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Mark Brennan Rosenberg Headshot

Are Gay Men Scared of Monogamy?

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Image Source via Getty Images
Image Source via Getty Images

In a recent blog post I wrote on The Huffington Post, "8 Things Gay Men Need to Stop Saying," I listed "Do you want to sleep with other people?" as one of the things that gay men need to erase from their phraseology. My tongue-in-cheek look at gay culture, which was meant to be taken with a grain of salt, created a maelstrom, with hundreds of people tweeting and responding to this one specific question that has come out of the mouths of so many gay men.

"Don't tell me how to be in a relationship."

"Why are you dissing open relationships?"

"I will do what I want with my partner."

These were several of the (more polite) messages I received once the blog post went viral and people all over the world were responding to it. It even sparked a discussion of HuffPost Live -- "Queer Monogamy: All It's Cracked Up To Be?" -- in which I participated. I seemed to be the only person in the discussion who truly believed that gay male relationships should be monogamous, and in a Carrie Bradshaw moment, I thought to myself, "With all this opposition to gay monogamy, are gay men simply scared of monogamy?"

I honestly don't care what people do behind closed doors. I come from the old school: What you do in your own bedroom is your own business. But with gay couples fighting for the right to marry in every state in the country, why on Earth would this conversation come up? Isn't it an oxymoron? Don't we want straight people to understand that we want what they want? Whether or not they partake in open relationships or threesomes as their gay counterparts do, they certainly don't talk about it as openly as we do. So to me, the gay community is essentially saying, "We are fighting to have the same rights that you have, but we are going to continue to sleep with people outside our relationship and partake in threeways, because we can, and it's our right to do whatever we want." You're trying to make a case for equality, but it doesn't seem that you want to adapt; you'd rather rewrite the rules, even though marriage usually involves only two people in the boudoir. In fact, sleeping with someone outside your marriage is usually grounds for divorce.

I've thought about this topic a lot, and I discussed it with a friend over dinner the other night. We sat down next to a friend of his, who was dining with his best friend Jim. Aside from Jim, everyone at the table was in a long-term relationship. Jim moaned about the trials and tribulations of dating in New York and how difficult it is to find a quality boyfriend. When I asked him how he was looking, he told me that he rarely goes to mixers or parties; instead, he uses Tinder and Grindr to search for a boyfriend. Mind you, I do believe that these apps can be useful (mainly for hooking up or connecting guys in rural areas who do not have a safe place to congregate), but I do not believe that either is useful for finding true love.

My friend and I told Jim that we may be able to connect him with one of our friends, and when we asked him what he was looking for in a guy, he regaled us with a long list of physical attributes. He had designed the perfect-looking man in his mind. However, when I asked what he was really looking for in a man, personality-wise, the only thing he could come up with was, "Someone funny." Everyone wants someone with a good sense of humor. But really? When I asked him if he would like me to put him in touch with Mixology, a completely offline matchmaking service strictly for gays, he told me, "No, thank you. I have all I need to find a beau, and it's in my pocket," referring to the apps on his mobile phone. I went on to speak about Mixology's success rate with matching people offline based on personal interests and education; in fact, they withhold photos of people's potential matches in order to match them based on personality rather than looks. But he wanted no part of it.

To me, it seemed that this man was frightened of monogamy. He would rather sift through thousands of photos every day, searching for the perfect-looking man rather than the perfect man for him. Everyone wants a perfect-looking mate, but if that perfect-looking mate has shit for brains, then it's back to the drawing board, and the cycle essentially beings again.

Afterwards, I went straight to Meghann Novinskie, a woman I have great respect for. She has helped me through a relationship crisis or two, and she has years of experience working in the dating industry. She is also the relationship expert and one of the brains behind Mixology.

"There is a place for Tinder and Grindr in our culture," she told me, "but not for those who are actually looking for relationships. Tinder and Grindr aren't the place to search for a soul mate. They're more of a distraction, if anything, if you're looking for a partner."

So if people are using those apps to look for a relationship and it's clearly not working out, why do they continue to do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result?

"Relationships can be scary," Meghann said, "and I believe that some people use those apps to [postpone] really trying to be in a relationship, potentially because they are scared of settling down. Plenty of my clients have confessed to using Grindr, and there is nothing wrong with that, but they come to me once they have gotten it out of their system and are ready for something meaningful and special rather than a one-night tryst. It could also be the fact that until recently, gay relationships and marriages haven't been as accepted as straight marriages, so it potentially hasn't been in the minds of many gay men to settle down until recently."

As we continue to fight for the right to marry in every state while also trying to redefine relationships to make nonmonogamy acceptable, it leaves many in the gay community confused. I know plenty of gay couples who are in happy, healthy relationships who don't cheat or partake in threesomes, but I also know many who do. Why is the gay community now trying to redefine what a relationship between two men or two women should entail?

"I have always had the firm belief that if you find someone that you really love, the question of 'do you want to sleep with other people?' rarely comes up," Meghann told me. "But if it does, have a plan. Are you OK with this? Or not? What's the plan if you're not game for the shift from monogamy to 'monogamish,' as Dan Savage likes to say?"

Certainly, some straight men and women cheat on each other or have open relationships or threesomes, so it's a wonder that we don't hear about it more often. And it's a wonder to me that gay men are so vocal about their open relationships and their need to redefine relationships on their terms if they also want the same rights as everyone else.

I suppose it all comes down to personal preference. I prefer to be in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend, but many other gay men do not. However, it seems to me that if we want our relationships and marriages to be accepted by our straight counterparts, then maybe it's time to keep a lid on what exactly it is that we do behind closed doors. Maybe it's just no one's business.