"Open relationships just as satisfying as monogamous ones, University of Guelph study reveals!!"
This and variations of this were the headlines sending shockwaves through the information highway recently.
But they might as well have read: "Water just as thirst-quenching as water, find students desperate for new topics!!"
That might sound facetious, considering that any kind of research challenging the tyranny of the heteronormative is one that should be welcomed.
The study sought to debunk stigmas around consensual non-monogamy, which is still perceived as ‘immoral’ and ‘less satisfying’, according to the researchers. Considering the media-reach this headline had, I assume that it went some way in doing just this.
But comparing relationship models, as if they’re an alien species to each other, when measuring relationship satisfaction strikes me as counterproductive to destigmatising consensual non-monogamy.
You see, the common ground held for all relationship models is that they are about relationships.
No matter what your relationship model looks like – two people, four people, live-in, separate lives, open, swinging, monogamous, polygamous, whateverous – the same interpersonal skills will apply.
How honest, communicative, compassionate, responsible, boundaried and open you are about what you need and what you can give will dictate the nature and quality of your relationships.
It doesn’t matter how many people you choose to sleep with or love within the confines of your own definitions, what matters is how you go about doing so.
READ MORE: How to tell if you’re a self-absorbed couple
When the lead author of the study, says "we found people in consensual, non-monogamous relationships experience the same levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships", the take-away shouldn’t leave room for "oh look, they’re just like us".
It should be "well duh".
I was also amused by the "just as satisfied as people in monogamous relationships" angle.
Like, that’s a pretty low bar.
If I’m as satisfied with a one potato as my friend is with many potatoes, it’s still just a potato. The headline might just as easily have read "Bad relationships just as bad as bad relationships!"
It’s probably why their most salient and useful finding, in my opinion, was the one revealed at the bottom of the university’s actual press release:
"Ultimately, if you are fulfilling your psychological needs and are satisfied sexually, you are more likely to be happy in your partnership no matter the relationship structure..."
Guess it just doesn’t make for as catchy a headline: "Whatever your relationship model, if your intimate needs are being met by your primary partner you will be happy in love."