Recently, I was interviewed by a freelance gay reporter from NYC about open relationships. He found me through my book, “The Gay Man’s Guide to Open and Monogamous Marriage” (to check it out, click here: https://lifebeyondtherapy.com/mybook/). I don’t know when his article will be published, but I wanted to share the 3 best questions from the interview with LGBTQ San Diego now:
Interviewer: A recent study suggests that nearly a third of gay relationships are open, with earlier research suggesting these rates are higher, closer to 50 percent. I was fascinated when I read your take on “double testosterone relationships” in your book. Why do you think open relationships are more common among gay men?
Michael: In my experience, I think that most straight men would love to be in open relationships, but most straight women aren’t down for that. I’ve been at sports bars with gay friends where straight men have told us, “I wish I was gay, because then I could have all the sex I wanted to…women want to be wined and dined, but us guys just want a good, hot f*ck”.
As I talk about in my book, testosterone is a hormone, and it encourages what Freud calls, “id-driven desires”, like wanting to eat, sleep and have sex whenever we want it. It’s been identified as a “primitive” desire in the oldest part of our brain. As a psychotherapist, it’s my experience that two men together are going to have more sex (with more people) than a man and a woman or two women together.
Perhaps if straight men had partners like Samantha on “Sex and the City”, they would act like we gay guys do: having sex with lots of different partners, and often.
I think that open relationships are under-reported. Most gay relationships are – periodically – open in some way, e.g., hooking up (as a couple) with another guy or having “happy ending” massages. I’d estimate that only about 25% of all gay relationships are completely monogamous.
Interviewer: What do you find are the biggest challenges for gay couples when exploring open relationships (compared to straight and lesbian couples) and why is that?
Michael: Jealousy and insecurity are the biggest challenges that I see from my therapist’s chair: it’s not easy when your partner is having great sex and you’re not. It’s not easy when you appear (to your partner) to be falling in love with someone else. It’s not easy when you find yourself gaining weight – COVID or not – and don’t feel desirable, but your partner has lost his “COVID-15”, gone back to the gym and is hooking up with a new twink every night.
Competition fuels jealousy. Two men together are more competitive than a man and a woman or two women: it’s that damned testosterone again! We both want to win, to be the more handsome, wealthier, more successful partner. We compete with our partners, whether we want to admit it or not…and sex is one area where we compete. “The Ethical Slut” (a great book) dealt with this subject from a woman’s point of view, my book addresses it for gay men.
Interviewer: What are the more common reasons gay couples open their relationships?
Michael: Many men will say, “Boredom”, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think – as men who love men – that we want sex lives full of variety and excitement and, unlike straight men, many of us are not willing to settle for less. And, our hormones egg us on: our dicks lead us to hooking up even when our minds and emotions may not be totally on board.
No matter how much we love our partner, we still want sex that is new and exciting. Sure, we want to know that our husband is there for us, loves us, and has our back, but we want Superman in bed and Clark Kent at tax time…and that’s pretty damned hard to pull off! We not only want Superman in bed, we want to be Superman in bed!
Maybe these demands for the Superman/Clark Kent combo are too much for any one man to satisfy, so we may choose to be Emotionally Monogamous with our partner (he’s our main man, the one we’ll always be there for) but also Sexually Non-Monogamous with him (we can enjoy sex with other men without threatening our primary relationship).
It sounds simple in theory, but it can be tricky to pull off in real life: emotions like jealousy and insecurity rear their ugly heads no matter how secure we are. But, for those willing to work through these challenges, the potential is rich indeed. I’m not saying that Open Relationships are better than Monogamous ones, what I am saying is that they are different, and, as such, have their own joys and sorrows.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBTQ clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.