Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Are Open Relationships Ever Completely Honest?

I’m asking the question as an outsider, you understand. As it clearly states on any of the dating sites of which I’m a member, I am happily single and not looking for a boyfriend. However that does not mean I want to sleep with someone else’s.

In my professional life, I do of course see a high proportion of men already in relationships, often married (many to women), but in these instances I don’t ask questions. They pay for my time. It is purely a business arrangement. How they square it with their consciences, or if indeed they do, is not my concern, though they will often confide in me details of their unhappy home lives. I might show concern, I might even offer advice, but there is still the understanding that this relationship is a business one, and, in many respects, no different from that between a therapist and his client (after all I am in some ways a therapist). There is an honesty about it that you rarely find in other kinds of relationships.

In my private life I also try to keep things uncomplicated, preferring to meet only other single guys. Unfortunately, and too often, these “single” guys turn out not to be single at all. I really do get annoyed with those that don’t tell you about the boyfriend until after you’ve had sex. “Oh, it’s ok,” they will say, “We’re in an open relationship. My boyfriend won’t mind.” Does it never occur to them that I might? Now don’t get me wrong, as I stated before I am not looking for a boyfriend, but if the sex with someone is good, it is usually because we have made some sort of connection. Is it so wrong that I should want to carry that connection on – occasionally meeting for coffee and a chat, or a trip to the cinema? But no, that sort of thing is reserved for the boyfriend. Each couple makes their own rules of course, and I have always been of the opinion that there is no blueprint for a good relationship. What works for one couple won’t necessarily work for another, and I applaud any relationship that can stand the test of time. But when they make their rules about sex outside a relationship, they are made with scant regard for anyone else involved, and the minute they have sex with someone outside their relationship, that person is involved. From an outsider’s point of view, it can all seem a little smug and self satisfied. They have a significant other in their lives, with whom they can go on holiday, go to the cinema, go out etc, and they can shag around with whomsoever they like, without any sense of guilt.

I sometimes wonder, though, whether these open relationships are as honest as they would like to think, or indeed as honest as the relationships I have with my clients. Let me give you an example. Recently I broke my own rule and agreed to meet up with a young man (I’ll call him John, not his real name), who approached me on Scruff. I already knew from the messages we had exchanged that he was articulate and intelligent, and he told me straight away that he was in an open relationship. We agreed to meet, and I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t expect us to have sex, and of course once we met, his charms were difficult to resist. Ok, I’m human. I break my own rules occasionally. John quickly revealed himself to be a very special young man indeed. There was a shy diffidence about him that was utterly disarming, but he was very definite and actually very grown up about what he wanted, and he had a talent for sex surprising in one so young. He is in a relationship with a man twice his age. Though they have only been boyfriends for 4 months, he told me that from the outset they had agreed to an open relationship, because his boyfriend was a total bottom and because he enjoyed being a bottom too. This was a condition of their relationship from day one and the boyfriend had agreed to it. All very honest and adult, you might think, though, as things developed, it would seem that the details had not been fully thought through. After our first meeting, I mentioned to him that I had recently made a list of London attractions that I had never visited, and that I was planning to visit one a week. He showed a lot of interest, so I asked him if he would like to accompany me on my next visit, and he jumped at the chance.

However, the next time we met, he told me that this second visit had caused problems with his boyfriend. Though happy to accept that John might be having sex with another man, he was not happy that he should be befriending that man or spending time with him; and I had to admit that he had a point. What actually was going on between me and John? We weren’t just having sex. There was evidently more to it. Where does one draw the line though? I love lying in bed and talking after sex, but does that break the rules for someone in an open relationship? Should they literally just fuck and go? Eventually John had to stop seeing me. His boyfriend was growing ever more insecure, which I find totally understandable. In his shoes, I would probably have felt the same. It probably didn’t help that John had been absolutely honest about whom he was seeing. I wasn’t just some anonymous guy, but someone he could look up on the internet and find out quite a lot about. He is not to know that I have no interest in breaking up other people’s relationships. So I understand absolutely why John had to stop seeing me. On the other hand, he brought a little sunshine into my life each time I saw him and it was sad that it had to end, so I do feel a little let down.

On the surface, it may seem as if open relationships are more honest, and I do feel it is better to be totally up front about what you are doing, rather than fucking around behind your partner’s back. But even with that apparent honesty and openness, there are often things one partner might keep from another. That said, I admit to knowing at least one totally open couple who have stood the test of time. They have been together since the 1970s I believe. Very early on in their relationship, they decided not to have sex with one another anymore, and only have sex with others. Their one rule was that if they decided to see someone a second time, then that person had to be introduced to the partner. You might say then that what they have is more of a friendship, but you only have to see them together to see the enormous love and respect they have for one another, and to know that absolutely nothing would ever separate them, their lives are so completely intertwined. I have known them now myself for over 20 years, and, though I see them rarely since they moved to France, I remember them both with enormous affection. Their home was always a home full of love, a love which they extended to all their friends and visitors. I slept with them both individually and on different occasions, whilst the other was in the next door room fast asleep, but fully aware of what his partner was doing, and with not a whiff of jealousy or awkwardness over the breakfast table. They are both extraordinary people

Such understanding and lack of insecurity within a relationship is, in my opinion, rare though, so, from now on, I intend to stick to my rule. Single men only. If John were single, I would no doubt still be enjoying his company, both in and out of bed, not boyfriends but fuck buddies in the true sense of that word; good friends who also enjoy sex with one another, but as he is not single, he is not free to enjoy that sort of relationship. Let all the guys already in relationships fuck around with each other if they like, but in future they can leave me out of it.


  1. Interesting post as ever Greg. Intrigued about those not-single guys who don't mention the boyfriend. Do you ask and they lie, or don't you ask? If it's important to you, then you should ask - it's like questions about safer sex or safe words. If you ask a guy and they don't tell the truth, then they're a liar, simple. And my experience with men tells me that you don't need to be in an open relationship to be a liar.

    More interesting is your story about John. I do think that successful open relationships rely on trust and knowledge of one's boyfriend, and I'm unconvinced that after four months someone could build that level of trust. It doesn't sound to me like John and his partner had made much of a commitment to each other before they started meeting others, and I can understand why John's partner had a concern about john "dating", or at least what appears to be a fair simulation of it. However, everyone's relationship is different, and if that's what works for them, then good luck to them. But it's a shame that you had to be let down while they worked out the rules between them.

    You are obviously free to decide who to sleep with, and I'm sure you have the opportunity to pick and choose. But to rule out that group wholesale seems rather closed-minded to me.

  2. I take your point, David, but I do say I am looking on as an outsider. I don't think it's at all closed-minded (the last thing anyone who knows me would call me) to say I don't want to sleep with other people's boyfriends. I don't care whether those relationships are open or not. It seems to me that you (I assume you are in an open relationship) are getting your cake and eating it.
    This is not the first time something like this has happened to me, but it will be the last. I don't actually care what rules the two guys in a relationship have made. Whatever works for them is fine by me, but I do not want to be the convenience fuck when they are not getting what they want elsewhere.
    So I repeat, in my private life, single guys only from now on.
    Incidentally Duncan Taylor makes some pertinent points about this post on my Facebook profile. You may wish to read them for an alternative view.

  3. Well, Greg, I obviously respect your right to choose to have sex with whoever you want to. I am surprised at a blanket decision and that's why I did use the term closed-minded, because closing one's mind to a group on the basis of their status rather than their behaviour or characteristics does seem closed-minded to me. But, like I say, you've obviously had experiences that have led you to that decision.

    Duncan Taylor makes exactly the same point as I do about honesty. I'm obviously not defending people who lie or are dishonest about their relationship status. I'd like to think I treat all my sexual partners with honesty, openness and respect, regardless as to whether they're my "primary partner", a fuck-buddy or a one-off. I've met single people who are complete bastards and I've met people who are in so-called monogamous relationships that want to screw around. That doesn't change my overall view of single people or people in monogamous relationships.

    But, like I say, each to their own and I fully respect your right to take this decision. If that sounds patronising, or smug and self-satisfied, then I apologise, it's not how it was intended.

    (BTW for some reason Blogger won't accept my Google Account, so just to identify myself and prove I'm not hiding behind anonymity, this is David Allardice)

  4. David, if I refused to sleep with someone because they were HIV positive or Asian, or black, then you might call me closed minded, but to say I am closed minded because I prefer not to sleep with someone who is unavailable is really not fair. As Wolf says in a post on my Facebook page, if you are in a relationship, open or otherwise, that partner must be your primary concern, something I agree with wholeheartedly.

    I have decided I prefer not to come second to anyone.

  5. it is an interesting point of view, I never thought that a single one could feel this way.Now i understand better your choice.Greetings from Italy

  6. we all lie, deceit is innate to a number of species... it will be more difficult to fight against that than to simply accept it... i don't expect my partner to be honest about everything to me, it is unreasonable... and it may not be prudent to expect that my partner will never love anyone else while we are together! That too is absurd to me! love is not finite and divisible in the way some modern cultures would have us programmed to believe... i love my partner and the same thoughts, innate traits and feelings affect us as they do everyone else...

  7. I note though that most of the comments are from those in a relationship, jumping to their own defence, when really I am not criticising them. Whatever works for them is fine by me. It really is. The main thrust of my topic is that whatever works for them, though, doesn't necessarily work for me, which is why, from now on, I prefer only to sleep with single people.