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Rethinking the dichotomy of sexual identity and relational intimacies: Chinese gay men’s mental health in mixed-orientation marriages


Very little research has examined the psychological adjustment of gay men in mixed-orientation marriages (MOMs)–a marital union wherein one spouse is a sexual minority person (e.g. gay/lesbian, bisexual) while the other is heterosexual. Examining gay men’s psychological adjustment in MOMs provides insights into how sexual identity intersects with relationship dynamics to shape mental health in heteronormative societies. Based on survey responses from 54 Chinese gay men in MOMs who simultaneously engage in a same-sex relationship occurring outside of marriages, the current exploratory study examined the relative contributions of marital relationship quality, same-sex relationship quality, and sexual identity to their psychological adjustment (i.e. depression, life satisfaction, and loneliness). Multiple regression analyses revealed that positive sexual identity was a significantly negative predictor of depression and loneliness and a significantly positive predictor of life satisfaction. Whereas marital relationship quality was significantly and positively associated with life satisfaction and negatively associated with loneliness, same-sex relationship quality was not a significant predictor of psychological adjustment. Results indicate that both sexual identity and marital relationship quality play important roles in the mental health of gay men in MOMs. Discussion focuses on the sociocultural contexts in China that in part shape gay men’s situations in MOMs.

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