Satisfaction, attachment play important roles in seeking sex outside of a monogamous relationship

According to a study published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy, a person is  more likely to engage in sexual involvement outside of a relationship if they are not satisfied with their relationship and feel detached from their partner.

Extradyadic sexual involvement occurs when an individual engages in a sexual exchange with someone other than their exclusive romantic partner. Recent studies have shown that extradyadic involvement (EDI) is growing among young adults. However, 90% of people disapprove of EDI and find it immoral. An estimated 20% to 45% of young adults engage in some form of sexual EDI (penetrative or non-penetrative). EDI has been shown to have negative outcomes, including “poor physical health, psychological stress, reduced relationship satisfaction, relationship dissolution, intimate partner violence, and even death.” Unfortunately, current research efforts have failed to provide substantial findings about what factors predict EDI.

For this study, researchers examined many areas of a person’s life and relationship in order to find what could predict EDI. These areas included cultural factors (race, gender, and religiosity), alcohol consumption and binge drinking, relationship factors (duration and satisfaction), and psychological factors (depressive symptoms and attachment). Participants (369 females and 278 males) answered a questionnaire to assess all factors as mentioned above, as well as EDI. The participants were all undergraduate students from a Southeastern university.

Findings from this study indicate that relationship satisfaction and attachment were the two reliable predictors of EDI. These findings support the investment model of relationships, which says that “individuals in more satisfying relationships are more likely to be committed to relationships and less likely to seek alternative options.” This study also found that cultural factors were a poor predictor of EDI. The study did find little difference in EDI in terms of gender, which may point to a shift in culture. The double standard for women is slowly fading away, and it is likely that women now feel more comfortable sharing their sexual experiences. Race was also not a consistent predictor of EDI.

The researchers acknowledged several limitations of their study, including the sample of participants, as well as reliance on self-reporting. The participants were all college students at the same university. Examining young adults who do not attend college or young adults at different universities would be beneficial and expansive research. Also, the study exclusively relied on self-reported perception.

In conclusion, relationship satisfaction and attachment were found to be the two reliable predictors of EDI. Young adults today have more access to potential partners through the use of dating sites and apps than ever before. Therapists in the future need to be prepared to deal with the concerns couples have about EDI. Therapists should express empathy for the non-offending partner and help the offending partner take accountability for his or her actions. These results suggest that therapists should attempt to prevent EDI by focusing on relationship satisfaction and attachment to one’s partner. The health implications of EDI are also worth considering. Young adults are most susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, and promoting sexual health is extremely important.