Jealousy, open relationships and how to keep your cool

No one said relationships are easy. Loving and respecting each other takes work and there will be times when jealousy creeps in. How should you react?

First of all, it’s important to know it is OK to have these feelings. Gay culture can often be linked with sexual freedom and this can make guys feel they don’t have a right to feel upset if their partner wants to have sexual experiences with someone else. But if you have feelings of jealousy about your partner’s sexual behaviours, it is really important that you talk about those feelings and it deserves respect from both of you.

Not all men want open relationships – it’s common not to. A study of nearly 1,500 18-40-year-old gay men recruited on Grindr and Facebook found that 90% of single guys were actively seeking monogamous relationships.

That’s not to say men can’t have open relationships and still treat each other with respect.

GMFA’s survey of 1,000 gay men had different results – 41% were in, or had previously experienced, an open relationship. But only 75% of those had rules in place and without them it can lead to feelings of uncertainty.

While loving relations don’t have to be based on sexually exclusivity, they do need to be based on respect. This works both ways: respecting and listening to a partner who wants to explore something new; and listening to concerns or feelings of jealousy.

The key is in how these things are discussed. Overreacting every time he talks to another man is not a good option if you want to stay together – angry texts, drunken arguments or shutting out your emotions completely will not fix relationship issues. But calming talking about how you feel, being open to what each other has to say and respecting each other can.

Setting rules can also help. For example, some people find that a ‘monogamish’ relationship works – playing with a third person only when you’re together. But whatever you choose, you should choose it together. In studies of gay relationships communication is frequently found to be an essential element of making them successful.

In most relationships self-esteem issues will emerge – feeling attracted to others, feeling jealous, and feeling insecure are as common in monogamous relationships as non-monogamous ones – so keep the conversation open and revisit relationship choices and agreements often.