New Study: Young Couples Unknowingly Disagree about Monogamy

A new study finds that one partner in nearly half of young couples think they're in a monogamous relationship ... but the other partner doesn't.

unhappy couple in bed
(Image credit: Jupiterimages/Workbook Stock)

When it comes to the sanctity of monogamy, people seem to have a wide variety of opinions. Some think it's unnatural to force yourself to agree to never again have sex with anyone else. Their feeling is that open relationships — in which you're deeply committed to another person but agree that both of you can have sex with other people now and then — are the way to go. Others think the understandable jealousy that open relationships could (and often do) provoke renders them impractical, if not repugnant. Similarly, plenty of people think that while it's normal to experience pangs of sexual lust for people who are not our partners, shrugging off those desires is what we do in order to preserve, protect, and enhance the relationship that's most important to us. Another contingent takes the view that in every meaningful relationship there will be the occasional moment of sexual wandering ... but they're not sure whether it's the kind of thing that should be discussed, or pushed under the table.

Given all these differing opinions, perhaps it's no wonder that a new study from Oregon State University has found that young heterosexual couples largely don't agree with their partners about whether their relationships are open or not: 40 percent of the couples interviewed disagreed with their significant others about whether they were monogamous.

Kind of scary, isn't it?

(Wouldn't you feel pretty freaked out if, at a dinner party, say, the topic of sexual commitment came up, and you said, "Oh, yeah, my dude and I are not sleeping with anyone else" — and your partner piped up, "What do you mean, we're not?")

One of the researchers who worked on the report, Marie Harvey, a professor of public health, said, "Couples have a hard time talking about these sorts of issues, and I would imagine for young people it's even more difficult."

Hmm. Perhaps so. But maybe this study will help to emphasize just how important it is to have discussions about the most difficult things, so you don't find yourself unpleasantly surprised. Don't you think?