Study: Open relationships are as satisfying as monogamous ones
The monogamous relationship has been the standard model for romantic relationships since the story of Adam and Eve. Particularly in Western culture, we see the sanctity of marriage and ideation of the “nuclear family” as sacrosanct. This is why non-monogamous relationships – such as open relationships – are often attached to stigma within the general population. However, a new study from the University of Guelph has found that people in open relationships are just as happy as those in monogamous relationships.
The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, involved a survey of over 140 people with non-monogamous relationships and more than 200 people in monogamous relationships. Participants were asked about their satisfaction with their current relationships, and included questions about whether they had considered separating from their partner or partners, if they confided in their partners, and what their overall level of happiness was within the relationship.
Their results showed that people in non-monogamous relationships were just as satisfied with the relationship they had with their main partner as people in monogamous relationships. “We found people in consensual, non-monogamous relationships experience the same levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships,” says Jessica Wood, a PhD student in applied social psychology at the University of Guelph and lead author of the study. “This debunks societal views of monogamy as being the ideal relationship structure.”
Wood also determined that an important predictor of relationship satisfaction was not the structure of the relationship, but rather sexual motivation. “In both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, people who engage in sex to be close to a partner and to fulfill their sexual needs have a more satisfying relationship than those who have sex for less intrinsic reasons, such as to avoid conflict,” she explains.
And non-monogamous relationships may not be as uncommon as you think. Between three and seven percent of people in North America are currently part of a consensual, non-monogamous relationship. “It’s more common than most people think,” says Wood. “We are at a point in social history where we are expecting a lot from our partners. We want to have sexual fulfillment and excitement but also emotional and financial support. Trying to fulfill all these needs can put pressure on relationships. To deal with this pressure, we are seeing some people look to consensually non-monogamous relationships.”
Given the findings of this study, it seems like you’re likely to have just as good a chance at being happy in a non-monogamous relationship as you are a monogamous one. The study shows that if the relationship provides fulfillment of both psychological and sexual needs, the relationship structure itself is not as important.