Dating & Relationships, Gender

What Would You Say If Your Partner Asked To Sleep With Someone Else?

November 9, 2016 by Justin Lehmiller


Most Americans who are in relationships have a spoken or unspoken agreement to be monogamous. In other words, they’ve agreed not to have sex with anyone but each other. Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re one of those folks. Got it? Ok, now let’s suppose that your partner approaches you one day and says they would like to have sex with someone else. How would you respond?

If you’re like most people, then you’re probably going to say something along the lines of “um, no”; however, I think you may be surprised to learn just how many people say they’d be cool with the idea–or that they’d at least consider it under certain circumstances. People–especially men and millennials–are actually much more open to their partners having sex with others than you might think.

As some evidence of this, let’s consider the results of a recent YouGov survey in which one thousand participants from around the United States were asked the following question: “How would you react if your partner wanted to engage in sexual activities with someone else?” Participants had four options to choose from: “there is no way I would be OK with it,” “whether I am OK with it or not depends on the situation,” “I would be OK with it,” or “not sure.”

Here’s how men and women answered this question:

What would you say if your partner wanted to sleep with someone else?

As you can see, the majority of both men and women said “no way” under any circumstances; however, it’s noteworthy that 42% of men and 24% of women didn’t completely rule out the idea. Among those who didn’t rule it out, the most common response was that it depends on the situation. What exactly does that mean? We can’t say for sure without further study, but one possibility is that maybe these people would be OK with their partner’s request in the context of a threesome or perhaps a cuckolding scenario, but not if their partner just went out and did their own thing.

Interestingly, nearly 1 in 10 men implied that they’d be open to the idea regardless of the details of the situation. By contrast, just 1 in 50 women were down with it no matter what. This gender difference is actually really interesting because it suggests that maybe men aren’t quite as jealous about the thought of their partners having sex with others as we’ve been led to believe. As you may know, there’s a lot of psychological research out there suggesting that men are more sexually jealous than women, but these survey results actually seem to imply the opposite–that men are less threatened by the idea of sexually sharing their partners than are women.

In addition to this gender divide, there was also an age divide. Specifically, whereas 44% of participants under 30 didn’t rule out the idea of their partner sleeping with someone else, just half (22%) of the participants over 65 said the same thing. This is further evidence that millennials aren’t subscribing to the same monogamy norm as generations past.

In short, what these results tell us is that, while most Americans aren’t crazy about the idea of sexually sharing their partners with other people, a sizable percentage of the population–especially in the male and under 30 crowd–is at least willing to contemplate the possibility.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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