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04/09/2019 11:57 EDT | Updated 04/09/2019 12:59 EDT

UBC Study Finds 1 in 10 Canadians Want To Be In Open Relationships

The numbers suggest that many people who aren't in open relationships would like to be.

12 per cent of Canadians want to be in open relationships, according to a new study.
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12 per cent of Canadians want to be in open relationships, according to a new study.

Canadians who want to be in open relationships are likely to be young and male — and there are quite a few of them, according to new research from the University of British Columbia and Ryerson University.

In the survey of about 2,000 people between the ages of 18 and 94, 12 per cent said described their "ideal relationship type" as an open relationship, which involves having more than one romantic or sexual partner. But only four per cent said they were currently in an open relationship.

Those numbers "suggest that more people would like to be in an open relationship than already are, possibly because of the stigma associated with these types of relationships and the difficulty of broaching this subject with partners," Nichole Fairbrother, the study's lead author and assistant professor in the UBC department of psychiatry, told the university's research platform.

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Stigma and fear of talking to a partner about open relationship is likely an explanation for the skewed numbers, researchers say.

The interest in open relationships is split fairly significantly across gender lines: 18 per cent of men described them as ideal, compared to only 6.3 per cent of women.

The idea also appears to be more popular among younger people. Teens were the demographic most in favour of open relationships, with 21 per cent of teen respondents calling it an ideal relationship type. The percentage of the population who prioritize consensual non-monogamy decreases as respondents get older, with just one exception: people over 80. Only 4.3 per cent of people between 70 and 79 prefer open relationships, but for people from 80 to 99, that number shoots up to 13 per cent.

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Fairbrother said the study's findings are significant for psychiatrists and therapists, especially the ones who offer couples therapy. If they're educated about the desire for open relationships, it can help them in their practice, she explained.

"It may be useful for mental health providers to consider ways of making it easier for couples to talk about their relationship preferences in therapy."

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