An Exploratory Study of Individuals in Non-traditional, Alternative Relationships: How “Open” Are We?

Abstract

An “open” relationship is a configuration in which there is a sexual agreement characterized by implicit or explicit rules for extra-dyadic sexual activities. The general population of those who identify as non-monogamous is largely understudied, as most research in this area focuses on homosexual males. There is also a stigma surrounding those who do not choose to engage in monogamous relationships. Research on open relationships is sparse, and there is a need to examine perceptions of those engaged in this configuration. Even more important is the need to understand the perceptions of those within this community, as gathering information from outsiders is largely biased. This exploratory study examined the perceptions of 122 individuals who have been in or were currently in an open relationship, with a majority indicating that the decision to enter this type of configuration was mutual (73 %). Results demonstrated permissive attitudes when it comes to behaviors that involve engaging with others, as most interactions are not considered cheating. There is also a focus on rules, which need to be followed. With a better understanding of why those in open relationships choose to conduct their love lives in such a manner, and their impressions of how to make their romantic arrangement successful, not only do we get a clearer picture of these relationships, but we promote tolerance for all those looking to experience love.

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Correspondence to Marisa T. Cohen.

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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 and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Cohen, M.T. An Exploratory Study of Individuals in Non-traditional, Alternative Relationships: How “Open” Are We?. Sexuality & Culture 20, 295–315 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-015-9324-z

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Keywords

  • Open relationships
  • Consensually non-monogamous
  • Relationship configurations
  • Perceptions of cheating