Relationships: Love is Love, But Not the Same


Relationship dynamics among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are as diverse as the individuals involved. Similar to heterosexual relationships, these connections may vary from temporary, casual encounters to committed and long-term partnerships.

It is crucial to recognise and celebrate the spectrum of relationships, each unique in its nature and structure. Let’s explore some of the many different types of connections guys can have.

1. Monogamous Relationships

This one’s simple – it’s when two guys are totally into each other and not seeing anyone else, sexually or romantically. They’re exclusive and committed to one another, just the two of them.

2. Open Relationships

Sometimes, guys decide not to be sexually exclusive and agree for one or both partners to have sexual connections with other people. They remain a couple but might open their relationship to other sexual partners, usually on a casual basis. What makes this different from “cheating” is that both guys have mutually agreed to open the relationship and on the terms to doing so. Trust and talking openly are important to make sure both partners feel good about it.

In an open relationship, it is crucial to set some ground rules and to talk about issues like:

  • What do you do separately or together?
  • How many times or how often can you see the other person/s?
  • How much do you share with each other and others?
  • Are the other partners only sexual or can they be more than that?
  • What kinds of things are off-limits?
  • How committed are you to each other?

3. Polyamorous Relationships

Some relationships involve having more than one ongoing romantic (not just sexual) partner who are in it together – they are usually all romantically connected and might even live together. Three-guy relationships are often called a “throuple”, while in a “quad” relationship, also referred to as a “quadpod”, four people come together to create a close and romantic bond.

4. Asexual Relationships

For some asexual guys, the whole sexual attraction thing isn’t something they connect with. They might still have romantic feelings and get close emotionally and physically but may not have sex often or not at all. It’s all about different shapes and sizes for these relationships.

5. Casual Relationships

Guys can also keep things easy and chill, often without an exclusive commitment. They might see each other regularly but not put too many expectations on the relationship. It can be romantic, kinda romantic, or just about the fun stuff. Again, clear communication is key, so that no one gets hurt.

6. Dominant-Submissive Relationships

In some relationships, one guy takes the lead, and the other goes with it. Both guys still have to make sure they respect each other’s boundaries, no matter their roles. Trust, talking, and making sure both guys are cool with everything are super important.

7. Serodiscordant or Magnetic Relationships

In this situation, one guy is HIV-positive, and the other is negative. If the positive guy is on treatment and the virus is undetectable, they can’t pass it on to their partner. But if not, they should use condoms, or the negative guy can take PrEP (the daily HIV prevention pill).

8. Both Partners HIV Positive

Men who are both HIV positive may choose to be in a relationship due to shared experiences, reduced stigma, support in medication adherence, undetectable viral load benefits, love and connection, and education. It’s important to note that co-infection, while less common, can present additional challenges in treatment, so work with your healthcare provider. Each person’s decision is personal, with communication, trust, and understanding being crucial factors in making this kind of relationship work.

9. Flying Solo

Some men may choose to stay single for various reasons, such as valuing independence, focusing on career or personal growth, past relationship experiences, embracing solitude, fulfilling social connections outside of a romantic relationship, prioritising personal well-being, avoiding commitment concerns, and maintaining financial independence. Each individual’s decision is unique, and shaped by personal preferences, life circumstances, and goals.

In any relationship, guys need to stay safe from HIV and other infections. Condoms and water-based lube are still an effective way to avoid them. PrEP works well for guys who are HIV-negative. And if the positive guy is on treatment and the virus is undetectable, he can’t pass it on to his partner(s). Just make sure to understand and respect each other to keep things healthy and happy!


Article courtesy of Engage Men’s Health, which offers free PrEP, ARVs, and other friendly and confidential sexual health services in Joburg, NMB, and Buffalo City for gay, bi, and other men who have sex with men. For more info or to make an appointment visit or call/WhatsApp 082 607 1686.

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