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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Healthy Relationship

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


What's a Healthy Relationship?
(a discussion about homosexuality and gay marriage)

As you’re probably well aware, the California Supreme Court recently overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage. This makes California the second state in the country to allow same-sex marriage. This article isn’t a soap box to support or decry this development; rather it’s an exercise in critical thinking that uses the gay marriage issue to explore a fundamental question for ourselves and society in general… “What’s a healthy relationship?”


In my opinion after careful consideration, I’ve concluded that the “sacred union between one man and one woman” idea really seems to boil down to two primary issues or arguments. These issues are then used to justify strong opposition to gay marriage. Argument One is that heterosexual relationships are the natural order of things. Argument Two is that only heterosexual relationships can produce children. In essence, it’d seem that a healthy romantic relationship is defined therefore by one that is “natural” and “fruitful.” So far, so good? It seems reasonable on the face of it, but my definitions of “natural” and “fruitful” don’t stem from subjective “religious” authors but rather from scientific knowledge and critical thinking. And this is where Pandora’s Box is opened (or maybe closed)!

Does homosexuality go against the “natural order of things?”
Not to scientists. Homosexual behavior is well-documented in many other animal species apart from we Homo Sapiens, and the phenomenon itself in humans is widespread across cultures. In fact, evolving research increasingly suggests that there might be a genetic component at play. Indeed, as many persecuted or estranged homosexuals can attest, no one in his/her right mind would deliberately choose the lifestyle given the many negative consequences (personal and professional) that can follow. It’s simply easier to be heterosexual. Now, opponents might argue that homosexual feelings are simply “natural” though immoral temptations for some. The implication here is that sexual “impulses” are simply a choice and can be ignored or even erased altogether. But where do any of our sexual preferences originate? Let’s face it, “learning” only explains so much. To be sure, learning theory would suggest that homosexual behavior wouldn’t exist, given the negative stigma and consequences surrounding it.  

Does homosexuality prevent children?
It’s true that a homosexual couple can’t biologically produce children like a heterosexual couple. Then again, not every heterosexual couple can conceive either. Thank goodness for adoption (I should know as an adopted child myself)! Also, fertility itself is time-limited. Should couples “break up” or divorce after the biological period for conceiving children has passed? Or, should couples who can’t have children in the first place not be allowed to marry or otherwise enjoy the companionship of a romantic relationship? Opponents of gay marriage would certainly reject those outlandish notions. So, what’s the difference then with homosexual couples? Many such couples can adopt children and produce or contribute to loving families. And isn’t that really one of the goals of any romantic relationship… to foster productive and positive families? A family can be a couple, a couple interacting with a wider extended family or it can be a couple with biological or adopted children. For these reasons, the “produce children” argument against heterosexual unions falls way, way short. It simply isn’t logical.

From my perspective, homosexual unions can be “natural” and “fruitful.”  That said, not all romantic relationships are healthy. You and I have both seen abusive or loveless marriages. Why is there no crusade against these terrible situations? These scenarios can have devastating effects on children and society and start cycles of dysfunction that persist for generations. Certainly, these types of situations are not what some would call “natural” or “fruitful.”

Love seems to serve at least two functions – one of them for the couple and one of them for society at large. For the couple, love brings live-long companionship. Our primary role as children ends when we grow up and move away, our primary role as a parent ends when our own children grow up and move away and our primary role of an employed worker ends when we retire. But the one role that never ends or changes in scope is a companion to our life partner. That’s the one role more fundamental than all others, if you ask me. For the rest of us, love is the foundation for building a loving family that contributes to society. A loving, committed couple is a powerful and influential force and role model for others. It’s a change agent in many respects. From all the research I’ve seen and the real-world experience under my belt, heterosexual couples don’t have a monopoly on commitment and companionship. In fact, maybe we all can learn from those homosexual couples who remain committed and loving and forgiving in the face of persecutions small and large and public and private. I don’t have the perfect definition of a healthy relationship, but remaining faithful, nurturing and bonded in the face of strong adversity is a pretty good test of whether the love is real or not.


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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