For many of us, the real question is: whether we get married or not, do we want to be monogamous? Is it possible to be happy with only one person?
Whether you are currently coupled or not, let’s explore the pros and cons of each.
Take a moment and consider:
· Is it realistic for me to have sex with only one person for the rest of my life?
· How do we (or would we) manage incompatible sexual desires, e.g., if I like wild, animal-like sex and she likes it tender and gentle?
· What happens if we have incompatible libidos: if he wants to do it once a day and I’m happy with once a month?
· What is your intention for your relationship: what do I want from my relationship? If you’re single, look at past relationships and ask “why did I stay with her/him all that time?”
· What would be the purpose of an open relationship? Of monogamy? What are the pros and cons of each?
Many of my coupled clients are examining traditional heterosexual ideas of marriage and finding them lacking. Other people, however, think that the idea of “emotional monogamy” and “sexual non-monogamy” is just a way to rationalize not being faithful to your partner. With the opportunity to marry finally available to us, now is the perfect time for us to critically analyze the traditional concept of heterosexual marriage and decide if this type of relationship works for us or not. If not, why not “reinvent” marriage?
You may ask: why bother? Well, when half of straight marriages result in divorce, is this a good relationship paradigm for us? On the other hand, let’s not idealize open relationships either. How many open relationships are happy and healthy? Isn’t it more difficult to have a good open relationship than a “closed” one? In a closed relationship you have only one other person to work out your intimate difficulties and disagreements with. If you open up your marriage/relationship to other people, you literally have more people to learn to get along with on an intimate level. If you want to re-invent marriage in the form of an open relationship – how do you pull it off?
So let’s say you and your partner decide to get married, want to remain emotionally faithful and yet sexually open up your relationship. This is not uncommon for many of the couples that I see in my psychotherapy practice. When a couple decides to explore this kind of relationship change, I advise them that opening up the relationship is likely to bring major changes to ALL aspects of their relationship. I recommend that – together – they talk about how they each want it to go and what problems they anticipate. This is a complex process: each couple needs to mutually create what works for them.
An open relationship can be a beautiful thing, but it takes a lot of time, energy and honest, respectful ongoing communication. It ain’t easy: you can expect to experience jealousy, insecurity and a lot of difficult emotions along the way. Some couples in trouble think that an open relationship will “save our marriage”. Don’t count on it. Shaky relationships can be pushed over the edge by forcing them into open relationships. This is a serious decision; not a trendy new thing to try.
Whether you get married or not, it’s a lot of work for two people to be a successful couple…and even more work when that couple is gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender. It’s hard enough for straight folks to make it work, even with all the support they get from existing heterosexist political/social institutions and religion. It’s all set up for them and still half of their marriages fail. Without all that systemic societal support, we have to work harder to make our relationships and marriages successful.
Every loving LGBT couple is a living creation of two people; every relationship – no matter what form it takes – needs time, energy and perseverance to grow and thrive. A loving, fulfilling marriage is a joy and a treasure; perhaps there’s nothing more worthwhile.
As you consider the possibility of marriage, take the time to ask the question: “what do I want my marriage to be about?” Whether you choose monogamy, an open relationship, or some completely unique paradigm that you and your partner invent, please feel free to “reinvent” marriage for yourself. Who knows? Maybe straight couples will someday be imitating us. It wouldn’t be the first time.