The character of Wonder Woman has been challenging traditional gender roles since her creation in the 1940s. Following the recent box office success of the movie Wonder Woman—which earned a total of $103 million dollars in its opening weekend—an origin movie was released about Wonder Women and her creator William Marston. As it turns out, Martson also challenged relationship norms in the context of his own life. Based on a true story, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women shines light onto what appears to have been a successful, loving relationship between himself, his wife Elizabeth, and their lover, Olive. The public’s reaction has been mixed. Individuals who have been successfully living in non-monogamous relationships are hoping that their day of validation has arrived. But what does the research say about how non-monogamous relationships stack up against traditional, monogamous relationships?
Monogamous relationships generally continue to be held as the gold standard for relationship success.1 For example, people have been shown to expect those in monogamous relationships to have higher relationship quality, lower jealousy, and higher trust and satisfaction compared to non-monogamous relationships.2 However, newer empirical work examining non-monogamous relationships has begun to challenge these assumptions.1,3 Building on this work, Séguin and colleagues recently conducted a new, high-powered study comparing three types of relationships:4 Polyamorous relationships, (intimate, loving relationships where individuals have more than one partner, with the knowledge and consent of all partners) open relationships (a marriage or committed relationship in which the partners agree that each may engage in extramarital sexual relationships, without this being regarded as infidelity) and monogamy. The study compared the quality of relationships that fit each of these three categories.
In this study, participants in all three kinds of relationships completed a survey that measured sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, closeness, trust and commitment. They also answered questions about how fair (equitable) they believed their relationship to be, (e.g., “Considering what you put into your relationship, compared to what you get out of it, how does your relationship ‘stack up’”?) The participants were instructed to answer these questions with their partner (or with non-monogamous individuals, their primary partner) in mind.