Gay relationships have always been viewed as being different from relationships between heterosexual couples. Historically, gay relationships have been considered out of the norm, leading to the history of discrimination and oppression of gay couples (Smith, 2012). Gay individuals experience considerable stress and pressures from their immediate social cycles because of the lack of acceptance of their homosexuality (McWhirter & Mattison, 1984). Such are the factors that have affected the way they establish and maintain intimate relationships. One of the common ways in which they are forming relationships is by being in “monogamish” relationships. According to Parsons et al., (2012), whatever appears to be satisfaction from sexual relationships between gay couples is not the same as satisfaction between heterosexual couples, although there are some common traits in relationships formed by both groups.
It is worth noting that the term “Monogamish” was coined by Dan Savage, a relationship, and sex columnist, a concept that has been used differently by diverse people in research. However, the term suggests an arrangement where people, gay or heterosexual, in a committed relationship can still have sex with other people. While practiced by gay couples, Hosking (2014) suggests that this is not a phenomenon unique to this community as such arrangements are also common among heterosexual couples. Currently, the arrangements are becoming more commonplace as people are seeking pleasures and satisfaction based on their desires and wants.
It is worth noting that research has mostly focused on establishing the contributors of sexual and relationship satisfaction among heterosexual couples. Parsons et al., (2013) posit that not much research has been done on the contributors of the same among gay couples. However, from the current research on the subject, it is clear that the factors that contribute to satisfaction among gay couples are unique to these couples and are the basis for which their relationships are formed (Addison & Coolhart, 2015). Whether gay couples can establish and maintain long-term relationships that provide them with satisfaction remains a controversial issue in modern research (Smith, 2012). As such, the gay couples are faced with relationship challenges resulting from their sexuality and the response to it by the society.
Relationships among gay persons are much more than simply monogamous or non-monogamous. It is a simplistic view and does not reveal a complete picture to categorize gay relationships as simply monogamous or non-monogamous (Finn, Tunariu, & Lee, 2012). Gay couples have a different way of approaching relationships as well as the aspect of sex. Parsons et al., (2013) argue that gay couples differ from heterosexual couples regarding the level of which they are monogamous in their relationships. However, this should not be translated to mean that straight couples are always monogamous. Brown (2015) presents the concept of sex agreements between couples, gay and heterosexual, in investigating the effect of this behavior on the possibility of contracting HIV. On the same note, Grov et al. (2014) also present such an argument. Even when being in committed relationships, gay couples appear to favor sex agreements where they can enjoy sex with other people.
Research reveals that gay persons are much more likely to be in non-monogamous relationships as opposed to being in monogamous ones just as the case with some of the contemporary heterosexual relationships. Indeed, this is partly because of their historical and cultural realities (Smith, 2012) and partly because of the very nature of sexuality in men (Grov et al., 2014). Gay men have been revealed to have a greater propensity toward “sport sex” and can separate love and sex. For gay couples, sex does not suggest the state of love where an individual should be committed to one partner that he loves. Studies have revealed that gay men form relationships just like straight men. However, their connections are not the same as those formed by heterosexual couples because they have the tendency of allowing sexual activities with other people (Gotta et al., 2011). For gay couples, monogamous and non-monogamous challenges could emerge that suggests the need to revise, revisit, or reaffirm the original agreement, which is the basis upon which the relationship is formed.
According to Brown, Ramirez & Schniering (2013), gay individuals do not meet the same standards as upheld by heterosexual couples as far as relationships are concerned. Gay men are not concerned about the masculinity, which is a factor that affects their ability to form the relationships that the society views as being the norm. However, this does not mean that they do not form committed relationships. They have a concern, which is based on the relationship and sexual satisfaction, just like heterosexual couples. However, the same satisfaction can be obtained from other people with whom they are not in a relationship (Gotta et al., 2011). However, research has revealed that efforts by the gay couples to form normal relationships are marred by many challenges, which are normal in heterosexual males, but others that are unique to gays. The main challenge emerges from the conception of romantic relationships, which is based on the heterosexual model. The challenge in managing masculine sexuality plays a role in the formation of relationships among gay men.
Hosking (2014) suggests the reality of gay couples having their unique kind of relationship where they are more likely to experience satisfaction. As such, the “monogamish” relationships are common amongst gay couples, although not uniquely their phenomenon, where they have revealed a tendency to enter into agreements instead of relationships (Mitchell, 2014). Various factors have been cited as explaining the tendency to engage in such agreements, including the quality of relationship and the attitudes held by gay individuals towards relationships. Brown (2015) reveals that gay couples have shown the greatest tendency, even greater than lesbians to be in a sexually open relationship. Lesbians are more likely to be in sexually closed relationships as it is the case with straight couples. In essence, the primary factor behind this reality is hetero-normative masculinity.
A study to establish the possibilities offered by monogamish couples indicated that gay couples claim to be happy in their same-sex romantic relationships while at the same time being free to have sex with other people (Berry & Barker, 2014). In fact, this openness in their relationship is what allows for the long-term partnerships between gay couples, as they are able to provide the relationship and sexual satisfaction desired by these individuals. Gay couples in such arrangements have revealed a higher level of happiness than those who are confined to a monogamous relationship. The study by Hosking (2014) established that some kinds of non-monogamous relationships, such as the “monogamish” relationships are in fact advantageous for gay persons regarding sexual satisfaction. In fact, this study challenges the common claims that monogamous relationships are superior and provide more relationship and sexual satisfaction. As noted, through gay relationships, the individuals are more satisfied by the possibility of getting companionship from their partners and sexual pleasures from outside the relationship.
In summary, research appears to provide a conclusion that a considerable percentage of gay individuals, even those in relationships and those advocating for same-sex “marriage,” do not consider sexual exclusivity and monogamy as presenting the real meaning of marriage. The aspect of “monogamish,” as opposed to the monogamous or non-monogamous relationship, is a new concept that is developing in research in studying relationships between gay persons. Even where the concept of “monogamy” is being used in reference to gay couples, the reality is that one is speaking about “monogamish” relationships (Gass et al., 2012). However, the concept has developed and is being accepted in gay research due to the prevalence of such agreements when two men are entering into a relationship. Evidently, the research has diverse significance in counseling gay couples since the understanding of this concept will provide the therapists with knowledge and skills as they offer their services. However, research in this area is not sufficient, and more research needs to be done to establish the relationship between “monogamish” associations to the relationship and sexual satisfaction among gay couples.
Addison, S. M., & Coolhart, D. (2015). Expanding the Therapy Paradigm with Queer Couples: A Relational Intersectional Lens. Family Process, 54(3), 435-453.
Berry, M. D., & Barker, M. (2014). Extraordinary interventions for extraordinary clients: existential sex therapy and open non-monogamy. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 29(1), 21-30
Brown, J. (2015). Couple therapy for gay men: exploring sexually open and closed relationships through the lenses of hetero-normative masculinity and attachment style. Journal Of Family Therapy, 37(3), 386-402
Brown, J., Ramirez, O. M., & Schniering, C. (2013). Finding love: Passion, intimacy, and commitment in the relationships of gay men. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 34(1), 32-53.
Finn, M. D., Tunariu, A. D., & Lee, K. C. (2012). A critical analysis of affirmative therapeutic engagements with consensual non-monogamy. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 27(3), 205-216.
Gass, K., Hoff, C. C., Stephenson, R., & Sullivan, P. S. (2012). Sexual agreements in the partnerships of Internet-using men who have sex with men. AIDS Care, 24(10), 1255-1263.
Gotta, G., Green, R., Rothblum, E., Solomon, S., Balsam, K., & Schwartz, P. (2011). Heterosexual, Lesbian, and Gay Male Relationships: A Comparison of Couples in 1975 and 2000. Family Process, 50(3), 353-376
Grov, C., Starks, T. J., Rendina, H. J., & Parsons, J. (2014). Rules About Casual Sex Partners, Relationship Satisfaction, and HIV Risk in Partnered Gay and Bisexual Men. Journal Of Sex & Marital Therapy, 40(2), 105-122.
Hosking, W. (2014). Australian Gay Men’s Satisfaction with Sexual Agreements: The Roles of Relationship Quality, Jealousy, and Monogamy Attitudes. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 43(4), 823-832.
McWhirter, D. P., & Mattison, A. M. (1984). The male couple: How relationships develop. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=BBYbAAAAYAAJ&q=The+male+couple:+How+relationships+develop&dq=The+male+couple:+How+relationships+develop&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y
Mitchell, J. W. (2014). Characteristics and Allowed Behaviors of Gay Male Couples’ Sexual Agreements. Journal Of Sex Research, 51(3), 316-328.
Parsons, J. T., Starks, T. J., Gamarel, K. E., & Grov, C. (2012). Non-monogamy and sexual relationship quality among same-sex male couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(5), 669.
Parsons, J. T., Starks, T. J., DuBois, S., Grov, C., & Golub, S. A. (2013). Alternatives to monogamy among gay male couples in a community survey: Implications for mental health and sexual risk. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(2), 303-312.
Smith, T. A. (2012). Navigating life as a gay couple in a long-term relationship: A qualitative multi-case study (unpublished doctoral dissertation). Barry University- Adrian Dominican School of Education, Miami Shores, FL.