We’ve made it a tradition to run a relationship-themed cover story every year. In 2012 it was “Single and Looking,” and in 2013 it was the love stories of committed long-term couples. To keep it fresh this year, we asked ourselves what other major element or experience comes with the phenomenon of romantic love. The angle practically presented itself: breakups.
Who we love is the very thing that makes us lesbian or gay — one of the main reasons we come together as a community. As tough as it can be to come out, the chance for love or connection as an out person is often the end goal that drives us through the difficulties and risks. If that ideal, trusting and lasting relationship is such a profound desire, what kinds of turmoil can we go through when a relationship doesn’t work out?
For most people, LGBT or not, romantic rejection and heartbreak is one of the most painful experiences in life — stuff of legends and poetry. Almost all of us have felt it before, perhaps many times. We posed questions to our Panel, writers and community, and came back with generous offerings and insights about whether LGBT people experience it in heightened or different ways.
For one: if our parents or families rejected us for being LGBT, romantic partners can become our basic emotional support system; for some LGBT people even a crush or new interest is the closest thing we have to a feeling of family. For another, as one of our Panel members pointed out: when stereotypes depict gay people as incapable of monogamy, relationships can gain heightened importance as the way we prove to the world — and to ourselves — that we’re OK. Finally, there are so many LGBT people who end up feeling isolated from the community, blinded by internalized prejudices toward it, or anxious about living up to characteristics perceived as idealized in it, that we become overwhelmingly fearful about our prospects.
It’s dangerous approaching relationships with a sense of need, expecting a person to fill a hole in our lives rather than as inspiring us to feel trust and love — feelings that do not float through the air and soak into our bodies, but can only be experienced when they come from within ourselves, directed toward others. I’m no psychologist, but it seems like pressure to “have someone” can actually make it less likely to work out, and it’s why, when we feel we’re being rejected, love and appreciation can so quickly turn into resentment and hate.
While almost all of us have lived through a broken heart, almost all of us have also experienced deep resentment for an ex — sometimes lasting for years, sometimes forever. Imperfections we’d tolerate in a friend or stranger become image-shattering and deeply personal, even though it’s someone we once cared deeply about.
Rather than focus on the negative, we wanted to explore an alternative through those who have been lucky enough to be able to do it: how LGBT people can stay on good terms, even stay close friends, after a breakup. That’s this issue’s cover story.
Sometimes staying close is not possible; it certainly shouldn’t be expected of anyone if abuse, exploitation, violence or cruelty destroyed a relationship. And sometimes when too many bad feelings stir up, keeping our distance is the most responsible thing we can do.
But the truth is that nothing lasts forever — even life itself is impermanent — and therefore all relationships eventually end. Facing that, most of us still believe they’re worthwhile. We’re left with no choice but to try our best to embrace that famous line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.:” “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” ′