LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
Marianne and Heather also spoke of the joys associated with this new relationship for both of them and the new values they were identifying and living by, even if in private. Heather observes that:
I’d never been in the ‘gay community.’ . . . It was like you had this secret society. Like I’d see you at a bar and we’d have a fun evening and then the next day I might see you walking down the street and I’m all in my gussied clothes and you’re in your suit and I’d say, “Hello Marianne,” and. you’d say, “Hello, Heather.” And we’d look at each other and wink because we’d know that we played like hell together the night before and then all of a sudden today we were straight, all the way. It was sort of fun.
While their relationship was not “clandestine” (since neither of them were unfaithful to another person), it did have the magic and excitement of a forbidden affair, because of the broader social disapproval of lesbian relationships. The “clandestine” relationship added intrigue and energy to their relationship, while also helping to define their mutual values associated with a lesbian life style. Initially, they found this intrigue to be “fun.” Furthermore, they were able to forge their individual identities as lesbians while also forging their relationship as a couple. This is one advantage held by gays and lesbians in their initial relationships with partners of the same sex.
While many couples (especially those who meet as young people) initially identify with one another primarily with regard to the values (of their parents) that they do or don’t want to share, the recognition of shared values (often building on shared cultures and backgrounds) also provides an early “glue” for a relationship and helps hold it together during particularly stormy times. The obvious example of shared values, dreams and interests is the classic “boy/girl next door” –which is typically represented as the young man and woman who grew up together in a small, mid-west town. While we did find a few examples of these “childhood sweethearts” in the interviews we conducted, it was much more common to find partners who grew up in different communities, but shared a common heritage.