On Saturday night over dinner, a friendly acquaintance and I had a wide-ranging discussion about a number of topics, including gender difference, sexual ethics and marital fidelity.
For both of us (I learned in the course of the evening that he was gay), monogamy is non-negotiable in a relationship. When I mentioned that I knew several gay men in open relationships, he asked me if I thought their relationships were fulfilling.
I commented that such friends seem happy, that it wasn’t for me to judge. He pressed me on the point and I really couldn’t answer, having never probed those guys about their relationships’ well-being. A small “l” libertarian, valuing freedom and recognizing human difference, I thought they could be. But, another part of me, knowing human nature, wondered if that were so.
And then, as is my wont, when I’m not certain about my answer, I rambled a bit, illustrating my point, but each illustration seemed to pull me further from the more “libertarian” answer I had offered to such questions in recent years: an open relationship is not the choice I would make, but who am I to say that such an arrangement wouldn’t work for others.
In an open relationship, at a difficult time when you’d want to stray, you might more readily seek satisfaction with someone else rather than face those difficulties. A partner in a monogamous union would likely still be attracted to other guys, but in rejecting their advances would be affirming his feelings for his partner, a sign of how much he valued their bond.
Such were my thoughts and the more I articulated them, the more I realized how monogamy fosters intimacy, helps deepen the connection. Later, as I considered our conversation (especially as I watched Spanglish), I wondered if perhaps I had shifted my once firmly-held belief that monogamy was essential to a fulfilling relationship so as not to appear out of sync with the reigning ethos of gay world.
Ever a libertarian, I still believe people must be allowed the choice to remain faithful. But, I wonder if, in making that choice, they deprive themselves of the full benefits of their relationship.