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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