A new study, Younger Gay Men’s Perspectives on Monogamy, Non-monogamy, and Marriage describes a significant shift toward monogamy among younger gay men (ages 18 – 39 years old). Of 576 respondents, 85% of single men were seeking monogamous relationships, and there was an overwhelming preponderance of monogamous couples (86%)
Clearly there is a trend toward greater monogamy among younger gay men. (Previous research reports an average of 50% of gay male couples as non-monogamous). However, the study authors were surprised at the number of respondents in monogamous couples that mentioned occasional three-ways. A second, more qualitative study was conducted in which respondents could identify as monogamous, ‘monogamish’, or non-monogamous.
The results were intriguing. 18% identified as ‘monogamish’; 6% as non-monogamous; and 76% as monogamous. This suggested two trends: A trend away from non-monogamy, toward monogamy – But also a trend toward holding that monogamy ‘a little loosely’. For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘Monogamish’ has been popularized by sex columnist Dan Savage. He describes it as “mostly monogamous with a little squish around the edges.”
In addition to a shift towards greater monogamy and the emergence of ‘monogamish’ relationships, the Study reports that among younger gay men, marriage is definitely becoming the norm: 92% of single gay men expect to marry. Sixty-two percent responded that most of their coupled friends are married or likely to marry.
Interestingly, only half of respondents equated marriage with monogamy, and non-monogamous couples were as likely to be married as monogamous couples.
The study is both quantitative (576 respondents) and qualitative (222 respondents) and provides descriptions and profiles of monogamous, monogamish, and non-monogamous gay male relationships.
Colleen Hoff, PhD., Director, Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University considers this study and the authors’ previous study to be ‘ground-breaking’. “The work Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears are doing is providing important information and modeling about gay couples. The findings from their studies will end up supporting gay couples for generations."
Other study findings:
- Monogamous couples espoused the need to make monogamy a ‘conscious choice.’ They didn’t consider it their only option and felt it required on-going communication. Many monogamous couples described the importance of acknowledging their attractions to others, while re-affirming their intention to remain monogamous. The Study authors hypothesize that this may be different than the norms of typical heterosexual couples who tend to consider monogamy as a ‘default’ and might be reluctant to discuss their attractions to others.
- Non-monogamy is still common in the gay community (6% identified as non-monogamous, in addition to the 18% identifying as ‘monogamish’). Non-monogamy is more likely to be an agreement couples come to over time (In a previous study by the authors, of long-term male couples in non-monogamous relationships, seven years was the average time before couples ‘opened’ their relationship).
- Both monogamous and non-monogamous couples saw their relationships as healthy and stable (98% and 92%), satisfying (98% and 91%), and likely to continue for the next five years (98% and 86%). The myths that “it’s impossible for gay men to stay true to a monogamous commitment” or that “non-monogamous relationships don’t last” are clearly untrue. (In the previous study by the authors of long-term male couples in non-monogamous relationships, couples had been together an average of 16 years.)
- Monogamous, monogamish and non-monogamous couples all emphasized the importance of honesty and frequent communication about their relationships.
- Both monogamous and non-monogamous couples felt misunderstood and unsupported by the larger gay community. Couples from both camps talked about the topic being “undiscussable” and the need for greater information.
For more information or to download a summary of this study, visit: www.thecouplesstudy.com