THE BLOG

Why I Stopped Hooking Up With Guys In 'Open' Relationships

04/04/2017 11:05 SAST | Updated 04/04/2017 15:58 SAST
David Goehring

Being gay isn’t what it used to be. As “gay and lesbian” has evolved and expanded into “LGBTQI,” various aspects of LGBTQI, particularly gay relationships, have also opened up to become more inclusive as well.

Even in the most conservative Donald Trump-supporting circles, they’re not strictly parties of two anymore. On average, roughly half of the people who proposition me on Grindr on any given day might have a partner or approach me as part of a two-for-one-night couple deal. Everybody seems to want more than one these days, and thanks to Grindr, Tinder, and all the other hook-up apps, the possibilities and opportunities are now endless. According to a 2016 U.K. survey, 41 percent of gay men there are currently in or have previously been in an open relationship. That’s a lot of partnered... and looking.

I’ve never been in an open relationship, but I have been in about a half dozen threesomes, three of which were with couples who presumably were in open relationships (and all of which started offline). It’s been nearly six years since my last one. That swan-song triple play in Bangkok was with a black guy from Philadelphia and a white Australian who had previously been friends without benefits to each other.

Despite the good times, I can honestly say I’ll never have another one, especially not with a couple. I’m so done with partnered... and looking. Threesomes and even twosomes with them are pretty much dead-end streets for the guest star. The hopeless romantic in me likes to think that any sexual encounter could lead to repeats, or more. So for me, hooking up with one or two partnered guys in an open relationship is as pointless as dating a married man. You may have the blessing of the partner/spouse – who may or may not be in attendance – but it’s for one night only. There’s still no future in it.

The romantic limitations of trysting with one or both members of a couple isn’t the only turn-off. Another is the psychology behind some open relationships and the hypocrisy that can be built into them. They’re supposed to be about openness and sexual freedom, but there often seems to be a strong undercurrent of control – for both the couple and the guest star.

Be hot. Be detached. But don’t fall in… like.

I’m neurotic enough as it is with a single guy. Who needs the added pressure to not cross the line and give away that you’re kind of into one or both guys in a couple? Is it really so bad if you want to see one or both of them again and not just for sex? According to two good friends of mine who have an open marriage, that is a definite no-no.

If open relationships are meant to encourage sexual liberation, why do rigid rules and regulations hang over so many of them like a disapproving finger-wagging schoolmarm?

“No kissing.”

“No cuddling.”

“Oral only.”

“We only play together.”

“Only when traveling.”

“Don’t fall in love.”

I’ll take an unattached guy without the emotional censorship, thank you very much. At least he’ll allow me to stare into his eyes longingly if the mood strikes. He might even stay for breakfast.

Despite my unwillingness to cameo in an open relationship, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. I used to cringe at the idea of couples sharing each other sexually, but there’s no longer any judgment here. I still don’t buy the theory that human beings are not monogamous by nature (the way I see it, to be or not to be one-on-one is more an individual inclination than a universal one), but I do understand that there are tons of desirable, attractive people out there. Would nature demand that we eat the same meal three times a day for the rest of our lives?

If only more gay men who preach non-monogamy were willing to go there and admit that they’re addicted to the sampler platter without trying to defend/explain/justify their choice. There’s nothing wrong with being horny and craving variety. Just be honest with yourself and with your partner about what you want and why you want it. In other words, own it.

When couples in open relationships start using science as an excuse to continue playing the field, I start rolling my eyes. The problem with falling back on that old "Humans are not monogamous by nature” argument is that it implies there’s something unnatural about choosing monogamy. It’s like they’re saying, don’t judge us, but we’re going to judge you. Some people are quite content eating the same meal every day, and nature doesn’t demand anything else of them either.

Another common defense/explanation/justification is the one about ownership: We don’t own our partners or their bodies. If someone is going to be “faithful,” it’s better to have them forsake all others because it’s what they really want to do, not because they feel obligated to do so.

I’d be more on board here if ownership wasn’t implied in the rules and regulations of so many so-called “open” relationships. They’re still, in a sense, all about control. But I do concur with the assessment of romantic obligation. And as the female protagonist of Ayn Rand’s short story “The Husband I Bought” realized, a partner’s sense of obligation may guarantee security but not everlasting one-on-one love. Of course, an open relationship wouldn’t have worked for Rand’s heroine, whose husband had fallen hard for someone else.

What they needed was something without limitations and boundaries, something encompassing more than what an open relationship allows, something more “polyamorous.” Yes, as the word suggests, the third wheel of a threesome doesn’t have to stay that way.

Lately, I’ve been noticing even more gay openness from partnered guys who describe their relationship status as “polyamorous,” which, unsexy tag aside, seems to be the truly liberated flipside of monogamy. It acknowledges that not only is it perfectly normal to be attracted to someone other than your partner, but it’s possible – okay, even – to fall for them as well.

I can’t imagine ever being comfortable in that kind of relationship, but from the outside, the polyamorous suitor makes a far more attractive bedfellow than the traditional “partnered” guy. All those stifling rules and regulations of open relationships can be thrown out the window. And if the lust connection blossoms overnight, you won’t have to cut it short just because the sun’s coming up.