It’s nobody’s business, and every relationship is as individual as the people involved in it. There is no right or wrong about relationships, they just are. That should all be common sense, right? And yet, in the gay (male) community, the debate over relationships being monogamous or open, rages on!
Not long ago, (on a gay website – I believe it was Qweerty), I read an article regarding ‘The Ten Surefire Ways To Destroy A Relationship’. And listed as the number one way was: ‘have an open relationship’. The article’s author went on to parrot the usual missives about jealousy, morality, etc. You know, the usual guilt and negative excuses for having any relationship that is deemed different for what is thought of as “The Norm”. And as I read this, I couldn’t help thinking that, according to this article, gay men don’t appear to be mature enough to handle relationships in the first place, whether they’re open or monogamous. I found it especially telling that, in the comments section following the article, one reader took exception to the writer’s bold assertion about open relationships, and had the nerve to disagree with him. The response from other readers was blistering. They lined up to flame this reader for having the audacity to suggest that open relationships could work. After all, there is only one way of looking at love, right?
How sad to think that we gay males have fought side by side for such a long time for our right to love openly, only to impose imaginary rules on each other as to how love should work. The liberating thing about adult relationships, is there is no right or wrong. My partner Steve and I have been in an open relationship for 28 years, so obviously it works for us. I’m not suggesting for one moment that everyone should run right out and have an open relationship, (because it simply doesn’t work for everybody – that’s just common sense). In fact, I’ve known several gay couples over the years that have been in long-term relationships, and they’re happily monogamous. So what makes for a successful relationship, be it open or monogamous? As far as I’m concerned one can sum it up in two words: know thyself. Which, of course, is really basic; yet I’m always surprised at how many people have to be reminded of that. When you are comfortable in your own skin, and looking after your needs – when you deign to love yourself as you would others – that love extends outwardly to others and their individual needs. And though I agree that all of that can be achieved in a monogamous relationship, I also know – because Steve and I have been living it for 28 years – this can also be achieved in an open relationship. It totally depends on the individuals involved.
I can’t tell you how many gay men I’ve heard over the years, complain bitterly that the next lover they get involved with is going to like this or that, and will be into doing that or this, or will have specific likes and dislikes. My response to them has always been, “Do yourself a favour and get a dog. It will be the only being that will be everything you want it to be.” (For some reason, people don’t like hearing that.) I’ve reached the conclusion that there are a lot of gay men who would be better off having a dog as a companion, rather than another man… at least until they are ready for a relationship with another human being, rather than wanting a facsimile of themselves. Which brings me back to my original point: contrary to popular belief in the gay male community, open relationships are not the death knell for loving couples. By the same token, monogamy may not be for everybody, but it certainly works for couples who desire it. There is no right or wrong here.
So maybe we’d be better off, as a community, if we drop the pretense of thinking we all know what’s better for other people, and instead get out there and get real lives. Then, perhaps, we can tackle the real tasks at hand – like building stronger, more inclusive communities, caring for our sick, and helping the LGBT Elders among us, as they enter their twilight years. (But more on that topic at a later date…)