Half of American Men Not Strongly Opposed to Being in an Open Relationship, Avvo Study Finds

Seattle, WashJune 17, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — A May 2015 Avvo, Inc. study of relationship trends across the United States finds that more men than women would consider an open relationship. Men are more ideologically comfortable with the concept with only 45% of men (48% of married men) saying they are morally opposed to the idea of open relationships, compared to 62% of women (67% of married women). Fewer men say they would leave a partner if she asked to sleep with someone else, with 44% of men agreeing (45% of married men) compared to 66% of women (70% of married women). This finding is just one example of the tension between traditional views of monogamy and marriage and alternatives for creating relationship satisfaction.

This desire for open relationships doesn’t point to a lack of satisfaction in relationships among men, however. Of the 70% of U.S. adults currently in a relationship or married, more than 9 in 10 (94%) are satisfied with their relationship. According to noted sociologist and sexologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Americans’ relative comfort with the idea of open relationships is likely an idealized viewpoint that wouldn’t work as well in practice.

“I think many Americans like to think of themselves as liberal and sexually adventurous,” Schwartz said. “It might sound sexy to have an open relationship, especially to young people. But the fact is most human beings are territorial, they don’t like sharing, and they especially don’t like sharing someone they are in love with. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, and I have interviewed people who believe their open relationships are working out. But I think most men and women would find a sexually open relationship hard on their ego, and hard on their relationship.”

Also, satisfaction in a relationship doesn’t necessarily equal a track record of faithfulness. Despite the high rates of satisfaction reported, one in six have cheated on a partner. Again, men were more likely to report cheating than women with 20% of men reporting having sex with someone without their partner’s permission, compared to 13% of women. These findings are particularly interesting because despite their higher rates of acceptance of open relationships and their higher likelihood to cheat on a partner, men typically reported more traditional views of marriage.

For example more men than women think divorce is a sin, with 15% of men agreeing compared to 9% of women. More men also state that if a child is involved, a couple should get married, with 27% of men reporting that if you have a child with someone you should marry them, compared with 16% of women. And men believe they should stay married, with 17% of married and unmarried men agreeing that married couples with children should never divorce, no matter how they feel about each other, compared to 8% of women (9% of married women).

On the other hand, women are more likely to agree that they’d rather be alone than unhappy with 71% of women saying they’d rather be alone, successful, and happy than in a relationship where they aren’t satisfied, compared to 61% of men (67% of married women say this, compared to 55% of married men). Women are also more likely to disagree that marriage should be a goal everyone has in life, with 44% of women disagreeing, compared to 29% of men (40% of married women disagree, 25% of married men disagree).

However, while women are less likely to believe a relationship is necessary for happiness, when they are in a relationship they expect it to last. Women are significantly more likely to believe that relationships are meant to last (75% of women compared to 55% of men, and 79% of married women compared to 63% of married men). Women also are more likely to want a legal document to prove they love their partner, with 46% of women agreeing with the statement “I don’t need a legal document to prove I love my partner” compared to 57% of men (42% of married women and 56% of married men).

“While there are exceptions to this, most women don’t feel secure unless someone, as the song says, ‘put a ring on it’,” Schwartz said. “Furthermore, there are no other acts of romance that say as much as marriage does because nothing else is a vow to be together forever.”

Schwartz added, “Both women and men want to be married; but, perhaps fewer men feel as strongly because they are not going to be the mother of the couple’s child. Women’s need for commitment may come from this biological fact: a woman needs to be as sure as possible that the father of her child loves her and will want to stay and help support the family.”

Regional Differences

In addition to differences between the sexes, the study also found regional differences in attitudes and reported behaviors:

  • Midwesterners are the most faithful. Only 10% of Midwesterners report cheating on a partner compared with 16% of people in the Northeast, 17% in the South, and 20% in the West. Also, only 7% of married people in the Midwest have ever cheated on a partner, compared to 15% in the Northeast, 16% in the South, and 19% in the West.
  • The west coast is most accepting of open relationships. In the West, 24% of respondents are not morally opposed to open relationships, compared to 21% in the Northeast, 19% in the South, and 18% in the Midwest. Those on the west coast and in the Northeast are much less likely to disagree with the statement that it’s ok for other people to have an open relationship if that’s what they want, with 46% disagreeing in the Northeast and the West, compared to 48% in the South and 54% in the Midwest.
  • Northeasterners are the most jaded. When asked if relationships are meant to last, those in the Northeast are least likely to agree at 61%, compared to 63% in the South, 66% in the West, and 71% in the Midwest. Those in the Northeast are also most likely to date someone who is already married: 44% in the Northeast say they’d never date someone who’s married, compared to 54% in the Midwest, 55% in the South, and 53% in the West.

About this study

Avvo conducts periodic studies of topics at the intersection of lifestyle and the law to better understand the issues facing individuals engaging with attorneys and the legal system. Given that divorce and family law are two of the largest and most routine legal actions taken in the United States, understanding the relationship dynamics that lead to marriage and divorce is beneficial to the legal consumers and attorneys Avvo serves.

“Avvo is committed to understanding American social and cultural experiences so that we can really know the people we seek to help,” said Nika Kabiri, director of consumer insights at Avvo. “We conduct several consumer studies a year and leverage our learnings to interact with people in ways that are most meaningful to them.”

Avvo lawyers answer questions about divorce, prenuptial agreements, and family law in the company’s Q&A forum everyday and are featured in the Avvo directory, which includes profiles on 97% of licensed attorneys in the United States. Attorneys are also available to answer on-demand questions about divorce through Avvo Advisor, which provides 15-minutes of legal counsel from a qualified attorney in your state for $39.

For additional resources about marriage and divorce from Avvo, or to find a divorce or family lawyer in your area, visit www.avvo.com.


These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted May 11-15, 2015. For the survey, a sample of 2,001 U.S. adults age 18 and over was interviewed online. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for all respondents. The data were weighted to the U.S. current population data by gender, age, region, and household income based on Census data.

About Avvo, Inc.

Avvo is the leading online legal marketplace connecting consumers and lawyers.  Avvo offers on-demand, affordable legal advice through Avvo Advisor®, which delivers a highly reviewed lawyer for 15 minutes over the phone – anytime, anywhere – available online or via a free app for iOS devices.  In Avvo’s Q&A forum, consumers can get their legal questions answered for free by more than 210,000 participating lawyers or search more than 7 million previously asked questions and attorney provided answers.  Avvo’s lawyer directoryprovides Avvo-rated profiles, client reviews, and peer endorsements for 97 % of all lawyers in the U.S., so consumers can find the lawyer who’s right for them.  Avvo also helps lawyers grow their businesses with marketing tools and services including the Avvo JD App and Avvo Ignite, a cloud-based marketing platform designed specifically for attorneys.  Avvo, Avvo Advisor, Avvo JD App, and Avvo Ignite are trademarks or registered trademarks of Avvo, Inc. Avvo was founded in 2007 and is based in Seattle, WA.

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