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Your Happiness Is My Happiness: Predicting Positive Feelings for a Partner’s Consensual Extra-Dyadic Intimate Relations

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This quantitative study tested hypotheses derived from a previous qualitative study of the factors that facilitated and hindered compersion (the positive feelings derived from one’s partner’s intimate relations with others) in consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships. A total of 255 participants recruited from online CNM and Alt-Sex communities reported on demographic and relationship characteristics as well as individual, relationship, and metamour-related variables in an online anonymous survey. In Flicker et al. (2022), we identified various factors that predicted three subtypes of compersion: contentment with one’s partner’s relationships with established metamours (intimate partners of one’s partners), excitement sparked by one’s partner’s new/potentially new intimate connections, and sexual excitement elicited by thinking about one’s partner with another person. The current findings were consistent with the Flicker et al. qualitative study, with some hypotheses from the previous study more strongly supported than others. The predictors of compersion most strongly supported by the current data include closeness with one’s metamour and knowledge about the partner/metamour relationship, in a positive direction, as well as jealousy, envy, and attachment anxiety, in a negative direction. Individual-level predictors were weak predictors of compersion. The sexual arousal subtype of compersion was weakly endorsed by the current sample and predictors of this subtype were distinct from predictors of the other subtypes of compersion. The findings suggest that the development of new interventions that target reducing jealousy and envy and increasing attachment security within the unique context of CNM relationships could have the added benefit of increasing compersion. The development of these interventions stands to benefit a growing population of individuals involved in CNM relationships.

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  1. A metamour is the intimate partner of one’s partner, typically with whom one is not intimately involved (Sheff, 2014).

  2. We use the term “alternative” partner here to be consistent with the terminology of the investment model (Rusbult et al., 1998). However, in the context of CNM, the term “additional” partners makes more sense.

  3. A polycule is a network of individuals who are connected through CNM intimate partnerships.

  4. In kitchen-table polyamory, metamours know each other and may have close relationships.


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The second author conducted all data screening and analyses and wrote the results section. The first author completed all other work on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sharon M. Flicker.

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We have no known conflict of interest to disclose. The preregistered hypotheses, methods, and data analytic plan (with exceptions noted in the paper) can be obtained at: Data can be obtained by emailing the first author.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (Exempt due to less than minimal risk and anonymous surveys; IRB Approval Numbers: 20-21-180) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Flicker, S.M., Sancier-Barbosa, F. Your Happiness Is My Happiness: Predicting Positive Feelings for a Partner’s Consensual Extra-Dyadic Intimate Relations. Arch Sex Behav 53, 941–958 (2024).

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