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30 Open Marriage Statistics: 2019/2020 Demographics, Popularity & Health Risks

In Research
May 23, 2020
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The term “open marriage” was popularized in 1972 by George and Nena O’Neill’s book of the same title. Defined as a practice or a lifestyle choice in which couples engage in casual or sexual relationships with other people, open relationships continue to raise eyebrows for not being morally upright and ruining the matrimony of traditional marital relationships and family structure.

Open marriage or relationship is a complex subject, and different studies show mixed findings. In this article, we will not only look into open marriage statistics but also include unmarried couples engaged in consensual nonmonogamous lifestyle. The following statistics aim to reveal the general attitude on the subject of consensual monogamy, the demographics of individuals who engage in open relationships, and how this lifestyle affects their primary relationships as well as the individuals themselves.

Due to the vast differences in cultural views on consensual nonmonogamy, we will only focus on studies in which samples are from within the United States. We, however, will limit the information to the open and partial nonmonogamy structure and avoid one-sided monogamy as its descriptions mainly fall under infidelity. Furthermore, due to little resources or lack thereof, we will not touch on the divorce statistics in open marriages as well as how it affects the family dynamics when there are children

open marriage statistics

Americans on Open Marriage/Relationship

American society as a whole is not at all new to the concept of open marriage or relationships. The practice of swinging can be traced as far back as the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Meanwhile, polyamory has been brushed under the rug as a lifestyle choice for the wealthy liberals for many years. However, studies show that the practice of open relationships is not exclusive to the rich and famous and is more widespread.

Source: Levine EC, et al.

  • 1 in 5 Americans who claim to be single has been involved in a consensual, open relationship.
  • Around 4% to 9% of American adults engage in some sort of open relationship.
  • In a study of 2,270 respondents, 4% reported being in an open relationship.
  • Respondents who are male, gay/lesbians, bisexuals, and who identified as “other, non-Hispanic” make up the majority of individuals who have engaged in an open relationship.
  • 32% of gay respondents reported being in an open relationship compared to 22% of bisexual participants, 5% of lesbian participants, and 14% of respondents who identified as “other.”

A more recent study of 1,912 participants yielded more details about how Americans view open relationships.

Percentage of Americans Who Are Morally Against Open Relationships

(by region)

Percentage of Americans Who Are Morally Against Open Relationships
Northeast: 49

Northeast

%
Percentage of Americans Who Are Morally Against Open Relationships
Midwest: 58

Midwest

%
Percentage of Americans Who Are Morally Against Open Relationships
South: 60

South

%
Percentage of Americans Who Are Morally Against Open Relationships
West: 53

West

%

Source: Avvo

Created by CompareCamp
  •  4% of the participants have engaged in an open relationship with their partners.
  • 6% of participants who have agreed to open relationships are male compared to only 3% of females.
  • 56% of respondents believe that open relationships are morally wrong.
  • 64% of women and 47% of men believe that open relationship is not morally upright

Can Consensual Monogamy Make or Break a Relationship?

The desire to be in an open relationship is not always met with consensus between couples. While there are those whose partners may tolerate or completely agree with the idea, wanting to be in an open relationship can be a major dealbreaker to the majority.

  • 67% of female participants would leave their partners if the latter would like to have an open relationship.
  • Only 46% of male respondents would consider their partner’s request to be in an open relationship as a relationship dealbreaker.
  • Region-wise, 60% of respondents from the South would leave their partners compared to 49% of participants from the Northeast.
  • The percentage of Midwesterners and Westerns who would leave their partners for wanting to be in an open relationship is less than 60%.

Americans Who Will Leave Their Partners Who Want to Be in an Open Relationship

(by region)

Americans Who Will Leave Their Partners Who Want to Be in an Open Relationship
Northeast: 49

Northeast

%
Americans Who Will Leave Their Partners Who Want to Be in an Open Relationship
Midwest: 55

Midwest

%
Americans Who Will Leave Their Partners Who Want to Be in an Open Relationship
South: 60

South

%
Americans Who Will Leave Their Partners Who Want to Be in an Open Relationship
West: 58

West

%

Source: Avvo

Created by CompareCamp

Meanwhile, more than half of the participants do not shy away from the idea of dating someone who is married.

  • 51% are open to the idea of dating someone who is married.
  • As for those who would never date someone married, 59% are women, and 40% are men.

Also, among the participants who fall under the age group of 50 and older, the likelihood of engaging in open relationships is low. 

  • Only 1% of participants age 50 and above have engaged in an open relationship.
  • 69% of participants in the 50+ age group are morally against open relationships.
  • 71% of 50 and older participants would leave their partners who want to have an open relationship.

How Do 50 and Older Americans View Open Relationship?

Source: Avvo

Created by CompareCamp

Not all outcomes, however, are negative as there is a research study involving 1,092 individuals, which reveals that being in open marriages or relationships are right for them.

  • Around 80% to 90% of participants are happier after engaging in the swinging lifestyle.
  • In a published research piece on bisexuality, it shows that 76% of open marriages are either better than average or outstanding.

The Consensual Nonmonogamy Structure

In a different study involving 1,658 online participants, an open relationship falls under the “consensual nonmonogamy” (CNM) type of relationship structure. In this study, open relationships are identified as having low interest in monogamy and high levels of mutual consent to the relationship structure. This study also further supports previous findings that non-heterosexual individuals are more open to consensual nonmonogamy.

How Many Americans Have Been Dating Multiple Individuals Casually in 2019?

Source: The Journal of Sex and Research

Created by CompareCamp
  • 15.32% of the participants are casually dating more than one person.
  • 7.72% of participants fall under open relationship structure.
  • 13% of participants are described to be in a partial open relationship structure due to the participants’ mixed attitude regarding monogamy. 
  • 74.9% of participants in an open consensual nonmonogamous relationship are fully aware of their partners’ sexual activities outside their relationship and vice versa.
  • 32.03% of participants engaged in open consensual nonmonogamous relationships are heteroflexible individuals, 28.13% are bisexuals, 24.22% are heterosexuals, and 15.63% identify as homosexuals.

Open Relationship’s Potential Risks and Implications

The risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections is higher among individuals who engage in sexual activities with more than one partner. Moreover, there are psychological and behavioral implications reported by some of the participants who are either in consensually nonmonogamous relationships or partial open relationships.

Source: The Journal of Sex Research

  • 37.5% of respondents in partial open relationships admitted to heavy drinking and drug use.
  • 3.04% of participants involved in partial open relationships reported having experienced loneliness.
  • Psychological distress also came out as another negative implication that affected 2.7% of individuals in partial open relationships.
  • 37.19% of participants in open relationships contracted lifetime sexually transmitted infections.
  • 67.74%% of respondents in partial open relationships engaged in unprotected sex two months prior to participating in the study.

Open Relationship and Social Acceptance 

To sum it up, the general perception of open relationships remains divided.  However, it has come a long way from being seen as downright immoral to somewhat socially acceptable. Open marriage or relationship is becoming more mainstream as couples embrace a more liberal and diversified relationship structure. We are seeing more representation of open relationships in popular culture. For instance, even online dating sites have an open relationship option, making consensual nonmonogamy a significant part of online dating statistics. Although it is still a lifestyle open to judgment and criticism, it all boils down to the couple involved. In short, it is the couple who will decide how they will navigate the open relationship structure. Lastly, it is also up to the couple to figure out how to deal with its possible effects not only on their relationship but their family as a whole.


References:

  1. Open Marriage Statistics
  2. The Swinging Paradigm: An Evaluation of the Marital and Sexual Satisfaction of Swingers
  3. 15 Open Marriage Statistics To Keep Your Mind Free for 2020
  4. Open Relationships Are More Popular Than You Might Think
  5. The Truth About Open Marriage
  6. Open Relationships, Nonconsensual Nonmonogamy, and Monogamy Among U.S. Adults: Findings from the 2012 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior
  7. “We Choose Each Other Over and Over Because We Want to”: Readers Share Their Open-Marriage Stories
  8. Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?
  9. 5 Rules for a Successful Open Marriage, According to Those in Open Marriages
  10. How to Save Your Marriage With Ethical Non-Monogamy
  11. Open Relationship Definition & Rules
  12. 2016 Relationship, Marriage, and Divorce Survey
  13. Delineating the Boundaries Between Nonmonogamy and Infidelity: Bringing Consent Back Into Definitions of Consensual Nonmonogamy With Latent Profile Analysis
  14. Who Really Practices Polyamory?
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