Holding court in her bedroom, Grandma sat in a chair by the window while her grown grand kids filled the bed, sat on the floor, and stood in the doorway. She talked about how some women would really fall for Sam, and one even called her in the middle of the night. In a taunting, sassy tone the other woman boasted “I just thought you should know I’m Sam’s girlfriend.” “GOOD!” Grandma replied. “The more he has the easier he is to live with!”

Couples have always had their own ways of achieving or negotiating monogamy, but the LGBT community, long deprived of the traditional confines of marriage, has developed their own ways of bridging this issue. I wanted to dig in to how gay guys in particular negotiate the terms of their relationships.

On one side there’s monogamy, on the other side there’s the “anything goes” open relationship, but in the middle there’s a broad and varied gray area full or rules and arrangements.

In a story about no-fault divorce, Frederick Hertz of the Huffington Post reports that a recent study of the sexual lives of gay male couples suggests that gay couples have found new ways of reducing the
damaging consequences of an extra-marital affair. Nearly half the male couples they interviewed had found a way to “negotiate” an open relationship, with clear guidelines and open communication between the partners. Researchers concluded that open negotiation over issues of monogamy can reduce the negative consequences of an affair — in many instances, allowing the couple to maintain their long-term relationship.

I set out to see what people in our community had to say about sexual arrangements in long term relationships, and what it came back to time and time again was honesty. Many spoke to me about long and healthy relationships built on trust. Paul Huber echoed a sentiment I heard often among men over forty. “I really think monogamy is rare among gay men” and that straight men are a little more  monogamous due to societal pressure. What’s worked for him is an open relationship with full disclosure.

Some, like Ian Darnell, graduate student at The University of Illinois at Chicago, question whether monogamy is universally or inherently desirable. “I suspect that the traditional model doesn’t work for many, probably most couples. People shouldn’t feel immoral or defective if monogamy doesn’t meet
their needs, and our society shouldn’t privilege it over other ways of envisioning relationships.”

Certainly not everyone is on board with alternatives to monogamy. Dason Van Oppen is waiting for the right one-man guy. “I didn’t learn how to share in Kindergarten” he said.  His sentiments were shared by Realtor Rich Baretich, who ended three relationships over infidelity. ” I do not believe in open  relationships nor will I ever be in one..But then again I guess that is why I am still single.”

Many guys in their early twenties still believed in monogamy, including Jordan Russell, 23, who has been with his partner for two years. “I’ve always looked for marriage material when dating” Jordan said. “A lot of people don’t think monogamy is fun. I think monogamy is really [expletive] fun!”

Even the gay couples who strive for monogamy seem to overcome infidelity easier than their straight counterparts. The wild reaction of Tiger Woods’s wife to his affair bewildered many in our community, who
tend to see their relationships as both a romantic and business partnership. “Honey she cost him all of those endorsements, and half of that money would have been hers!” one said.

Whatever your arrangement my parting advice is that it’s time to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the bedroom. Monogamous, flexible, or open, relationships need a strong foundation of trust to go the distance.