Friday, January 29, 2010

The Conundrum of Monogamy

I thought the phenomenon was fairly unique to Atlanta. With all the gay boys here from all over the Southeast, I figured the proverbial pond had too many fish. It seems like boys in relationships here always have one eye on the crowd to see if they might not be able to find someone "better". Rarely do you see people actually enjoying the person they are with. It's the most frustrating and depressing part about being single in Atlanta.

Yet, here comes a new study on gay monogamy (or lack thereof) from San Francisco State University, featured in the New York Times. The Gay Couples Study followed 556 male couples for three years, and about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners. The study reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many same sex relationships. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships.

The key to success are rules. The rules agreed to by the couples vary, but one couple said their rules were: complete disclosure, honesty about all encounters, advance approval of partners, and no sex with strangers — they must both know the other men first. I guess for them, a trip to the sex club is out. The notion of interviews for potential playmates seems to me to be odd, but if it works for them, that's great. The only "cheating" that can occur is if the agreement is broken. The study found that open relationships were just as happy as monogamous ones.

I realize that as men, we think of sex differently. For most us, there's not a very long road to separating sex and love. You can deeply love someone and still have emotionless sex with another person. I don't think the situation is ideal, because there is something about sex with someone you love.

My other question for these couples is: Do you still have sex with each other? I've known several "open" couples who spend most of their free time together looking for playmates online. Personally, one of the of the benefits of a relationship is not having to waste all that time looking for the false intimacy of a trick. If you don't have sex with each other, then aren't you just glorified roommates? How's it different than living with your best friend? Is that a real romantic relationship?

I have very mixed feelings. The first emotion that came up was anger. Such a study is not helpful when we are trying to win gay marriage. That is why most couples contacted by the Times declined to be interviewed. Why anger? To me, it seemed greedy. These people have found love and companionship, and now they're still out playing the field, competing for attention with guys like me who are alone. Maybe some open couple becomes fuck buddies with a guy that would be perfect for me, but hey, he's getting regular sex, so why bother with an actual relationship with someone?

I have been struggling mightily over the last couple of years with my perpetual single state. I am 34 years old, and I thought by now I'd be settled down with someone. When my parents were my age, I was NINE. The fact that I'm single with no prospects makes me feel like a personal failure. Intellectually, I may know that's poppycock, but it is how I feel. I'd like to find a guy who will choose to love me like I'm family. I'm talking the kind of love that your parents have for you, or maybe your siblings...with a sexual flavor of course. But it's the kind of love that you can be totally secure in; no matter how badly you might fight over something, they are not going to stop loving you. They will stick with you through thick and thin, not because you are blood, but because they choose to love as if you are blood. There's no question about severing the relationship except under the most dire circumstances.

If I found a man to love me like that, would I agree to an open relationship? Not at first. I think it's crucial to have a period where you are monogamous as you build the love and trust between you. There has to be a period where it's just you. I'd love that period to last the life of the relationship, but if I found a guy who loved me as I have just decribed (and who I loved the same way in return), I don't know how how I'd feel 5-6 years into the relationship and he/I/we wanted to explore opening it up. I don't know what rules I'd need to feel comfortable with that arrangement. I do know that it could not include stopping sex with me. Openness should enhance, not replace the relationship you have already. Of course, if the guy who loved me the way I described wanted monogamy for life, I think I'd be fine with that. The hunt for physical intimacy is tiring.

But until I find my prince charming (I'm trying to keep hope alive that a match for me exists... and that is a very difficult fight for me to wage), I do have some resentment of the folks who have their cake, but would like to eat mine too.

No comments: