Should We Be Monogamous? The Verdict Is Out
Monogamy has come into question more than ever before in modern times. It’s no surprise – there are many contributing factors to this:
- Divorce rates are high. It’s estimated there is a 40% – 50% chance of divorce for newly married couples. This percentage gets higher for those entering a second marriage, and even higher for a third
- Compelling evidence that humans may not actually be “built” to be monogamous continues to surface. There are a lot of cool TED Talks on this subject. I recommend checking out Christopher Ryan: Are we Designed to be Sexual Omnivores?
- More people who have passed their twenties are revolting against the idea that they have to settle down in their later years and are instead immersing themselves in “party culture”
- Women are overcoming the gender stereotype that insinuates they are “sluts” if they have multiple partners
Overall it can seem like the cards are no longer in favor of monogamy. I personally know more people who either consider themselves polyamorous (being in love or romantically involved with more than one person), or are in the least experimenting with polyamory than ever before.
Yet at the same time, I still know more people – many more people – who are continuing to be in monogamous relationships, or pursuing monogamous relationships. In fact, I also know plenty of people who are currently polyamorous who will admit when the conversation gets real that what they really want is to have that one person in their life that they can be loyal to, who will be loyal to them.
The fail rate of monogamous relationships is higher than ever before.
This is really quite a broad topic to discuss and there are many different aspects of this that we could look at. I personally think the most disconcerting side of it is that the fail rate of monogamous relationships is higher than ever before.
Aside from the reasons listed above that show that perhaps we are NOT built for monogamy, one of the largest reasons this type of relationship is failing so hard right now has to do with expectation.
It All Boils Down to Expectation . . .
We have all been taught that we should have high expectations, right? Especially when it comes to the person we are potentially going to share our entire lives with – right down to the deepest, most vulnerable parts of ourselves. But it’s worth taking a realistic, hard look at what our expectations are in a relationship.
In the past, marriage was tied to practicality, survival, and possibly even the concept of ownership.
Many people don’t stop to think about the fact that the expectations we have of relationships are higher now than ever before. We can look back into history and admit the less-than-romantic truth that marriage was tied to practicality, survival, and possibly even the concept of ownership.
In many cultures with a predominantly patriarchal society, women simply had to marry in order to survive in the world. Even when we look back just a few decades ago, we can observe many loveless marriages that were based on financial security, raising a family, and getting on in the world.
It is still like this in some parts of the world today. Both men and women continue to get married as a result of societal pressure, because that’s what is expected of them.
Nowadays we aren’t satisfied with a bare-bones type of relationship – we want and demand more from our partners.
But nowadays we aren’t satisfied with just a practical relationship. We aren’t satisfied with just romance either. We want the total package.
We want the best friend, the fantastic lover, the good father/mother, the spiritual counterpart, the financially stable one, the fun one, the one who will chase goals with us, the one who will be sensitive enough when we need it.
What I’m getting at is that monogamy did not used to come with such high expectations. And it may be worth considering whether this “total package” expectation is unrealistic. At the very least, these expectations explain why we seem to be having a harder time than ever staying put in monogamous relationships.
But is this type of “total package” expectation unrealistic?
I am the type of person who encourages people to really go for their goals, whether they be relationship or otherwise, but this is where reality really sets in. People are people and by nature we have flaws, we are fallible, have dark sides and imperfections . . . and we would be wise to check what it is we really expect, compared to what we really need to feel fulfilled, and how realistically all this ties together.
So What Now?
Please understand that my point is not to tell you or anyone else that their relationship expectations are unrealistic, or that they should settle for less – – more that it’s a serious question worth asking if you are debating whether you personally should be monogamous.
Getting back to the original question – when debating whether you “should be monogamous or not?” the issue is with the word “should.”
Hopefully the majority of anyone reading this article has gotten past the idea that monogamy is a moral issue, or that having multiple partners is “wrong.”
I think a better question is “should I personally be monogamous?” and a good follow-up question might be “am I able to be polyamorous/monogamous with integrity?”
The biggest issue I have seen and experienced is that many people don’t seem to know the difference between being polyamorous with integrity and being dishonest, or downright cheating on their significant other. Ultimately it is our choice, but as always we need to be honest, and treat people with respect.
My Personal Experience
There’s a part about monogamy that most of us find irresistibly romantic. Personally I’ve learned that I do better with one person, for many reasons. I don’t like to mix that much energy with multiple people, and the thought of having to be emotionally (or even physically) available to more than one woman is exhausting to me.
On the other hand, I must admit that being in a monogamous relationship inevitably puts me in a position where I must be that much more vulnerable, share that much larger a chunk of my own life with one person, and also make more compromises – whether they be sexual, functional, time-based, or otherwise.
This is not a general statement about polyamorous relationships, but when I personally tried polyamory, I found that I was running away from my own fear of commitment, compromise, and ability to communicate clearly and effectively in an intimate relationship. It was a case of “If I can’t get what I want from you, I’ll just go get it somewhere else.”
In my case (and again – this is just my personal experience), being polyamorous was actually giving me an excuse not to grow in this area of my life and was stunting my ability to get truly close to the person (people) I was dating.
Ultimately, anyone should do what works best for them, factoring in the golden rule to treat others as we would want to be treated. But we need to keep in mind that relationships are where we all either come face-to-face with our deepest issues, or run directly away from them.
The fun part is that we’re bringing someone else (or a few people) along for that ride. Whatever relationship path we choose, it should motivate us to continue to seek, practice, grow, and know ourselves. The path we choose should be in alignment with our innermost needs and authentic desires.
The final thought on the question of “should we be monogamous?” is this: Know Yourself. Strive to become your most authentic self. Only then can you truly manage your relationships with integrity.