Abstract: Sexual Health Communication and Relational Quality in LGBTQ+ Couple Relationships

◆ Stephen M. Haas, University of Cincinnati
◆ Pamela J. Lannutti, La Salle University

Sexual health in LGBTQ+ relationships remains understudied in health communication. Negotiation of nonmonogamy agreements have been reported in some same-sex relationships, primarily between male partners (Grov et al., 2014; Stultz, 2019; Whitton et al., 2015). Sexual exclusivity (i.e., monogamy) has long been upheld as the heteronormative model for romantic relationships, despite evidence of marital infidelity ranging from 26% to 70% for women and 33% to 75% for men (Shackelford & Buss, 1997). Some same-sex couples have reported maintaining monogamy (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Fitzpatrick et al., 1994), yet studies on relationship quality between (non)monogamous male couples indicate no differences (Blasband & Peplau, 1985; Kurdek & Schmitt, 1985; Whitton et al., 2015). Qualitative studies suggest that male couples that negotiate nonmonogamy may experience increased trust, communication and openness, and relationship satisfaction, as well as decreased feelings of betrayal from infidelity (Stults, 2019). STUDY AIMS: No prior studies have explored prevalence of (non)monogamy agreements in a large national sample of LGBTQ+ relationships (Stults, 2019). Also, since same-sex marriage became nationally available (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015), no studies have explored prevalence and impact of (non)monogamy on relational quality in legally married versus unmarried LGBTQ+ relationships. Thus, this study seeks to explore: AIM 1) prevalence of (non)monogamy agreements and their association with relationship quality (commitment, satisfaction, closeness, and sexual satisfaction) in LGBTQ+ relationships through analysis of two years of data (2017 & 2018) from a large national online survey with participation from 50 US States (N = 1,950). And, AIM 2) prevalence of (non)monogamy agreements and their association with relational quality in legally married (50%) versus unmarried LGBTQ+ couples. RESULTS: A majority (72%; n = 1,279) indicated establishing a monogamy agreement, while 27% (n = 478) were nonmonogamous (with or without restrictions). There were significant differences by couple type (male-male, female-female, and relationships where one or both partners did not identify as male or female) for the prevalence of (non)monogamy; with female-female relationships being least likely to establish nonmonogamy. Using MANOVA, differences also emerged in relational outcomes by (non)monogamy agreement and marital status. Those with a monogamy agreement reported significantly higher relational satisfaction, closeness, and sexual satisfaction with one's partner. However, there were no significant differences in relationship commitment based on (non)monogamy agreement. Significant main effects by marital status indicated greater commitment, relational satisfaction, and closeness in married couples than unmarried. However, unmarried couples had higher sexual satisfaction. There were no significant interaction effects for (non)monogamy agreement and marital status on any of the relational quality outcomes. DISCUSSION: Overall, a majority (72%) of participants reported communicating a monogamy agreement with their partners that had positive associations with relational quality. Frequency of nonmonogamy was similar in married and unmarried couples (27%, respectively). This suggests LGBTQ+ couples may not see marriage as a determinant of monogamy, but rather are more open to negotiation of (non)monogamy agreements. Results also indicate that relationship commitment did not significantly differ based on (non)monogamy. Future research is needed to further understanding of sexual health communication in LGBTQ+ couple relationships.