The Mismeasure of Relationship Success

So, the girlfriend and I are coming up on five years together. Friends and acquaintance are starting to look at me, and her, all squinty-eyed and saying, in a certain doubtful tone, "So, how's it going with Steph?" Or "Wow, five years, that's a long time. How do you do it?" Like we've completed the New York Marathon and they are more than a little curious about our secret method of endurance training.

There are a few things I want to point out to those blown away at successful relationships.

My gal and I want to be together, there's no the mystery in that. We like and love each other. Sheesh, we're not being forced to have a relationship.

We work out whatever smaller difficulties we have navigating living together and sharing our lives. Sharing our lives, not sharing a life because we are two people, hence two lives. We have not become one person and never want to. I should point that out: We are not a unit (or eunuchs, by the way) and don't want to be either.

Most successful relationships are based on the free-flow of communication between two relatively healthy individuals, not consistent gritted-teeth-silence and the concomitant build-up of rage. The simmering anger and resentment I see in so many couples, and the "sniping" they do publicly (and likely privately) is extremely disturbing. It's certainly got to be disruptive to them. I know it is to me.

With my girl and I, there's a large element of discussion, not fighting, and certainly not "kitchen sink fights" that drag in every single "offense," large and small, real or imagined. We work out any disagreements and diffuse potential problems before they become festering resentments. And we're not passive-aggressive with each other. Well, maybe I was once or twice, but I acknowledged it, admitted it was the wrong way to handle the situation, apologized and we talked it through.

And, by the way "success" is measured, as far as I am concerned, not by years ticking by, but by the health of a given relationship. There are people who've been together 10, 20, 50+ years, and still are, but whose relationships I would consider "failures." This is because one or both people in the relationship dislike or actually hate each other and/or have betrayed one another in myriad ways, with various forms of abuse, cheating or any number of relationship misdeeds. This is not a success in my book, staying together for the sake of…the children, your (or her) family of origin, religion, or any other reason. Length of time does not mark a successful relationship. If it's unhealthy, unwanted, or unwarranted, then it's purgatory.

This brings me to the much-noted pre-nup agreement Rosie O'Donnell and her wife Michelle Rounds allegedly signed. It has been reported that Rounds ends up with nothing if she cheats. Rightly so.

There is no excuse to cheat. If you're in a monogamous relationship, you should only be there because you want to be. Open relationships are another matter altogether.

However, if a lesbian in a monogamous relationship wants to be with someone else, or no one else, she simply needs to let her partner know. Relationship success is about honesty, respect for oneself and the other person, and healthy communication skills.

And, bottom line, relationship success is really a matter of whether you have class.