two friends by alexandra gavilletNow, no matter what state we live in, move to or visit, our same-sex marriages are legal. Hooray! This has been a long time coming.

As a therapist and someone who has conducted numerous workshops on same-sex relationships in the past few years, many LGBT men and women have come up to me after their particular workshop was over, pulled me over to the side, and asked, “So Michael, what do you think is really the best way to do same-sex marriage?”

It almost makes me laugh; they think that I am withholding some special secret from them, like I had the “real” answer all along and was just keeping it to myself: only to be shared with my closest friends and favorite clients.

The truth is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be married. There is only the way that works for you and your husband/wife. For example, some happily-married couples have told me that monogamy would be the last thing on earth they would ever want; for others, it’s the foundation for a really wonderful relationship.

When I work with couples on their relationship challenges, I like to present the concept of create and adjust. Often, people with control issues (I include myself here) want to keep things good and consistent. We think that change is the enemy and that it will threaten our relationship.

Not so.

Change is an inevitable part of marriage. You marry someone and think that you really KNOW how she/he is and how they react in certain situations…in other words, you are CERTAIN that you know how your marriage is going to work.

And then, something happens and it shocks you. What do you do?

You reinvent your marriage.

In my experience, this is the best way to approach – and maintain – a happy same-sex marriage. Nothing that we create stays perfect forever: we change, the situation changes, life changes in ways we can neither predict nor control. We can adjust what we’ve created (try something to make it better and see if we like it) or resist the change (fight it, struggle, try to control the situation, end up exhausted and defeated).

From years of counseling same-sex couples – married or not – I have observed that same-sex relationships are NOT the same as heterosexual ones. For example: Two married men may have more competition with each other as compared to straight couples. All that testosterone must have its way, and power struggles are to be expected.

Gay male couples may also find it harder to focus on emotional intimacy, expecting sexual intimacy to meet their emotional needs. And when their sex lives become predictable, the shit often hits the fan.

Lesbian couples may find it harder to keep a rich and fulfilling sex life going, instead, focusing more on emotional bonding. There may be too much of a focus on caretaking/nurturing and not enough on independence/self-determination, e.g., “All my friends became OUR friends. Now what do I do?”

With same-sex marriage now legal in all 50 states, we LGBTers can break all the old rules about what marriage “should” be. That’s good (we have the change to create something new) and yet scary (how the hell do we pull this off?).

Let me issue you an invitation: Since traditional marriage hasn’t been working so great for about 51% of straight folks, it’s not the best model to blindly emulate. The good news is that we LGBT folks can reinvent it and make it more workable and flexible.

This is not a challenge for the timid. While it sounds hot and trendy to talk about “reinventing” marriage, it’s not easy to question and create new forms of a cultural institution that has been around for hundreds of years. It evokes anxiety and discomfort to try something new, to change something that straight folks have been doing – not very well, admittedly – for generations. But, my sisters and brothers, we are up to the challenge.

Be not afraid. The time is right and we are on the cutting edge of history. Let’s use same-sex marriage as a laboratory for creating relationships and marriages that are dynamic, flexible and creative. We can do it.

The time is now.