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, 12 (5), e0177841

Perceptions of Primary and Secondary Relationships in Polyamory


Perceptions of Primary and Secondary Relationships in Polyamory

Rhonda N Balzarini et al. PLoS One.


In consensually non-monogamous relationships there is an open agreement that one, both, or all individuals involved in a romantic relationship may also have other sexual and/or romantic partners. Research concerning consensual non-monogamy has grown recently but has just begun to determine how relationships amongst partners in consensually non-monogamous arrangements may vary. The current research examines this issue within one type of consensual non-monogamy, specifically polyamory, using a convenience sample of 1,308 self-identified polyamorous individuals who provided responses to various indices of relationship evaluation (e.g. acceptance, secrecy, investment size, satisfaction level, commitment level, relationship communication, and sexual frequency). Measures were compared between perceptions of two concurrent partners within each polyamorous relationship (i.e., primary and secondary partners). Participants reported less stigma as well as more investment, satisfaction, commitment and greater communication about the relationship with primary compared to secondary relationships, but a greater proportion of time on sexual activity with secondary compared to primary relationships. We discuss how these results inform our understanding of the unique costs and rewards of primary-secondary relationships in polyamory and suggest future directions based on these findings.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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Cited by 2 PubMed Central articles


    1. Rubin JD, Moors AC, Matsick JL, Ziegler A, Conley TD. On the margins: Considering diversity among consensually non-monogamous relationships. Journal fur Psychologie. 2014; 22: 1–23.
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Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.