Open Relationships and Agreements

Are you in or thinking about having an open relationship? Or are you thinking about becoming exclusive? Are you falling in love with someone? There are lots of questions guys might have as they try to make relationship agreements.

lookingOutforEachOther_openRelationships_3guy Every relationship is unique. Whether he’s a guy you’ve been dating, someone you just met, or a long-term partner, it’s normal to have some expectations about what you get up to sexually with each other or with others, and what sexual health strategies you use.

The beginning of a relationship, whether it’s sexual or romantic, can be a really intense time. Sometimes, when guys are first getting close to each other, falling in love, or feeling really passionate, they make decisions they wouldn’t normally, like having sex without condoms even if you normally use them. Dating and new relationships can sometimes be the moment when HIV transmission occurs, because of those changes in decisions. Guys may genuinely believe they are HIV- negative because their status has only changed recently. Guys who have recently acquired HIV can have a very high viral load, which makes it much more likely HIV transmission will occur if they fuck without condoms.

When it comes to sexual health, some guys in relationships set up rules or expectations around using condoms, honesty, or what kinds of sex you have with others. lookingOutforEachOther_openRelationships_2guysThere are lots of factors in these decisions. It can be hard to always be honest with our partner about the sex we are having with other guys, especially if something unexpected happens or something happens against your ‘rules’. Here are some questions you might ask each other before you make those decisions:

  • Do we both know our statuses? How sure are we of our statuses? How often are we getting tested?
  • What sexual health strategies are we using? Are we sleeping with each other based on our HIV status? Are we using Condoms, undetectable viral load, or PrEP?
  • What are the things you want to do with other guys, and what are the chances of HIV or STI transmission?
  • Are we comfortable talking to each other about what we do with other guys? What about if something unexpected happens?
  • What are some things that one of us might do with another guy that excite me?
  • Do I feel uncomfortable about anything that one of us might do with someone else?
  • How would I would react if my partner was diagnosed with an STI?

Scenario:

Two guys are in a relationship and haven’t slept with anyone else for about a year. They’ve been tested a few times and are both HIV-negative, so they don’t use condoms with each other. They’ve agreed they want to have an open relationship, but it took a while to figure out what they were both comfortable with. Both thought it would best to use condoms with everyone else when it comes to fucking, but they didn’t mind if they gave or got head without condoms. They talked about the risk of STIs, and agreed to be honest with each other and to test regularly. They also agreed to tell each other if anything happened with another guy that didn’t fit into this picture, even if it’s hard, and to get tested for HIV and STIs every three months.

Scenario:

Two guys have been together in an open relationship for a few years, but have decided they they want to try being exclusive. One guy is HIV-positive with an undetectable viral load, and the other is HIV-negative. They usually use condoms with each other, and agreed to use condoms with others to lower the risk of HIV transmission with others and to avoid bringing other STIs into the bedroom with each other, even though sometimes it still happens.

Scenario:

Two guys are in an exclusive relationship. One is HIV-negative and the other is HIV-positive with an undetectable viral load. Around the time they began dating, the HIV-negative guy talked to his doctor, got tested for HIV, and starting taking PrEP, so they don’t use condoms for sex. Even though they are monogamous, they agreed to be honest with each other if either of them slipped up, so they can get tested and treated for STIs.