The Dealbreaker

Anonymous Question:

First, thank you for having such a great blog. You don’t know how much it means to have a resource where you can ask questions that are otherwise taboo. I do have a question for you. I was reading your blog post about nonmonogamy and it fascinated me. I have a follow-up question to it. How do you approach the subject with your partner? My partner and I have been together for 5 years and married two years ago. However, sex is almost nonexistent. He is vehemently opposed to nonmonogamy, but my sexual needs aren’t being met. I want to approach the topic with him and discuss that physical needs doesn’t equate to love. He has a “heteronormative” outlook on marriage and sex. But yet he isn’t satisfying me. What advice would you have? It’s most appreciated. Thanks!


You’ve talked to him about this enough to know he’s “vehemently opposed” to nonmonogamy, so you’ve already made at least one attempt. It sounds to me like you’ve come to the dealbreaker.

Not just a dealbreaker, but the dealbreaker — the most common one that countless gay couples struggle with. Unless something drastic changes (unlikely), I don’t think relationships can survive with this unreconcilable difference.

There are three dealbreakers I tell people to look out for:

  1. One of you is out of the closet. The other one is not. This, as far as I know, is not your situation.
  2. Political differences. Some people disagree with me on this, but I think it’s a hard rule. If one of you leans left and the other leans right, that lens affects everything you do, every way you engage with the world. How do you respond as a queer couple to attack and prejudice? Sorry, but political differences is a no-go.
  3. You both want a different relationship. This is you. This broad dealbreaker encompasses a few different scenarios. When one of you is ready to take things to the next level and the other is not, you want two different relationships, and are at an impasse. Forcing the other person to come to your side is a precarious and inevitably painful move, so it’s best to end things and be done with it. In your case, one of you wants a monogamous relationship, and the other one does not. Sorry, friend, but it can’t work.

This third one is a tough one for gay men since we tend to be more open to relationship structures outside of monogamy, so the likelihood for wanting a new kind of relationship when you’re already five years into your current one is pretty good. That doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be with someone else. It simply means that the rules you both had agreed upon no longer work for you, and your needs aren’t being met. I hate to tell you this, but they probably won’t ever be met by this person if he’s both unwilling to compromise and simultaneously unwilling to give you what you need.

You’re asking for ways to make nonmonogamy look less threatening to someone who’s already threatened by it — ways to broach the subject in order to get a “yes.” You won’t get a yes. You’ve already gotten a no. Take his answer as his final answer, and decide what you’re going to do.

Even if he consents to some permissions here and there after some persuasion, he will likely do so resentfully and will punish you for it other, smaller ways. I’ve seen that happen many times. You, in turn, will feel like you are on a leash, and you will resent him right back, and you both will reach a place of bitterness that slowly erodes your relationship. My best advice: End things and find someone who shares your current thoughts of what constitutes an ideal relationship — in this case, on in which your basic needs are met, whatever that looks like to you.

It won’t be easy, but it’s worth it, and breaking up will be kinder to both of you in the long run.

— Beastly 





  1. A great article and really thought-provoking. Thank you.

    What about religious/spiritual differences? Is that not a dealbreaker area too? If we believe and seek different things I think this will split us apart unless we can be so broad-minded as to accept what the other believes and respect and honour that, which is not usual and often humanly impossible because we all think we right.


    1. Some people disagree with me on this, but I do not consider religious differences absolute dealbreakers, as I’ve seen them handled beautifully in several relationships including my own in the past. That said, very orthodox and extreme religious practicioners will have a harder time communicating through this difference than their more liberal and relaxed counterparts. Thankfully there are many interfaith religious institutions, like the Unitarian Universalist Church, where different-faith and interfaith couples can worship.


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