What if you have a romantic partner and the two of you openly agree that you will have other sexual or romantic partners? This is not sneaking around and it is not infidelity; it is what social scientists call consensual non-monogamy(CNM).
A few weeks ago, in the post, Are monogamous relationships really better?, I began a discussion of an article that reviews the research studies on consensual non-monogamy (CNM). I defined some of the basic terms and identified my dog in the fight. Then I addressed the question of whether monogamy provides “a life full of safe and excellent sex.”
Again, I’ll turn to the review in the article by Terri Conley and her colleagues. (Reference is below.) The research that has been done so far tells us little about CNM satisfaction among heterosexual couples. There are, though, some studies comparing monogamous and consensually non-monogamous relationships among gay men. (Rates of CNM are higher in gay men’s partnerships than in the partnerships of lesbians or heterosexuals.)
Here’s what those studies showed, as summarized by Conley and her colleagues:
Now, on to jealousy. In studies of people’s beliefs, evidence is strong and consistent that people think that monogamy comes with less jealousy. As for what actually happens, the evidence tells a different story.
Conley and her colleagues add, “To the extent that other relationships are explicitly allowed, experiences of jealousy should almost by definition be lower in CNM relationships. Still, the fact that jealousy was managed by individuals in CNM relationships, rather than overwhelming them, is inconsistent with presumptions about monogamy conveyed by participants in our research.”
In one last part to this series on consensual non-monogamy, I’ll present the evidence from the review paper relevant to the question: What about the children?
Conley, T. D., Ziegler, A., Moors, A. C., Matsick, J. L., & Valentine, B. (2012). A critical examination of popular assumptions about the benefits and outcomes of monogamous relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Review.
[Notes. (1) Thanks to Rolf Degen for the heads-up about the Conley article. (2) See below for some other recent blog posts.]