As I get older, I find that my notion of relationships changes. When I was younger, I wanted hot and sexy with little to no concern for stability. Now that I’m older, I find that I desire commitment and stability versus superficial attachments. I want someone who is financially secure; someone whom I can depend on in a crisis. I want someone who is my intellectual equal; someone who will challenge my convictions and force me to look at life differently. I want someone I can trust; someone I can share my innermost thoughts and dreams with. I want someone who is completely committed to me; someone who makes my heart flutter at the mere thought of them. I am unabashedly a hopeless romantic who believes there is a special person out there with whom I can build a life. Is that unrealistic? Am I too caught up in the movie ideal of love and falling in love?
As I ponder these questions, I am confronted with the reality that maybe I am in the minority. I’ve heard many gay men say they want to be in a relationship, but I’ve found that few want to put in the work – and relationships are a lot of work. Along this journey of sorts, I realized that many of my friends were in seemingly happy relationships, but there seemed to be a common component that troubled me. Whether open or surreptitious, many of these happy relationships were not committed ones; at least not in the traditional sense. They were open relationships - a form of non-monogamy in which the partners are in a loving, supportive relationship, but are sexually active with other partners.
I never thought I was of that ilk (i.e., the unfaithful type), but as I looked at their relationships I wondered if the paradigm of gay relationships had shifted. I wondered if this was merely a different kind of love borne out of some evolved ideal of happiness or if this option was manifested out of nothing more than the inability of gay men to commit. I decided to interview one of my friends and his partner to learn more about this relational choice. We’ll call them Justin and Todd to protect their privacy.
Justin and Todd are an attractive, professional African American couple. Both come from a stable, two-parent home. The couple has been together for a total of three years. They committed to each other after a year of “sex with no strings”. The couple acknowledged early on that they enjoyed having sex with other people. As such, they created a relationship that worked best for them. The couple has two rules when it comes to sex with a third party: safe sex is a must, and the other partner must perform in the role of “top”. I thought it was very interesting that the couple assigned value to their anatomy. For now, the partners only have sex with a third party independent of the other. They have discussed sharing someone, but it has never actualized.
With the exception of how they handle sex in their relationship, all other components resemble that of a traditional relationship. Even though their sexual dynamic is a choice, the couple admits that they each become jealous from time to time. They wonder if a bond is being formed with the third party and if the person the other partner is sleeping with is better in bed than they are. Admittedly, all types of things run through their heads. For this reason, they agree that it is important to keep the lines of communication open.
After speaking with the couple, it appears they have a happy, healthy relationship. I concluded my interview with the question, “What would be your response to people who say you are having your cake and eating it, too?” Justin responded, “I would say it’s true, but I’m doing it with someone I’m madly in love with who has the same sexual desires as me.”
Well folks, there you have it. Whether we agree with their choice or not, there’s something to be said for finding a relationship that works best for you and the person with whom you choose to share your life with. With infidelity running rampant in our community, there’s also something to be said for a couple that has found a way to circumvent the pain of infidelity. Hell, let’s all have cake!