SNAPSHOT: Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships

Open relationships between committed individuals — often referred to as consensual nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships — are popular among gay and bisexual men. Recent studies have shown that nearly half of gay and bisexual men in relationships report being in a CNM relationships, where they have “extradyadic sexual, romantic, and/or emotional partners.”

Despite that prevalence, the effect of nonmonogamy on individuals still remains unclear.  

Baruch College Professor Christopher B. Stults examined the relationship quality among 20 gay or bisexual men in New York City by conducting semistructured interviews with each person. He focused on young men because of the prevalence of CNM relationships among that demographic. Prior studies have tended to examine men 38 and older. Stults published his findings in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Close up of a gay couple holding hands

The men reported high satisfaction with nonmonogamy as a relationship choice, specifying that their relationship with their primary partner, communication, and sex life had improved as a result.

Given the correlation between mental health and relationship health, Stults concluded that understanding CNM relationships remains paramount for mental health workers. Young gay and bisexual men are at a higher risk for mental and physical health problems. Therefore, rather than pathologizing nonmonogamy, mental health practitioners should work with young gay and bisexual men in CNM relationships to address their unique needs.