Couples Chronicles ó Interview 2
Building a Life Together
First published in January 1987
© 1999, Demian
Tom Conway and Hil Simpkins are both social workers. They live in Florence, New Jersey and have been in a loving relationship for 14 years. [Also see follow-up interview of this couple in Interview #32.]
What, besides its length, do you consider signs of your relationshipís success?
Hil: The depth of the relationship, and the fact that weíre not only lovers but also friends and support systems for each other.
Tom: The sense of commitment and caring.
A partnership is never equal, never 50/50. Sometimes itís more on one personís shoulders. That person willingly, I think, carries the load for the sake of the relationship until the other partner is ready to carry more of his share. Do you feel that way, Hil?
Hil: Yes, I do.
How did you meet?
Tom: We met at work. I was a trainee and Hil was a management principles trainer.
Hil: We both were married and both had two children. Weíre both now divorced.
Do you see your children?
Tom: Yes. Mine are arriving on Wednesday for the holidays.
Hil: Mine come on Christmas Day.
Tom: Hil has one son who is not yet an adult. One of mine is married, so she comes with a son-in-law.
Are you out to your families?
Hil: Itís hard not to be, if youíve been together this long.
What elements have stayed the same through your years together?
Tom: My bitchiness. And Hilís long-standing patience.
One other thing thatís remained the same is our ability to laugh at ourselves. I think if we take ourselves too seriously, weíre in trouble. But thatís not to say weíre never serious.
It has to do with seeing things in perspective. Thereís a history that sustains us even when immediate turmoil is threatening to destroy the relationship.
Hil: Thereís also the future as well, which gives one calmness when thereís trouble, because we know we will be together for a long time.
How did you decide to be together for a long time?
Hil: I donít know. It just happened. We decided we wanted to be together. I was still married at that point and left my wife for Tom. Tom was already separated.
Tom: I think it important that we both came out of straight marriages, although our relationship is not modeled on a straight marriage. We each had a need to commit ourselves to a long term relationship, quite independent from meeting someone we wanted to be with.
The relationship grew and took on a life of its own. The description of the relationship is what it has evolved to be. Itís not modeled after any existing thing.
For instance, we keep our own money separate from one another. We contribute equally to household expenses and pay the house mortgage together.
Hil: Everything weíve bought for the house since weíve had it, which has been about eight years, has been a joint purchase. So we make all those decisions together.
What elements have changed in your relationship over the years?
Tom: Initially, I wanted a social life that was exclusively gay because that was where I felt most comfortable. In the past few years, that is not as important to me.
Hil: Whatís most important to us and our friends is the character and belief values of an individual.
Do you have similar social circles?
Hil: Yes. We have similar jobs, friends at work, and know a lot of the same people. Most of them know our relationship because we donít hide it. We do most stuff together.
Tom: We include gay couples in our social life. Also single gays and straights as well.
Hil: Once a year, we have an open house and invite all of them.
Have you always wanted the same kind of sex together?
Tom: Weíve always had sex together. When it wasnít the way we wanted it to be, we told the other person what we wanted.
Hil: I donít think any two personsí sex needs are always exactly the same. We try to fulfill both our needs. Weíve always agreed and itís always been comfortable for both of us, or we didnít do it.
What information would you like to share with other couples?
Hil: Itís a lot of work but itís sure worth it.
Tom: We always say itís a lot of work, but nobody ever says what the work is. We could have used help in the past, and maybe today as well.
I know itís talking and being honest. But there are times when I think Iím being honest and later realize Iím not.
Or there are times when it means giving up or doing without. Those times I can feel real justified in being depressed, disappointed and angry. Those times I feel deserving of my own pity and I donít want to work on a relationship.
We have talked with others, shared our relationship, and listened to the feedback they have given us.
What has been the greatest joy for you as a gay couple?
Hil: There are so many.
Tom: Oh gosh, thatís difficult to answer. Whatís been our greatest joy, Hil?
Hil: The relationship. Building a home.
Tom: Building a life together. Waking up in the morning and knowing he is still there.
Hil: Someone I can come home to, who helps smooth away the worries of the day and is there caring about me.