My name is Alexander Cheves. My nickname is Beastly. I write about sex.
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First off, your writing really moves me and I relate to much of what you write about your family trauma. I am so glad to have come across your articles and have read as many as I’ve been able to find.
My question: I’m a 40-year-old gay male (he/him) who has been in a loving monogamous relationship for 6 years. The sex has been on the decline for years and I asked him for an open relationship. Long story short we are not on the same page about it. I recently found a new job about an hour away and am planning on getting my own apartment close to the new office. However, we have many entanglements, financial and otherwise. We jointly own rental homes, which his mother manages for us. We have built a home together and have two dogs.
Is it best for me to try to sell/split everything Immediately and go our separate ways? I believe we can split amicably, as we’ve had rational, calm conversations about it. Part of me hopes we can still run our rental business as business partners. But we have had a very codependent relationship, and I’m nervous about confusing him and myself by not making a hard break.
Any advice would be much appreciated.
– Codependent in Grand Rapids, MI
I don’t think “hard breaks” really exist for gay men. Our relationships tend to bleed into each other.
You’ve discussed separating amicably, so that’s where you’re at. If you’re unhappy with the sex, he is too. You’ve come to one of my dealbreakers, Grand Rapids. You both want a different relationship. You want an open one — he does not.
I’m sorry, but that’s an impossible impasse. If you stay together and try to overcome it, one of you will likely propose a compromise (you can only have threesomes and fuck other people together, for example) that, over time, will dissatisfy you and lead to resentment — and probably cheating.
If he’s hesitant to the idea of being open, this compromise, should it be proposed, may be the very limit of his comfort threshold, and you will feel guilty and apologetic for taking him there in order to get what you need. For open relationships to work, both partners have to want openness equally.
I think you already know your relationship needs to end. You’re asking if you should do a total goodbye or, for lack of a better phrase, a “soft” breakup. I think you should break up, but I don’t think you need to terminate everything you have. For gay men, separation is rarely total dissolution, at least not after a certain age and maturity level. You don’t have to stop speaking or terminate your business, in fact, I know multiple gay exes who run businesses together.
You and your partner are friends. You have a connection. What if your connection is being threatened by the frustrations and misalignments of your relationship? Think of breakups as the next best step of a relationship, because for gay and queer men they often are. I know many partners whose connections changed, deepened, and evolved into something healthier after they separated. Sometimes the elimination of that pressure and that myth — “I am yours and you are mine” — is the very thing two people need in order to be happier as friends. (Heads up: you’ll probably sleep with him again after you break up, but try not to do that during your first six months apart.)
Your feelings for him won’t just evaporate when you decide to split. This is why you do need some distance. You need to move out. So take the job, get the apartment, and give him some space following the breakup talk. During that breakup talk, be patient and gentle, and don’t bombard him with accusations. Make it about you and your needs. This is not the time to say, “You’ve stopped having sex with me!” or, “You won’t consider opening our relationship!” or, “You’ve stopped doing XYZ!” If you say any of that, he’ll just get defensive and the talk will turn into a fight. Don’t even make “we” statements — “We need to break up” — because they’re very assumptive and he’ll justifiably say, “What ‘we’? You haven’t even talked to me about any of this!” Only make “I” statements: “I need this,” “I want to break up.”
The breakup talk is not the time to discuss business particulars, but at least let him know you want to continue speaking, co-parenting the dogs, and running the business you share. I’d even say that you respect and trust him and can’t imagine running a business with anyone else.
Sometime later, when you both have had some time to think, sit down and discuss the details — like how you’ll run the business and which entanglements you will…well, untangle. Be professional. Create boundaries on what information you will share with each other. You will hit stumbling blocks. No breakup is without strife. But honesty and integrity are the path forward — forever and always — and if you do your best to communicate without being combative, it’ll be okay. You can’t control his feelings or responses, and there will be moments in all this when he lashes out — or when you do. This is just a broken heart expressing its hurt — something we all do. There will be broken hearts ahead, but if you’re patient and as gentle as you can be, things will smooth out in time, and it’s likely that you’ll eventually see each other as good friends.
He’ll ask why you want to break up. The answer to that question, at least to me, is simple: your sexual needs aren’t being met and they haven’t been met for years, so continuing this relationship will eventually make you feel resentful and you don’t want to feel that way about someone you love so deeply. My friend, you will probably always love him — I love all my exes — but that doesn’t mean you have to be with him right now. A remarkable thing about gay life is that the number of men you love at any moment often dwarfs the number of men you are dating (or have ever dated). If things go well, he’ll become one of those loves without a root and no fixed label, and sometimes those are the best ones.
Total goodbyes and slammed doors are straight-people bullshit. We don’t have to participate in all of that. Because we’re better than that.
This is really frank, truthful, and honest – just overall, well-written. Thank you for this. 🙂
Sage advice borne of experience. This was a very thoughtful response.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response to my question. I’m feeling a huge sense of relief after reading it. Though I’m feeling like the asshole in the situation, I can still continue to love my partner in a new, different way. Looking forward to moving forward and being an ethical slut 😜, becoming a more confident and happy man.
If you haven’t read “The Ethical Slut” by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, definitely do it! Hope my reply helps. It’s completely optional, but feel free to send me a little something on Venmo 😉 SweetBeastly
Done. I hope things get better for you – lots of new writing gigs. 2020 has been a bitch. Also cannot wait to buy your book
That was incredibly generous, thank you. 2020 has indeed been a bitch. I’ve been working on my manuscript all day so I’m glad at least one person will buy it ❤
I love your writing and your view on the world. As a kinky straight gal I can’t say I’ve shared your experiences, but a lot of what you reference resonates very deeply. Knowing from a young age that you’re different. That what you crave is not considered acceptable but is so much a part of you. For years I have struggled to make sense of what I am and to find role models anywhere. I see you as a role model (even though I am much older, straighter and less courageous). I love to read your updates and your personal accounts and wish I’d had someone like you to turn to in my younger days; I hope to god that my kids grow up knowing there are alternatives. That we don’t have to live by labels. That sex is life and life should be fun. And your answer to this question was so much more mature and evolved than most conventional relationships allow. Your readership spreads far and wide. Keep doing what you’re doing. People like me need you.