Thinking about opening your gay relationship? Read this first

By Emen8, updated 1 month ago in Sex and dating / Dating and relationships

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Love your partner but still want to have sex with others? Curious about trying an ethically non-monogamous arrangement?

You’re not alone. It’s fairly common for queer relationships to be open — one study found 42 per cent of the partnered gay men who participated were consensually non-monogamous.

Open relationships and non-monogamy can be a great way to keep things fresh and put less pressure on your primary relationship. But that doesn’t mean a gay open relationship is easy or that it’s going to work for everyone. If you’re thinking about opening up your relationship (or even marriage), there are a few things to consider. As anyone in a successful open relationship will tell you, it’s best to go in with your eyes (not just your legs) open — starting now.

Ask yourself why you’re in a relationship

You’ve decided to be with your partner for many reasons. Comfort, companionship, closeness — that feeling of being the most special person in the world to someone else.

Think carefully about all these factors and how they might be affected by having sex with other people. If you think there’s an exciting new world to discover together (even if it’s a bit scary) and this might bring a new dimension to your love, then an open relationship might be something to discuss.

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Ask yourself why you want an open relationship

There are no ‘bad’ reasons for knowing what you want. But carefully thinking about why you’re considering opening your relationship will enable you to find the specific open relationship setup you’re after.

Sexual compatibility is a common reason — maybe you’re both tops/bottoms, one of you is attracted to more than one gender, has a higher sex drive, or you’re on different ends of the kink/vanilla spectrum. In these situations, consensual non-monogamy can let you both meet your sexual needs outside the relationship on agreed terms while maintaining trust and connection inside the relationship.

On the other hand, if you’re bored, not attracted to your partner anymore, or just keen to hook up with your flirty co-worker, an open relationship is likely to be a short-term solution. In these situations, consider whether you really want an open relationship or just to be single. Contrary to common (mis)conceptions, non-monogamy is not a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ option.

Have a firm idea of how you want your open relationship to work

Open relationships come in all flavours — to get what you want, you need to know what you want. Do you want to be polyamorous (have multiple romantic and sexual relationships)? Do you want to only invite the occasional guest star into your bed as a couple? Are you happy for him to go wild at Mardi Gras or spend a night at the sauna, as long as he comes home to you? Is kissing OK? How about fucking without condoms?

“Gay open relationships come in all flavours — to get what you want, you need to know what you want.”

And most importantly, think about how you’ll communicate about it as a couple. You may want to disclose every time either of you has sex with someone outside the relationship, or you may prefer a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ arrangement.

Whatever it is, be clear about what you want before you raise it with your partner — and be prepared to negotiate.

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Don’t forget about sexual health

In an open relationship, you’ll need to adjust your sexual health plan to help protect yourself and your partners from STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. You’ll also need to talk to your partner about how you’re managing your HIV risk, both with each other and with others.

It’s not a bad idea to head to your regular doctor or sexual health centre near you to have a chat. Use our interactive map to find ones nearby.

Prepare for the conversation

Take time to think about how to have this conversation with your partner for the first time. Once you’ve considered what you want from an open relationship, make space for a relationship check-in. You could say something like, ‘Hey, I’m keen to make some time for us both to share any feelings or needs we have at the moment. Would you be up for that?’

Make sure you’re both coming to the conversation from a good place. This means considering the time of the day or week, the location, and other plans you might have before or after. You’ll want the time and space to get into it if you need to. Remove distractions (that means phones on silent!) and practice active listening by being present and showing that you’re there to hear what he has to say, not just achieve your own goals.

A conversation like this can be a very special way to connect and tune into each other’s needs, so treat the space (and your partner) with respect, and you’ll get the most out of it.

Don’t expect non-monogamy to solve all your relationship problems

If you’re having a rough time in your relationship, non-monogamy is not the cure — that’s like having a baby to fix a marriage! Usually, the stronger your relationship is to begin with, the more likely it is to succeed when you start bringing in other sexual or romantic partners, and vice versa.

Every relationship has its share of problems, and the first tools you reach for should be communication and empathy, not Grindr and Scruff. If you’re not already good at talking to your partner about your feelings, an open relationship may not be for you.

“… the first tools you reach for should be communication and empathy, not Grindr and Scruff.”

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Open relationships require work

As exciting and liberating as an open relationship can be, there’s a lot of work behind the scenes (ask anyone in one).

For all the freedom non-monogamy offers, it also requires firm boundaries, discipline and compromise. You’ll need rules to ensure you always respect each other and your relationship. Communicate openly and consistently about your feelings; listen to him when he does the same.

Invest time and energy into ensuring your relationship stays strong and how much you value your partner. You’ll probably need to deal with jealousy at some point and should be prepared to navigate those feelings

Be prepared to have honest conversations about a whole lot of tricky stuff, such as possibly notifying your partner about STIs. It will take a lot of trust and a lot of love on both sides — as any relationship needs.

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Finally — consider speaking to a professional

If you’re still unsure or think there might be some other issues to work through first, consider talking to an LGBTQ-friendly relationship counsellor. A professional perspective can help you get some insight into what you’re both feeling and why. It can also help you step into the next phase of your relationship — whatever it is — with a deeper understanding of each other and a stronger connection.

Open relationships for gay and bisexual men can be a lot of fun and be a great addition to your existing relationship. Just make sure you do the work before getting into one so you’re set up for success.

For further reading on understanding yourself or navigating open relationships, polyamory and consensual non-monogamy, we’d recommend: