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Queer Couples Sound Off on How To Extend Your Relationship Shelf Life

By most measures, 2017 was a great year for queer visibility. But for photographer Peter Fingleton, something was missing from all the hard-earned representation: long-term gay relationships.

So he set out to document enduring queer couples and find out what keeps them together. Says Fingleton of the project:

"What does it take to make a gay relationship work long-term? I see plenty of examples of long-term straight couples, whether it’s my straight friends, my parents and their generation, celebrity couples, etc. But the lack of representation of gay guys making it work long-term has left me a little worried about my chances. So I sought out a diverse bunch of couples in long-term relationships (from 3 years to 23 years) to get an idea of how they are making it last."

Check out his touching portraitsand his subjects’ tips for making relationships lastbelow.

Niall & Valentine Owoade


How long have you been together?

15 years.

Where/how did you meet?

We met in Heaven night club, I was visiting on holidays from Ireland. I lost Valentine’s phone number when I arrived back in I Ireland but luckily my best friend Robbie took it. I messaged him and he called me every day for 6 months after that. He had a huge phone bill. I like to talk! I moved to London that July and moved in with Valentine until I found my own place. 15 years later I’m still here!

What is the key to a healthy modern gay relationship?

Communication is key. I know it’s a cliché but it is true. We never have let a disagreement go without talking it through. Learning to listen is also a skill that is importantcommunication is a two-way street. Keeping the romance alive is important too. We still take time to show our love for each other in simple ways almost daily. Valentine is very thoughtful with this and still blows me away after all these years. Also, we encourage each other and support each other’s dreams. I think belief in your partner and encouraging them is important.

Have you ever experienced homophobia in public?

Actually, no, not as couple. I have found that people are often more accepting than we think.

Jacob & Waseem


How long have you been together?

Three years.

Where did you meet?

Grindr.

What is the key to a healthy modern gay relationship?

Being able to have a laugh and take the piss out of each other. But also understanding each other's needs and wants.

Are you married or do you have plans? What are your views on gay marriage?

I'm all for gay marriage as a means to have equal rights. I was brought up quite traditionally so I will always have the romantic thought of marriage in my mind.

Are you guys comfortable being affectionate in public?

Yup.

Have you ever experienced homophobia in public?

Yup.

Have you met each other’s parents and how do they treat you both?

We've met each other's parents. Jake’s parents are lovely and very welcoming. My parents have only met Jacob once for a brief time at a wedding. They were polite, and are keen to meet him again properly soon.

Ken & Tom


How long have you been together?

23 years.

Occupations:

Chief exec and admin assistant.

What is the key to a healthy modern gay relationship?

For us it’s humour, self-awareness, and investing time with each other.

Are you guys comfortable being affectionate in public?

Not much.

Have you ever experienced homophobia in public?

Yes.

Regarding monogamy: how did you guys decide what works best for you?

By keeping talking.

Have you met each other’s parents and how do they treat you both?

Very well, thanks!

Are you married or do you have plans? What are your views on gay marriage?

Married.

Leo & Kit


How long have you been together?

Three years.

Occupations:

Actor and consultant.

Where did you meet?

OkCupid!

What is the key to a healthy modern gay relationship?

Kit: Being in a relationship with a nice person. Also I think the closest thing to a key is being able to talk about your expectationsin terms of what you want from the relationship and from each other. Not necessarily those expectations being exactly the same, but being able to talk through how they differ and how to approach bridging that.

Leo: There is no identikit key to relationships and if there is, I don’t have it. Horses for courses. What I have with Kit works for me. I believe that my relationship with Kit has continued because: a) he's a good and kind person; b) we get pissed off with one another in an instance and we know that's not indicative of the relationship as a whole; c) we embrace honesty to the extent that if the conversation led to us breaking up, we would do that and be sad and know that we had never deceived one another. I think most relationships end because of deceit or the perception of deceit.

Are you guys comfortable being affectionate in public?

Leo: I can't speak for Kit, but I believe that we are, generally. There are times when we are in certain areas and my heart beat rises at the thought of public affection. But I suspect I am doing those communities a disservice based on my own prejudices.

Kit: I assume you’re talking about in the context of homophobia hereit’s not something that really crosses my mind often, so yes. That said, there are always some places that feel more hostile.

If you met on an app are you honest about how you met when asked or do you feel embarrassed?

Leo: Yeahit would be much more embarrassing to lie about it. Although in my head OKCupid!, rather than other apps, seems a very chaste and earnest way of meeting someoneendearingly so.

Kit: I’ve never felt the need to lie about it, and besides it’s so normal nowthough I suppose perhaps which app it is would affect how people react to it quite a lot. I was on OKCupid because at the time it was the only app that would run on my old slow phone.

Have you met each other’s parents and how do they treat you both?

Kit: Yes, we’ve both met each other’s parents. They are greatmine get on really well with Leo, and I think they were secretly relieved when they met him to no longer be imagining me as sad and alone in London (I wasn’t).

Leo: Yeah, we've each met one another's parents. Kit's the first boyfriend my dad has known and the first time they met he gave Kit a big hug, which was unexpected. I'm grateful to my sister for engineering that situation.

Regarding monogamy: how did you guys decide what works best for you?

Leo: I think we are lucky in both being happy and satisfied with the same desired relationship, which is monogamyand if one wasn't, I think we'd explore that. In the past, we've both offered that opportunity to the other, but we're very happy as we are.

Kit: I didn’t want a settled relationship when we first started seeing each other, but then over time fell into it. So I worked out what was best for me because it was already workingnothing really needed to change.

Are you comfortable discussing your relationship status with friends?

Kit: Yes.

Leo: Yes. If I wasn't, I'd get new friends.

Are you married? What are you views on gay marriage?

Leo: I have been a lifelong skeptic towards the idea of marriage and what it really represents. I also am quite often drunk and have proposed to Kit countless times. He always says no. I love that guy.

Kit: I don’t really see myself as a marriage person, so no. The proposals are adorable if annoying.

Jason & Daniel


How long have you been together?

16 years.

How did you meet?

The old school way: in the queue for the toilet at a cheesy gay bar.

What is the key to a healthy modern gay relationship?

Communication and honesty. Both with yourself and each other.

Are you guys comfortable being affectionate in public?

We both grew up in conservative country towns in Australia, so PDAs have always been a little uncomfortable for both of us. Being in London is easier, but it's usually tinged with apprehension. This, in turn, makes something as simple as holding hands in public really empowering.

Regarding monogamy: how did you guys decide what works best for you?

A lot of terrifyingly honest conversations, some time to get used to the idea and some very helpful ground rules.

Are you comfortable discussing your monogamy policy with friends?

Honesty is the best policy!

Jordan & Luca


Occupations:
JORDANLUCA

How long have you been together?

Seven years. But for homosexuals years are the same as for dogs. Each year counts as seven so technically we’ve been together for 42 years

How did you meet?

Luca: We met at Joiners! I was on a date with a guy that night and just at the end of the night when they switched on the lights I saw Jordan queueing for the toilet. I thought, "How the actual fuck didn’t I see that hot Briton until now???" So with an excuse I went to the toilet and I queued behind him.

Once I was in the toilet I just said to him very quickly and in my (at the time) broken English: "Look, I'm here with someone else, here is my number, take it and call me, have to go, call me.”

I spent the rest of the night with the other guy and the plan was to go home with that guy and have some nasty business, but Jordan texted me, “I'M IN LIVERPOOL STREET STATION NOW, COME AND SAY GOODBYE!”

I faked a vomit attack with the other guy and ran to Liverpool Station to meet him! I was wearing a kilt that night so everything was pretty easy to manage! And yes, I know, I was a total twat with the other guy!

Jordan: Yeah, we met in The Joiners Arms. I’d love to say our eyes met over a crowded room or I dropped my books at his feet or some other shit like that but the truth is I met him in a toilet.

I'd been to lesbian sex party (don’t ask) and ended up in east London where I saw this hot Italian with an ‘I love cock’ t-shirt and a kilt. He was with another guy but it was my birthday so I made sure I got what I wanted.

What is the key to a healthy modern gay relationship?

Luca: Respect. The old fashion respect! You are free to do anything you want in your life as long as you respect me whatever that means, you decide! But I think our secret is that we talk to each other a lot. We speak about our pasts, fears, issues and dreams. We always tell each other why we are happy and why we are sad. If we have a problem with each other we always make a point to talk. I have friends who tell me about some problems they have in their relationship and their boyfriends don’t know anything about it. How is that possible?

Jordan: Luca and I work together and have done so for five years purely because we share the same vision and the same interests, which I guess in our case is a lot to do with luck and finding the right person. I think with relationships, especially early on you have to allow them to become a bit uncomfortable, that’s usually the make or break point and I don’t think enough people see it through. I think we (as gays?!!) are partly infantilized because our culture allows us a Peter Pan sense of hedonism that isn’t totally geared up for problems that challenge our “freedom.”

Are you guys comfortable being affectionate in public?

Luca: I hate it. Not because I’m gay! Not because “I’m scared to show to people” and shit like that nothing to do with all that and no internal homophobia! I just hate hate hate that sweet stuffstraight, gay or whatever you are!

Have you ever experienced homophobia in public?

Jordan: Yeah, I grew up in South London and by the time I left school “faggot” was a badge of honour.

Luca: No, I have to admit I’m very lucky. I always lived my sexuality very freely and naturally how it’s supposed to be. I never think “I’m here, I’m queer.” If you ask me I tell you but I never found myself in a position where I had to justify myself for being gay or where my sexuality somehow compromised what I want to be or do.

If you met on an app are you honest about how you met when asked or do you feel embarrassed?

Jordan: There’s a misconception that apps aren’t real life. Apps like Grindr are very real and yes, they’re changing our culture. All these bi-curious guys are popping up like mushrooms because finally there’s a place for them to go, and I think that’s great.

Regarding monogamy: how did you guys decide what works best for you?

Respect again. If you cheat on me, tell me. I always say to Jordan that the thing I would hate the most is not that he cheated on me, but standing next the person he had sex with without knowing and him thinking how stupid I am. Not for pride but for the respect of our relationship. It takes time and effort to build a strong relationship.

We are not in an open relationship and we try our best to be faithful to each other. Everyone is free to do what they want and choose how they want their relationship to be, just as long as you have respect for yourself, your partner, and your relationship if it’s important for you.

James & Mikko


Occupations:

Filmmaker and filmmaker/write/PhD student.

How long have you been together?

Eight years(ish).

Website: amomentinthereeds.com / mikkomakela.com

How did you meet?

Mikko: We met in the dorms though we actually first spoke on the bus back from a drunken freshers’ night out, but I’m the only one who remembers this.

James: We were in the same dorm at university and then filmmaking society together, though we didn’t make anything then. We had an argument over who was the biggest selling female artist of all time (spoiler: it’s Madonna!).

What is the key to a healthy modern gay relationship?

Mikko: Honesty, open communication and a shared outlook on life.

James: A sense of humour and a bad short-term memory.

Are you guys comfortable being affectionate in public?

Mikko: More than before, but we’ve never really been that big on PDA. Maybe because it still felt less safe when we first got together; maybe because we never really felt it was necessary to display to others.

James: Couples walking slowly hand in hand on the tube when I’m trying to catch a train has made me determined never to do the same to others.

Have you ever experienced homophobia in public?

MIkko: Yes, there have been a few times over the years when someone has shouted unpleasantries at us and we’ve had to hasten our steps. Once we were chased down our road to our door in London. That was scary.

James: A few times, separately and together. Ranging from smaller things like, just this weekend, being offered a car to our next destination after an event only to have the offer withdrawn when we said we were going to a gay bar, to bigger things, like hospitalization by a taxi driver. In some ways the “smaller things” stay with you more because they’re the things that are normalized and pervasive but easily dismissed by others who haven’t experienced them.

Regarding monogamy: how did you guys decide what works best for you?

Mikko: Monogamous or not, I think the key in a long-term relationship is to openly communicate about your desires and hope that you’re both on the same page or at least understand each other.

James: I think whatever a couple’s situation is, there always has to be open communication, whether open relationship, monogamous, or something in between. I don’t think any type of relationship works without making sure there’s always a dialogue. A straight couple I know who’ve been in an open relationship for 10 years always discuss their exploits, together and apart, whenever we have dinner and I think that’s one of the reasons they work so well.

Are you married? What are you views on gay marriage?

Mikko: I’d like to get married to James one day but I have some issues with it as a heterosexual institution. I think gay marriage should be an opportunity to redefine marriage on your terms and not a “heteronormalizing” force in the gay community.

James: I think one of the issues for me is that it’s hard to embrace something from which we as a community were excluded for so long. I wasn’t even invited to my sister’s hen do because it’s traditionally all-female, and so I have a deeply embedded distrust of traditions that have enforced and institutionalized gender norms and excluded queer people. That said, if Madonna officiated, I’m sure I’d change my mind.

Wayne & Adam


Occupations:

Nightclub owner and fashion designer.

How long have you been together?

Three years.

How did you meet?

We were set up on a bind date through two girl friends of ours.

What is the key to a healthy modern gay relationship?

Honesty, support, and spending time with each other.

Regarding monogamy: how did you guys decide what works best for you?

We just discussed it and it’s what works best for us.

Are you married? What are you views on gay marriage?

Not married but plan to this year. Gay marriage is awesome!

Credits:

Photographer: Peter Fingleton
Set Design: Malena McQuarrie
Grooming: Ronnie Woodward
Photo Assistant: Donal Talbot


Alex Black

Alex Black is a writer, musician, and Enya fan. His long-haired chihuahua RuPaul is the unofficial INTO mascot.

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