What defines a relationship? Why is it so hard to find one? Why is it harder to maintain one? Do you need to be in a relationship to be happy? These are questions that we in the gay community ask ourselves every day. Even in the straight community this is a topic people struggle with more and more. There may not be one simple answer to these questions. However, there may be some general rules we could follow to make ourselves a little bit happier and less pressured to confine ourselves in what society expects from us.
So, how should we define a relationship? In my opinion a relationship is defined by the people in question that share a mutual understanding of what they expect. A mutual set of rules that can be followed by all parties. Notice I am not defining this as two people. There are many relationships that involve three or more individuals and that’s perfectly fine. As a general rule, if it works it works. As long as you are all happy with the arrangement then don’t let anyone outside that relationship tell you that it shouldn’t. If you are comfortable having sex with other people while reserving the more intimate moments with each other, then do it. There is no right answer to what is the right relationship. Do what makes you happy.
Monogamy is a huge issue in the gay community. It’s not unheard of, but it’s not necessarily common. The reason I say it’s an issue is because everyone claims they want it when they don’t. There is a stigma that we in the gay community should follow the status quo that is a monogamous relationship. If monogamy work for you, great! That’s wonderful, but it should stop being viewed as the perfect relationship and creating an unattainable stigma for us to follow. It should be an option, not a goal. I grew up my entire life in a small town where people got married at 20 and had kids shortly after and lived happily ever after. Being a gay male, this really created a stigma on me that I still struggle with today. A stigma that was a huge part of why I left my hometown. I could not compete with that lifestyle. I had to venture out and find what it truly means to be in a relationship. For some it is monogamy, for most others it isn’t. I feel like this stigma could be eliminated much faster if we stop lying to ourselves and being self-conscious and ashamed about wanting something outside of monogamy. Be honest with who you are dating from the beginning. Don’t wait until months down the road when they have a different idea of what your relationship is. If you set the expectation from the beginning then you can build your relationship off that expectation. You may find that someone who does want monogamy may be open to these new rules of a relationship because there is honesty involved. Most people that seek monogamy seek it because they want that honesty and integrity that comes with it. If they see there are other ways to achieve that honesty they may be more open minded to go on that journey with you.
I struggled, and am still struggling a lot, to understand this. I met who I thought was the love of my life and I ruined it due to my stubborn beliefs. The sad thing was, he wasn’t even doing anything. I was just so uptight and jealous when I was younger that I let it eat me alive. I feared that it was too good to be true and it pushed him away. That break up really grounded me and made me reconsider my values and what I need in a relationship. I am much more honest when I go on dates now, and I ensure I make myself very clear on what I expect. Right now, my ideal relationship involves monogamy at first for a few months to show that loyalty but then could be open to some more adventurous possibilities, whatever those may be, or if we decide to maintain that monogamy.
Don’t let anyone else define your relationship. This includes family, friends, and dates. Don’t let someone manipulate you into thinking their way of dating is the right way. No one’s way is the right way. Don’t settle to continue dating someone if your views on a relationship don’t mesh. It won’t work out and you will be wasting your time. Your time is precious and could be used finding the right person who you are on the same page with.
Now let’s say you are in a relationship and when you met you both had the same goals and idea of what a relationship is and now you are starting to have different ideas. That’s okay! However, you need to be honest with your partner. When you are getting into a new relationship it may be a good idea to set a timeline to redefine your relationship, or to keep it the same. Think of it as a contract. When it expires you update it, keep it the same, or don’t continue. Maybe every year you should sit down with your partner(s) and talk about what you like about it, what you want to change. You don’t have to agree on everything but try to meet in the middle on disagreements. If you both want completely different things then it may be a good time to either take a break or to go your separate ways. This is easier said than done depending on how long you are in this relationship, but at least you have a clear and honest layout of what your partner expects and wants without having to get in a fight first to figure it out. Having these talks could reduce the risk of your partner going behind your back, which is not okay nor an excuse for them to do so… but still. Relationships aren’t easy, but success isn’t built on easy. However, we can take the steps to make it a bit simpler.
You define your relationship, no one else does. Find a partner that molds into that definition and avoid dating people who are too far gone from your definition. Be open minded to others’ opinions and try to meet in the middle on trivial details. Stop assuming that monogamy is the perfect relationship. Don’t be ashamed in your own views even if they stray from most others’. Communicate with your partner and be 100% honest in what you want. Don’t get upset if your partner mentions something you don’t agree with. Mentioning something they want is not them saying they’ve done this behind your back or will if you say no. Always try to meet in the middle. And lastly, don’t be afraid to step away if you are too far in the opposite direction. Separating should be a last resort, but many times people go passed the last resort and try to turn apples into oranges. Sometimes it just doesn’t work and that’s okay.
On a final note, you don’t have to be in a relationship! Relationships, much like monogamy, are an option, not a goal. If you like just focusing on you, or if you just like casual fun, then do that! There is nothing wrong with it and don’t let anyone tell you that you need to be in a relationship. You need to live to make you happy, not anyone else. Surround yourself with the people that allow you to do both.
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Hasta La Pasta,