July 3, 2012
University of Michigan (UM) researchers found lower condom use and higher drug and alcohol use among people who reported being sexually unfaithful while in a committed monogamous relationship.
In a study of 1,647 people who responded to an online ad, 801 said they had had sex with someone other than their primary partner. Of these individuals, 493 said this sex had occurred while they were in a negotiated non-monogamous relationship, while 308 said they had been unfaithful while in a committed monogamous relationship. Reported condom use for vaginal and anal sex was 27 percent and 35 percent lower, respectively, and drug and alcohol use was 64 percent higher among the latter group.
"Our research suggests that people who are unfaithful to their monogamous romantic partners pose a greater risk for STIs than those who actively negotiate non-monogamy in their relationship," said lead author Dr. Terri D. Conley, of UM's Department of Psychology.
"Monogamy can be an effective method for preventing the spread of STIs, but only if couples test negative for STIs at the start of the relationship and remain faithful while they are together," Conley said. "If people do not find monogamy appealing or feasible, they clearly need to think about the risk this poses to their partner and consider whether an open relationship would suit their needs better, and better protect their relationship partners."
"This research is of particular interest because it reveals that monogamous relationships are not always monogamous, which can have resultant sexual health implications," said Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
[PNU editor's note: The study, "Unfaithful Individuals Are Less Likely to Practice Safer Sex Than Openly Non-Monogamous Individuals," was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine (2012;9(6):1559-1565).]