Non-Monogamy As Sexually Satisfying As Monogamy for Gay Men

A commitment to monogamy is at the core of most heterosexual relationships. Even among lesbian couples, monogamous arrangements tend to be more prevalent than non-monogamous ones. Although research has looked at how sexual satisfaction and relationship quality among same-sex couples compare to heterosexual couples, few studies have examined how these factors stack up when compared between monogamous and non-monogamous male couples. There is an abundance of evidence supporting the benefits of intimate relationships, regardless of whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. Romantic relationships can provide emotional, physical, and physiological health benefits that help reduce the risk of certain diseases and increase longevity. The common thread that heavily contributes to these benefits is sexual satisfaction, an indicator of relationship satisfaction. Jeffrey T. Parsons of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and the Center for HIV/AIDS Education Studies and Training, recently led a study that compared sexual satisfaction and relationship quality among 161 non-monogamous and monogamous gay male couples.

The couples were evaluated based on their relationship arrangement—specifically, if they were monogamous, open, discrepant, or monogamish. The majority of the participants (52.8%) reported being monogamous, while nearly 20% described their relationships as discrepant, indicating one partner felt the relationship was more open than the other. Parsons discovered that although the sexual arrangements among the participants varied widely, the levels of sexual satisfaction did not. In fact, Parsons found that communication, sexual satisfaction, and sexual frequency were similar across all relationship types.

The only significant difference Parsons found was in the rate of sexual jealousy, which was higher among the monogamous couples. These findings dispel the belief that monogamous relationships provide more satisfaction, sexually and relationally, than non-monogamous relationships. Another finding that arose from the research is that the longevity of the non-monogamous couples was relatively equal to that of the monogamous couples. This suggests that it is not the nature of the relationship that predicts satisfaction or sustainability, but other contributing factors such as sexual communication and frequency. “Our findings lend support to the existence of a spectrum of sexual agreements among gay male couples,” Parsons said. He believes it is important for therapists treating gay couples to understand that certain sexual arrangements may not contribute to relationship dissatisfaction, and that all aspects of relationship quality should be explored to help diverse couples achieve happiness.

Parsons, J. T., Starks, T. J., Gamarel, K. E., Grov, C. (2012). Non-monogamy and sexual relationship quality among same-sex male couples. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029561

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  • emery

    September 11th, 2012 at 12:33 AM

    always thought monogamy = more satisfaction. but seems like things are not the same for everyone.maybe these people are happy either way,that’s great but I just hope they are into safe practices so as to protect themselves.

  • robert

    September 11th, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    Don’t you think that promoting non monogamy is very dangerous among gay couples, especially given that this is where and why the AIDS epidemic took off so many years ago?

    If they are just as happy in relationships that don’t have that same stability that heterosexual couples have, then I think that there is a big problem that needs to be addressed.

    I think that gay couples, maybe not the ones included in this study but as a whole, will be disappointed to think that this kind of going from partner to partner is still being encouraged within that community. I want for them what straight couples have enjoyed for a very long time and with this kind of stereotype still being promoted there is no way that they will make it there any time soon.

  • Donovan

    September 11th, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Is it out of choice that most gay people have non-monogamous relationships or is it other factors? I don’t mind the former but if they are driven to not being in monogamous relationships(due to prejudice and discrimination, or anything else) then maybe this is not such a great thing after all.

  • AVA

    September 11th, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    I find it odd that there is more jealousy noted among monogamous partners. . . I would have definitely thought that more jealousy would be presnt in those “relationships” where you know that either partner may or may not stay exclusive to the other.

  • Rich Harrison

    September 11th, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    I think that they interviewed the wrong crowd.
    Statistically speaking my gay friends have much more solid relationships than any of my straight friends do!
    And not because they are out having these open relationships!
    They are all together and committed to one another just like any other happy couple, and I would speak for any of them saying that to run around on their partner would be something that they would view as wrong and very hurtful.

  • LORA

    September 12th, 2012 at 4:28 AM

    We are missing something here- you say that it is just as sexually satisfying. I want more than just sex to be satisfactory in my marriage- so wouldn’t I look for a relationship where I can achieve that balance of sexual satisfaction as well as personal satisfaction and love? Those might be found to be missing from relationships where you do not remian exclusive to one partner.

  • Lawson

    September 13th, 2012 at 4:47 AM

    Almost feels like this was written to be political, to appeal even more strongly to voters who think that it is wrong to be gay by saying look, they are not even satisfied with one partner so why should we ever make gay marriage legal?

  • Tom

    January 20th, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    My boyfriend and I just spoke of this today. Right now we are in a monogamous relationship. He is not sexually satisfied always with my sexual performance. Being a top, and he a bottom, this makes it stressful for me to satisfy him. I am 17 years older than he is. He is young and relatively has less experience with partners. But know more of himself sexually. I have found that he is also very hard to please sexually with all of his partners before me. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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