New study says 30% of young couples who agree to monogamy cheat

illustration by Chris Olson

Have you had the monogamy talk with your partner? And if you had the talk, have you really agreed to agree on exclusivity?

According to a new study of heterosexual couples between the ages of 18 to 25 by Oregon State University, many couples do not share their opinions on exclusivity:

In 40% of couples studied, only one partner says the couple agreed to be sexually exclusive. The other partner said there was no agreement.

Even among those who agreed they had an explicit agreement to be monogamous, almost 30% had broken the agreement, with at least one partner having had sex outside the relationship.

The sexual health consequences of not communicating the terms of your relationship can be serious because length of time in a relationship does not guarantee monogamy. Researchers Jocelyn Warren and Marie Harvey of Oregon 

State University studied data from the PARTNERS Project, a Center for Disease Control-funded study conducted by Harvey.

Engaging in safe sex requires partners to communicate their rules about exclusivity. Practicing safe sex is still key in a longterm relationship. "While previous research indicates condom use declines as couples become more intimate and steady over time, the OSU study of married and non-married couples shows some partners are not communicating effectively about the terms of their relationship," according to an article by Melissa Navas in

In the study, married couples were not more likely than unmarried couples to have an explicit monogamy agreement in place. "Factors such as marriage and children did not increase the likelihood that the couple had agreed to monogamy," according to e! Science News.

Is monogamy a myth? The new study suggests couples need to talk more about their opinions on exclusivity and assume less. "In light of their findings, the study authors suggest that health professionals advocate condom use whether a young patient says the relationship is monogamous or not," says blogger Jamie Beckman in SheKnows Sex.


Illustration: Chris Olson © 2011

~ Chris Olson
Freelance writer and illustrator
Momathon Blog: The 24/7 mommy marathon--on two feet or four wheels


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