a friendship that is gradually narrower and ends up dissolving within a few years. Guys come back this way to status of single.

4) Sexuality is one of the fundamental elements of the life of the couple, and couple sexual compatibility is only one element, even if very important and delicate and often critical, which contributes to the stability of the couple, but it should be emphasized that life as a couple should not be considered as an individual objective but, in fact, as a couple goal and should not be understood as a completion of the self but as a creation of a “we”. A concept that must always be kept in mind when observing the phenomenon of the fragility of the couple, and of course also of the gay couple, deserves a specific reflection, it is the relative dimension of the truth. In essence, beyond the purely formal dimensions, such as cohabitation, which is an objective fact, all that truly animates the life of a couple remains in the domain of the subjective, because the subjectivity of the evaluations of the same fact affects so radically its interpretation that the data itself, in its objective consistency, is completely distorted to the point of losing meaning.

The two partners of a couple can read the same fact in radically different and even opposite ways and on this basis they can feed tensions and conflicts. The couple dialogue, even if it is very useful to prevent and resolve possible differences, can in no case avoid subjective interpretations. Since what matters in the couple relationships, rather than the facts, are the interpretations, it remains that the diversity of the interpretations on the part of the two partners represents a factor of original and unavoidable fragility of the relationships of the couple. Basically, the couple, even in the best of cases, i.e. even when it is really interpreted as a “we”, remains formed by two individuals with different characters, with different experiences and also with different objectives. The consequence of all this is the concrete possibility that the interpretations of the facts can become so divergent that they endanger the same life as a couple.

Listening separately to the two partners of a relationship that has gone into crisis, we realize that the behaviors that to one of the two appeared irrelevant or almost, were interpreted by the other as signs of betrayal, lack of love or selfishness. Most of the couple crises derive from a set of interpretations that gradually become more divergent over time. Often at the basis of these differences of interpretation there is an idea that constitutes for one or both partners an unspoken assumption given almost for granted of the couple relationship, this assumption can be summarized as follows: “Now he does not represent what I would like because he has some flaws (he has no will, he has the fixed idea of sex, he is rather indifferent to sex, he wants to include me in his world without giving up anything, is touchy, selfish, etc. etc.) but I will change him and I will make him exactly as I wish him to be.” A similar premise is often the real cause of the failure of a couple relationship. Usually, such reasoning remain in the “unsaid” and can conflict, on the other side, with other unsaid assumptions, of a different sign.

There remains another fundamental question related to the fact that over time people change their points of view and their ways of reacting and that what seems possible and even opportune today could appear completely incongruous after a few years if not even months. Couples built quickly, giving too many things for granted, couples who have elements of original weakness (strong differences in social status, very different previous experiences, strong differences in age) are characterized by a high potential risk. At the individual level, common sense and prudence discourage the rush to build a couple and above all to sexualise a relationship born on an emotional level. The sexualisation of the relationship makes you lose sight of many elements that should be understood before making more engaging choices, and sexual contact, which may seem desired today and consciously desired by both, can easily, over time, be interpreted by one of the two in negative key. The couple life is not the heaven but it is a complex and often difficult reality usually very hard to build, which could, and one must be aware of it, bring more anxiety and worries than serenity and well-being, this is why living as a couple is a difficult choice whose outcome is never a priori predictable

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If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-gays-and-couple-stability

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