Study could explain why people choose to have multiple relationships at the same time

Being interested in a polyamorous lifestyle, or pursuing multiple relationships, may go beyond simple titillation, a new study says.

Led by researchers at York University’s Faculty of Health, the study found there may be unique benefits to diversifying needs across partners when in a polyamorous relationship: experiencing more eroticism and nurturance with one partner was associated with satisfaction and closeness in a concurrent relationship. In addition, this study shows individuals who experience higher levels of eroticism and nurturance also report greater sexual satisfaction and closeness with their partners.

Amy Muise

In the study, co-author Amy Muise, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at York University, and lead author Rhonda Balzarini, a postdoctoral Fellow, looked at levels of eroticism and nurturance in both polyamorous and monogamous relationships. The goal was to test whether individuals in polyamorous relationships are able to maintain higher levels of eroticism and nurturance than individuals in monogamous relationships through having multiple relationships. This study is the first to examine eroticism and nurturance in polyamorous versus monogamous relationships.

“There is a growing interest in consensual, non-monogamous relationships – both in the general public and in terms of research,” said Muise. “The study findings suggest that people may get different needs met in different relationships and that the consensual, non-monogamous relationship may be one way people are diversifying their needs.”

The study found that participants in polyamorous relationships experienced less eroticism but more nurturance in their relationships with their primary partner compared to their secondary partner.

“We know from previous research that over time, eroticism tends to wane while nurturance increases. We also know that eroticism and nurturance serve fundamental roles in relationships,” said Balzarini. “The findings suggest that although multiple relationships may help individuals meet eroticism and nurturance needs, experiences with one partner do not always enhance a concurrent relationship.”

The study is published in Social Psychology.

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