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Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy

ISSN: 1533-2691 (Print) 1533-2683 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wcrt20

Gay Men in Long-Term Relationships

Michael E. Bricker MS, PhD & Sharon G. Horne PhD

To cite this article: Michael E. Bricker MS, PhD & Sharon G. Horne PhD (2007) Gay Men in
Long-Term Relationships, Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 6:4, 27-47, DOI: 10.1300/
J398v06n04_02

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J398v06n04_02

Published online: 23 Sep 2008.

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Gay Men in Long-Term Relationships:


The Impact of Monogamy
and Non-Monogamy on Relational Health
Michael E. Bricker
Sharon G. Horne

ABSTRACT. The current study explored whether differences in the


practice of monogamy or non-monogamy related to the relational health
of men in long-term same-sex relationships. A total of 179 monogamous
and non-monogamous gay partnered men from the U.S. and Canada
were surveyed via the internet in order to examine demographic, sexual,
and relational variables. The majority of the sample reported maintain-
ing a monogamous relationship (73%). The results suggested that
non-monogamous men were more out, reported a greater number of sex-
ual partners, higher frequencies of past sexual contact with men, and
lower levels of dyadic attachment than their monogamous counterparts.
Conversely, the monogamous and non-monogamous coupled men ap-
peared similar in age and total number of past relationships, and did not
appear to differ in their frequency of sex with their primary partners, nor
in their stated relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, or attachment
styles. doi:10.1300/J398v06n04_02 [Article copies available for a fee from
The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address:
<docdelivery@haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com>
2007 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.]

KEYWORDS. Monogamy, gay men, sexual, relationships, satisfac-


tion, attachment, relational health

Michael E. Bricker, MS, PhD, is a student in Counseling Psychology, The Univer-


sity of Memphis, 101 Ball Hall, CEPR, Memphis, TN (E-mail: mbrickr@memphis.
edu).
Sharon G. Horne, PhD, is Associate Professor, The University of Memphis, 100
Ball Hall, CEPR, Memphis, TN (E-mail: shorne@memphis.edu).

Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, Vol. 6(4) 2007


Available online at http://jcrt.haworthpress.com
2007 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1300/J398v06n04_02 27
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INTRODUCTION

Although gay men continue to gain visibility within current society,


stereotypes and misperceptions concerning the intimate lives of gay
men are commonplace. Beginning with the advent of the AIDS epi-
demic, much of the literature on gay men in relationships has focused
largely on sexual risk factors (e.g., Clark, 1997; Crawford, Hammack,
McKirnan, Ostrow, Zamboni, & Hope, 2003; Davidovich, de Wit, &
Stroebe, 2000; Elford, Bolding, Maguire, & Sherr, 2001; Julien, Chart-
rand, & Begin, 1996; Martin & Knox, 1997; Wagner, Remien, &
Carballo-Diequez, 1998). One of the sexual risk factors that has been
associated with the AIDS/HIV epidemic and has become linked with
gay male experience is non-monogamous sexual behavior among cou-
ples within the gay male community (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983;
Kurdek & Schmitt, 1985-86; Wagner et al., 1998).
Engaging in non-monogamous behavior appears to have different
meanings for gay male couples than for heterosexual and lesbian cou-
ples. Gay male couples, in contrast to lesbian and heterosexual couples,
often report a belief that monogamy is not realistic or sustainable (Wag-
ner, Remien, & Carballo-Dieguez, 1998; Widerman & Allgeier, 1996;
Worth, Reid, & McMillian, 2002). Hickson and Davies (1992) argued
that non-monogamous relationships might be more fulfilling for some
gay men by fostering deeper communication and discussion about the
needs of each partner. Indeed, some researchers have even suggested
that sexual non-exclusiveness is indicative of healthy couples dyadic
adjustment (Harry, 1979; Hickson & Davies, 1992), and facilitative of
couple longevity among gay coupled men (McWhirter & Mattison,
1984).
In contrast, non-monogamy has been offered up as a root cause of re-
lationship problems among gay men. Clark (1997) went so far as to epit-
omize the current state of promiscuity and non-relational sex as a
function of heterosexism, and likened non-monogamous behavior to a
relational immaturity and inability for gay men to love themselves.
Also, Bell and Weinberg (1983), in examining differences between mo-
nogamous and non-monogamous couples, found that those couples
who maintained non-monogamous relationships reported less partner
importance and less self-acceptance than did their monogamous coun-
terparts. Given the varied findings associated with monogamous and
non-monogamous behavior, research is needed to better articulate how
engaging in monogamy and non-monogamy in intimate partnerships
relates to the relational experiences of gay partnered men.
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While researchers continue to make estimates about the rate of


non-monogamy among coupled gay men, empirical consensus on its
frequency has not been reached. For example, both McWhirter and
Mattison (1984) and Blumstein and Schwartz (1983) found extremely
low rates of monogamy between gay men in relationships, from zero to
18%, respectively. Other studies, however, have returned dramatically
different results, placing rates of monogamy at 48% (Parker, 1995) to
96% (Berger, 1990). While the respective time periods of these studies
may indicate a movement toward sexual exclusivity among coupled gay
men, more recent studies seem to confound the development of such a
trend, reporting variable monogamy rates of 33% (Wagner et al., 1998),
35% (Crawford et al., 2003) and 60% (Davidovich et al., 2000). With-
out further research that provides insight into rates and practices of mo-
nogamy and non-monogamy, it is likely that inaccurate depictions of
non-monogamy may prevail, infusing stereotypes of gay men without
providing contextual meaning to the practice of non-monogamy among
gay male couples.
While continued research is necessary regarding HIV threat and risk
management among gay partnered men (Davidovich et al., 2000; Hickson &
Davies, 1992; Yep, 1993), focusing exclusively on sexual gratification
and risk may inadvertently serve to perpetuate the hypersexual mythol-
ogy of the gay male community, thus reducing the study of monogamy
and non-monogamy to a purely sexualized, sensation-seeking phenom-
enon (Clark, 1997; Stacey, 2004). In order to provide a more holistic
view of gay male couples, research is needed in order to explore the re-
lational practices of gay male couples and whether differences in the
practice of monogamy or non-monogamy impact the psychological and
relational health of gay men.
Although an increasing body of literature exists about partnered gay
men, little research is available on factors that may influence individu-
als to choose monogamy or non-monogamy as a model for their rela-
tionship (Butler, 2000). For example, in examining same-sex partnering
trends over a 10-year period, Butler found same-sex males to be linked
on variables such as birth cohort, age, and size of hometown. What is
not clear, however, is whether these variables also relate to the likeli-
hood of having a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship. Also,
Berger (1990) found that many gay male couples tend to meet in gay
bars, which may indicate that many gay men in partnerships are more
out than those who do not affiliate with gay-themed venues. Given
that some literature has suggested that many gay individuals are non-
supportive of committed relationships between gay men (Blumstein &
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Schwartz, 1983) or are more inclined to view non-monogamy as recre-


ational (McWhirter & Mattison, 1984), it is possible that those gay part-
ners who are more out may be more exposed to attitudes that are more
favorable toward non-monogamy, and thus, may be more inclined to
choose non-monogamy as a model for their relationships. The current
study explored whether monogamous and non-monogamous partnered
gay men differ on age and level of outness.
Research has been mixed with respect to the average number of out-
side sexual partners non-monogamous coupled men have. While ste-
reotypes continue to exist purporting rampant promiscuity among non-
monogamous individuals, research on gay partnered men in open rela-
tionships has not seemed to validate these common beliefs (Hickson &
Davies, 1992). Also, some research has suggested that non-monoga-
mous partnered gay men may report greater frequency of sexual contact
both outside and inside their primary relationships (Crawford et al.,
2003). It is unknown whether average number of sexual contacts or fre-
quency of sexual contact has an impact on relational variables, there-
fore, further research is needed. Gay men who are non-monogamous
may also differ in their number of past relationships; it is possible that
they have had more experiences of gay male relationships and are there-
fore more open to diverse relationship arrangements. To date, it appears
that no studies have examined whether non-monogamous and monoga-
mous coupled individuals differ in their number of past long-term
relationships. The present study will expand upon prior research by inclu-
ding examination of sexual and relationship characteristics of non-mo-
nogamous and monogamous individuals including frequency of sex
with primary partner in the past year, number of sexual partners in the
past year, average frequency of past sexual contact with a man, and
number of past relationships.
Research findings have consistently indicated that more similarities
exist than do differences between monogamous vs. non-monogamous
gay couples (Berger, 1990; Blasband & Peplau, 1985; Blumstein &
Schwartz, 1983; Buchanan, Poppen, & Reisen, 1996; Elizur & Mintzer,
2003; Kurdek & Schmitt, 1985-86). For instance, Kurdek and Schmitt
(1985-86) found no difference in psychological adjustment between
gay men in monogamous and non-monogamous relationships. Simi-
larly, Elizur and Mintzer (2003) found that gay couples did not differ
among variables related to gay identity, social support, or income, when
relationship exclusivity was considered. Julien et al. (1996) posited,
when studying both commonalities and differences between the two
groups, that factors of communication and negotiated safety played
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more significant roles in determining adjustment and satisfaction than


did the status of sexual exclusivity among coupled gay men. While dif-
ferences may exist between gay couples in their reasons for choosing
monogamous vs. non-monogamous relationships, the current literature
seems to be in consensus that non-monogamous gay male couples ex-
hibit similar levels of overall relationship quality in relation to their
monogamous counterparts. The present study will examine whether rela-
tionship satisfaction is similar among monogamous and non-monoga-
mous gay partnered men in a recent sample of partnered gay men.
Research has explored relationship quality of monogamous and
non-monogamous relationships, including whether non-monogamous
sexual contact includes emotional intimacy or is purely for recreational
purposes (Scrivner, 1997). Some researchers have suggested that gay
men in open relationships tend to view non-monogamous sexual activ-
ity as purely recreational (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; McWhirter &
Mattison, 1984), while others have suggested that non-monogamous re-
lationships may be more generally satisfying (Hickson & Davies,
1992). However, little attention has been paid to how the specific con-
struct of sexual satisfaction is impacted when non-monogamy is consid-
ered. Worth et al. (2002) found that non-monogamous involvement
impacted the trust and love felt by partners, suggesting that the type of
non-monogamy, whether purely sexual or both sexual and emotional
involvement, may also be important to consider. More recent qualita-
tive studies have indicated that many coupled gay men find it difficult to
separate sexual and emotional components of fidelity, and as such, have
created irreparable harm to the relationship by their participation in
non-monogamous involvement (Hickson & Davies, 1992; Worth et al.,
2002). Although research with heterosexual participants has suggested
that women view non-monogamous emotional involvement as more
important to the primary relationship than do men (Cann, Mangum, &
Wells, 2001; Wiederman & Allgeier, 1996), research has yet to con-
clude that gay males do not value emotional fidelity (Hickson & Davies,
1992; Stacey, 2004). In contrast, Hickson and Davies found that gay
men often place significant value on both sexual and emotional monog-
amy in their relationships. In order to expand the literature on current re-
lational issues, this current study attempted to distinguish between
sexually non-monogamous relationships and those non-monogamous
relationships characterized by both sexual and emotional engagement
with other men outside the relationship. The present study examined
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whether differences exist in relation to sexual satisfaction among these


groups.
Although relationship satisfaction appears to be similar for monoga-
mous and non-monogamous gay male couples, couples who choose
non-monogamy have been found to struggle with additional pressures
that could to be detrimental to the sustenance of the relationship. Re-
searchers have found that communication and negotiation is often only
arrived at following an instance of unfaithfulness to the commitment of
monogamy within the relationship (Hickson & Davies, 1992; Worth et
al., 2002). In the same way that communication can serve to strengthen
the negotiation and trust between partners in non-monogamous rela-
tionships, the lack of adherence to these agreements can, conversely,
have devastating consequences to the trust and felt sense of love be-
tween partners, as well (Worth et al., 2002). Couples may decide to seek
revenge on a partner for betraying their commitment, or might become
disillusioned in their ability to trust in the longevity or primacy of the
relationship. Still further, couples may fail to find equally agreeable limi-
tations to outside-relational contact, thus creating insurmountable bar-
riers that can ultimately lead to termination of the couples relationship
(Hickson & Davies, 1992). While dyadic attachment has been linked to
relationship satisfaction and commitment (Davis, Kirkpatrick, Levy, &
OHearn, 1994; Kurdek, 1995), Elizur and Mintzer (2003) found that
non-monogamous sexual involvement correlated negatively with at-
tachment security. It may be that the dyadic attachment of a non-mo-
nogamous couple is dependent upon the type of non-monogamous
experiences the couple allows, for example, whether non-monogamous
activity is limited to sexual intimacy. Given conflicting findings with
respect to the impact that non-monogamous involvement has on the
couple dyad, this study will explore whether differences in dyadic at-
tachment exist when considering monogamy, sexual non-monogamy,
and sexual and emotional non-monogamy among partnered gay men.
Another closely related factor to dyadic attachment and monogamy
vs. non-monogamy concerns the maintenance of the relationship as pri-
mary, when extra-relational (sexual and/or emotional) contact is per-
missible (Hickson & Davies, 1992; Julien et al., 1996; Worth et al.,
2002). In Hickson and Davies (1992) qualitative study on the mainte-
nance of non-monogamous relationships, they found an overarching
quality of valuing and consideration of the needs of the other partner
when deciding on sexual and/or emotional involvement with outsiders.
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Some individuals, for example, expressed a commitment to the relation-


ship as the sole source of emotional fulfillment, only allowing sexual in-
volvement with those outside of the primary relationship. Others opted
for non-monogamous sexual involvement only when both partners
could participate as a pair. Overwhelmingly, non-monogamous gay
couples were found to place central importance on the primacy of the re-
lationship with their primary partner. Upon closer examination of mo-
nogamous vs. non-monogamous couples, however, Kurdek and Schmitt
(1985-86) concluded that monogamous couples reported higher affiliative/
dependent need and more favorable attitudes toward the relationship.
While this finding is suggestive of differences in experiences of dyadic
attachment between these groups, research has yet to examine whether
differences actually exist in attachment styles between monogamous,
sexually non-monogamous, and sexually and emotionally non-monog-
amous partnered men. Bergers (1990) finding indicating a link be-
tween monogamy and fear of AIDS may suggest that there is more of a
tendency for men who possess secure attachment styles to engage in
non-monogamy than men who are fearful in their attachment styles.
Conversely, when considering Elizur and Mintzers (2003) finding that
those individuals in open relationships expressed less attachment secu-
rity, it is also possible that attachment styles may be less secure among
gay men who practice non-monogamy, given the influence that outside
sexual and/or emotional contact may bring. The present study examined
whether gay partnered men differed in attachment styles, depending
upon monogamous vs. non-monogamous status.
Specifically, the following research questions were explored: (1) Are
there differences in age and level of outness among monogamous, sexu-
ally non-monogamous, or sexually and emotionally non-monogamous
partnered gay men? (2) Do monogamous, sexually non-monogamous,
and sexually and emotionally non-monogamous partnered gay men dif-
fer in their sexual practices including: frequency of sex with primary
partner in the past year, number of sexual partners in the past year, and
average frequency of past sexual contact with a man? (3) Are there dif-
ferences in relational qualities among monogamous, sexually non-mo-
nogamous, or sexually and emotionally non-monogamous partnered
gay men including: number of past relationships, relationship satisfac-
tion, sexual satisfaction, dyadic attachment, and attachment style?
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METHOD

Participants
This sample was comprised of 179 self-identified gay men, who were
currently involved in a same-sex relationship lasting for at least 6
months, in order to obtain a partnered sample. Although participants
were encouraged to have their partners participate, respondents were
compared based on their code names and relevant demographic infor-
mation so that completed couples were removed from the study (48 sub-
jects). Participants were required to be currently residing either in the
United States or Canada, gay-identified, and to be 18 years of age or
older. Since the survey was internet-based, participants were recruited
via LGBT and relationship-related websites (e.g., Gay.com, In the
Family Magazine, A Rainbow Place, etc.). Volunteers were also acquired
through postings/flyers at various LGBT community centers and PFLAG
support groups around the US and Canada, and through LGB e-mail
contact lists and listservs.
Procedure
Volunteers were given a web address that provided a direct link to an
online survey. Respondents were encouraged to complete the survey in-
dependently. The survey took approximately 30 minutes to complete.
No identifying information was gathered in order to ensure anonymity.
In order to obtain a larger and more geographically diverse sample, the
researchers chose to utilize an internet-based survey. Although web-
based collection has been questioned as a research tool, empirical evi-
dence has shown web-based research to be an equally valid and useful
way to collect data, especially from samples that are otherwise difficult
to access (Kraut et al., 2004).
Relationship Demographics
In order to ascertain monogamous/non-monogamous status, respon-
dents were asked to select categories that described their current rela-
tionship status, which included: monogamous relationship with same-sex
partner (132 participants), open relationship that includes non-rela-
tional sex only outside of the relationship (33 participants), and open
relationship that includes sexual and emotional relationships outside
this relationship (14 participants). Respondents who did not endorse
a monogamy/non-monogamy status, endorsed multiple monogamy/
non-monogamy statuses, and/or did not complete all of the instruments
were removed for the purpose of this analysis (206 subjects).
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Personal Variables

Participants were asked to provide their age (in years) and respon-
dents ages ranged from 18 to 79, with a mean age of 38.82 years. All
participants were male. When examining participants ethnic identifi-
cation, Caucasians represented the largest group (86.6%), followed by
African-Americans (3.9%), Jewish individuals (2.8%), Hispanic-Americans
(2.2%), and Bi-racial/Multi-racial individuals. The level of outness
(openness about ones sexual orientation) was assessed using a 10-point
Likert-type response. Individuals were asked to rate how open they
were about their sexual orientation, with a score of 0 representing not
at all open and 10 being completely open. Participants responses
ranged from 0 (0.6%) to 10 (37.4%), with a mean score of 8.31.

Sexual Practices

Participants were asked to report how often, on average, they had


sexual contact with their partner during the past year, through a 7-point
Likert-type response ranging from never to daily. The highest percent-
age of respondents reported sexual contact with their partner occurring
at 2-3 times each week (33.5%). Respondents were also polled regard-
ing their number of male sexual partners in the past year, and their past
average frequency of sexual contact with a man. Participants reported
an average of 1 sexual partner (44.7%), with an 8-point Likert-type
scale ranging from 0 (14.5%) to 100 or more (1.1%) partners over a
one-year period. With respect to average frequency of sexual contact
with a man, respondents indicated a mean of 1 to 3 times a month
(31.3%), with participants ranging from never (5.6%) to daily (2.8%) on
a 7-point Likert-type scale.

Relational Qualities

Respondents were given a one-item forced-choice response in order


to report the total number of long-term same-sex relationships the indi-
vidual had been involved in (including their current relationship). Re-
spondents were given three choices including: this is my first (60
participants), 2 to 4 relationships (116 participants), or 5 or more re-
lationships (3 participants).
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Relationship Satisfaction

Relationship satisfaction was assessed using the Locke-Wallace


Marital Adjustment Test (Locke & Wallace, 1959). The Locke-Wallace
Marital Adjustment Test was developed as a screening tool to measure
participants level of happiness in romantic relationships. The LW is a
15-item self-report inventory developed to provide a short but valid and
reliable indicator of marital adjustment. The inventory consists of one
global adjustment scale item, 8 items measuring areas of possible dis-
agreement, and 6 items measuring conflict resolution, cohesion, and
communication. The Cronbach alpha of the combined 15 items for this
sample was .50. Given the low reliability of the overall items of the in-
strument with the current sample, only the first item from this instru-
ment was used in the analysis. While single-item measures are usually
discouraged when measuring psychological constructs, the literature
has shown single item measures to demonstrate adequate correlations
when measuring constructs that are generally straightforward in nature
(Abdel-Khalek, 1998; Blake & McKay, 1986; Wanous & Reichers,
1996). The 7-point Likert-type item used in this study provides a
face-valid measure of relationship satisfaction, which asks participants
to rate themselves and their partner on a scale ranging from 1very
unhappy (0.6%) to 7very happy (37.4%), with the current sample
producing a mean score of 5.89 on this item.

Sexual Satisfaction

Sexual satisfaction was measured through use of the Sexual Satisfac-


tion Subscale of the Extended Satisfaction with Life Scale (Alfonso et
al., 1996). This scale is a 5-item, Likert-type scale (from strongly dis-
agree to strongly agree) that measures a persons general satisfaction
with sexuality as it relates to their current partner. Each item was scored
from 1 to 6, with higher scores indicating greater sexual satisfaction. In-
ternal consistency ranged from .90 to .92 and test-retest reliability was
.87 for the normed sample. The reliability coefficient for this study was
.95.

Dyadic Attachment

The attachment items from Kurdeks (1995) Items for Commitment


and Current versus Ideal Ratings of Attachment, Autonomy, and Equality
were used to measure the respondents level of dyadic attachment. This
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is a self-report measure that consists of 8 items on a 9-point Likert-type


scale, with higher scores indicating greater levels of current attachment
to the primary relationship. Scores are summed to create a composite
measure. Items are varied, and discuss partner cohesiveness (e. g., My
partner and I have built an identity as a couple.) Inter-item consistency
reliability was adequate (alpha = .71 to .77) as was test-retest reliability
over a three-year period (alpha = .58 to .67), indicating that this was a
fairly stable measure of dyadic attachment. Results also indicated ade-
quate convergent and divergent validity with existing measures of rela-
tionship commitment, attachment, and autonomy. The reliability
coefficient from the current study was .83.

Attachment Style

In order to examine attachment style, Bartholomew and Horowitzs


(1991) Four Category Model of Attachment Style was utilized. The
Four Category Model of Attachment Style was constructed using com-
binations of a persons self-image (positive and negative) as well as
their image of others (positive or negative). This is a one-item measure
using a forced-choice response. Respondents are given four prototype
narratives (secure, dismissing, preoccupied, and fearful) and asked to
select which attachment style most accurately characterizes them.
Inter-item correlation of the prototypes ranged from .69 to .27. Re-
spondents in this study most frequently endorsed an attachment style of
secure (52.5%), followed by dismissing (21.8%), preoccupied (19.6%),
and fearful (6.1%). When considering groups attachment styles, mo-
nogamous participants most frequently endorsed an attachment style of
secure (53.0%), followed by dismissing (23.5%), preoccupied (19.7%),
and fearful (3.8%). Non-monogamous participants were combined and,
similarly, reported a predominant attachment style of secure (51.1%),
followed by preoccupied (19.1%), dismissing (17.0%), and fearful
(12.8%).

RESULTS

While the researchers originally aimed to explore the research ques-


tions by examining monogamous, sexually non-monogamous, and sex-
ually and emotionally non-monogamous partnered gay men separately,
the discrepancies in sample size between the groups led the researchers
to modify grouping of the data. Fewer of the non-monogamous partici-
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pants endorsed sexually and emotionally non-monogamous relational


status (14 participants) in comparison to sexually non-monogamous (33
participants). Therefore the researchers used independent t-tests in or-
der to examine whether the sexually non-monogamous group differed
significantly from the sexually and emotionally non-monogamous
groups on any of the dependent variables. The results of the independ-
ent t-tests were non-significant, therefore, the researchers chose to col-
lapse the non-monogamous groups for all variables studied, creating a
general non-monogamous group of 47 participants. When comparing
monogamous and non-monogamous groups across the variables being
examined, t-tests and Chi-square analyses were utilized. To avoid the
problem of inflated error rates because of the number of t-tests and
Chi-square analyses used (ten), a Bonferroni adjustment was made
(.10/10 = .0125); therefore, only findings significant at a level of .0125
were reported as significant. A Pearson correlation table representing
associations among the variables is included in Table 2.
Independent t-tests were used to test the relationship between the
non-monogamous and monogamous gay partnered male groups on age
and level of outness. The test for equality of variances revealed a
non-significant effect for age (Levene = 3.63; p > .05) indicating that
the assumption underlying equal variances between the groups could be
assumed. Independent t-test for age revealed a non-significant main ef-
fect. When level of outness was tested for equality of variances, results
revealed a significant effect for level of outness (Levene = 8.99; p < .05)
indicating that the assumption underlying equal variances between the
groups could not be assumed. Independent t-tests analysis indicated a
significant main effect on the variable for level of outness (t = 3.20;
p < .0125). These findings suggest that while non-monogamous and
monogamous groups did not differ in age, non-monogamous subjects
were more out than their monogamous counterparts. Table 1 reports
means and standard deviations for all analyses.
Independent t-test analyses were utilized to examine sexual practices
between the groups. In testing for equality of variances in relation to the
number of sexual partners in the past year, a significant effect was found
(Levene = 6.24; p < .05), indicating that equal variances may not be as-
sumed between the groups on this variable. Conversely, the test for
equality of variances revealed a non-significant effect for average
frequency of past sexual contacts with a man (Levene = .046; p > .05),
and frequency of sex with primary partner in the past year (Levene = .728;
p > .05), indicating that the assumption underlying equal variances be-
tween the groups could be assumed. Independent t-tests analyses indi-
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TABLE 1. Means and Standard Deviations

TABLE 2. Pearson Correlations Among Study Variables

cated significant main effects on number of sexual partners in the past


year (t = 12.583; p < . 0125), and average frequency of past sexual con-
tacts with a man (t = 2.84; p < . 0125), with the monogamous group re-
porting fewer number of sexual partners in the past year and a lower
frequency of past sexual contacts with men. In contrast, independent
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t-test analyses indicated a non-significant main effect on the variable of


frequency of sex with primary partner in the past year (t = .615; p >
.0125), indicating that both monogamous and non-monogamous men
reported similar rates of frequency of sexual relations with their primary
partner.
Independent t-test analyses were used in order to examine monoga-
mous and non-monogamous groups on relational variables including
relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and dyadic attachment.
While the test for equality of variances revealed a significant effect for
both relationship satisfaction (Levene = 10.41; p < .05) and sexual satis-
faction (Levene = 20.390; p < .05), a non-significant effect was ob-
served for dyadic attachment (Levene = .852; p > .05). These results
suggest that equal variances may be assumed for dyadic attachment, but
not for sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction. When using
Independent t-test analyses to compare the two groups on variables
including relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction and dyadic attach-
ment, a significant main effect was found only for dyadic attachment
(t = 3.03; p < . 0125), indicating that monogamous men experienced a
stronger level of attachment to the relationship than did their non-mo-
nogamous counterparts. In contrast, main effects were not found to be
significant for either relationship satisfaction (t = 2.06; p > .0125) or
sexual satisfaction (t = 2.50; p > .0125) indicating that the two groups
were equally satisfied with both their relationship quality and their sex-
ual relations with their partner.
Finally, Chi-square analysis was used in order to examine whether
the monogamous and non-monogamous groups differed in number of
past relationships or attachment style. Chi-square results did not reveal
a statistically significant main effect for either number of past relation-
ships (Pearson Chi-Square = .933; p > .0125; 2 cell counts less than 5) or
attachment style (Pearson Chi-Square = .155; p > .0125; 1 cell count
less than 5) between the two groups, indicating that the two groups did
not differ proportionately in either their number of past relationships or
in their attachment styles.

DISCUSSION

The current study aimed to further the research on partnered gay


mens experiences, particularly as it relates to monogamy and non-mo-
nogamy. While this study investigated many variables in relation to
relationship status, our sample size limited our attempts to study sub-
Michael E. Bricker and Sharon G. Horne 41
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groups of non-monogamy (those who were sexually non-monogamous


from those individuals whose non-monogamy status was inclusive of out-
side sexual and emotional contact). More specifically, out of the total sam-
ple, only 14 individuals identified as having a sexually and emotionally
non-monogamous relationship and only 33 individuals identified them-
selves as having a sexually non-monogamous relationship. Because the
two groups did not differ significantly on any of the variables of inter-
est, the two non-monogamous groups were combined. Future research-
ers may need to obtain much larger samples or conduct purposeful
sampling in order to obtain a sizable enough sample that will allow ade-
quate study of subgroups of non-monogamous men. In addition, the
study of within group differences in non-monogamous and monoga-
mous groups may be expanded to include couples, including but not
limited to, those who only participate in outside contact as a pair or sep-
arate from one another, those who participate in limited sexual behav-
iors outside of the relationship, and those couples who identify as
polyamorous versus those who set limits on emotional contact.
Overall, monogamy was endorsed by 73.7% of the sample, which is
similar to findings of other research (Berger, 1990; Davidovich et al.,
2000). While the current sample is not representative of the overall gay
male population, the monogamy and non-monogamy rates from the cur-
rent study may shed light on current relationship trends for many gay
coupled men. For example, our reported rates of monogamy seem to
contrast with Crawfords et al. (2003) suggestion that the passing of the
AIDS era and increased availability of anti-viral medications may be
giving way to relaxed concerns about sexual risk taking and non-mo-
nogamy among gay men. In addition, McWhirter and Mattisons (1984)
and Blumstein and Schwartzs (1983) assertions that monogamy
(among gay men) may merely be a reaction to the then-current AIDS
epidemic, also does not seem to be supported by the current studys high
rates of monogamy. Instead, the current studys monogamy rate may in-
dicate that many more partnered gay men are freely choosing monog-
amy as a model for their relationships than gay partnered men have in
the past (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Crawford et al., 2003;
Davidovich et al., 2000; McWhirter & Mattison, 1984; Parker, 1995;
Wagner et al., 1998). However, obtaining a representative sample
would be helpful in exploring this question further. Also, future re-
search on monogamy/ non-monogamy rates may attempt to draw from
several subsamples within the gay community (e.g., gay bars,
community centers, non-LGBT affiliated venues, etc.).
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Our current finding that monogamous individuals are similarly aged


to their non-monogamous counterparts seems consistent with existing
literature on the subject (Kurdek & Schmitt, 1985/86). Another related
aspect that has received little empirical attention involves our finding
that monogamous and non-monogamous partnered men did not show
differences in their number of past relationships. When considering
these findings concerning age and number of past relationships concur-
rently, our results seem to refute the notion purported by other re-
searchers that a transition into non-monogamy is inevitable in order for
gay partnered mens long-term relationship success (McWhirter &
Mattison, 1984; Hickson & Davies, 1992). Instead, our findings seem
to indicate that the monogamous and non-monogamous individuals in
our study had both experienced long-term relationships within a mo-
nogamous or non-monogamous framework and did not report age dif-
ferences that would suggest cohort differences. Furthermore, past
research has served to disconfirm this theory concerning inevitability of
relationships becoming stale with monogamous status, as well
(Blasband & Peplau, 1985; Kurdek & Schmitt, 1985/86). While the lit-
erature has had little to say about our finding that non-monogamous
partnered gay men were more out than their monogamous partners, sev-
eral authors have suggested that exposure related to outness may have
some bearing on gay partnered mens choices about whether or not to
maintain monogamous or non-monogamous models for their partner-
ships (Berger, 1990; Clark, 1997). Blumstein and Schwartz (1983), for
example, suggested that some gay men may be less sympathetic to rela-
tionship formation and partnering among their peers, given existing ste-
reotypes of non-monogamy and relationship dissolution in some seg-
ments of the gay population (i.e., gay bars, etc.). Likewise, Worth et al.
(2002) noted that many gay men might feel pressure from the larger gay
community to adopt non-monogamy as an inevitable reality in gay rela-
tionships, even against their own personal wishes to do so. In consider-
ing those who are less out and monogamous, in contrast, it may be likely
that many of these individuals are getting their relationship norms from
the heterosexual community, which has traditionally placed value on
monogamous relationship models (Seidman & Rieder, 1994). Future
research in this area may benefit from studying the differentiation,
should one exist, between gay partnered mens ideal relationship model
versus their beliefs about norms related to long-term relationships and
monogamy and non-monogamy in the larger gay community.
While we expected non-monogamous partnered gay men to report a
greater number of sex partners in the past year, it is interesting to note
Michael E. Bricker and Sharon G. Horne 43
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that no differences existed between these individuals and their monoga-


mous counterparts in regard to frequency of sex with their primary part-
ners. This finding suggests that non-monogamous partners may be able
to successfully negotiate outside contact without reduction in the fre-
quency of sexual contact with primary partners. In addition, our finding
that sexual satisfaction did not differ between the monogamous and
non-monogamous partners may indicate that maintaining a sexual rela-
tionship with ones partner regardless of outside sexual contact may
play a role in the sexual satisfaction of the couple. Likewise, it may be
that for non-monogamous men, their sexual relationships outside the
couple may enhance their sexual relationship with their partner. While
our findings indicated that monogamous and non-monogamous couples
did not appear to differ on sexual satisfaction, it should be noted that the
test statistic for sexual satisfaction was approaching significance (ob-
served sig. value = .015, pre-set alpha level with Bonferroni adjustment
= .0125). Additional study of sexual satisfaction that explores specific
aspects of sexuality beyond global sexual satisfaction may provide
more insight into how the role of non-monogamy may impact the sexual
satisfaction of gay men.
Our results did not indicate differences in relationship satisfaction
between monogamous and non-monogamous partnered gay men.
This finding does support past literature that has indicated similar re-
lationship quality between these groups (Blasband & Peplau, 1985;
Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Kurdek, 1985/86). While this finding
does seem congruent with most past literature on this issue, the instru-
ment used to assess relationship satisfaction may have limited this anal-
ysis. More specifically, our modifications to the measure of relationship
satisfaction used in this study may speak to a larger issue that needs re-
visiting in the study of partnered gay men. Although the Locke-Wallace
marital adjustment test measure has been used successfully in measur-
ing relationship satisfaction within a lesbian population (Horne, 2004),
the reliability coefficient of this scale in the current study indicates that
a new measure of relationship satisfaction may be needed in the future
study of gay partnered men. While it was not entirely apparent what was
responsible for the poor reliability coefficients, the poor alpha for this
instrument may suggest that the Locke-Wallace was not the best avenue
for determining gay males experience of satisfaction with the relation-
ship.
Similar to past literature on attachment and relationship quality in
gay partnered men (Kurdek & Schmitt, 1985/86; Elizur & Mintzer,
2003), our study also found that monogamous gay partnered men re-
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ported greater levels of dyadic attachment than their non-monogamous


counterparts. While lesbians and heterosexual couples may place a
great deal of emphasis on dyadic attachment and relationship satisfac-
tion as synonymous constructs (Cann, Mangum, & Wells, 2001; White-
hurst, 1983), the current findings suggest that dyadic attachment and
relationship satisfaction are two separate constructs, and that non-mo-
nogamy may impact intimacy but not overall satisfaction. While mo-
nogamous and non-monogamous partnered gay men may differ in their
experience of attachment and intimacy, the two groups showed more
similarities than differences on relational variables. In addition, both
monogamous and non-monogamous groups displayed similar attach-
ment styles with both overwhelmingly endorsing a secure form of
attachment.
While the current results do not go so far as to shed light on whether
or not non-monogamous individuals are satisfied with their current
level of intimacy, further research could serve to illuminate non-mo-
nogamous gay partnered mens satisfaction with lower levels of dyadic
attachment. This further study might also provide additional opportu-
nity for exploring whether some gay men may have fundamentally dif-
ferent views and preferences about what is ideal for them in their
relationships, which may inadvertently influence them to adopt monog-
amy or non-monogamy.
The results from the current sample should be viewed in relation to
the segment of the population that was sampled. Given that the cur-
rent study was more geographically diverse and less regionally-
bound, it is possible that the current sample is more diverse than are
past studies of gay partnered men. Studies that have more homoge-
nous samples, in contrast, may exhibit greater cohort effects due to re-
gional or situationally-specific norms. Also, internet samples such as
the current study may represent a different group of partnered gay men
than those coupled gay men who are sampled via a gay bar or from one
distinct LGBT community center or venue. Indeed, while web-based re-
search has not been devoid of criticisms, it has been shown to offer reli-
able and valid methods of sampling certain populations, especially
harder to reach groups like the current sample (Kraut et al., 2004).
Although the current study is not without limitations, our findings
provide new information about the diverse experiences of gay partnered
men. While our attempts at studying a more varied subgroup of gay
partnered men (e.g., sexually non-monogamous and sexually and emo-
tionally non-monogamous gay men) were unsuccessful, our findings il-
luminate the need for larger and more diverse samples. As past research
Michael E. Bricker and Sharon G. Horne 45
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has substantiated, monogamous and non-monogamous gay men seem


to show more similarities than differences in relation to personal, sex-
ual, and relational variables. Conversely, our study attempted to also
more clearly define the unique differences that may exist between these
two groups. As researchers continue to examine the phenomenon of
monogamy and non-monogamy within the partnered gay male popula-
tion, it is hoped that they will do so without bias, but from an informed
position that acknowledges that both monogamous and non-monoga-
mous partnerships appear to be relationally and sexually satisfied. In the
future, it is hoped that researchers will continue to avoid stigmatizing or
pathologizing either monogamous or non-monogamous partnered men.
As research in this area continues to accumulate, researchers may, in-
stead, best use their efforts to explore the intricacies of gay partnered
mens lives and provide greater breadth and depth concerning the
experiences surrounding the intimate lives of coupled gay men.

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RECEIVED: 05/25/06
ACCEPTED: 06/29/06

doi:10:1300/J398v06n04_02