Curated from: Learn - shy
If you are not familiar with the concept of open relationships, one might be quick to dismiss it as being similar to cheating, or simply having a relationship between 2 individuals who cannot fully commit to each other, hence the need to pursue others on the side. However, when both parties in the open relationship have a good and consensual understanding of how it should be done, being in an ethically non-monogamous relationship can be both liberating and exciting as it allows everyone involved to receive and give different types of love while having the freedom to create and pursue the sexual and emotional pleasure from the people who are best equipped to give it to them.
In a country where convention and tradition is promoted over anything — especially in the scope of families and relationships, what is it like to be in multiple relationships at the same time? We spoke to Subash (he/him), a 24-year-old, queer cis-male living in Singapore who shares his story and opinions on being in open relationships!
What has the dating scene in Singapore been like for you?
For a brown queer person in Singapore, the dating scene here is not the most ideal. For one, you’re a double minority, and therefore there is rampant racism, even in the queer community; just scroll through Grindr and you will find dozens of comments that hint racial exclusivity.
This is not to say you will never meet anyone. Oh you do. You meet men (or women) who are smitten by your queerness. They will indulge in it, in you, but only for a brief period of time; until they go back to their comfortable shells of heteronormativity.
With this as the backdrop, Is there any other option than to leave things open ended? Having open relationships are rarely an option for many queer individuals in Singapore. Longevity or exclusivity then becomes a matter of “privilege”.
We make do with the relationships there are out there, that are available. You navigate the uncharted terrains not because you want to, but because there simply isn’t any other way,
In hindsight though, I am very grateful for this. It has taught me to be more selfless in the way I love. I have learnt so much about myself — my insecurities, my desires.
Has it been difficult explaining to people that you’re in open relationships?
I find it very difficult to answer questions regarding relationships in general. When people ask me if I have a special someone, I get tongue-tied because I have many “special someones” that I would not like to rate over another. I don’t see life in those terms. I don’t want to quantify or qualify something so pure and beautiful. I fall in love — yes, but not with a person exclusively, but with moments and experiences as a whole. I think even the term open relationships doesn’t sit well for me. It’s still a box.
I think the struggle is to communicate in binaries and boxes, when realities are far from it. How do you articulate something so ephemeral in rigid terms and labels? When one relationship bleeds into the other, how can you separate them and say this is the one worth talking about?
I think a lot of queer relationships are non-monogamous because there simply isn’t a space for homosexual relationships to exist, especially in a country like Singapore which pretty much favours the family unit. For a relationship to be considered of worth here, they subconsciously need to fulfil a specific economic purpose; they need to propagate the idea of an organised family, which is something true love, especially queer ones, doesn’t guarantee. To substantiate the legitimacy of a relationship, people in Singapore conform to relationship models that bear material fruit — aka children. The monogamous model, on the surface, thus helps paint this varnished image of viability. Our policies on housing to what is presented in the media reflect this very interest. It dictates who we decide to love, how many and how much.
Given that this is the circumstance, we can establish that desires are very much governed subliminally by a state’s personal wants. It would not be inaccurate to say that monogamy is then an extension of a much more cynical and selfish need — the need to keep things within perimeters of a state’s control.
The monogamous framework favours heterosexuals who are products of a larger system at play. This is not to say that monogamous love is an insincere one; it just means that more often than not people are coerced into being in monogamous relationships. Commitment is a beautiful and wonderful thing, but only if it's natural.
Queer relationships find themselves being caught up in this uncomfortable mix. When queer relationships are not given their due, they are bound to exist in-between established, state-sanctioned ones. They manifest themselves (unfortunately) in secret, temporal love affairs — the kinds that aren’t even credited to be called “relationships”.
I find myself being in a non-monogamous relationship because there simply is no other way for a person like me to love the way I do. Many queer individuals make do with fleeting romances and unrequited ones. They end up with men or women who love them, but do not love them enough to want to build a life or a family together. The state just does not support that. This is the reality — a reality of wanting in a place where one is not wanted. How can you love someone in a “monogamous-way” if there is no support for representations of such relationships in your social discourse?
And what if one does not even want to subscribe to a monogamous model?
We all know that monogamous relationships are not devoid of infidelity; it is in-fact quite the opposite. Could increasing infidelity rates reveal something deeper about the realities of desire? Are we really made monogamous or are we forced into it? Is there any other feeling more complex and abstract than desire itself? How does one police matters of the heart?
I often wonder if monogamy is even something we should strive for. To me, monogamy very often embodies this materialistic version of love — this idea of possession, of setting boundaries in order to own and be owned by someone. This kind of capitalistic understanding of love doesn’t do it for me. It’s the kind of love that leaves a transactional shadow — the kind, dare I say, that is self-seeking.
This is another reason why non-monogamy works for me. To me, love, in its purest form, does not choose. It does not choose one over the other. To love someone is to understand and accept that they can be loved by someone else. It is to have an open heart. Many might argue that this is just a coverup for a selfish need to want more. I actually think the opposite is. What’s selfish is dishonesty. What’s selfish is having a sense of ownership over someone.
Ideally all relationships should be open. To love is to be open. As of now, I see no other way to love.