This article by Ian Howley @ianhowley first appeared in the UK’s FS Magazine, a publication of GMFA here.
“Open relationships are not real relationships”. “Gay men are greedy”. “You can’t truly love someone if you can have sex with other men”. You name it, we’ve heard it.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about open relationships, but not many will tell you how to make them work for you. Every relationship, whether you’re open or closed, needs some groundwork. Here at FS we decided to knock up a guide to help you negotiate your relationship, whether it’s already open or you’re thinking about opening it up.
1 - HAVE RULES
FS surveyed over 1,000 gay men about open relationships. Of those who told us they are in an open relationships, 75% said they have rules in place. Many said having rules helps their relationship. However...
Try not to have more rules than you can follow because then it becomes really unfun, but set boundaries that you’re both comfortable with. These rules aren’t set in stone forever. If he does something that’s not rule breaking and it hurts your feelings, then have a chat about why that is. If you want to try something outside the boundaries then raise it for discussion. People and their desires change. Don’t worry, just be honest about how you’re feeling. Some common rules gay men told us about in the survey included:
- Only playing together.
- Never the same person twice.
- Avoid mutual friends.
- Hide the details, don’t hide the people.
- Don’t bring anyone home.
- Never stand your partner up. He always comes first.
- Do not share personal pics/videos.
- No overnight stays.
- No ex-boyfriends.
- Right to veto.
- No kissing.
2 - WHAT COUNTS AS CHEATING?
An open relationship can mean a lot of things, so set this simple rule from the start. 73% of gay men in an open relationship told us that it’s possible to ‘cheat’ and be in an open relationship and 21% said they had ‘broken the rules’ at least once.
Just like setting rules, you also need to define what counts as cheating. Do you only open things up for a kinky three-way? Or are you as free as birds to go out and do what you like whenever you like? Are you allowed to use chems with strangers? Making sure condoms are used is a no brainer though, right?
But just like setting up what defines as cheating you also need to figure out how to deal with rule breaks/cheating. Is it best to tell if you’ve broken the rules?
3 - BE HONEST?
If going out and getting your yayas alone is the option you go for, make sure you’re both agreed on how much you want to know. Some couples run happily on a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Others get their rocks off knowing that their bae is bumping uglies in a car park in Croydon. Some people will say they want to know everything, even the rule breaking. Others claim ‘what they don’t know won’t hurt them’. They say honesty is the best policy in a relationship. It’s up to you if you want to follow that policy.
4 - WANT IT?
Why are you doing this? For the love of God WHY? Is it that more cocks in the bed makes you spaff like a trouper? Or is it that the light of your life just won’t chain you up, slather you in pig oil and fist you till you squeal? The guy you love and want to spend your life with just might not fuck the way you want and that’s OK, as long as everyone is on the same page.
However some gay men get into open relationships because their partner wants it more than they do or they want it more than their partner.
In our survey we asked: “Who decided to open your relationship up?”. 72% said it was mutual, 16% said it was ‘mainly me’ and 12% said it was ‘mainly him’.
If you are going to open up your relationship make sure you’re both happy with it.
5 - GET TO KNOW YOUR FUCK?
A number of men in our survey said one of the main rules is that “no emotional connections are allowed.”
If you are ready to add someone who is not your partner on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, Instagram etc, then think about how this might affect your relationship. Emotional connections can be built up after time. So you may not instantly connect with the random shag in the toilet but he may grow on you over time if you keep him in your life.
Keeping every new shag as a one-nighter will help stop this from happening and keep your relationship solid.
6 - JEALOUS?
Jealousy can ruin a good relationship. If you have any feelings of jealousy then make sure you tell him. Jealousy is one of the main reasons people break up. Nip it in the bud before it affects your relationship.
Nearly 18% of the gay men we surveyed said they sometimes feel guilty for having sex with someone who is not their partner. Just like you need to talk about jealousy, you also need to talk to him if you are feeling bad. You never know, he may be feeling the same way.
7 - DON’T FORGET YOUR PARTNER
If you are having more sex outside your relationship than in it, you need to make sure your partner still feels valued. Sex between you and him may not be the most important aspect of your relationship, but you need to make sure he still feels like your king.
8 - GET TESTED
Make sure both of you get regular check-ups for HIV and STIs. 53% of gay men in open relationships told us they picked up an STI while in their current relationship, with 71% of them saying it was passed on to them from a casual partner.
60% told us they go for check ups at least once every six months. Getting regular check-ups at your GUM clinic will put your mind at ease and if one of you does pick up an STI you can get it treated. Remember it takes roughly ten days for an STI to show up in tests. HIV can take four weeks.
9 - USE CONDOMS
65% of gay men in open relationships told us they use condoms with men who are not their partner. However that leave about 35% who don’t use condoms all the time with casual partners. If you don’t want to pick up an STI, HIV, or pass on HIV, then it’s best to use condoms with every new partner.