Earlier this month, Bravo released a new documentary series called “Newlyweds: The First Year.” Studies have shown, time and time again, that most marriages fail within the first year. So Bravo follows newlywed couples around for a year documenting the triumphs and pitfalls that come with marriage. The show, which premiered on May 6, features a couple who knew each other six months before getting engaged, a couple who come from two different cultural backgrounds, a couple who believe the woman should submit to the man and a gay couple who are almost 17 years apart.
Each pair had an interesting story but the gay couple was particularly fascinating to me because they had a few issues that one might think would present problems down the line in their union. There’s the age difference. Then there’s a socioeconomical difference. The younger man in the pair grew up affluently and the older one didn’t. So financial discussions are a bit of an issue. And then, the most pressing of all, is the fact that the older man, Jeff, 45, didn’t come out until he was 35. And when he did, his family didn’t take too kindly to it. They cut him off from seeing his niece and nephew and don’t acknowledge his union with Blair. Blair, 29, has had a completely different experience. In fact, his mother and stepfather paid the bill for the ceremony.
I would imagine that Jeff’s experience is common for the LGBTQ community. What I didn’t consider though, was how that initial rejection from family and friends could rear its ugly head in the context of a relationship.
In a clip from the show’s third episode, we watch and Jeff and Blair recount the day they learned that Whitney Houston died.
Blair, was completely freaked out by it and still becomes visibly upset recalling the day he learned the news because, like so many of us, Whitney Houston meant a lot to him. (A lot.) So, naturally when he learned that she passed away, while he and Jeff were in the car together he completely wigged out. Jeff assumed that this strong reaction must have meant that something had happened to one of their family members or close friends; and when he found out it was just Whitney Houston, someone they didn’t know personally, he called Blair a drama queen. He called him more than a drama queen.
According to Blair Jeff said: “You are such a drama queen and you know I hate drama queens. You’re psycho.”
And the conversation continued as such:
Blair: That’s why I wanted to talk about it because my feelings at the time were hurt.
Jeff: Well ok well you know we all get hurt.
Initially, I was willing to let Jeff have the fact that Blair might have really scared him. But his reaction to Blair reaching out to him in order to rectify the situation was not ok. Some have hypothesized that Jeff reacted to Blair this way because his strong, dramatic reaction regarding Whitney Houston could be stereotypically assigned to gay men. And because he’s new to publicly expressing his sexuality, this reaction probably perturbed him a little bit. It’s really not too much of a stretch. When the couple traveled to Savannah, Georgia to get married, Jeff said that because he wasn’t accepted by his own family, the people who were supposed to love him most, it was natural for him to assume that the people in Georgia weren’t going to accept him either.
But whether people on the outside accept your union and whether you accept your union are two totally different things. The fact is that his reaction to Blair is not a “gay couple” issue. There is almost nothing worse than coming to someone you love and trust, telling them that they hurt your feelings only to have them dismiss you. It makes you feel small and invalidated by the person who’s supposed to care the most about your emotions and well being. That’s not a problem specific to Jeff and Blair or gay relationships. That’s a universal relationship problem.
Jeff and Blair just to happen to be the couple we’re learning from today. If your partner or anyone else in your life is making themselves vulnerable by admitting that you’ve hurt their feelings, it’s a time for you to take a look at yourself. Instead of dismissing them, writing them off as being overly dramatic or saying something un-usefully obvious like “we all get hurt,” take the opportunity to apologize and strengthen your relationship.