The Healthy Bear On Open Relationships

Hey there Guys,

If you were ever looking for a dividing topic within some sectors of the gay community, just start a discussion on open relationships. To quote Bearorama by fellow bear blogger Simon:

There is a strong politics among gay men about open vs closed relationships. It seems everyone has an opinion about it, ranging from being very angry and against open relationships, to those so open they discuss and plan their next or latest root with their partner over dinner. Often the debate boils down to single guys feeling used and abused by partnered guys, with the perception that the partnered guys just want get off without investing emotionally (as they have that back home). On the other hand, it can also get to the point with some couples where they are so explicit in their chasing and pursuit of the next conquest it can be hard to see where their true emotional investment lies. The sexual becomes political and everybody is ready to weigh with their moral two cents worth.

In the spirit of full disclosure I am in an open relationship, while certainly not in the “dinner table planning” side of the spectrum both my partner and I are very open about our individual desires. I am also clear to my outside partners that I am in a relationship which has certainly led to some sudden rejection of myself.

From my understanding it seems to be all about context. Say for example visiting a sex on premise venue. Given that information is often one of the last things to be exchanged in these clubs there seem to be fairly good understanding that people there are looking for an enjoyable experience that does not have to extend beyond the time spent in the rooms.

Of course I have had some very intense connections in addition to making some great friends, however sometimes I am left with the feeling that my body was used as a sex prop with the experience being rather empty. I imagine that this is the same lack of emotional investment that Simon is talking about above. For me great sex is about connection and enjoying the sensations and fun that two men can have. Simon sums it up very well:

…a simple intention to connect, to join, purely in the moment. In doing so there a giving attitude and a desire to connect, whether this connection be for a matter of minutes or for passion-filled hours. With a simple intention to give rather than receive there is a true sense of connection in that moment which defies the narcissism or insecurity of the ego. This can result in pleasure on purely a stimulus level, or a deep sense of emotional connection, with either occurring in the present moment. This exchange then has a deep sense of value for both parties, whether it is a once off, or the beginning of something more regular.

When both parties approach with an intention to give rather than receive, the moral judgements driven by the ego begin to disappear. This experience of connecting, purely in the moment without fear or prejudice has a timeless feeling. It offers a rich opportunity to connect in that moment alone, without being loaded with expectation or definition. Whether this connection occurs between two single guys, a single guy and a couple, or a couple alone, the spirit of the connection is more important than any moralistic argument from the outside.

These experiences can be very intense and for some guys it is this intensity that can lead to confusion. If you are single and feeling ready for a relationship, having an experience like this can be disappointing if you want ongoing contact and it’s not offered. For some partnered men the experience can be akin to that same feeling of first love leading to questioning of their current relationship.

I’ve been on both sides of the equation and the key I have found to helping understand these feelings is honesty, not only with your partners but most importantly yourself. From this perspective I can understand those episodes of rejection I have experience from single guys when I’ve explained I’m partnered. Yes it hurts to be rejected, however if someone is keen to meet the man of their life hooking up with coupled guys is probably not going to be the best strategy.

I am also respectful of my partner and our primary relationship. I have been very fortunate to meet a man who loves me for me, the fact we are both free to explore our sexuality is cream on the cake. Sure we both have our crushes. There are some very sexy men out there, of course I’m going to have occasional lust. Being open and honest with each other we have been able to enjoy those moments just as much as our time together.

Of course not everyone agrees with me on this topic, this is why I thought it would be good to talk about. What are your thoughts on the blurring of traditional relationship boundaries?

Guys I would love to hear your thoughts.

Yours in good health.

Dr George


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