With the recent decision handed down by the Supreme Court regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and more states supporting the right to marry, many people in the LGBT community are reexamining their thoughts and beliefs about love, coupling, and marriage. Some are suddenly feeling pressure to find a relationship, to find love, as the completion of who they are as people. There is an intense pressure to fit into a new societal norm that says LGBT people should now get married, and that pressure to be married has brought to the forefront the idea that we have to find love. I was recently asked, “Do you think trying to make love happen is a bad thing?” My response to this: How can we try to make something as powerful as love happen?
Let’s face it: Love happens whether we are looking for it or not. The difficulty with trying to make love happen is that we often build unrealistic expectations. There is an exhausting neediness that develops when we put too much pressure on the other person to express and receive our love, and when we attempt to move things along more quickly than might be natural or emotionally healthy.
There is a popular myth in the LGBT community that we need another to “complete us,” to take away our loneliness, insecurities, and fear. This is one of the driving forces for trying to strong-arm love into happening, and ultimately is a recipe for relationship disaster. With the vision of marriage now added to the fantasy of perfect love, many gay men and women are feeling overwhelmed with the pressure to find a relationship. Whatever issues we carry with us from our life experiences will ultimately have to be resolved by us, not by another, and cannot be drowned out by the symphony of love. Building a lasting relationship takes a lot of focused effort and a huge dose of good communication.
It is my personal and professional experience that love comes along when we least expect, in the place we least expect. It often sneaks up on us and begins to unfold in ways we never imagined. No court decision or government mandate can make this process any more real, necessary, or natural. Often, the person with whom we fall in love does not fit the picture we may have imagined as our perfect match. Ultimately, love is not something we have much ability to control.
So with all this love in the air and so many people in the LGBT community now getting married, what’s a person to do? The most practical advice I can offer on this subject is not to try when it comes to loving another person and not to try to make another love you.
Look in the mirror first and build a healthy, loving relationship with yourself. The better you can treat yourself, the better you will treat another. Place the focus of attention and love back where you can actually do something about it. Give ample time and priority to self-care, self-nurturing, and self-love. Use the time you have while single or out of romantic partnership to fall in love with yourself. The better you feel about yourself, the more receptive you become to giving and receiving love.
So enjoy the celebrations taking place around you as friends begin to marry and commemorate their relationships. Express true joy at the ability of the LGBT community to now recognize the power of their relationships. But most important of all, allow yourself the freedom to enjoy the life you have, and don’t get caught up in the social rush to find that perfect love and get married. And when the question comes up from well-meaning friends and family about when it’s going to happen for you, give yourself permission to say, “When the time is right for me.”
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