It's estimated that 4% of people in North America are in consensually nonmonogamous relationships, meaning all partners agree to additional sexual and romantic partnerships. Although open relationships have been historically stigmatized as taboo and unfulfilling, new research shows that they are just as satisfying as traditional partnerships between two monogamous people. A study conducted at the University of Guelph in Canada and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships revealed that it's not necessarily the structure of a relationship that determines satisfaction, but the sexual motivation.
In order to come to this conclusion, researchers surveyed over 140 individuals in nonmonogamous relationships and over 200 people in monogamous ones. Participants were asked about the satisfaction they felt in their current relationship (those in nonmonogamous relationships were asked questions about their main partner). They were asked questions about how often they considered separating, if they confided in their partner, and how happy they felt in general. The results proved that nonmonogamous couples were just as satisfied with their relationships and monogamous couples.
“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,” explains Jessica Wood, PhD, lead author of the study. “This debunks societal views of monogamy as being the ideal relationship structure.”
In addition to learning that an open relationship can be just as fulfilling as a monogamous one, the study also investigated the sexual motivations of the participants. Researchers found that no matter the structure of the relationship, people who have sex with their partners to feel close to them and fulfill their sexual needs are more satisfied than those who have sex for other reasons, like avoiding conflict.
“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 says. It seems that as long as you and your partner (or partners) are fulfilling each others' emotional and physical needs, you'll be happy no matter what kind of relationship works for you.