The Unusual Relationship The Happiest Couples Have, According To Research

Why people in open relationships might have the healthiest kind of love.

man and woman walking together in park Vovatol / Shutterstock

When it comes to dating, love, and relationships, we all have our different needs and expectations for ourselves and our partners to build a solid foundation of trust, honesty, open communication, and commitment, and at the root of some of the most basic troubles between men and women who fall in love with each other is their definitions of what love and commitment even mean. One of the most hotly debated topics regarding healthy vs. unhealthy relationships these days is the spectrum of monogamy, and whether or not polyamorous or open relationships can work.


While many traditional thinkers believe monogamous relationships are the gold standard to which human love should aspire, growing research in this area is beginning to show otherwise. Polyamory, a word first coined in the 1980s, "has come to be an umbrella term for various forms of [consensual] non-monogamous, multi-partner relationships, or non-exclusive intimate or romantic relationships," and people who identify as polyamorous "believe in an open relationship without the jealousy of monogamy; they reject the view that intimacy and relational exclusivity are necessary for deep, committed, long-term loving relationships."


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Until recently, there has been little research done on the quality of such relationships, but more and more those studying the field, are people who practice consensual non-monogamy to be as healthy and happy — if not healthier and happier — than those in traditionally monogamous marriages and relationships. The results of a 2021 survey conducted by University of Oklahoma anthropologists James R. Fleckstein and Derrell W. Cox, published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy suggest that if you want to be happier and healthier overall, being involved in open or polyamorous relationships might just be the trick, as they found "consensual non-exclusive relationship styles can be rewarding and contribute to personal health and happiness, as much as or more than monogamous marriages."

To those who are already in polyamorous relationships, the idea that having more than one partner could increase overall health and happiness likely doesn’t come as a surprise, as they typically make a conscious effort to fine-tune the skills that needed to communicate well with their partners and get their needs met.

Here are 4 scientifically proven reasons men and women find more happiness in open or polyamorous relationships and marriages than those who are strictly monogamous:

1. They emphasize open communication

Often in monogamous relationships or marriages, couples can struggle to open up to one another and express themselves intimately and emotionally, which can create a divide between them. For couples in polyamorous relationships, however, the ability to express yourself and state your needs must be cultivated and grown, since it is essential to ensuring your partner(s) don't feel jealousy, neglect, or sadness over decisions that you’re making with another.


In this sense, polyamory creates a nurturing environment for your happiness and those around you to have their needs met, since open and honest communication and knowing oneself are the foundation for a healthy polyamorous relationship. In part, this is due to their strong communication skills. The consensus is that polyamorous people are better at communicating their needs and desires than monogamous couples and are therefore able to have more of their needs and desires met. As explained by psychologist Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College in Vermont, "They are potentially doing quite a lot of things that could turn out to be things that if people who are practicing monogamy did more of, their relationships would be better off."



RELATED: 5 Hard-To-Talk-About Things I Wish I Knew Before Agreeing To An Open Relationship

2. They are less prone to both jealousy and STIs

You might worry that having multiple partners could lead to intense jealousy, STIs, and issues with having or raising children. These are all incredibly important concerns, but they're ones that all couples face, regardless of whether they’re polyamorous or monogamous. When it comes to intimate health, studies have suggested that, due to the increased open communication between partners, polyamorous people have less risk of getting an STI than a monogamous person does. There is a great push within the polyamorous community about sharing intimate histories, including any known STIs, getting tested more frequently, and practicing safer intimacy. For this reason, polyamorous couples also have increased happiness when it comes to being intimate together, with less concern about STIs.


3. They raise emotionally intelligent children capable of forming their healthy relationships

When it comes to children, polyamory has little effect on a child’s social development. Other than the idea that they may not understand initially that not everyone has a home life that is the same as theirs, or that some people have only one parent and some have only two, children largely relate to their environment only as it directly affects them. Likely, questions about the nature of intimacy and polyamory, just like questions about the nature of intimacy and monogamy, will not happen until their teen years, at which point it is up to their parents to express these beliefs about relationships to their child.

Likewise, poly couples still have to work out how to parent their children to the best of their ability. And, just like any person who needs to co-parent with a step-parent or ex-spouse must do, polyamorous couples must determine a set of rules so that multiple parents are on the same page together. But, with more open and honest communication between poly couples than monogamous ones, chances are high that their children will learn better coping skills and learn to state their needs clearly as a result.

RELATED: 5 Myths About Open Marriages That Will Destroy Yours

4. They feel more secure in their romantic relationships

When it comes to jealousy, polyamorous couples are not the only people to get jealous or feel insecure in their relationships. New spouses might be jealous of an ex-wife in a monogamous marriage, or there could be concerns about affairs between a couple. Jealousy does not indiscriminately affect polyamorous couples more than monogamous ones. It largely depends on the people involved in the relationship, and whether it’s healthy or not.




Polycouples encourage one another to share their feelings and speak up to have their needs met. As a result, jealousy is a feeling that can be talked about, addressed, and then healed, without the need to stuff it down or hide the worry away. However, oftentimes, monogamous couples wind up ignoring these feelings and not addressing them with their partner. Perhaps it’s because they believe their feelings are not worthy of speaking up about since it's not likely to affect the "status" of their marriage or committed relationship.

By using healthy communication skills, poly couples can express their concerns or fears of inadequacy. This creates a trusting bond between everyone in the relationship, which will help reduce arguments and instill a better sense of happiness in all of the people involved. Jealous feelings can also be eased by the fact that, in polyamorous relationships, you have far more reassurance that your partner(s) are there because they want to be with you — not simply because they’re obligated to by society, marriage, or children.


While polyamory is a popular lifestyle choice, it may not be for everyone, and that’s okay! Some people are completely comfortable in a monogamous relationship, and then some feel that more of their needs are met by having multiple committed partners. Neither way is better than the other, but there are some perks to a polyamorous lifestyle that monogamous couples may simply be missing out on, and it all begins with openness and healthy communication.

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Nancy Webb, Ph.D., is a certified holistic healing life coach specializing in alternative lifestyles. She co-founded the San Antonio Polyamorous Relationships group and teaches classes to help people better understand polyamory and overcome fears and myths regarding this and other alternative lifestyles.