Conference on the Future of Monogamy and Nonmonogamy

Thoma Parker, Ph.D.

It has long been assumed that non-monogamous partnerships were vulnerable to jealousy and envy, although aspects that contributed to the issue had not been described. This qualitative phenomenological study examined jealousy and envy in non-monogamy using equity theory. The purposive
sample drawn from Loving More Nonprofit, and 19 participants were interviewed.
Transcripts were analyzed using NVivo for Mac using the modified van Kaam method.

Study results included four major themes for research question 1: (a) agreements reduced
jealousy, (b) boundary violations increased jealous, (c) communication mitigated
jealousy, and (d) time allocation fueled jealousy, and three minor themes: (a) willingness
to end problem relationships, (b) acceptance and reframing mitigated jealousy, and (c)
NRE fueled jealousy; and three minor themes for research question 2: (a) challenges to
partner choices fueled by envy, (b) resources allocation influenced by envy, and (c) self-comparison
to metamours magnified by envy. Implications of themes were that agreements were used by the non-monogamous to manage jealousy and enhance equity perceptions but when boundary violations related to jealousy occurred and boundary turbulence and distrust often resulted. When jealousy arose the non-monogamous relied on communication strategies, such as acceptance and reframing and willingness to end relationships to preserve existing relationships through reciprocal altruism, and to
mitigate jealousy and rebalance equity due to concerns of scarcity.

Additionally, self-comparison to metamours’ attributes stimulated envy and appeared to magnify jealousy.
Recommendation for professional practice included the importance of agreements for
non-monogamous relationship maintenance, use of equity to manage boundaries, and the
role that boundary turbulence plays in perceptions of fairness. Recommendations for
further research included (a) a replication of the current qualitative phenomenological
study using participants from outside of organizations to include a more diverse a sample
to explore consistency of themes across a broader demographic of non-monogamous
people (b) a quantitative descriptive study to operationalize jealousy and envy, (c) a
quantitative correlational study to assess relationships between agreements, boundary
violations and jealousy, and (d) a qualitative multiple case study to explore explicit
versus implicit agreements.