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The Berlin Man Who Wasn’t Looking for Monogamy

“Right now, the reality is that there is only Elias in the world.”

Illustration: Simone Noronha
Illustration: Simone Noronha

Aron, 39, Berlin

Entering the New Year, I had a bit of an epistemological crisis. My entire thinking around love and connection had yielded this string of unhealthy connections. In Berlin, the idea of the “chosen one,” or the one meaningful other, is regarded as conservative, out of place, out of time. The gay social life here is a bit dogmatic in this sense — open relationships are the expectation. Nobody wants to limit himself anymore.

My most recent ex and I were in an open relationship, but I was newer to openness, and not entirely open to it. It worked at the start when the stakes were lower. But over time, my ex started using the queer foundations of this open relationship to create a very specific playground in which he used sex and openness to manipulate me. I felt gaslighted and abused. After 11 months together, I ended things in December.

I felt like trust was foolish. So I rethought my approach to allow more space for lightness and independence. That’s when I met my — as I like to call him — my plague fuck puppy.

Elias and I first chatted on Grindr in early February. I liked his beard and sense of melancholia, which felt honest and vulnerable, not self-destructive. I’m not afraid of sadness, so I enjoyed the openness. We chatted on the app over the course of an afternoon, exchanging details on our careers (he works in an architect’s office, I’m in academia), how we came to live in Berlin, and photos. We decided to meet the next day for coffee, and hooked up for the first time at his flat that night.

By the time we met up again a week later, Berlin was already starting to turn inwards. We acknowledged the choice we had to make: quarantine alone or become each other’s sole corona sexual partners.

In one sense, COVID did all the navigating here — but in another, making this commitment felt like a very conscious choice. In my open relationships, I had to trust that my partner was taking care of himself, getting tested every few months, taking PrEP. That trust wasn’t always honored, but that mindset ultimately prepared me for this pandemic, where every interaction, even with Elias, is a calculated risk.

We see each other once or twice a week. He usually comes to my place after work (his offices are still open), and we spend a few hours together. We get warmth and comfort from each other, and the sex is really good. It does feel transgressive against the bio-political order. The exchange of bodily fluids, the lack of distance, you name it.

I’m not using any apps at the moment. I’m not seeing other guys, no parties, no public sphere, no other temptations. This is a very special moment in our history — monogamy is actually queering Berlin’s default queer relationship structure. Right now, the reality is that there is only Elias in the world. But that’s not a result of me developing some kind of fatal crush like in the past.

Could I survive all this alone? Yes, which makes this feel like more of a choice. But I do think we have made this easier for each other. In many ways, Elias feels like a negation of my last relationships, like some kind of correction. Spiritually and symbolically, yes, the monogamy, the trust—but also physically, my ex was very much a top and into leather and very crude; whereas Elias, my puppy, is sweet, and, hopefully, loyal, which, I have to say, is very dear to me. He reminds me of my ex-husband, actually — the same features, the same behavior. It’s a nice reminder of that sweetness.

So, it is now my exercise, my special project with myself, to rediscover joy in monogamy. To learn how to have one person, to invest in them, and to not lose myself. To make the choice to trust again, to open up my heart again, to open up my home to a stranger. It’s a weird tango. I don’t know what lies in the future, but for now, Elias is my meaningful other.

Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity. Names have been changed.

The Berlin Man Who Wasn’t Looking for Monogamy