Men, Sex and Open Relationships

Posted by Michael Dale Kimmel in lgbt 03 May 2015
photo by Youngjun Koo for nymag.com

photo by Youngjun Koo for nymag.com

Have you ever questioned if monogamy was a good fit for you, or what an open relationship might be like? If so, this column is for you.

Over the years, many of the couples I see in my private practice have explored these questions. For male-male couples, the rules about sex may be different from male-female or female-female couples. When you have two men together, you have double the testosterone.

Testosterone is the biological essence of masculine physical development. For adult men, testosterone gives us energy (e.g.libido) which is often directed toward sex.

For gay, bisexual and transsexual men, I’d like to ask you: what role does sex play in your relationships, past or present? For some guys, it’s not a big deal; for others, it’s very important. There’s really no right or wrong, what matters is what works for you, right?

But DOES it work for you? For example: is it realistic to only have sex with one person for the rest of your life? With conversations about LGBT marriage so prominent, it might be worthwhile to examine if heterosexual marriage and monogamy are a good model for our relationships.

Let’s define our terms: “monogamy” is a relationship where both people only have sex with each other; “open relationship” is one where both people have sex with each other and other people; and “emotional monogamy” is remaining emotionally committed to one person while in an open relationship.

For many of us, emotional monogamy is not something we have thought much about. It hasn’t been a big part of middle-class, American hetero culture, yet I believe that it has been a largely unspoken part of gay culture.

There are some obvious benefits to emotional monogamy. It could, for example, address these common relationship challenges:

•When you and your partner have incompatible sexual desires: for example, you’re both tops, one of you likes anal sex and the other doesn’t, or you like wild, animal-like sex and he or she likes it tender and gentle.

•Repetition and boredom: after having sex with someone for months and years sustaining excitement and passion can be difficult.

•Incompatible libidos: you want to do it once a day minimum, and your partner is happy with once a month.

On the other hand, there are certainly challenges, including how to handle feelings of jealousy and insecurity; what happens if you fall in love with someone else; and if your relationship isn’t solid to begin with, opening it up could make things worse, not better.

If you were my client, I’d ask you how you feel about heterosexual marriage. What about it works and doesn’t work for you? If the LGBT community uses heterosexual marriage as a model for same-sex marriage, it would be wise to examine this model quite carefully.

If traditional heterosexual marriage is a good model for you, that’s great. But if it’s not, what are your options?

I frequently ask my clients to describe their ideal relationship: sexually, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Few of us ever consider such an open-ended question, and the answers might surprise you. Doing it with your partner could be even more enlightening.

photo by Youngjun Koo for nymag.com

photo by Youngjun Koo for nymag.com