Open Relationships – Do we all need to be open to the idea?

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You can see a slightly shorter version of this blog on SameSame here.

I’ve discussed this topic with a number of guys over the last few months and this seems to be the topic that most really want to follow. I could tell in their voices that it’s a somewhat touchy subject matter and no-one seemed to have any of the answers to any of the questions I raised. I was surprised.

Excuse my ignorance but let me start by saying that monogamy within the gay world seems (to me at the very least) to be a thing of the past. Let me also say from the very beginning that an “open relationship” would never work for me. I know that for a fact. While my last relationship seemed to be heading in that direction, due to his eagerness to get fucked by more than one guy, I ended the relationship based on the direction that I knew it was headed. The thought of someone else having sex with the guy I was in love with and him being intimate with a random just didn’t sit right with me…

..call me old fashioned but I know it wouldn’t work. Not now. And I highly doubt in the future.

I promised myself when I started writing this blog that I wouldn’t hold back with my honesty and always have truth in my writing and hopefully it would connect with you all. I said I’d always write from my own experiences as well as others should they confide in me and provide me with their truth. And on this occasion I’ve used both and I’m thankful for the insights I got.

In the lead up to the last straw in my previous relationship, I was talked into having threesomes – and yes lets all agree that I made the decision and went along with it, I’m fully aware of that. However, it never sat right with me and it would never turn me on, but it certainly did him, he got off on it. In a round about way I was simply given the choice to have a threesome or if I voiced my concern, which I usually did, he simply became too tired and no longer interested in sex. Yes, I can hear some of you thinking and most probably about to comment “maybe you just weren’t that interesting in the bedroom anymore” but what I can say is that I’ve never had any problems, issues or complaints in that department.

I mention my previous relationship simply because I got the feeling that we were headed into the dreaded “open relationship” discussion that I never wanted to have. Before me he came from an “open relationship” and from the very beginning I made it abundantly clear that I was never interested in that option. But as the years went on I could feel the discussion approaching and things beginning to change between us and our sex life. It made me nervous and eventually I ran before the conversation was had. You open one door in a gay relationship and it’s likely several other doors will open with it. Especially when it cums to sex.

I may sound bitter but I’m really not, it’s been a few years since my last relationship ended and we’ve both moved on. I don’t hold any resentment and I wish him the very best in his current relationship…Last I heard it was “open”…[enough said].

I’ve also detailed my last relationship for a specific question. A question I’ll get to soon.

But first, I ask everyone this – when did we stop being content with just one partner? Or is just one sexual partner at a time that’s just not enough for gays these days? Why does it seem like every gay is in an open relationship – has it always been this common and I’ve just been oblivious to it? And why is it soo popular in the gay community? My initial guess is that it lies with guys, in general, and their obsession with sex. Make that gay guys and the need is amplified because sex is soo accessible in the gay world. But is that the only answer?

I’m now 33 and I first became quite familiar with the idea of open relationships when I was living in Sydney. It seemed open relationships were far more common than not. I’d meet couples in open relationships socially and always wonder how they work and if they work long-term.

You can go on Grindr and most other apps and have the option to state you’re in an open relationship. Some guys selecting ‘committed’ and then saying they are happily partnered and only play together. I guess just another form of an open relationship. As I lay on my couch with Daniel Johns’ Talk album playing, I flick through all the Grindr profiles in my local area and there’s a mix of guys saying they are in open relationships, guys stating they are “partnered” as well as guys writing on their profiles that they are strictly not interested in any partnered guys. One guy even stating on his profile “If you’re partnered, get off Grindr and go fuck your boyfriend”…I’m going to assume he’s not into open relationships either! And that’s ok.

I know it will probably differ for each relationship but if you are in an open relationship does that generally mean you cease having sex with your partner and you each fuck other guys independently? Or is it usually a combination of one-on-one sex with your partner, sex with a random without your partner as well as group sex with your partner? Or….all of the above?

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I have even more questions; Do you share your experiences with one another? If you’re dick wont go down and it’s been twenty-four hours since your last explosion do you just find a guy on an app and tell your partner you’re going down to Woolies to buy some “milk” but actually go next door and just bend over for Michael? Do you consider how it looks and how your partner feels? Or you simply don’t mind because you assume he’s doing the same? How it all works baffles me and I wonder where trust lies in all of this.

I can only imagine that if you go with the “tell each other nothing” option then wouldn’t he begin to obsess about what might be happening when you’re down at “Woolies” – I certainly would – it would drive me insane! However, I’m also guessing that the “tell each other everything” option can also bring out insecurities a guy may have and cause extreme jealousy or obsessing about what their partner is doing. I’m guessing, as I can only guess, it comes down to the agreement, terms and definition from the very beginning and you being in the right place in your relationship to explore this option.

Soo where does “trust” sit in all of this? Or is that just thrown out the window with monogamy? What about STI prevention? Isn’t one of the advantages of being in a relationship the ability to have raw sex? I can’t imagine you being able to do this in an open relationship. Ohhh wait, now there’s PrEP….but that’s another post in the not-to-distant future.

Soo while I’m thinking out loud, does it mean that if you’re in a committed relationship but open then isn’t it all really just about sex, sex, sex and that’s the only reason you’re open? I don’t and I can’t really comprehend any other reason for a couple to be in an open relationship if it’s not just all about sex and the exploration of it with other guys and not your partner. Or am I failing to see something that everyone else seems to be seeing?

Is it the only option if you both have the same roles in the bedroom? I must admit that I do usually get a laugh at the idea of two bottoms being in a monogamous relationship and wondering how there sex works. I strangely imagine them both thrusting their bums into each others with nothing being penetrated.

I’m not writing this to say open relationships are wrong or don’t work. Because, quite frankly, I’m sure they do work for some couples. I’m simply asking the questions that have plagued me for the last few years. I imagine they work for long distance relationships for guys, as well as girls, who are in certain professions that require a lot of travel or time away from their partner. To generalize: Attention Flight Attendants – we all know you have boyfriends in every port, you’re partner may not know, but everyone else does! Poor flight attendants, if only their reputations weren’t true (LOL).

In order for me to get a better perspective I’ve asked a few guys to assist me and provide me with their stories. One I knew intimately (casually), and the others I do not know. You can read their stories below but what I can say is that Bill & Ted’s story has made me question my view on open relationships. The way Bill allows us into his thinking behind their decision gives another perspective to the idea that I haven’t considered before. It’s like they have both based the decision on love rather than just sex. His story is almost poetic.

Right, back to my question that related to my previous relationship – should we be having the open relationship discussion early on in our relationships? If you know that it’s ultimately what interests you down the track should you discuss it and be up front from the very beginning? Or if you know it’s definitely not something you would consider should you tell your partner early on so he’s aware that it’s not an option?

What happens if you’ve been in a relationship for a considerable amount of time and you’re approached by your partner about the possibility of an open relationship and you know it’s not what you want? Is your relationship already doomed like mine most probably was? Because it’s soo common these days, are some guys pressured into the idea because their partner wants it and they don’t want to loose their partner and what they have together? I also wonder what will become of the next generation of gays.

Questions. Questions. Questions. I know I’ve asked countless questions; it’s definitely a topic that interests me and has me guessing and I really don’t seem to have any of the answers..

…Educate me but PLEASE tell me that monogamy still exists.

Cheers,
Shane Cunningham

 

BILL & TED

Bill works in Finance. Ted works in HR. Both 35 years of age and live together in Melbourne. Both Australian born Chinese with Ted growing up in Sydney and Bill in Melbourne. Together now for 9 years.

This is Bill’s perspective:

I met Ted on an online website called Fridae and we chatted and got to know each other through our love of art-house movies. We met at the Greyhound accidentally on one weekend night out with friends. Then we saw more of each other; amazingly we didn’t have sex on the first meet. We initially just caught up as friends. We watched movies, cooked and had lunches together but didn’t really see that as dating. Months later I started to have feelings for Ted so I asked Ted out on a formal date, with a romantic flash dance. We found that we had a lot of commonalities such as similar upbringing, age and interests. We dated for 5 years in a monogamous relationship. On the 6th year, Ted brought up the suggestion of trying to open the relationship. I wasn’t shocked, as I understood where Ted was coming from.

To me, becoming open was quite reasonable (I am generally someone who is unemotional) and I always try to think of things very logically. I saw it as the following; 1 – Biology – we are both men [men tend to want to procreate with as many people as possible]. 2 – Mentality – and as men we somehow are able to divide sex and love, where sex can just mean sex (no ties no attachment) and love is love. 3 – Roles – we are both bottoms (although I topped occasionally I didn’t really feel it was my thing). 4 – Age/Libido – We were still relatively young and very sexual. 5 – Inexperience – I was Ted’s first and only boyfriend (I had some previous boyfriends, and one long term 4 years+ prior. 6 – Past encounter – also the previous year we went to Singapore and randomly wanted to check out a sauna, where we had a threesome with another buff Asian guy (first outside encounter). 7 – Accessibility – given that sex is so easily available (more than ever) the temptation would always be there. 8 – Laws of attraction -Also in long-term relationships, attraction no matter how much you try, it wanes. Although the love is definitively there, sexual attraction just isn’t the same. 9 – Finally, if someone cheated from monogamy it would break the ‘camels back’ of the relationship, but if we were honest with each other and became open then there wouldn’t be a betrayal. Without betrayal the trust is stronger, trust is having belief in the person you love, because we are honest about being open to each other, we trust each other more, we are not suspicious when someone comes home late because of work (because it would be true, as we would be honest if it was indeed a hook up). Also note that the reasons above are what I felt and not what everyone should feel. It’s not a justification to open a relationship its just the reasoning we have for our own relationship.

The first year open was a bit crazy, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and we didn’t have Grindr or the other apps when we first started dating so it was incredible to see how instant and easy sex was now, so there was a lot of ‘action’.

Of course it was really exciting, in the beginning we had some threesome’s, there was a very handsome straight Aussie guy we met a few times, but threesomes became harder to do, as we had different taste in men and I felt that someone would usually be left out or I would be worried if the other guy liked one of us more than the other. For that reason also, we tried not to have the same fuck buddies, as not to hurt each other feelings.

Other than having separate fuck buddies, we made other rules to help separate the sex with love. Such as, not becoming friends with our hook ups, not spending the night with a hook up, not telling each other all the details of the hook up (although we mention basic info), only hook up once a week and to try to be discrete and not flaunt the hook ups with each other or our friends. Although they are rules they are not absolute, sometimes when on holidays we do hook up more than once a week.

Although Ted was the one who wanted the open relationship in the beginning, it appeared that I adjusted to it much quicker. I was able to curb my jealousy and actually felt completely fine when Ted hooked up. The first year fights would generally occur when Ted would get upset when I hooked up with someone. He seemed ok with it though if he had hooked up also – it felt almost like a competition, which became destructive. The turnaround was when I threatened to end the relationship; I wanted him to see the hypocrisy (him getting upset with my hook ups whilst happy to hookup himself). Although I understood that sometimes you can’t control your emotions, sometimes Ted felt that I wasn’t jealous because I didn’t love him or didn’t care about him. I did feel jealousy, but framed it in my mind like it was a ‘good thing’ because it meant I still felt something for Ted, but I wouldn’t lash out or get upset. But I explained that because I loved him, I wanted him to be happy and experience what he needed (like setting someone free).

In a broader scope, I felt if Ted found someone better for him than myself, why would I deny him this happiness? I want to know that Ted is with me because I was always the best option, because he loves me and because he chooses to be with me. If he found someone better, I would be totally heartbroken, but I would accept it (not with pity) because I love him so much that I would rather he be happy with someone he loves than stay with me because of some sort of obligation. (It’s a question of love; Is love holding onto someone so tight that you never want to let go? Or loving someone so much that you will let them go for their own happiness?).

We’ve both made many mistakes and learnt a lot about each other. I know being open is not for everyone but it does work for us. After 3 years open, the hook ups do become less but sometimes it’s just the belief that the option is there. I know we have become much closer. Although it may sound strange, I am still romantic and still believe Ted is the guy I want to be with until I’m old and grey.

The most powerful thing I realized was that although I can have sex with anyone, I still choose to be with Ted, not for comfort or obligation, I still want to be with this man. And we do still have sex with each other and I still find Ted incredibly attractive, probably more than ever.

CRAIG & JOHN

Craig is 35 and he’s based in Melbourne and has been in his current relationship for over 5 years – his partner John is 39 and travels a lot for work.

Craig was approached by John within the first two years of their relationship and they agreed that they would be open. “Open” to them means that they can sleep with whoever they want but only when the other isn’t around. This might be when the other is out of town for work or maybe the other is at the gym. They do not discuss their “rendezvous” with one another and they certainly don’t entertain the idea while they both are at home – they still have sex with each other and don’t entertain the threesome idea either.

However, Craig realises that he’s not entirely sure how long they will continue to have sex with one another – he’s unsure if it’ll just stop at some stage in their relationship because they are now open, or if it’ll keep it’s momentum. He admitted that opening up those doors can sometimes make or break a relationship. He admits that while he doesn’t think they’ll have an open relationship forever he doesn’t look forward to that discussion of it ceasing – the door is now open, it’ll be a hard one to shut and throw away that key.

Craig finishes by saying that at least they are both aware of what the other is doing, always using protection, whereas now days you never know who you’re gay partner is sleeping with behind your back, because cheating is soo common. Their relationship is honest, but open.

JAMES

James is 29. He’s single, lives in western Sydney and is dead against open relationships. When I asked him why he’s dead against the idea he asks me the question “Whats the point of being in a relationship and being open – isn’t it easier to just be single and just have them as a best mate?” I didn’t know how to respond simply because I agreed with him. He goes on to state that he wouldn’t be in one simply because he’s the jealous type and wouldn’t want to share his partner – the guy he’s fallen in love with. “What’s to say you’re in a open relationship and your partner starts seeing another guy that he’s met through sex? Aren’t you more vulnerable to this happening?” he asks. Again, I had to agree with him on that also. I then asked him what if he was in a monogamous relationship and his partner came to him with the idea of an open relationship. He simply says; “It’d be over for me, I think the trust would disappear as I would know he wanted to sleep with others. But then again look at Sydney – it seems more guys are in open relationships than not. It’s sad.”

SEAN

Sean is a 42 year old man living in Melbourne who was previously in an open relationship.

While he is unsure about his stance on the idea now he says it didn’t work for him and his then younger partner and it ultimately broke down their relationship. It didn’t work simply because after it began he felt the trust slowly disappear and his partner eventually meeting someone else, who he guesses he met during one of his encounters.

His advice for anyone who is thinking of entertaining the idea is to have an in-depth discussion about the idea and be very clear on the terms of the agreement and be one-hundred-percent sure it’s right for you both and you both can handle it. Plus, be aware that the excitement of an open relationship can also lead to the failure of your relationship; open one door, be prepared that one may close.


4 thoughts on “Open Relationships – Do we all need to be open to the idea?

  1. I thought this was a pretty interesting post and i liked how you provided stories to supplement your own ideas.

    I think Jonathan (above reply) finished on a really important note: its not that monogamy is dead, its the monogamy is socially constructed. and for me, part of the reason I believe that open relationships are more common amongst gay men is that we are lucky enough to live outside the confines of social norms and therefore get to choose our own norms. What we are seeing in the hetreosexual monogamous world is a higher divorce rate than ever, larlgely because we are living longer and not as constrained by old social norms. Gay men are lucky enough to think about what they want to get out of a relationship and shape the relationship so that it can work, so that you can spend the rest of your life with eachother. I think that is the beuaty of allowing oneself to actually be open – you define your relationship in the hope you can sit on the back porch with that person when you are 80.

    I always thought it was common knowledge that sex stagnates the longer the relationship lasts – maybe its not true for all relationships, but it seems fairly common. And yet, we all need sex. So rather than loosing the one you love, the person you want to spend your life with, you suppliment your sex life with other men, whilst not compromising your sex life with your partner.

    Bill and Ted story is every reason I believe in open relationships. Open relationships require rules and boundaries and these must be established from the onset. I think Bill and Ted’s story exemplifies how open relationships can work and why they are significant. I would prefer to know that my partner is having sex (no gory details), than find out that he has been cheating on me. I also know that there is an excitement regarding random sex which you loose. Finally, sex with your partner is always going to be better, no matter how many times you have done, because the love is there.

    thanks shane

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  2. Monogamy is not dead, but not necessarily alive either. For me, an open relationship can be somewhat therapeutic because just like Bill mentioned before, we are MEN. We are biologically engineered to want more partners. Ever since I started exploring my sexual side, I battled with the idea of ever being in an open relationship. I have been sexually active since I was 13. (Yes, that is very young, but I assure you that I was ready because my sex drive was awaken for 3 years already and I educated myself properly before taking the big leap. I have no regrets.) In the first 5 years, I didn’t have much dates because I came from a place that is still close-minded and every gay men is still in the closet. When I became 18, I started sleeping around…a lot. I knew that I did not want to have a relationship. I just wanted to have fun while I am still young. When I was 21, I moved to The Netherlands. Then, I really started to have fun. Too many men and not enough time, but I did found the time. After a while, I realised that even after dating so many men, I still wanted a partner with whom I can share my life with. I also knew that even if I found my knight in shining armour, the relationship would probably not stay monogamous forever. I have a theory that I think applies to every gay couple, but this is only my theory so don’t judge me. In the beginning of your relationship, you are in the Honeymoon Phase. You love each other to death. You have sex constantly. Spend so much time together. And you unknowingly sleep almost every night at your partner’s place without you even realise that you are doing it because it becomes second nature. After a few years of bliss, you fall into a familiar pattern where the fire is gone and what remains is a warm embrace that you feel comfortable with. This is the so-called Marriage Phase. You still love each other and enjoy being with each other, also intimately, but the excitement is gone. And lastly, you have what I called the Until Death Phase. You are together for a very long time now that you cannot see your life without your partner. You still love each other and everything but at this point, you are in it until the end because you do not want to start dating people all over again and go through the whole misery of finding someone else because you are just too tired and you probably think that you are no longer deemed desirable by other men. Especially when there are new younger models coming out each day. So where does the open relationship could start? During the Marriage Phase. I have experience this as well with my ex. Although we fast-tracked it and it ended in disaster.

    Let me break it down with an easy explanation: you are at an ice cream parlour and you try every flavour until you find that one that will always make your mouth water with excitement. So, you keep buying it because you love it so much that you can’t live without. After a while, you have the craving for something new and you go back to the parlour but this time you take another flavour. And after you are satisfied, you realise that you want to go back to the flavour you love and continue eating it. And after another period of eating the flavour you love, you once again get craving for a new. So you satisfy yourself and then go back. Do you get the idea? With an open relationship, you can remove the temptation once in awhile and when you are satisfied, you remember you still love your partner and want to be with him even more. In a way, an open relationship can be helpful. You just not need to be so addicted to sleeping around. Just do it once in awhile. And I do believe in rules. Establish them before both of you get hurt.

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  3. This is all very naive. Most guys in open relationships I come across are over 40 and they do not have sex with their partners at all. They love them and are committed but no sex. No interest. They are continually trawling the apps for random sex.
    I thought this line a little strange “The most powerful thing I realized was that although I can have sex with anyone” He might think everyone wants him but it ain’t the truth.

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  4. I was the third.

    it’s something I was really reluctant to be. I have lived all my life in a nuclear family. Everyone around me was in a monogamous relationship with their wife and husband. Every good stories had a charming and unique prince and most of the movies presenting someone else was synonym of incoming troubles.

    To come back about my native believes and experiences I was involved in many relations. Flirt, Short or Long Term, not really hook ups. I have tried many things and found what gave me what I was looking for and what won’t at this point of my life. All my relations were based on the magical and golden words my romantic mind wanted to find : Trust, Communication, Passion and Perfect Sex. And it work for a time. But after months, studies, stress, issues to find our private moment and intimity, love started to die. So we tried games, we tried trips, we tried fetishes, we tried things that permits us to stay mentally connected… but I never was good at fighting for things that I lost. So it ends. The “open relationship” we have created wasn’t the cause of the end but more a consequences of the incoming end. Naturally I have extended this state of mind to all open relationships I found. And most of the times, hetero or homo, it ends badly making me sure that “open relationship = end”

    Then, I found on an app a guy in an open relationship. I wasn’t into “looking for sex” or “looking for love” (but that’s an other debate) and he was mostly looking friends. So we chatted, we became friends. We worked on project together, we played hours of video-games, he offered me a three months job to complete my CV, everything was perfect and I never tried to go further. Then I met his boyfriend.
    At this moment, my friend was 25 years old and their relationship started 8 years ago. Gosh … 8 years. That’s really really long. Compared to mines I mean. So … why were they in open relationship ? Was it the beginning of the end like it was for me ?

    When we had a diner together, they were really lovely. Discussing with passions about the same things, their plan to move to Japan the next year. They were engaged, and linked by contract in front of the French Law (PACS). So what was happening ? All of what I was observing at this precise moment was sending me a really different signal of what I have lived in my relations. Later this week I decided to ask my friend why he was in an open relationship.

    It’s been more than eight years. Nearly three thousands days together. And he explained me that after years they both were bored. Everything started to be planned. Sex the saturday afternoon when they both have time. Handjob the morning when they both wake up at the same hours. They didn’t want things go like this (who want ?), but one day sex started to be a “couple activity” like dining and planning a trip. So, they started to do fun things. Orgies together, they were sharing their body, but not their mind and love for each other. They started to have sex with friends as long as they follow the rules of “not doing more”. No passionnate kisses, no hugs and sleep all the night with a friend. They both agree about this and it was really exciting in there point of view. A simple text message saying “I’m meeting Sebastian” sounded for me like “I’m cheating tonight” but for them it was more like “I’m taking some beers with Sebastian”. The partner reply “no problem ❤ see you later then". And that's all. Like if nothing important will happen.

    And THAT is the point.

    For me sex is important. I'm shy, I'm not confident with my body. Doing sex is like sharing an intimate and passionate event together. It sounds like a BIG CONCEPT full of exciting and lovely actions that create stronger link. But why ? Who gave me this definition ? Is it the reality ? or just a perception from a social idea ? or something that I have developed myself based on my needs ?

    So I said yes. He was cute, he was top. I'm a bottom. We were friend and we had sex … many times. Each time he gave the information to his partner. Each time his partner agreed. We had sex between two video game sessions like a friendly activity. Or after the work. I met his partner many times and I felt really welcome in this lovely atmosphere. No bad jokes or jealousy between us. He was his unique boyfriend and I was just a friend. And I gave them the "exciting and spontaneous" activity they needed.

    It's really something that changed me and my perception of others needs. For myself I still see sex as something really important and I don't think I will be able to share my partner (for now). But when I meet someone in an open relationship I don't see it anymore as something negative or sad.

    This highlight maybe an other question. Who created the rules that edict what is a couple and what is not. We lived nearly two thousand years in an occidental culture. The christian way of thinking modeled our living status. Monogamous wedding is in the law. The way we have to live our love is in the law. But does that mean that it's how life work ? The most important thing is to do now is a coming out. I'm not talking about our identity but our needs. Some people feel other needs than a monogamous relationship, and because of social pressure and judgemental environment will never be totally happy …

    (PS : thanks for your patience and going over my mistakes. I'm still trying to improve my english and I am really messy with the tense and construction of some sentences)

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