Marriage, an institution previously reserved for only heterosexual couples, has recently been opened for gay couples. The Civil Union Act came into being December 2006 and now provides people of the same “sex” or gender to enter into a marriage or opt for the term “civil union”. As a strong symbol of the traditions of heteronormativity, it remains a contested subject in many gay/ lesbian circles. For some it is a wonderful aspect that is embraced and celebrated in taking a partnership to a new level, whilst for others it remains a very much contested and even symbol of resistance. Whichever position you identify with, and it certainly might happen that your perception and opinion is fluid and flexible, bear in mind that not everyone in the gay community feels the same or have the same opinion.

For a marriage to work and last, it is necessary to look at a few qualities in relationships that will ensure the proverbial happy ending. Commitment as a major quality in the relationship revolves around a promise to promote each other’s happiness and welfare. This quality can be essential for getting through hard times and for returning for better ones. Mutual affection and respect are important qualities one should not overlook when you want to commit to your partner. This leads to appreciation of each other, an interactional pattern in which both partners make each other feel good about themselves.

Good communication is another factor in marriage that promotes success in the relationship. This means that partners spend time talking to each other. In a strong marriage, partners are also good listeners. This does not mean that there will not be any fights! But, when there is good communication, partners tend to deal with conflict in a fair manner by discussing the problem rationally. Couples who have good communication patterns tend to share their feelings about alternative solutions to problems, and thereby are able to choose the solution that is best for both parties.

A strong desire to spend time together flows from good communication patterns. This does not mean smothering your partner. Active togetherness extends to all areas of your lives together: meals, recreation, chores and so forth. Intimacy flows from the desire to spend time together, which is another important component in a marriage. Intimacy means that you have a desire to experience happiness with your loved one, being able to count on your partner in times of need, mutual understanding, sharing of one’s self and one’s possessions, receiving emotional support and giving it in return, as well as valuing the partner with whom you are married to.

Success in the marriage is also dependent on a strong value system – spiritual well-being in a marriage can be a unifying force that promotes sharing, love and compassion for each other. The underlying factor that adds strength to a marriage is a strongly held and mutually shared value system.

The ability to remain cool and level headed in crises and stress in a positive manner, fosters resilience in the marriage which means couples can bounce back from adversity. To find a spark of light even in the darkest situation, no matter how small, may help a couple to unite against the adversity instead of allowing it to be fragmented by it.

Finally, don’t forget about passion! Passion is a state of intense longing for union with your partner. In a loving relationship, sexual needs may dominate this experience of passion. One should not forget, however, that other needs such as those for self-esteem, nurturance, affiliation and self-actualisation may contribute to the experiencing of passion, and you should be very aware of your partner’s needs (as well as your own!) when it comes to the passion factor in your marriage.

To summarise, never forget that your partner is an individual in her own right – let there be space in your togetherness. Love one another, but do not forget the freedom your partner deserves as a human being. To quote Kahlil Gibran on marriage: “Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not near together: for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”