BY Ari Karpel
July 07 2011 4:00 AM ET
Sitron cites jealousy and dishonesty as obvious challenges in this kind of relationship and forgiveness, empathy, and self-awareness as essential qualities for a successful nonmonogamous pairing. “The requirements of nonmonogamy are the same whether it’s a heterosexual couple or homosexual,” he says.
Not surprisingly, there are even fewer models in the straight world. The ones that exist seem to be people who can be written off as kooky artist types, like Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton, who has a daughter with her husband but also has a boyfriend; and Mo’Nique (coincidentally, an Oscar-winner in the same category), who has spoken often of her open marriage. “We see examples of cheating everywhere,” says Schmit. “But openly discussed nonmonogamy? That is more taboo.”
Schmit says that the sexual context in which many gay men initiate relationships can smooth the way to normalizing nonmonogamy, and that’s not frequently how straight relationships kick off. “Plus, the steam room clause,” she says, referring to the one among some men in which sex at the gym does not count, “doesn’t really apply too well to straight people.”
“We’ve created a situation where, if you’re a good person, the only way you can ever have sex again is to leave your spouse, to divorce,” argues Savage. “Then you’re a good person and you can sleep with someone else — as if divorce and a broken family is the least worst option. I think adultery is the least worst option.”
This is where gay male couples and Savage’s outspoken role come in. “More than anything, gay marriage creates opportunities to broaden the conversation about marriage,” says Sitron. “I don’t think gay men are [necessarily] going to bring something [new] to marriage, but they are going to change the conversation about marriage.”
“I really enjoy sex, and I like looking at porn, and I like sexy guys, and I love Ben,” declares the happily committed and nonmonogamous Gary. “When [it became clear that] we could figure out a way to have all of these things together, without hurting each other, I thought, That’s a good goal.”
Megan and Colin’s open relationship evolved for very different reasons than Ben and Gary’s, and it reflects a certain pragmatic approach rather than some unconventional impulse. “Part of it is necessity,” Megan explains. “But I’m open to this because of who I’m with, not necessarily because of who I am. But I’d much rather be in an open relationship than be sexually frustrated or divorced. I’d far, far rather be in this situation than be in any of the supposedly honest alternatives.”
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