My fiancé (let's call him Freddie) and I have been together for nearly five years now, and have lived together during most of that time. We've enjoyed what would generally be referred to as an "open" relationship, and this will shortly become an "open" marriage.
What does this mean? Well, simply put, it means that we can have sex with whoever we like, whenever we like, in twos, threes, fours, together, separately - we don't specify any parameters or limits; it's all common sense. I imagine that, for many people, this is shocking, confusing, maybe even disgusting. But I have no intention of justifying to other people what I see as a perfectly natural state of being, for him and for me. Nevertheless, I thought it might interest people to hear a bit about why it works for us, hopefully making it slightly harder to dismiss us as amoral sexual deviants.
Freddie and I don't see monogamy as something we need in a partner; it's not how we express our love for each other, and it's definitely made us stronger and much more connected to each other – no topic of discussion is taboo, and we can meet openly as human beings with our own complicated sexualities without constantly checking ourselves to make sure we don't say something that might suggest anything less than complete happiness with the current monogamous status quo. Our upcoming marriage has added an extra dimension to discussions with friends on the subject; I keep being asked whether the relationship will continue as it is once we have tied the knot - the answer to which of course is yes. We love our relationship, we love our life – our marriage is a celebration of that, not the end of it.
Jealousy is, without doubt, the subject that comes up time and time and again when gently chiding well-meaning friends try to broach the subject with me. The received wisdom says that if the idea of your beloved in someone's arms doesn't fill you with dread and loathing then your love for them is somehow lacking, insufficient or even in some way deficient. I personally find the idea thrilling; sometimes I'll watch with a glass of wine. Freddie and I have something no-one can touch – years of memories, conversations, sex, Netflix and chills, thoughtful bouquets, Deliveroos, trips to the seaside, and so much more. We want each other to be the happiest we can be, and we want to live life to its absolute fullest, on our own terms, exactly as we choose.
It is so ingrained in modern society that monogamy represents the ultimate expression of love; many people go their whole lives without questioning this. But this logic is now being challenged: one new study found that non-monogamous couples can actually be closer, probably because of the open communication open relationships necessitate. I always count myself lucky as a gay man raised in a religious family inasmuch as I, by default, was compelled to go through a process whereby I had to deconstruct the moral principles and received wisdom that I had been spoon-fed as a child, reconstructing a reality and a morality that was more in line with how I truly felt, and what felt “natural” and workable to me.
Being gay will never be the norm, but I had to build a world where it was at least normal (a world rather different to the prince-meets-princess world of Disney, for instance). This wasn't a process I went through once; rather it is ongoing and continuous, feeding into decisions I make every day. This is such an empowering realisation, the simple fact that we have the power to choose what we believe is right and wrong. Maybe being forced to realise that makes it easier for people like Freddie and me to do what we do.
If I were reading this as someone with children (whether straight or gay), I might be thinking, ‘Well, it's all well and good for you, with no dependants, living as if it were the last days of Rome – I have children to bring up, and it would never work for us even if we both wanted it.’ But if that’s you, I'd like to ask you to take a step back for a moment. I assume that you don't announce to your children every time you're about to have sex with each other as partners – if so, then what impact would having an open relationship have on your children? If you both wanted it, and enjoyed it, then surely it could only serve to make you happier, more content, and better able to be good parents. Of course if one of you were dead set against it, then of course it would be a different discussion – and that's what relationships should be: an ongoing conversation. If there are subjects that are off the table, then maybe you should make an effort to bring them back on!
No two relationships are the same, of course, but I love mine exactly as it is, and refuse to apologise for it. I would have gladly published this under my own name, but am writing under a pseudonym at the request of my fiancé who could well one day pursue a career in public life and feels it could adversely affect how he is perceived. I think it's quite possible that it would, and that infuriates me.
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