How Common Is Open Marriage (Or Relationships) & How Many Seek One?

Although 4% of Americans are currently in open relationships, about 25% are interested in having one, and 11.9% consider it to be their ideal relationship type.
split screen image with a donut chart on the left depicting that 25% of americans are interested in open relationships with a photograph of a woman laying in bed between two men on the right with everyone appearing happy and in a consensual open relationship
Updated:December 2023

Studies have found that 4% of Americans are currently in open relationships [1], although about 25% of Americans are interested in them. [3]

Additionally, 11.9% of Americans report that an open relationship is their ideal relationship type. [7]

Key Statistics To Know:

  • 4% of Americans in a nationally representative study reported currently being in an open relationship. [1]
  • About 25% of Americans say they would be interested in having an open relationship. [3]
  • 11.9% of individuals in one study reported that an open relationship was their ideal relationship type. [7]
  • 56% of American adults (46% of men, 67% of women) say they would leave their partner if they wanted to have an open relationship. [2]
  • 56% of American adults (47% of men, 64% of women) are “morally opposed” to the idea of an open relationship. [2]
  • 14 states have constitutional laws against adultery, although “adultery” is not defined the same way in every state, nor is prosecution common. [6]

Editor’s note: Open relationships differ from polyamory. In the latter, a person engages in romantic relationships with others, in addition to their primary (and consenting) partner. Open relationships or open marriages (also known as consensual nonmonogamy), on the other hand, refer to situations where partners are free to have sex with others and are given consent to do so by their primary partner but remain emotionally committed only to them.

In this article, we’ll share how many people are in open relationships — or want to be — as well as their success rates, satisfaction, and happiness among those who are in them, and states that have laws against adultery.

How Many People Are In Open Relationships?

donut graph depicting that 4% of americans reported being in a consensual open relationship
  • 4% of Americans in a nationally representative study reported currently being in an open relationship, however, this should be regarded as a conservative estimate, as it excludes those who are not currently in an open relationship but prefer to have one when they are. [1]
  • That same nationally representative study found that 2% of heterosexual participants, 5% of lesbian participants, 14% of those who chose “other” as their sexuality, 22% of bisexual participants, and 32% of gay participants reported being in open relationships. [1]
  • Among those who reported being in an open relationship, 61% were male and 39% were female. [1]
  • Among those who reported being in an open relationship, 13% were aged 18 to 24, 19% were aged 25 to 34, 27% were aged 35 to 44, 20% were aged 45 to 54, 12% were aged 55 to 64, and 9% were over the age of 65. [1]
  • Only 1% of single people aged 50 and older report ever having been in an open relationship. [2]

Amongst the general public, open relationships are rare, though they are substantially more common among those with diverse sexual orientations.

Sexual minorities are often more sexually open-minded in general and thus are more likely to have open relationships.

Furthermore, bisexual individuals may enjoy open relationships as it affords them the opportunity to engage sexually with both sexes.

How Many People Are Interested In Open Relationships?

donut graph depicting that about 25% of american adults say they would be interested in an open relationship
  • About 25% of Americans say they would be interested in an open relationship. [3]
  • 56% of American adults (47% of men, 64% of women) are “morally opposed” to the idea of an open relationship. [2]
  • 37% of American adults say open marriages are “completely unacceptable” and 13% say that they are “somewhat unacceptable.” [4]
  • 23% of American adults feel that open marriages are “completely acceptable,” while another 11% find open marriages “somewhat acceptable” [4]
  • 56% of American adults (46% of men, 67% of women) say they would leave their partner if they wanted to have an open relationship. [2]
  • One study found that “searches for words related to polyamory and open relationships (but not swinging) have significantly increased over time.” [8]

Open relationships have become increasingly acceptable in recent years, though many are still uncomfortable with the concept.

A personal preference for monogamy and/or religious beliefs may play a role.

Of course, our relationships are our own, and however you (and your partner(s)) feel is ultimately most important.

Satisfaction Among People In Open Relationships

donut graph depicting that 11.9% of individuals reported that an open relationship is their ideal relationship type
  • 11.9% of individuals in one study reported that an open relationship was their ideal relationship type. [7]
  • People in open relationships rated their happiness in their primary relationship as 3.99 on a 1-7 scale, with 1 being “very unhappy” and 7 being “perfect,” compared to the 4.45 rating given by those in monogamous relationships. [1]
  • People in open relationships rated their sexual satisfaction in their primary relationship as 3.17 on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being “very dissatisfied” and 5 being “very satisfied,” compared to a 3.62 rating given by those in monogamous relationships. [1]
  • One study found that regardless of their current relationship status, older adults who engage in non-exclusive open relationships “reported significantly more sexual partners, more sexual frequency, better health, and were much more likely to have had an HIV test” when compared to the general US population. Additionally, those who engage in non-exclusive relationships also reported “being significantly happier” when compared to the general population, aside from married men in open marriages, whose happiness levels were the same as the general population sample. [5]
  • That same study found that “participation (or interest in participation), in consensual non-exclusive sexual relationship styles can be rewarding and contribute to personal health and happiness, as much as or more than monogamous marriages.” [5]

While certainly relationship satisfaction varies from couple to couple, overall those in open relationships appear equally as satisfied as those who are monogamous.

Importantly, communication is vital to open relationships, and those who struggle with communicating may understandably have reduced satisfaction.

In addition, couples where one member feels pressured to agree to an open relationship may also be less satisfied.

States With Laws Against Adultery

map graphic depicting states that have constitutional laws against adultery: arizona, utah, kansas, oklahoma, minnesota, wisconsin, illinois, mississippi, michigan, new york, north carolina, south carolina, georgia, and florida

The following states have constitutional laws against adultery [6], although adultery is not defined the same way in every state, nor is prosecution common.

Importantly, however, when it comes to open relationships there may be potential risks depending on where individuals are located.

  1. Arizona
  2. Florida
  3. Georgia
  4. Kansas
  5. Illinois
  6. Michigan
  7. Minnesota
  8. Mississippi
  9. New York
  10. North Carolina
  11. Oklahoma
  12. South Carolina
  13. Utah
  14. Wisconsin

Sources: