Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 407–417 | Cite as

Monogamy versus Consensual Non-Monogamy: Alternative Approaches to Pursuing a Strategically Pluralistic Mating Strategy

  • Justin K. MogilskiEmail author
  • Stacy L. Memering
  • Lisa L. M. Welling
  • Todd K. Shackelford
Original Paper


This study examined the frequency of partner-directed mate retention behaviors and several self- and partner-rated romantic relationship evaluations (i.e., sociosexuality, relationship satisfaction, mate value, and partner ideal measures) within monogamous and consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships. Measures were compared (1) between monogamous and CNM participants and (2) between two concurrent partners within each CNM relationship (i.e., primary and secondary partners). We found that individuals in currently monogamous relationships (n = 123) performed more mate retention behaviors compared to those currently in CNM relationships (n = 76). Within CNM relationships, participants reported engaging in more mate retention behaviors with primary partners compared to secondary partners. Likewise, CNM participants reported talking about their extra-dyadic sexual experiences and downplaying these sexual experiences more often with their primary partner compared to their secondary partner. There were no significant differences between ratings of monogamous and primary partners in participants’ overall relationship satisfaction. However, monogamous participants reported less satisfaction with the amount of communication and openness they had with their partner compared to CNM participants’ reports of their primary partner, but not secondary partner. By comparison, CNM participants reported higher overall relationship satisfaction with primary compared to secondary partners and considered their primary partner to be more desirable as a long-term mate than their secondary partner. We interpret these results within the context of previous research on monogamous and CNM relationships and hypothesize that these relationship configurations are alternative strategies for pursuing a strategically pluralistic mating strategy.


Monogamy Non-monogamy Polyamory Mate retention Mating strategies 


  1. Alcock, J. (1980). Natural selection and the mating systems of solitary bees. American Scientist, 68, 146–153.Google Scholar
  2. Anapol, D. (1997). Polyamory: The new love without limits. San Rafael, CA: IntiNet Resource Center.Google Scholar
  3. Arnold, S. J., & Duvall, D. (1994). Animal mating systems: A synthesis based on selection theory. American Naturalist, 143, 317–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barber, N. (2008). Explaining cross-national differences in polygyny intensity: Resource-defense, sex ratio, and infectious diseases. Cross-Cultural Research, 42, 103–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barker, M. (2005). This is my partner and this is my. partner’s partner: Constructing a polyamorous identity in a monogamous world. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 18, 75–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barker, M., & Langdridge, D. (2010). Understanding non-monogamies. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Burns, D. D. (1993). Ten days to self-esteem. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  8. Buss, D. M. (1988). From vigilance to violence: Tactics of mate retention in American undergraduates. Ethology and Sociobiology, 9, 291–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buss, D. M. (2002). Human mate guarding. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 23, 23–29.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Buss, D. M. (2003). The evolution of desire (rev. ed.). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  11. Buss, D. M., & Haselton, M. G. (2005). The evolution of jealousy. Trends in Cognitive Science, 9, 506–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204–232.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Buss, D. M., & Shackelford, T. K. (1997). From vigilance to violence: Mate retention tactics in married couples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 346–361.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Buss, D. M., Shackelford, T. K., & McKibbin, W. F. (2008). The Mate Retention Inventory-Short Form (MRI-SF). Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 322–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chisholm, J. S., Ellison, P. T., Evans, J., Lee, P. C., Lieberman, L. S., Pavlik, Z., … Worthman, C. M. (1993). Death, hope, and sex: Life-history theory and the development of reproductive strategies. Current Anthropology, 34, 1–24.Google Scholar
  16. Clutton-Brock, T. H. (1989). Review lecture: Mammalian mating systems. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 236, 339–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Conley, T. D., Moors, A. C., Matsick, J. L., & Ziegler, A. (2012). The fewer the merrier? Assessing stigma surrounding consensually non-monogamous romantic relationships. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 13, 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Conley, T. D., Moors, A. C., Ziegler, A., & Karathanasis, C. (2012). Unfaithful individuals are less likely to practice safer sex than openly nonmonogamous individuals. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 9, 1559–1565.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 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, 17, 124–141.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Conroy-Beam, D., Buss, D. M., Pham, M. N., & Shackelford, T. K. (2015). How sexually dimorphic are human mate preferences? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41, 1082–1093.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. de Miguel, A., & Buss, D. M. (2011). Mate retention tactics in Spain: Personality, sex differences, and relationship status. Journal of Personality, 79, 563–586.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. de Visser, R., & McDonald, D. (2007). Swings and roundabouts: Management of jealousy in heterosexual “swinging” couples. British Journal of Social Psychology, 46, 459–476.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Draper, P., & Harpending, H. (1982). Father absence and reproductive strategy: An evolutionary perspective. Journal of Anthropological Research, 38, 255–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Easton, D., & Liszt, C. A. (1997). The ethical slut. Emeryville, CA: Greenery Press.Google Scholar
  25. Fletcher, G. J., Simpson, J. A., Thomas, G., & Giles, L. (1999). Ideals in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 72–89.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). The evolution of human mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 573–587.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Gangestad, S. W., & Thornhill, R. (1997). The evolutionary psychology of extrapair sex: The role of fluctuating asymmetry. Evolution and Human Behavior, 18, 69–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gangestad, S. W., Thornhill, R., & Garver, C. E. (2002). Changes in women’s sexual interests and their partner’s mate–retention tactics across the menstrual cycle: Evidence for shifting conflicts of interest. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, 269, 975–982.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. Geary, D. C., Vigil, J., & Byrd-Craven, J. (2004). The evolution of human mate choice. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 27–42.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Goetz, A. T., & Shackelford, T. K. (2009). Sexual coercion in intimate relationships: A comparative analysis of the effects of women’s infidelity and men’s dominance and control. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 226–234.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Hamilton, W. D., & Zuk, M. (1982). Heritable true fitness and bright birds: A role for parasites? Science, 218, 384–387.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Hardy, I. C., Ode, P. J., & Siva-Jothy, M. (2005). Mating systems. In M. A. Jervis (Ed.), Insects as natural enemies (pp. 261–298). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Holden, C. J., Shackelford, T. K., Zeigler-Hill, V., Miner, E. J., Kaighobadi, F., Starratt, V. G., … Buss, D. M. (2014). Husband’s esteem predicts his mate retention tactics. Evolutionary Psychology, 12, 655–672.Google Scholar
  34. Hyde, J. S., & DeLamater, J. D. (2000). Understanding human sexuality (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  35. Jenks, R. J. (1985). Swinging: A test of two theories and a proposed new model. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14, 517–527.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Jenks, R. J. (1998). Swinging: A review of the literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 507–521.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Kaighobadi, F., Shackelford, T. K., Popp, D., Moyer, R. M., Bates, V. M., & Liddle, J. R. (2009). Perceived risk of female infidelity moderates the relationship between men’s personality and partner-directed violence. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 1033–1039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kardum, I., Hudek-Knežević, J., & Gračanin, A. (2006). Sociosexuality and mate retention in romantic couples. Psihologijsketeme, 15, 277–296.Google Scholar
  39. Kenny, D. A. (1994). Interpersonal perception: A social relations analysis. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  40. Kenny, D. A., & La Voie, L. (1984). The social relations model. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 18, 142–182.Google Scholar
  41. Klesse, C. (2005). Bisexual women, non-monogamy and differentialist anti-promiscuity discourses. Sexualities, 8, 445–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Klesse, C. (2006). Polyamory and its ‘others’: Contesting the terms of non-monogamy. Sexualities, 9, 565–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lancaster, J. B., & Lancaster, C. S. (1987). The watershed: Change in parental-investment and family-formation strategies in the course of human evolution. In J. B. Lancaster, J. Altmann, A. S. Rossi, & L. R. Sherrod (Eds.), Parenting across the life span: Biosocial dimensions (pp. 187–205). Aldine, NY: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  44. Lippa, R. A. (2009). Sex differences in sex drive, sociosexuality, and height across 53 nations: Testing evolutionary and social structural theories. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 631–651.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Loue, S. (2006). Multi-bonding: Polygamy, polygyny, polyamory. In S. Loue (Ed.), Sexual partnering, sexual practices, and health (pp. 27–53). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  46. Low, B. S. (1990). Marriage systems and pathogen stress in human societies. American Zoologist, 30, 325–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Marlowe, F. (2000). Paternal investment and the human mating system. Behavioural Processes, 51, 45–61.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. McKibbin, W. F., Starratt, V. G., Shackelford, T. K., & Goetz, A. T. (2011). Perceived risk of female infidelity moderates the relationship between objective risk of female infidelity and sexual coercion in humans (Homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 125, 370–373.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Miner, E. J., Starratt, V. G., & Shackelford, T. K. (2009). It’s not all about her: Men’s mate value and mate retention. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 214–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mitchell, M. E., Bartholomew, K., & Cobb, R. J. (2013). Need fulfillment in polyamorous relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 329–339.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Mogilski, J. K., Wade, T. J., & Welling, L. L. M. (2014). Prioritization of potential mates’ history of sexual fidelity during a conjoint ranking task. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 884–897.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Morrison, T. G., Beaulieu, D., Brockman, M., & Beaglaoich, C. Ó. (2013). A comparison of polyamorous and monoamorous persons: Are there differences in indices of relationship well-being and sociosexuality? Psychology & Sexuality, 4, 75–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mulder, M. B. (1992). Women’s strategies in polygynous marriage. Human Nature, 3, 45–70.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Nakahashi, W., & Horiuchi, S. (2012). Evolution of ape and human mating systems. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 296, 56–64.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Pallotta-Chiarolli, M. (2006). Polyparents having children, raising children, schooling children. Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review, 7, 48–53.Google Scholar
  56. Penke, L., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2008). Beyond global sociosexual orientations: A more differentiated look at sociosexuality and its effects on courtship and romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1113–1135.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Pham, M. N., & Shackelford, T. K. (2013). Oral sex as mate retention behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 185–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ritchie, A., & Barker, M. (2007). Hot bi babes and feminist families: Polyamorous women speak out. Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review, 8, 141–151.Google Scholar
  59. Robinson, M. (2013). Polyamory and monogamy as strategic identities. Journal of Bisexuality, 13, 21–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Schmitt, D. P. (2005). Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe: A 48-nation study of sex, culture, and strategies of human mating. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 247–275.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Schutzwohl, A. (2005). Sex differences in jealousy: The processing of cues to infidelity. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26, 288–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schutzwohl, A., & Koch, S. (2004). Sex differences in jealousy: The recall of cues to sexual and emotional infidelity in personally more and less threatening context conditions. Evolution and Human Behavior, 25, 249–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sela, Y., Shackelford, T. K., Pham, M. N., & Euler, H. A. (2015). Do women perform fellatio as a mate retention behavior? Personality and Individual Differences, 73, 61–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Shackelford, T. K., & Buss, D. M. (1997). Cues to infidelity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 1034–1045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Shackelford, T. K., LeBlanc, G. J., & Drass, E. (2000). Emotional reactions to infidelity. Cognition and Emotion, 14, 643–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sheff, E. (2005). Polyamorous women, sexual subjectivity, and power. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 34, 251–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sheff, E. (2006). Poly-hegemonic masculinities. Sexualities, 9, 621–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Simpson, J. A., & Gangestad, S. W. (1991). Individual differences in sociosexuality: Evidence for convergent and discriminant validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 870–883.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Starratt, V. G., McKibbin, W. F., & Shackelford, T. K. (2013). Experimental manipulation of psychological mechanisms responsive to female infidelity. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 59–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Starratt, V. G., & Shackelford, T. K. (2012). He said, she said: Men’s reports of mate value and mate retention behaviors in intimate relationships. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 459–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Starratt, V. G., Shackelford, T. K., Goetz, A. T., & McKibbin, W. F. (2007). Male mate retention behaviors vary with risk of partner infidelity and sperm competition. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 39, 523–527.Google Scholar
  72. Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (2008). The evolutionary biology of human female sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  74. van Anders, S. M., Hamilton, L. D., & Watson, N. V. (2007). Multiple partners are associated with higher testosterone in North American men and women. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 454–459.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. VanderLaan, D. P., & Vasey, P. L. (2008). Mate retention behavior of men and women in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 572–585.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. Welling, L. L. M. (2013). Psychobehavioral effects of hormonal contraceptive use. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 718–742.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Welling, L. L. M., Puts, D. A., Roberts, S. C., Little, A. C., & Burriss, R. P. (2012). Hormonal contraceptive use and mate retention behavior in women and their male partners. Hormones and Behavior, 61, 114–120.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Wilson, M., & Daly, M. (1997). Life expectancy, economic inequality, homicide, and reproductive timing in Chicago neighbourhoods. British Medical Journal, 314, 1271–1274.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  79. Wosick-Correa, K. (2010). Agreements, rules and agentic fidelity in polyamorous relationships. Psychology & Sexuality, 1, 44–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zeigler-Hill, V., Welling, L. L., & Shackelford, T. K. (2015). How can an understanding of evolutionary psychology contribute to social psychology? In V. Zeigler-Hill, L. L. M. Welling, & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), Evolutionary perspectives on social psychology (pp. 3–12). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin K. Mogilski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stacy L. Memering
    • 1
  • Lisa L. M. Welling
    • 1
  • Todd K. Shackelford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations