They first met through a mutual friend on Fire Island in the summer of 2002. On a Sunday night, when most visitors return to nearby New York City, both were staying over on the island, and each was going to watch the new episode of – what else? – “Sex and the City.” But Bob’s television was on the fritz, and so Steve invited him to come watch at his house.
Back in the city, when they kept running into each other at parties, they decided to hang out together from time to time. And before long, they fell in love.
Bob, then 34, was a tall and handsome man originally from Michigan, with an M.B.A. from Columbia University, working as a finance executive; Steve, then 30, was an equally handsome and starting a career in academia (Disclosure: I have been friends with both Steve and Bob for many years.)
Reculer pour mieux sauter – Stepping Back to Jump Better
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, of course. It hardly ever is. After a few years they broke up. Paradoxically, the breakup made them realize how much their relationship meant. When they each started dating after the breakup, they realized the new relationships couldn’t hold a candle to the old one.
Bob and Steve stayed in touch through their time apart. And finally, in 2008, Bob gave Steve an ultimatum: They should either get back together and start a family or else they should stop being friends.
The ultimatum had the desired effect: They worked out their issues and became an item once again.
Trip to South Africa, December 2008
Creating Their Family
The most important thing that brought them together, and kept them together, was kids. When they began talking about creating a family, in the early aughts, gay men with kids weren’t as commonplace as they are now. Bob had already been looking into becoming a dad before he met Steve. Now they began working on it in earnest. They considered the many options and soon settled on both adoption and surrogacy.
One of the things they always enjoyed as a couple was traveling. On one of those trips, a safari and road trip through South Africa, Steve surprised Bob (and himself) by proposing on the beach in Capetown. It was December 2010.
For some aspiring parents, the process goes fast. For Bob and Steve, it didn’t. It would take several years and many attempts to become parents. However, after many unsuccessful attempts, their surrogate became pregnant with their twins. Then the wedding planning began. In a beautiful ceremony in New York City on March 31, 2012, they tied the knot in front of friends and family. A few months later, their twin girls Hannah and Micah were born.
Bob leaving the hospital with newborn twins Hannah and Micah, August 2012
Making it Work
"How do you guys make it work?" I asked them. Steve’s answer was simple: They want the same things. They love each other. They promised to make it work. Bob echoed it by saying, “What keeps us together is our commitment to stay together.”
When they got back together, they knew what they were getting into. They already knew each other well and were ready to accept each other, warts and all. When they encounter difficult situations, they don't question the relationship but instead determine how to resolve the problem.
Forces that pull them apart? “We’re very different people,” says Bob.
But creating a family had an unexpected effect: It made their personality differences recede into the background. In their years-long struggle to achieve fatherhood, Bob and Steve became closer.
How Do Kids Change Your Life?
Bob feels that life changed pretty much the way he expected it to change, “but more extreme,” he adds after some moments of thinking. “Because you’re now so busy all the time. Lack of personal time.”
Having two daughters, focusing so much attention on them and falling in love with them changed the way Bob and Steve felt about themselves. All sorts of everyday concerns, so important in their pre-fatherhood days, seemed to dissipate. “It’s been years since I bought a shirt for myself,” says Steve, with some hyperbole. He doesn’t consider his new priorities superior, he quickly adds, just different.
They agree that being somewhat older – Steve was 40, Bob 44 – when the girls were born made their transition to fatherhood easier. They were fully ready to accept the challenges, the messiness and the lack of me-time that accompany parenthood.
The dads agree that giving up their extensive traveling has been a sacrifice. And when they do go traveling, the girls’ wants and needs pretty much determine what kind of vacation it’s going to be.
Their relationship with their respective families has developed significantly over the past few years. “My mom used to say, 'You don’t need kids.' I think she couldn’t really imagine what life would be like for two men with kids. She doesn’t say that anymore, of course. For her, having kids has demystified our life for her."
“You know how people always tell you that it gets easier, especially with twins?” Bob asked. “We were in an elevator once, and there was a woman with twin girls, who were maybe ten years old. The mother told us, ‘Don’t let them fool you; it doesn’t get easier.’"
Steve believes he’s found a way to get his quarreling girls to agree on something. “I make them focus on what’s fair. They both want to sit in the middle seat in the back of the car. They agreed that taking turns would be fair. Now I keep track of whose turn it is, and there’s no more fighting.”
Recently the girls asked Steve – they call him “Little Daddy,” Bob “Big Daddy” – what teasing was. “It got me very emotional, having to explain this phenomenon to them. Thinking about them actually getting hurt. They’re so innocent and vulnerable. My reaction surprised me.”
For Bob it’s the budding, intimate relationship between the girls that he hadn’t anticipated. “The other day, both were playing on the beach. At some point, Micah started playing with two other girls. Hannah was too shy to join, and she was waiting for Micah to come play with her. Eventually Micah came over and said, ‘Why don’t you come over and play with us? They’re really nice girls.’ Hannah came over and had a great time. It was really touching.”
The men know so well what it is that unites them: love, commitment, and kids. Love arrived quietly, without effort. Commitment required real, hard work. And kids? A lifelong responsibility. Combined: a whisper of endless love.