Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A meeting with a guy who's had a boyfriend for 30 years

What happens to gay couples as they get older? Do they become more or less monogamous? I encountered one possible scenario last Sunday when I met a guy who’d been with his partner for 30 years.

I meet him through gaydar of course. I log on mid-morning on Sunday and within 20 minutes he sees my profile, contacts me through the chat system, and I arrange to visit him. He’s older than me – I’ve been with boyfriend number 1 since 1989 but this guy has been with his since 1975.

He’s got a nice house, with a lovely view of the river Thames, and two dogs that are very keen on sniffing me as I walk through the door. “Stay”, he says to them as he takes me up to the bedroom. He seems to enjoy giving them orders that they ignore.

After we have a bit of fun in the bedroom we go down into his lounge. I accept a glass of water. “So where’s your boyfriend at the moment”, I ask.

“He’s at work”, he says, “but I’ll tell him I met you when he gets home. We have an open relationship. Does your boyfriend know that you’re here?”

“No”, I admit, feeling inadequate being confronted by his intended honesty. “He thinks I’m at the gym.”

“We’ll always be with each other”, he says, “but we’ve found honesty is best when it comes to sex. He has other men too of course.”

“So does he arrange to meet guys when you’re at work?” I ask, thinking about the current situation.

“Not necessarily. I’m here sometimes. I don’t watch. I just get on with whatever I’m doing while they go up to the bedroom.”

I’d find that weird. I can’t imagine walking into a relationship and taking one of the partners upstairs for a good seeing to. “So you’re never jealous?” I ask.

“Well, there was a difficult patch a couple of years ago. My boyfriend admits now that he went off the rails a bit, and that it was an aberration. He had an affair. Oh I knew about it. It only lasted three months. The other guy was here a lot of the time, and we all used to go out together.”

“What ended it then”, I ask, fascinated.

“The other guy gradually got more demanding. Wanting the two of them to go off on holiday without me. That wasn’t on. When my boyfriend told this guy that he wouldn’t leave me alone like that it all ended pretty quickly. And he admits now that he was being very silly.”

“Have you always had an open relationship like that?” I ask.

“We only really started the open relationship after we’d been together for about 20 years. But we weren’t always completely honest with each other, although we knew that we were both free to have other sexual partners. It was that affair he had that made us realise that complete honesty is the only policy that works. Does your boyfriend have other sexual partners too?”

“I’m not sure”, I say. “I wouldn’t mind if he did of course, but he’s shyer than me, so probably not. I think he may suspect that I play around a bit, but we never discuss it.”

“Well you’ve only been together for 16 years”, he laughs, “you’ll work it out”.

In most circles, a 16-year gay male relationship is remarkable. Most gay relationships don’t last more than 16 hours. But occasionally I feel humble when I meet guys like this who have lasted so much longer. The good news is that meeting other guys for fun like I do doesn’t necessarily mean that my relationship with boyfriend number 1 is doomed to a bitter ending.

On the way out, I spot a guy closing the front door. “Oh, that was the lodger”, he says. “He tells us that he’s an actor, but he never seems to have any work. He also always seems to have lots of money so I’m convinced that he’s a hooker”.

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