Monogamy is not the be-all and end-all for successful relationships, especially for gay men, a new study has found.

Victoria University researcher Dr Warwick Hosking told Sydney Star Observer his survey of 229 gay men aged between 18 and 70 in relationships across Australia indicates it’s how well the rules of a relationship are adhered to, not the type of relationship, that determines its success.

“We got the participants to fill out a number of measures of relationship quality like satisfaction, commitment, intimacy… how much conflict there is in the relationship and so on,” Hosking said.

“What we found was none of those measures differed according to what type of relationship the men were in. Whether they were in an open relationship, or monogamous, there was no difference.”

Just over half (56 percent) of respondents reported being in monogamous relationships, 27 percent were in open relationships — in which sex with outsiders is permitted — and 17 percent were in relationships in which sex with at least a third person took place.

More than 73 percent of the men surveyed said their relationship agreement had been reached through discussion, although the study showed monogamous relationships were more likely to have unspoken rules.

Hosking found no difference in ‘satisfaction’ in the three main types of relationships — monogamous, open and those involving threesomes or group sex.

Those men who broke established rules, however, were more likely to struggle in a relationship, while those who stuck to the rules, monogamous or otherwise, reported much more satisfying partnerships.

“The importance I see is really just to challenge any old-fashioned attitudes there might be about monogamy in relationships. There tends to be this view that in order for a relationship to last, or to be successful, it has to be monogamous,” Hosking said.

“There are a lot of men who are in relationships who mutually decide with their partners [monogamy’s] not exactly how they want it to be and they want to have the opportunity or the permission to explore things with other men within the boundaries they established in that relationship, as long as the rules are agreed upon and stuck to. That’s really the major finding of the study — it’s sticking to the rules that makes the difference.”

Hosking said he wants to continue his research by following couples over longer periods of time to look at the development of rules in relationships.

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