Jan 23 2008

John Cloud is one of TIME's star journalists who has covered every possible 'beat' for the weekly news magazine. There is simply no better writer or reporter. This week in an intimate and powerful story, Cloud talks about his own personal gay relationship and the issue of romance in the LGBT community.

The article, Are Gay Relationships Different, shares with readers Clouds partnership of seven years that went south. The opening of the article captures this honest portrayal:

"Michael and I had been together 7 1⁄2 years when I moved out in late 2006. We met at a bar just after Christmas 1998; I had seen Shakespeare in Love with a couple of friends, and I was feeling amorous, looking for Joseph Fiennes. Michael hit on one of my friends first, but the two didn't click, so Michael settled for me. A_mbgay_0128_2

That was one of our most reliable stories to tell friends over dinner. It never ceased to get the table laughing, Michael and me most of all, because it was preposterous to think we wouldn't have ended up together. We were so happy, our love unshakable.

I went home with Michael the night we met, and figuratively speaking, I didn't leave again for those 7 1⁄2 years. The breakup sucked, the more so because it was no one's fault. Our relationship had begun to suffer the inanition of many marriages at seven years. (The seven-year itch isn't a myth; the U.S. Census Bureau says the median duration of first marriages that end in divorce is 7.9 years.) Michael and I loved each other, but slowly--almost imperceptibly at first--we began to realize we were no longer in love. We were intimate but no longer passionate; we had cats but no kids.

Things drifted for a while. There was some icky couples counseling ("Try a blindfold") and therapeutic spending on vacations, clothes, furniture. We were lost. The night Michael wouldn't stay up to watch The Office finale with me, I knew I had to move out. Yes, he was tired, but if he couldn't give me the length of a sitcom--Jim and Pam are going to kiss!--then we were really done.

What followed for me, in no meaningful order, was intense exercise and weight loss; fugue states punctuated by light psychotherapy, heavy drinking and moderate drug use; really good sex; Italian classes (where I learned to pronounce il mio divorzio perfectly); and marathons of cooking. I had always enjoyed the kitchen, but now I would make pumpkin ravioli from scratch on Thursday and cook a black bass in parchment on Friday and bake an olive-oil cake on Saturday. The fridge was stuffed; my friends were ecstatic and full. But in the mornings, alone before dawn, a jolt of terror: What had I done?"

Cloud uses his history with Michael to transition into a detailed and thought provoking article about the challenges facing couples in the LGBT community. This excellent article explores gay love from every angle. He says about marriage:

"Today Michael and I are friends. On Christmas Eve, we gathered a group, and I made an enthusiastic attempt at the traditional Italian seven-fishes feast. I'm in better shape now than I was in high school, which fits with psychologist Bella DePaulo's finding (in her fascinating 2006 book on single life, Singled Out) that the period around divorce is associated with improvements in health. Divorced men are also, not surprisingly, happier than men stuck in bad marriages.

And yet if ours had been a straight marriage, I have little doubt we would still be together. We had financial security and supportive families. We almost certainly would have had children. This isn't regret--fighting my homosexuality would be like shouting against the rain. But while the researchers are certainly right that straight couples have something to learn from gay couples, I think the inverse is true as well."

By sharing his own personal journey, Cloud has given us a "must read' article on the state of LGBT romance and love in America.