Gay Relationships: Non-Monogamy or Not?

Legalized gay male marriage is relatively new in the scheme of things, but gay male couples facing decision-making about non-monogamy vs. monogamy is not. Openly gay therapist Michael Dale Kimmel decided it was time to offer men some guidance on related issues.

Kimmel states in The Gay Man’s Guide to Open and Monogamous Marriage (excerpted in The Advocate), “Marriage between two men is — in my experience as a psychotherapist — dramatically different than heterosexual marriage. It’s a double testosterone marriage. With all that testosterone, sex is probably going to be handled quite differently for us than for some straight couples or even for some lesbian couples.”

As I see in my own practice, though, it’s not just gay relationships involving themselves with these questions. Some couples of all orientations are potentially interested in ethical non-monogamy and thus could benefit from reading about or hearing the experiences of those who’ve already tried it.

Questions that many gay couples grapple with, he tells fellow gay therapist Mark O’Connell, LCSW (HuffPost), include the following:

• How do you decide whether to choose monogamy or an open relationship?

• What happens if you don’t get support for your marriage from people around you, important people, like your friends, family and community?

• If you are married, how do you and your mate want to do parenting?

It’s not, of course, that Kimmel is actually advocating open relationships versus non-open. What he’s doing is presenting the reality that some will choose this, some won’t. Per his interview with O’Connell:

While I considered non-monogamy important to explore in this book, I also was very clear that I did not want to denigrate or invalidate monogamous relationships. I know many gay, bi, trans and straight couples who have solid, loving monogamous relationships. To look down upon them would be foolish and naïve. There is no one form of marriage that is ‘the best’. Let’s be clear about that. That’s why this book looks at both open and monogamous marriage: each has its own unique gifts and challenges for us. Neither is better.

Representing each choice, in fact, are two married couples followed in the book. “They’re an amalgam of hundreds of real couples I’ve worked with,” says Kimmel.

In his review, author Darryl Stephens states that he was moved by Kimmel’s suggestions “for giving one another time and space to process when things get heated, and apologizing through action if words don’t come as easily…Being right doesn’t mean we win in a relationship. This is one of many crucial points the book illuminates.”

And actor/activist Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman calls Kimmel “a relationship anthropologist of sorts” who “has excavated the roots of holy matrimony, while trimming away the branches that no longer serve us, allowing the birth of a new age of partnership. A must read for any same-sex couple or individual questioning how & where we can discover our own happily-ever-after.”

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