Transforming Sexual Narratives: A Relational Approach to Sex Therapy, by Suzanne Iasenza, shares three qualities that tend to lead to successful open relationships, you are: 1) able to be committed to the growth of yourself, your partner, and the relationships, 2) able to communicate effectively and allow your partner(s) to have their own emotions and perspectives, and 3) not threatened by your partner’s right to privacy.
Sexual Intelligence: What we Really Want From Sex and Home to Get It, by Marty Klein, wisely suggests that we ask ourselves what we truly are looking for from sex. When we have sex are we looking for validation? Reassurance that we are men? To convince ourselves we have some worth? Give some real thought to what you go to sex for and see if it is realistic to get those needs met through sex or are you barking up the wrong cock?
Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men’s Lives, by Walt Odets, tells us that heterosexual society prefers to categorize gay men as purely sexual beings, devoid of emotion, because it then others us and allows them to be superior. Odets wants gay men to challenge this view and own that we are actually gay men not purely because we have sex with other men, but because we have emotional attachments to men.
Before looking for a partner, I recommend first being comfortable being single, because desperation clouds your thinking and increases the chances of poor decision making. Gay men tend to be more susceptible to the discomforts of being on their own, due to internalized heterosexism and overall decreased likelihood to be supported and accepted by others. To accept being single, for the moment, gay men need to acknowledge and work on their internalized heterosexism and make sure they are part of a nurturing community.
Couple Therapy with Gay Men, by David E. Greenan and Gil Tunnell, provides some areas unique to gay relationships that may make them more difficult to maintain: 1) others not seeing the relationship as valid as a mixed gender relationship, 2) having less support around the relationship than straight couples, and 3) as boys hiding from other males to survive and then when in a relationship with a male having to be vulnerable with them. I recommend assessing whether or not these are elements getting in the way of the health of your relationship. If they are, you may want to discuss this with your partner(s) and work together to seek supportive community and learn how to be more vulnerable with each other.
Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men’s Lives, by Walt Odets, explains how most gay teens growing up not being able to share their lives and feelings with their peers or freely express their natural desire to be sexual leads to them having sex outside of their everyday social lives, making it easy to feel shame about this sex they are having in secret. This will often continue into adulthood. Check in with your body to see how it feels when you think of and experience sex. Is there something that brings up shame? If so, this is getting in the way of truly being able to experience the sex you deserve and you may want to see a sex therapist that can work with you to disentangle shame from sex.
Often times when we look for a partner, we will subconsciously be attracted to what we already know and is familiar to us. This usually means someone who treats us like our parents did. A lot of gay men did not have healthy relationships with their fathers. Most likely because the father had difficulty bonding with a child that did not fit their ideal of masculinity. If we just go with the familiar, we run the risk of going after men that will replicate how we were treated by our fathers. Be intentional about figuring out what it is you truly want from a partner, instead of picking men while on autopilot.
I am with the camp that feels the term internalized heterosexism is a more accurate representation of what gay men experience instead of internalized homophobia. Most gay men are not afraid, or phobic, of their gay identity. Instead they experience shame because of how they are treated by society. We live in a heterosexist society where the majority of the beliefs and content we take in promotes heterosexism as the ideal. It is extremely difficult to live in this kind of world without having some shame for not being heterosexual. Let’s start using this more accurate term for what we experience and have some self-compassion for what we have to go through.