A recent paper published in the Journal of Sex Research reviewed dozens of studies focusing on three different forms of CNM: swinging, open relationships, and polyamory. The results of these studies were then compared to data on people in monogamous relationships.
In the end, the authors concluded that “the majority of research suggests that the psychological well-being and the quality of the relationships of consensual nonmonogamists is not significantly different from that of monogamists.” It didn’t matter what outcome they considered—from overall relationship adjustment to jealousy to relationship stability—there just wasn’t evidence for the idea that monogamists are necessarily happier or better off.
That covers the quality of the relationship issue. And now the satisfaction with their sex lives:
two studies were conducted in which people practicing one of three forms of consensual non-monogamy (again, swinging, open relationships, and polyamory) were compared to persons practicing monogamy in terms of their sexual satisfaction, likelihood of reaching orgasm, and how recently they had sex.
The results revealed that polyamorists and swingers reported more satisfying sex lives than monogamists and were more likely to have had sex recently with their primary partner. In addition, swingers (but not polyamorists) were more likely to have orgasmed the last time they had sex than were monogamists. Just to be clear, it was not the case that monogamists were dissatisfied with their sex lives. They were satisfied overall—it’s just that consensual non-monogamists were more satisfied on average.
I found the part about swingers being more likely to have orgasmed the most recent time they had sex interesting. And, of course, it raises the questions:
- Is there a cause and effect?
- If there is a cause and effect, did they become swingers because they were highly orgasmic? Or did they become high orgasmic because they were swingers?
And here is another twist:
Interestingly, unlike polyamorists and swingers, people in open relationships didn’t differ from monogamists in terms of their sexual satisfaction, orgasm frequency, or recent sex. This finding highlights the importance of distinguishing between different types of consensual non-monogamy because they don’t all appear to be equal in terms of sexual outcomes.
So… if of all the relationship types studied the swinger lifestyle is the one which tends to have the happiest outcome.
Can we call this a “Happy ending”?
Or should we just say, “The science is settled”?