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Why being in an open relationship could make you happier

The key to a happy and healthy relationship has always remained a baffling enigma to humans. And although we all know the tried and tested basics by now - mutual respect, hard work, sharing a giggle, giving them the last Rolo - a lot of us just can't seem to get it right. Right on cue, after yet another cataclysmic break-up, we're back where we started, sipping wine with our friends and cursing the fact that, not only are we single again, we also don't have the writing chops to pen a Taylor Swift-esque quintuple platinum break-up song.

But, as it turns out, the majority of us may have been placing our eggs in the wrong basket ever since entering the battleground of romance. A fascinating 2017 study claims to have found that those in open relationships are happier than those in monogamous ones. Could it be true? Could an open relationship be the key ingredient we're missing?

Experts certainly think so. Conducting a study at the University of Michigan, in 2017 they analysed more than 2,100 people, with about 1,500 individuals in monogamous relationships and roughly 600 in committed non-monogamous relationships. In order to determine if there was a significant difference between the two styles of love affair, they asked participants to rate relationship components including satisfaction, commitment, trust, jealousy and passionate love.

Couple on street Credit: Getty

Ultimately the research found no difference between the two in terms of satisfaction and passionate love. However, in terms of jealousy and trust, there were significant differences that led them to believe that happiness was higher among those in a partnership where both partners had agreed that each may have sexual relations with others; reactions showed that jealousy was lower and trust was higher.

So is it true? Instead of monogamous, should we all become "monogamish"? From the perspective of someone who has always tied themselves to one partner, it seems a bit of a rogue move. But, then again, they do say you should do things that scare you - especially if there's a chance it could you happier.

VT spoke to Alex, who is currently in an open relationship, to see if she agreed with the new theory. She told us: "I don't know if I'm necessarily happier than other people, but in open relationships I've had, I've always felt that my partner and I had a lot more trust and honesty with one another than people who were part of an exclusive couple. I can't speak for others, of course, but I think we're definitely more easy-going when it comes to issues like cheating or liking other people."

She continued: "I think it's definitely something that couples should feel open to discussing, but I also know that it's not for everybody. I guess there are various factors that come into play - age, sexuality, whether or not the couple have children - and nobody should ever feel pressured into trying it."

Couple having sex Credit: Stocksnap

You or I may question the reliability of the study. For example, what happens when the green-headed monster comes knocking? It can't be denied that open relationships aren't for everyone and if you hate the thought of your partner canoodling with others, chances are you'll never be into it. Yet, like a completely monogamous relationship, there are certain guidelines and they need to be followed in order to keep both parties completely happy.

Alex stressed the idea that, for her and a lot of other people currently in open relationships, other partners are purely for fun and nothing else and if the extra partner becomes anything more, everything could be thrown off balance. She said: "Previously I had struggled a bit with a polyamorous relationship, as the person I was with spent a lot of their time with somebody else. But an open relationship is different - we have each other, but we also have the option to just have fun and not worry about hurting anyone."

When it comes to this type of relationship, there can be a lot of judgement. Open relationships are often plagued by the assumptions that they are being "greedy", that they are justifying cheating or that the partners in don't care about each other enough to be happy in their primary relationship. However, the research team found that individuals actually had more satisfaction, trust, commitment and passionate love in their primary mate than in their secondary relationship whereas people in open relationships were significantly less satisfied and less committed to their relationship.

Couple holding hands Credit: Stocksnap

So there you have it. The experts have spoken. Obviously open relationships won't make everyone happier, but it seems that the people they do work for make a tremendous success out of them. We only had one more question for Alex: People change their minds all the time, did she ever see a point where being in an open relationship didn't work for her?

She responded: "That's a good question and one that my partner and I had to think about before agreeing to have an open relationship. I think there's definitely a chance it won't work in the future, as the nature of relationships change all the time. But I don't see that as a problem. We made the decision that we would only have an open relationship if both of us wanted it, and that we'd go back to being exclusive if it began to get difficult for either of us at any point."

Her words are enlightening. At the end of the day, in relationships you need to do what's good for you at that particular time. And if what's good for you changes over time, then it's time to reassess what it is that's going to make you happy.

So, in the aftermath of the study, are people going to be sitting down to reassess their romances? I wouldn't count on it. But reports do show that the subject is never far from certain people's minds. Apparently, studies show that nearly 50 per cent of all Americans would consider being in an open relationship. And, if they think it would work for them, perhaps they should go for it - I hear it makes you pretty happy.