Most of us in Western society have been conditioned to visualize relationships the same way: Boy meets girl, boy chases girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl fall in love, get married and have a bunch of babies. As most of us have come to realize as normal human beings, love doesn't necessarily always fit this exact mold. No, instead, love comes in all different forms. That being said, the way we've been raised forces many of us to wonder if open relationships are happier than monogamous ones.
Most of us grew up in a society that teaches the importance of a happily-ever-after ending with one person, and staying monogamous with that person till death do you part. But once you learn about open relationships, you might find a lot of elements appealing: an emphasis on honesty and communication, the freedom to explore your interest in others, and the ability to create rules and boundaries that work best for you and . your partner. It's no wonder that some people wonder if open relationships are the better way to go.
It turns out that both types of relationships are equally satisfying. No, seriously. I even have the science to back me up.
The study, conducted by researchers at University of Guelph, officially proved that people in open relationships are just as happy as their monogamous counterparts.
What exactly are we referring to when we talk about "open relationships" in this scenario? Consensual, non-monogamous relationships. This basically means you and your partners have discussed the fact that you aren't exclusive and are both totally cool with it (not in a trying-to-be-the-cool-girl way but in an actually cool with it way). This type of relationship is more common than you might expect. Science Daily reports that "between three and seven per cent of people in North America are currently in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship."
"It's more common than most people think," said Jessica Wood, a PhD student in applied social psychology and lead author of the study. "We are at a point in social history where we are expecting a lot from our partners. We want to have sexual fulfillment and excitement but also emotional and financial support. Trying to fulfill all these needs can put pressure on relationships. To deal with this pressure, we are seeing some people look to consensually non-monogamous relationships."
And, apparently, the solution to the pressure is leaving people just as happy as those of us in monogamous relationships.
"We found people in consensual, non-monogamous relationships experience the same levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships," explained Wood. "This debunks societal views of monogamy as being the ideal relationship structure."
In order to make this discovery, the researchers surveyed more than 340 people. Within these 340 people, they had over 140 in non-monogamous relationships and over 200 in monogamous ones. The surveys asked the participants to discuss how satisfied they were in their current relationships (this question referred to the main partner in a non-monogamous relationship), how often they consider breaking up, how much they share with their partner and how happy they were in general. They then compared the responses from the two groups.
After comparing the responses, the researchers concluded people in non-monogamous relationships were just as happy as their monogamous counterparts.
"In both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, people who engage in sex to be close to a partner and to fulfill their sexual needs have a more satisfying relationship than those who have sex for less intrinsic reasons, such as to avoid conflict," said Wood.
That being said, people in non-monogamous relationships still have to deal with a lot of societal backlash. "They [can be] perceived as immoral and less satisfying. It's assumed that people in these types of relationships are having sex with everyone all the time," Wood explained. "They are villainized and viewed as bad people in bad relationships, but that's not the case." She adds, "This research shows us that our choice of relationship structure is not an indicator of how happy or satisfied we are in our primary relationships."
It's important to note here that just because people are happy in non-monogamous relationships doesn't mean that you shouldn't be happy in your monogamous relationship. The point is that your entitled to your own happiness, no matter what relationship structure you find it in.
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