Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Monogamy is not a relative term. A monogamous relationship is two people only mating with each other. Judging by daily tabloid scandals, there is a lot of pretend monogamy in the world. Without making any judgment, false monogamy can be a very dangerous pursuit. The emotional consequences of being ‘cheated on’ can play havoc with people’s emotions. The physical dangers can leave a person infected for life.
Most American women with HIV that I have known were infected by a man that they thought was only having sex with them. They had no idea that they were at risk. Many gay men have become infected with HIV and other diseases by the men they loved. Despite all the discussion of gay marriage in the news, very few long-term gay relationships are mutually monogamous. The partners may have a completely open relationship, in which they go their separate ways, as well as having sex together. Others are mated, but nonsexual. Others have sex outside the relationship, but don’t talk about it.
Many couples agree to have unprotected sex together but use condoms with outsiders. They feel that they can trust the other partner. However, when drugs and alcohol come into the picture, guys do crazy things. Trusting someone else with your health is dangerous, and the reality is that many men have become infected this way.
Being realistic about the situation is a necessity. There are many other ways to show your love for a man without putting yourself at risk. Having unprotected sex with a nonmonogamous partner is putting his needs above yours. You can have a satisfying sex life with a condom, particularly with someone you really care about, where you can be relaxed about putting it on.
The primary role models we have of relationships are our parents. Most were monogamous or tried to be. We think that anything less than exclusivity is lesser. But we are men. Men separate sex from feelings. Many straight guys would love to have sex on the side, if it didn’t risk their marriages, but most women are not very understanding about outside sex. In a gay couple, there are two men who think and act like men.
The most critical aspect is to be clear with each other about what you each need. If you are playing the field, unprotected sex with your primary partner is an unacceptable risk. If he slips, it could have lifelong consequences for both of you. The most essential part of love is acceptance. If you can accept that he and/or you are going to have other sex partners, wrap it up. It’s that simple.