New research out of the University of Rochester has found that while there's no one-size-fits-all solution, there are ways to increase the chance the success of the relationship and they've nicknamed it the "Triple-C-Model" - consent, communication and comfort.
"We know that communication is helpful to all couples. However, it is critical for couples in non-monogamous relationships as they navigate the extra challenges of maintaining a nontraditional relationship in a monogamy-dominated culture,” study author Ronald Rogge said in a statement.
“Secrecy surrounding sexual activity with others can all too easily become toxic and lead to feelings of neglect, insecurity, rejection, jealousy, and betrayal, even in non-monogamous relationships."
As part of their research, scientists surveyed more than 1600 respondents, most of whom were in the 20s and 30s, white and female, and also in a long-term relationship with an average length of 4.5 years.
Participants were divided into five groups:
- Monogamous groups either in the early or late stages of their relationship.
- Those in partially open relationships.
- Couples that were equally interested in consensual nonmonogamy (CNM) - swingers or polyamorous.
- And one-sided relationships where one partner wanted monogamy while the other engaged in agreed-upon sex outside of the relationship.
“The monogamous and CNM groups demonstrated high levels of relationship and individual functioning, whereas the partially-open and one-sided non-monogamous groups demonstrated lower functioning,” the authors wrote in The Journal of Sex Research.
Both Monogamous groups and CNM groups had healthy relationships and low levels of loneliness and psychological distress.
In relationships where monogamy was one-sided, partners tended to be less dedicated, affectionate and were unhappy with their partner. These participants also showed signs of discomfort, emotional attachment and loneliness.
"Sexual activity with someone else besides the primary partner, without mutual consent, comfort, or communication can easily be understood as a form of betrayal or cheating," adds study author Forrest Hangen.
"And that, understandably, can seriously undermine or jeopardise the relationship."