July, 17 2018
My Boyfriend Wants an Open Relationship, For Our Sake I Said 'Yes'

Keeping a gay relationship is tough already in conservative Indonesia, but what if you are asked to sacrifice by your partner for the sake of staying together?

by BM
Issues // Relationship
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I am often told that finding “the one” is like finding a needle in a haystack. As a self-identified gay in a Muslim-majority country, the struggle quadruples – not a haystack but four, five of them.

Many factors still make it challenging for people to have same-sex relationship, making those who identify themselves as queer pessimistic that finding “the one” is impossible. Some LGBT folks choose to submit to the norm – marrying the opposite sex and building a conventional family – to avoid immense social pressure, rather than act upon their “natural calls”.

“This is nothing but a phase,” they would say, invalidating their sexual orientation while perpetually suggesting themselves that being born with deviating sexual orientation is “sinful” and despicable.

I was one of the lucky few. I identify myself as gay and am at peace with being one. On top of that, I have been in a serious relationship for almost two years. We have grown together to be a supportive partner for each other. We have been through jealousy, family issues, economic hurdle, you name it – all the challenges, I assume, faced by “normal” heterosexual couples. We are two individuals aboard a ship heading towards similar destination.

However, companionship is not enough a strong glue to hold everything in a couple’s life together. Just like many couples, we arrived at that “stagnant” phase, in which, in our case, we had no intense sexual drive for each other anymore. We were two emotionally-dependent people, yet there was still another “need” that each of us could not fulfil.



And then one day he opened up to me and asked my permission to have another sexual partner. This did not mean that his love for me was gone, he said. In addition, he admitted his selfishness: he did not want me to do the same. He couldn’t stand the idea of me being with another man while he wanted me to excuse himself to fulfil his pressing physical needs that required intimate engagement with another man.

I am not a person who is capable of being in an open relationship. It is a belief I thought would never change. I know some may argue that my belief is deeply rooted in insecurities, but whatever the reason may be, open relationship would never work for me the way it does for some.

But when someone who has been with you through all the struggles (and remember the haystack) asked for your blessing to be in a casual relationship with another person, what would you do? Would you rather ignore his suffering (“if you do that, I would leave you”) or would you rather sacrifice yourself (“Do whatever makes you happy; I don’t need to know the details”)?

How far are you willing to go?

I came across an Arabic proverb: “who works achieves and who sows reaps.” If your goal is to have a happy and meaningful relationship with someone you love, then sacrifice is needed.

I don’t mean to play down other couple’s struggle, but maybe you are one of the lucky few, if your sacrifices do not challenge your fundamental belief. If you’re a firm believer of your faith, then lucky you for not having to convert to another belief to be with your spouse. If you think family is everything, then you might be lucky for not having to leave your family to be with someone you love.
Let my story be a gentle reminder that you are lucky if you feel that you won’t have to alter your fundamental belief in your sacrifice for a cause.

Things that are worth having do need sacrifice. But what is worthwhile? And how far are you willing to go for it?

“So, how likely are you to have casual sex with another man?” I asked him one day before packing my bag. Our jobs require us to conduct our relationship long distance occasionally.

“Fifty-fifty, I’d have to say,” he replied. “Hmm…, no, maybe 30 percent. I am not exactly the type of person who can easily entice a casual sex partner. I am bad at this. You know me, we’ve been together for years.”

In a world where homosexuals are marginalized and hated upon, where hook-up culture is more “normal” then successful relationship, because “thou shalt get married eventually”, his 30 percent estimate should be a pretty good chance, right? There is a 70 percent chance I wouldn’t get hurt by his actions in a world of tiny 1 percent chance of having actual same-sex relationship.

“Of course,” I said.

My brain worked well on math saying this was still in good odds, but my heart shrieked in agony at him, at society, at the unjust world we live in. But none of it compared to seeing myself changing, trying to be strong, making sense of all these in perpetuity.

BM currently lives his life as a discreet, closeted gay guy whose attention for queerness and religion issues is comparable to his actual career as environmental researcher. Juggling his life between America and Indonesia, he is in a love-hate relationship with both places.