This article by Ben Henry @NotAgainBen first appeared in FS Magazine, a publication of GMFA, here. Republished with permission.
I’m 20 and a monogamist (at least I would be if I had a boyfriend). There, I said it. While the gays assemble the pitchforks, I should explain that I’m not a prude, just that open relationships don’t put the lead in my pencil.
Having only thrown myself pelvis first into the gay scene two years ago, I was once surprised these things actually existed. Alas, since glitter and fake tan became a permanent fixture in my life, I have stumbled upon countless relationships that stray from regular convention. Who knew throuples existed? Eighteen-year-old Ben definitely didn’t! No longer is the open relationship frowned upon so much as used as another Grindr relationship status. When did the standard you + me turn into ‘us + him’?
Let’s take subject A, a very real person that I won’t publically shame; he does a good enough job of that himself. Open relationship, check. Multiple threesomes with the boyfriend? Absolutely. The rules of the relationship state that the pair fondle third parties together but do you think that stops him mounting more pole than an Olympic vaulter behind his boyfriend’s back?
I’m no relationship expert but if you need to sleep with half a dozen men weekly without your boyfriend’s knowledge in an open relationship, I question your logic for being together at all.
Now for subject B, a respectable guy offered a two-year job opportunity over 200 miles from his boyfriend of four years. Together, they made the executive decision to open their relationship. In doing this, they diminish any possible resentment towards each other. All they ask is that they use protection with anybody else they play away with and run a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. It wouldn’t work for me but it keeps their relationship off the ground and if that’s what it takes for the long term of their relationship, then fair play to them both.
Something I found surprising when looking into open relationships was the gap in generation attitudes. It would appear that it’s actually the younger generation that preach monogamy (although rarely practise it) while the older bracket of the community seem more accepting of the idea. I found this very strange because I assumed prematurely that the older generation would be more hooked on the traditional relationship model.
This brings into question maturity levels and when I thought about it, I saw the point. For an open relationship to work, a developed maturity has to be at the forefront of the agreement. You can’t shake on the agreement with one hand and slap your boyfriend with the other when he acts on it.
But does my preference for a one-on-one relationship make me immature? No! Am I childish for wanting a boyfriend that won’t be on Grindr on Saturday night looking for a willing pig to roast? I don’t think so.
I freely admit being a victim of the green eyed monster from time to time, and someone once had the blind stupidity to suggest that this affected my maturity levels. Let me get this straight for those patronising morons – jealousy is not bred from immaturity. Yes, paranoia over your boyfriend arriving home three minutes later than Google Maps told you he would is childish. Yes, sniffing his underwear and claiming you can smell another man’s ejaculate is immature if not slightly odd. But if acknowledging you wouldn’t like to see your boyfriend pounded seven ways to Sunday makes you jealous and therefore immature, then cuff me up for I have sinned.
At the crux of the open relationship worm can, it comes down to personal preference, and at 20 who am I to predict that my preference will stay the same. If I kept the same preferences from when I was 15, life would have a different outlook and I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m sure if you were to ask a 40-year-old if their preferences today and when they were 20 held any similarity, they’d snort in uncomfortable remembrance. All I can say is that for now, third parties in my relationship would be cheating.
At the end of the day, what works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for others. A relationship should write its own rules to fit the only two (three, four or five...) people that matter in that situation. So if that means keeping a relationship exclusive between you and your significant other, so be it. If you and your boyfriend want to share a meat feast with the first hunks on Scruff you see, then who is anybody else to judge? As long the relationship works for you, you’re doing nothing wrong. In fact if it works for you, you’re doing everything right.
Open relationships and HIV
A recent study in America suggests that most gay men who become HIV-positive get it from their boyfriend or regular sex partner. Many people feel that being in a relationship will protect them from STIs and HIV. Unfortunately, people cheat. Some will use condoms and some won’t when they cheat. Many gay men also don’t test for HIV when entering a new relationship. After a month or two they stop using condoms and pass on HIV without knowing it.
You can’t stop someone from cheating but if you are having sex with someone who is not your boyfriend it’s best you use condoms. Also test for HIV and other STIs regularly – especially if you are starting a new relationship.
We at FS have heard many stories about people who think they are in monogamous relationships only to find that their boyfriend has passed on HIV to them. If you are in or want an open relationship then you need to set ground rules around safer sex with different partners.
For more information about sex and sexual health, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/sex.
Open relationships! Are you for or against them? What do you think about open relationships?
Josh Malone Against. They are not for me. I’m way too jealous to allow my man to be with anyone else. Though if they work for you then that’s all that matters.
Steven Wall Against – if you’re in a relationship and you need it to be open then obviously something is wrong. I know a few people will say it spices it up but really, do you lack enough imagination to keep a relationship on track without inviting a third party?
Anthony Van-Roon I guess it’s down to the two people involved in the ‘relationship’. For me, I would not want to go down the road of an open relationship as I am not a person to share my partner, but then if my partner who I loved wanted to try it then I am not sure what I would do. I would not want to lose my partner or run the risk of my partner being unfaithful.
Dylan Berry Me and my partner have both spoken about this many times. We know that men being men get bored of sleeping with the same person. It’s not as exciting as it used to be. You can’t deny that. The concept of it is great for some couples, including heterosexual couples. We have friends who have been in a relationship for a couple of years and have ended up cheating. After speaking to them, I came to the conclusion that they got bored and frustrated sexually, and one thing led to another. We think having an open relationship is great because it stops the frustration, lying and cheating that breaks many homosexual couples up.
@mac_lee Against them. It’s good to spice up a relationship. But if you can’t just be happy with the two of you, then why not be single?
@eloquentwrage Not everybody is built for monogamy or even LTRs. As long as you’re not lying to your partner or yourself, you’re good.
@Hotdesigner Personally I couldn’t do it. For me, a relationship is two people and having more than one partner (I feel) could lead to hurt.
@David_King26 Not for me personally. I can never live with the fact that somewhere somehow my partner is with someone else. I can’t share.
@boysies People form relationships differently. It’s when they try and live up to an unobtainable ideal it starts going wrong.
@JedZiggler Would never have a relationship that’s not open.
@S_NoahHunter Lots of pros and cons to having one, but I respect the guys I’ve met because it all comes down to trust.
@hivpozguy Just be safe if you do have an open relationship and wear condoms!!
This article was taken from FS magazine issue 143. To read the DIGITAL VERSION click here