8 ways to make a gay open relationship work

By David Blackett | @boysies
Photo © Getty images

Come one, come all to the hot topic of OPEN RELATIONSHIPS. I can already hear the mumbles: ‘an open relationship isn’t a real relationship’… ‘if I was in love then I wouldn’t need anyone else’… ‘true love is only between two people.’ You guys can shut up, just shut up. Shut. Up. 

What you’re saying isn’t helpful and no one here will like you. This isn’t the time or the place. We are gathered today to help those who want to give it a go, maybe see if the shoe fits – and if the shoe fits then it’s none of your business, just be happy that other consenting adults are happy. OK? Good. 

Relationships are tricky beasts – wait, stop, reverse a little. People are tricky beasts – getting to know someone, finding out their inner workings, their wants and desires is an absolute nightmare. This is possibly why hook-up apps where a surname can feel too intimate are booming business, whereas find-a-pal-for-coffee apps are non-existent. So when it comes to a human you’ve interacted with to the point that you’re willing to present them to the world as an extension of yourself, with words like ‘boyfriend’ ‘other half’ or my personal fave, ‘apple of my eye,’ you will have already negotiated a tricky river of compromise, acceptance and most importantly love. Well done you – it can be hard work but it’s totally worth it. So why would you want to jeopardise that by throwing more arms, legs and lungs into the mix?   

Guys, I can’t lie to you. The main reason people want an open relationship is because it’s fun.

The reasons why it’s fun vary from person to person but fun is what it boils down to. Open relationships can come about for a bundle of reasons. Most of them are valid, but occasionally, like getting pregnant to save a relationship, they might not be the absolute best choice. I asked a couple of folk why they had opened up their relationship. Why two dicks just weren’t enough.

Dave from Leeds said: “I was really young when I got with my boyfriend. We were just teenagers. We were also incredibly horny all the time. It started pretty early, possibly in the first six months or so. We started chatting about who we thought was hot on a night out, daring each other to flirt with guys, and found out it was a massive turn on. It sort of just went on from there.”

Ryan from London said: “I like cock. My relationships feel like a separate thing to my sex life so I always go into it being honest about what my expectations are and what I want to do. Some guys are on board, others get freaked.” 

Getting into a conversation about wanting an open relationship can be difficult, and bad phrasing can open, a world of hurt. On one hand you might be saying to the one you love “I just really love to feel my bell end in a stranger’s arse” and what they are hearing is “You’re not good enough.” When this isn’t the case, your partner just doesn’t have a stranger’s arse any more. If you want to go down this route and keep your relationship – you need to make sure you are both safe and secure in how you feel for each other.  

For some people falling in love and sexual desire aren’t the same thing, and you know what? They don’t have to be. Your interpretation of love and what a relationship means is completely up to you. The important thing is not to be a dick and hurt people on purpose in the process of finding out. Why not try these pointers to minimise hurt feelings if you and your boy are thinking about embarking on a wondrous journey of extra-marital activity?


Try not to have more than four rules because then it becomes really unfun, but set boundaries that you’re both comfortable with. These rules aren’t set in stone forever, if he does something that’s not rule breaking and it hurts your feelings, then have a chat about why that is. If you want to try something outside of the boundaries then raise it for discussion. People and their desires change. Don’t worry, just be honest about how you’re feeling. Some common rules include:

  • Only playing together.
  • Never the same person twice.
  • Avoid mutual friends.
  • Hide the details, don’t hide the people.
  • Don’t bring anyone home.
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An open relationship can mean a lot of things, so set this simple rule from the start. Do you only open things up for a kinky three-way? Or are you as free as birds to go out and do what you like whenever you like? Is kissing a no go? Are you allowed to use chems with strangers? Making sure condoms are used is a no brainer though, right? 


Honesty might not always be the best policy. If going out and getting your yayas alone is the option you go for make sure you’re both agreed on how much you want to know. Some couples run happily on a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Others get their rocks off knowing that their bae is bumping uglies in a carpark in Croydon. You make the rules – just make sure they make you happy.


Why are you doing this? For the love of God WHY? Is it that more cocks in the bed makes you spaff like a trouper? Or is it that the light of your life just won’t chain you up, slather you in pig oil and fist you till you squeal? The guy you love and want to spend your life with just might not fuck the way you want and that’s OK, as long as everyone is on the same page. 

It doesn’t have to be all about sex. Some people just have too much gosh darn love to give and it’s more a polyamorous relationship they’re after. The major bonus of which is that it can end up with you having significantly lower rent.


Are they allowed to have your mobile number? Are all interactions strictly through hook-up apps? Can they know your surname? Can you follow them on Instagram but a Facebook friendship is a click too far? 


Jealousy can ruin a good relationship. If you have any feelings of jealousy then make sure to tell him. Jealousy is one of the main reasons people break up. Nip it in the bud before it affects your relationship. 


If you are having more sex outside your relationship than in it, you need to make sure your partner still feels valued. Sex between you and him may not be the most important aspect of your relationship, but you need to make sure he still feels like your king (or queen).


Make sure both of you get regular check ups for HIV and STIs. You may be using condoms all the time but your partner may not. Getting regular check ups at your GUM clinic will put your mind at ease and if one of you does pick up an STI you can get it treated. Remember it takes roughly about ten days for an STI to show up in tests. HIV can take four weeks.  

This was originally published by OutLife

Understanding the monogamy spectrum in gay relationships and deciding what’s best for you

A beautiful thing about LGBTQ relationships is that we don’t have to blindly follow heteronormative coupling constructs.  We can create relationships that work for us. Along those lines, there is a spectrum from monogamy to ethical non-monogamy open for gay couples to explore.

What do those terms mean?  Monogamy?  Non-monogamy?

The monogamy spectrum in gay relationships


When I talk about monogamy, I’m referring to a committed relationship with one person.  Typically, you’re only having sex and being intimate with that one person.


This is a term for couples who are mostly monogamous, except in certain specified instances when they may choose to add partners.

Ethical non-monogamy

This is a type of non-monogamy that describes a non-monogamous relationship that is fair, open and transparent.  The term ethical implying the intention is that no one gets hurt.

If we think about monogamy along a spectrum, most relationships will fit somewhere along the continuum.   While there certainly have been variations of non-monogamy in the past, this concept is becoming more and more familiar.

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The statistics

What do the numbers say?  The Couples Study, compiled by Blake Spears and Lanz Lowen, used in-person interviews, Facebook and Grindr data and online surveys to conduct in-depth research into the coupling data of gay men.

The findings

The trends are surprising.  Younger gay men are seeking and having more monogamous relationships than their elders. Gay marriage is becoming the norm. And both gay monogamous and non-monogamous relationships have the potential for long-term success.

The study found that 47 percent reported open relationships, 45 percent were monogamous, and the remaining 8 percent were unsure what type of relationship they were in.


Surprisingly, both monogamous and non-monogamous couples felt they were being judged by each other for their sexual choices.  Not surprisingly, all gay men were longing for more community support.

Most of us know the feeling of walking into a gay space and feeling judged.   Why do we do it to each other and ourselves?

Instead of being supportive of those in our community who choose to have different relationship structures, some of us are being judgmental, mean and even slut-shaming our feel gay friends.

What is slut-shaming?

Think Hester Prynne and The Scarlet Letter.  Typically, slut-shaming is used in the straight world as a way to control and restrict women.  Women are shamed and humiliated for being open and comfortable with their sexuality.  Hypocrisy at its worst, because men are usually celebrated for the same type of behavior.

However, this concept is creeping its way into the gay community.

Talking openly about your relationship

If you’re going against the relationship norms in our heteronormative, mainly monogamous society, you’re going to come up against pushback.  Whether from family or friends, someone is bound to give you a negative reaction.

However, just like coming out about your sexuality, its important that you’re able to live freely and openly as your authentic self.  Like coming out of the closet, start with those you think will be most supportive and expand from there.  The more we can talk openly about our relationships, the easier and more normalized they will become.

Sexual Revolution

There was a time, pre-HIV and AIDS when many members of the gay community were more sexually free.   After years of being oppressed and persecuted for having sex and being gay, the 1970s and 80s brought about a freedom of sexual expression that was politically and psychologically important.


After the AIDS crisis hit, sex became a dangerous thing for gay men. An entire generation of our brothers was wiped out. The bathhouses closed and the sexual revolution was quickly extinguished.  Sex became linked to disease and dying.


Enter PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.

In 2014 the FDA approved PrEP, a once daily pill to prevent HIV infection in people without the virus.  While PrEP is not recommended to replace condoms, it can provide extra security and protection when engaging in sexual activity.

Cue another sexual revolution.

An entirely new generation of gay men can take a daily pill and have less fear about sex.  This has dramatically increased the numbers of men having sex with men without condoms, which has spurred an increase in STI numbers, but that’s another topic.

I’m not a medical doctor and make no claim to be one, however, using or not using condoms is a personal choice and we must respect and honor an adult’s right to make choices about their body and sexual health.

What kind of relationship do you want?

Whether you and your partner(s) decide to have an open, somewhat open or closed relationship, there are some tools that you can use to help with the process.

Ground rules

What will make you feel safe in your relationship?  It’s important to be able to talk with your partner about what kind of relationship you want to have.

By clearly articulating your fears, wants and needs around your unique relationship you can avoid unnecessary hurt and conflict down the road.

Are threesomes acceptable? Can you have sex outside the relationship? If you do have sex with someone else, does your partner want to know about it?


These are important conversations to have with each other.


Most relationships can benefit from improved communication. Whether you’re monogamous or not, being open about your wants, needs and desires can create an atmosphere of safety and connection.

There’s nothing more frustrating than talking past one another. Work on reflective listening skills, empathy and compassion.  They can go a long way toward strengthening your relationship.


In order to establish trust and avoid betrayal, honesty is an essential part of any relationship. It can be scary and vulnerable to be completely honest with another person. However, without a foundation of honesty, many relationships will wither, struggle and die on the vine.


Feeling jealous in an open relationship is perfectly natural.

The trick is not to limit the range of emotions we feel, rather decide what we want to do with the emotions when they come up. Because they will come up.  For example, you may feel jealous if your partner sleeps with another person, but feeling jealous in and of itself is not the end of the world.  How you manage and communicate those feelings are crucial to relationship success.

New frontier

We’re in an age when we can decide what type of relationship structure works for us. For some, a monogamous relationship is crucial to feeling safe and secure. For others, there are various non-monogamous arrangements that can allow for safety, security, increased intimacy and not to mention fun.

Open or non-monogamous relationships

There are a number of resources for couples looking to open up or change the structure of their relationship.

If you want to read more about this topic or do some research, here are a couple of books that can be useful.  The Ethical Slut is a fantastic primer for those interested in learning more about non-monogamous relationships.  Another strong book for navigating non-monogamous relationships is Sex at Dawn.  It explores the history and evolution of relationship structures in our modern world.

What do I do when jealousy comes up?

One of the main questions that comes up about non-monogamous relationships, is what to do when jealousy creeps in.  Here are some tips and tools to help you begin to deal and process the jealousy that may come up.

Sit with the feeling. Try and understand it without judgment. Are you scared that you may lose your partner? Are there ways your partner could make you feel more secure? The first step is understanding what’s going on inside you and then you’ll be better able to ask for what you need.

Take a moment before you react. In primary attachment relationships, small actions can sometimes cause big reactions. Take a moment to calm and soothe yourself before beginning a tough conversation with you partner about your needs or fears.

Give yourself a pat on the back. Open relationships take a lot of work! They require trust, honesty and communication on a level that can be pretty intense. Take a moment to validate the progress that you have made so far.

Communicate with your partner. Make a pact to only communicate about sensitive topics when you’re both feeling calm and grounded. Make sure you know what you are feeling or needing before you begin making requests from your partner.

Turn toward each other. This is a technique often spoken about by John and Julie Gottman, leaders in couples therapy research. When your partner does reach out to begin processing or looking at tough emotions, make space for them. They’re more than likely making a bid for connection and putting themselves out there in a vulnerable way.  Turn toward them, instead of turning away and making the situation worse.

Hopefully this article provided a brief overview of some different relationship structures and how to begin talking about this topic with your partner.  Be sure to reach out for support if this is causing conflict or pain in your relationship.

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist with an office in San Francisco, CA. Tom feels passionately about helping people have better relationships. The purpose of this blog is not to provide advice or to take the place of working with a mental health professional. For more information please visit the homepage.

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