Monogamy versus Consensual Non-Monogamy: Alternative Approaches to Pursuing a Strategically Pluralistic Mating Strategy

Arch Sex Behav. 2017 Feb;46(2):407-417. doi: 10.1007/s10508-015-0658-2. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


This study examined the frequency of partner-directed mate retention behaviors and several self- and partner-rated romantic relationship evaluations (i.e., sociosexuality, relationship satisfaction, mate value, and partner ideal measures) within monogamous and consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships. Measures were compared (1) between monogamous and CNM participants and (2) between two concurrent partners within each CNM relationship (i.e., primary and secondary partners). We found that individuals in currently monogamous relationships (n = 123) performed more mate retention behaviors compared to those currently in CNM relationships (n = 76). Within CNM relationships, participants reported engaging in more mate retention behaviors with primary partners compared to secondary partners. Likewise, CNM participants reported talking about their extra-dyadic sexual experiences and downplaying these sexual experiences more often with their primary partner compared to their secondary partner. There were no significant differences between ratings of monogamous and primary partners in participants' overall relationship satisfaction. However, monogamous participants reported less satisfaction with the amount of communication and openness they had with their partner compared to CNM participants' reports of their primary partner, but not secondary partner. By comparison, CNM participants reported higher overall relationship satisfaction with primary compared to secondary partners and considered their primary partner to be more desirable as a long-term mate than their secondary partner. We interpret these results within the context of previous research on monogamous and CNM relationships and hypothesize that these relationship configurations are alternative strategies for pursuing a strategically pluralistic mating strategy.

Keywords: Mate retention; Mating strategies; Monogamy; Non-monogamy; Polyamory.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*