Friday, July 12, 2024
CommunitySexuality & Sensuality

New insight on open gay relationships

Almost a third of gay men are in open relationships, according to a new report.

Thirty percent of gay men report that they are in an open relationship, according to a December 2020 survey of 517 gay men conducted by the Gay Therapy Center.

“Gay men have a much higher percentage of open relationships than any other group,” says Adam Blum, MFT, a psychotherapist and the founder and director of the Gay Therapy Center. “Our results are similar to the other studies on gay male relationships.”

The survey also revealed that 42 percent of the respondents in open relationships disclose all or most of their sexual contacts with their primary partners. Thirty-three percent have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“I have concerns about the men in ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ open relationships,” says Blum. “When partners attempt to hide their sexual contacts it can lead to lying which is almost always destructive. For example, if you tell your partner you plan to work late when in reality you are planning a hook up, you are lying. Even if both partners are in agreement about the guidelines of the open relationship, when the lie is discovered it is often deeply painful for the couple.”

Eighty percent of gay men in open relationships create specific guidelines | Photo: Unsplash

Blum adds, “Not sharing what is happening in our lives is how couples start to feel alone in their relationships.”

The research found that 80 percent of gay men in open relationships do create specific guidelines about what is permissible with their partners.

Blum says, “Men are creative about the guidelines and use a wide range of agreements to protect their partners feelings.” The three most common guidelines they establish are:

  • They only have sex with others outside of their home. (12% of sample)
  • They only have sex with others when their primary partner is also in the room. (10% of sample)
  • They only have sex with others when they have discussed the potential partner first. (10% of sample)

The survey revealed that 20 percent of gay men in open relationships have not discussed their guidelines. “In our experience, those are the couples who are most likely headed for relationship pain,” says Blum. “In our couples counseling practice we find that partners who continually discuss their guidelines have the greatest success in open relationships.”

Have discussions and avoid pain

Blum believes that lasting open relationships require advanced communication skills. “If couples have learned the skill of being able to talk about anything with their partner in a way that brings them closer together, then they are in good shape. If they haven’t yet learned the art of managing difficult conversations, then their open relationship may be at risk for break up and painful disappointment.”

More information about the survey can be found at


The Gay Therapy Center is the largest LGBTQ private psychotherapy practice in the US, with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. They also provide services worldwide via video conferencing. All 35 licensed psychotherapists are members of the LGBTQ community.

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