I'm troubled that couples don't talk about this obvious fact. Men are sexual hunters and are happiest when on the prowl. The best way to do it is by being honest with each other about who you are. You don't need to follow the rules of the "Moral Majority", nor those of your religious tradition, nor those of the big boi orgy coordinators. Your relationship, your rules, it's really that simple. But if you don't base those rules in reality, rather than wishful thinking, you're setting yourself up for serious heartache.
The Reality of Male Sexuality
Monogamy isn't possible between men because it never existed and it never will. No matter how committed a couple appears to be, or how beautiful their life looks from the outside, you can bet some amount of wiggle room is granted for outside sex, either by choice or by deception. It may strike you as unfair or disgusting just how often men fuck around, but it should teach you about the nature of male sexuality. It isn't even just gay men, but because we don't have the countervailing force of female sexuality, it affects us even more. As gay men we have a responsibility to inform and adjust the norms of society. Everyone can learn something about male sexuality from gay men, but first we have to learn those lessons ourselves.
It Isn't The Sex, It's The Lie
When we talk about cheating it seems like an exercise in missing the point. It's not that he needs sex from other people that is the problem, that's just nature. You may not understand and need to learn about male desire, but the real problem is the lie. Not just that he lied to you when he cheated, but that you lied to him when you said you were all he needed to be happy. You probably didn't know you were lying to him. He lied only to get his needs met. Still it destroys relationships unnecessarily and it needs to stop.
If you tell him the truth he may feel like he doesn't want you to sample the possibilities of others being in your life. He may fear that you'll find something out there that is better than him and you may want to leave. This is a real concern that should be addressed, but it's not the end of the conversation. Not everyone will have the same sexual experiences. Some of you have yet to truly discover what it is you really want. Experimenting may help you discover what it is you want. If you're in the early stages of a relationship and you mess around with someone that blows your mind, you may very well put an end to your relationship. It may be smarter to wait a little while to build up your connection before you open it up.
Insecurity and Emotional Immaturity
Not everyone's fear of an open relationship is legitimate. Some people are going to be afraid you're going to leave them no matter how much time and energy you've invested in the relationship. These people are to be avoided as relationship material. Even if you plan on being monogamous, insecurity creates a hoat of irrational behavior that is bound to cause drama. Being jealous over every time he flirts doesn't mean you love him, it means you're a crazy bitch. Stay the fuck away!
If you're already in a relationship with someone who is insecure, but you think they're worth it. (Bad idea, but love makes us do crazy things) then you're going to have to learn how to lie and not feel guilty about it. Because men, you will feel attractions to what you want. It's not an immoral failing because it's not even up to you. You will feel what you feel. If you're in love with an irrational insecure bag of slop you're being forced to lie as well. If she wants to be the center of the universe, then you're going to have to create a fictional universe for her to live in. In the real world men have dicks. The dick wants what it wants and it's not a man's fault that he's a man.
Everyone Feels Jealous Sometimes
You're not an insecure bag of slop just because you feel jealous now and again. It's normal. It just means you have a stake in what he wants and you see that there's a risk that he might leave you. This is true. He might leave you. You also might get hit by a car on your way to the grocery store, but we still gotta eat. You got to man up and feel the jealousy and work through it. If you harbor it and feel it's justified you're only going to do yourself, and your relationship, harm. It's just a feeling. If every time you get mad you have to punch someone you'd be in jail or worse. You don't have to end a relationship because you had a bad feeling. Talk to him and be honest about your feelings. If he makes them worse then you're probably not right for each other.
Learning From Experience
Years ago when I was in my mid twenties I was chatting with a group of friends when the topic of relationships came up. A friend dropped a bomb in the middle of a quiet conversation that his partner recently cheated on him. The older men in our group suggested that he was just too young to understand. They told him that once he got older he would realize that men are generally non-monogamous. At the time I was horrified. They weren't arguing that it wasn't possible, because there are those rare men who never cheat, but that monogamy may be too much to ask of any man. I wanted that dream more than anything in the world and it pissed me off to have these guys telling me it was a long shot.
I'm thirty-two now. Not as old as my friends were back then, but old enough to have had some experience to validate their claims. I'm just starting to cross this threshold where this makes sense to me, and that it doesn't cause me any sadness or feeling of loss anymore. Everyone will have moments of lust or desire, and that engaging in sexual activities outside a relationship doesn't mean that you love your partner any less. It's a mature realistic view of love that only an experienced person will understand. The noble lie is unnecessary when you're in love with a man who is done with fairy tales and prefers verisimilitude in his fiction.
Why Assholes Ruin Everything
I was uncomfortable writing about this topic because so many people I know hate the very idea of an open relationship. I get funny looks when I promote the idea. They've never met the right guy who wanted to be open, they just met some asshole who ruined the whole idea for them. I know way too many good guys who are going to get their hearts crushed because they can't deal with a monogamish lifestyle. They want a masculine alpha male and don't realize that those guys are, by definition, non-monogamous. They will get lied to and cheated on, but I hope they can live and be happy with the lies.
Or maybe they will learn. It's not always an asshole that used them and destroyed their perception of what openness is, sometimes they just haven't had a positive example to work from. A monogamish relationship is not a way to sample other guys while you contemplate dumping your current boyfriend. It isn't a way of blackmailing your current boyfriend into doing something he isn't comfortable with just to get what you want. When you do a monogamish relationship right you don't make your boyfriend feel like he comes second or third. He's still the light of your life. The way an open relationship should work is you negotiate terms based on your mutual needs and compatibility concerns. It may actually turn out that the two of you are happy being monogamous, but it's not something you should expect from the outset unless you want to be lied to.
The Research on Monogamy
In 2010 researchers at San Francisco State University carried out a study that revealed just how common open relationships are among partnered gay men in the Bay Area. As The New York Times reported, The Gay Couples Study followed 556 male couples for three years. About 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships with the knowledge and approval of their partners. Of those in "monogamous" relationships more than 60 percent of those couples experienced an infidelity in the three-year period in which the study was conducted. As it turns out those who believed their partners to be monogamous were actually more likely to be non monogamous, and in almost half those cases the sexual infidelity ended their relationship.
Men in "monogamish" relationships showed lower rates of depression and higher life satisfaction when compared to single gay men. Those rates were comparable to monogamous relationships without infidelity, but much much higher than those going through breakups due to infidelity. Since relationships end at high rates due to infidelity, menogomish relationships tend to last longer too. As quoted in the NewYork Times "Our findings suggest that certain types of non-monogamous relationships, especially 'monogamish' ones, are actually beneficial to gay men, contrary to assumptions that monogamous relationships are always somehow inherently better."
What Can You Do?
Easy enough, right? Fuck around and you'll be happier? Not really. The study also concluded that couples in monogamish relationships usually communicate more. There is a lot of boundary setting and a lot more talking before these types of relationships happen. It is at the core of why these relationships are more successful. The Advocate put together a great guide to nonmonogamy that lists some basic things to think through before opening up a relationship. I think this guide would be a great starting point for any couple thinking about opening the doors of their relationship.
The point of this whole article is to be honest with yourself and your partner. I'm comfortable with either a monogamous or open relationship. For a lot of people this would be the end of a discussion. Some of us could never talk with someone who is open to being non-monogamous. It's sad, but instructive as well. If you can't even discuss this topic, then you're breaking the first rule of relationships. It's overused and cliche for a reason, good communication is the foundation of a good relationship. Though very few of us actually practice this in real life, I hope this can be the start of that conversation in your life.
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