Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Do successful gay relationships have to start out as monogamous?

This is a subject which has been quietly sitting as a draft post in my blogger account for over two years now! Before my second ever 'Dear GB' posting, I had an email discussion with the guy who sent me the corresponding email. It was in my reply to his original email that I speculated that when it comes to the monogamy debate, perhaps the most relevant question is whether successful gay relationships start out as monogamous ones. Then yesterday, I got an email asking me a related question, namely do I think that it's possible for gay men to have a healthy monogamous relationship? My thoughts on these two questions are linked, so at long last that draft posting is finally seeing the light of day :-).

My answer to the question about gay men having healthy monogamous relationships is that "it depends"! But I'm prepared to be more specific than that :-). I reckon that short term monogamous gay relationships are very common. When a relationship is new, it's all exciting and there's no need to look elsewhere for anything.

However, the honeymoon period doesn't last forever and gradually things change. Lots of things change for the better of course, as the two guys grow more and more comfortable with each other. However one of the guys will typically have a higher libido than the other. Eventually, perhaps after many years, the guy with the higher libido is likely to feel the need for sexual excitement with someone other than his boyfriend. So I reckon that two gay men will only manage a very long term monogamous relationship if they both have low libidos, which is quite rare!

Indeed, when I meet guys from gaydar or wherever for a bit of fun, often they're guys with long term boyfriends and they're playing around with guys like me without their boyfriend's knowledge. That's why I've written so many posts saying that monogamy isn't a good idea. So many good guys with good relationships end up being dishonest with their boyfriends, and all because monogamy is the de-facto norm and so that's what they're expected to adhere to. The end result can easily be the destruction of otherwise sound relationships.

Going back to that two year old question which has been patiently sitting in my blogger account, when I opened the draft posting yesterday all it said was "I'm not sure", with a reference to the emails behind that that old 'Dear GB' posting. However, I think the answer is probably "Yes, successful gay relationships do start out as monogamous" :-). In the early stages of a relationship, which can last for several years, I think a guy can get everything he needs from his boyfriend. Furthermore that period is important, and probably necessary, to build the solid foundations which will allow the relationship to last. So successful long term gay relationships will probably be monogamous at the very beginning.

I guess this means that my "official" view on the subject of monogamy is being refined! Monogamy is great to start with, but don't expect it to last forever. The most important point is that no one can tell the future. A guy might *think* he wants to be in a monogamous relationship forever, but can the guy actually know that he'll always feel the same way? Of course he can't, things change! So to all the guys who're looking for their first boyfriend, and to the guys who're in the early stages of any relationship with long term prospects, if you think you want a permanently monogamous relationship please please bookmark this posting. Yes, you might always feel the same way, but lots of experience suggests that at some stage you or your boyfriend are likely to change your mind. Why should your relationship be any different to the norm? At some stage, the success of your long term relationship is likely to depend on how well you handle change. And if you accept now that just possibly such a change might occur, it'll be easier to deal with if and when it happens :-).


Ken Skinner said...

How funny.

Your last post actually got me thinking about this exact subject!!!!

You'd made some comment about it being madness for the other partner to think you'd throw away a funtional relationship based on a one-night stand which got me thinking about how you actually develop the intimacy and trust that is usually associated with monogamy when you start off without the lovey-dovey so-called 'honeymoon' period.

Every second guy you meet might have the potential to be 'better' so you have no valid basis to choose to stay with someone.

I don't think it's impossible to start off a good relationship being non-monogamous, but I'm guessing it probably takes longer to bond fully.

Anonymous said...

GB, maybe you could do a posting on how to tell ones boyfriend he wishes to see other people! I think the other half would go mad! Is there a right way, if ever?


Gay Nairobi Man said...

Its been a minute since I was here last.

I think we have to determine what successful in terms of a gay relationship is. I have been with my partner for 4 years and I would consider our relationship successful.

In this period, we both have been tempted to sleep with other guys outside the relationship. My libido is way higher than his and I am the one most likely to cheat. However, each time the opportunity arises though, I always question if the action would be necessary to jeopardize what I have and thus I have not given in to temptation.

It is my belief that he has never been with another man since I met him.

In the beginning though, we were not least from my end.

Anonymous said...

You make your point very eloquently, but I still can't help but thinking that it tries to make a rule which, sooner or later, you feel applies to everyone.

"Why should your relationship be any different to the norm?"

I'd be interested in knowing what makes you think that sleeping with someone other than your partner is the norm? Maybe it is in your experience, but there are plenty of relationships where people do respect fidelity.

I don't know, I don't see what makes gay relationships different from others in that sense; I know plenty of same- and mixed-sex relationships whose partners are entirely faithful to one another and this poses no great problems.

Axel said...

GB you’ve made some very good points on the importance of monogamy in gay relationships and the duration of this state.
My own personal take on this issue - having lived in a monogamous relationship for over 16 years now - is not to have expectations or to take anything for granted. I am thankful for each and every day that it has lasted. My only expectation is honesty so that if either of us felt the urge to play around this would be discussed.
Our relationship has been through many ups and downs and has survived severe personal crises and as a result has got stronger and much deeper. The sex is still very good too!
Of course I’d be madly jealous if my man got his fun elsewhere but even so I have no right to expect him to be true to me. I feel it’s my responsibility to try to satisfy his needs so that he won’t go looking elsewhere. If he did stray I’d have to ask myself what I may have done wrong or neglected. I am sure if he did seek fun elsewhere this would not necessarily destroy our relationship as long as I was still sure of his love.
I know our relationship is not typical since most long-term gay relationships seem to become more “open” with time but I have no desire for this to happen.

Lightning Baltimore said...

Saw the post title in someone else's blog list and felt compelled to read and respond.

I find the notion that open relationships are expected to the norm with gay men to be, frankly, disgusting.

To me, a couple in an open relationship are essentially roommates that get along well and also fuck each other from time-to-time.

Why is it so many gay men seem to think love and sex are somehow completely separate entities? To me, that's nothing more than rationalization. If you feel the need to fuck someone other than your partner, why is he your partner in the first place?

Sorry for the rant but shit like this just absolutely repulses me. Especially when folks act as thought monogamy is a silly pipe-dream that will never work.

I especially find it upsetting that younger gays might read swill like this and think that's just the way it's supposed to be and not question or challenge it.

Anonymous said...

Mr HCL does a good job of summing up - if in somewhat harsher terms - my basic feelings about this concept.

I don't think that open relationships are the norm by any means or should be held up as the model for how relationships should be constructed; rather, I think that the status quo should *always* be challenged, if for no other reason than to ensure the robustness of its argument.

Ken Skinner said...

The whole monogamy vs anti-monogomy debate really is an emotive one. It's a battle that's been raging for as long as I can remember. You always get devout nay-sayers on both sides.

I started off life being a staunchly pro-monogamy. The whole concept of an open relationship was distasteful to me. It was 'the dark side' of sexuality. At times I've wondered whether that reaction was something of a defence mechanism for me, as a relatively inexperienced person, to keep myself in check.

I've known lots of loving couples who sleep around, both openly and behind their partner's back (which I still find somewhat disquieting, having been on the receiving end of a cheating heart). Whilst a gut reaction may say 'no no no', the reality is that everyone's different. The arguments that say open relationships are wrong sound similar to the arguments that relationships between two guys are wrong. It's a knee-jerk reaction. Opinion not based on fact.

You cannot predict the future. Things change, whether you want them to or not. Sometimes things change in ways that bring a couple together both physically and emotionally. Sometimes it's just physically, sometimes it's just emotionally and hey, sometimes couples simply drift apart.

After 8 years my husband and I are still monogamous and that's what works for us. What's different this time around is that we're monogamous because it feels right as opposed to it being what we're 'supposed' to be. I wouldn't presume to suggest that everyone's the same, though. Different strokes and all that jazz...

And no, I don't expect that we'll open up our relationship but that doesn't mean it'll never happen. You just don't know.

N1David said...

Kenski's post is perfect. My relationship with my bf was monogamous for the first 15 years of our 19-year relationship. Over the last few years of those 15 I was getting frustrated because my partner (who is significantly older than me) no longer wanted to have sex as much as we previously had - in fact, barely at all.

We spoke about it endlessly. He was as frustrated that he didn't feel the urge as I was, but given his health he just felt that he no longer needed sex like before. We took couples counselling. We both really wanted a solution to work.

The solution was to open our relationship - so that I can get sexual pleasure outside the relationship which lessens the frustration within the relationship. We have firm rules, I never see anyone more than once, I don't play at home, I don't sleep over anywhere... My partner knows this happens and has seen how it has improved our relationship.

As to Mr HCI, my partner is so much more than my "roommate with whom I get along well and fuck from time to time". He's my life partner. We are committed to each other. We have a civil partnership. I cannot think of anyone or anything more important in the world to me. If he said that he wanted the rules to change tomorrow, I would stop. But it is BECAUSE we love each other that we have reached an accommodation that works for both of us. I didn't sleep around behind his back. I can no more imagine starting a relationship with a sexual partner than I could imagine cutting my right leg off.

I'm sorry if I repulse you; I'm not some dizzy queen who spotted a hunk after 6 months and decided to have a fling with them; this was a conscious, and considered decision, which has strengthened our relationship by removing a major source of discord, by accepting that there are some things that sometimes you need to get from outside your relationship.

GB said...

Wow guys, some fascinating comments here :-)

I reckon the best comments are from the guys in the long term relationships. As usual, Kenski makes excellent points. Gay Nairobi Man proves that the direction of monogamy in a gay relationship can be the opposite to what I expect. Axel confirms that in his long term monogamous relationship, it's the love that's most important. And N1David proves that sensible gay guys can successfully open up their relationship if they want to.

I'm not trying to make a rule for everyone John F. My experience, and Axel backs me up here, is that most long-term gay relationships seem to become more “open” with time. Being aware of that makes it more likely that gay male couples will be able to make that transition while keeping the respect and trust of their partners. As I said in the post, I meet a lot of guys who do it without their partner's knowledge, as far as I can tell just because permanent monogamy is regarded as the norm. That's such a pity.

That's a good idea for a post Jay :-). So why doesn't someone like Jay send me an email with a bit more information about their particular situation and I'll do a 'Dear GB' posting on the subject.

But I have nothing to say to Mr. HCI. Unless he can make a constructive contribution or a coherent argument without being abusive, will someone please ask him NOT to come back.

GB xxx

GB said...

Oh, and I spotted this rather naïve article on which is related to this subject.

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

GB - no worries. Let me clear the air a little. I just saw the title of the previous post which read "More on how gay relationships should be constructed" and it struck me a bit funny, that's all. At first glance it seems like a rule; I totally appreciate that you weren't expecting everyone to follow these rules but the title is a bit misleading.

I guess that my bottom line is this: what works for you is what works for you; it might be different for other people but as long as you are all consenting adults, then go with God.

benniboi said...

Well, I wrote a short article in my blog on this matter a month or 2 ago.
In my opinion, monogamous is great if both parties don't mind to be controlled by each other. Unfortunately, it is not usually the case. Think about it this way guys, if you partner said to you that he doesn't mind you go out there and have some fun, he will not be jealous and he will not complain. wud you bear the same view about having outside sex? I think you won't. The fundamental reason for most of couples stop having no-string fun is b'cos of usually one of parties doesn't like to 'share' their partner, and they 'agreed' to monogamous relationship. However, as GB said, it is not easy to find a couple they both have low libido. and they are not interested in anyone else, they have no lust really. Yes, men do think about sex numerous times a day, sex for us cud be just pure intimacy, or bucketful of passion love-making. 'Sadly', for those guys who wish their bf will not have occasional fun forever, they probably will be disappointed at some point in the future. This wishful thinking, is bascially a control mentality. You want to have control over your partner, you don't want him do this and do that. Trust is about you have faith that your partner loves you, and he will not recklessly leave you b'cos of some shag, if they do so, they probably not worth keeping. Sex is different to love-making. Sex is like a wank with more exercise than just your hand or your beloved fleshlight. If you are jealous about your man having fun with 'someone' else, how about his physical relationship with his fleshllight? or you don't mind it just b'cos you do the same, so it is fine, it is all about what you don't do is what he can't do. Honestly, I m sure you feel the lust sometimes when you pass a gorgeous guy, who is exactly your type. You might have a long term partner, whom you love very much, and he has lots of known quality. You probably wont dump your bf and going out with this unknown but looked-fine specimen, you probably want to shag him tho, the only thing stops you, in you mind, is the concern of your partner's reaction. What if he doesn't mind? Sexual desire is primal need, you cannot denine it.
if you don't want to have sex with anyone else other than your bf, is that b'cos you truly don't feel the desire to do so? if yes, good for you, otherwise, wud it be just b'cos you don't want to cross the line in case your partner wud do the same which you cannot stand, the that's all just about controlling each other, and victimise yourself whe that happen. Remember, you or he or together go out here and shag senseless doesn't mean you don't love each other. Yes, people have different style of relationship, as long as you both believe in the same setting, that will be a healthy relationship. however, how sure are you about what your partner wants? why don't ask your another half tonight?

for more please go to

Anonymous said...

I have been with my husband for 11 years now and we have a very happy monogamous relationship. The key reason this is so is because we have been able to have open conversations about it. We have talked about open-relationships and while we agree that they work for some, we agree that it just would not work for us.

The main issue I have with it is what you mention above. If you cannot be honest and BOTH partners be comfortable in an open relationship, it should end.

It is hard for gay men to see monogamy can happen for us with the lack of role models. But if the relationship is built on honesty and trust, open or not, the relationship can last. Without those two, someone is going to get hurt.

Anonymous said...

Well GB, you asked for my comments but i don't feel i can add to the many. They are all fundamentally saying the same, which is that what works for the individual works and there should not be a set rule as to how to conduct or achieve your ideal relationship. However I wonder what your thoughts are when 'outside activities' occur between one partner and someone they have already told their partner they loved and still do love? is this an accepatable part of an 'open relationship'. I would say not, but others such as beniboi, may say it's like having a wank.....but it has attachments, so is it right to hurt your partner this way?

benniboi said...

I really don't think when you have sex with someone, they has to have an attachment. sex cud be just sex, and dare it say, a hole is a hole or a penis is a penis, as long as we don't mislaed our shag there is something going beyond physical contact. it is a fair game for the ones who played.
and yes, in my opinion, relationship is about 2 people love and care each other, when they are open to their other half about what they want, and be honest with it, it wudn't do much harm.

GB said...

Thanks for clearing the air, John F :-). I guess it's a standard trick, strong titles for posts provoke response and debate!

Thanks for all your thoughts benniboi :-). But you need to learn how to embed links into comments, like a link to your post on this subject for example!

In the end, I guess I'm just trying to challenge people's prejudices, and to suggest that gay couples should debate these issues regularly between themselves. What I observe is guys playing around without their partner's knowledge. That's such a shame, especially when relationships are destroyed which are healthy when judged by the criteria of my post last January.

GB xxx

Monty said...

I'm probably considered somewhat naive and idealistic, but I do think that monogamy can work. Yes, I do think that it's been hardwired into me from birth, due to my very religious upbringing. But that has been left behind me now, but I still very much believe in monogamy. It does require sacrifice and discipline but if both partners are prepared to openly discuss it and agree to it and do actually work at it, I believe it can work.

Anonymous said...

What I'm confused about is this idea that someone needs sex, and so much that they'd jepordize a long-term relationship with someone they 'love' to get it.

What's so wrong with the idea that adults can and should reasonably be expected to excercise self-control?