Sex and Science: Do Open Relationships Make Us Happier?

People tend to have strong feelings about non monogamy.

People in non monogamous relationships are convinced they are the happiest people in the world and the ‘vanilla’s’ are all boring, brooding fools.  People who are monogamously committed, tend to see open relationships as risky, reckless, sinful and doomed.

So who has art right? The sinful swingers or the dutiful monogamists?  According to a new study from the University of Michigan.. both.  A survey of over 2,000 people (a decent sample) found that monogamous and non monogamous couples had almost identical levels of relationship satisfaction.

Interestingly, most of the media reporting on the study focussed on the ‘surprising’ result that non monogamous couples would be as happy as those in monogamous relationships. The assumption being, I suppose, that society would expect monogamists to be happier.  In my experience – knowing many people in open relationships and many on monogamous relationships – I had the exact opposite opening perspective.  In my experience in these two worlds, I certainly would have thought swingers and those in open relationships would be significantly happier than those leading a monogamous lifestyle. In our experience, swingers are the happiest people in the world and enjoy life and relationships at levels unparalleled in the vanilla world.

So I’m wrong.. the vanillas are happier than I thought.  At least (1) they report to be and (2) those in this study are.  I do wonder if, as couples are in their relationships longer, the vanillas have a tougher time of it. This would certainly fit my lived experience.  Many monogamous couples we have known for years had been very happy at one point in their relationship, but many are significant less happy as the years pass.  Our swinger friends, on the other hand, seem to maintain a vitality, happiness and energy as their relationship ages that alludes their monogamous counterparts.  For my wife and I for instance, as we age we are finding we enjoy spending more and more time with our swinger friends… just because they are happier.

So, maybe I’ve been too hard on the vanillas.  Maybe.

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