Between Mainstream and Marginality: The Case of Men and Women of Mixed-Orientation Relationships

The literature regarding mixed-orientation relationships (MORs) focuses on individual and relationship aspects. Our study, informed by the social construction of reality theory, illuminates social aspects by examining social attitudes toward MORs as they are experienced and perceived by individuals of MOR.

Within the scope of this study, we focused on self-identified non-straight men (gays, bisexuals, or men who have sex with men) who are in a relationship with self-identified straight women. Based on the phenomenological paradigm, we conducted 38 interviews with men and eight with women currently in MOR. The findings show that individuals of MOR primarily encounter negative attitudes from people in society regarding themselves and the nature of their relationship. Participants perceived that others viewed their relationships in terms of conflict, impossibility, or transitional stage. Social attitudes individuals of MOR encounter affect the degree of closeness of these couples to others in their social environment, resulting in constant tension between the participants’ desire to be open to and close to others and the need to conceal and keep a distance. We argue that the dialectical tensions between disclosure-concealment and autonomy-closeness are related to the marginalization of these couples as a social category.

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