Being gay and single isn’t a walk in the park. Especially at weddings, christenings, Christmas lunch, work functions, in actual parks…but for some reason the amount of insight you gain on relationships when you spend a lot of time studying them from the other side of frosted glass a la The Little Match Girl, you tend to pick up a few things. So as my gift to the people who actually read my stuff, as Valentine’s Day comes to a close on one half of the planet and kicks off its reign of terror over the other, I present to you some of the most common advice I dish out to couples of all kinds. xoxo.

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#1 You teach people how to treat you

I don’t think a friend of mine who has ever been in a relationship hasn’t heard this from me. You’ve all been walking through a supermarket and seen a parent do the dance with their child about what they can’t just take off the shelves. The child begs, pleads, holds their breath, cries, tantrums, bargains, begs again, threatens and eventually the parent caves. We single people stroll off with our mi goreng filled baskets shaking our heads because we know that the little genius has worked out how to get what they want and get away with what it took to get it.

I’m not saying your relationship is comparable to parent-child but I am saying that you can’t expect your partner to change their ways simply because you’ve grown tired of how they’re manipulating you or making you feel less than the awesome person you are. People get lazy, people cheat, people forget, people behave selfishly. When they do, you have to remember that how you react will colour their knowledge of you and give them a guide to how you’ll respond to certain things. So when things seem to be going wrong, don’t wait for disaster and don’t just knee-jerk everything. Talk it out, tell the truth.

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#2 There’s a difference between compromise and compromise

Relationships in trouble are frequently so due to the inability to learn the subtle difference between these identical words. Every individual is unique, thank goodness, and we each have through life experience, upbringing, social development among other factors fashioned ourselves into a person with core values, deal-breakers and the characteristics that make us, well, us-the jawbreakers if you will! Around those core things we’ve got a vortex of trends and friends and trivia, all the little things that make us shiny and even more unique from one another- the sprinkles! It is bound to happen that when relationships happen, the spark that ignites the passion and connection is based on a chemical reaction of what is similar and what’s different about the people involved. And this chemical reaction is always rebalancing and recalibrating to maintain the relationship’s stability.

But we aren’t chemicals, we’re human and we have the ability to start arguing about how the balance should work, we start minimising the value of certain elements to the mix. Here’s where the difference between compromising the core stuff, and compromising the little stuff is really important. People ought to be flexible enough to let the sprinkles in their life be mutable, but the jawbreakers, they can’t be so easily moved. Without something to replace those orbs of sugar goodness, we’ll find ourselves becoming nothing but sprinkles, no substance, no code. Now I’m keen for a treat…

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#3 Don’t masturbate your relationship

Understanding one’s own sexuality is crucial to the ability to develop a strong and safe sexual life with your partner(s), or you may work out you just like doing it on your own. The trouble is, most people are looking for the same kind of gratification they give themselves and expecting another person to sync in with that. When they don’t meet the expectations we haven’t actually expressed because the fact you don’t reply with 10 minutes should tell them everything they need to know, you start to pull back. Remember that although you may know how to please yourself, figuratively, physically, there is a different set of gears and wires in the person/people opposite you so be sure to find out how you can work with that. Just because puzzle pieces have a toggle and a void doesn’t mean they fit together.

Further, if your relationship is focused on the outcome, like masturbation often is, you’re bound to end up as alone as you are when you do masturbate. Have you ever actually made love to yourself? Treated your own body the way you would another’s. Sure some of the bits are harder to reach but it’s worth remembering that connecting with your partner on whatever level should be to create as many contexts, new environments, different parties, conversations. The saying goes that the best relationships evolve from friendship (yet they also say don’t screw your friends), so find a way to get give-take-give-take going for a more lasting anything.

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#4 The best relationships are the ones you look back on, not forward to

If I had a dollar for every person who told me that they just want to meet someone they’re going to be with forever, or a dollar for every person who told me they won’t pursue a relationship because they don’t think it’s going to last more than a couple months, or a dollar for every person who told me they’re not looking for a relationship right now, golly would I be rich. If I had another dollar for every relationship that failed for those people, I’d be richer. In the same vein as #3, individuals who are looking too far ahead to enjoy the present will lose their relationship in the madness of how much opportunity and distraction is out there while you’re off fantasising about white fabrics on the third date.

On the other side of this, is the fact that something about turning your head to look back over your shoulder automatically turns on the rose-coloured lenses. Relationships that are over, and need to be over, somehow look so much better from the other side. Many people friends of mine called jerks one week somehow became “really sweet actually when he wanted to be” after three weeks. We all want to rush back to the familiar, and some relationships screw us up so bad we don’t know how to start over fresh. But in the same way you should avoid looking too far forward when something new opens up a chance at happiness – no matter how sustainable – don’t look at what you’re running from.

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#5 Work through it, not on it

Have you ever heard someone say “you know we’re going through some tough times but we’re working on it” and pulled that awkward emoji but on your actual face but on the inside face where they can’t see you? I have. Think about the language there, it’s as if the future of your relationship is something you have to isolate and remedy like a wart or a math test. Relationships are healthy for their flaws that couples trust in each other to live within, adapt around and emerge through. If your relationship is in the midst of a snag, don’t avoid it or put it in quarantine. Get Vicks Vapo-Rub on that shit and sweat it out.

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#6 Sex matters (in whatever way you have sex)

Some people have sex like the last call at Woodstock. Some have sex side-by-side one hand holding their lover, the other themselves. Some people have sex ten-strong, others gently and respectfully one-on-one. Some people have sex with their clothes on opposite sides of the room watching television and laughing at the same jokes. Our interpretation of sex as we step out of the conservative nineties to early noughties and into the educated-but-still-somehow-ignorant twenty-teens is evolving, as it should. Relationships are all about sex, but sex shouldn’t just be the getting naked and plugging your partner in some way. Sex should be taken as whatever way the people involved in the relationship connect on a level that is both intimate and unique to those people. Find out what makes you want to be with that person/people more than any other and nurture those elements of your connection. Give them growth and depth and transformation. These forms of intercourse are the keys to a thriving relationship.

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Remember that the strive for real love is shared among us all and all of us are equal when it comes to the vulnerability and humility, joy and passion, pain and change of love. Don’t be a stranger, don’t suffer in silence. Big love to you all.

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