Gay or Straight, Parents Too Tired for Sex, Study Suggests

U.S. NEWS | HealthDay | June 2012

Dads in same-sex relationships may face similar intimacy issues as heterosexual couples with kids

FRIDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) — Heterosexual couples often have trouble with sex and intimacy issues after they become parents, and a new study suggests that gay parents face some of the same challenges.

“When gay couples become parents, they become very focused on the kids, they are tired, there is less time for communication and less desire for sex,” Colleen Hoff, a professor of sexuality studies at San Francisco State University, said in a university news release. “They go through a lot of the same changes as heterosexual couples who have kids.”

An estimated one in five gay male couples nationwide is raising children. For the new study, 48 gay male couples who are raising children together were interviewed and asked questions about their lives.

“We found that gay fathers have less time for sex and less emphasis on sexuality, which could mean they are at less risk for HIV,” Hoff said. “Many fathers said they feel a sense of responsibility toward their children which motivates them to avoid risky sexual behavior.”

Not many of the men were concerned about the changes in their sex lives, according to the report published in the June issue of the journal Couple and Family Psychology.

“From the fathers we studied, there was this pragmatic acceptance that this is what happens at this stage of life,” Hoff pointed out.

Hoff and colleagues also found that the men tended to follow the same rules about sexual activity outside their partnership after becoming parents as they did before.

“There wasn’t the shift that we thought we might find,” Hoff said. “For the most part, those who were monogamous before becoming parents said they stayed with that arrangement. Those who had open relationships before having children reported that they kept to that agreement.”

The findings suggest that gay male parents who are in open relationships might be less willing to talk to others, such as physicians, about the choices they’ve made.

“Some men felt that there is this assumption that if you are a gay parent you are monogamous,” Hoff explained. “This kind of stigma around gay parents’ sexuality could be a concern if gay fathers are reluctant to talk to their physician about their sexual agreement and get tested for HIV.”


American Psychological Association | June 30th, 2012

Parenthood changes couples’ relationships across multiple domains, generally decreasing relationship quality, sexual satisfaction, and sexual frequency. Emerging research suggests that gay couples who are parenting might experience similar challenges. However, such changes might have even more profound implications for gay couples’ health, and in particular their HIV risk, given the somewhat different ways in which they negotiate and tolerate sexual behaviors with outside partners.

We 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.

These challenges alone did not generally result in greater infidelity or HIV risk, as most men reported successfully coping with such changes through a combination of acceptance and revaluing what is important in their relationships. In addition, couples reported negotiating agreements regarding sex with outside partners that closely resemble those documented in studies of gay couples who are not parents.

Men reported that parenthood typically decreased their opportunities to engage in sex with outside partners, but also posed barriers to talking about these behaviors with their partners and health-care providers. HIV-related sexual risk behavior was relatively rare, but nevertheless present in some men.

Providers should assess sexual function as a regular part of their work with gay couples who parent, and facilitate opportunities for men to discuss their sexual agreements, both with their primary partners and with relevant health-care providers.

Citation : Database: PsycARTICLES [ Journal Article ] The impact of parenting on gay male couples’ relationships, sexuality, and HIV risk. Huebner, David M.; Mandic, Carmen Gómez; Mackaronis, Julia E.; Beougher, Sean C.; Hoff, Colleen C. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 1(2), Jun 2012, 106-119. doi: 10.1037/a0028687

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