August 14, 2008

Q&A: Monogamy And Open Relationships For Gay Couples

A gay male reader asks about cheating, open relationships and what it feels like to be with other guys

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Question: I have been in a relationship for more than three years with another guy. It’s my first relationship ever. Lately I think about cheating on him with other people but he is the nicest and cutest guy I’ve ever met before. I don’t want to lose him but I want to know what it feels like to be with other guys.

These issues are common to many romantic relationships for both same-sex and male-female couples – and are perhaps felt more acutely when one is relatively new to sex and relationships.

Changes In Sexual Desire

Often, people in long term relationships find that, over time, they notice changes in their sexual desire. Sometimes people notice that they aren’t as sexually attracted to their partner as they used to be, or else perhaps they still feel attracted to their partner but they want sex less often than they used to.

Other times men or women may find that – even if their attraction and desire are strong – they still wonder about being sexual with other people. These feelings and curiosities can feel exciting, scary or both, as they contemplate what these feelings mean or how their relationship might change.

Some people use these fantasies to fuel their desire for their partner, perhaps fantasizing about sex with someone else even while having sex with their partner. Other times, people may consider having sex with others.

Open Relationships

Among male-female couples, it is not common to be in an “open relationship” (where one or both partners has sex with other people, and is honest about that with their partner). Open relationships are more common among gay men.

That doesn’t mean that you should make your relationship “open” just because some other gay men do it; many gay men enjoy monogamous relationships. However, because open relationships are more common among gay men, you may find more support for talking to your boyfriend about your feelings about being sexual with other men.

Maybe – like many men and women – he has had similar feelings or fantasies too.

Managing Relationships

Managing relationships – and negotiating sex within and outside of relationships – is a skill that most people could benefit from developing, whatever their gender or sexual orientation. Some aspects of sex are different among men who have sex with men, though.

For example, men who are interested in men have different opportunities than men who are interested in women in terms of being able to access sexual partners through public cruising, sex clubs and bath houses.

In some gay communities or social circles, it may feel like having an open relationship is “the norm”, which can be challenging for gay men who prefer monogamy.

Balancing one’s feelings for one’s partner and one’s feelings for others is something that many people find to be difficult or even painful. It can be hard to think about risking losing someone you care so much about.

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You may find it helpful to read a book that describes how others have navigated similar feelings and challenges, such as The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop by David McWhirter.

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