(Note: Because I hate reading a story and not knowing who is who in the associated pics … in both images here, Joe is on the left, Dan on the right.)
My job affords me time (and permission) to check Facebook, and despite the frustrations of the social media site “all the political rants, privacy concerns, and coercions to “like” a picture in the next three seconds or you don’t love Jesus”. I’ve met some wonderful people through Facebook whom I never otherwise would have known. Joe and Dan are two such people. While I see plenty of Facebook profile pictures featuring gay couples, something just felt different about these two. Flipping through their pictures, they seemed so comfortable together, so unconcerned with what the world might think. It all looked very natural, unforced, and as it was meant to be. I friended them, and we began chatting back and forth for a few months. Last weekend, I finally had the chance to meet and share dinner and a good bottle of wine with Joe and Dan.
Their story inspires me because they are examples of what I hope to have some day: a healthy, loving, monogamous, relationship with a man that leads to the altar. For so long, as I’ve recounted previously, I thought I could not have this and should not have this, that it was an impossible fantasy, and an immoral one at that. Now, things are different, and I see Joe and Dan’s relationship as something both good and attainable. But how did it happen? How did they meet, fall in love, and form a faithful relationship in a culture that often encourages immediate sex with as many people as you want at the expense of the slow, tough work of building an enduring life with just one person?
Joe says he was always a romantic at heart. “I’ve always had pretty traditional ideas about relationships, having grown up in the Catholic Church, so I knew I wanted a partner for life.”
Joe first saw Dan tagged in someone else’s picture on Facebook and wasted no time getting in touch. “I had a rule at the time that if I found a guy attractive,” Joe says, “I would let him know. He deserved that rather than having me simply stalk him online. So, I messaged Dan.”
“And I responded pretty quickly!” Dan interjects, as they look at each other and smile. They have that same blissful glow about them that I as a pastor used to see in many of the engaged straight couples in my church.
After an exchange of messages and a long phone call one night, they decided to go on a date.
Joe says, “That was the easiest conversation I’ve ever had with anyone. It was just so natural talking to Dan that I couldn’t stop!”
“I had to tell him to breathe at one point,” Dan says with a laugh.
A first date led to a first kissâ€”a kiss that felt different than any before. “That was the first time I’d ever kissed a guy that having sex with him wasn’t the first thing that came to mind,” Dan says. “I mean, I did want that, of course, but I wanted so much more. I wanted to know this guy.”
Joe says the two of them wisely took their relationship slowly at first, mostly because they had to. “We were lucky in that I was traveling a lot for work at the time, so we weren’t able to move too quickly and fall into the three-dates-in-three-nights trap. Also, we lived about 40 minutes apart at the time, so that meant some nights we just texted or talked on the phone, and that allowed our relationship to develop at a more natural and healthy pace.”
But the strong connection they had was obvious to them both very early on. After only the second date, as though he knew already that this relationship was not the same as all the ones before, Dan said to Joe, “This is going to be fun.”
“And it was, and it is!” Joe says. “I started bringing home little souvenirs from business trips for Dan, something I’d never really done for anyone before. And he really listened intently to me when I would talk. He picked up on a detail in one of my many random stories about how I’d read that some celebrity demanded his driver pick him up from the airport with blue M&Ms only and a bottle of white wine in the vehicle. Next time Dan picked me up at the airport, he surprised me with a picnic that included blue M&Ms and white wine.”
Unbeknownst to Dan, little moments like that led Joe to begin keeping a journal of their growing relationship. “I had never been much of a writer before, but I just wanted to remember everything, every first. I didn’t want to forget any of it.”
One day, months into the relationship, Dan discovered that journal, and now the two update it together, chronicling their life as a couple. There aren’t quite as many things to write about these days. Joe and Dan have been together for two years, so there are fewer “firsts” to write down, but they seem no less in love for having run short of new things to do. And that’s one aspect of their relationship that so intrigues me, and inspires me. They get that it’s not always going to be like it was that first date, or even that first year.
Dan says, “It’s not always going to be hot and spicy. It’s not supposed to be. Some of that initial excitement comes from the mystery of it all, the unknown. But the longer you’re with someone, the better you know the person, and the less mysteryâ€”the less spiceâ€”there is. That doesn’t mean you’re not still in love. It just means you have to work at injecting spice into the relationship and realizing that sometimes it’ll be boring, but that boring doesn’t equal non-existent. It doesn’t mean something’s wrong.”
As Joe, Dan, and I continue sipping wine and waiting for our meals, a hundred questions run through my mind. When did they decide to marry? Who asked whom? Or was it just a mutual decision at the end of a conversation? What do their parents think about all of this (I already know that Joe’s dad is Catholic and Dan’s is a Methodist minister)? How do Joe and Dan approach the whole sex before marriage issue? What advice do they have for other gay guys and gals hoping for a life partner some day?