The Type of People Who Are the Best Fit for Nonmonogamous Relationships

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In psychology, sociosexuality is how disposed you are to casual, uncommitted sexual relationships. Culture tends to prefer the restricted, buttoned-up variety, while unrestricted sociosexuality leads to slut-shaming for women (and maybe men, too).

But, if sociosexuality really does fall along a gradient — you can scroll through the scale here — then maybe more sexually open people don’t fit well into traditional definitions of relationships? Why else would up to half of marriages involve affairs? Indeed, according to a 2005 study, 13.4 percent of men and 9.5 percent of women reported that “marriage to one partner, with freedom to have casual sex partners” was the preferred arrangement — figures that may be higher since giving a more conservative answer makes one look prim and proper.

With all that in mind, a new paper in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that non-traditional relationships really do work better for the more liberated among us. In the first study, lead author David Rodrigues and colleagues asked 300 Portuguese adults aged 18 to 51 to complete self-reports on sociosexuality, as well a self-report on commitment and their their history of extradyadic sex (i.e., cheating). They found that people who were unrestricted sociosexually weren’t likely to cheat if they felt a strong sense of commitment, suggesting that it acts like barrier. The second study, with 270 Portuguese volunteers in about the same age range, was even more compelling. The researchers found that being in a monogamous relationship led to lower satisfaction for unrestricted people, but when they were in consensual nonmonogamy, those negative effects disappeared.

Indeed, the authors write, while people in the nonmonogamous couples were less restricted than their sexually exclusive peers, they were just as committed and satisfied in their current relationship. That prompts a fascinating, and deeply woke, takeaway: Exclusivity and commitment are not the same thing.

The Best Fit for a Nonmonogamous Relationship