Courtney Parks, a 48-year-old business and career coach, and her partner Lori, a 51-year-old who works in design, met in Boston 25 years ago. They have been together for 23 years, and seem like one of the happiest couples I’ve met. Their story is pretty incredible, and it’s definitely something that we can all learn from.
I sat down with Courtney and Lori in West Hollywood (across from a raging karaoke competition at Hamburger Mary’s) to chat about how they’ve made it work and what advice they have for AfterEllen readers.
AfterEllen.com: How did you meet?
Courtney: We were co-workers who became friends. We were recruiters at a temp agency. Our boss thought we were going to hate each other. Lori was away on vacation when I started and our boss actually put me at her desk.
Lori: I was in Australia and she didn’t think I was coming back.
Courtney: But she did come back and we got along right away. We always joke that Jenny, our boss, was so upset that we got along—and she would die to know that we’re still together. We were probably friends for two years before we got together.
AE: You spent 2 years as friends?
Courtney: We were both involved with other people at the time. But we would go out to lunch and I would think, “hmm, why does it feel like we are on a date?”
AE: Courtney, did you know you liked women before you met?
Courtney: I really didn’t. Looking back I had a sense but, at the time, I wasn’t fully conscious of it. Everything felt different though when I was with Lori.
Lori: We connected instantly and it turned into something else really naturally. That’s the best way I can describe it— very natural.
Courtney: Growing up, my parents were artists and we always had gay friends. So there was never a problem with it, I just didn’t realize it for myself. It’s almost like Lori and I fell in love before we were fully aware of what was going on. My gay friends were like, “yeah that’s so obvious.” When I came out and told them about Lori, they were like, “well duh.”
Lori: Things were a little different back then. Being gay wasn’t as popular and accepted as it is now.
Courtney: Yes, this was 25 years ago. Women in the gay community would say, “Oh, you’re not gay—you’re just straight and then you met her.” And I’m like, oh no, I’m definitely gay! Trust me, you don’t have to be with lots of women to know you like women. I’m just not one of those people who was aware of it when I was four.
AE: How many years has it been, exactly?
Courtney: Twenty-three years that we’ve been together, 25 that we’ve known each other.
AE: That’s pretty amazing.
Lori: We both come from pretty solid parents.
Courtney: Long term, traditional relationships are our model.
Lori: But it’s also worked.
AE: Right, it’s not like you’re forcing it.
Courtney: Not at all. We met the person we were supposed to be with and that was it forever. Sometimes we joke that we didn’t get to explore more with other people. But friends are like, “Too bad! You have the dream situation.”
AE: I feel like we always want what our friends have.
Courtney: Yeah. I’d never want to deal with dating or the downside of it. I can’t even imagine. And I don’t want to be with anyone besides Lori, it’s just the idea of it. No one feels sorry for me.
AE: What makes your relationship work?
Courtney: There’s never a question of whether or not we are leaving the relationship. Sometimes we have to leave the room, but we don’t ever think about leaving each other. There was a certain point where we just dropped the question of “Are we going to stay together?” Whatever arises, we work through it. Even friends will go, when we’re having a tough time, “Oh my god—are you guys gonna be okay? You can’t break up!” And I’m like, “Oh, we aren’t breaking up. It’s just a tough time and we’re working through it.”