Up to 5 percent of people in the U.S. report they are currently in a consensual non-monogamous relationships.
One-third of men are open to having more than one wife or long-term girlfriend, research finds.
Considerably fewer (9 percent), though, were open to the idea that they would share their partner with someone else.
The corresponding figures were much lower for women:
- 11 percent of women agreed they would be open to having more than one husband.
- 5 percent would be open to sharing their partner with someone else.
Polyandry and polygyny
The conclusions come from a survey of almost 400 people in the UK.
Participants were asked how they felt about both polyandry and polygyny, two different types of polygamy:
- Polyandry is when a women has two or more husbands (or long-term partners).
- Polygyny is when a man has two or more wives (or long-term partners).
Dr Andrew Thomas, the study’s first author, explained the results:
“Comparing polygyny and polyandry directly, men were three-and-a-half times more likely to say ‘yes’ to the former than the latter, while women were twice as likely to say ‘yes’ to having more than one partner, compared to the idea of sharing their partner with someone else.”
While most Western countries stigmatise and discriminate against polygyny and polyandry, they are practiced by some cultures in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Dr Thomas said:
“Committed non-monogamy has received a lot of attention recently.
It’s a hot trend, with more and more couples talking about opening up their relationships to include other people.
However, these types of relationships are far from new.
While most seek monogamous relationships, a small proportion of humans have engaged in multi-partner relationships throughout human history, especially polygynous marriage where one husband is shared by several co-wives.
This study shows that a sizable minority of people are open to such relationships, even in the UK where such marriages are prohibited.
Interestingly, many more men are open to the idea than women—though there is still interest on both sides.”
Jealousy and dissatisfaction?
Despite the stigma, up to 5 percent of people in the U.S. report they are in consensual non-monogamous relationships.
Some research has suggested that those in consensual non-monogamous relationships are just as happy as those in monogamous relationships (Wood, 2018).
Dr Jessica Wood, author of that previous study said:
“[Non-monogamous relationships] 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.”
Another study has found that levels of satisfaction and trust are similar in both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships (Conley et al., 2017).
Indeed, levels of jealousy were higher in monogamous relationships, while trust was higher in non-monogamous relationships.
For some people, then, having a second sexual partner is not necessarily a sign of dissatisfaction with the first, but perhaps an acknowledgement that it is hard to get everything one needs from one person.
- Who says “I love you” first: men or women?
- Many married people who cheat on their partners claim they do not feel guilty about it.
- More mindful couples are less stressed and more satisfied with their relationships.
The study was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior (Thomas et al., 2023).
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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.
It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.
I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.