Former Mr Bear NZ, Matt Holster, channels his inner Sex & The City-era Carrie Bradshaw to discuss his experiences with open relationships.

In this day and age, with a continual focus on openness, diversity, inclusion and self-authenticity, I find myself wondering: “Is an open relationship status just the ‘flexitarian’* of the relationship’s preference?” And with that, how does one explore that space while still being authentic to the commitment of a relationship?

As a rainbow community, our box of crayons is more than just a cis heteronormative black and white. By default of having to find ourselves in an often very binary world, we are less constrained by societal norms and free to explore our own paths – for ourselves and in our interactions with others.


This brings me to a discussion I recently had with a straight mate about playing with a third. In her mind, even if my partner and I were with the same person at the same time, by her value set, we were cheating on each other.

By our definition, we were just playing with a new toy, one that doesn’t require batteries. By her own acknowledgement, we were sexually liberated, but our play didn’t conform to her view of a respectful, trusting relationship. We are still friends, and I respect her preference for batteries.

Compare that conversation with the majority of profiles on Grindr and Scruff, and open relationships seem to be the norm, not the exception – but how do people get there? And does it work?

As one who has been around the block so long that I helped pour the concrete, here are a few things I do know:

-Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, successful relationships are built on open, honest, and respectful communication.

-Passion and preferences change over time, and it’s normal, natural, and healthy to want to explore.

-If you’re making the step to opening things up, honouring the foundation of your relationship needs to always come first and foremost.

-As soon as one person stops communicating where their mind is at, it’s a very slippery slope to a point where the other becomes blindsided.

So is an open relationship worth it?

From my own experience and the views I have heard from many others who have tried it, while it works, an open relationship can be a fulfilling and enriching experience.

From a quick ‘blow & go’ through to ‘friends with benefits’ to deeper and more long-term, there is a world of options for exploration. And while I’m thankful that our physicality and emotionality don’t necessarily have to be connected, I personally think that such journeys are always better with a travel partner.

In a community that has strived for so long to break out from the definitions of others, we have inadvertently confined ourselves when driving for a need to define the status of our relationships. Traditionally, terms like “open” are a signal to those on the outside that we come with current connections to at least one more. Perhaps to maintain healthier interpersonal relationships in the long term, ‘open’ should be a constant aspirational mantra for how we relate to those closest to us.

Either way, let’s at least be open with our relationship status on the apps… Nobody likes the flavour of emotional catfish!

*a vegetarian who sometimes eats meat.

Matt Holster
travels to NZ queer events with a spirit of fun and a sprinkle of humour and cynicism. Mr Bear NZ 2019 and previous NZ Falcons manager, this wannabe go-go dancer and long-time gay, brings his own brand of glitter, fuelled by pop music and gin.