I do not know a single, truly successful, monogamous gay couple: I mean really know them.

I can’t even think of any real-life candidates for “we should be like that happy couple,” despite seeing many examples in the heterosexual world. Maybe this is what the wise gays mean when they start talking about the imposition of heteronormative relationship standards onto the homosexual experience.

I may be judging these relationships by a set of standards that aren’t really intended for gay couples. Maybe they’re not meant for anyone. Maybe straight couples are just better at pretending.

I’ve been in closed and open relationships and can empathize with people who want either one. I understand arguments in favor of open relationships, from “the cheaters are gonna cheat so we might as well be open” to “I trust my partner so much that I’m giving them the freedom to pursue their sexual desires, and they still come home to me every night.” I also respect those that say they “deserve” one person to choose them…forever. (But we all give a big side- eye, knowing that probably isn’t going to happen.)

Is monogamy what we want? What I want? Is it even possible?

What is the goal here? I am lost.

 

Ladies’ Man Valentine

In middle school, I was quite the player on Valentine’s Day. I got all my girlfriends valentines and always went overboard for one or two of them. I’m talking the roses, the sweet cards, the oversized teddy bear hosed in my cheap cologne, the hand-written love letters all folded perfectly to the point of not needing an envelope, the candy, and the hour-long mix CDs that I burned from pirated music source Kazaa.

I felt good on those Valentine’s Days, and I remember how much my dad would brag to anybody and everybody about how much I did for all the ladies. “He’s such a ladies’ man,” he’d say.

I was a ladies’ man until after I graduated high school. Then I went after some ladies’ men. (Sorry, not sorry.)

Since then, I’ve always sort of resented the day, the showcasing of love to someone of the opposite sex so freely, because I never felt allowed to do that for the guy that I wanted to be my valentine. (There was always one, each year.)

 

What Am I After Now?

I’ve learned that I need a relationship to be authentic and, most importantly, transparent. I know I can’t get bogged down by over-thinking the rules of my next relationship before it happens. I may need an open relationship if he’s never in the mood—or want one if he’s always in the mood, and I’m not. Or I may be so focused on him that there isn’t room for anybody else, etc.

I’m looking for someone who understands that the rules are always subject to change—as long as we both agree. Maybe, after a few years of monogamy, we’ll decide to open things up to keep things fresh. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re on the road to a breakup.

The Ethical Slut, written by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, describes such negotiations between couples. They advise that couples be as honest about what they want as possible, and to be aware that emotional responses such as anger and jealousy still occur, even when you’ve agreed to being open. As long as the couple maintains communication and flexibility, the relationship can still thrive.

Damon Jacobs is a licensed marriage counselor and known PrEP activist, as well as a friend of mine. He’s someone I like bounce ideas off of from time to time. A couple of years back, while riding in the back seat in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I asked Damon if he had ever seen a successful married gay couple who had chosen to live separately, in their own houses. He smiled big and said he had, and it was working well for them.

So maybe that mentality is what I will work with when I am meeting people on DatingPositives. I’m going to do my best to recognize the incredible gift of space when I need it and remember that even something as institutionally rooted as marriage can exist outside the typical, heteronormative expectations of a white picket fence and nightly dinners.

 

More from Josh Robbins: We Are Holiday FamilyLiving and Dating with HIV

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