Monday, May 13, 2013

Here We Go Again: Love in the Real World

Our views of relationships are antiquated and rigid. That's not news to anyone. I grew up with the same norms of society, being taught that all relationships consist of one man and one woman, who eventually have their relationship legally sanctioned as marriage, have 2.5 children and stay together until one of them dies. I get all that, but it bothers me that as gay men, we still buy into the dream. We live outside of the norms and still long for their structure. If being gay has taught us anything, it would be that life is more complicated.

At the heart of all psychopathology lies an unwillingness to conform our beliefs to reality. When we see the behavior that normally occurs in sexual relationships and refuse to accept it, we're bound to reach a breaking point. We want the loving acceptance of a permanent partner, but as men who love men, we're bound to be hurt by the inevitable infidelity; so when I first heard the term "monogamish," I was fascinated. It spoke to me. What better term exists for people who are in a relationship that is primarily monogamous, but won't crumble if one of them checks Growlr during a Scandal commercial break?

Why not call it an "open relationship"?

I don't know about you, but the term "open relationship" sounds so... open. As in doors (and other things) swinging wide open. Polygamy isn't right either, even if it is the first term we might think of when referring to the inverse of monogamy. When I hear people talk about open relationships, they always seem to do so with an air of disgust, as though they thought everyone in an open relationship were swinging from the chandeliers at sex clubs. Then, they proudly declare that they would never do such a thing, as though they've ever had a choice. You may say you're in a monogamous relationship, but that's only because you're unable to communicate the reality of your behavior.

No man desires one person, be he straight or gay; his eyes will always wander. To deny himself is an act of love, especially when it's in consideration of his partner's feelings. To be monogamous can be an unselfish act and a sign of maturity. But what if this denial is unnecessary? What if you both are desiring of verity and the only reason you don't is that you believe in an outdated social norm? I am not advocating sexual gymnastics or a thoughtless disregard for emotional and physical safety. I am just saying that when we hold rigid rules for our partners and our relationships, those rules usually end up breaking us when the winds of difficulty blow.

Addressing gay stereotypes 

Many people, both gay and straight, think that being gay means playing wild sex games with multiple partners. If only this were true, my life might be a lot more interesting. My reality, and those of my friends, is that even if we are lucky enough to play Naked Twister with five of our most muscular friends, each of us still dreams of that one special person. This sort of cognitive dissonance causes despair when it is completely unnecessary. While gay life isn't a fairy tale or an raunchy piece of erotica, it is still worth talking about.

Our need to share our experiences

I'm hoping that we will continue to talk to our friends about our experiences in relationships without having to lie or shade the truth. Why is it so bad to admit when you've obtained the man of your dreams only to realize that your dreams were unrealistic? No relationship ends with the words "happily ever after." Rather, they continue each day with "here we go again." You shouldn't have to feel ashamed because you got bored. It's not a choice you made, or a flaw in your character, it's due to a lack of imagination and realistic role models.

Expanding our notion of what a relationship is 

Relationship problems will probably continue as you learn more about how people really work. You will have a partner try to figure out how best to lie to you to get what he wants. Even opening up your relationship may not be the best idea. Most times when people consider opening it up, it's a last ditch effort to save a relationship that should have ended a long time ago. Love is designed to make us put up with shit we normally wouldn't. So no matter how much you try to see things the way they are, you won't. That's why as friends, we need each other. We need to be honest with each other about how our relationships really work and what romance stories purposely leave out.

Hard questions and difficult answers

"Do we want to open up the relationship?" is not a question you want to ask after things have gone wrong. Oftentimes, that question is at the core of why so many people have had bad experiences with their relationships. We shouldn't worry if our partner comes to us with this question, rather, we should worry about how we will answer. Because the answer to this question may challenge your relationship and potentially change it, but not being able to answer it at all will definitely doom it. This is something we should think about far ahead of any problems.

The question forces us to learn new things about ourselves. And for some of us, the answer may have us realizing that in the end, all those Disney movies may be wrong. Prince Charming may not be charming forever, and we may find ourselves waking up one day wanting to invite Aladdin or Prince Eric or Phillip to join us in our bed, if only a few times. And if our relationship is not monogamous but more "monogamish," we can still be happy. Indeed, we may find that monogamy isn't what we wanted all along. But you will never know until you examine it without the emotional turmoil of our personal experiences and start using examples from the real world.

Unnecessary rules

Rigid rules for sexual behavior usually lead to conflicts and lies. The rules that we thought would protect our relationship can be the very hammer that breaks it apart. Flexibility is a must. Your needs must be met or you will be unhappy. The communication skills needed to express your needs are only the first step. You also have to have the courage to speak up and ask for support from your friends. You might be surprised at what you find. We will do what we do, but we're still pretty ashamed of it. If we talked about it more, we'd find that there's no need to be.

Male Media Mind