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  • Negotiating Roles in a Relationship

    Obviously, there are many things that have to be worked out when you enter a relationship. When you take the next step and move in with someone, there are even more. Largely, it all boils down to which role each individual in the relationship will usually have. In heterosexual pairings, our society has done too good of a job in designating what is for men and what is for women (yes, many of these roles are problematic/the way they are reinforced is super problematic, but that’s for another time). Homosexual relationships are a little bit different because you don’t have these societal expectations to fall back on, everything has to be negotiated.

    What’s great about having to negotiate these roles is that you don’t have those societal expectations getting in the way of doing what you’re good at or what you like to do.* My girlfriend and I discussed this quite often in the first few weeks of living together. These discussions took place mostly because one of us would make a comment to the other about how happy we were to not have to do a certain task. Sure, we negotiated who would wash dishes and who would vacuum, but the things outside what is traditionally passed off as “women’s work” also had to be discussed.

    In many hetero relationships, the woman cooks, cleans, and does all those lovely chores June Cleaver would have been responsible for – even if she is also working**. It goes without saying that homosexual relationships can’t really rely on this model since it’d be more than just a bit redundant.  So, when my girlfriend and I bought several pre-fab bookcases, there wasn’t a sense of expectation that one of us would do it instead of the other.  Well, there was a little bit of an expectation with us because I actually enjoy putting things together and my girlfriend decidedly does not. Still, it wasn’t a gender thing. Instead, it came down to who was good at what and who enjoyed doing what. 

    This is a model for a relationship I do quite well in, actually. If I had to cook for myself, I would end up eating cheese and Triscuits every night (again) instead of actually giving my body real food. My girlfriend, however, loves to cook and is absolutely amazing at it. So, we found a system that works for us: she cooks while I make the drinks for that night thanks to my abilities as a decent bartender.

    Admittedly, many of the roles I take on are the traditionally “masculine” ones, but that’s largely due to my height and the strength I built up through years of athletics. That really doesn’t matter though, because before we decided that I would take those roles, we had to talk about it. Honestly, it was something I never really thought about until my bisexual girlfriend pointed it out to me. In her past relationships with men, she hasn’t had to discuss who will do what when it comes to those chores given to the 1950’s housewife. We have to talk about them, though, and we have to work out what is best for us. As I continue my relationship with her, that’s not something I want to take for granted, and I don’t want to forget that even though there are many things that make a relationship difficult, we have this negotiation to fall back on in order for us to admit our weaknesses and show our strengths rather than rely on how we are “supposed to be”.



    * If you believe hetero relationships have this ability to the same degree, keep in mind that there are several stay-at-home dads who have discussed how people react to such a “weird” thing.

    ** This is certainly not all relationships, but this is a pretty common model. (No, sir, you don’t get bonus points for cooking once a week, sorry.)