Research On Non-Monogamy
Prevalence of Non-Monogamy
Most research shows that approximately two-thirds of long-term male couples who have been together for five years or more are honestly non-monogamous (Shernoff,LCSW, 2007).
The prevalence of non-monogamy in gay male relationships became widely known as the result of the ground-breaking book, The Male Couple, David McWhirter,M.D. and Andre Mattison,PhD., 1984. Based on interviews of 156 long-term couples, they found that after 5 years, all of the couples had incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity.
Since the AIDS pandemic, four studies have found that gay men have not become more monogamous out of fear of HIV (Crawford, Rodden, Kippax & Van de Ven, 2001; Davidovich, et.al., 2001; Halkitis, Zade, Shrem & Marmor, 2004; LaSala, 2005).
Four studies document that only one third of male couples are sexually exclusive (Advocate Sex Poll, 2002; Bryant & Demian, 1994; LaSala,2004; Wagner, Remien& Carballo-Dieguez,2000).
One study contradicts these. 70% of men in male couples reported being monogamous and would view any outside sex as betrayal of commitment (Campbell,2000).
Multiple studies have found no significant differences in relationship quality or satisfaction between samples of sexually exclusive and non-exclusive male couples (Blasband & Peplau,1985; LaSala,2004,2005; Wagner,et.al.,2000).
Two studies found that both monogamous and self-described ‘open’ male couples demonstrated higher levels of relationship quality and lower levels of psychological distress compared with couples who had not negotiated non-monogamy but reported covert outside sexual activity (Wagner, et.al,2000; LaSala, 2004).
Tangentially, a study on heterosexual relationships found that 24% of married men and 22% of married women had sex outside their marriages even though their spouse believed the relationship was sexually exclusive (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983). (Of course, these numbers may have decreased as a result of the recent emphasis on family values).
– Excerpted from “Negotiated Nonmonogamy and Male Couples”, Michael Shernoff, LCSW, 2007
In 2010 researchers at SF State University revealed a study where they followed 556 male couples for 3 years. 45% were monogamous, 47% had open agreements, and 8% were discrepant (partners reported different understandings). Colleen Hoff, SFSU Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality, July, 2010, AIDS Care.
CHEST (Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, director of Hunter College’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training) reports a study of 161 gay male couples where 53% were monogamous, 13% were open, 15% were ‘monogamish’, and 19% were discrepant. Journal of Family Psychology, October, 2012.
A second CHEST study surveyed over 316 gay and bisexual men in relationships and found 57% were monogamous, 22% were open, 20% were ‘monogamish’. Alternatives to monogamy among gay male couples in a community survey: implications for mental health and sexual risk. Parsons JT, Starks TJ, DuBois S, Grov C, Golub SA, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Feb, 2013.
A study of 1006 gay men in U.K. found that 41% had previously experienced, or are currently in, an open relationship, FS magazine and GMFA, Feb, 2016
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