Jay Michaelson, writing on The Daily Beast, wonders what’s going to happen after we get marriage equality. Will the future be what gives conservatives nightmares—impermanent and non-monogamous marriage? Or will married people in the future be pretty much what marriage is today—most people are relatively monogamous? We don’t know, and what will actually happen is something out of our control. What we ought to think of is what do we think ought to happen?I think a certain percentage of gay people have already adopted monogamy. We are all familiar with the relationships of friends who have broken up because one partner had sex with someone else. We don’t know whether that response to infidelity will spread to all married gay relationships. On the other hand, a study of gay men in San Francisco reports that 50% of married men say they are not monogamous.  Michaelson thinks this percentage is more likely 75% and wonders if straight men and women in monogamous marriages will start to give up monogamy, faced with the example of many gay couples.I suspect that the human race has never biologically tended toward monogamy. As Michaelson says, men have asserted the right to sex outside of marriage—all those concubines and slave women in the Bible and prostitutes at all times—for the greater part of history. Marriage has been about children and property, but not about committed, monogamous, romantic love between a man and a woman, and certainly not between two men or two women. Michaelson says that committed, romantic love between two persons did not become the basis for marriage until the last one or two hundred years.

Personally I think that in the future we’re going to drift toward reestablishing the biological imperative.If one man actually declares at the beginning of a marriage, “I will never ask where you have been,” and subsequently declares, “I will never charge you with betrayal,” then, all of the emotional energy around betrayal-of-the-marriage-vows would simply have its point taken away.A certain percentage of men is going to have sex outside a relationship. That’s what men do. And God knows we’ve seen that proven in the last fifty years, if you take almost any demographic you care to examine.

But if the marriage is a good one—if they love each other—a temporary or even semi-permanent relationship outside of it needn’t be damaging. A smaller percentage of marriages will break up over these incidents. But if couples have declared at the beginning that these incidents are not grounds for cries of “betrayal” or eviction of the other party and calling a divorce lawyer, then the marriage goes on, children’s lives are not disrupted, the life the two people have created together—their home, all the ways they are financially intertwined, their contribution to the community, all the ways they have become enmeshed in each other—go on.

This way of looking at the relationship puts the emphasis on devotion between the two men and takes the emphasis off of sexual things. In this kind of relationship, neither man claims sexual ownership of the other, and sex is not the paramount way they communicate. At the same time, they are sexually free to act any way they desire, including having a sexual relationship.This describes marriages of men I know, some of whom have been married a very long time. One couple we know has been married more than 40 years. This kind of marriage has been developed during our years in the wilderness, with respect for the way men actually behave, and with respect for the whole relationship the two men have created. This is a sophisticated creation, and I suspect that many gay men are going to try to retain its features as we are assimilated into marriage.