A study has found people in open relationships are as happy as couples who are monogamous.
The research, carried out by the University of Guelph in Canada, suggests between three and seven per cent of people in North America are in consensual, non-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,” said Jessica Wood, a PhD student in applied social psychology and lead author of the study.
“This debunks societal views of monogamy as being the ideal relationship structure.”
Wood said non-monogamous relationships are more common than people realise, but stigma is still a problem.
“We are at a point in social history where we are expecting a lot from our partners,” she said.
“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.”
She added that despite this, open relationships are still 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 villainised and viewed as bad people in bad relationships, but that’s not the case,” she added.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, surveyed more than 140 people in non-monogamous relationships and more than 200 people in monogamous ones.
Participants were asked about their satisfaction with their current relationships, including how open they considered separating, whether they confided in their partner and what was their general level of happiness.
Wood’s analysis found that one important predictor of relationship satisfaction is not relationship structure but rather sexual motivation.
“In both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, people who engage in sex to be close to a partner and to fulfil their sexual needs have a more satisfying relationship than those who have sex for less intrinsic reasons, such as to avoid conflict,” she said.
If you are fulfilling your psychological needs and are satisfied sexually, you are more likely to be content in your relationship – regardless of its structure, she said.
“This research shows us that our choice of relationship structure is not an indicator of how happy or satisfied we are in our primary relationships,” Wood added.