Ottawa
3 min

St Mary the martyr

There's nothing noble about trying to work it out

For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why I stopped getting social invitations from my straight girlfriends. Then again, it was always me, hunched over my chocolate martini, squinting at my friends as they catalogued their boyfriends’ sins, trying to keep my mouth shut.

When I was asked my opinion, it was invariably: get out while you still can. Seriously, it was like my job was to be the mean, frivolous one on the judging panel of an awful, heterosexual reality TV show.

Among my gay friends, however, there’s always someone to beat me to the punch. On the whole, we’re pretty good at leaving — and my gay friends are the first ones to say “Cut and run.” If I were having a chocolate martini with you right now, I’d be telling you to dump your sweetie — it’s classic gay advice.

Indeed, it’s something that makes me proud to be gay. We have decades of this paradigm under our belts. We’ve reaped the benefits of our easy-in, easy-out attitude toward relationships: flexibility in our careers, excitement in our love lives, and legions of friends who are ex-lovers. It’s helped us to be compassionate, extroverted, kinky, loving, independent and realistic. Ever wonder why the sex lives of gays and lesbians are the envy of all orientations, with their promiscuity, polyamoury and playful attitude? This is the answer.

My attitude toward relationships is, “If you stopped making me happy, I would leave you.” It’s part truth serum, part elixir of love. Every day is a choice to stay with my fella, and I do. He’s great.

The worst thing, often, is the let’s-try-to-work-it-out martyrism that many get trapped in. If things have soured, you know what will make it better? Dragging it out for months. Or years. That’s only going to leave you and those in your life bitter and tired. Better to get it over with and, after an appropriate mourning period, become friends.

There’s something messed up about our culture when “trying to work it out” is somehow a noble thing. It’s part of the moralizing morass — stoic, I guess — which places duty above personal fulfillment.

If staying together actually benefited the common good somehow, I’d be willing to entertain the idea of it being noble. But overstaying your welcome only drags out those awful, dulling feelings that start to crop up at the tail end of a relationship. In other words, it tends to make folks less, not more, happy.

Meanwhile, straight people have a paradoxical relationship with happiness. On one hand, there are the legions of ads and self-help propaganda proclaiming “you’re worth it” (Thank you, L’Oréal.) And on the other hand, legions of movies and marriage counseling books pooh-pooh personal happiness in the name of your relationship.

And not to be a downer, but this issue of Capital Xtra includes some discussion of gays and domestic abuse. The fulcrum of domestic abuse is often, you guessed it, people sticking it out in shitty circumstances because they feel it’s their duty.

Now, the elephant in the room is marriage. Or specifically, gay marriage. Gays didn’t have access to marriage in Ontario until 2003, and according to the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, we’re not exactly leaping onto the crepe-paper-decorated bandwagon. And it’s no wonder, with our independent and serially passionate streaks.

Okay, some gays have always gotten caught up in protracted, tooth-pulling, kneecapping relationships, especially where there’s a dog involved. But I witnessed the saddest breakdown this week. It was a young guy wondering if he should stick it out with his husband of three or four years. The fact that they got married made it harder for him to admit their love had gone down the pooper. It was heartbreaking.

No, I wanted to scream. You’re still in your 20s! You’ve got 50-plus years of shagging left in you! Why would you stick it out in the long tail of late-relationship misery? Yes, you’ve made it difficult to leave by buying property together, getting a dog and exchanging platinum rings, but it’s not impossible! Get out, get out, get out!