I recently came across a study published in March of 2017 in the SAGE Journals. The study, titled, “Investigation of Consensually Nonmonogamous Relationships,” investigates CNM (consensual non-monogamous) relationships, specifically relationships in which the participants identify as swingers, polyamorous or in open relationships, in comparison to the more traditional monogamous union. The focus of the study was to shed some light on the benefits (if any) of a consensual non-monogamous relationship by examining individuals in both consensual non-monogamous and monogamous relationships.
Through the course of the research, the panel conducting the study found some very interesting and beneficial aspects for those who choose to participate in CNM relationships. Overall, the study concluded that when a CNM relationship is pitted against the more traditional monogamous model there is no difference in satisfaction, commitment or passionate love for those in the two relationship models! (Even those who conducted the study were somewhat surprised!)
This finding goes against what so many want to believe when touting the praises of one relationship model over another. Which, on a side note, we shouldn’t be in the habit of doing anyway. I always tend to revert back to the belief that if a couple has taken the time to communicate and agree to a specific relationship model, we as a society should be applauding those couples instead of stigmatizing them for finding a prototype that works for them.
The fact that the study was able to scientifically acknowledge the CNM relationship model as not only a viable relationship option but in some cases a more advantageous option is groundbreaking! This research opens up CNM as a feasible choice and shows that it just might be a healthier option.
Before listing some of the revelations of this trailblazing research, I want to point out that the focus of my article isn’t meant to discount the benefits of a traditional monogamous relationship because like a CNM relationship model, monogamy is just another relationship model. My review of this recent research is meant to bring attention to some often ignored or discounted (and now scientifically proven) facts about a relationship style that can and does have just as strong of a foundation as more socially accepted models. So with that said, here are the findings:
The study concluded that those who participate in a CNM relationship actually reveal lower levels of jealousy and higher levels of satisfaction than those in a more traditional monogamous relationship. The study determined that one reason behind this finding is in part due to the fact that those in CNM relationships are allowed these extradyadic behaviors, whereas those in monogamous relationships are not. Those in CNM relationships are also not as driven to look through their partner’s phone, email or social media accounts as a more relaxed gender norm appears to be present.
Again, the findings showed a significantly higher level of trust among those in a CNM relationship model (especially those in polyamorous unions) compared to those in traditional monogamous relationships. One of the most interesting revelations of this particular issue was the way in which trust was viewed in each model. Monogamous participants believe that a CNM relationship would seriously undermine their trust in a partner, while CNM participants praise the high levels of trust in their relationship as the cornerstone of the union. The study states that this may be due in part to the fact that those in CNM relationships tend to, “remove barriers to trustworthiness by easing strict lines of sexual faithfulness.”
I didn’t see this category coming when I read the data, so I was really encouraged by these findings. According to the research, abuse (or as the study calls it, intimate partner violence), often categorized by isolation and restricted access to others, is a notable social issue in society today. As per the definition, individuals who engage in abusive behavior wouldn’t be likely to tolerate a CNM relationship, but because those in CNM relationships not only have access to, but mutually encourage extradyadic relationships, abuse does NOT fall in line with the tenants of a CNM relationship model. A BIG thumbs up to another beneficial aspect of a swinging/open/poly marriage!
4. Social Support Networks
I found this notable topic to be quite compelling and couldn’t agree more with the outcome. This deals with our support group and the way in which we perceive our relationship. I’ve talked in the past about what can happen when we focus all our attention on our partner; when we expect our partner to be our EVERYTHING! The study found that those who rely exclusively on one person and/or force that person into an “on call, 24/7” schedule, as can often be the case when talking about a traditional monogamous relationship, are, “associated with poorer psychosocial outcomes, as evidenced by the psychological fallout of divorce.” But, “on the other hand, the social support literature indicates that people who have a large array of (all types of) relationships (like those in the CNM community) have better outcomes in times of stress.”
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, how in the world does failure end up on this list?” According to the study, researchers found that when dealing with a monogamous relationship, if the marriage dissolves, the marriage is deemed a “failed relationship.” However, when dealing with, say for instance, a polyamorous relationship, a subsequent relationship doesn’t mean the dissolution of the previous relationship. I don’t have to fall prey to viewing my relationships from the standpoint of success or failure… they’re all successes because of what each relationship brings to the table. In a swinging/open/poly relationship, there’s no fail zone… I love this!
I think one of the most important pieces of information I took away from this study was the validity of the swinging/poly/open relationship model from a scientific standpoint. Yes, I tout the praises of my relationship model all day long, but to have the backing of such an extensive study brings a weighted credibility to the lifestyle. The more forthright those of us within the lifestyle can feel about this incredible relationship model, the more we can begin to debunk the myths and stigma surrounding the lifestyle. And as more studies are conducted and more scientific research confirms the benefits of CNM relationships, I hope that couples will feel free to create a tailor-made union that fits their needs.
The “Investigation of Consensually Nonmonogamous Relationships” study is incredibly thorough and although I barely skimmed the tip of the iceberg of information available within its findings, I hope my article will entice you to curl up with a blanket, a favorite drink and take the time to read the entire study… it may change the way you view alternative relationship models.
John and Jackie Melfi are married swingers and in an open relationship. They were featured in an ABC News Nightline special report “Getting ‘Naughty in N’Awlins’: Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention” and are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, and Austin and the award-winning blog Openlove101.com with over 20 years of combined experience in open relationships and coaching thousands of couples.