Relationship exclusivity and extrarelationship involvement: Perceptions, determinants and consequences
Boekhout, Brock Alan
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There has been considerable debate about the positive and negative effects of engaging in exclusive versus nonexclusive relationships. This has led researchers to ask what level of relationship exclusivity partners can or should expect from each other and why people engage in exclusive and nonexclusive activities and relationships. Previous studies have shown that many couples possess vague expectations about what they should and should not share or experience with persons outside their committed relationship. Although many people believe that activities that include sexual behavior should remain exclusive to a relationship, they seem to be less certain about which types of nonsexual behaviors are acceptable to share in other relationship domains. People's perceptions of their infidelity as well as their partner's infidelity, and the attributions they make about these involvements, also seem to have important implications for the outcome of the primary relationship. The Relationship Issues Scale that emerged from this study explored participants' attitudes/values and expectations/behaviors regarding exclusivity and nonexclusivity. It also examined their perceptions of their exclusive and nonexclusive relationships. Analyses showed that participants who were female, high in emotional jealousy, low in permissiveness, high in sexual communion, and high in relationship satisfaction were more likely to favor exclusive relationships and behaviors. In addition, participants had limited communication about these issues and had potential for conflict about the acceptability of various nonexclusive behaviors. Although they thought some behaviors were wrong, this belief did not seem to stop them from engaging in such behaviors. Thus, the effects of engaging in exclusive and nonexclusive relationships seem to be quite complex.