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In the present study, we sought to understand whether people in polyamorous relationships have similar attachment orientations with each of their partners. Further, we examined the extent to which the attachment relationship with a given partner affects relationship quality both within that relationship and across concurrent romantic relationships. We recruited a community sample of 357 people engaged in polyamory with at least two concurrent romantic partners. People engaged in polyamory exhibited secure attachment with both of their partners (low in avoidance and anxiety); specifically, these scores were lower than established norms. In terms of within-relationship effects, avoidance and anxiety with a specific partner were linked with lower levels of relationship functioning (relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, satisfaction with emotional and sexual agreements, and commitment) for that specific relationship. However, there was no association between avoidance and anxiety with one specific partner and the relationship functioning in a different, concurrent romantic relationship (i.e., cross-relationship effects). These findings suggest that individuals engaged in polyamory treat these relationships as distinct and independent from one another—forming attachments with each partner based on the specifics of that relationship. Understanding attachment processes in polyamorous relationships provides new directions for exploring the diversities of intimate partnering and theory expansion.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Personality and Individual Differences. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Personality and Individual Differences, volume 147, in 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2019.04.023

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