BY Ari Karpel
July 07 2011 4:00 AM ET
When birth control pills were making Megan’s sex drive almost nonexistent, she told her boyfriend, Colin, what many gay men in a similar position might say to theirs: “If you want to have sex, feel free to sleep with someone else; just don’t tell me about it.”
Last year, after six years together and a year and a half of marriage, Colin’s chronic back pain was making sex less than fun. So he returned the favor: “Sleep around all you want,” he said. “Just don’t do anything stupid, and don’t tell me about it.”
That’s how Megan, now 25, and Colin, 26, college sweethearts who live in Minneapolis, came to fashion a committed, nonmonogamous marriage. They don’t flaunt their unconventional lifestyle (they requested that their last name not be used), but they are hardly alone. By designing a relationship that doesn’t fit a typical married couple, Megan and Colin have joined a small but growing number of straight couples who are looking to gay male relationships as the model for long-term, nonmonogamous unions.
Anti-equality right-wingers have long insisted that allowing gays to marry will destroy the sanctity of “traditional marriage,” and, of course, the logical, liberal party-line response has long been “No, it won’t.” But what if—for once—the sanctimonious crazies are right? Could the gay male tradition of open relationships actually alter marriage as we know it? And would that be such a bad thing? With divorce rates at an all-time high and news reports full of famous marriages crumbling at the hand of flagrant infidelities (see: Schwarzenegger, Arnold), perhaps now is the perfect time for the gays to conduct a little marriage makeover.
(POLL: Should "monogamish" couples become more widely accepted among straights? Vote on Facebook)
Welcome to Queer (Roving) Eye for the Monogamous Straight Couple Lie, brought to you in part by writer Dan Savage, who coined the term monogamish to signify committed relationships in which the partners are, he explains, “mostly monogamous, but there’s a little allowance for the reality of desire for others and a variety of experiences and adventure and possibility.”
Monogamish relationships are not about wild promiscuity or even Swingtown-style polyamory, two things the term nonmonogamy connotes. “It suggests a degree of promiscuity that isn’t true for most nonmonogamous gay couples I’ve known,” says Savage, who wants to promote qualities that make for an enduring union. “People primarily want stable, long-lasting partner bonds. They want safety.”
They also want to fuck other people, whether a relationship is open or closed (see: Gingrich, Newt). While many people believe that monogamy is the natural course of relationships, there are plenty of others who do not, and just as many who feel that strict monogamy denies a natural desire for life experience. “If it’s open in a controlled way, then it’s less destructive to a relationship,” preaches Savage, whose podcasts, column, and blog have become a soapbox for his views on relationships.
He can count Megan and Colin as devotees. Or at least Megan, who credits Savage with helping her find a framework for the relationship with Colin, who does not agree with all of the columnist’s views. “My husband does think much of his advice is good,” she says, “but when Dan Savage talks about how monogamy is unnatural, my husband gets really angry at him. [That’s when I try to] convince him that he’s a journalist, not a scientist.”
Nevertheless, Savage’s own account of his monogamish relationship (he and his husband, Terry Miller, have been together for 16 years and have a 13-year-old son) fosters a sense of support and community for couples who find little of it elsewhere. When he posted to his blog that The Advocate was seeking monogamish straight couples to interview, more than 25 couples eagerly emailed within 24 hours. And every one of them asked that their last names not be printed.