Non-Monogamous Relationships - Research Worth Sharing!

The following content might provide you with a lot of gag-worthy insight. Everyone is experimenting in love, but is anyone doing a severe study of love? The answer is in front of you.

I thought it is essential to share this brilliant study because you can learn a lot from the prevalence of non-monogamy to what it takes to create a healthy open relationship.

If sharing is caring, does that also apply to relationships? Read this and find out. And don’t forget to share.

Dan Trepanier

Mentor Coach, Non-Monogamous Relationships - Research Worth Sharing

While researching the topic of LGBTQ Relationships, I stumbled a collection of brilliant pieces of writing/research.

Beyond monogamy: Lessons from Long-Term Gay Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships • Blake Spears and Lanz Lowen, Copyright 2010

I’m sharing this with you and encourage you to visit Enjoy them — whey offers lovely insight!

Lessons from Long-Term Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships


Study Overview

Although non-monogamous relationships are pervasive in the gay community, little research has been conducted, and information about how couples navigate this terrain is surprisingly lacking. As a long-term couple (34 years), this was a journey we had taken together, without a roadmap. 

The lessons we learned along the way were often hard-earned, and we found ourselves wondering how others dealt with this. How common or peculiar was our experience? Were there models we hadn’t considered? What worked or didn’t work for others.

Access Full Study .pdf Beyond monogamy Spears and Lanz Lowen, Copyright 2010

Creating Healthy Open Relationships

This is a follow-up article to the original study offering suggestions on:

  • Honouring differences
  • Addressing Conflict
  • Building Trust
  • Managing Jealousy

You can download this article here – Creating Healthy Open Relationships Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears.

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 all of the teams had incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity after five years.
  • 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 a 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 monogamous and self-described ‘open’ male couples demonstrated higher levels of relationship quality and lower levels of psychological distress than couples who had not negotiated nonmonogamy 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 spouses 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). J – Excerpted from Negotiated Nonmonogamy and Male Couples, Michael Shernoff, LCSW, 2006

I encourage you to check out the source link to the following findings. 

I have reposted them here (meaning no public access), so please do NOT forward unless you give full attribution to the original authors. 

I’ve posted here because one never knows when a source will disappear from the web. Much of the content here can be used as reference and quotes for other writing pieces — giving full attribution. 

Lessons from Long-Term Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships Statistical Overview

86 non-monogamous, long-term (8+ years), gay male couples participated. Each partner was interviewed separately using a consistent set of questions.

Participants were recruited by word of mouth and at gay events, which led to a predominately professional white American population. 

The authors had no trouble finding long-term couples (couples were together an average of 16.2 years), but getting couples to participate proved difficult. 

Consequently, the study reflects couples’ views secure enough to discuss their relationship and how they handle non-monogamy openly. This skews results but seems appropriate since the study was aimed at discovering what works.

An overview of the statistical results is presented below. However, the study’s real meat is the verbatim quotes, which are woven throughout the comprehensive study summary. We strongly encourage you to look at the full report to get a much richer appreciation of what is merely headlined here.

Impact of Non-monogamy on the Relationship

  • 75% of participants described a solely positive impact. 21% described both positive and negative effects, with the positive aspects out-weighing the negatives. 4% described primarily negative implications.
  • 78% offered that being ‘open’ gave them a sexual outlet without lying or hiding their actions. Participants reported it strengthened and helped relationships survive by providing honest options and minimizing deceit, tension, and resentment.
  • In addition to providing a sexual outlet, non-monogamy enriched and deepened relationships in the following ways:

Beneficial Impact – Key Themes

(percent of all study participants naming this as a significant impact)

78% – Sanctioned Sexual Outlet

48% – Stimulates Our Sex Life, e.g. titillating, energizing

40% – Different Needs Met

34% – Brought Friends, New Experiences into a relationship

33% – Encourages & Reinforces Honesty

27% – Provides Variety, Sense of Freedom

26% – Brought Perspective & Greater Appreciation

24% – Encouraged Sexual Growth (expertise, repertoire, awareness)

23% – Increased Intimacy & Commitment

20% – Encouraged Personal Growth

15% – Wouldn’t Be Together Without It

Opening the Relationship

  • 40% of study couples had opened their relationship from the outset. Couples not open within the first year took an average of 6.5 years to open their relationship.
  • When couples described the degree to which their relationship is currently open (on a 1-10 scale), there was little difference between couples who were open from the outset and couples who opened their relationship much later.
  • Characteristic Look of a Couple’s Approach
  • Three key variables seemed to most define the ‘characteristic look’ of a couple’s monogamy approach:
    • Whether outside sex was conducted jointly, independently, or both
    • The degree to which partners disclosed information and integrated experiences back into the relationship, and
    • The amount of connection and involvement with outsiders that was sought & permitted

Study Couples: Joint vs. Independent

  • 32% – of study couples chose to play independently (28 couples out of 86)
  • 12% – of study couples decided only to play together (10 couples)
  • 56% – of study couples decided to play together AND separately (48 couples)
  • 31% – of the couples that did both, primarily played together and only occasionally played independently

Disclosure & Integration

  • Of the couples who played independently,
  • 40% routinely disclosed the details
  • 40% had varying degrees of disclosure (reported but no details, offered if questioned, depended on the situation)
  • 20% had a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ norm re disclosure
  • 35% described using the details to juice their own sex lives together; 20% reported bringing back new sexual techniques and more significant expertise

Connection & Involvement

  • 34% – of study couples generally had anonymous outside sex
  • 66% – allowed and often preferred some connection
    • 40% – typically had fuck buddies and friends with benefits
    • 20% – had deeper connections – more than friends, but secondary to partner (includes ‘above board’ affairs and couples who take on temporary ‘boys’)
    • 6% – have emotional commitments (triads, polyamorous families)
  • One of the most striking study findings was the large percentage of couples (35%) where one partner preferred anonymous sex, while the other only enjoyed sex with friends or people with whom he felt connected. These couples learned how to accommodate both partners, but 20% found this difference challenging or a source of tension.
  • 75% of study couples had rules or norms that precluded or limited involvement. However, within this group, 15% reported experiences of having gone ‘too far’ and needing to pull back.

Rules & Norms

  • We found that having explicit rules was much less prevalent than what is presumed in the literature. Only 32% of the study couples relied on rules. However, 43% described having at least a few norms – spoken or unspoken, that provided a framework for operating.
  • Many couples reported their rules evolved or became unnecessary overtime.
  • Honesty was seen as foundational. Other standard norms were around limiting involvement, practicing safe sex, and being considerate/courteous.

Most Commonly Mentioned Difficulties

  • 21% – Jealousy (markedly less than what is often assumed in the research)
  • 20% – Getting too emotionally involved
  • 20% – “Nothing has been difficult.”

What Helps

  • Communicating openly and honestly was mentioned by 65% of participants. Communication was a skill that couples learned over time. Being honest was an on-going practice. Both were seen as critical to success and positively impacted other aspects of the couple’s relationship.
  • Trusting each other and/or the relationship was helpful to 52%. Interestingly, trust was seen as both an action and an outcome. As partners proved trustworthy, trust grew and deepened.
  • Other helpers included: reassurance & appreciation, respecting differences, learning to deal with jealousy and utilizing support from therapists or mentors.

Couples’ Own Sex Lives

  • An important finding was the number of couples (15%) who no longer have sex together but are affectionate, loving and committed to each other. For these couples, sex was seen as relatively inconsequential compared to their relationship and the life they had built together. Another 10% of study couples described their sex as waning or infrequent. These couples were adjusting to the loss but didn’t see their lack of sex as a threat to the relationship continuing.
  • Equally important was the finding that 75% of study couples still have vibrant sex lives together. This is after an average of 15.3 years together. 30% of this group expressed concerns about keeping it alive and saw outside sex as a helpful contributor.


The study illustrates and validates the experience many couples are having with non-monogamy. 

Further research is warranted to describe the similarities and differences due to age, race/ethnicity, class and geography. We hope this study will open the door to more candid discussions of responsible non-monogamous relationships in all their various forms.

Copyright 2010. Blake Spears & Lanz Lowen

Published Articles

Interesting eh! — Dan Trepanier

According to The Couples Study 

(Source and credit for the info and resources below

We’ve just completed a second study looking at Younger Gay Men’s Perspectives on Monogamy, Non-Monogamy and Marriage. You can download this new study, our previous study, or the follow-up article, by clicking on any of the links below.

Younger Gay Men’s Perspectives on Monogamy, Non-monogamy and Marriage

This study’s quantitative part consists of 242 single gay men, 290 monogamous couples, and 127 non-monogamous couples. 

The qualitative segment contains verbatim comments from 161 monogamous couples, 16 non-monogamous couples, and 45 ‘monogamish’ couples. 

This comprehensive study shares statistical findings, verbatim comments and offers profiles of both monogamous and non-monogamous couples.

Lessons from Long-Term Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships

This is a qualitative study based on in-depth interviews with 86 long-term non-monogamous male couples. The study describes these couples’ approach to non-monogamy and what they’ve learned along the way (couples had to have been together at least eight years). 

They share when/how they opened their relationship and the rules, benefits, and challenges of being non-monogamous. Both partners were interviewed in each relationship, and multiple couples are profiled.

Creating Healthy Open Relationships

This is a follow-up article to the original study on non-monogamy, offering suggestions on: Managing Jealousy; Addressing Conflict; and Building Trust.

Click here to download a free copy – Creating Healthy Open Relationships

If you would like a hard copy of both studies and the follow-up article (as a bound compendium), you can order:

Choices: Perspectives of Gay Men on Monogamy, Non-monogamy and Marriage

Click here to view on

PLEASE NOTE: We recognize that by posting this study and maintaining this site, we run the genuine risk that the ‘Religious Right’ can use this information to further their efforts to fuel fear and deny LGBT’s the right to marry. 

And on a personal level, given we’re both independent professionals, we realize that we’re putting our incomes and livelihoods at stake by being so open.

 On the other hand, we know the tyranny that comes with presenting our relationships and our community in a singular light and the cost of hiding essential aspects of ourselves as individuals. 

As responsible individuals and responsible community members, we think the importance of providing accurate, honest portrayals of who we are, the relationships we’ve created, and what couples have found to work is worthy of taking that risk.