February 3, 2011
By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
What makes for a successful relationship? How can a relationship stay fresh when the partners have been together for 30 years or longer? The Rainbow Times spoke with some couples to get their perspectives.
Janet Peck and Carol Conklin, Colchester, Connecticut_
Peck, 60, and Conklin, 57, from Colchester, Connecticut, have been together for 35 years, and married for the last two of those years. The women knew each other in high school but were seeing other people at the time. A conversation at a dinner party between Peck and Conklin soon led to a friendship, and then a romance.
“We fell in love,” Peck said, explaining her and Conklin have shared interests, shared values, and similar political views.
Their compatibility has been at the root of their relationship, as well as a deep mutual respect.
“We’re there for each other emotionally, in hard times,” Conklin said, noting they were able to count on each other for support during the deaths of their parents.
“We love each other to death, we respect each other, we support each other and like nothing better than to spend time together – hiking, biking, kayaking, camping and being women’s basketball fans,” Peck explained. “We have also had similar goals to shoot for – we built a house together, we built careers, worked for marriage equality in CT and we are now planning for retirement within the next 4 years when we hope to travel around the country in our camper.”
Peck, who works as a mental health counselor and does couples counseling, believes the high rate of relationship failures is due to cultural conditioning.
“I do think we live in a throwaway society and that may have something to do with it but I think a better answer is that I don’t think people find the time to check in with each other often enough- to connect with each other on a daily or at least weekly basis,” Peck noted. “I also think people do not find ways to resolve any differences they have and then these differences wear away at the good feelings they have for each other.”
“People become attracted to people that they aren’t very compatible with,” Conklin added.
Peck and Conklin have always managed to discuss any problems in their relationship.
“No matter what our differences, I always know deep down inside that we will always resolve it,” Peck said.
Bruce Bell and George Smart, Quincy, Massachusetts
Bell, 67, and Smart, 60, have been together for more than 34 years. They married in 2004. Bell and Smart met at a gathering of gay men on Cape Cod in 1976.
“I wasn’t out, I didn’t have any gay friends,” Bell recalled. “When I walked in (to a private home), I saw this person in a white sweater – George, and somehow I knew immediately (he was my soul mate), and we’ve been together ever since. It sounds like a real Cinderella story but it’s basically true.”
Smart had the same feeling toward Bell that fateful night: “I remember seeing (Bruce) in a blue sweater with a sailboat on it and I think I said as we were walking out that night, I said to (Bruce) “are you following me?”
Neither Bell nor Smart had ever been in a long-term relationship before, but found a common bond. Compatibility has been a key ingredient to their relationship.
“We have a lot of the same interests,” Smart explained. “We both like theatre, we both like going to the movies, we have a good circle of friends that we’ve formed over the last 30 years, we came out to both of our families, they were supportive once they got over the initial shock of it.”
A challenge for Bell and Smart was the lack of role models to look to for guidance in their relationship.
“(In 1976) there had not been a single book which had been written about gay couples,” Bell noted. “At first we tried to figure out (how to act) as a gay couple. Once we realized that we could make up our own rules, it became quite liberating,” Bell said.
Being able to maintain a serious relationship in the midst of life’s challenges is very important, Bell believes.
“A good sense of humor is important in the long run. The other thing is God knows we’ve been through enough changes and somehow through all the changes, both individual and the changes in the relationship, it somehow works. We still enjoy each other and have a good time.”