How Monogamy Can Work For Two Men
A photo of Scott (right) and Dan from the mid-'70s
“Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”
Maybe you need to be someone who loves old movies, like 1942’s Now, Voyager, in order to be interested in monogamy. Now, Voyager isn’t about monogamy, particularly, but the film, and the lifestyle, will probably both appeal to someone who is at heart a romantic—someone who believes in the possibility of finding the kind of happiness (you know, the “happily ever after” kind) that comes, along with swelling violins, at the end of a classic Hollywood flick.
Dan and I are like that.
We don’t, I should say right away, think of this as any kind of moral high ground. Monogamy isn’t better than non-monogamy, any more than living your whole life in New York City is better than living a few years there, and then moving to L.A., and then to London, and then to Rome. The real question, after all, is: How do you live—wherever you are? And is it better to go to the bars and chat up 10 people for 15 minutes each or to talk to one person, for hours and hours, long into the night? Well, what did you talk about, and how well did you listen?
Shared lives shouldn’t be judged by how long they were shared, but by the degree to which they were joyful, rich, useful, supportive, and meaningful for the people involved. But some folks don’t use these criteria. Some folks, and they’ve been quoted in The Advocate or Out ever since the 1970s, have nothing good to say about monogamy in principle. They tend to describe monogamy in terms that make it sound positively unnatural. Which is rather ironic, no? That’s a slur some straights have been hurling at gays forever. Dan and I might be a rare couple—maybe even a sappy couple—but what we are doing is not unnatural.
We met, by chance, in a gym on Chicago’s South Side, on the evening of June 6, 1973. We were 24 and 26 at the time, and we were the sort of guys, as you might already have guessed, who talked for hours and hours, long into the night. That is, before we went back to my apartment for another sort of intimate form of communication.
A few months later, we moved in together, and we promised that we would “be faithful” to each other for one year. In retrospect, I like the expression “being faithful” better than, say, “practicing monogamy,” because the very words suggest a belief in the possibility of something that you can’t really fully control: a “leap of faith,” into the unknown. After one year had passed, we promised a second, and then three more. On our fifth anniversary we decided we didn’t need to have this conversation again, and made a lifetime commitment.
And today? Well... let’s see, how should I put it? Today we still have both kinds of long intimate conversations, just as we did on that first night over 40 years ago. Conversations—both the verbal and physical kind—that still lead us forward, but that also contain the long thread back into the past. In other words, we’re still comrades, still lovers, still best of friends.
And we would like very much for young lovers, who find themselves interested in the idea, to know that longterm monogamy is in fact a real possibility. It can be right for some couples. It can be joyful and rich, useful, supportive and meaningful. But we’re sadly low on grandfatherly advice about how to make it happen. You’ll need self-discipline, of course: There will almost certainly be temptations, and when they come, you know, you’ll have to sacrifice something. You’ll need some luck, but who doesn’t? And maybe it would be a good thing, too, if you are the sort of person whose eyes fill with tears at the end of Now, Voyager.