Open Relationships: Part 1
Opening up a relationship can be a very scary step for many gay couples. It’s such a huge change and risk. Will things ever be the same? How do we go about opening it up without hurting each other? Can we go back to being just the two of us, if opening up is too much?
For every couple the journey is different and the main ingredient to success is honesty and good communication. That however, is easier said than done. Talking openly about what we want and risking hurting our partner is hard to do. It’s better to get things out in the open, right at the start, so both of you know where your relationship is going.
Our first experience of a relationship comes from our connection with our parents and for gay kids growing up, we’re almost 100% exposed to straight couples. If they were good at communicating their needs, we might also have good skills when it comes to talking about our desires. However, we usually have little or no experience of same sex relationships. We’re writing our own love story and we might begin by basing it on the straight model.
Step One: Falling in Love
When it comes to love and finding someone, mainstream communities usually promote the simple ‘boy meets girl’ dynamic and we, as gay men, often try to adapt it into ‘boy meets boy’. Many gay men seek out Mr. Right. When they find him, they take the next step on the road to the traditional family, moving in together. They might even talk about getting a dog or a cat. Some may look into becoming parents through surrogacy or adoption. Parenting brings them as close as possible to making a typical relationship, like the ones they grew up around.
For some, monogamy and the traditional model works fine; for others it just doesn’t fit. Only having sex with one person all the time just isn’t enough. Sure, when you first met it was great. Love was blind and you two could only see each other. This new guy you met was funny, sexy, and great in bed.
The honeymoon period of falling in love will end eventually. It typically lasts about 6 months but can last much longer for the lucky ones. During this time, you literally have a chemical reaction in your brain similar to the effects of XTC. You’re high on love and so is he. The idea of bringing someone else into this new relationship is impossible to imagine or want. It would feel like cheating and disrespecting your unique love story.
Step Two: Real Love
When the honeymoon period has ended, you begin to see each other for the first time in a non-chemical way. The dopamine has returned to a normal level in your brain. Often couples think the other one has changed, that he’s become boring, lazy or dull. The problem is your lover is going through the same process. It’s literally ‘make or break’ time. Shit is getting real.
If you can survive this reality check, then you can start to believe that the two of you are really in love. Not the ‘high on dopamine’ love, but the ‘I really want to work on this and make it great’ kind of love. Fast love is easy to fall for because it’s sexy and new; lifelong love takes more effort but can be more rewarding.
So when you have passed step one and step two, falling in love and seeing each other in reality, what’s next? You‘re again at the monogamy versus open relationship crossroads. Some may choose to stay closed, and if it works, that’s great; others will discuss the possibility of opening up the relationship.
Step three: Discussing the Rules
There are many different kinds of arrangements and open unions. The rules are tailored to the wants and needs of each couple and the more it’s discussed the easier the transition will be. The main fear is of damaging the relationship you already have.
Jealousy, and what constitutes cheating, are massive concerns. The best approach is to do it slowly. You don’t simply go from closed to open overnight. Although some couples, it must be said, are open from the first day they meet. Others just flip a mental switch after a year, going from closed to open in a heartbeat. These are unusual cases and some actually work out fine.
The majority of open relationships have evolved into their open situation with time and discussion. One or both of the men in the relationship will have to bring the subject up. Tough questions will have to be addressed Are we open now? How open are we? Clear boundaries are important in any relationship, but even more so in an open one. You’re writing your own rule book so you both need to know what you can and can’t do.
There are lots of different versions of open relationships; it would be impossible to list them all. We explore three types of open relationships in Part 2 of this blog.
In the meantime, if you’re in an open relationship and would like to comment or share your story, please do get in touch. Contact us by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d love to speak to you and share your love story here on our blog.