A ‘spillover’ effect found in consensually nonmonogamous relationships

New research on consensually non-monogamous relationships indicates that having one partner who meets your sexual needs is linked to increased satisfaction not only in that relationship, but also in a concurrent relationship. The study was recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

“Generally I am interested in how having partners who are motivated to be responsive to your needs is associated with satisfaction,” said Amy Muise, an assistant professor at York University and corresponding author of the study.

“In terms of this work, I was interested in how perceiving one partner as motivated to be responsive to your needs (or as fulfilling or your needs) is linked to satisfaction in another concurrent relationship.”

“When thinking about sexual need fulfillment, people who are in consensually non-monogamous relationships seem like the ideal population to test these questions since their involvement in additional relationships is known and agreed upon in all relationships.”

The study of 1,054 individuals in consensually non-monogamous relationships found evidence that sexual need fulfillment in one relationship could “spillover” to another relationship. The researchers found that having sexual needs met by one partner was associated with greater satisfaction with another partner.

“I think one take away even for people who are not in CNM relationships is that it might be possible for need fulfillment in one relationship to have benefits for other relationships,” Muise told PsyPost. “Of course, there may also be times when seeking need fulfillment outside of a relationship may not be beneficial.”

“In the future, it would be ideal to look at need fulfillment (beyond sexuality) across relationships. So how does perceiving a partner as motivated to meet your needs influence your relationships with friends and family members?”

The study has some limitations.

“One major caveat is that this sample includes people who are consensually involved in multiple relationships, it does not suggest benefits to non-consensual additional relationships,” Muise noted. “One question that needs to be addressed is why perceiving one partner as responsive is beneficial for (or detracts from) another relationship — Are people having more needs fulfilled, etc?”

The study, “Sexual need fulfillment and satisfaction in consensually nonmonogamous relationships“, was authored by Amy Muise, Andrew K. Laughton, Amy Moors, and Emily A. Impett.