A study has found that gay couples who are in open relationships can form closer bonds than those who are exclusive. It notes that same-sex couples are more likely to be in open relationships than their opposite-sex counterparts, but still face some stigma.

The study was conducted by Christopher Stults at the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies at New York University. It looked at 10 gay couples in open relationships, and consisted of 45-minute interviews with each individual man.

“We wanted to see how these relationships form and evolve over time, and examine the perceived relationship quality, relationship satisfaction, and potential risk for HIV/STI infection,” says Stults.

The interviews with the men, aged 19 to 43, finished this week, and Stults says the initial results of the study suggested that gay couples in open relationships appeared “happier”, and that their relationships were “more fulfilling”.

Stults says: “My impression so far is that they don’t seem less satisfied, and it may even be that their communication is better than among monogamous couples because they’ve had to negotiate specific details.”

He also noted that the gay couples in open relationships did not seem at a disproportionate risk of HIV or STD transmission.

“To my knowledge, no one contracted HIV and only one couple contracted an STD,” he says.

But one gay man in an open relationship told the Guardian that he and his partner had experienced stigma for being in such a relationship. Huch McIntyre told the paper: “We’ve run into gay and straight people who have assumed our relationship is ‘lesser than’ because we’re not monogamous. I think that’s offensive and ridiculous.”

A set of rules was key for those in open relationships, the study’s participants said.

But one psychotherapist, Brian Norton at Columbia University, doubted whether open relationships can be as effective as monogamous ones.

“Sex is an emotional experience. There is emotion at play, and even in the most transactional experience, someone can get attached,” Norton said.

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