Play Gentle with Aram Giragos

Play Gentle #5

Welcome back, and Happy 2018, y’all!  I hope the holiday season was filled with so much more than the the general confluence of joyful and depressing, which is so often how this time of year goes for so many of us.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that 2018 is going to be full of all kinds of change.  For each of us personally, for us as a community, and possibly even as a nation. If there’s another, it’s that a big part of this collective change is going to be reflective of how we build our personal relationships as queer men. Relational fluidity is increasing in popularity, and it’s up to us to steer this ship toward greener pastures, rather than let these unknown territories frighten us into scattering away from the many possibilities that lie ahead.

I’ve grouped today’s questions together purposely to show that this is a much broader topic than it often sounds like, and the learning curve is still kind of steep.  Each question below comes from a reader who is experiencing one of the early stages of this ever-evolving landscape, and each will show the importance of proper communication among lovers, as well as mutual trust, safety, and respect.

Q: How do I stop feeling jealous about the other casual partners around my fuck buddy? I know I can’t claim monogamy with someone I just have sex with, but I am very conflicted about it all…

Let’s start here.  I’m curious, reader…have you hammered out the details of your relationship with your fuck buddy? I know, I know, I used the dreaded “r” word, but whatever you call yourselves, be it “boyfriends,” “friends with benefits,” “primaries,” or “fuck buddies,” what we are essentially looking at here is the dynamic of your relationship with this person. It’s just a word, and we can use it for what it really means and not let its connotations have us running for the hills. Let’s not allow the word “relationship” to be quite so scary that it has that kind of power over our shared experience.
Moving on… It’s also easy to think “But if it’s just sex, then why should I feel so conflicted?” It’s okay to ascribe some emotion to a sexual connection – that’s when it’s the best sex anyway, amiright? What I’d like to help readers and clients with in this department is to try and see between the binary of “friendship” and “relationship.” There is so much more to experience here with this person. One of my favorite words: INTIMACY.
Intimacy is a big, broad-ranging, beautiful word, and while you may be merely “fuck buddies,” the thing that separates him from other friends for you is, in fact, a level of intimacy.  This can look like a number of different scenarios.  Take a close look at your current scenario – what is it about this guy having “casual partners” that is bothering you? What is missing from the current state of your intimacy with this fella that makes you feel like there is NOT the safety you need to feel? Is there mutual respect?
I believe if you had more concrete answers to these questions, you would at least feel more comfortable to talk about where the two of you stand with one another. Who knows, it may even lead to a deepening of your intimacy, and therefore your friendship.

Q:My partner and I have been together for a year. ​How do I tell my partner I want to start opening up our relationship? He’s very traditional and we’ve never talked about this kind of thing before​, but I’ve seen him act grossed out by open relationships. I don’t want to lose him, but I don’t think he’s into it.

Moving on to a more established connection – the ‘romantic primaries.’ What makes me curious about this particular situation is, generally these days when a pair of homos decide to enter some kind of romantic primary partnership, there is at least *some* semblance of understanding of each other’s sexual and/or romantic pasts and  proclivities.
So…it took a year of primary partnership for you to not only come to terms with your imminent desire for an open relationship, but also to come to full realization that he finds them “gross?” Is he that scary that when he voiced his distaste for alternative romantic arrangements, you didn’t feel comfortable calling out his judgment?
I am not at all saying this is what’s going on, nor am I saying that I don’t understand how difficult it is to bring this stuff up with partners, especially reluctant ones. That said, it is definitely worth a closer look at your level of communication, trust, respect, and safety. A person who acts “grossed out” by open relationships more than likely just has a very limited understanding of them and the possibilities that lie therein.  The best advice I can give you is to find a way to bring the subject up in a way that doesn’t make him feel like the safety of your connection isn’t being rocked to the core.
It’s a tough one, I know. I’ve been there. Do some research, use some of the buzz words I’ve mentioned, tell him about “compersion,” and just let him know you’re open to the idea of some more fluidity. IMPORTANT: Remind him also that one of the most attractive things about fluid arrangements is that they should always be open to renegotiation.

Q: I am 35 and have never been in a long term loving, emotionally intimate, sexual, “romantic” relationship. I came out late in life and have been dismantling internalized homophobia ever since. Recently I have had the courage to explore intimacy beyond the one night stand… I was with someone for two months but realized I was their rebound after they’d become separated from a six-year relationship.  It was fun and sweet but no commitment was possible on his end. A few days after I ended things amicably, I met a beautiful young man who is 27 and is in a nine-year relationship.  He is poly in the last four years, and I am poly-curious. How do I know I am truly poly? How can I get over the fear of wasting time? Am I compromising due to a deficiency of relationships in the past? Am I making up for lost opportunities with poly or am I actually capable of being an ‘ethical slut’…?

I left this for last because I love how sensitively composed this paragraph is. Yeah, it’s a lot of questions rolled up into one, but at the heart of it is the question of what it means to be “poly.”
For those of you who don’t know, ‘poly‘ in this case is short for ‘polyamorous,’ meaning working outside the confines of monogamy in a way that is fluid and open to the idea of being open to more than one partner.  This is not to be confused with ‘polygamous.’
The main question here, I think, is “How do I know I am truly poly?” The questions that follow all sort of fall under the umbrella of this one.
Some questions from me, to maybe help you find your own answer…
1) Do you like the idea of maybe having a husband, as well as a boyfriend?
2) Could you possibly rewire your brain to react selflessly, even positively, to knowing that your husband has a boyfriend?
3) Are you open to exploring relationships with more than one person at a time, and potentially blending them together some day?
4) Could you talk to your primary partner about a recent hookup he had without getting angry?
5) Could you see yourself talking to your primary partner about a recent hookup you had, but do so in a way that keeps his feelings in mind, to make sure you don’t make him feel less than your number one?
I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at five. If you answered yes to any of these, then poly might be something worth looking into. I’m not saying, by any means, that it isn’t a lot of work – evolution takes practice. Let me also state that I am NOT SAYING, by ANY means, that this is for everyone! I understand that for some people, monogamy is the way. But as evidenced by the above questions, as well as many others I’ve received thus far, many of you are at least “poly-curious.” To the reader who sent in this question, I’m stealing that term. Thank you 😉
If anyone has ANY further questions about the topic above (and I’d be very surprised if some of you didn’t), please feel free to send me an email. Happy hunting, and happy new year, huntieeeees.
Check out the last edition of Play Gentle here.

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