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The Impact of Parenting on Gay Male Couples' Relationships,
Transcript of The Impact of Parenting on Gay Male Couples' Relationships,
The researchers examined how the transition to parenthood impacts gay male couples’ relationship satisfaction, sexual behavior (both inside and outside the couple), and sexual agreements, with a particular emphasis on understanding possible implications for HIV risks.
The goal was to inform both the larger literature on family development and parenting-related life change, as well as the literature on HIV prevention among gay male couples.
Background Information Regarding This Study
The Impact of Parenting on Gay Male Couples' Relationships, Sexuality, and HIV Risk
Researchers aimed to examine these issues in a qualitative analysis of interviews from 48 gay male couples who were actively parenting children.
Findings suggest that parenthood increases men’s commitment to their primary relationship while simultaneously decreasing time and energy for relationship maintenance, and generally decreasing sexual satisfaction
Relationship Quality and Commitment
Increased commitment was
reflected in many different ways:
1. desire and a
sense of obligation to maintain family stability
2. the belief that children added value to the relationship (a belief often shared by their families
3. increased investment in the relationship
4. satisfaction with working toward a shared
goal (i.e., the success of the family)
5. feelings of admiration and respect from witnessing
one’s partner parent.
Sexuality Within the Couple
Given that the primary focus of the relationship shifted to meet the “most pressing needs,”
the sexual relationship within couples was a salient topic for most participants. The majority
of couples reported less frequent sex than they
desired with their primary partners.
Response about Topic
Overall I think we have a good relationship . . . we’ve
gone through some significant challenges. You know,we were seeing a couple’s therapist for a reason. AndI think that having children has definitely kept us together in ways that I think if we had not had children,we might not be together because we’re very committed . . . to our family and making sure that we’re there for the kids. (Latino, age 36)
Method used for Data Collection
Participants were part of a larger, dual site such as Salt Lake City, UT, and San Francisco, CA
Participants were recruited using passive and active outreach at organizations serving LGBT parents, online forums for LGBT parents, community health and HIV/AIDS service organizations, and by purchasing advertising in community newspapers and social networking websites.
Those interested were screened for eligibility.
Eligibility requirements included being at least 18 years old, identifying as gay or bisexual
had children for more than six months, living with the children at least half time, and being involved in parenting.
Coupled participants had the additional requirements of being in their relationships for at least 12 months, living with their partners, and knowing their partners’ HIV status.
Lack of Sexual Activity
We haven’t had sex in a very long time and we’ve had
an open relationship for quite awhile, so that has been
the hard part of our relationship. We sleep in the same
bed, we cuddle, we are affectionate in other ways but. . . we haven’t really been active sexually together for a long time. (Latino, age 36)
Response about the Topic
It’s almost like we have to schedule it. It’s not as spontaneous as it used to be and there’s no spark when we do it. It feels so structured and it happens so
infrequently . . . Because before we didn’t have to worry about any interruptions; now it’s like . . . I’m
always constantly like “Oh gosh is she gonna walk in?” It has to be very private; it has to be very closed.
Usually we have to find a babysitter and it has to be scheduled. And she’s at a sleepover and that’s a great time to do it. But sometimes we’re so tired it doesn’t matter that she’s not here; we’re so tired we just want to go to bed. (Mixed race, age 30)
Sexual Behaviors with Outside Partners
Men discussed their sexual encounters with
outside partners in ways that were highly consistent with the overarching theme of how parenthood downsized sexuality. Most men explained that their lives had evolved away from a
focus on sexuality, in part because they had less time and energy and because their priorities had
OH NO LESSS SEX...
We’ve connected with people a couple times since
we’ve been parents, but probably a lot less. I have a
certain bandwidth—whereas when I was a single guy,
95% of that was sex; then as a coupled guy, 50% of it
was sex; and then as you get older and now as a parent,
it’s like 3% of my life is sex. So it’s not . . . my first
priority. (White, age 43).
I think [parenthood] certainly made me pay more attention to HIV and AIDS. Gonorrhea, geeze, you know
I’d already seen what that did even before the experience with my ex-partner. I mean, I’d been in the medical field since I was 18. So I think by virtue of that, I think I’ve probably been more careful than a lot of people. I mean I had to treat gonorrhea and syphilis and you know, I’d give lectures and how to avoid reinfection. (White, age 55)
Managinging HIV Risks with Outside Partners
Gay couples experience parenting-related
changes to their relationships that are common
to opposite-sex parents, in addition to some that are
unique to their cultural context. These changes
likely serve as novel sources of strength, as well
as new liabilities, for the health of their relationships. With respect to sexual health more specifically, gay couples with children typically suffer from declines in sexual satisfaction
within their relationships. However, parenthood
also likely reduces most men’s opportunities for
HIV and STD infection, primarily by decreasing frequency of sexual contact with outside