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Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright Headshot

Are You Monogamous? You Might Want to Ask Your Partner

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Are you in a monogamous relationship? If so, you may need to second-guess that "yes." Recent research out of Oregon State University has found that 40 percent of both married and unmarried couples, ages 18 to 25, have only one partner stating that the pair agreed to be sexually exclusive, while the other holds that such an agreement was never made.

Other findings drawing from the sample size of 434 heterosexual couples included almost 30 percent of those who had explicitly agreed to be monogamous reporting at least one partner having gone outside of the relationship for sex. Being married and having kids did not increase the couple's likelihood of having agreed upon monogamy. In fact, having children made it less likely for lovers to have an agreement in place.

The culprits, according to researchers: miscommunication and misunderstanding when it comes to the meaning of monogamy. Couples aren't having conversations around what it means to be "monogamous." And it's this lack of discourse that can lead to what appears to one to be emotional betrayal, as well as health risks, including sexually transmitted infection.

So can you, without a doubt, claim to be in a monogamous relationship? When it comes to research findings like these, it's always easy to think that such information "doesn't apply to me." People often have the mentality that their relationship is different or special, especially if there have been declarations of love or wedding vows, (with the latter, understandably, interpreted by many as a testament to be monogamous, unless otherwise agreed). But for many, at least young couples, it's what's not said that's causing problems.

In making sure that you're in the kind of relationship you want to be in, you need to confirm that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to being monogamous -- or not. Personally, I've initiated such conversations by stating, "I don't like to share" once the relationship reaches a certain level. Such hinting then becomes more unambiguous in stating wants, needs and desires, including monogamy.

This is necessary, too, when it comes to safer sex practices, especially in no longer using protection, as is the case for a number of couples with supposed sexual exclusivity. It is also vital in protecting yourself emotionally.

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