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Efforts to Maintain Monogamy When Faced with an Attractive Alternative Partner

Efforts to Maintain Monogamy When Faced with an Attractive Alternative Partner

Introduction & objectives: Monogamy (sexual and
emotional exclusivity) is a near-universal expectation in
committed romantic relationships (Treas & Giesen,
2000). Yet infidelity is common despite the relationship
damage it causes. Our objective was to assess efforts to
avoid infidelity and protect relationship monogamy
when faced with an attractive alternative partner using
the Investment Model as a framework. We also identified
demographic, individual, relationship, and attitudinal
variables to predict use of monogamy strategies
and assessed whether these protective strategies predicted
Method: U.S. and Canadian adults (N = 988) completed
anonymous online surveys assessing monogamy
expectations, well-standardized relationship quality measures,
the Monogamy Maintenance Inventory (MMI) with
regard to episodes of extradyadic attraction, and the
Experiences with Infidelity Questionnaire (Thompson &
O’Sullivan, 2017). Data from the first two studies developed
and confirmed the measure of monogamy maintenance
(M age = 33.0, 49.1% male, 77.6% Caucasian).
Results: The majority (>87%) used at least one monogamy
maintenance strategy when faced with an
attractive potential partner. Three distinct factors
emerged: Proactive Avoidance (maintaining physical
and emotional distance), Relationship Enhancement
(strengthening sexual and material bonds to primary
relationship), and Threat Management (cognitive strategies
to minimize attention to attractive other).
Relationship commitment from the Investment Model
and reciprocation of extradyadic attraction were predictive
of MM use, whereas many robust predictors of
infidelity were not. Participants used more Threat
Management strategies when experiencing reciprocated
attraction. MM use did not predict infidelity outcomes
at two months; longer follow-up is underway.
Conclusions & recommendations: This research
explores the agentic role of a ‘tempted’ partner in protecting
their primary relationships. However, some
strategies may be a “last-ditch” effort when one is
attempting to avoid engaging in infidelity. The findings
reinforce conceptualizing monogamy maintenance as
part of a constellation of behaviours in relationship
maintenance, and serve as an important step toward
personal, counselling, educational, and research
Keywords: monogamy, infidelity, attraction
Source of Funding: SSHRC 435-2017-1166
(O’Sullivan, PI)
Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Statement: None