Change the World

Thinking about Opening your Relationship? Read This First

What would you do if your partner was in a serious accident—God forbid—and couldn't perform sexually? Never given it much thought? Neither had I, but I was confronted with this exact situation recently during a consultation with a client. He chose to be faithful and abstinent, minus masturbation—for 30 years. No sex. No sexual intimacy or mutual sexual expression. Wow!


The kicker was when I asked him if he missed it. Did he want it? His response was "every single day!" My follow-up question was had he ever, in these 30 years, communicated his desires to his partner? Or had his partner ever asked him how he felt about this essential piece of their relationship so tragically ceased? His response: "Not once."

When I first started thinking about writing this piece on open relationships, I immediately considered the sexual aspect and all the implications that arise from that dynamic. What does this mean for a relationship, in the short and long term? How might it help or hinder the primary connection? Open relationships aren't for everybody, but if you're considering it, there are some important factors to contemplate.

But before we get to the meat (no pun intended) of how to minimize risk, I do want to mention that my definition of open relationships has changed over time, especially since becoming a father; it's much broader than my initial thoughts.

An open relationship, in my mind, allows a father to strip away that title momentarily, becoming an untethered individual able to be alone, to have separate friends, and to be free for even a fraction of time—and, of course, sexually "open," if that is what is desired. But just as my client's story outlined, most of us miss the mark when it comes to exploring this dynamic in a healthy way. Communication is key, boys!

The key to opening is to firstly be in a stable place in one's relationship, especially after having kids. It's essential to take time for self-reflection. We forget what it is like to be alone, to make last-minute decisions, or just focus on yourself. It's certainly my belief that maintaining a level of independence, however you deem suitable, fosters healthy relationships.

Many clients ask for my professional advice on the sexual aspect of opening up their relationship, and I always share the importance of minimizing overall risk of both physical and mental ailments, and addressing the changes that can occur in relationship dynamics.

Opening up

If after careful thought and introspection, your desires and wants are not being met on the sexual front or you want to expand those desires, then an open and honest dialogue needs to be initiated. Taking on new encounters without full disclosure will not only negatively impact the relationship you both have worked so hard to build, but can also trickle down and affect your children. It's always hard to gauge what your significant other will think about this revelation, but I do believe in being honest and considerate of your significant other's feelings and expectations. Frank discussions are prudent to long-lasting relationships and mental well-being, and once an understanding has been reached, boundaries and guidelines need to be defined.

HIV/PREP

It's important to be honest with yourself about the risk you may be exposing yourself to with an open relationship; the last thing anyone wants is to bring something back into your primary relationship. Truvada, aka PrEP, certainly has a place in assisting with risk reduction–to be able to take HIV largely off the table with your encounters is such a huge burden lifted, especially if you are the receiver.

People can't always be trusted to fully disclose their status and overall counts, and some don't even know they are positive. For this reason, using physical protection such as condoms is still so important and mitigates the overall risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases as well. I wholeheartedly recommend using condoms in conjunction with PrEP.

I see so many clients with many diverse experiences, and my honest opinion is PrEP should a high priority when opening a relationship. For the most part, it is well tolerated and it places individuals into a three-month pattern of STD screenings, which I am a big supporter of.

STIs

We all know it, but here's a reminder: Wrap it, or make sure he is using protection when you are bottoming! Medical professionals are seeing a huge spike in STIs in relation to PrEP usage; there's a misconception that taking PrEP gives the green light to pass on condoms. We are far from invincible on this medication, and Gilead (the pharma company that makes PrEP) did not intend to make a drug that would allow everyone to go without condoms. Choose your partners wisely, make sure everyone is practicing safe sex, and include regular three-month STD screening programs with your primary physician to lower overall risk.

HPV and Vaccination

Most sexually active people will contract or already have the HPV virus, but because there are so many strains you may want to get tested to determine which type you have, if any. Testing also helps to prevent or lower the risk of anal cancer. There is a vaccine available for males aged 26 and over that prevents contraction of nine different strains. If one is negative for high-risk markers, specifically HPV 16 and 18, and you are opening up the relationship where you will be the receiver, the vaccine may prove beneficial in lowering the risk of contraction. I recommend visiting a primary care professional you trust to discuss the vaccine's benefits and if it is right for you.

STD positivity

If you develop any STD symptoms, early screening, detection, treatment, and disclosure for all parties involved is paramount. Everyone should get checked and treated, and you should have a post-exposure discussion to reduce risk for subsequent encounters. It is highly likely that an STD will enter the relationship if you are sexually active with multiple partners and not consistently using protection. It's wise to plan for this possibility in the initial discussions of opening, and determine what corrective action will be taken. Full disclosure and mature planning allows for fruitful play!

Mental

The hardest part can be anticipating the relationship changes that come with the decision to open a relationship. It can be difficult to navigate these uncharted waters and exploring this new dynamic can potentially either strengthen or erode a relationship. Jealousy, risk management, and boundaries are three components that need constant tweaking to optimize. Frank discussions are the key and it's important to not get discouraged by any bumps in the road. Some couples choose to attend couple's therapy to help through the process.

After seeing the client I mentioned earlier for a follow-up visit, he had some positive news to share. After our discussion of his unique situation, he finally had the courage to communicate his bottled-up feelings to his partner, who was beyond supportive of opening their world, satisfying a much-needed desire and contributing to my client's mental and sexual wellness. Boundaries and limitations were set and open lines of communication were fostered, truly allowing their relationship to evolve. Better late than never!


More from Dr. Evan Goldstein:

Top 5 Health Checks to Keep Gay Dads Healthy

Raising Grounded Kids in Crazy Manhattan

How Dads Evan and Andy Overcame Serious Challenges

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Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

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Change the World

This Gay Dad's Life Changed "Unexpectedly" Thanks to His Son's Love of Sports

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund writes how trading "Broadway for baseball" helped him form straight male friendships in an essay for Shondaland

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund, a gay dad of a 7-year-old son with his husband Jack, recently contributed a thoughtful essay for Shondaland that explores the unintended, but positive, consequence of his son's love of sports: straight male friends.

He writes, "One night in late May, seven dads stood in a bar singing "Happy Birthday" to me. Each of them were straight. How did this happen?"

As gay dads, many of us who have spent a lifetime avoiding anything that even remotely looked like an athletic league thanks to our experiences with homophobia in the world of team sports growing up. As dads, though, we're often forced back into these spaces to be supportive of our kids. (We've brought you similar essays in the past, most notably John Hart's funny piece about his sudden turn into a hockey dad).

But while many of us find the world of children's sports much more tolerable today, given the (reasonably) secure adult men that we've grown into, Bradley seems to have done the unthinkable: make friends with other (straight) dads involved in his son's athletic leagues.

"With Lucas regularly playing soccer, basketball, and baseball, sports now make up a large part of my weekly routine," Bradley writes. "And as it's turned out, a host of heterosexual dad comrades have been with me every goal, basket, and home run of the way." One dad educates Bradley on the existence of something called "turf shoes." Another on whether his son was better suited to be a midfielder or defender.

"If I ever worried I'd be alienated in the world of sideline-dads," Bradley concludes, "those feelings have long lapsed."

Read the great essay in full here.




Change the World

Doctor Refuses to Let Gay Dads Take Newborn Daughter Home, Citing Lack of 'Maternal Instincts'

Nick He says he and his husband got a crash course in discrimination against LGBTQ people the day his daughter Phoebe as born.

People Magazine's How I Parent section explores the "ins and outs of modern day parenting with moms and dads from all over the world." Recently, the magazine profiled Nick He, who is raising three daughters along with his husband Bryan Koehler, a gay dad family that we profiled on Gays With Kids last month.

In the profile, Nick reveals that when his daughter Phoebe was first born at a hospital on Fresno, California, the dads weren't able to take her home right away because they were two men, and therefore weren't equipped to deal with their daughter's health issues. "He said that she had a heart murmur and since we didn't have "maternal instincts," we couldn't take our baby home yet and if we tried, he would call Child Protective Services," Nick said.

Fortunately, Phoebe was released to their care after only a day. But for Nick and Bryan, it was a quick lesson in discrimination facing many LGBTQ parents. "I am thrilled to have my own family, but I feel like there's still a lot of judgment in the world right now," Nick said in the profile.

Nick is also the author of a book titled "Two Dads and Three Girls" which explores many of these issues in more detail. Here's a quick trailer the dads created to promote the book:


Two Dads and Three Girls - Trailer www.youtube.com


Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Entertainment

Hate Group Boycotts 'Toy Story' for Featuring Lesbian Moms—Hilarity Ensues on Twitter

"One Million Moms" announced a boycott of the latest Toy Story movie for *very briefly* featuring lesbian moms. Twitter's response was swift and hilarious.

One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, recently called for a boycott of Toy Story 4 for (very, very briefly) featuring (interracial!) lesbian moms in the animated film. The angry, hateful moms affiliated with this group must have watched the film VERY closely because you could easily blink and miss the moment that apparently "blindsided" viewers.

The Internet reacted with a collective facepalm to the ridiculous boycott. Here are some of our favorite hilarious Twitter reactions to the hateful group:

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Travel

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WARNING: BUCKLE UP, YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ WAY TOO MANY GOLDEN GIRLS REFERENCES.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your family vacation? For years, we did too. But I'm happy to report that we don't anymore. So what caused the big shift? I'll get to that. First, a little background.

For years, taking our son Max on road trips had its fair share of, shall I say, challenges. From New York City to London to San Francisco to Vegas… we traveled down the road and back again. And while we made wonderful memories along the way… these trips weren't entirely wonderful. Whether it was Max's inflexible sleep schedule, his limited food palate, potty training, his disinterest in walking or his inability to fully express himself, it never quite felt like a real vacation because we never got to actually relax. But now that Max is almost nine years old, we decided to give it another go… and so we booked a much-needed respite in Florida with one goal in mind — cheesecake — okay, two goals: we wanted to catch our breath!

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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