There has always been this joke in the gay community that if you date a guy for a year you’re really dating him for five years. The myth that you can go to distance with someone is still very much alive in 2020 even though there are a ton of couples who have been able to defy those ideas by remaining as one after a prolonged period of time.
Take for instance Joe Edgecombe and Rick Nelson, the beautiful twosome pictured above. They have managed to make their relationship last for well over a year as they have been together for two decades!
They’ve made it through four different presidencies, iconic shows like Will & Grace and RuPaul’s Drag Race premiering, the rise of app culture and so many more memorable things that have taken place over the past twenty years.
So how have they been able to keep their romance alive, especially during the COVID months we’ve been in? In our new Instinct Magazine series about gay couples, Joe & Rick take us through their history and hopeful future with one another while also touching on some memorable moments for them in between.
How did you two initially meet and was it love at first sight?
We met at a gay bar in 1998. I (Joe) had gone through a breakup just days before and I noticed Rick dancing on the dance floor. I slipped him my phone number and he gave me a fake name: “Trent”. When he called me a few days later the first thing he said to me when I answered the phone was, “Whaddup G?” My jaw hit the floor. I didn’t know what to say next. Was it love at first sight? No. Was it love at first conversation? No. But once we got past the fake name and initial phone call we really got to know each other and love came a short time after.
The dating landscape has changed so much since you started dating. What do you think has been the biggest difference between now & then?
When we first started dating you pretty much HAD to go to a gay bar to meet someone. Or maybe through a mutual friend. Gay was still pretty underground. The first 5 or more years we were together we still had to enter through the back door of our local gay bar out of safety. It took a bit more effort in that you had to get out of the house and go somewhere whereas now you can stay home and pick up your phone and you’re talking to someone.
There was no social media and the internet was in its infancy so you couldn’t google someone to dig into their background nor could you pull up their Facebook or Instagram and creep on their last few years of photos. Not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing now vs. then. It’s always good to be safe when dating but at the same time people may miss out on someone incredible because they read too much into their pics online.
20 years in gay years is like 100. How have you both sustained the love that you have for one another?
We made a pact years ago that no matter what, we’d always work it out and never say we’re ready to leave unless it’s truly what we’re going to do. No threats of a break up to win an argument – that sort of thing. That was over 20 years ago and we’ve never even come close to giving up. How we sustain our love for one another – we always make each other top priority over EVERYTHING else. We make time for each other and try to keep our lives very connected by finding activities we can do together.
Are you monogamous or in an open relationship? How do you make either work?
We are monogamous. There is so much pressure in the gay community, especially around the bar scene to explore outside of monogamy. We’d be lying if we said that there wasn’t some curiosity about it in the past. We talked about it a few times and explored the possibility but ultimately it wasn’t something we were comfortable with. In the end we decided it wasn’t for us and that it would eventually put a strain on our relationship. It’s not a risk we were willing to take. We’re already satisfied with our own sex life so it’s like fixing something that isn’t broken. Every couple has to decide what works for them and monogamy is what works for us.
What has COVID been like for the two of you? Has it brought you closer together?
Social distancing hasn’t been a huge life upset for us. We’ve always been homebodies to a certain degree. Spending time together is already a piece of cake. Even though it hasn’t been a huge change, it really has brought us closer together. Instead of getting out on the weekends to go out eat or shop or hit the gym – we’ve been trying to find more and more ways to stay active together but sort of on our own. We’ve hit up state parks, gone to the beach, hiked trails, taken up cycling. In addition to all of the things we were already doing. We’re definitely more connected if that’s even possible.
Has the topic of adopting or having kids via surrogate ever come up?
We LOVE KIDS but never felt strongly about being parents. We talked about it in the early days but for years, adopting wasn’t an option for the LGBTQ community and as the world has caught up we’ve also aged. Being parents at 48 & 44 wouldn’t be ideal for us. We’re really fortunate to have an amazing loving family and 14 nieces and nephews that we’re really close to. Having so many kids around probably fulfilled that need to have children of our own.
What is the best advice you would give to anyone who is looking for love out there but hasn’t found it?
First off, we would tell people to NEVER GIVE UP. Love is out there for everyone. You just haven’t found the right one yet. Also, we would tell people to take the time to really get to know someone beyond a text conversation or a hookup. We know it can be hard finding someone who is on the same page as you but there are people out there. We get messages from people constantly saying how they hope to have what we have one day or that somehow our years together inspires them and that they wish to have the same thing. We know there are people out there looking for the fairytale.
We would also tell people to be open to ALL possibilities. Don’t miss out on something wonderful based on a so so first meeting or bad first impression. If I had given up on “Trent” after that first phone call, we would have both missed out on the greatest love of our lives.