Sexually open people may be better off in non-monogamous relationships, study finds

People who are sexually “unrestricted” are not necessarily more likely to cheat on their partner, according to new research published in The Journal of Sex Research.

The research examined a concept known as sociosexuality, which “refers to individual differences in interest and willingness to engage in sexual activity without an emotional connection or an established relationship.”

Two studies of 570 romantically involved adults found that the association between sociosexuality and cheating was moderated by an individual’s commitment to their relationship. The research also found that individuals high in sociosexuality who were in a consensual non-monogamous relationship did not report poorer relationship quality when compared to other monogamous relationships.

The findings suggest unrestricted sociosexuality only harms relationships that do not suit an individual’s needs. “Unrestricted individuals have to work harder than restricted individuals in trying to have successful monogamous relationships (i.e., greater commitment with no [cheating]) because monogamous agreements go against their predisposition for sex,” the study concluded.

PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, David Rodrigues of Instituto Universitário de Lisboa. Read his responses below:

PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?

Rodrigues: I got interested by sexuality and non-monogamy because I noticed the stigmatisation surrounding this type of relationship. I wanted to understand how individuals felt themselves about their non-monogamous relationships. Also this topic has been receiving a great interest in the literature and is a hot topic with clear social implications.

What should the average person take away from your study?

There are two main findings. First, people who are more open sexually are not necessarily more likely to be unfaithful in monogamous relationships, as long as they are committed to their partner. However, these individuals may be better off in a non-monogamous relationship, because it allows them to explore their sexuality without compromising the quality of their relationships.

Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?

There are several questions still unanswered. For example, it would be interesting to understand how the dynamics of these “non-traditional” types of relationships overlap with more “traditional” aspects of relationships, such as social networking (e.g., how they meet new people?), friendship formation (e.g., is the partner always included in newly formed friendships?), or family (e.g., does these dynamics influence parent-child relationship quality?).

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It think researchers are increasingly interested in the different types of romantic relationship configurations, and this promotes change in the way we think and feel about them, both in the scientific community and as a society.

The study, “Caught in a ‘Bad Romance’? Reconsidering the Negative Association Between Sociosexuality and Relationship Functioning“, was also co-authored by Diniz Lopes and C. Veronica Smith.