All relationships get boring eventually. People get sucked into the daily rhythm of work, bills, children, and responsibility. That great sex you had every night at the onset of your relationship has faded away to a once or twice a month thing that you have to ask for, like it’s a favor. We see couples on television who’ve either stopped having sex, struggle with how to rekindle the fire, or cheat on their partners altogether. But if somebody cheats on you, do you break up? Or should you try to adapt and reconfigure your relationship if you really love the person?
Open relationships, including open marriages, allow many couples, gay and straight, the power to alleviate the difficulty or boredom of being in a long-term relationship by tapping into the reality that people just want to have sex. But are sex and love the same thing? Books like Dossie Easton’s The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures shatters notions of traditional monogamy by inviting us to think about other types of relationships.
It all sounds great on paper — being able to sleep with whoever you want while having the companionship that comes with a stable relationship. But how do you actually go open? How do you deal with the jealousy? To find out, we talked to someone whose relationship recently went open after six years of complete monogamy.
Thought Catalog: How do you switch to being in an open relationship after several years of being monogamous?
Joel Davidson: Open relationships happen for a lot of reasons. A lot of my friends in New York were already in open relationships.
TC: Straight and gay?
JD: Yeah, gay and straight. James and Claire are basically swingers. David was open, Michael was open. So it was around. I think it takes lobbying. There’s always one person who wants it more.
TC: [Laughs] Lobbying!
JD: It’s true! Ideally, both people are into it. It really only works if both people are into it. But there’s always one person that’s just a little bit more into it. I brought it up with Devon when I found out that a lot of gays are in open relationships. It’s actually, like, really common.
TC: But doesn’t that touch on the stereotype that gays are overly promiscuous and can’t get enough D?
JD: I think it might be a stereotype — but! It’s true! It’s… I don’t know, physically and physiologically true. A lot of men need a lot of sex. You know? And I think if we raise women differently, women would probably want sex in the same way.
TC: If women were raised differently…
JD: I think so. A lot of this is cultural. We just inculcate to women that they’re to make babies and find a man. There’s a gender disparity, and I’m sure there’s a lot of research on that because women are horny, too. But maybe they don’t want to bother sleeping with men because most men are terrible in bed. Nevertheless! Gay men have always been hoes.
TC: When did you initially introduce the idea of an open relationship?
JD: I brought it up maybe a year ago. I think the idea was… it was important that it never seemed like I had to be in an open relationship. It was just a fun thing we could do together to spice things up.
TC: But didn’t you tell me that the thought of Devon being with other people turned you on?
JD: I am tantalized by the idea of him being with other men.
TC: Would you want to be there? Or just hear about it and watch? Do you participate?
JD: All! All of the above. I’d join in — I’m participatory. It interests me to see it, to hear about it, and to participate. It’s hot! When you have sex with someone, you only get to see them from one perspective. I guess this is why people put mirrors on their ceilings and stuff. I… I don’t want to look at myself. I think I look horrible, but I would love to see him from all angles.
TC: You recently had your first three-way. What was it like to touch another person’s body, to see another D, especially since you hadn’t had sex with anybody else in five or six years?
JD: It was wonderful. We’re animals. We feel good when we touch other things. It was thrilling, and very, uh, hot. The thing about three-ways is that they’re a mixed bag. I’ve been out with these guys a couple times, and they told me about the other threesomes that they’ve had and none of them have worked out before me.
TC: Maybe you’re just really good in bed.
JD: I think that’s true! I think we also just built up mutual respect beforehand. I mean, it’s really hard to just walk into someone’s house and have good sex. Three-ways are interesting with gays, because you can have two tops or two bottoms, I guess both of those can be complicated, though maybe two bottoms is harder. You know, it’s all about the hard cock, and there’s only one!
TC: A lot of people enter open relationships with a set of rules. No this, no that. What are yours?
JD: I thought our rules would be no sex, no seeing a person more than once. I thought that’s what I would need. Right now, our rules are be safe and talk about everything. If he starts seeing someone on a regular basis, I want to know who he is.
TC: By “seeing” do you mean like dating, or F buddy?
JD: I don’t know if I’m crazy about this, but I mean anything. It seems irrational that you can say, “Oh, you can see someone multiple times, but you can’t fall in love.” People fall in love all the time.
TC: This all sounds so great — we’re humans, sexuality is free, sex flows like a fountain — but how do you factor in real emotion? What do you say to someone who is like, “Great, I’d love to F a lot of people, too!” How do you process the fun of being in an open relationship with the human emotion of jealousy?
JD: Indeed. I think it’s all about talking about it. People only get jealous when they think they’re not getting the whole story. You know, when they think you’re hiding something from them. They get jealous because they think there’s a part of you that you’re giving to someone else that you’re not giving to them. It’s all about honesty. If I know he’s being honest with me, I know he’ll always come back to me.
TC: This seems to touch on polyamory. Not just F-ing freely, but the potential of having more than one person in the relationship. You say you’re not a jealous person. If your partner came to you and said, “I love someone else” do you break up with him?
JD: I’m all about taking it as it goes and being mature and open about it. I don’t foresee either of us falling in love with someone else, just because we’re so busy. I don’t think either of us wants the burden of another person we have to talk to everyday! That being said, I think that it’s clear that we love each other, and I’m confident that’s always going to be the case. Anyone else who wants to join in can, but they’re never going to get prime placement. I think the idea of having a network of people who care about each other is invaluable, especially in this age where we all need social capital.
TC: We’re so used to the idea that everybody’s relationship is monogamous — that once you’re monogamous, you’re done with kinky sex. You rush home after work to see your partner, have dinner, and go to bed. You don’t imagine someone being married, dropping the kids off at daycare and rushing over to a bukkake orgy.
JD: Dan Savage calls it the “monogamish closet,” and he did a whole week where he posted articles from people who, by all appearances, had a stable, monogamous marriage. Sometimes a partner has a particular kink that the other can’t or wont fulfill, so they’re allowed to go out just to get that kink. There’s so many variations. I think “monogamish” is a healthy, modern thing.
TC: But do you think monogamy can last? Is it a real thing? Do you think if more people opened up that they would discover the pleasures of polyamory?
JD: I think there aren’t enough representations of people in “monogamish” relationships. It’s a total pretense. We are getting at the point where the veneer, the fantasy of monogamy, is getting washed away. Everybody knows everybody cheats. But I think monogamy responds to social conditions. It’s been useful for the last few hundred years because of capital and gender inequities. But as gender inequities go away, and as people become more mobile and itinerant — like half the people I know are in long distance relationships — it just becomes less feasible. I think it’s possibly on it’s way out. But there will always be people who just want one other person, either because they’re jealous or feel a sense of ownership.
TC: Having sex with one person for the rest of your life, if you’re going to live until 70, 80, seems like a lot to ask.
JD: Yes! Monogamy comes from a time when most people lived until 40. It should always come from a place of, we’re young, we’re hot, let’s just experience stuff because why the F not? It should be in the spirit of adventure. I honestly think that once my partner starts telling me about people he’s hooking up with it’ll be like a fun thing we can kiki about, like we’re best friends.