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Thursday, June 21, 2012

SL Letter of the Day: Do Monogamous Gay Couples Exist?

Posted by Dan Savage on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 10:29 AM

A few years ago I saw a video on Youtube of you talking about monogamy and open relationships. I find your stance on the subject very unappealing. Before that video I knew nothing about you. After watching it I despised you.

I’ve just recently come out of the closet to my mom and the rest of my family. Now that I am out I will soon be looking for a relationship. But what bothers me most about the gay community is the amount couple who are in open relationships. You have a major voice in the gay community, Mr. Savage, and I have come to respect you. I hope one day to have make a difference, as you have. I have watched countless “It Gets Better” videos, and they are a big part of the reason wy I'm still alive today. So thank you for that.

But I still have issues with you about monogamy. When I watched that one YouTube, it seemed like you were making monogamy out to be joke. You seemed to suggest that monogamy was only for heterosexual people. I understand that are a lot of people who share your view. But when you're a public figure, such as yourself, and you promote open relationships to the gay community, you open up a door. Gay men who look at a video like that are going to say, "Well, Dan says it's okay, so I'm going to have an open relationship.” It rubs me the wrong way because, as a community, gay people are still fighting for our rights. And with the amount of promiscuity in the gay community already I would hope someone like you would be more careful about what you say publicly.

Frankly, Dan, it's the acceptance of open relationships in the gay community that makes me not want to connect with the gay community AT ALL. Because now I have to wonder if my future partner is going to leave me because I don't want to “swing,” or if I will never find a partner because I want a closed relationship.
The one thing I never heard you talk about in that video is self control. Do you ever tell a person, “You should say no. You shouldn’t accept every offer for sex.” I don't see any loyalty in open relationships. Far to often I hear about relationships where one partner wants an open relationship and the other doesn't. What kind of relationship is that?

I believe that all open relationships are superficial. Self control is all about knowing you can do something and deciding you won’t do it. Why you don’t promote that message, Dan, instead of promoting open relationships?
I would appreciate a response.

Sent From My Color NOOK

I could respond to your letter by my lonesome, SFMCN, taking pains to reassure you that, yes, there are gay men out there in successful, long-term, monogamous relationships. But I think hearing from one of those gay men directly would be more valuable. So I passed your letter on to Jeremy Hooper, a writer, author, and LGBT rights advocate. Hooper regularly breaks news at Good As You, his must-read blog, and his first book, If It’s a Choice, My Zygote Chose Balls: Making Sense of Senseless Controversy, was released earlier this month. Hooper is married and he and his husband are monogamous. Hooper's response is after the jump.

·······················

I've been with my husband for nine years. The last time I so much as intimately kissed anyone else? Nine years ago. So yes, my friend—monogamy does happen within the gay community. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

But let's actually back up to where you now are in life. If you are aspiring to be in a loving, exclusive marriage, then you are worlds away from where I was in my teens and very early twenties. When I was a teenager, I didn't give even a passing thought to monogamy and how it might apply to my life. Don't get me wrong—I wasn't anti-monogamy. But I wasn't pro-monogamy either. I wasn't anything. Coming from the kind of non-accepting background that I did, all I could think about was getting to a place where I could live as an out and proud gay man, not what form that outward pride might take in a relationship.

That's one of the great positives of the growing awareness within our culture and the vivid focus the past decade has placed on marriage equality: current and future generations of young people get to think about being LGBT in a way that the younger versions of Dan and I did not. With these increased freedoms comes an increased consciousness—one that allows people like you to see your dating and mating possibilities with a much more focused, down-the-road goals in mind. That's awesome!

Personally it wasn't until I actually began dating seriously that I allowed myself to think about how such a coupling needed to look for me. Again, I didn't go into this figuring-it-out process with any concrete visions of weddings or, "Hi honey, I'm home!" refrains, so I didn't really need to make my relationships match any sort of perfect picture. I had no reason to lead the witness, as it were. Nevertheless, it took me about a millisecond of dating time to realize that I was, in fact, a monogamist, and that such would be the course for me and any potential mate.

The first time I remember making a clearly defined commitment towards monogamy actually happened in a weird way. It was at the end of my first same-sex relationship, actually. I had been dating a total sweetheart for several months and we had fun together. But I was so young and very green and it was clear that he, being a few years older and vastly more experienced, was much more focused on the longterm than I was. It had also become clear that another guy, a friend whose conversation I was finding more interesting by the day, was a better match for me. This all playing out only in my mind, until one night, hanging out with this friend while still in a relationship with my first boyfriend, I felt a need to make a move—one step onto a new romantic path and one step away from my fading relationship.

But not simultaneous steps. Ya see, I had made a monogamous commitment to my boyfriend—the first monogamous commitment I had made to any boyfriend—and I wasn't going to break it. Instead, I picked up the phone and broke off the relationship before planting a smooch on my friend-turning-lover. Looking back, it actually might've been nicer and more sensitive of me to have put off the breakup until we could get together for a face-to-face conversation, even if that would've meant a one-night overlap. But what can I say? My commitment to fidelity was stronger than my capacity to craft a tactful exit strategy.

As the years passed and other relationships ebbed and flowed, that commitment remained unchanged. I did give the other ideas the old college try, allowing my mind to consider an open relationship or flexible setup. I was certainly open to the possibility. The experimentation just never worked for me.

When I met my husband, the whole thing went to an even more clarified place. Andrew and I made a vow to not only be partners for life, but to be on the tightest of teams in every way. In the kitchen, this might mean nothing more than him opening the wine while I bring the water to a boil. In the living room, it can be as simple as instinctively pausing the DVR when the other needs to pee. But in the bedroom? It means knowing that you have a physical and emotional awareness of one another that no one else in the world possesses, and knowing that you share a truly unique space that you both regard as sacrosanct.

Some have other takes, and I am completely respectful of the different views. I'm confident that Dan and Terry, for instance, have a fantastic relationship and are as committed to being a team. But just as there are different ways of viewing just about any element within a relationship (e.g. parental decisions, financial setups, prenups, views on divorce, etc.), there are different ways of defining a team. I tell you my story, young'un, because I want you to see that there are many of us gay monogamists out there and to know that what you seem to want is 100% obtainable. Dan tells you his take, because he feels strongly about cutting through the sort of landscape where people greet monogamish couples like his with immediate skepticism or questions of loyalty. The great thing is that neither of us will define your life and relationships—you get to do that all by yourself, with no one to answer to but yourself and your mate(s).—Jeremy Hooper

I wanna thank Jeremy and I wanna encourage "Savage Love" readers to check out his new book.

And I wanna encourage you, SFMCN, to get out there and meet some other gay men. Some of the gay men you'll meet will be in or wanna be in monogamous relationships; some of the gay men you'll meet will be in or wanna be in non-monogamous relationships; some of the gay men you'll meet will be happily single and wanna stay that way. Some of the gay men you meet in non-monogamous relationships will have been in monogamous relationships in the past because that's what they used to think they wanted; some of the gay men you'll meet in monogamous relationships will have been non-monogamous relationships in the past because that's what they used to think they wanted.

Once you start meeting other gay men you'll see that there are lots of options and lots of relationship models, SFMCN, and you'll see that the gay community is not a monolith. You'll also see that all gay men in successful, healthy, loving, long-term relationships—monogamous or not—place a high value loyalty, trust, commitment, and, yes, self-control. (Being in an open relationship does not mean accepting every offer of sex!) And you'll see that there's nothing "superficial" about non-monogamous relationships.

As for this question...

Far to often I hear about relationships where one partner wants an open relationship and the other doesn't. What kind of relationship is that?

That's the kind of relationship that probably needs to end, SFMCN, because those men don't want the same things and won't be happy together.

As for why I don't "promote" the message that open relationships are harmful and superficial, well, I don't promote that message because it's a lie. An open relationship, like a closed one, can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, successful or not. (Laci Peterson was in a closed relationship.) I'm not interested in promoting one type of relationship model over another. I'm interested in people being honest with themselves and their partners about what they want, what works for them, what makes them happy, and then finding someone who wants the same things.

And finally...

Straight people don't have to be monogamous to be married or married to be monogamous. Our fight is for equal rights, SFMCN, not double standards.

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