Permanent Partners was first published in 1988, the year I was born. Twenty-five years later, even though social influence on gay relationships has evolved, it is fascinating to see that certain aspects of our relationships are still exactly the same. One of the most important ideas that Betty Berzon passes to the reader is how gay couples tend to give up on their relationships more often than others. But this is not for lack of love. There are two reasons why this tends to happen.
First, there is what Berzon calls the “tradition of failure”. Couples used to be forced (and in some places, still are) to hide public displays of affection because it was uncomfortable for others. This put extra strain on the natural intimacy of the couple, reminding them that their relationship was not “normal” and often things would dissolve, or fail. Secondly, since gay couples do not have the same kind of legal recognition and social acceptance that straight couples enjoy, there is a constant reminder that society views our relationships as temporary and not to be taken seriously. When we fight, it is easier to throw in the towel instead of work out our differences because often times, our families or people around us do not see our unions as serious commitments. If you ask most gay people if they think their love is of any less value than a heterosexual couple, they would tell you, obviously, no. But since society overall does not consider our commitments to be as “valid” as those of straight couples, a tiny part of us may start to believe that too.
Resist! Gay couples deserve the same level of respect as any other couple and until we start believing this ourselves, we cannot help others to see this as true. Hopefully with time, we will not only see social tolerance towards our relationships but full acceptance. And with more victories on the legal front, I believe this conception of relationship inferiority will start to diminish as well.
There are timeless lessons to be learned in Berzon’s Permanent Partners. The author also teaches the reader how to fight constructively with out partners, how your own self acceptance of your sexual identity affects your relationship, how to improve communication, jealousy/power/ money issues, dealing with in-laws and how to recognize the underlying issues that you keep re-hashing without actually solving.