Whether you’re younger or older, coupled or single, and no matter what gay subculture you call yours, you may have noticed that the legalization of marriage for gay couples came with an odd little phenomenon. The U.S. Supreme Court unwittingly ushered in a new era, including the polarizing notion that gay couples should get married, instead of can get married.

By Mike Fleming

Our social feeds are already telling the updated version of the age-old love story. Longtime pairs are tying the knot in droves with ceremonies from simple to extravagant, but tons of short-term couples are also jumping into nuptials because marriage is “so hot right now.”

Activists and advocates are fond of reminding us that “we still have work to do” after marriage. But rather than stamping marriage “done” and setting it aside, there may also be work left to do in gay culture on relationships and what it means to marry.

It’s great that the option exists for gay men to be just as legally committed or just as impulsive as any straight couple next door, on the street, or on marriage competition reality shows. On the other hand, there’s a rumble of discontent over the loss of something distinctly ours, distinctly gay: Without marriage equality, we were free to define our relationships in non-traditional ways like no other demographic.

Some gay guys aren’t as in love with marriage and its connotations as so many others appear to be. On the contrary, they still eschew the constraints of the sanctioned institution as hetero at best, restrictive at least, and played out at worst. They long for a time when no legalized marriage meant the sweet freedom to not marry.

Luckily, it’s not an either-or proposition. Rather than get caught up in normative ideas of what marriage is, we can now actually have it all. How? Stop insisting that there’s one right way to engage with each other, recognize the awesome assortment of approaches we can take, and stop expecting everyone to feel and act the same way.

As is appropriate in every situation, we can hearken back to the great gay muse, that sage soothsayer, that endless font of advice: Carrie Bradshaw, Darren Star’s fictional dating diva of Sex and the City. After the trials and tribs of singlehood and matrimony, she figured out at the end of the deliciously awful “Sex and the City 2” what her newlywed gays Stanford and Anthony knew at the beginning of the movie: There’s more than one way to skin a relationship.

“You have to take tradition and decorate it your own way. … when it comes to relationships, there’s a whole range of colors and options to explore.” – Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City 2

This Valentine season, we welcome marriage as only one of the following gay relationship options, and only then as it’s defined and redefined by each couple. These are our Top Six. Which type(s) of Gay Love do you do, which have you tried, or which ones may tempt you to find a new one?

Serial Monogamy
Most of us are, were, or have tried to be this kind of gay. You like the “mating for life” concept and go around applying it to each guy you date, one at a time. The boys may call you “emotionally slutty,” but it works with varying degrees of success for scores of gay men.

Pros & Cons
Serial monogamy often gives you emotional security, familiarity, societal approval, a distinct lack of jealousy, and maybe even reduced risk of STDs. On the downside, you might also get boredom, societal pressure to take it further, as well as decreasing emotional and physical pleasure over time. Still, it may fit you just right to give all your love to one guy at a time without biting off the broader expectations of traditional marriage.

Open Relationships
Like the serial monogamist, most of us also know of, or have been in, open relationships. “Consensually non-monogamous” couples, like other types of relationships, can define their open agreements in multiple ways. Perhaps it’s to stay emotionally monogamous but not sexually, or perhaps it’s open to explorations of the body and heart outside the couple.

Pros & Cons
You get to indulge your wandering eye and you get more varied experiences. Of course, you might also get time management challenges, competition, and jealousy. Advance planning and clear agreements are crucial, and honest communication can help solve conflicts if it does arise.

Polyamory
You love Dick, and lord knows you love hairy, er, Harry. You also love Tom. And damn it, they love you back. Polyamorous gay relationships between more than two guys are more common than some people realize. Whether there is a clear “Alpha” couple, one guy with multiple spouses, or egalitarian sharing of the love, triads, quadrangles and other configurations are available to explore.

Pros & Cons
Big pluses here include sexual variety, additional “team members” for support, and deep friendships between non-intimate partners. You might also develop a skill for communication as each partner learns to express his needs. Cons? Societal misunderstandings, inequity, “ganging up” on individual members in disagreements, and that old nag, jealousy.

Non-exclusive Dating
Unlike serial monogamy, these guys have no intention of ever putting a ring on it or in any way tying their love to just one man. You like him, you may even love him, and you may also feel the same way about other guys. When friends with benefits keep it casual, your place is not his place, your life is not his life, and that’s just the way you like it.

Pros & Cons
Independence means you can take care of yourself and you have the skill to self-motivate and self-please. It also means you can be a little inflexible, unaccommodating and hard to work with, plus you only have the resources of one person to accomplish things.

Marriage
While it’s popularly viewed as the ultimate commitment and show of love, the rising divorce rate suggests otherwise. Still, when expectations are aligned, one-to-one commitment for life works as the go-to ideal for many gay couples. Married people are adept at the art of compromise and even live longer. The successful pairings – as well as their potential kids – thrive on the structure marriage can afford them.

Pros & Cons
Married guys have a built-in support system, someone to take care of them when they’re sick, a date to every party, usually increased social status, and together they can often accomplish more goals faster. Then again, they’re more likely to be overweight, in debt, and too reliant on each other at the expense of other friendships and their own independence.

Love Yourself
The one kind of gay love most often overlooked and arguably the most important is self-love. No, not that kind. OK, not only that kind. Many gay men have gotten so used to denying themselves that they actually think it’s impossible to get what they want. Worse, many of us don’t even believe we’re entitled to it. Enjoy singlehood by treating yourself, trusting yourself, and making sure your needs are met.

Pros & Cons
Every psyche study, ever, points out that loving yourself is the surest way to contentment and satisfaction. When you love yourself, you usually get to do what you want, but conversely you may be unable to let others have their way. Learning to trust yourself and love your own company trumps any validation you might get from other people. And as it turns out, the ageless wisdom of RuPaul was right: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Sources: Psychology Today, Positively Sexual, Thought Catalog