30 Oct A Closer Look At Monogamy
If you’ve made it to Ashley Madison, you’re probably familiar with the idea of non-monogamy. Whether that means an affair, an open relationship, polyamory, or something else, you’ve heard these phrases bandied about by open-minded individuals (or less open-minded people decrying others’ relationship choices). But what does it all mean?
Non-monogamy comes naturally to many of us as, we are biologically non-monogamous, but living in a society where monogamy is strictly enforced. There is this whole idea that humans should look to animals in order to determine how they should act, even though this doesn’t carry over into other areas of life, like walking around naked or accepting homosexual relationships as part of the natural world. Since some animals pair bond, many think humans should emulate them. Swans have long been held up as an example of animals that mate for life, and we should too.
We’re not swans though, and they’ve been proven to be non-monogamous as well.
With monogamy, we are expected to silently fight the urges that we have to sleep with the people other than our primary partner. We are told to suppress our biology in order to remain true to our spouses, but it is never fully explained why we do this. Is it to please God? Our family? Our society in general? The reasons are varied, but there’s no proof that staying together for the kids is better for them, not everyone follows religion, and as for our society … aside from the tabloids selling papers whenever a high profile person cheats, we have not seen these so-called benefits.
So what is the point of monogamy?
We are not in an age where the nuclear family is still held in the highest regard. Families are becoming as diverse and as different as the population itself. Affairs are commonplace and the divorce rate is sky-rocketing, so why are people so afraid of non-monogamy and why are our social stigmas against it still so strongly against the idea of open marriages or extramarital affairs?
These are stigmas that need to change and we are taking an inexorably slow time with it. While our views on religion and the scope of marriage is changing, we are not talking about the different kinds of marriage aside from which genders are included in it. Perhaps we are not ready to acknowledge that there is a need to revamp the entire structure of marriage rather than simply who is included in its benefits. This is a talk that no one is willing to have currently though and those who wish to explore non-monogamy are forced to do so discreetly.
By forcing our stigmas on those who choose to cheat or become polyamorous, we are forcing them to be dishonest. To be honest about their wants and their needs would at the very least lead them to couples’ counselling or to divorce. The people who want to have affairs aren’t looking to get divorced because it would be easier to just be able to pursue sexual relationships openly than having to hide them. By putting so much emphasis on til death do us part and the idea that having sex with someone who is not your spouse is one of the worst things that you can do in a marriage, we are poisoning the very idea of marriage.
It is not those who are advocating discreet alternatives that are ruining the sanctimony of marriage. It is those who are insisting that even if someone is miserable and not getting what they need from their marriage for their emotional, mental, and physical well-being, they must deny themselves their own happiness. Marriage is supposed to be about finding what you need to bring you happiness and to complete yourself as a person.
That’s the standard that we’ve set and yet we insist that people who aren’t happy either end the marriage or stay in it while sacrificing their needs for those of their spouse and family. This may seem noble in some regards, but is forced martyrdom really such a noble act?
Relationships are about sacrifice and compromise, but shouldn’t that compromise be dictated by the couple and not society?