Does monogamy have any relevance for today’s gay men?
There’s nothing straightforward about relationships, but the concept of monogamy continues to be a tricky topic for gay men.
For some, gay couples that opt for open relationships are undermining the struggle surrounding marriage equality. For others, it’s just a pragmatic approach to navigating the reality of our relationships and the complexity of our needs for intimacy.
Rob, like many gay men, is in an open relationship. He says that in the past he felt “trapped” by the idea of being in a monogamous relationship. Rob always wondered if – when it came to sex – he was missing out.
For Rob, being in an open relationship means he’s able to be in the most honest relationship possible. He and his partner talk regularly. Physical contact with someone outside the two of them is agreed upon in advance. Failing that, they tell each other about it afterwards. Essentially, everything is on the table.
“People ask me why I allow my partner to cheat on me, but cheating, by definition, is doing something dishonest…” explains Rob. “Asking this ignores the understanding my partner and I have of our own relationship.”
It’s a similar story for Pasha. He’s happily married to his husband and emotionally committed, but they’ve agreed to be sexually open.
“We’ve been this way since we first got together…” says Pasha. “We both liked the idea of sleeping with other people. We talked about what it would take for us to feel safe and loved. It still works for us, more than six years later.”
Because he’s married, it’s common for people to assume that Pasha and his husband are using the label of an open relationship to disguise the fact they’re unhappy in their marriage. But he assures us that this is far from the truth.
“I always make it clear to other guys that they’re my second choice…” continues Pasha. “As soon as my husband is home, I’m not going out with anyone anywhere.”
Monogamy works for some gay men, but not everyone is going to be happy in the same relationship. At the core, communication and respecting your partner’s needs and desires appear to be the key to making open relationships work. Where does this leave the concept of monogamy?
“I guess the question should be whether monogamy is relevant for anyone, not just LGBTQ people…” says Rob. “Many people struggle to ignore their desire for other people and we all know someone who’s been cheated on. I just wish people were more open to saying monogamy doesn’t suit them and not be ashamed of it.”
Just like all other aspects of queer culture, what suits one person isn’t going to suit another. Open relationships require a great deal of trust, maturity and understanding from everyone involved.
For Rob, and countless others like him, he feels that it’s not his job to convince others that the relationship he has is valid and honest.
“I’ve reached a point where it’s not worth my time trying to persuade others to change their mind about open relationships…” explains Rob. “They don’t need to value my relationship for me to know it’s got worth.”