March 1, 2024

One in three men open to having more than one partner, study shows

A third of UK men are open to the idea of having more than one wife or long-term girlfriend, according to a new Swansea University study.

In contrast, only 11 per cent of women surveyed would be open to the idea of a polygamous marriage, if it were legal and consensual.

Researchers asked 393 heterosexual men and women in the UK how they felt about a committed partnership in which they shared their other half with someone else, or were shared themselves.

The study asked participants about a relationship resembling polygyny – where a man marries more than one woman – and polyandry – where a woman marries more than one man.

Men were first asked if they would be willing to be shared across more than one wife and were then asked if they would be willing to share a partner with another man.

The study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, showed that nine per cent of men said they would share a partner, whereas just five per cent of women were interested in such an arrangement.

Dr Andrew Thomas, lead author of the study, said: “Comparing polygyny and polyandry directly, men were three-and-a-half times more likely to say ‘yes’ to the former than the latter, while women were twice as likely to say ‘yes’ to having more than one partner, compared to the idea of sharing their partner with someone else.”

Polygyny and polyandry are alternative forms of marriage that involve multiple spouses, and their acceptance varies across cultures. In the United Kingdom, these practices are not legally recognized or widely embraced within the mainstream culture, as the legal framework is based on monogamy.

In contrast, certain cultures around the world historically and presently practice polygyny, where a man can have multiple wives, and polyandry, where a woman can have multiple husbands. These arrangements are often rooted in cultural, religious, or historical contexts. For example, some societies in Africa and the Middle East have long-standing traditions of polygyny, while certain communities in Tibet and Nepal have practiced polyandry.

Dr Thomas added: “Committed non-monogamy has received a lot of attention recently. It’s a hot trend with more and more couples talking about opening up their relationships to include other people. However, these types of relationship are far from new.

“While most seek monogamous relationships, a small proportion of humans have engaged in multi-partner relationships throughout human history, especially polygynous marriage where one husband is shared by several co-wives.

“This study shows that a sizable minority of people are open to such relationships, even in the UK where such marriages are prohibited. Interestingly, many more men are open to the idea than women – though there is still interest on both sides.”