It’s technically called “consensual non-monogamy”, or “ethical non-monomagmy” or “polyamory, meaning carrying on two or more relationships at the same time, and with the consent of all involved.
Most would consider this a marginal lifestyle, but research shows roughly four to five per cent of the North American population practice this, while other research shows up to 20 per cent of North Americans have engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point, and that they considered it beneficial to their relationships.
Rhonda Balzarini (PhD) is a post-doctoral fellow in the Faculty of Health at York University in Toronto, and lead author of a new study on the practice.Listen
The findings were published in the science journal Social Psychology under the title Eroticism Versus Nurturance-How Eroticism and Nurturance Differs in Polyamorous and Monogamous Relationships (open access HERE)
It seems that polyamory might begin as a long-term primary relationship becomes less “erotic”. Another factor might be the arrival of a physical disability or simply a lack of interest in a hobby or pastime of the other partner which leads them to engage in activities with a new partner which could develop into a relationship, usually more focussed on the sexual aspect.
People who engage in this say it seems to improve “nurturing” or the feeling of emotional connection with the primary partner, while providing them with the heightened eroticism (sex) they want which they get with the other partner(s).
Balzarini notes that societal stigma over such relationships is a factor in limiting openly presenting the second partner to others, and jealousy can arise, but surprisingly the research shows that the secondary relationship can last years, on average from three to seven years.