LGBTQIA Relationships and Dating - Healthcare Guild

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Monogamy Works for Some, But is it Realistic for Everyone?


Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, director of Hunter College's Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), worked with a team of researchers to investigate a relatively unexplored area of social research: monogamy and commitment among gay and bisexual men. After surveying over 800 gay and bisexual men in the New York City area, Dr. Parsons and his team found that "the diversity in types of non-monogamous relationships was interesting.... Typically gay men have been categorized as monogamous or not, and our data show that it is not so black and white." CHEST explains on its website:

CHEST's survey indicated that about 60% were single. Of those partnered, about 58% were in monogamous relationships. Of those that were non-monogamous, 53% were in open relationships, and 47% were in "monogamish" relationships (i.e., couples that have sex with others as a couple such as "threeways" or group sex).

These findings are not unique, and New York City's gay and bi men aren't the only ones engaging in these behaviors. In 2010 researchers at San Francisco State University carried out a similar study that revealed just how common open relationships are among partnered gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. As The New York Times reported, "The Gay Couples Study ... followed 556 male couples for three years -- about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners." That figure is remarkably similar to what CHEST found.

Now, I know what you are thinking: These can't possibly be happy, healthy relationships, right? Well, here's what CHEST's survey found:

Men in fully monogamous partnerships showed significantly less illicit drug use and significantly reduced sexual health risk when compared to all other groups of men (single, open, and "monogamish"), suggesting a benefit to monogamy. But CHEST's findings also indicated that non-monogamous partnerships provide other types of benefits to gay and bisexual men. Men in "monogamish" relationships indicated lower rates of depression and higher life satisfaction when compared to single gay men.

Dr. Parsons added, "Our findings suggest that certain types of non-monogamous relationships -- especially 'monogamish' ones -- are actually beneficial to gay men, contrary to assumptions that monogamous relationships are always somehow inherently better."...

  1. *The results of the CHEST study "Alternatives to Monogamy Among Gay Male Couples in a Community Survey: Implications for Mental Health and Sexual Risk," by Jeffrey T. Parsons, Tyrel J. Starks, Steve DuBois, Christian Grov and Sarit Golub, will be published in this February's issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.


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