Is monogamy overrated?

Dan Savage’s recent comments in response to Sanford’s admission of infidelity got me thinking about the way Americans treat sexual monogamy in and out of marriage.

Dying* is easy, monogamy is hard.

One day we’re gonna put screw and screw together and realize that the problem is our unrealistic and unnatural fixation on monogamy and not that “some men just can’t keep it in their pants.” Human beings aren’t wired to be sexually monogamous—male or female—and the feigned shock with which we’re required to greet each new revelation of infidelity on the part of an elected official, a reality-show star, or a sports figure would be comical if the costs weren’t so great. Elevating monogamy over all else—insisting that it, and it alone, is true love’s only marker—destroys marriages and families and careers.

Which is not to say that anything goes and that people shouldn’t be expected to honor their commitments and that there aren’t folks out there who’re capable of remaining monogamous over the three, four, five, or six decade course of a marriage. But think of all the people who’ve cheated and gotten caught. Now think about all the people who’ve cheated and gotten away with it. Our ideals about the place of sex within marriage are at war with who and what we are. They’re at war with reality. Sex is powerful, relationships are fragile. Why on earth do we insist on pitting them against each other?

  • Physically, politically.

Bearing in mind that this just represents Savage’s cursory thoughts on the subject, what do you guys think?

I think it is incredibly friggin’ hard and I judge absolutely no one who does so solely on the fact that they cheated. As has been mentioned in numerous studies, interviews, books, cheating is rarely the casue of marital problems just a symptom. I believe that whole-heartedly.

Monogamy has been beat into most of us. We are made to feel guilty for even thinking about sex with other women. Hell, many folks are taught that looking at nude women and masturbating are equally as wrong. Everything is kinda messed up and I do not know that there will ever be a time when monogamy will be even seriously considered as a possible misstep in our setting up of society. (I guess we are talking about in America)

AS far as honoring commitments go, that part definitely changes things. Once you pledge to stick with someone, that’s it. You made a promise and I think you should stick to it. People make mistakes though. That is one that is made impossibly hard to get past.

I have thought a lot about how many people do get caught and what the ratio would be to those who do not. I bet it is a much bigger ratio than we would imagine.

Look at how it is viewed today in the U.S. vs. most of the rest of what we consider the civilized world. Look at the role that our brand of Christianity plays.

Wait, are you saying that either of those ISwrong? (I don’t want to be right.)

No. Although, I had friends growing up that convinced me otherwise. I went on a 6 month “break” in prime teenage years. Hardest (yes, that’s right) 6-months of my life. Those friends have since been converted at least where that stance is concerned.

I am just saying there are people with views skewed that far off any sane position that the whole debate is probably off balance to start with in that there is so much more history that has, arguably, wrongly supported monogamy.

Man, my posts almost make it appear that I am lobbying for either cheating or an open marriage.

haha, no worries. i understood what you were trying to say.

I hate it when people push this “monogamy is stupid, humans should be banging everybody like crazy” angle. I get that it’s not fun to be judged, but that doesn’t mean you should judge back.

Look, different things work for different people. There are a lot of people for whom monogamy doesn’t work, and they shouldn’t be pressured into it. But they also shouldn’t be pompous enough to view themselves as the enlightened few, the only ones who’ve got it all figured out, and look down on the poor slobs who commit to one person.

This is the key thing here, and it’s why there is a difference between “not wired for monogamy” and “can’t keep it in his pants.” There’s no moral imperative to be monogamous with a person, even one you’re married to, but there is a very real more imperative to honor the agreement you make when you get married. Now, that agreement might be that you’ll never so much as look at another woman, and it might be that you can do whatever you want short of anal, but whatever it is, you have to stick to it. Or don’t get married.

Look, people make hard choices all the time, and you have to choose what you want here. If you want to roam free, banging whoever you want at any time, that’s cool, just don’t promise someone who loves you that you won’t, that’s all. And if you do make that promise, thinking you can keep it, and then it turns out you can’t, fucking man up and break it off or get a divorce first. If that’s too hard, then maybe your wife is more important to you than sexual freedom after all. But tough, you can’t have it both ways, and it’s incredibly cruel to try.

I agree with extarbags and Tyjenks that when you make the commitment you stick to it, even if the meaning is different for all of us. Personally, I find it a little odd that not sexing up another person is part of the agreement to be your spouse’s partner. Seems like if sex doesn’t bring heavy emotional meaning for you, it might be possible lust after a person but know that your partner is your partner. Maybe not, who knows.

Seems like if sex doesn’t bring heavy emotional meaning for you, it might be possible lust after a person but know that your partner is your partner.

But I think there is a lot of evidence that sex does bring emotional meaning, especially the more you have it with a particular partner. So it’s like, emotionally free sex is nice work if you can get it, I suppose.

The thing about monogamy is that it kinda reminds me of the Churchill (apocryphal?) line that Democracy is the worst system of government, except for all the other ones we’ve tried. (Although, I don’t think monogamy is even all that bad, personally.) I’ve seen very few people manage open relationships with much success, because sexual jealousy is a destructive force to be reckoned with. Maybe we aren’t wired to be monogamous, but we’re also wired to be sexually possessive. Fun times! This is why being human is kind of a pain: we have a lot of innate tendencies that don’t always work well together, and definitely don’t always help us in the modern world.

Well, unfortunately, for a lot of marriages, for whatever reason and no matter how many “Spice up your sex life” books you read, the emotion and sense of closeness sex brings can burn out. Then that whole we ain’t wired that way arguement starts to make a lot of sense.;)

I think there’s two problems.

One is that pretty much all cultures emphasise monogamous marriages between man and wife, both as the only desirable and as the only possible type of family. The predictable result being that lots of people either don’t realise, or realise far too late that it isn’t how they want to live.

The other problem is that people fall out of love just as frequently as they do the opposite.

I would rather like if we could somehow agree to stop with the former, but I don’t know how to deal with the latter, except maybe not crucify people when it happens. It’s not like people fall out of love to amuse themselves (did I mention I hate my ex? - Because double standards are twice as good).

Monogamy = Family
Family = Society


one douchy take on it

Well…I am going to add my two cents on this…

Last year, my wife and I were on the verge of divorce after 13 years of marriage. I felt that she wasn’t really adding anything to the relationship (not working, taking care of the kids, even cleaning or cooking) I felt like a meal ticket. I lost complete respect for her and started dating other women.

So we sat down and talked and talked and talked. She committed to going back to the school and sharing in the responsibilities around the house. I took a wait and see approach because we had been down this road before where she said she would commit to changing and didn’t.

So fast forward to last November. We had another couple over that we were friends with and it was really late at night. My wife and her husband had went to bed and she started talking about how she wanted to do a swap.

Now here is the thing. My wife and I are have fairly large sexuals appetites and what I didn’t know after all those years was that my wife had been wrestling with her bi-sexuality. I had been wanting a our relationship to become open. I didn’t know this until we had our talks.

So back to the thing…I woke my wife up and told her what our friend had said and she said she would be into it. So we did a complete swap. Same room and definitely interesting. The thing I found out about myself is that I do not get jealous at all. When it is sex, it is just sex. However if I found some guy sitting on my couch drinking a beer, that would be something totally different because it becomes a respect issue rather than a physical desire issue.

It is funny because now that I know she is down with being open and she knows I am ok with it, we actually share a stronger bond that what was there before. It is something we found that we have in common that not many people are pre-conditioned to be like. Which is pretty cool.

So we have experimented with other couples, three somes with myself and another female and her, and myself, another guy and her. She has settled on a couple of females she likes to be with and just recently asked me how I would feel if she was to move in with us (I was thinking the same thing at the time; just hadn’t mentioned it to her yet). I told her I had zero issues with that since she (the other female) is really cool and her and I get along just as much as my wife and her get along.

Probably said to much there, but fuck it.

SO YEAH MONOGAMY is overrated.

I’m going to throw out an idea here for people to chew on.

The problem here isn’t monogamy or sex, but the idea of romantic love, of being “in love” with a person.

There are many kinds of love. There’s the love you have for your brother or you mother. There’s the love you have for your dog. There’s the love you have for writing code or listening to music or your favorite game. And there’s falling in love, or romantic love.

Romantic love is fleeting. VERY fleeting. And until recently, it wasn’t why people got married. Marriage was a contract, a business deal; one person provides money, food and shelter, and the other provides descendants. And if you get married because you’re “in love” with someone, you’re going to be thinking the marriage is over when it invariably ends, unless you built some deeper kind of love in the process.

It’s an interesting idea I’ve heard of, and I think it’s worth throwing into this discussion.

I think that can be it sometimes, Rimbo, but I also think there are people who get bored sexually and just want a new sexual experience.

So it’s both. Some people want that new romance, and some people just want a new partner.

And I also think that romantic love can get replaced by a kind of love that is just as deep – it’s the feeling of cherishing another person, wanting to see that person happy, feeling like the two of you are in it together as a team.

We may not be directly wired for monogamy, but most people are certainly wired to be posessive and jealous. I think that monogamy is a cultural ‘solution’ to minimize jealousy and such.

Yeah. I picked up The Screwtape Letters again for the first time in a while, and the book makes a big point of the “victory” for “our father below” that getting people to marry for love was.

I’m still pinging the thought around in my head to see what it sticks to.

I read that last week. Oh what a silly whingfest and blatant attempt to obsolve herself of her own horrible actions.

Unfortunately, it’s not just a personal thing; society has some rather ludicrous expectations. Good luck getting elected dogcatcher as a straight person with a non-traditional marriage, for example. It’d be way easier to be gay and get elected. Plus there’s basically a “no single people” rule for Presidents. Plus again, people will treat you much better if you’re just gay as opposed to non-traditional heteosexuality. We’re a strange country; our cultural expectations for gender roles and family structure are pretty unique in the first world.

That Sandra Tsing Loh article is absurd, I forgot to post about it. My favorite part is her sotto-voice admissal of infidelity in the first paragraph, without ever mentioning it again.