I am heartened to read and hear about women catching up to men in the arena of “cheating” and, frankly, glad to see this finally getting explored by some through a lens of curiosity instead of from a pathologizing/stigmatizing agenda. I think monogamy is more a spectrum phenomenon and not something that “cookie cutter” fits every single person or couple. It’s also a very heteronormative concept that doesn’t fit large segments of the GLBTQI communities, let alone a share of the heterosexual community either. I think about polyamorists too; they’re living a (still) daring paradigm of consenting adult partnership arrangements that seem to work for some well enough (and, obviously, not for others, as is also the case for strict monogamy). I worked with a male-female polyamorous couple and they were very serious and mature about their arrangement, dedicated to maintaining open communication. They came for help with another matter, but were glad that I supported their polyamory and didn’t somehow judge them in any way for it.
Fascinating, this thing called love and how we humans 1) choose to secure it with another(s) and 2) tell other people how they themselves should secure it because we think we somehow know what’s best for them. The longer I live and work in my profession, the more I come to see and believe that as one feels increasingly secure in oneself, the more one can be open-minded and open-hearted to possibilities, one’s own and those of others’. As I’ve recently written in Braced Brain No More on this blog, it’s about releasing old “braced” thinking from one’s brain, those “do’s”, “don’t’s”, “should’s”, and “shouldn’t’s” uniquely and constantly told to us and subliminally implanted in us during childhood and onward.
If only more adults would be more honest about their actual primary relationship arrangements, the stigma of open relationships/other arrangements would surely gradually fade from the general public. That said, I personally do think that getting married, having kids, and being with only one person romantically is natural for some for at least a certain extended period of time, though perhaps not necessarily for many decades, for example. It’s the difference between what actually occurs in nature vs. a human-created, socially imposed value on something. For example, statistically most adult women are not naturally skinny like pre-teen boys, though extremely thin women are still held up as a primary norm of beauty in the U.S. Most females have some degree of wider hips and body fat than skinny models in magazines. Yet, a small percentage of women happen to be naturally petite and super thin, just as their genes are coded in them to be. Now, taking this one set of phenotypes in nature and blowing those up to be the norm all females should aspire to is not realistic, as it’s not natural for the majority of them. The same can be said for adults being in indefinitely exclusively monogamous relationships. This statistically works for some people but not at all for many more. It takes all kinds to make a world. We sure need to live and let live more than a lot of us do.
4 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Monogamy”
You’ve made such a good point here–one that begs more open conversation and compassion in our culture of monogamy. I have friends who are all over the proverbial “map” in terms of their committed relationships: from monogamous marriages of many decades, to divorces and subsequent dating, to polyamory, to other varieties of extra-marital relationships from brief “flings” to long-term affairs and even to decades-long “misters” and/or “mistresses.” It fascinates me that the only ones of these relationships that earn nods and kudos are those that are long-term and monogamous. I suppose there are many reasons people hold that up as a model. As you say, there is a brace of both implicit and explicit cultural expectations, and we social beings often can’t help but buy into them and wind up judging ourselves and others according to them whether we’re conscious of it or not.
What saddens me most as I reflect on my friends’ experiences is how often it is only one partner who frees him or herself to pursue other relationships, while the other partner is left feeling abandoned, betrayed, and grieving. And we friends are left feeling deeply conflicted by our admiration that the person had the courage to act on their desire versus the selfishness to devastate another by their actions.
Odd that in our culture we can maintain many friendships of various depths and commitment and feel terrific about it, but when it comes to sex all our feelings and thinking change. A long time ago, someone close to me who is a counselor said, “All problems in relationships come down to one or more of three things: religion, money, sex.” While I continue to believe this to be reductivist, it holds a kernel of truth because these things are often rooted in power. Until we evolve (personally and as a culture) to feeding our personal power from internal sources, I suspect we’ll have a tough time removing the braces from our brains when it comes to monogamy.
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All so beautifully said, Jazz! I love how you reply to my posts, because I then so often learn something(s) new and/or further clarify (or deepen) my own knowledge from what you write.
While I find your last sentence to be soberingly true, I do think it’s worth all efforts to keep loosening and releasing the braces over our brains, including in the seemingly entrenched hyper-valuing of monogamy. If I could do this– and there was a time I wasn’t sure I ever could– then others can as well.
:0 I didn’t see your reply until today…I guess I don’t get notifications when you reply. Anyway, thank you! Glad you found my endless response worthwhile! And I agree that it is well worth the effort to loosen (or pry!) the braces off.
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And I only now just saw this reply. You’re welcome!