Open relationships and national surveys

Open relationships and national surveys

Arianne Cohen wrote a very interesting article last week about the range of ways of managing non-monogamous relationships that people have. I’m quoted in the article as saying  “No national surveys cover anything like open relationships – and many people are not upfront about being in one.”

To explain this a little more, I mean that many people are reticent about speaking about their openly non-monogamous relationships, not because they see any problem with them, but because such relationships still remain quite stigmatised in society more widely.

Despite increasing evidence (from Elizabeth Sheff and others) of the relative well-being of kids being raised in households with polyamorous and other openly non-monogamous parents, neighbours and schools can be discriminatory and cause problems for both parents and children (Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli‘s work in this is very helpful). There are also few legal rights for people in such relationships, making their situation even more precarious, and many may fear discrimination, and alienation, in the workplace as well.

So it would be great to have a national survey on the different styles of monogamous and non-monogamous relationships that exist (and those relationships that blur the boundaries between monogamy and non-monogamy). However, such a survey would need to be very well-designed in order to enable people to open up about their arrangements and to feel safe doing so. Otherwise any results received may well be an underestimate of what is actually happening.

Meg-John (MJ) Barker (they/them) is a writer, zine-maker, collaborator, contemplative practitioner, and friend. They are the author of a number of zines and popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including graphic guides to Queer, Gender, and Sexuality (with Jules Scheele), and How To Understand Your Gender, Sexuality and Relationships (with Alex Iantaffi).