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Rules of engagement more important than monogamy in gay relationships

Monogamy is not a prerequisite for successful gay relationships – but respecting the rules of their relationship is.

This is a key finding of a Victoria University study into how gay men negotiate their relationships.

Psychologist Dr Warwick Hosking surveyed 229 gay men in relationships aged 18-70 from across Australia for the study. Just over half (56%) reported being in monogamous relationships, 27% were in "open" relationships (in which sex with outsiders is permitted) and 17% were in relationships in which they had sex with a third person or more with their partner.

More than 73% of men surveyed said their relationship agreement had been reached through discussion, although monogamous relationships were more likely to be unspoken.

Other key findings were:

  • The three main relationships agreements – monogamy, open or threesome – are equally satisfying
  • The crucial factor in relationship quality is rule breaking, which is associated with lower quality regardless of what the rules are
  • Men in open relationships were no more likely to break a negotiated rule than others
  • Men having sex outside their relationship recently – whether it's allowed or not – tend to have had a recent sexual health check

 "The study shows it's the rules of engagement, or more precisely how well they are adhered to, not the type of relationship that determines its success," Dr Hosking said.

 "Low quality relationships may be the cause of breaking rules rather than the outcome, so it's important for distressed couples to address the reasons behind low commitment, conflict and so on.

 "Counsellors and those working with antiquated models of 'good' relationships must acknowledge that strong agreed rules rather than the type of relationship are the most important factor in determining the success of relationships."

 Dr Hosking is available for interview: 0438 092 357

Media contact: Jim Buckell, A/Senior Media Officer

Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University

Ph: (03) 9919 4243; mobile: 0400 465 459; email: jim.buckell@vu.edu.au

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