Couple therapy for gay men

exploring sexually open and closed relationships through the lenses of hetero-normative masculinity and attachment style

Jac Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


A frequently identified difference in research on western gay male couples compared with heterosexual and lesbian couples is that they report higher rates of sexually open relationships than their counterparts, who tend to have more sexually closed relationships. This issue is explored and critiqued through the dominant discourse of hetero-normative masculinity, relying upon the interpretation of previous research. This article identified three issues that therapists should consider when dealing with gay men in couple therapy: (i) the effects of homophobia on gay men, (ii) the decision on whether or not to form intimate relationships, and (iii) the decision on how to manage their masculine sexuality if they form relationships. These three issues were further examined from the perspective of attachment style and its impact on gay male couple's relationships, which included a systemic critique of attachment style. The therapeutic implications for couple therapy with gay men are explored. Practitioner points: Therapists' beliefs and values about open relationships should be examined to ensure that they are not conveyed to clients when exploring views about relationships. Sexually open relationships can function smoothly for some clients when both partners are in agreement. When both partners do not have the same commitment to having an open relationship, careful exploration of these differing views may be necessary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-402
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Family Therapy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015



  • monogamy
  • relationships
  • hetero-normative masculinity
  • gay male relationships
  • attachment style
  • couple therapy
  • open relationships

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