Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

July 1, 2018

"Those in open relationships as happy with their partner as those in monogamous ones." And lots more poly studies!

Sociologists and other academics are studying people living in consensual non-monogamy ("CNM") much more now than in years past. Another such research project is currently making the news. Here's a report about it on CTV in Canada, where the work was done.

Those in open relationships as happy with their partner as those in monogamous ones: study

franckreporter / Istock.com

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 [the source of] 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. ..."

Between three and seven percent 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. ... To deal with this pressure, we are seeing some people look to consensually non-monogamous relationships."

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 original article (June 29, 2018). News of the study's results are showing up in many other media, from Medical Daily to the Hindustan Times.

Here's the paper itself: Reasons for sex and relational outcomes in consensually nonmonogamous and monogamous relationships, by Jessica Wood, Serge Desmarais, Tyler Burleigh, and Robin Milhausen, in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (first published March 23, 2018). Get around the paywall by going through an academic library.

From the abstract:

Approximately 4% of individuals in North America participate in consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships, wherein all partners have agreed to additional sexual and/or emotional partnerships. ... A total of 348 CNM (n = 142) and monogamous participants (n = 206) were recruited.... Participants reported on their sexual motivations during their most recent sexual event, their level of sexual need fulfillment, and measures of sexual and relational satisfaction with their current (primary) partner. The CNM and monogamous participants reported similar reasons for engaging in sex, though CNM participants were significantly more likely to have sex for personal intrinsic motives. No differences in mean levels of relationship and sexual satisfaction were found between CNM and monogamous individuals. Participants who engaged in sex for more self-determined reasons reported increased relational and sexual satisfaction. ... This study indicates that CNM and monogamous individuals report similar levels of satisfaction within their relationship(s), and that the mechanisms that affect relational and sexual satisfaction are similar for both CNM and monogamous individuals. ...

● A related study, in the U.S. a year earlier, was also reported on by CTV at the time: New research finds low levels of jealousy in consensual open relationships (March 31, 2017):

...The perhaps surprising findings come from a new study by the University of Michigan, which looked at different relationships among 2,124 people over age 25.

Participants were asked about the quality of their relationship with either one or both partners, depending on if they were in a monogamous or consensual nonmonogamous relationship, and asked to rate the different relationship components of satisfaction, commitment, trust, jealousy and passionate love, which is the intense love feeling often described in new relationships.

Lead author Terri Conley (Delaney Ryan/Michigan Daily)
The team found no differences between monogamous and consensual nonmonogamous participants in terms of satisfaction and passionate love.

However, the team found that ratings of jealousy and trust were actually better for those in heterosexual open relationships, contrary to what society often presumes about the benefits from monogamy, considered by many to involve high levels of commitment, trust, and love.

The study also revealed that individuals in nonmonogamous relationships had higher levels of satisfaction, trust, commitment and passionate love with their primary partner than in their secondary relationship, going against another possible assumption that those in nonmonogamous relationships do not care enough about each other to be happy in their primary relationship.

"Overall, the outcomes for monogamous and consensual nonmonogamous participants were the same -- indicating no net benefit of one relationship style over another," concluded the study's lead author Terri Conley.

That finding is buried deep in a long paper that reports on two studies and comments on the whole field, with many references: Investigation of Consensually Nonmonogamous Relationships, by Terri D. Conley, Jes L. Matsick, Amy C. Moors, and Ali Ziegler, in Perspectives on Psychological Science (March 27, 2017. No paywall.)

A story in Vice drawing from other parts of that paper: Why We Need to Challenge the Culture of Monogamy, by Allison Tierney (March 30, 2017). "Relationship norms are so pervasive that they've led to flawed science."

And in Quartz: The idea of monogamy as a relationship ideal is based on flawed science, by Cassie Werber (March 22, 2017). "Is monogamy actually better than non-monogamy? It’s still very much an open question — and one with no clear answers, in part because scientists can’t break free of a certain worldview gripping their field."

● Also notable: in queer communities, These Two Factors Make You More Likely To Be Into Non-Monogamy — a story in Autostraddle by Carolyn Yates about a different study focusing on lesbians, bisexuals, and gays (Oct. 29, 2017):

Open to new experiences? Not very conscientious? Queer? You might be more into consensual non-monogamy.

...A study published last week in the Journal of Bisexuality found that more than any other personality factors or attachment styles, being more open (appreciative of a variety of experience) and less conscientiousness (not very self-disciplined) makes queer people more likely to feel positively about and engage in consensually nonmonogamous relationships.

...The study focused on how personality traits — specifically openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism — are linked to positive attitudes and inclination toward consensually non-monogamous relationships among sexual minorities. The authors recruited 108 LGB participants online — 67% identified as women, 62% identified as bi- or pansexual, and 38% identified as gay or lesbian — to answer questions on their attitudes toward romantic relationships.

The authors found that being more open made people more attracted to consensual nonmonogamy, and write:

“[O]penness to new experiences and conscientiousness were robust predictors of attraction to multiple-partner relationships among LGB individuals. People who tend to have active imaginations, a preference for variety, and a proclivity to engage in new experiences (i.e., high in openness) hold positive attitudes toward CNM and greater willingness to engage in these relationships.”

While being more conscientious tended to make people less attracted to consensual nonmonogamy:

“[I]ndividuals who tend to be very organized, neat, careful, and success driven (i.e., high in conscientiousness) perceive CNM negatively and have less desire to engage in CNM. ...”

...They also found that, maybe counterintuitively, being extroverted made someone more likely to feel negatively about consensual nonmonogamy, and didn’t impact willingness to try it out.

The paper itself: Personality Correlates of Desire to Engage in Consensual Non-monogamy among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals, by Amy C. Moors, Dylan F. Selterman and Terri D. Conley, in the Journal of Bisexuality (published online Oct. 10, 2017. The abstract is free, the rest is behind a paywall.)

● Another: What attachment theory can tell us about polyamory, by David M. DeLuca in Medium (Oct. 8, 2016), drawing from this paper: Attached to monogamy? Avoidance predicts willingness to engage (but not actual engagement) in consensual non-monogamy, by Amy C. Moors, Terri D. Conley, Robin S. Edelstein, and William J. Chopik, in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (April 1, 2014).

● Long essay: The Distinctiveness of Polyamory, by Luke Brunning in the Journal of Applied Philosophy (Aug. 5, 2016). "To render [polyamory] palatable to critics, activists and theorists often accentuate its similarity to monogamy. I argue that this strategy conceals the distinctive character of polyamorous intimacy."

Has the American Public’s Interest in Information Related to Relationships Beyond “The Couple” Increased Over Time?, by Amy C. Moors in The Journal of Sex Research (published online: May 23, 2016). "This study utilizes Google Trends to assess Americans’ interest in seeking out information related to consensual nonmonogamous relationships across a 10-year period (2006–2015). ... Searches for words related to polyamory and open relationships (but not swinging) have significantly increased over time."

● This one got a great deal of attention when it came out two years ago, and it has been cited often ever since: Prevalence of Experiences With Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships: Findings From Two National Samples of Single Americans, by M. L. Haupert, Amanda N. Gesselman, Amy C. Moors, Helen E. Fisher and Justin R. Garcia, in Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy (published online June 20, 2016).

"Using two separate U.S. Census based quota samples of single adults in the United States (Study 1: n = 3,905; Study 2: n = 4,813) ... more than one in five (21.9% in Study 1; 21.2% in Study 2) participants report engaging in CNM at some point in their lifetime."

Justin Lehmiller, on his Sex & Psychology site, published two articles on this report: How Many People Have Ever Had A Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationship? (May 30, 2016), and How Common Is Consensual Non-Monogamy? (May 13, 2016). Also: Lehmiller on people's suitability for friends-with-benefits relationships: Why Some People May Be Better Suited To Consensual Nonmonogamy Than Others (Aug. 15, 2016).

● From the Open Source Psychometrics Project, The demographics of polyamory/monogamy from a general population survey (2015). "A survey of users of this website was conducted that asked about demographics and about polyamory/monogamy. For those not familiar with polyamory, the definition from Wikipedia was provided. In October 2015, 5,043 responses to this survey were recorded...."

● On the other hand, this on Mic.com: When It Comes to Relationships, Turns Out We're Not as Edgy as We Think We Are (March 25, 2016). "We" means millennials:

Only 15% of Americans age 18 to 29 would ever consider being in an open relationship, according to a new survey conducted by the Huffington Post and YouGov. That proportion is nearly identical to — not higher than — the numbers for adults age 30 to 44 and 45 to 64.

The survey also found that 18% of 18- to 29-year-olds have been in an open relationship, while only 14% have attended a party where they engaged in sexual activity with multiple partners.

● There's a lot of stigma, but less when people know what "polyamory" actually means: Around Consensual Nonmonogamies: Assessing Attitudes Toward Nonexclusive Relationships, by Katarzyna Grunt-Mejera and Christine Campbell, in The Journal of Sex Research (published online Aug. 4, 2015). From the abstract:

The present study examined the social norms that are violated by different forms of consensual nonmonogamy and the negative judgments that result. We asked 375 participants to rate hypothetical vignettes of people involved in one of five relationship types (monogamy, polyamory, open relationship, swinging, and cheating) on items related to relationship satisfaction, morality, and cognitive abilities. The monogamous couple was perceived most favorably, followed by the polyamorous couple, then the open and swinging couples who were rated equally. Participants judged the cheating couple most negatively. ... We conclude that the aspect that has the most effect on judgments is whether the relationship structure has been agreed to by all parties.

● An important work was the big Loving More survey six years ago: What Do Polys Want? An Overview of the 2012 Loving More Survey. It followed and improved upon Loving More's pioneering survey of its members and their associates in 2000.

One particular paper that came out of some of the 2012 data was this: The association of an open relationship orientation with health and happiness in a sample of older US adults, by James R. Fleckenstein and Derrell W. Cox II, in Sexual and Relationship Therapy (published online Nov. 18, 2014). From the abstract:

The authors collected 502 responses via an online survey from individuals aged 55 and older residing in the United States who engage in consensually non-exclusive sexual relationships. Self-reported health and happiness, number of sexual partners, and sexual frequency were compared with 723 similar respondents from the nationally-representative 2012 United States (US) General Social Survey. Key findings were: irrespective of formal relationship status, the non-exclusive sample reported significantly more sexual partners, more sexual frequency, better health, and were much more likely to have had an HIV test than the general US population; the non-exclusive sample also reported being significantly happier than the general population, with the exception of married men, who reported being as happy as the general population sample; and regression analyses suggest that the factors which predict better health and happiness differ between the general population and those who participate in consensually non-exclusive sexual relationships.

● The leading specialist regarding the health and outcomes of kids in poly families is of course Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door (2015). She's now in Year 20 of her own very longterm study tracking children of poly. Here's one of a five-part series about such kids on her Psychology Today-hosted blog.

● This list makes no pretense of being complete! If you've read this far, you may want to join the long-running PolyResearchers Yahoo Group, which Sheff founded long ago. Many papers can be read for free in its ample files.




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