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A reflexive thematic analysis of open relationship initiation and maintenance

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Open relationships are a common form of consensual non-monogamy wherein partners consent to extra-dyadic sex with the expectation that outside experiences do not encroach upon the dyadic relationship. Although consensually non-monogamous relationships can be resilient and satisfying, people in open relationships tend to have lower relational quality compared to those in other types of relationships. This may be because individuals in open relationships enact unique or ineffective strategies for initiating and maintaining their relationships or face unique challenges in their relationships. I conducted semi-structured interviews (N = 10) to examine how individuals initiate and maintain open relationships. Transcripts were coded using reflexive thematic analysis. Two themes were identified in relation to open relationship initiation: (1) Creating the Life I Want, and (2) It Made Sense Given the Circumstances. Three themes were identified in relation to relationship maintenance strategies: (1) Individual Effort, (2) Working Together, and (3) Community Support. Five themes were identified in relation to challenges faced in open relationships: (1) Stigmatization, (2) Difficult Dating Experiences, (3) Monogamy Hangover, (4) Managing Boundaries, and (5) Figuring Everything out From Scratch. Results indicate that individuals have diverse motives for initiating open relationships, most of which were internally motivated. Individuals reported many effective strategies for maintaining their relationship and that experiences of stigmatization and unlearning monogamous conditioning were the most challenging parts of being in an open relationship. However, many participants approached challenges willingly because of the opportunity to grow from them.
66 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Cobb, Rebecca
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