Open Relationships

The concept of an open relationship is hard for my brain to wrap around.  I think to myself, “Why be in a relationship if you want to have sex with other people?”  However, I’ve heard that the concept is more accepted with gay men who are in committed relationships.  So I’ve decided to write a post about it and see it from another person’s perspective.

First, when it comes to sex, men and women are different.  Biologically speaking, men have more testosterone, which makes them more sexually driven than females.  On average, men want to have sex more often than women.  Along with that, men are more visual and are turned on more quickly by visual stimuli than women.  Also, women on average attribute more emotional connections to sex.  I believe studies have been done that prove that gay couples have the most sex, heterosexual couples have an average amount of sex, and lesbian couples have the least amount of sex.  This isn’t black or white and there are exceptions to what I’m saying.  However, on average I believe that is pretty accurate.

After listening to a couple of gay men discuss this issue I can see how an open relationship could work and actually thrive if done right.  Also, when talking to a few lesbian women, it was apparent that an open relationship would not be as welcome.  A couple of lesbian women stated that it would probably cause a lot of drama and jealousy in their relationships.  That leads me to believe that an open relationship may be harder for women than men in general, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.  I’m sure there are women, both heterosexual and lesbian, out there who could tell me they have had successful open relationships.  However, since I haven’t met those women personally, this post will be from the gay male perspective.

So, you may be asking like I did, why would two men in love want to have sex with others outside of their relationship?  I was told that it is possible to have a great connection with someone, to be even be in love with that person and still have the desire to have sex with other attractive men.  Some gay men aren’t ready to completely settle down or make the sacrifice to only have one sexual partner.  However, they’ve found a person they like to be with and spend most of their time with.  Instead of choosing to either sacrifice having a committed relationship or the option of having many sexual partners, some gay couples are choosing to have both at the same time.

The number one factor in making an open relationship work is to be open and honest about it.  Most of the time relationships have problems because of lies, not because of sex.  Each partner needs to be honest with the other one when they decide have sex with someone else.  Both partners also have to be willing to be as safe as possible while having sex outside the relationship.  There is no doubt that you are more at risk for contracting STD’s in an open relationship than a monogamous one.  You have to trust that your partner is taking precautions every time they have sex, and it would be smart to be tested for STD’s as often as possible.

I also asked about the jealousy issue.  I was told there really isn’t one.  From what I understood, an open relationship means sex only.  If the gay couple is out at a club and one of them meets someone they want to have sex with, they tell their partner and then go do what they want.  There isn’t an ongoing relationship with that other person or an emotional tie involved.  Or if the couple is in a long distance relationship they might choose to have sex with other people when they can’t be with each other as long as both partners are in agreement.

This is why my head has a hard time wrapping around this.  I think this has more to do with my personality than the fact that I’m a female, but I only want to have sex when I’m emotionally attached and committed to someone.  I think this is why you have to really know yourself before deciding whether an open relationship would work for you.  Some people are able to separate sex from emotion and therefore not get jealous when their partner is having sex with someone else.  Others may not enjoy or get anything but heartache from being in an open relationship.

Here is the reason why I think this type of relationship works better with gay men.  The relationship is between two men who think more alike when it comes to sex.  They have clear boundaries when it comes to having sex with other men, and are able to keep those boundaries intact by being upfront and honest.  In a heterosexual relationship I think a lot of men would consider the idea of an open relationship.  However, I think there would be some jealousy because they may expect their female partner to become emotionally attached when they have sex with other men.  Even though it isn’t true that all females become emotionally attached during sex, I think the underlying expectation could elicit fear and therefore jealousy in a heterosexual relationship.  The woman in the relationship may also become jealous if they couldn’t handle the number of other women their boyfriend or husband was actually having sex with.  This may be why heterosexual couples keep things casual if they want to have multiple sex partners instead of having an open committed relationship.

If you are gay, you may have the option of being in a committed relationship and having sex with multiple partners.  That doesn’t mean you have to accept this type of lifestyle if you want to be in a relationship as a gay man.  Many gay couples are fully monogamous and happy to make that sacrifice.  If you are heterosexual or lesbian, the option of being in an open relationship is more rare.  It is harder to find someone who will let you have your cake and eat it too.  If you like the idea of having multiple sexual partners, maybe choosing to keep things casual will help keep the drama down to a minimum.  Other people like me, don’t mind making the sacrifice to be with one person.  I actually thrive in a monogamous relationship.  Whatever you decide, stick to your boundaries and keep the communication open and honest.

3 comments on “Open Relationships

  1. I think its great that you included the gay male perspective on this topic. We sometimes forget that there actually are people out there who are making all kinds of relationships work. We should also recognize that monogamy is a social construct, not a biological imperative (meaning, there are lots of examples of cultures throughout history where monogamy was not the norm). There is an excellent book on the topic called, Sex at Dawn.

    And your question “Why be in a relationship when you want to have sex with others?” is a fair question to ask, but most people aren’t going to like the answer. Because the answer is…because we want both – to have our cake and eat it to, so to speak. And what exactly is wrong with that (people often say this is selfish)? I would say that nothing is wrong with wanting both – that it is completely human to want to get all of our needs met. We humans have competing needs for security and freedom (and cheating may be about trying to manage both conflicting needs). Some, like you perhaps, have a stronger need for security, and you are happy to sacrifice the freedom. That’s cool. Others like myself, seem to have equal needs for security and freedom. I enjoy the comfort and security of relationships but I also value freedom and variety. I should also add that I am a heterosexual woman, and while I agree that Open Relationships may be more common in the homosexual world, there is a significant “underground” of people who are experimenting with different kinds of relationships (but it’s really hard to do in such a monogamous culture).

    We like to see the world in black and white/either-or terms (It makes life easier to understand), but I think it’s possible to love more than one person at a time or to love someone and also want to have sex with someone else, and so on. It’s not the way we think life should be, but it may be how it really is.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I understand about wanting to have everything even if it feels selfish. It is hard to make sacrifices. I’m glad the culture is becoming more open to different types of relationships because most people don’t fit into boxes and it is good to explore outside the box and see if that works better for you. Too each their own if it makes you happy. I’m all for live and let live. Thanks again for sharing your insight!

  2. Pingback: New Year Resolutions for Relationships «

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