When things get R-rated - long-term commitment.

Published 22, Feb, 2016

Monogamy, open, polyamory, other - there are lots of relationship styles. But Jason R Cole asks “are HIVers afraid of being in a committed, long-term relationship? If so, why?”

When things get R-rated - long-term commitment.

"Long term commitment." It is a frightening phrase for many queers. I count myself as one of them, once upon a time. 

Years ago, I was afraid of what commitment symbolized: being bound to someone else, with little or no escape. You see, back in my early 20s I was an expert escape artist when it came to relationships - although, I did end up dragging my lovers down with a whole lot of drama and self-destructive behaviour. I didn’t know better at the time. 

In my mid-20s, I was married to a wonderful man whom I had met and dated on and off since I was 18. There were happy times in our marriage, but our marriage was mired in my lack of relationship experience and an incredible inner conflict: what type of relationship did I truly want?

We had tried to be closed for a time. For a time, we tried to be open. Either way, I had to grow up just a little bit more emotionally before I was able to give my now ex-husband what he needed. (I am grateful that we remain friends to this day, by the way.) 

It was also around this time that I was diagnosed as being HIV-positive. The new generation of HIVers seem to have a plethora of sexual options open up to them, upon diagnosis. That line may get me in trouble with my HIV pioneers - those who paved the way during the early years of the crisis, bearing many battle scars of loss, survival and yet hope. However, this was certainly my case and one I know is shared with the newly diagnosed (at least the ones I speak to). 

I have seen the newly diagnosed, within the past 10 years become successful amateur porn actors, educators in sexual health, have multiple lovers, engage in bareback sex within their triads, be monogamous and become happily married couples with children. This leads to an important question: are HIVers afraid of being in a committed, long-term relationship? If so, why? 

Perhaps it’s the type. Monogamy seems so monotonous, doesn’t it? At least, that is what the naysayers would have us believe. "Heteronormative" I believe is the word du jour: a term used pejoratively to describe monogamy, at least in how ‘un-queer’ and ‘boring’ it can be. I have heard this line repeated to me many times. When I hear it, it makes me wonder what the person saying it really is fearful of? Is there such a phobia attributed to tokenistic picket white fences. 

Monogamy has its positives: knowing the one person you are coming home to, knowing their heart belongs only to you and knowing that their sexual interests lie with you and you alone. You know the one person with whom you will share your bed with at night. 

But perhaps it is not monogamy that has my fellow queers and HIVers so fearful. There is always polyamory. Polyamory can take on so many different shapes and sizes that at times, it can be dizzying. I don’t blame my friends in the queer community for having trouble pinning a relationship (or relationships) of this type down. It takes concerted effort to communicate at a level of emotional balance and maturity that can at times be quite taxing. At times, one might think you’re on a conference call of love. 

"I am of the firm belief that as much as some of us like to still play in the sandbox, we want to share the pail and shovel with someone - no matter how we may be deceiving the world."

Yet, polyamory can be satisfying. Where one person is able to satisfy a certain need, another person serves another and so forth. Many queer folk define their polyamory differently, with guidelines and structure to abide by. This allows for something that should always be present in both types of relationships. 


I speak passionately about the ins and outs of both monogamy and polyamory because I have experienced both, at their worst and at their best. When I was married, I had convinced myself that monogamy was the answer for me. At the time, it was not. At other times in the future, it certainly was. I have always gone with the vibe of the relationship: what myself and my partner(s) are feeling will provide the best chance for success. 

I used to fight vehemently for polyamory, thinking it was the only option available to me. I had rationalized that because I was HIV-positive, a polyamorous relationship was the only choice for me. How limited. How monotonous. 

When it comes down to it, what we really crave in a loving relationship is truly safety: knowing we are emotionally secure in the relationships we are in, with the people we have chosen to open our hearts to. It means overcoming our insecurities and being aware of how to move through those insecurities.

In the past, I have mentioned to former partners my panes of jealousy, the sources of my anxiety and what is irksome in the relationship, This is the foundation of longevity: communication. 

I am of the firm belief that as much as some of us like to still play in the sandbox, we want to share the pail and shovel with someone - no matter how we may be deceiving the world. It is a human instinct to want to share our lives with someone, to connect in a spiritual and loving way. Why should we deny ourselves that? Moreover, why should we deny that that is truly what we want, when seeking out a partner or partners? 

As HIVers, we will approach the question of commitment depending on our life experiences. Our experiences are like a script written for the film that is our lives, playing out constantly as we move forward as best we can. 

So, after all analysis of the R-rating of our lives, what do I truly believe in? What type of relationship do I think has the best chance for success? 


Monogamy and polyamory are both valid relationship types. I limited myself for such a long time, placing myself in a quagmire of such inner conflict that I took down many romantic casualties. At 33, I am done. I choose to live in the present moment. Today, truly is all we have. 

And who’s to say: we may look back none years from now and be holding a hand, or two, or three.