Relationship Role Models

‘A healthy relationship doesn’t drag you down. It inspires you to be better’.

People in our communities were raised on the same romances as the rest of society, from Beauty And The Beast to Twilight. We either learnt about relationships from our parents or other adults around us, or from television shows like the Brady Bunch or love songs and books. As adults we are still swamped with the same popular couples as the rest of society, from Barack and Michelle to Angelina and Brad.

The problem is that almost all of the relationships that we grew up with are heterosexual relationships between cisgender men and women and so many LGBTIQ people feel lost or ill-prepared when it comes to navigating our own adult relationships. For this reason many of us are faced with the problem of how to create a healthy relationship without many references and without knowing how it is ‘supposed’ to work?

LGBTIQ Role Models

Good relationships takes skill and skill often begins with good role models. Unfortunately, many of us lack good relationship role models who identify as being a part of the LGBTIQ community.

However, our communities are in a place at the moment where we have never been before.

Although homophobia and transphobia are still affecting all of us, there has been no other time in our history where LGBTIQ people have been able to be as open about our identities and our relationships as we are today.

Our communities are forging new frontiers in regards to our relationships. We are starting to have public discussions about our gender and sexuality, we are continuing to move away from more traditional types of relationships and instead we are having more openly non-monogamous relationships, we are negotiating new gender roles in our relationships and we are having more ‘rainbow babies’ than ever before.

Now is the perfect time for us to have positive representations of our relationships: healthy relationship role models.

Why role modelling is important?

Role modeling is an important part of a healthy community. Role models can help other people improve their own relationships and can be a critical factor in reducing risk and increasing protective factors for those around them. In general, research shows that role modeling provides a mechanism for fostering resilience, transmitting positive values and beliefs, and generating a positive sense of self-worth and future goals for individuals and communities. Role modeling is most effective in decreasing negative outcomes when it occurs within strong, personal relationships.

Having accessible role models who are affirming of LGBTIQ relationships could expose our communities, as well as the broader society, to positive perceptions and behaviors that support them in understanding their own relationships and drive them to create healthier practices of their own. Ultimately, forming a positive attitude regarding our relationships, may prevent internalizing negative cultural perceptions, experiences of minority stigma, and overt experiences of discrimination and abuse.

Although there seems to be a growing number of celebrity same-sex couples (Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi; Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka) who some people view as relationship role models, ‘real life’ friends and community members are arguably more realistic and healthier role models, simply because they are more accessible. It’s obviously much easier to model yourself after a couple you know, so the closer to home the better.

How you can be a role model

Firstly you can’t really choose to be a role model for someone, what you can do is model positive behaviours for the people around you and then they may choose to model their relationships off yours.

Being a role model is about actually having a healthy, (mostly) happy relationship, it isn’t about having a particular lifestyle.

Every relationship is unique, and people who model their relationship off yours may take just certain elements of yours and adapt it to their own.

Generally speaking a good role model relationship will be one where everyone involved will treat each other with respect, clearly actually like each other a lot and who can work with what life throws at them.

You can role model healthy relationship behaviours, not just through your own romantic relationships, but through the way you interact with everyone in your life.

You can help people around you with their own relationship by:

  • openly disapproving of hurtful or abusive acts that you may witness
  • openly resolving conflict in respectful ways like genuinely apologizing within earshot of others
  • respectfully sharing stories about both good and hard times
  • celebrating good times with those around you
  • being a support for people when they need you