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Beyond Monogamy: Lessons From Long-Term, Non-Monogamous Male Couples

By Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears

June 22, 2010

We would like to get the word out about a study we've just completed on long-term male couples in non-monogamous relationships. This is a study we initiated, funded and conducted independently. Why?

As a long-term couple (35 years), this was a journey we had taken together -- without a roadmap. Although non-monogamy is prevalent in the gay community, information about how couples navigate this terrain is surprisingly lacking. Research hasn't been conducted, and it's a topic that seems easier for the community to avoid. Although we knew our couple friends probably weren't all monogamous, there seemed to be a norm against open discussion.

Our own experience had its ups, downs, hiccups and rewards. We had learned a lot along the way and we assumed others had as well. We were curious to hear how other couples approached things -- what had they discovered that we and others might learn from.

We interviewed 86 couples -- HIV-positive and HIV-negative men, as well as mixed-status couples. We interviewed each partner separately, using a consistent set of questions. We asked about how and when they opened their relationship, what rules or norms they had developed, and what they had learned about making it work. We found a wide range of approaches -- no one model that seemed best and although there were commonalities, each couples' experience was also unique.

We have summarized the interviews into a comprehensive article that includes many verbatim quotes from study participants. We figure this is the best way to provide a picture of what is possible and the type of issues that are likely to come up. Our intended audience is couples considering opening their relationship, couples who have struggled with having a non-monogamous relationship and couples and individuals who are just curious to learn from the experience of others.

If you're wondering what typically gets shared, what happens when one person gets too involved, or the effect non-monogamy has on a couple's trust, you can visit our Web site -- or download and read the full summary of the study.

Thank you!




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