Your Age Doesn't Affect How You Feel About Monogamy, But There's One Surprising Trait That Might

Will monogamy be a thing in the future?

Last updated on Sep 10, 2023

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Late last year, there was a lot of talk online about the “monogamy spectrum.”

YouGov released a research study in 2016 asking people about their feelings about monogamy and how they define monogamy, and their survey results were broken down by age group, gender, race, and other criteria.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the study was how YouGov asked their respondents to rank their commitment to monogamy. Rather than present monogamy as an absolute binary — i.e., “Are you into monogamy or not?” — the group offered a sliding scale.


RELATED: The Harsh Reasons Women Get Bored With Monogamy

For example, one of their questions was: “On a scale where 0 is completely monogamous and 6 is completely non-monogamous, what would your ideal relationship be?”

When the results were published, many referred to that 0 to 6 scale as “the monogamy spectrum.” One Washington Post article about the survey asked, “Since intimacy and gender aren’t understood as binary anymore, does monogamy have to be?”


Most articles about the YouGov results, while noting this new monogamy spectrum, went on to point out that millennials (age 30 and under) had the least devotion to strict monogamy, with only 51 percent saying that their ideal relationship would be completely monogamous.

I suppose that is noteworthy, and you can see a trend where age groups are more interested in “completely monogamous” relationships as they age.

But the conclusion of “millennials just aren’t into monogamy anymore” is a pretty big leap.

Here’s why: The “monogamy spectrum” that YouGov provides is fairly undefined. If 0 is totally monogamous and 6 is the opposite, what does 1 mean? Or 2 or 3?


Does a 1 mean that you look lustfully at another person and never do anything about it? Or does it mean you kissed someone outside of your relationship once? 3 is right in the middle, so what does that mean? An attempt for an extra-relationship thing was attempted? Or did you go through with it, but it was only that one time?

When you look at the breakdowns of how the age groups responded to the survey, there isn’t that much statistical difference in how they responded. Yes, age 65+ seems the most devoted to complete monogamy, but we can also see that as the age group most likely to say, “What does 2 mean? I don’t have time for this.”

The millennials might’ve spread their votes across the “monogamy spectrum” a little more liberally, but we can also see them as the group that was probably the most likely to try to figure out the difference between a 2 and a 4 rating on the scale.

Interestingly enough, the percentage of millennials who favored “completely non-monogamous” relationships was pretty consistent with the other age groups:


Seven percent of people under 30 said their ideal relationship was non-monogamous. For ages 30-44 and ages 45-64, that percentage only rose to 9 percent.

RELATED: Why Serial Monogamy Is Slowly Replacing Traditional Marriage

So, the age groups are actually fairly similar in how they feel about completely open relationships. As for the spectrum, again, it just comes down to where people put their numbers on the ill-defined scale.


For the 0-6 monogamy scale for ideal relationships, 10 percent of millennials said their ideal relationship would be a 3 — that’s the same percentage that ages 45-64 gave for 3 as well.

However, if you do look at the survey results, the most interesting results are not about age groups. They’re about race.

The biggest variations in survey responses come in the sections where the respondents are broken down by race.

For example, in the 0-6 ideal relationship question, 69 percent of white respondents said that their ideal relationship was completely monogamous. Yet only 43 percent of black respondents and 35 percent of Hispanic respondents said the same thing.


That means only half of all Hispanic respondents felt the same way as white respondents about strict monogamy.

In a follow-up question, where YouGov asked people to rank their current relationship on the 0-6 monogamy scale, the results varied even more by race.

RELATED: 3 Scientific Reasons Monogamous Relationships Don't Work Out


Eighty-one percent of white respondents, 50 percent of black respondents, and only 32 percent of Hispanic respondents said their current relationship is completely monogamous.

There are huge differences between those groups, and I can’t understand why those results weren’t the primary takeaway from the survey data.


The age group differences on monogamy are minor in comparison — but maybe that makes a better story or suggests an easier conclusion. We can say, “Well, young people are more open-minded, I guess,” and see the fluctuations on the monogamy scale as some sign that polyamory or non-traditional monogamy is the wave of the future.

But when you look at the data, I have to admit: I’m much more interested in finding out why racial groups seem to feel so differently about monogamy.

Is it a cultural thing? Does it have any socio-political origins? Do certain groups just inherently reject binary labels more than others?

Hopefully, YouGov and other groups will provide some follow-up research on how you define monogamy, because, more than anything, this survey raised more questions than it answered. And it's crucial to take any sort of "morality" out of this conversation.


I’m still not sure that I believe in a monogamy spectrum, but I’m more interested than ever in finding out how certain age and racial groups define that nebulous space between 0 and 6.

RELATED: 3 Scientific Reasons Monogamous Relationships Don't Work Out

Tom Burns has served as a contributing editor for 8BitDad and The Good Men Project, and his writing has been featured on Babble, Brightly,, Time Magazine, and various other sites.