People in Open Relationships Face Stigma, Research Shows

People in Open Relationships Face Stigma, Research Shows

By Alan Mozes HealthDay Correspondent


MONDAY, December 19, 2022 (HealthDay News) — While roughly 1 in 5 Americans has had an “open” relationship at some point in their lives, new research points out that many eventually bear the brunt of being stigmatized and stressed. disapproval.

The finding stems from a pair of new studies: The first reported that nearly 40% of men and women who engage in “consensual non-monogamous” relationships were negatively evaluated or even threatened by others. Of those who say they have not experienced stigma, 70% agree that they are careful to keep the less traditional nature of their relationships private.

In contrast, a follow-up study found that exposure to this type of stigma incurs a significant emotional toll, causing anxiety not only when disapproval is actually expressed, but also in anticipation of future negative encounters.

“Previous research has found that people tend to view consensual non-monogamous relationships more negatively than monogamous relationships,” said the study author. Elizabeth Mahar. She is a postdoctoral fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

“We reported that people who engage in consensual non-monogamous relationships do indeed experience various forms of stigma,” Mahar said in the latest study.

He added that this stigma can take many forms, ranging from disgust to social exclusion to worse service in the community. The study team noted that these experiences are painful, undermining the quality of life and sense of well-being in those who choose to lead an open lifestyle.

Twenty percent of Americans and Canadians have tried at least an open relationship, Mahar said.

In 2019, he and his team decided to dig deeper by conducting a stigma reveal survey among 372 men and women who were in an open relationship. About 70% of the participants were white, with an average age of just over 33.

Roughly 40% said they were treated unfairly, discriminated against, devalued, belittled, and/or threatened because of their relationship choices.

Plus, most respondents (approximately 58%) said they had not experienced stigma, and about 8% said they had received positive or curious responses from others.

But 7 out of 10 people who said they had no history of stigma said they made an effort to ensure that almost no one knew about their outdoor lifestyle.

A follow-up survey was then conducted among the same group (with an additional 11 participants) to measure the precise impact of stigma.

In the end, the team concluded that exposure to stigma due to an open lifestyle was linked to increased distress. In addition, the researchers found that this type of stigma also increases the risk of developing “internalized” stigma, in which those in open relationships begin to feel uncomfortable and guilty about their choices.

As to why people feel the need to stigmatize others in the first place, Mahar pointed to other research suggesting that there is a perception that people in open relationships are more interested in short-term relationships than long-term commitments. And this perception can make those in monogamous relationships feel tense or threatened.

Additionally, previous research has also shown that people tend to perceive those in open relationships as taking unnecessary risks and generally less healthy.

Amy Moors He is an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University in Orange, California, and a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. He is also co-chair of an American Psychological Association committee that focuses on consensual monogamy.

Moors says, “There are now as many people who have as open relationships as Americans with a cat. And that includes everyone from all walks of life: white, Black, liberal, conservative, Southern, Northerner, Republican, Democrat, religious and irreligious.”

But at the same time, Moors said, a decade ago her own research revealed that — all things being equal — people who engage in an open lifestyle are still typically considered worse off than monogamous couples.

“And that’s even if the measure has nothing to do with being in a relationship with any measure you look at,” he added.

For example, open couples are not only viewed by others as having less trusting and satisfying relationships and more likely to spread STDs, but they are also less likely to pay taxes, less likely to tip, and more likely to receive is lower. A daily vitamin, Moors said.

Therefore, the latest study “adds some nuance to what we already know – that stigma is alive and well,” he explained.

“And there are many reasons for that,” Moors said, including religious beliefs, general lack of exposure to the concept, and fear that one’s own monogamous partner might be attracted if one accepts the openness of others.

“But whatever the reason, if you’re getting messages from everyone and everywhere that what you’re doing is wrong, it comes at a real cost,” Moors added. “It leads to lower self-esteem, a lower sense of well-being, and sometimes very real economic costs, such as not getting a job or being discriminated against.”

SOURCES: Elizabeth Mahar, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, obstetrics and gynecology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Amy C. Moors, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, Chapman University, Orange, California and research fellow, The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University and co-chair, American Psychological Association’s consensual non-monogamy chapter 44 committee; Bulletin of Personality and Social Psychology, December 3, 2022

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Author Since: Dec 18, 2022

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