Ask Adam: My Boyfriend Has Sex With Other Guys
My boyfriend sleeps with other guys and I’m not happy about it. When I try to discuss it, he shuts me down. He can be mean at times, but I’ve never felt this kind of love and I really don’t want to lose him. Any advice?
Confused in California.
Dear Confused in California,
I’ve noticed that some gay men put up with a lot in their relationships. Their long-term partners will aggressively flirt with other men in front of them, go home with a guy from the bar without any forewarning, sleep with ex-lovers without gaining consent from their current lover, or brag to their current boyfriends about the quality of their sex with strangers. Ouch.
Here’s what I find most concerning. Some gay men don’t feel they have a right to be upset about these behaviors. They’ll ask me how can I help them let go of their jealousy. They think that the gay community believes in sexual freedom and it isn’t cool or manly to object to their partner’s sexual behavior. In other words, they feel shame for experiencing hurt by the actions of their long-term partners.
Heterosexual couples get plenty of social support for treating their partners with respect when it comes to sex. Outrage is the typical social response when friends are told about poor relationship behavior among straight people. When gay men tell the same heartbreaking stories they are less likely to get a big response. Gay relationships are not given the same level of validity.
I’m not making an argument here for monogamy in gay men’s long-term relationships. Men can have open relationships and still treat each other with great care and consideration. Gay men have led the way on redefining what defines a caring open relationship.
The point I am making is that if you feel hurt or jealous about your partner’s sexual behaviors with other men, you need to respect those feelings. Those feelings are common and normal and deserve validation from both you and your partner.
Here’s the very least you should expect from your partner:
▪ Your partner should not engage in sexual activity that he knows hurts your feelings.
▪ Your partner should apologize when he discovers that he dropped you emotionally. Maybe not right away, but eventually.
▪ Your partner should not be harshly criticizing you, teasing you, or putting you down. If he does this occasionally he should be sincerely apologizing after each incident.
▪ Being drunk is not an excuse for mean behavior.
▪ You deserve kindness from your partner. Not at every single moment, but on a regular weekly basis. This is really the whole point of being in a relationship.
I urge you to set limits and not tolerate unkind behavior. Seek out individual or couples counseling if you need help in making the changes needed to create the supportive, caring relationships we all deserve.
Read last month's column here.