Efforts to maintain monogamy in committed romantic relationships

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University of New Brunswick


Monogamy is widely viewed as the standard for heterosexual intimate relationships in Western societies. Despite prevailing norms and attempts to be monogamous, deviations from sexual and romantic exclusivity are common, most notably infidelity. In contrast with ample existing research in infidelity, research into monogamy is nascent, and reveals a multidimensional construct that extends beyond sexual exclusivity. Notably, there is a dearth of research examining the role of the tempted partner in resisting attractive others that may be a regular presence in their lives, such as a friend or co-worker. The current dissertation contributed to the burgeoning literature on monogamy in three ways: first, by exploring the range and prevalence of monogamy maintenance (MM) behaviours in which individuals in heterosexual relationships engage when faced with attractive others; second, by identifying the ability of demographic, personality, relationship, and sexual attitudinal variables, as pulled from the infidelity literature, to predict MM; and third, by situating monogamy maintenance use within the Investment Model, a well-validated model of relationship quality and maintenance. Three separate samples were recruited online through crowdsourcing to complete surveys regarding episodes of extradyadic attraction respondents had experienced. The findings revealed widespread MM use, with three main MM subscales identified: efforts to avoid contact and developing intimacies (Proactive Avoidance), efforts to bolster the primary relationship (Relationship Enhancement), and the relative lack of efforts to redirect one’s attention away from the attractive other and to attenuate one’s extradyadic attraction (Low Self-Monitoring/Derogation), all three of which were endorsed by the majority of respondents. Relationship commitment from the Investment Model and reciprocation of extradyadic attraction were predictive of MM use, whereas many robust predictors of infidelity were not. MM use was ultimately not predictive of infidelity outcomes. The findings highlight the importance of conceptualizing monogamy maintenance behaviours as part of the constellation of behaviours in relationship maintenance, support the study of monogamy as distinct from that of infidelity, and serve as an important initial step toward future personal, counselling, educational, and research applications.