The key to a successful open relationship according to research

Communication plays a big part

Moya Lothian-McLean
Friday 01 November 2019 15:07
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Mutual consent, communication and comfort are key to the success of a non-monogamous relationship, according to psychologists at the University of Rochester.

The trio of behaviours has been dubbed the Triple-C Model.

Results were drawn from a questionnaire of with over 1,600 respondents, who were divided into five groups, including two monogamous groups, representing earlier and later stages of monogamous relationships; and consensual non-monogamous (CNM) relationships.

The final two groups were individuals in partially open relationships, and one-sided relationships where it had been agreed one person could have sex outside the relationship, but the other partner remained monogamous.

Researchers assessed all the relationships and found that while there was no singular way to ensure success, the presence of consent, communication and comfort correlated with a higher likelihood of maintaining the existing relationship while being non-monogamous.

Couples that spoke openly about their relationships, communicated effectively about behaviours and felt comfortable and secure in the partnership were more likely to have successful pairings, whether monogamous or not.

People in monogamous and CNM relationships reported the healthiest and “highest functioning” relationship.

Both those groups also showed the lowest levels of loneliness and distress, alongside the highest satisfaction levels when it came to personal needs, sex and their overall relationship.

In comparison, couples in partially open and one-sided non-monogamous relationships had the highest levels of discomfort, psychological distress and loneliness.

Coming off worst were the one-sided non-monogamous group: 60 per cent of people within it said they were dissatisfied with their relationship.

This was three times higher than levels of dissatisfaction in the monogamous and CNM groups.

“Communication is helpful to all couples,” said Ronald Rogge, associate professor in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology at the University of Rochester.

“However, it is critical for couples in non-monogamous relationships as they navigate the extra challenges of maintaining a non-traditional relationship in a monogamy-dominated culture.

“Secrecy surrounding sexual activity with others can all too easily become toxic and lead to feelings of neglect, insecurity, rejection, jealousy, and betrayal, even in non-monogamous relationships,” Mr Rogge added.

“Sexual activity with someone else besides the primary partner, without mutual consent, comfort, or communication can easily be understood as a form of betrayal or cheating,” added Forrest Hangen, former undergraduate research assistant to Mr Rogge.

“And that, understandably, can seriously undermine or jeopardise the relationship.”

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