Couples in non-monogamous relationships have the same level of sexual and overall relationship satisfaction as those in monogamous ones, a new study finds.
Two might be just as good as one.
People in consensual non-monogamous relationships have the same level of relationship satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships, according to a new study from the University of Guelph in Ontario.
“We compared relationship satisfaction through questions like ‘How often have you considered ending your relationship?’ and ‘How comfortable are you confiding in your partner?’ and averaged answers to find a general score,” Jessica Wood, the lead researcher and author of the study, told Moneyish. “We found that there were no differences within these two groups, and that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships and those in monogamous relationships reported very similar levels of relationship and sexual satisfaction with their primary relationships.”
This is because someone’s relationship structure doesn’t always show how satisfied they will be or are in their primary relationships, Wood explained. “Motivations for engaging in sex appear to be more central to people’s relationship well-being than is their relationship structure,” she added.
The study, which surveyed more than 140 people in non-monogamous relationships and more than 200 people in monogamous ones, defined consensual non-monogamous relationships (CNM) as those in which all partners agree to engage in multiple sexual or romantic relationships, and estimated about 4% of people in the U.S. participate in them. Research published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five Americans has been in an open relationship, while a 2016 YouGov survey showed that 17% of 18- to 44 year-olds surveyed had some form of sexual activity with someone outside of their relationship with their partner’s permission.
“In this day and age, what’s ‘normal’ in a relationship is what’s normal to the people in it,” Andrea Syrtash, a relationship expert and founder of the infertility website Pregnantish.com, told Moneyish. “There are so many versions of relationships and arrangements that people have, and there’s less judgment than there used to be for non-monogamous or non-heterosexual relationships. People are delaying marriage and some are realizing that an open marriage allows them to have companionship without having to limit themselves to one partner.”
Research has also shown that more young people say open relationships work for them, Wood added.
Kaylee Lockett, a 22-year-old from Oklahoma City, Okla., decided with her boyfriend to be in a sexually open relationship because they were long distance; she was attending school in upstate New York, while he lived in Oklahoma City. “As far as satisfaction and happiness go, I don’t think I could ever have done it if I didn’t feel really stable in my relationship,” she told Moneyish.
Although they’re now monogamous because they will soon be living together, Lockett says it took plenty of trust to be able to share that kind of experience once they were both with other sexual partners because of jealousy. “It takes a lot of intimacy to agree on setting boundaries and understanding risks,” she said. “I had to confront internalized issues of jealousy and insecurity.”
Despite the growing number of people willing to try being in an open relationship, non-monogamous relationships tend to be socially stigmatized: About 25.8% of people who practice polyamory — a form of consensual non-monogamy — have experienced discrimination, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. “I was interested in the reason we position certain types of relationships as subpar in relation to other ones,” Wood said. “There’s a very strong idea that monogamy has a higher value and is the ideal type of relationship, but this study about CNM turns these ideas on their heads.”
And research has also shown that polyamory as a type of non-monogamous relationship has financial benefits as well. A study from the University of Quebec in Montreal found that those in polyamorous relationships reported having increased financial and material resources in the form of additional support for raising children and less financial strain in terms of guidance and adult supervision.
Wood believes having more research conducted on this topic will help to validate other forms of relational experiences. And experts agree that having non-monogamous relationships can be beneficial for some couples.
“Open relationships work for some people who thrive on variety and connection with many people or who want to have sexual relations with others without cheating,” Syrtash said. “In a way, it’s more honest to open your relationship and negotiate the terms than to betray someone behind his or her back.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved