Monogamy not essential for a happy relationship, say scientists
New Canadian research has found that individuals in open relationships are just as happy and satisfied as those in more traditional monogamous relationships.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Guelph, Ontario, the study surveyed more than 140 people in non-monogamous relationships and more than 200 in monogamous ones, asking them about their satisfaction with their current relationships.
Participants were asked to report on how often they considered separating, whether they confided in their partner, and what was their general level of happiness.
For non-monogamous relationships, the questions asked participants about their satisfaction with their main partner.
After comparing the groups' responses, the researchers found people in non-monogamous relationships were just as satisfied with their relationship with their main partner as the participants in monogamous ones.
"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," said lead author Jessica Wood. "This debunks societal views of monogamy as being the ideal relationship structure."
The results also showed that there was one important predictor of relationship satisfaction, and it was sexual motivation, rather than the structure of the relationship.
"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," said Wood. "Ultimately if you are fulfilling your psychological needs and are satisfied sexually, you are more likely to be happy in your partnership no matter the relationship structure."
Between 3%- 7% of people in North America are currently in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship according to the researchers, in which all partners agree to engage in multiple sexual or romantic relationships.
"It's more common than most people think," said 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."
[People in open relationships] are villainized and viewed as bad people in bad relationships, but that's not the caseResearcher Jessica Wood
However, Wood added that consensually non-monogamous relationships still attract stigma and are viewed as less satisfying and less stable, despite the fact that they are quite common and that research may suggest otherwise.
"They are perceived as immoral and less satisfying. It's assumed that people in these types of relationships are having sex with everyone all the time. They are villainized and viewed as bad people in bad relationships, but that's not the case," says Wood.
The results can be found published online in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.