Although polyamorous relationships have received increasing attention from researchers over the past decade, little attention has been paid to differences in relationship configurations: some individuals arrange their relationships hierarchically, prioritizing a primary partner; other relationship structures are non-hierarchical with no relationships prioritized over others. Across two samples (NStudy1= 225; NStudy2= 360), we compared relationship satisfaction and attachment security between individuals in hierarchical and non-hierarchical configurations. Greater variability in attachment security was found between partners in hierarchical relationships than those in non-hierarchical relationships; no significant differences were found in variability in relationships satisfaction across these groups. Furthermore, individuals in hierarchical relationships reported lower overall relationship satisfaction and attachment security compared to individuals in non-hierarchical relationships. More specifically, although no significant differences were found between non-hierarchical and primary partners, participants reported lower relationship satisfaction and attachment security with secondary and tertiary partners compared to non-hierarchical and primary partners. Findings suggest that these differences may attenuate with time. Although previous research has found that differences (e.g., in investment) between partners exist in both non-hierarchical and hierarchical configurations, the current research suggests that differences that occur organically rather than in a predetermined manner may be related to greater similarities in attachment security across partners as well as greater overall levels of relationship satisfaction and attachment security for individuals in non-hierarchical configurations. More research is needed to determine whether the observed between-partner differences are consistent with the relationship goals of individuals in hierarchical relationships.
Flicker, S. M., Sancier-Barbosa, F., Moors, A. C, & Browne, L. A closer look at relationship structures: Relationship satisfaction and attachment among people who practice hierarchical and non-hierarchical polyamory. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 50, 1401–1417. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01875-9