Three-Ways and The Modern Gay Couple

December 30, 2008

Dear Kirk,

My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for 6 months and we’re talking about opening up the relationship so that we could have a three way.  We’re both a little jealous, but I’m more jealous than he is. I’m twenty years younger than him and the three way thing was his idea, which makes me wonder if he’s losing his attraction to me. I’m scared he’s going to be more attracted to some younger, hotter guy. Plus, we’re attracted to totally different guys. How could we possibly settle on a single guy? Do we take our ideal ages and average them together?

Do 3 Bees Make Sweeter Honey?

Dear Reluctant Swinger,

OK, I’m going to risk pissing off the entire gay movement here by saying that this whole business of marriage and monogamy is contrary to our nature. While being gay is genetic, having a single mate for the rest of your life, or even for a certain period of time, is a choice. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing to be monogamous. Monogamy can be a great way to bond with someone or a container wherein you can increase intimacy. I support monogamy when it’s a conscious choice, but I resist it when it’s the expected default setting.

We grow up surrounded by guilt and shame when we are attracted to people outside of a primary relationship. Read the book “The Myth of Monogamy” by Barash and Lipton for more on this. It talks about how the vast majority of insects and animals, including humans, are hardwired to seek out multiple partners over their lifetimes. They also pick apart the myth that women are wired for monogamy. Female birds seek the strongest sperm and DNA testing has shown evidence of ladybirds getting busy with lots of different boybirds! It’s our nature, especially as men, to hunt and play.

That said, opening yourself to the idea of an open relationship can be a slow, painful process. It’s broken up many couples, caused a lot of grief and insomnia. There have been lots of drunken screaming matches 
in the parking lots of suburban gay bars about this very issue. So you’re part of a long tradition of gay men figuring out how to have their cake and eat it, too. It’s possible!

Talk to each other about what makes you uneasy about an open relationship. Are you afraid of losing your man? Does it threaten you to see him turned on by someone else? Are you worried about STDs? Do you know any gay couples who have an open relationship? Could the four of you have dinner together and talk about how it’s worked for them? Lots of gay men set different ground rules that make them feel better about an open relationship. If you have a daddy/boy dynamic, maybe you save those words for each other. Here’s a strategy that sex workers sometimes use when they’re in a romantic relationship: maybe there are certain activities you save for one another (swallowing cum, snuggling, certain types of kink play). Sometimes having a rule, however minor, can make you feel more in control of the situation. Over time, you may simply grow more comfortable with the idea of sharing your man with the world.

As for being attracted to different types of guys and trying to find the perfect guy for both of you, I suggest two strategies. First, have more three-ways so that both of you get your buttons pushed. Try playing with someone who’s outside the normal type range for both of you! There’s usually no magic bullet for a couple with divergent tastes. Second, I don’t think it’s healthy to have a really narrow type in the long run, so I would suggest that each of you expand your sexual repertoire. I’ve had a pretty fairly specific sexual palette for much of my life, but over the years I’ve learned to appreciate a much broader range of guys. One way I’ve done this is to go to a bathhouse or sex club and take on all comers. I’ll walk around and play with anyone who initiates contact. So maybe I started out being drawn to older daddies with beards, but I’ve learned that I can also enjoy younger guys with smooth butts and guys my own age (for years, this was my biggest blind spot!).

One argument for an open relationship is that as you and your man play with different partners, your lovemaking skills will improve. Sex is a language. When you go to a foreign country, your fluency spikes dramatically when you talk to people with different dialects. One could argue that the more sex you guys have outside the relationship, the stronger you’ll be within the relationship. Another metaphor in favor of openness: lots of personal trainers suggest a variety of weightlifting machines for a single muscle group. Different machines, like different lovers, make you grow big and strong in surprising ways.

Of course, this will only work if you guys step up your communication. Have sit down conversations with each other while you’ve got time to talk. In other words, don’t blurt out your insecurities when you’re about to go into Costco. This is a good time for tons of reassurance and cuddling. An open relationship is an advanced kind of dynamic to navigate, so take care of each other and really listen. Don’t push each other into things you’re not comfortable with. Go slow. If you have successful three ways, your comfort level will increase. If you have a bad experience, you might retract. So take it easy and take time to debrief your threeway when it’s over. How did it go for each of you? What worked? What didn’t? What did you notice? What would you like to try next time?

Many gay men have sailed the sea of open relationships. We’re brave for doing it. As you open your relationship, bear in mind that you’re part of a community that has excelled in sexual exploration. You guys are the next Lewis and Clark.

Kirk Read can be contacted at kirk@daddyhunt.com and welcomes letters seeking advice for this blog.

Tags: Advice, Sex
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Comments

Kirk. Excellent, well thought-out comments. I couldn't agree with you more, especially your last paragraph. One of our 'community's strengths is this openness and exploration to Sexual/Creative Energy. Thanks for your column.
Dan

Sex is an inherently intimate act. Although it is possible to deaden oneself to the intimacy in order to engage in ”casual“ sex, why would you want to make yourself less alive? Monogamy IS a choice, and a wise one, if you want to avoid exposure not only to the usual STDs but other nasty infections such as multiple drug resistant staph, which is spread through casual contact, for example. In my experience someone in three ways always gets hurt. If you feel even a shred of jealousy thinking about sharing your man sexually, then you are in no way ready emotionally to share him, in my opinion, and to do so is to invite much heartache and the destruction of your relationship.

There are other ways to spice up your sex life without putting your health and your relationship in jeopardy. Frank Strona's blog offers some excellent examples. Restraining your desires in the moment for the sake of the more lasting goal of building trust and depth in intimacy will help shift the focus of intimacy from sex alone to the many other ways you can enjoy each other and also the company of platonic friends and acquaintances. There is much to be said for sacrificing temporary pleasure, or what you imagine will be pleasurable, for the greater goal of preserving the specialness of what you only share with your partner.

I have at times fantasized about a life of ”free love,“ free of jealousy and filled with joyous sexual sharing. In practice, however, I find the emotional complexities between just two men quite challenging enough without needing to make the relationship even more complicated by introducing another into the mix. And what of the feelings of the ”third“ man, the one who has to leave once the sex is over? All of us want to love and to be loved, but we are often all too willing to settle for sex instead because that is easier. Using a human being as a sex toy dehumanizes him. I remember encountering one man who had no problem having sex with me being HIV+, but he wouldn't even consider an intimate relationship with a poz man, as if I am only worthy of being used for sex and not worthy of being loved.

in the one relationship in which I engaged in three-ways regularly I had to admit, if I was to be brutally honest with myself, that I was only doing it because I was unsatisfied with my partner, and I was looking for a way out. I stayed in the relationship because I thought it was easier to have someone, however unsatisfying, than to be alone. Ultimately, with the help of therapy, I was able to confront the truth and let myself move on with no guarantees, to be true to myself and to my ex instead of pretending we were just liberated swingers, free of sexual hangups.

At one time I used to counsel gay high school boys, and I found all of them dreamed of meeting that special man. Then they graduated and confronted the harsh reality that older gay men were all too willing to use them sexually and abandon them. They learned this was the norm in much of our gay subculture. In this fashion emotional abuse gets inflicted on each generation of gay men, perpetuating the cycle.

We accept that restraining our desires somewhat is necessary to maintain civil society. I may wish to kill the guy who cuts me off in traffic, but I don't do it in part because life is nicer when we don't inflict our every whim on anyone and everyone who crosses our path. As gay men we used to revel in sexual abandon, feeling finally freed of society's disapproval and prohibitions. We practically defined ourselves by this unrestrained sexual behavior. But then we learned that there could be a terrible cost to unrestrained expression of sexual desire. We are still learning, it seems, that there can be an emotional cost as well.

I am in fundamental agreement with both you, William, and the primary author, Kirk Read. Our society in general, and gay male "society" in specific, seriously confuse sex and intimacy, and although most of use seek intimacy, we settle for sex, myself included. Many gay men probably can't even distinguish the two. The problem regrettably, is that those that who can distinguish between intimacy and sex are few and far between. Those of us seeking intimacy, may have to settle for momentary sex as "sloppy seconds," because they can't find others so interested, and the momentary body contact is pleasurable. When we were far younger, we may have believed in romanticized versions of romance and love, only to meet countless others who were more "pragmatic," and so the vicious cycle continues.

--mark behar

I hate to do this, but I need a favor. I am a fully paid member but no one can see my private pictures after I open them.
I can find no other way to contact this site other than here.
Would you please pass this on to someone who can explain things to me.
Thank you.
Joe

I am involved with a gay couple. One is sixty and the other 30. Always have a fucking good time. They have also other friends I have played.
They thrive on sexual openness and even play seperate at times due to differences in sex.
I am a closeted male and enjoy this 3-way and moresome.

Scott

Another must-read before opening a relationship is "The Ethical Slut". It's a sex-positive guide to exploring intimacy from playing solo to orgies and everything in between. Open relationships can work (my partner and I have had one for 11 years). It isn't always easy and doesn't replace doing other emotional- and intimacy-work, but it can help a couple to grow together. That said, I'm pretty sure both partners have to be completely on board. You can't sacrifice your own sense of emotional safety because your partner wants to expand his horizons. He needs to respect that you need to go at your own pace.

Well, you pissed me off, and royally. You seem to compare yourself to an insect, bird, or simply an ANIMAL. I am a man, not a bug, and certainly not an animal, and whoring around is whoring around. It makes me sick to see so many men on these sites who go on for paragraphs about the man they love so much, then end by saying they are on here looking for random sex. This is bullshit. It is using an excuse to be............a typical man. I believe in, and am seeking monogamy and long term. And screwing around is fine now, (it it said,) if one is young and "gay attractive." But, what happens when you get old and are no longer a man magnet? That is if you live to get old, whoring around comes with a huge number of health risks. I see these "studies" mentioned as excuses to have your cake and eat it too. It is all so very sad, and not something I want to be a part of. And bottom line, I now have to put on hip boots to wade through all the profiles of men who have a parnter here and are looking for something casual on the side. I want to be a headline in the life of another man, not a casual afterthought..........forgotten by the next day.

Well, I'm not 'pissed' about it... but I too was always bothered by the ads for men in 'open relationships' looking to play. I likely just don't understand it, not being in that position, so I more or less avoid them. I figure, let them do their own thing, since there seems to be MANY guys out there like that. To each his own.
BUT, I do agree, personally, if you're single, then play safely all you want... but if you are partnered, then monogamy is expected. It took me a lot of seaching to find a great partner that thinks like I do. But again, ... it's all a personal preference and opinion.
I appeciate having the DHBlog available... it's enlightening to hear all the input and actually expand on my own thoughts and visions. Thanks guys~!

I agree with you, Preston! To me this so-called monogamy myth is a sad and sorry excuse not to put into a relationship what it needs and deserves, but only serves as an excuse to fool around. I mean, let's call a spade a spade here.

AGREE ! this is bull.....men are not dogs or cats or birds or bugs...we are able to reason and think and use or brains rather just fuck everthing in site... the MYTH is a MYTH so the writer can stick it up his ass

CHOICE !!!!!!!!!!!!!! It comes down to individual choice and respect for the choices other makes. Monogamy may be right for you but not for others. And as an aside, the older I get the more offers I seem to attract from all kind of men (and some women), so if you want to shrivel up after you reach a certain age fine with me, I respect your choice..... but I plan to enjoy my "golden years" even more than I did my youth (when I was foolish and monogamous)

Open relationships.
Kirk, I found your reply to "Reluctant Swinger" absolutely clear and right on point!
I/we used to be asked about our open relationships, often from critics. The most important points I raised in those cases were these. WE had our priorities established, had communicated our interests in a variety of different encounters with varying types of men. WE always knew (and know) where home is. For us, it took (and takes) all the pressure off. Pressures to "conform" can be lethal in the gay world. What it ultimately meant is that being satisfied and clearly fulfilled sexually, we didn't sort of "whore around" as I discovered was often the case with acquaintances who would boast about their being monogamous. Having endured their grandstanding, many a time I encountered one (or both) out sucking cock or getting fucked in the bushes at the park or the nude Black's Beach. Nothing wrong with sucking cock, fucking or getting fucked, but where's the honesty, where's the integrity? Since many of them knew me on sight, I always attempted to back away discretely before they noticed their assignations had been uncovered. When I shared what I'd seen with my lovers, present and late lovers, I would add that were we at some social gathering and one of those dudes would get up on their soap box to boast about their monogamy, which some were wont to do, I should be taken by the arm and politely led from the room before I let 'em "have it."
We live in a day and time where integrity and honesty are essential to our personal well being and phychologicly health. These guys carried a pretty heavy load of guilt, which may have counted for the grandstanding, as much as anything else. What I also noted, over time, was the weight of their guilt ultimately sounded the death nell of what might have otherwise been a healthy and happy relationship.
I applaud those who hew to monogamy. More power to them. But, I'm not wired that way. I tried it, with success in one of my first gay relationships because my lover insisted on it, largely because he was inately insecure. I fucked him constantly. Then one day, I discovered he had given ME a dose of CLAP. So much for monogamy; so much for integrity; so much for honestly. For my brothers, my peers who believe in monogamy, please be honest and hold onto the values you treasure. But, don't ask me to follow your path.
Thank you! Happy New Year!
Hal aka Cap (grnddad1 on Daddy Hunt)

Monogamy as a mutual choice versus monogamy as a rule seems an important distinction. Who doesn't like to break rules now and then? But even bad boys tend to respect their own choices.

We gay men, I believe, are so used to having our feelings violated by family and society and our relationships devalued by nearly everyone, but especially by other gay men, it's no wonder we shut down our feelings so easily and engage in profoundly intimate physical acts with men about whom we may know or care very little. I understand this phenomenon, but I reject calling it healthy or liberated. On the contrary, I regard this a symptom of our oppression.

The more I have worked to reclaim my feelings, the less willing I have become to engage in intimate acts with strangers. In focusing so much on sex, sex, sex it is all too easy to skip the love.

I had a partner who said from the beginning he didn't care if I had sex with other men. I believed him, but I chose not to do that for the first seven years of our relationship. When I did choose that once, I told him, and I found that he had not been in touch with own honest feelings when he told me he didn't care. That was the beginning of the end of that partnership.

Gay men may feel they “should” sleep around, based on the norms of our community. I, for one, want to support and validate the feelings of those who would rather let intimate physical sharing grow out of emotional intimacy.

Guess I should compliment you, Kirk, for at least giving a small, minor, insignifcant nod to the concept of monogamy between two men... but noticed you didnt suggest he check back with you in six months to see if he was still in his relationship either!

This afer only six months - and he's worried that his partner whose 20 years older is tired of him and looking for someone "younger and hotter"??? That's sad.... Amazed his partner mananged to hang on that long before mentioning it; have a feeling he already opened up the relationship on his own months ago!

Sorry guys, I'm no prude here - was pretty much a whore for the first 20 years of my gay life... but after having a long term monagomous relationship for over a decade after that , you'll never convince me that it wasnt more satifying than any single day of the first twenty... and after 10 years STILL the best sex ever solely because of the intimacy and I'll match my numbers with all but the trashiest of ya!

Though I've met and truely respected some three-somes and others that are in long term open relationships and make them work; let's not confuse monogamy in name only where one or both are cheating on the side or both are just looking to spice things up, with committed relationships that last a lifetime. Just because someone has cheated on you (first?) doesnt mean the concept of NOT CHEATING is bad... grow up, guys!

As noted here - we all have to live our own lives and be true to ourselves - but doubt in those final moments that any of you would trade a truely intimate committed partner at your side for any one of your past "encounters" .

Good luck to all and may we all find what suits us best in the New Year.

Damn, buddy, whether you like it or not we ARE animals. Care to look under your armpits and see the hair?

The beginning of the end -- that's what 3-ways have always represented in my relationships. The first 3-way I had was right after college with 2 guys who I was not involved with romantically. It made for a very fun, hot evening. The first time a lover suggested a 3-way I was hesitant but went ahead -- not knowing that I was the jealous type until I saw this kid passionately kissing my lover. Maybe that was a rule we should have made going in, I don't know. Unfortunately there were none. Suffice to say, when he suggested the second 3-way I graciously bowed out of the relationship. To tell you the truth Kirk, I think I would have been happier if he had had an affair, gotten it out of his system and never told me about it. While monogamy may not be everyone's cup of tea, there are us serial monogamists out there who are happy and proud of our choices.

Well, it's nice that you feel so superior to everyone who chooses to be monogamous. Open relationships are "brave" while monogamous relationships are something only respectable if it's done your way.
Fantastic article...you know, for proving what douches gay men can be.

I have to agree that we tend to want to spray sperm like a firehose. My current partner of 13 years worked this out before we even dated.
That we would always play together whether with a 3rd , another couple or in a group.
We are open with each other about how or who we are attracted to. We don't play out very often, but we do now and then always as a team. We have had a third that lived with us too. Our first time out was a 3 way with a fuck bud of each of us
He is all top and I am vers and like to drive too, so it is a way for me to get some as well.
I have 2 exes 1 of 3 years and one of 10 years, insanely jealous both of them, a mere mention that so and so was handsome would start a row or even a knock down drag out. I am long term pos and it was one of them who was so monogamous that passed this on to me.
I would rather be open about it. When we play we find someone we LIKE and become friends first.
We don't let just anyone in to our home.
We see how they treat dogs and other people if they don't treat them right, we are no go.
We like to think we treat ethically in how we treat others and expect the same.
It is how we cope with our natures good or bad. We won't play with someone in a supposed mono relationship or married in closet, no matter how tempting.
The thing about being on a soapbox, is that you can fall and bust yo ass.
We are all different, that is the spice in life. We each have to make our own rules to deal with how we are.
I have met so many that are unhappy, that sux to go through life that way.
So do what you have to do how you need to do with it. If you have a partner be honest and open.

Many years ago when I was first coming out at age 25, an older (38!) guy I dated and became good friends with gave me two very good pieces of advice: If you want to be married, BE married; and, If you want to stay a couple, stay out of bars.

Comparing humans to animals is only works to a certain degree of comparison; after that it's flawed logic. Animals, for example, often eat one another; breed with their parents and sibs; abandon their young; and shit anywhere they feel like. So we can't say we should just do what the animals do, although god knows lots of men act like dogs.

My observation after being out for nearly 30 years is that some men are just constitutionally unable to be either monogamous; or honest; or truly intimate (emotionally and psychologically, not merely sexually) with a partner. Or all three. Whether that's a male thing or a specifically gay male thing, I can't say, but there's no point expecting that type of guy to ever be faithful and trustworthy with one partner. Ain't gonna happen, ever.

There's another type that is just intrinsically dishonest with himself, and usually a perpetual adolescent. Wishywashy. Today he says oh yes he really, really wants to be married and monogamous, for good and ever, he's so tired of the bars and the tricks and all that. And it may be that he really believes what he's saying; and he will look you straight in the eye while doing so, with all apparent sincerity. But he's so out of touch with his real self, his mind and his feelings are so clouded by denial and self-doubt and self-pity - and usually a long habit of hiding the truth - that he doesn't even realize he's lying. And tomorrow, or the day after, he will be sniffing after some strange stuff, and making up some weird justification/excuse for it when you catch him at it. Again, no point ever expecting this guy will be husband material.

Then there is most definitely a type of man who is faithful, honest, monogamous, and loving. For life. Who means what he says and says what he means. Who knows himself, believes in himself, and believes in his partner too. Who enjoys sex as much as anyone but is much more interested in building a strong solid house than a sand castle, and has the mental and emotional tools to succeed at that. And if somewhere sometime he trips up, he'll own up to it and make amends; though he wont make a habit of it. This guy you should snag right away if you want a husband for life, though you have to be very very careful and take your time; the other two types very frequently masquerade as this type of guy. But time reveals everything which is why a long engagement is always a really good idea.

Love is not enough; marriage is for grown-up men of honesty and integrity. Now if two guys like that get together, they will stay together; and if they decide to play together, then that's up to them. But seems to me much of the time what happens is, one grown-up guy falls for one of the other types; and then there's only heartache in the long run for that couple.

Back to what my friend said at the start of this post: if you DON'T want to be married, for God's sake don't pretend you do. Keep playing and having fun as long as you can, because you ain't getting any younger. Just because gay marriage is legal in some places now (and more to come we hope) does NOT mean every man needs to be married or should be. You want to be a perpetual teenager and get your rocks off with all the other boyz of whatever age, fine and dandy. Have at it, it's a free country and you better enjoy life while youre living.

But some of us want more and we'll see the job through with the right man for all our days, through all the ups and downs of life, regardless of what the fashionable attitudes might be. That's my 2 cents, for what its worth to anyone.

make it four cents, because you pretty much covered mine!! spot on. ( i wonder if we had the same friend.... i got that talk from someone close to me as a kid, almost word for word....)

Kirk: You gave a lot of valuable insight to the issue. I would find it hard to think there would be too many pissed off at your comments. I have been in a relationship for 15 years now. We have occasional three ways, but there are rules that we have worked out over time and with much discussion. But amazingly, after 15 years we still have the hottest and best sex when it is just the two of us. We know each other so well, that we are able to focus in on exactly how the other one is reacting and play accordingly. But the agreement that we have about bringing others into the sex play stand solid and have have worked for us. To those thinking of trying open relationships or bringing another into the relationship or sex play, you MUST talk about it and BOTH feel completely comfortable about it. Jealously rears it's ugly head very easily and can destroy a relationship in no time.
Thank you for your insights and comments.

Kirk:

Your comments about monogamy are right on. I am a professional psychotherapist, university professor and have done published research on gay male couples and monogamy. There is simply no evidence that open couples are in any way less satisfying and less long lasting than monogamous couples. What I happened to find in my own sample was that couples that engaged in threeways had the most satisfying sex lives, compared to monogamous and nonmonogamous couples.

What I have also found in my own research and that of others is that some people are meant to be monogamous and some are not. Furthermore, it is possible that people's preferences can change, depending on factors such as their current partner, their age, their lack of success or satisfaction in monogamous or nonmonogamous relationships etc.

Good sex and love are not always connected and more men than women, for whatever reason (biology or societal factors) have preferred sexual variety. As a gay man who came out in the 1970's I wonder what happened to the notion that we were supposed to challenge and subvert the prevailing restrictive norms around sexuality. It seems now, too many of us want to mimic heterosexual institutions that frankly, haven't been terribly successful (like monogamous marriage.)

Instead, we should focus on embracing sexual expression in all of its forms, including monogamy, nonmonogamy, casual sex, bdsm, fetish, etc as long as it is mutally consentual.

Monogamy as a choice is not automatically or necessarily hetero-imitative, and reading this comment takes me back to the early 80s when gay men resisted appeals to limit sex partners in response to the growing AIDS epidemic using the same flawed argument. We all know how that turned out.

It is irresponsible for a professional psychotherapist to advocate for 70s-style sexual freedom in a time when playing around with strangers can result in serious disease (multi-drug-resitant staph, herpes, various STDs) that merely wearing a condom will not prevent and that mere visual inspection cannot rule out. Rising HIV infection rates among young gay men and men over 50 attest to the fact that our community, once again, is choosing denial in the name of “sexual expression in all its forms” over a rational choice to protect one's health and the health of one's partner.

Kirk's suggestion to overcome his hesitation to a young man who is admittedly reluctant to engage in threeways is outrageously inappropriate, both from a public health perspective and from a psychological perspective, and for this “professional psychotherapist” to suggest otherwise verges on malpractice. As a therapist I would validate the young man's hesitation and suggest he work with his partner to discover what may be missing in their relationship that they thought to gain by including others.

Men may be temperamentally more or less inclined to monogamy, but we are all vulnerable to communicable diseases. One definition of sex addiction is engaging in sexual behavior regardless of the destructive consequences, physical and psychological. Talk to me about your satisfying sex life after you've taken handfulls of pills daily, some with disfiguring and debilitating side effects, as I have for more than 20 years.

Threesomes can be a lot of fun, as long as you stick to the rules.

The guest has to respect the relationship, this is VERY important. This means he must give both partners equal consideration and attention. If he does not find one of them attractive he should not get involved. If he prefers one to the other he should nevertheless give both guys the same amount of time and energy.

It also means respecting the couple's space and privacy. Let them have time to themselves afterwards, don't outstay your welcome.

Zak

(A big hello to Kirk from an old buddy of yours whom you will recognize should you check me out under the profile "Vike.")

First of all, you go Kirkzilla! I've always loved your writing, and it's great to see you on the DH blog. (Guys--he's a fabulous writer so be sure to check out/buy his published work.) I find your advice practical and based on good experience--as always. I will react mainly, however, to the hot-button discussion it generated on the classic monogamy/non-monogamy polarity.

I've seen a few sides of this question. I've been criticized--sometimes, excoriated--for being in monogamous relationships by those who told me it was "men's nature to fuck around, no exceptions," with the implication that it "couldn't last," that it was "hetero imitative" and I was living in some kind of delusion--despite the fact I kept my exclusive agreement for those years I was in the relationships in question. Alternately, I've been criticized over the years for being in other, open relationships by those who needed to feel superior or secure about monogamy (at that moment) for whatever reason, and have endured withering critique why open relationships were "morally inferior," immature, or promoted routes of pathogen transmission. I've had friends in 3-way relationships who've endured everyone needing to tell them what they were doing, how they were psychologically deficient and needed to get into counseling, and being rejected by their own friends (especially the gay ones). I understand why people need to defend their own positions on this issue, but it all seems a little...tragic, unnecessarily hurtful?...to me.

Depending on whom you ask (and when), "real Men with integrity" are ready for "grown up" exclusive relationships, or are ready to muster the "outstanding courage and radical honesty" to declare that "boys will be boys" without exception and will always fuck around. Often times, you talk to the same men later, and they have been brought low by falling from their respective high horses. It's all a bit rich.

What I've learned from this is that a good number of people are too invested in policing others' relationships, and choices. I've encountered no end of men telling me and others who we are as gay men, as men, as an individuals...as if that were some static quantity, or there were some essential nature of men/gay men/YOU. Or furthermore, as if anyone really knew in any sort of reliable fashion!

Perhaps this will be seen as a cop-out, but I'm inclined to believe that there *IS NO* basic nature of men, gay men, or even individual people. We're not the same. We're wired differently. Furthermore, we evolve, we change, we learn, we improvise.

No one can really tell you who you are at your core, or tell you about your experience. It's your responsibility--and the substance of your actual life--to find that out and make those decisions/discoveries for yourself. You can decide on any different number of models for any particular reason you find compelling--whether that involves being traditional or unconventional, conscious or unconscious to different degrees.

That goes especially for relationships. It's nobody's business to tell consenting adults what to feel or how to structure their relationships. That should be determined and negotiated by the people in the relationship, not the culture around it. That includes the gay culture at large. I'm all for gay marriage for those who want it. I'm also for monogamy, non-monogamy, polyamory, polyfidelity, etc. for those who make those choices. As one boyfriend told me, "I've tried most of it, and none of it seemed any better or worse than the rest." Not form, but content.

Bottom line: give others--and yourself--permission to know what's right for you. In the end, it's not about superiority or inferiority, but rather loving and respecting each other. That's why we do this, right?

-Vike

I've played this both ways. When much younger, my other half and I were completely open, going so far as to share and get off on listening to each other's exploits. In the process, we made some unfortunately permanent enemies in the community, became more interested in our sexual activity than our relationship, and ultimately broke up.

In the years since, it's slowly dawned on me that monogamy isn't a choice, it's a by-product. Sex with intimacy, a history of shared experience, and the "L" word are an unbeatable combination. When all these are being shared and satisfied with the same person, who would want to bother looking elsewhere for mere recreational sex? As the late Paul Newman said, "I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?" (Is the moral here "believe in your own meat"?) LOL

Communication is indeed the key, as in all relationships. Sex itself is one of many forms of communication. When all other forms of communication stop, sex will die its own death. Instead of learning to communicate better, the couple breaks up, and the cycle repeats. Unsaid seemingly small concerns and differences again become tall, impassable mountains. Sex dies. Time to switch partners and start again. I don't see this as a gay model, it seems to apply to anybody.

So, according to Kirk's suggestion, the gay men in the room should try having sex with women?
According to Kirk, "Try playing with someone who’s outside the normal type range for both of you! There’s usually no magic bullet for a couple with divergent tastes. Second, I don’t think it’s healthy to have a really narrow type in the long run, so I would suggest that each of you expand your sexual repertoire.", that makes it sound like we can make ourselves have sex with and be attracted to people we are not. I don't understand that logic at all. While I agree with much of what Kirk says (I was in a very 'opposites attract' couple, that tried to do 3-ways, but couldn't find 'qualified' 3rd's, as our tastes were so different), he loses me with this argument. What is the point of 'forcing' ourselves to have sex with someone we don't find appealing? Sex, at it's base, when not about procreation (as it is in the case of gay sex), is in large part about attraction. If you find someone revolting, you find them revolting. I don't see how 'forcing' yourself to be attracted to people is possible.

I think most guys have a broader 'taste range' than they might admit. I also agree that those fellows who have a broader taste range are better off. But suggesting that to make our partner happy, we have sex with people we find unappealing, seems both unreasonable and unrealistic.

Having been throught his myself, I've come to believe that monogamy is an important 'stage' in a healthy relationship but not like a permanent 'state'. Have you ever seen the ads on Craigslist? How many are married guys or partnered guys looking for some on the side? In my opinion it is important to have discussions on this any other topics to keep a relationship functional. I'd much rather have my partner say, "I am missing X in our relationship, and I"d like to find someone else to explore this with", than find out he'd cheated (which is what happened in my last relationship). I think the 'trick' is how long the 'stage' is. You can't claim to be 'monogamous' with someone you've been dating for 3 weeks. It just isn't possible. I also think that after dating for 6 months (as in the comment above), you should still be in the 'I want to hump you like a monkey' stage. Not the, 'I am bored with our sexlife, and I want to fuck other boys' stage.

Very interesting article. Reading all the comments I found it very enlightening.
I think the bottom line is that not everyone is the same based on genetics. Yes, genetics.
A study a read some time ago shows that children have similar facial expressions even when seperated by adoption. To each his own. I know that for me any third person would get the same emotional attachment from me. In this case we would have to have a permenant threeway.

The key to a great relationship is having similar goals and values. If both desire open relationships, fine and dandy, but if not, three ways are not the beginning of the end, they are the end. For me, it’s not the fact that my man has sex with someone else, its the trust and deceit issues that accompany the pursuit of other partners that is so caustic to the relationship. Also the absolute disrespect that a great deal of men out there have for other men’s relationships and lack of tact demonstrated if invited over, often times without the knowledge or agreement with the partner. Monogamy is indeed a choice and outside what may be natural in the Human or Animal Kingdom, but the gift of love as expressed
with monogamy is the most valuable thing one human can give to another who he/she professes to love. It is the ultimate expression of trust.

I don't believe what I've read from some of you. Are your phreaking kidding me? Didn't we just go thru an AIDS crises in the 80s and 90s that killed thousands of us? Do you all think that the cocktails will always work? What irresponsibility!! Are you all sick in your minds?

And Kirk, you should be ashamed of yourself. You had the perfect opportunity to advise guys to become more responsible and what did you do with it?

I suggest to Kirk and to some of you guys that you read the book 'The Tragedy of Today's Gay by Larry Kramer. Your screws are obviously loose

I was the psychotherapist who wrote one of the previous entries. What is not surprising is the knee-jerk reactive response advocating the idea of sexual monogamy, and by association, restriction of our sexual needs to fit into the puritanical norms American hetersexual culture. But what I AM surprised about is the lack of knowledge regarding HIV transmission and the use of the threat of AIDS (by gay men!) to get people to submit to those norms.

Let's remember, HIV is not a moral retribution for having many partners or having unsafe sex. You get HIV from exchanging body fluids with an infected partner--this partner can even be someone you are in a monogamous committed relationship with. Having a lot of partners or having unsafe sex does not cause HIV. You can have casual sex with hundreds of men and not get HIV (like me and many others in my own research and on this website) if you always engage in safe sex or never have sex with someone HIV Some of us are HIV neg and have had ongoing contact with someone who is HIV positive and have not gotten it. Furthermore other STD's are also largely preventable and when contracted, very treatable.

I invite people to think about who makes the rules about sex and relationships--which even many heteros have trouble adhering to. I also recommend Michael Warner's classic book, "The Trouble with Normal."

Right Psychotherapist:

So continue to play Russian Roulette. Continue to advocate that guys play Russian Roulette with their lives. Brilliant advice from you!

It should be obvious to even you that if two people who are HIV negative have sex only with each other then there would not be the threat of a potential HIV transmission. Simple isn't it. Do you realize if gay men were never so bloody promiscuous in the first place that AIDS would never had had the effect it did? Simple isn't it. Wait for the next super bug. I will look forward to hear what you've got to say.

This has nothing to do about hetro norms. Aren't you concerned about the unhealthy menatal attitude that would have our gay brothers reduced to just being the receptacle for someone's body fluids? Aren't you concerned about the mental state of guys who are so emotionally damaged that they cannot form any sort of bond and would use another human being in such a fashion?

You can't be phreaking serious???? If you are you can't be a licensed therapist. If you are and you've got clients well....

This all kind of makes me sick. The bottom line is that you can't have your cake and eat it too. Who are we trying to kid? True, monogamy is, and should be a choice. However, one cannot truly be in a committed relationship unless that choice is made. I'm sorry, but if you think otherwise, you're kidding yourself. You know, as well as I, that there is no such thing as a committed, open relationship.

Bring on the backlash...

Kevin, Kudos to you! And yes sick! sick! sick!

It too makes me want to throw up.

We are so good at deluding ourselves.

soap box aside...

i think the main point is being missed here. it really doesn't matter what any one thinks of monogamy or thrupples and beyond. reluctant swinger asked a question, and HIS answer is in his very question. "the three way thing was his idea, which makes me wonder if he’s losing his attraction to me. I’m scared he’s going to be more attracted to some younger, hotter guy." don't do it, reluctant swinger. everyone else can tell you what they would do, but it sounds like YOU just are not comfortable with the idea. if your partner is not ok with your emotions, and doesn't respect you, then move on. period. don't be what you're not. if you go through with the three way thing, well... i am not a fortune teller, but it seems you're reluctant to the idea. and your insecurity may make what you are most afraid of happen.

although kirks' argument is very well thought out, it's just that. come on man, if you're going to give out advice, well, consider the advice you give, and who you are giving it to....unless this blog was simply to start dialogue.

jimbo

Well - its NOT always a choice as you state. Many species are HARD-WIRED to have ONE mate - FOR LIFE! Generalization, although feeds interesting debate, does NOT accurately reflect reality.

Hmmm...I can only relate my experiences. Depending on the relationship, open or monogamous depends on how the partners want the relationship to work. In my first relationship, I was TOTALLY faithful. We only were together for a year and month, but I never even considered cheating. I was totally into him, the sex was magnified by my love for him, and his personality just drew me in. Problem was that he did love me, but still wanted to try different men. I recall coming home early twice to find guys in the bed. Devastating. My second and most wonderful relationship of 6 years was totally monogamous until the last year. We did open it up, but it was due to him having erectile deficiency. We tried and tried, but after 2 months I was going nuts. We didn't seperate over opening the relationship. It was over his depression of being seperated from his family in Florida and the crappy job he had. He moved and became better but still has some "dick" problems which viagra kind of helps. We are best friends and laugh about our many "open" adventures.

I think monogamous relationships are easy to keep when you find the man that satisfies you completely. He makes your heart content, completely satisfies your sexual desires, and is your emotional support. Without those pillars being properly supported, the eyes cannot help but to rove. In some circles it is said, "if he isn't getting it at home, he will find it somewhere else."

I do believe that a man and a man can have a monogamous marriage but I really should not think that it should happen unless the males are wanting the bond they love each other without a doubt. I have my guy from DH and he has turned out to be a really great person, even though our ages are so different, him being 60 and me being 25, we get along very well and our relationship has potential, but what I mean is that guys should not get married unless they have most things in common because if they have a lot in common there will be no problems for them in the future unless they lose attraction. And I really do not think that being gay is genetic I never had real feelings for a male or any sexual attraction until I was 22 years old. Yes I did find a couyple teachers in school attractive which they were very cute the big bear type, but anyway I just brushed things off as a phase. Being Gay does not mean it is genetic, it is just a way of life certain people choose and are happy with, I know I am happy with my choice to be bi.